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'I studied law in prison - now I want to change the system'

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'I studied law in prison - now I want to change the system'


In the American city of Philadelphia in 2018, one in 22 adults received parole or parole, including Latonia Myers, who faced nearly a decade of probation after a string of misconduct. In the same year, she changed the system, and Latonia herself became a change activist.

Latonia woke up in the middle of the night with a crash and a cry. Her mother's boyfriend was increasingly violent and unstable, and now he was dragging her bed from the apartment into the hallway.

 Latonia got out of bed and saw her boyfriend screaming and pointing to her mother's temple. “I thought I could protect my mother,” he said. She took the spray bottle and hit him. He went to that phone and called the police.

 “I think that all I have to do is tell the truth, and they will see that this person is cruelly treating me and my mother,” said Latonia. Instead, the police handcuffed her and charged her with first-degree assault. 

I am 12 years old. For three days she sat behind bars and sobbed for a girl who did not know where her family was and what was about to happen.“I remember they asked for my social security number. 

I am 12 years old, I do not know my social security number! " She was eventually taken to juvenile court and her lawyer gave her a choice: plead guilty and release her from probation, or go back to prison for another 10 days and fight in court.

 All Latonia wanted was to return home. with my grandmother who was waiting outside. Therefore, he pleaded guilty, not understanding what it means to be convicted of a crime. “This experience made my heart numb and cold,” he said. "After that, I had a wayward life.

The eight-part series Storyville Philly DA traces Larry Krasner's first term and follows his radical experiment in reforming the city's criminal justice system.

 Former prisoner activist Latonia Myers appears in Episode 4 when she starts a new job at the Public Protection Office. She was crazy about the world, like herself, and committed a number of petty crimes, including possession of weapons and drugs.

 He got into an abusive relationship. "As a drug dealer, many see me as an easy target." Latone turns 30 this year and this child crime is still his only felony (the American term for felony, not misdemeanor), but he has always felt its weight like concrete blocks on his shoulders.

 your housing, education and job opportunities. It also led to harsher sentences for his misdemeanors, including longer periods of probation.

  • In Philadelphia, where Latonia grew up, there are an unusually high number of people on probation or parole, that is, a period of observation after early release from prison. In fact, it has been described as the "most controlled" major city in the United States. 

  • In 2018, one in 22 adults and one in 14 African Americans received an amnesty or parole, according to a Columbia University Judicial League study. ... Pennsylvania, of which Philadelphia is a part, is currently the third US state to be monitored.

One reason for this is that Pennsylvania's probation can be as long as a prison sentence, with a 20-year sentence followed by an additional 20 years of probation.

 “This is a noticeable difference from most other states that have a probationary period,” said Kendra Bradner, director of the Probation and Probation Reform Project at Columbia University, for all misdemeanors and a different limit for all felonies. Another difference between Pennsylvania and most other states is that people convicted of more than one crime can be served one sentence at a time, rather than all at once, and the judge can extend the suspended sentence if someone violates regulations.



'I studied law in prison - now I want to change the system'

“First, it's a triple threat with long sentences that can be stacked and then spread further, breaking the rules,” says Bradner. In 2018, more than half (54%) of state jail receipts were for violations, but in November 2017, a liberal lawyer promising far-reaching criminal justice reforms was elected District Attorney (DA) of Philadelphia. 


Larry Krasner called the mass surveillance the "evil twins of mass imprisonment" and targeted both.

'I studied law in prison - now I want to change the system'

Latonia followed Krasner's campaign from prison, where he is awaiting trial in a case falsely accused by his ex-girlfriend. This time, she categorically refused the plea agreement and decided to fight against the case.

 At 26, Latonia has been living alone for 10 years. He graduated from high school with a successful completion of the drug addiction treatment program. Then she almost got a job at a university laboratory, interviewers saw how good she was, but the offer was withdrawn. when they found out about his criminal record. Instead, he took a job as a security guard at the minimum wage.

 “It's humiliating that my intelligence is being diminished, and instead I have to play with this male stereotype,” he said. “I remember thinking, 'I can never save money or support my family. I'm stuck, ”and I feel depressed. The area in southwest Philadelphia is like "poverty" where children have to grow up fast to survive.More than half of her friends are minors, but the Pennsylvania Ivy League is just a few blocks from the hotel, and Latonia will love cycling to the area to get a feel for the vibe. Frisbee, he said.


'I studied law in prison - now I want to change the system'

Latonia followed Krasner's campaign from prison, where he is awaiting trial in a case falsely accused by his ex-girlfriend. This time, she categorically refused the plea agreement and decided to fight against the case. At 26, Latonia has been living alone for 10 years.


 He graduated from high school with a successful completion of the drug addiction treatment program. Then she almost got a job at a university laboratory, interviewers saw how good she was, but the offer was withdrawn. when they found out about his criminal record.


 Instead, he took a job as a security guard at the minimum wage. “It's humiliating that my intelligence is being diminished, and instead I have to play with this male stereotype,” he said. “I remember thinking, 'I can never save money or support my family. I'm stuck, ”and I feel depressed. 


The area in southwest Philadelphia is like "poverty" where children have to grow up fast to survive.More than half of her friends are minors, but the Pennsylvania Ivy League is just a few blocks from the hotel, and Latonia will love cycling to the area to get a feel for the vibe. Frisbee, he said.


After 9 months of detention, Latona was acquitted, and this was a turning point. bail that supports those potentially imprisoned because, unlike the richest defendants, they cannot pay for bail.

 Their job is to gather information about the accused and the alleged crime, including, for example, whether the person has acted in self-defense, which can help the defense prevent a judge from ordering. The warranty is at an unreasonable level. 

“I would take the elevator with lawyers and corrections officers who told me that I deserved to go to jail or that I had no business,” she said. "I puffed out my chest and raised my head high. Maybe. It was a full circle moment ...


I stuck my chest out and held my head up as high as I could. That was a full-circle moment
LaTonya Myers

When Krasner took over as district attorney in January 2018, he fired 31 district attorneys. The following month, he announced that those arrested for possession of marijuana would no longer face criminal charges and would take steps to restrict the use of "bonds." 

Krasner also instructs prosecutors not to receive more than a year probation for misdemeanors or three years for serious crimes, arguing that the first two to three years of supervision are often helpful.

I felt flustered and frustrated because it was like I had one foot on the street and one foot in jail

LaTonya Myers

 with the probation officer for his previous misconduct. a workplace, a drug and alcohol test every time she is escorted, and a ban on leaving the city without permission. "I was overwhelmed and upset because it was like I was just walking with one foot down the street and the other down the street."

'I studied law in prison - now I want to change the system'


 He doesn't need to go to jail, ”he said. Was working and a probation officer threatened him with jail time because the awards ceremony was contrary to her weekly assignment. Although the officer was worried about the setbacks.

I felt flustered and frustrated because it was like I had one foot on the street and one foot in jail

LaTonya Myers

 Krasner's opponents say Philadelphia is a safer place. place due to their strict probationary period, but Sangeeta Prasad, the district attorney's attorney, argues that this “high level of surveillance makes Philadelphia less safe because they lead to jail time for minor mistakes while they are under surveillance and destabilize work ... and housing opportunities, ”he said.For example,

 although possession of marijuana is no longer illegal in Philadelphia, testing positive for drugs could be a parole violation leading to a return to prison. and landlords who conduct background checks on tenants may refuse to transfer property to someone on probation, ”Prasad said.

 “Every time you go to jail or jail again, it undermines their job opportunities and positive public relations; every time you are sent to jail or jail, you become more vulnerable as you engage in future criminal activities. 

The court can also order someone to “stay away from criminal activity” or “stay away from criminal activity,” he said, causing someone to leave. In April this year, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office announced that the number of people under surveillance in the city has decreased by a third since 2018.

from 42,000 to 28,000. During the same period, "there was no measurable impact on recidivism," the report said. Racial differences in convictions have also diminished.Prior to that, black defendants received an average of 10.8 months longer probation than white defendants. Now the average spread is 5.2 months. The district attorney estimates that the new approach has provided oversight for 95,600 years to date.

 In the summer of 2019, Latonia successfully filed an early release appeal. However, it took him a while not to instinctively feel that he should ask permission to just go somewhere or do something.

 free, you still need to mentally learn to be free, "Latonia said. She quit her job at the public protection office as soon as the pandemic broke out in March 2020 to spend more time. More time for her nonprofit All Rates. supports and advises people who have just been released from prison and informs them about their citizenship, especially women and the community LGBT community “I want to make sure people know their right to vote and ask for an early end to their probation . so that we can support them,


 "he said. When he spoke about his achievement, he was told that this is an" exception "and that his story does not concern thousands of people. is on probation, but he insists that this story not "It frees people up and they can grow instead of being in constant survival mode with the threat of a prison hanging over their heads like an ax," he often said.He invited judges, prosecutors and probation officers in the hopes of testing his perceptions of former prisoners. “Think about everything the district attorney and the judge think of you.

 Let them know that you are not an empty phrase, that you are dishonest, ”he said. Prize winners before entering the room. On stage, Latonia smiles, hugs and shakes her shoulders. It's not free. “I want to fly a kite, I want to go rafting, I want to dip in the sand. Which I didn't think I could do because I was so caught up in the system.




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