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The Sun Magazine

Culture and Society

Incarceration

The Sun Interview

And Justice For All

Sister Helen Prejean On Why The Death Penalty Is Wrong

The death penalty could be ended tomorrow if the Supreme Court would reverse its earlier decision. The Court overturned the death penalty once before, in 1972 (Furman v. Georgia), on the grounds that it was arbitrarily and capriciously applied and used disproportionately against poor people. But in Gregg v. Georgia the justices reinstated the death penalty with stricter criteria, limiting its applicability to only the worst of the worst and taking into account the defendant’s character and record. At that time the Court acknowledged the racism in death-penalty sentencing but said it would be too disruptive to our judicial system to correct the bias.

Fiction

The 100-To-1 Club

The sun has never felt as good as it does when I finally step out of that jailhouse and into a beautiful Friday morning, the air smelling a little like jasmine, a little like the ocean; happy weekend smiles on all the faces in the windows of a passing bus; and the mountains sitting right there, like they sometimes do, looking close enough to touch.

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

A Flick Of A Switch

I had my own problems: the light in my cell had been out for three days, meaning that I, the witless insomniac, could not read at night. Six cells in all had lost power, so twelve of us shared the same plight — because a prisoner had lit an illicit cigarette by plunging paper clips into the wall socket, creating a tiny explosion of sparks and flame. The technique trips a circuit breaker, and often the lights remain out for weeks, even though all it takes to turn them back on is the flick of a switch.

The Sun Interview

Both Sides Of The Street

Connie Rice Lays Down The Law To Cops And Gangs

When you sit down with the Bloods and the Crips as Bloods and Crips, you just reinforce the symbols and ethos and dynamics of the gang. You need to take them as individuals and talk about their leadership in the neighborhood, their roles as men in their community, and what they can do to reduce the violence. You get them to take on responsibility. Then you have them at the table as community leaders — not gang leaders. The gang doesn’t get mentioned.

Fiction

What Is Left

I spent twelve years in the state penitentiary for crimes imagined by children and believed by adults. For those twelve years, my body became my enemy and my commodity — I let the inmates hurt me so I could live. Besides the common abuses, they also broke my fingers and thumbs and sometimes the little bones in my hands. Once, they shattered a wrist.