The-Return The-Return

Interview: Makers Of 'The Return' Documentary Uncover Civilian Adjustment After Life Sentences

Directed by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway, 'The Return' looks into the criminal justice system and the repeal of California's controversial Three Strikes Rule.   

In The Return, a wave of relief washes over Kenneth Anderson's family when they're informed his life sentence is cut short. Tears streamed down the face of his 24-year-old daughter while his ex-wife Monica comforts her. Anderson served 14 years in a California prison for a nonviolent drug offense under the state's notorious 1994 "Three Strikes" law, which gave thousands life sentences for petty crimes. Other states implement similar practices. Drug addicts, the mentally ill and people of color were the recipients of the incredibly harsh sentences, an afterthought lawmakers ignored in efforts to keep the "bad guys" off the street.

After voters passed Proposition 36 in 2012 to repeal the law, many became eligible for early releases. One of them was Anderson, but his release was just one hurdle he had to face.

The documentary—put together by three-time Emmy Award-winners Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway—tell the stories of former 'lifers' like Anderson and Bilal Kevin Chatman finding they way back to normal life, the advocates who push for re-entry programs and the judges who hold the future of the disenfranchised in their hands.

The efforts of de-institutionalizing offenders are slim to none, with the lack of support to counter the trauma faced behind the cell walls. Since Prop 36 passed, 2,100 Three Strikers have been released with a recidivism rate under 9 percent. The efforts of Prop 36 will more than likely save Californians $1.3 billion over the next 10 years, but what remains today is a harsh reality.

After five months on the job, Anderson is fired and reverts back to using drugs, affecting his family tremendously. They're able to help him find treatment and he lands on his feet once again. With the huge lag of re-entry laws and programs, will other former offenders find themselves on a ferris wheel of internal struggle? VIBE spoke to Galloway and de la Vega via email about the stories behind the documentary and what lies ahead for the criminal justice system.

VIBE: Do you think sentencing laws have been strengthened or weakened over the years?  
Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway: Since the mid-80s, when the nation first passed bi-partisan “tough on crime laws,” our country has come to incarcerate more people than any other nation in the world. With 5 percent of the world’s population, we have 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.  With our prison system growing, so too are its prisoners, hundreds of thousands of them “aging out” of criminal behavior yet remaining incarcerated at a cost of 65K a year per person. Not only does our draconian system of mass incarceration make no practical or financial sense—it’s inhumane. While in the past few years we’ve begun to see incremental reform, there is much left to be done both in terms of transforming future policy and reckoning with the legacy of decades of destructive policies. As a nation, we need to not only rethink the length of our sentences but also our approach to rehabilitation and re-entry. More than 650,000 people are released every year, only to face nearly insurmountable obstacles to obtaining housing, education, and gainful employment.

What was the inspiration for making The Return
When we learned that Prop. 36 was on the ballot and that, if passed, it would mark the first time ever that citizens opted to shorten sentences of the currently incarcerated. We were determined to follow the story, to provide a lens through which to explore the idea of undoing what we’ve done, i.e. mass incarceration writ large. We began by creating a series of shorts examining those actually serving life under 3xs in California - knowing there were a lot of false assumptions about this population as “the worst of the worst.” Our goal was to produce intimate, close-to-the-bone narratives while providing a vantage point from which to consider the question that is also the conceptual project motivating the feature film: after a half century of building this behemoth, how do we go about unbuilding?

How do you feel about the children of incarcerated parents? Why are they often left out of the conversation? 
The War on Drugs and our draconian sentencing policies have devastated the lives of millions of American children and untold families and communities. One of the reasons we focused on the Anderson/Grier family was to bring those children to the center of the conversation over mass incarceration and its legacy: to raise the profile of those who’ve loved and lost family members to prison. Those “serving time on the outside." There are millions of Americans suffering with a feeling of shame and loss due to an absent parent. We have to start looking at our justice and incarceration systems in a more holistic way that acknowledges the punishing and destructive impact on children and families. If we do, we strongly believe our society will be safer and more just for all.

What does redemption mean to those who have served their time for their crimes? 
In prison, a lot of programming is focused on seeking redemption for one’s crimes. It seems to be the singular focus of many explanations given and expected - and we don’t underestimate the value of “taking responsibility” as a part of recovery and healing. But that focus often denies and belies many of the structural factors that lead people to become incarcerated in the first place. The lack of quality public education and decent work, the disparities in punishment for the poor and people of color, the lack of health care and services, the list goes on. People who have suffered the greatest inequities and injustices in American society are, not surprisingly, the most likely to suffer the brunt of dystopic policies. And they’re also most likely to be disenfranchised and to suffer the implications of not having political power and voice. The untold story of redemption in America—one that still hangs in the balance—is our collective redemption, only just beginning to show signs of life and desperately in need of nurturing and growing if we’re going to make the so called “change moment” on criminal justice real.  We need collective redemption for endorsing harsh sentencing policies that have yielded a profound human rights crisis in our nation. We believe the passage of Prop 36 and Prop 47 two years later signal a meaningful shift in public thinking around our prison system, and have highlighted public shame for and desire to correct what has taken place on our watch.

What can you say about the attorneys who continue to fight for better laws in the criminal justice system? 
We are both daughters of civil rights lawyers raised with the question of what constitutes justice as dinner table conversation. We have the deepest respect for Mike Romano, Susan Champion, Emily Galvin, David Mills, Jessica Delgado and many more public defenders and legal advocates who have fought hard from the trenches to the media to the halls of power—all against the odds—to pass and choreograph the success of this unprecedented and hopeful reform. Their struggle for justice, their generosity of spirit, and their deep empathy inspire us and motivate our work — work we hope will in turn inspire new generations to walk in their footsteps, holding our nation closer to its promise of liberty and justice for all.

The film, an audience favorite at the Tribeca Film Festival, will air as part of PBS' POV (Point of View) series tonight (May 23) at 10 p.m. Learn more about the film at thereturnproject.com.

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Young Thug Blasts Pusha T For Dissing Drake On Leaked Pop Smoke Song

Young Thug isn’t mincing words when it comes to his opinion on Pusha T dissing Drake on a leaked song that was set to appear on Pop Smoke’s posthumous album, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon.

After the song, “Paranoia,” surfaced online this past weekend, Thugger made it clear that he didn’t know King Push was going to diss Drake on the track, which features him and Gunna.

“I don’t respect the Pusha T verse on the song with me and Gunna [because] I don’t have [nothing] to do with ya’ll beef nor does Gunna, and if I knew that was about him I would’ve made changes on our behalf..the rapper s**t so gay,” Thugger wrote on his Instagram Story early Tuesday (July 7).

“Don’t feel bad, NOBODY knew what the verse was [about],” Pusha responded in one of multiple posts accusing Drake of snitching to the record label to get the song pulled from Pop Smoke's album. “The label heads that stopped it didn’t even know. They ONLY ASSUME because HE [Drake] TOLD them! The same way HE TOLD [about] the Ross ‘Maybach 6’ verse. And if HE’LL TELL record executives [about] rap verses, God only knows what else HE’LL TELL! I don’t deal in police work, police rappers or police n**gas!!!!"

AYO PUSHA T IS SNAPPINNN ON YOUNG THUG RIGHT NOW 😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/3VHgeg9xFp

— King Wow (@wowthatshiphop) July 7, 2020

Thugger went back on Instagram and blasted Pusha for having a “weak” verse.

“First of all your verse is 7 days…that muthafucka’ weak,” he said. “Second of all, you already went crazy the first time...it an’t nothing but a sucka [move]... going on double takes, triple takes, and quadruple takes. You should’ve just got all of it out when you put the first song out.

“You didn’t even have to do all that. You just felt like you wasn’t gonna get enough views on your own s**t so you came and put some bulls**t on a n**gga' who’s resting in peace’s music. Trying to f**k up a n**ga' a whole vibe. Why the f**k you ain’t do that s**t on your own song?” ”

Young Thug responds to Pusha T for Dissing Drake on Pop Smoke Song pic.twitter.com/7KNMbiU535

— Kollege Kidd (@KollegeKidd) July 8, 2020

On “Paranoia,” the Virginia MC goes at Drake for making “empty threats,” and his tendency to rap in different accents.

“You know reality bites, it’s chess, not checkers,” raps Pusha. “Those empty threats only sound good on your records/If the patois is not followed by a Blocka/It’s like Marked for Death Screwface, without the choppa/Let ’em rush the stage when you made like Sinatra/Only to hide the blade flyin’ back through LaGuardia/I might even buy a home out in Mississauga [Canada].”

Pusha previously dissed Drake on 2018’s , “The Story of Adidon,” where he revealed to the world that the Toronto rapper had a son. Drake later admitted that he had a son on the track “Emotionless” off his Scorpion album.

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50 Cent Faces Backlash Over Rant About “Angry Black Women”

During the latest episode of Lil Wayne’s Young Money Radio, 50 Cent opted to go on a derogatory rant against Black women, and he’s facing backlash over his comments.

In a clip from the interview, which was posted YouTube on  Sunday (July 4), the G-Unit honcho claims Black women get upset with him for dating “exotic women.”

He then proceeded to share why he prefers a certain women.“That s**t looks a lot different from the s**t you see in the neighborhood all the time. That s**t look like it come off a boat...something you can’t just get. But they [Black women] get angry, 'How did you end up with this motherf**ker?' I’m like, 'Huh?' My instincts always make me defensive, so I look at it like 'look at this angry Black motherf**ker. Get the f**k out of here, trying to f**k up the whole vibe.'”

Weezy not only laughed along with Fif, he verbally co-signed his statements. The New Orleans rapper's daughter, Reginae Carter, responded to the ignorant comments with a tweet uplifting fellow Black women:

I’m black ! I’m beautiful ! I’m enough ! I’m exotic ! I’m amazing ! I’m one of a mf kind !!!! Now where my black beautiful Queens at ? 🥰🥰

— Love me (@reginae_carter1) July 6, 2020

Vivica A. Fox weighed in on the matter during Tuesday’s (July 7) episode of Cocktails with the Queens. Fox said that her ex has “f**boy tendencies,” and is intimidated by Black women.

“When I read that [his comments] I was like really? You would say that because you don’t want anyone to challenge you. You want somebody to sit over there like a pretty little dog that you can just [pet] right? You can’t handle a Black woman. Can you?"

Fif responded with an Instagram post claiming that Fox is “still in love with me.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

👀Vivica still in love with me, i dated her for 4 months 😳17 years ago and she’s still angry with me. I’m starting to feel like my 🍆is serious. LOL 😆#bransoncognac #lecheminduroi

A post shared by 50 Cent (@50cent) on Jul 7, 2020 at 11:01am PDT

Meanwhile, the Queens native's girlfriend, Cuban Link, posted a birthday message to him on Instagram and added, “Don’t worry ladies I already knocked him upside his big a** head.”

Read more reactions to Fif's comments below.

Why is it only Black male rappers that continuously feel the need to degrade Black women in this manner? https://t.co/ZLjcNIGFBo

— The Grapevine (@TheGrapevineTV) July 7, 2020

Bruh fuck lil Wayne and 50 cent. I'm so sick of black men making it seem like black women are jealous of women of other races.

— The 🍫 Goddess (@VivannaVixxxen) July 5, 2020

Just when you think Lil Wayne and 50 Cent can’t get anymore anti-black and colorist, they join forces and top themselves. Black women....PLEASE STOP SUPPORTING THESE ASHY NIGGAS.

— Billionaire but Make it PPP (@BrrrLaStrange) July 5, 2020

Lil Wayne has a regular BLACK daughter and gone sit up there and laugh with 50 cent about black women smh.. That’s exactly why those dreads are falling off the damn bone! I wish these coons would learn that you can have your “exotic” women without putting us down

— 7/23♌️ (@_MinnieD) July 6, 2020

50 cent and Lil Wayne are so toxic. They have black mothers but continuously bash black women. We all love to talk about racism but unfortunately some black men have self hatred reflected in their hate for black women. This is quietly swept under the rug. 🤦🏾‍♀️

— YomiBolo (@yomibolo) July 5, 2020

When I see black men acting like 50 cent and Lil Wayne, I don’t get angry just disappointed. Projecting your self hate on to black women is pathetic.

— Alexandria (@alexandriiascot) July 6, 2020

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Colin Kaepernick Lands First-Look Deal With Disney

Colin Kaepernick and his production company, Ra Vision Media, secured first-look deal with the Walt Disney Company to release scripted and unscripted projects covering race, social injustice, and the fight for equality, the company announced on Monday (July 6).

“I am excited for this partnership with Disney across all of its platforms to elevate Black and Brown directors, creators, storytellers & producers,” Kaepernick said in a statement.“I look forward to sharing culturally impactful and inspiring projects.”

The agreement extends to other Disney-owned platforms such as Walt Disney Television, ESPN, Hulu, Pixar, and The Undefeated. The first project under the partnership will be a docuseries on Kaepernick, co-produced by Jamele Hill.

Kaepernick will also work closely with The Undefeated to develop stories from the Black and Brown perspective.

“Colin’s experience gives him a unique perspective on the intersection of sports, culture and race, which will undoubtedly create compelling stories that will educate, enlighten and entertain, and we look forward to working with him on this important collaboration,” said Disney executive chairman Bob Iger.

The Disney deal marks the latest in a string of new projects for Kaepernick, which includes a Netflix miniseries based on his teenage life, and a forthcoming memoir.

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