Why 'Made in Prison' is the new 'Made in China'
Should companies provide a ‘Made In an American Prison’ label if the product is made in an American jail?
Liza Jessie Peterson is a renowned actress, poet, playwright, educator and activist who has been steadfast in her commitment to incarcerated populations both professionally and artistically, but specifically with adolescent boys and girls detained at Rikers Island for eighteen years. She has worked as a program counselor for the Department of Corrections, a reentry specialist, a teaching artist (with poetry and theater), GED instructor for the Board of Education at Rikers Island, and a life skills workshop facilitator. She was recently featured in Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th (Netflix) and was a consultant on Bill Moyers documentary RIKERS (PBS). She has written several plays, including The Peculiar Patriot, which she performed excerpts of in over 35 penitentiaries across the country, and opened for Angela Davis at Columbia University’s conference on mass incarceration. Also known for her exceptional poetic skills, Liza began her poetry career at the Nuyorican Poets Café and was a vital member of the enclave of notable poets who were part of the “underground slam poetry” movement. It was this electric group of artists that inspired Russell Simmons to bring “spoken word” to HBO where Liza appeared on two episodes of Def Poetry. As an actress Liza appeared in several feature films: Love the Hard Way (costarring with Pam Grier and Adrien Brody), Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, K. Shalini’s A Drop of Life, and Jamie Catto’s What About Me. Liza’s first book, ALL DAY; A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids, was released in Spring 2017.
Liza Jessie Peterson is a renowned actress, poet, playwright, educator and activist who has been steadfast in her commitment to incarcerated populations both professionally and artistically, but specifically with adolescent boys and girls detained at Rikers Island for eighteen years. She has worked as a program counselor for the Department of Corrections, a reentry specialist, a teaching artist (with poetry and theater), GED instructor for the Board of Education at Rikers Island, and a life skills workshop facilitator. She was recently featured in Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th (Netflix) and was a consultant on Bill Moyers documentary RIKERS (PBS).
She has written several plays, including The Peculiar Patriot, which she performed excerpts of in over 35 penitentiaries across the country, and opened for Angela Davis at Columbia University’s conference on mass incarceration.
Also known for her exceptional poetic skills, Liza began her poetry career at the Nuyorican Poets Café and was a vital member of the enclave of notable poets who were part of the “underground slam poetry” movement. It was this electric group of artists that inspired Russell Simmons to bring “spoken word” to HBO where Liza appeared on two episodes of Def Poetry.
As an actress Liza appeared in several feature films: Love the Hard Way (costarring with Pam Grier and Adrien Brody), Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, K. Shalini’s A Drop of Life, and Jamie Catto’s What About Me.
Liza’s first book, ALL DAY; A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids, was released in Spring 2017.
Liza Jessie Peterson: Why should people be concerned with the issue of mass incarceration? People should be concerned with the issue of mass incarceration because it is a human rights crisis that is happening right in front of our face, and it's being cloaked with crime and punishment.
So “These people are bad people, they've committed a crime so we can ignore them, we can lock them up, we can throw them away and we can basically ignore a large swath of our population because they've been criminalized as bad people. They're disposable.”
Human beings are not disposable. We have value. We have traumas, we have hearts, we have families, we have the communities so we're not disposable, no matter what we've done we're not disposable.
Well, so you have prisons that are privatized but in addition to private prisons even state run prisons you have corporations who are profiting from people's incarceration. So what does that mean?
Ok. The 13th amendment in the Constitution, in the United States Constitution, it says that slavery is illegal. So we can't have slavery anymore, except for punishment of a crime. So everybody get your constitution out, look up the 13th amendment and you see the clause that says “except for punishment of a crime.” So if you are convicted of a crime then you're exempt from that 13th amendment saying that slavery is abolished. So that means that you're allowed to work as a slave, slave labor, slave wages.
So you have people working for ten cents an hour, 11 cents an hour who are doing agriculture, working for huge corporations. I don't want to name them because there's so many, but a lot of the goods and services that we take for granted, clothing lines, computer parts, airplane parts, military equipment, food that we buy organically grown, these things are being manufactured in prisons, in prison farms, in prison factories by inmates.
So, y'know, we talk about “buy American,” yeah—okay I have this line in my play The Peculiar Patriot and it says “made in China, made in prison is now the new China” because China, people were outraged about the slave labor and all these sweat shops in Taiwan, in China, all these unfair labor practice is overseas. Well, it's happening right here in America, being “made in prison”. So you have corporations, companies, who are profiting off of people incarcerated.
So there is an incentive for hyper criminalization of a population to keep capitalism running on a well-oiled machine of slave labor, which is the foundation for this country. Let's not forget that the fabric, the very fabric of this country is rooted in slavery, slave labor for hundreds of years. So there is huge capital that was amassed, systems and industries that were created from slave labor so how does this system continue to operate? Well, it just kind of shifted and now we have mass incarceration, we have people who are literally working for five cents, seven cents, ten cents an hour. No labor unions, no workers comp, you know what I mean? So it's a corporation's wet dream.
And I think that if we were to examine the slave industry, because that's what this country was built on we can't ignore that it did not come out that this country was not born out of slavery, the industry of slavery, and you have people say, “Oh my God how do we have slaves for 400 years and just the violence and the atrocities and the trauma and it was just oh that was so horrible!” Right?
Okay. So that happened. But there were people who said, “No this isn't right this is not how human beings are supposed to be treated and human beings shouldn't live this way.” So if we had abolitionists who fought against the system of slavery, chattel slavery, I think that the issue that was just as important during the was it the 19th century, I think it's just as important now that we are faced with the same human rights issue of the day.
Now mind you, now, remember during slavery you had people who thought “Oh well, this is just the way things are” and they went to cotillions and they went to parties and they went to little business as usual and people just kind of ignored the stench of the plantation and what was happening to other human beings.
And you had some people who are like, “Hmm, this is not right. This is not right.” And the people who said “this is not right,” they were a small section of society, and that voice got louder and bigger and stronger. So I think that we're at the precipice of another great shift in society were you have a small group of people who say this prison industrial complex is a human rights crisis. Something needs to be done.
You have a large swath of people saying “Oh they're just criminals we have to have prisons, right?” But I have faith in that small voice of people who believe in humanity, of people who believe in a world without prison becoming louder and louder and louder just like the abolitionists did it back in the day.
Should companies provide a ‘Made In an American Prison’ label if the product is made in an American jail? Over the last few decades there has been a huge surge of products made in prison factories by inmates. These products—which range from clothes to military equipment and everything in between—are made extremely cheaply because the workers are often paid pennies, if at all. Is this the continuation of slavery? Renowned playwright Liza Jessie Peterson thinks so, and she talks to us about how today’s privatized prison labor problem is a huge human rights problem happening right here on American soil.
Liza's new book is All Day: A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids at Rikers Island.
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Metal-like materials have been discovered in a very strange place.
- Bristle worms are odd-looking, spiky, segmented worms with super-strong jaws.
- Researchers have discovered that the jaws contain metal.
- It appears that biological processes could one day be used to manufacture metals.
The bristle worm, also known as polychaetes, has been around for an estimated 500 million years. Scientists believe that the super-resilient species has survived five mass extinctions, and there are some 10,000 species of them.
Be glad if you haven't encountered a bristle worm. Getting stung by one is an extremely itchy affair, as people who own saltwater aquariums can tell you after they've accidentally touched a bristle worm that hitchhiked into a tank aboard a live rock.
Bristle worms are typically one to six inches long when found in a tank, but capable of growing up to 24 inches long. All polychaetes have a segmented body, with each segment possessing a pair of legs, or parapodia, with tiny bristles. ("Polychaeate" is Greek for "much hair.") The parapodia and its bristles can shoot outward to snag prey, which is then transferred to a bristle worm's eversible mouth.
The jaws of one bristle worm — Platynereis dumerilii — are super-tough, virtually unbreakable. It turns out, according to a new study from researchers at the Technical University of Vienna, this strength is due to metal atoms.
Metals, not minerals
Fireworm, a type of bristle wormCredit: prilfish / Flickr
This is pretty unusual. The study's senior author Christian Hellmich explains: "The materials that vertebrates are made of are well researched. Bones, for example, are very hierarchically structured: There are organic and mineral parts, tiny structures are combined to form larger structures, which in turn form even larger structures."
The bristle worm jaw, by contrast, replaces the minerals from which other creatures' bones are built with atoms of magnesium and zinc arranged in a super-strong structure. It's this structure that is key. "On its own," he says, "the fact that there are metal atoms in the bristle worm jaw does not explain its excellent material properties."
Just deformable enough
Credit: by-studio / Adobe Stock
What makes conventional metal so strong is not just its atoms but the interactions between the atoms and the ways in which they slide against each other. The sliding allows for a small amount of elastoplastic deformation when pressure is applied, endowing metals with just enough malleability not to break, crack, or shatter.
Co-author Florian Raible of Max Perutz Labs surmises, "The construction principle that has made bristle worm jaws so successful apparently originated about 500 million years ago."
Raible explains, "The metal ions are incorporated directly into the protein chains and then ensure that different protein chains are held together." This leads to the creation of three-dimensional shapes the bristle worm can pack together into a structure that's just malleable enough to withstand a significant amount of force.
"It is precisely this combination," says the study's lead author Luis Zelaya-Lainez, "of high strength and deformability that is normally characteristic of metals.
So the bristle worm jaw is both metal-like and yet not. As Zelaya-Lainez puts it, "Here we are dealing with a completely different material, but interestingly, the metal atoms still provide strength and deformability there, just like in a piece of metal."
Observing the creation of a metal-like material from biological processes is a bit of a surprise and may suggest new approaches to materials development. "Biology could serve as inspiration here," says Hellmich, "for completely new kinds of materials. Perhaps it is even possible to produce high-performance materials in a biological way — much more efficiently and environmentally friendly than we manage today."
Dealing with rudeness can nudge you toward cognitive errors.
- Anchoring is a common bias that makes people fixate on one piece of data.
- A study showed that those who experienced rudeness were more likely to anchor themselves to bad data.
- In some simulations with medical students, this effect led to higher mortality rates.
Cognitive biases are funny little things. Everyone has them, nobody likes to admit it, and they can range from minor to severe depending on the situation. Biases can be influenced by factors as subtle as our mood or various personality traits.
A new study soon to be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology suggests that experiencing rudeness can be added to the list. More disturbingly, the study's findings suggest that it is a strong enough effect to impact how medical professionals diagnose patients.
Life hack: don't be rude to your doctor
The team of researchers behind the project tested to see if participants could be influenced by the common anchoring bias, defined by the researchers as "the tendency to rely too heavily or fixate on one piece of information when making judgments and decisions." Most people have experienced it. One of its more common forms involves being given a particular value, say in negotiations on price, which then becomes the center of reasoning even when reason would suggest that number should be ignored.
It can also pop up in medicine. As co-author Dr. Trevor Foulk explains, "If you go into the doctor and say 'I think I'm having a heart attack,' that can become an anchor and the doctor may get fixated on that diagnosis, even if you're just having indigestion. If doctors don't move off anchors enough, they'll start treating the wrong thing."
Lots of things can make somebody more or less likely to anchor themselves to an idea. The authors of the study, who have several papers on the effects of rudeness, decided to see if that could also cause people to stumble into cognitive errors. Past research suggested that exposure to rudeness can limit people's perspective — perhaps anchoring them.
In the first version of the study, medical students were given a hypothetical patient to treat and access to information on their condition alongside an (incorrect) suggestion on what the condition was. This served as the anchor. In some versions of the tests, the students overheard two doctors arguing rudely before diagnosing the patient. Later variations switched the diagnosis test for business negotiations or workplace tasks while maintaining the exposure to rudeness.
Across all iterations of the test, those exposed to rudeness were more likely to anchor themselves to the initial, incorrect suggestion despite the availability of evidence against it. This was less significant for study participants who scored higher on a test of how wide of a perspective they tended to have. The disposition of these participants, who answered in the affirmative to questions like, "Before criticizing somebody, I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in his/her place," was able to effectively negate the narrowing effects of rudeness.
What this means for you and your healthcare
The effects of anchoring when a medical diagnosis is on the line can be substantial. Dr. Foulk explains that, in some simulations, exposure to rudeness can raise the mortality rate as doctors fixate on the wrong problems.
The authors of the study suggest that managers take a keener interest in ensuring civility in workplaces and giving employees the tools they need to avoid judgment errors after dealing with rudeness. These steps could help prevent anchoring.
Also, you might consider being nicer to people.
So much for rest in peace.
- Australian scientists found that bodies kept moving for 17 months after being pronounced dead.
- Researchers used photography capture technology in 30-minute intervals every day to capture the movement.
- This study could help better identify time of death.
We're learning more new things about death everyday. Much has been said and theorized about the great divide between life and the Great Beyond. While everyone and every culture has their own philosophies and unique ideas on the subject, we're beginning to learn a lot of new scientific facts about the deceased corporeal form.
An Australian scientist has found that human bodies move for more than a year after being pronounced dead. These findings could have implications for fields as diverse as pathology to criminology.
Dead bodies keep moving
Researcher Alyson Wilson studied and photographed the movements of corpses over a 17 month timeframe. She recently told Agence France Presse about the shocking details of her discovery.
Reportedly, she and her team focused a camera for 17 months at the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), taking images of a corpse every 30 minutes during the day. For the entire 17 month duration, the corpse continually moved.
"What we found was that the arms were significantly moving, so that arms that started off down beside the body ended up out to the side of the body," Wilson said.
The researchers mostly expected some kind of movement during the very early stages of decomposition, but Wilson further explained that their continual movement completely surprised the team:
"We think the movements relate to the process of decomposition, as the body mummifies and the ligaments dry out."
During one of the studies, arms that had been next to the body eventually ended up akimbo on their side.
The team's subject was one of the bodies stored at the "body farm," which sits on the outskirts of Sydney. (Wilson took a flight every month to check in on the cadaver.)Her findings were recently published in the journal, Forensic Science International: Synergy.
Implications of the study
The researchers believe that understanding these after death movements and decomposition rate could help better estimate the time of death. Police for example could benefit from this as they'd be able to give a timeframe to missing persons and link that up with an unidentified corpse. According to the team:
"Understanding decomposition rates for a human donor in the Australian environment is important for police, forensic anthropologists, and pathologists for the estimation of PMI to assist with the identification of unknown victims, as well as the investigation of criminal activity."
While scientists haven't found any evidence of necromancy. . . the discovery remains a curious new understanding about what happens with the body after we die.
At least 222 typefaces are named after places in the U.S. — and there's still room for more.
- Here's one pandemic project we approve of: a map of the United Fonts of America.
- The question was simple: How many fonts are named after places in the U.S.?
- Finding them became an obsession for Andy Murdock. At 222, he stopped looking.
Who isn't fond of fonts? Even if we don't know their names, we associate specific letter types with certain brands, feelings, and levels of trust.
Typography equals psychology. For example, you don't want to get a message from your doctor, or anybody else in authority, that's set in comic sans — basically, the typeface that wears clown makeup.
A new serif in town
If you want to convey reliability, tradition, and formality, you should go for a serif, a font with decorative bits stuck to its extremities. Well-known examples include Garamond, Baskerville, and Times New Roman. Remove the decoration, and you've got a clean look that communicates clarity, modernity, and innovation. Arial and Helvetica are some of the most popular sans serif fonts.
There's a lot more to font psychology, but let's veer toward another, less explored Venn diagram instead: the overlap between typography and geography. That's where Andy Murdock spent much of his pandemic.
Mr. Murdock is the co-founder of The Statesider, a newsletter about (among other things) travel and landscape in the United States. He remembers his first encounter with a home computer back in 1984 and learning from that Macintosh both the word "font" and the name for the one it used: Chicago.
A map of the United Fonts of America — well, 222 of them.Credit: The Statesider, reproduced with kind permission.
You can see where this is going. Mr Murdock retained a healthy interest in fonts named after places. Over the years, he noted Monaco, London, San Francisco, and Cairo, among many others. "And then, the question of how many fonts are named for U.S. places came up in an editorial meeting at The Statesider," Mr Murdock says.
It's the sort of topic that in other times might never have gone anywhere, but this was the start of the pandemic. "I was stuck for days on end, so I actually started looking into it. At some point, I realized that I could probably find at least one per state." Cue the idea for a map of the "United Fonts of America."
Challenge turns into obsession
But that was easier said than done. Finding location-based fonts turned out to be rather time-consuming. "I definitely didn't realize what I was getting myself into," Mr Murdock recalls. "I could quickly name a few — New York, Georgia, Chicago — but I had no idea that I'd be able to find so many."
What started as a quirky challenge turned into an obsession and a compulsion that would have the accidental font-mapper wake up in the middle of the night and think: Did I check to see if there's a Boise font? (He did; there isn't.)
"The hardest part was knowing when to stop," said Mr Murdock. "Believe me, I know I missed some." In all, he found 222 fonts referencing places in the United States and its territories.
For the most part, these fonts are distributed as the population is: heavy on the coasts and near the Great Lakes, but thin in most parts in between. California (23 fonts) takes the cake, followed by Texas (15), and New York (9).
Some of the fonts have interesting back stories, and in his article for "The Statesider", Mr Murdock provides a few:
- Georgia was named after a newspaper headline reading "Alien Heads Found in Georgia."
- Fayette is based on the handwriting of the record-keeper of a place called Fayette, now a ghost town in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
- Tahoma and Tacoma are both pre-European names for Mount Rainier in Washington state.
Mostly, the fonts repeat the names of states and cities, but some offer something more interesting, such as the alliterating Cascadia Code or the lyrical Tallahassee Chassis. Other less than ordinary names include Kentuckyfried and Wyoming Spaghetti.
Capturing the spirit of a place
As an unexpected expert in the geographic distribution of location-based fonts, can Mr. Murdock offer any opinion on the qualitative relation between place and typeface?
"Good design of any sort can capture the spirit of a place, or at least one perspective on a place," he says, "but frankly, that only occasionally seems to have been the goal when it comes to typefaces."
In his opinion, the worst fonts reflect a stereotype about a place, rather than the place itself: "Saipan and Hanalei are both made to look like crude bamboo. Those are particularly awful. Pecos feels like it belongs on a bad Tex-Mex restaurant's menu."
California (lower left) is a rich source of location-based typefaces.Credit: The Statesider, reproduced with kind permission.
"Santa Barbara Streets, on the other hand, is quite nice because it captures the font that's actually used on street signs in Santa Barbara. I prefer the typefaces that have a story and a connection to a place, but it's a fine line between being artfully historic and being cartoonishly retro."
Let's finish off Route 66
Glancing over the map, some regions seem more prone to "stereotypefacing" than others: "Tucson, Tombstone, El Paso — you know you're in the Southwest. Art Deco fonts are mostly in the east or around the Great Lakes. In general, you find more sans serif fonts in the western U.S., and more serif fonts in the east, but that's not a hard-and-fast rule."
Noticing a few blank spots on the map, Mr. Murdock helpfully suggests some areas that could do with a few more fonts, including the Carolinas, the Dakotas, Maine, Missouri, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
Oh, and Route 66. Nearly all of the cities mentioned in the eponymous song have a typeface named after them. "We need Gallup and Barstow to complete the set."
And finally, America's oft-overlooked overseas territories could be a rich seam for type developers: "Some of these names are perfect for a great typeface — Viejo San Juan, St. Croix, Pago Pago, Ypao Beach, Tinian."
To name but a few. Typeface designers, sharpen your pencils!
Map found here at The Statesider, reproduced with kind permission. For more dispatches from the weird interzone between geography and typography, check out Strange Maps #318: The semicolonial state of San Serriffe.
Strange Maps #1090
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