Jobs, Books, and Podcasts: A Life Update Listicle

If you were to judge my life by this shitty website, it would appear that I have not been doing very much with myself in the past year.

That would be #fakenews

Despite the complete lack of updates in this forum I have, in fact, been doing things. One of those things includes getting a new job.

As of Jan.1, I am reporting for The Marshall Project, which is a nonprofit online news outlet focusing on criminal justice. If you’re not familiar, check them out HERE. They’ve been around about five years and won a Pulitzer a few years ago for the investigative reporting that ultimately spawned the Netflix series Unbelievable.

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They’re based in NYC, but I’ll be staying here in Houston. I’ll be covering some of the same things, but also able to zero in on criminal justice issues anywhere in the country – not that there isn’t enough fuckery in the great state of Texas to keep me busy, though.

Here – harkening back to my tabloid days – is a listicle that exactly no one asked for, a quick round-up of the past year and all the various things I probably should’ve posted here but didn’t bother to. Enjoy! Or don’t.

  • After launching in late 2018, I continued with my podcast and ended up pushing out 15 episodes. THIS was the most downloaded episode, for anyone interested in taking a listen.
  • I also published more than 200 articles for the Houston Chronicle. Some highlights include a story about the family who once supplied lethal injection drugs for the Texas death chamber, a few dozen co-reported stories about a botched drug raid that ended with police shooting two innocent homeowners, heartbreaking stories about two different men who were killed by prison guards, and a story about gun deaths over a particularly violent weekend in Houston.
  • Along with NBC News reporter Mike Hixenbaugh, I went very off-brand and did a four-part investigative series about child abuse misdiagnoses and wrongful removals. Stories HERE.
  • Early in the year, I published a few stories with another online criminal justice outlet called The Appeal. The best of those stories, imo, was probably the investigation into New York’s shock incarceration programs.
  • Over the course of many months, I wrote a long-form story for the Washington Post Magazine, looking at “gender-responsive corrections” and how women’s specific needs aren’t met in jails and prisons. It was part of a very cool issue about criminal justice, written and photographed entirely by people who were currently or formerly incarcerated.
  • In the fall, I did a national tour with Pop-Up Magazine. Basically, a bunch of photographers/artists/reporters each reports out a narrative feature story and then performs it on stage. I did a piece about life on Texas death row, and the Pop-Up folks added animations and music courtesy a live orchestra. We did sold-out shows across the country, including NY’s Lincoln Center which was – of course – v, v cool.

Also, I got a book deal. YAYYY. Stay tuned for more on that in terms of timing, and when an actual release date would be.

deal of the day

So, that’s the round-up of my past year, more or less. Moving forward, I’ll try to post here SOMEWHAT more often. But for the most part I’m planning to use this space for just life updates at this point I think – because I think a lot of the people who follow me here are people who either know me IRL or are following me for personal updates. BUT if you – despite my general lack of posts here – have some thoughts on what kinds of posts you’d like here, feel free to email me or comment about what you’d like to see.

And, if you’re looking for more regular updates – plus some snark, bitching and occasional insight – just follow me on Twitter.

Podcast: The first night in prison is not how you imagine

BTW LogoMy first night in prison I barely slept. It wasn’t so much that I was worried “dropping the soap” or getting attacked – it’s just that it was prison. But it was nothing like I expected.

That was just over seven years ago, but that first night stuck with me, and it seemed like a good starting place for a new podcast. Tune in every couple weeks to listen to me and my cohost – former corrections union president Lance Lowry – talk about Texas prisons and prison policy.

Here’s the link to subscribe

A Reporter’s First Rodeo

The rodeo is in town in Bayou City. Every year, a three-week marathons of animals, carnival food and concerts floods Houston for the famous Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Here’s some of the highlights of my week covering the big shindig.

A reporter’s quest to find the elusive rodeo jail

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Is this rodeo jail?

 

There’s a cracked painting of a bucking animal sprawled across one wall and a parched dirt floor underfoot. In one corner is a lone tattered boot with a star-shaped spur. In another there’s a mean two-headed rattlesnake with a gun in its mouth. The only food is raw hamburger meat wrapped in fried bacon, served three times a day. The only thing to drink is cowboy tears – and cowboys don’t cry.

At least this is how I envision rodeo jail.

Click here to read the full story. 

Speak, you said? A dog’s eye view of what the rodeo need

This is not my first rodeo. As a World Champion Disc Dog, I have been to a good number of these things — and I have six suggestions to make them less human-centric and more agreeable for canine visitors such as myself.

IMG_5449What does this adorable dog suggest? Click here to read the full story.

In tractor maintenance, a fierce competitor

In a sea of baseball caps, Sage Boettcher’s blond ponytail stands out.

It bobs beside the bright orange tractor in front of her as the 18-year-old bangs the back wheels in frustration.

It wobbles as she peers closely under the seat, searching for the problem.

It pauses as she remembers: The clock is ticking.

Does Sage win? Is she the fastest tractor-fixer in Texas? Click here to read the full story.

Border Patrol presence turns heads, creates worries at the rodeo

It started with what looked like an unnerving photo: windowless Border Patrol vans parked outside the Houston Rodeo.

And as the image spread online in the run-up to Sunday’s Go Tejano Day, it seeded fear and rumors of roundups in the local Hispanic community in light of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown.

“They don’t need to be spreading fear or instigating further tension between people with different skin tones,” said Yvonne Hernandez, a Houstonian who comes from a family of immigrants.

Click here to read the full story and find out Border Patrol’s response to the online rumors.

In Real Life, War Can Sneak Up on You

The world was on the brink of another war, and Chuck Bowman headed out for a bike ride.

In any other decade, my great-uncle Chuck’s voyage might have been a leisurely sightseeing trip, but when the newly minted West Point grad trekked through Europe on a bicycle in 1939, he was seeing the beginnings of a global conflict.

As detailed in his war diary, Chuck’s trip seems ominous only with the benefit of hindsight.

Click on the image below to read the full story. 

hitler Continue reading “In Real Life, War Can Sneak Up on You”

Camp for Children of Incarcerated Parents

Imagine you are six years old and your dad is in jail. You’re probably confused. You may not understand where he is or why he’s not there. You probably aren’t sure why you have to see him through plexiglass every week or why there are guards in room who won’t let you sit in his lap. You might even feel like you’re singled out, like you’re the only kid this has ever happened to. What do you do?

If you live in Tompkins County you can attend a summercamp program called Project RISE, and it’s dedicated to helping kids of incarcerated and criminal justice-involved parents get to experience a safe, understanding camp environment for free. Aislyn Colgan

The project, spearheaded by Aislyn Colgan, is starting as a part of the existing Village Camp, founded and run by Camp Earth Connections owner Susan Rausch. Rausch has owned the Freeville campground, located in Hammond Hill State Park, since 2002, when she took it over from Cayuga Nature Center.

Before taking ownership of the campground, Rausch founded Village Camp back in 1999 as a community camp. With help from Greater Ithaca Activities Center, Rausch began something that she said “is very different from other camps.” It’s a very outdoor-focused program and kids aren’t broken up into age groups. Instead she said, “We come together as a community and then we offer choices to the kids.” She added, “The Village Camp doesn’t really have a focus other than supporting kids who are disenfranchised in one way or another.”

Thus, when Colgan approached Rausch with the idea for Project RISE, it was a natural fit. Colgan said, “Project RISE is geared toward anyone whose parents are involved in the justice system in any way.” Kids with parents on probation, drug court, or behind bars will qualify for full camp scholarships. Over the past few months, Colgan has done the leg-work in terms of securing funding to make sure those scholarships are a reality.

Before moving to the Ithaca area in 2011, Colgan worked at Project AVARY (Alternative Ventures for At-Risk Youth), a camp for kids of incarcerated parents. Colgan was there for two summers and found the program inspiring, so when she moved out the area she decided she wanted to recreate it somewhere else.

Although Project AVARY included year-round activities, Colgan said that she hopes to build up to that point so that eventually there can be day trips or weekend getaways during the off-season.

“This is meant to be a focal point for parents and families dealing with incarceration to mobilize and help each other out and be more resilient,” she said. “Project RISE means ‘Resilience in Spite of Everything.’ So it’s meant to be a base for people to work together and build resilience among themselves and work against this system of mass incarceration.” She added, “It’s not like, ‘Let’s help these poor kids who are through no fault of their own are a victim of their parents’ behavior.’ This is like, ‘The system is targeting these kids.’ And this is to resist that.”

This year, the camp will be one week long, running from Aug. 17 to 21. Kids will be picked up at GIAC at 8:30 a.m. and dropped back off at 5 p.m. To enroll or get more information, contact Colgan directly atprojectrise15@gmail.com. •

This article originally appeared in The Ithaca Times.

“This Is What Freedom Tastes Like”

Prison Photography

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First Meal: Everything bagel with veggie cream cheese and a medium coffee from Dunkin Donuts. “I was craving a really good bagel,” said Keri Blakinger, 30, who served 21 months in female correctional facilities in NY. Blakinger, a vegetarian, subsisted mostly on canned vegetables and granola bars, which she received in packages from her parents. Since getting out, her diet has not changed much because she grew accustomed to not having to cook for herself. © Julius Motal.

There’s no shortage of projects about meals in the small corner of photographic practice concerned with prisons and human rights. Specifically, the final meals of condemned prisoners have stoked the macabre and outraged intrigue of artists.

Julius Motal‘s photographs of “first meals” are therefore something of a departure and a welcome addition to the visual narratives trying to convey the transitions out of prison and into society. Instead of an end…

View original post 490 more words

Christmas Requests from a Dog

Dear Human,

We really need to have a talk about the things you get me for Christmas. I do not like squeaky toys quite as much as you seem to think I do. Here, however, is a list of things that I do like and would very much like to receive this year.

  1. A bed. Not a dog bed. I have one of those. I do not want that. I want my own human bed. And I want you to sit on it with me so that you can pet me. However, onmy bed, you cannot force me to move when I “steal” the pillow. Also, on my bed, once I have appropriately rearranged the covers to my liking, you cannot “make” the bed again.
  2. A pet. Do you remember that a few years ago we lived in a house with many mice? I liked them. They were my friends. And then I ate them. I would like more. Mice, frogs, and spiders would all be acceptable.
  3. An additional steering wheel in your car. I want to sit on the side with the steering wheel. Every time I do, you insist that I move. I want my own steering wheel. If you get me a steering wheel, I promise I will stop touching the gear shift while you are driving. Probably. The window and mirror controls are still fair game, though.
  4. A trash can. You used to leave the trash can at a height that I could reach. I think you have moved it because I cannot see it anymore.  Please put it back or get me my own. I like to work on apartment decorating while you are gone and if you get me my own trash can I promise to have its contents artfully scattered about the room by the time you return.

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    This is one of my best art installations. If you put back the trash can, I can do more.
  5. Crampons. You know, those little metal spikes mountain climbers wear on their boots? I need some. This ice-like surface you call “hardwood floor” is patently unsafe. One should not live on something so slippery. However, since you seem to like living on a surface that offers approximately the same walking stability as treading on a slug (like the one I ate yesterday), the least you can do is find me some crampons. I would advise you to purchase some as well.
  6. My own toilet bowl. One without a lid. You keep putting the lid down, making the best water in the house completely inaccessible to me. This is unfair. Having my own lidless toilet bowl would remedy this injustice.
  7. Books. I do not think that you understand how books are to be used, but I would like more anyway. You seem to think that you should stare at books when in fact they are to be used as pillows. I have tried my hardest to communicate this to you by lying on top of or putting my face in front of any book that you stare at for too long. Someday you will understand.
  8. A poop sampler platter. Please include cat, dog, sheep, and chicken samples. I would also appreciate the inclusion of some of my own samples. I know that you have them because I have seen you pick up my poop and put it into a bag (you weirdo).
  9. Presents for my friends. As a dog, I find gift wrapping rather challenging. Thus, I would appreciate if you would procure and wrap the following presents for my dog friends:
  • A dead fish for Taigo. Taigo greatly enjoys rolling in dead fish. (Note that fish must be at least a few days old.)
  • A pile of socks for Matty. Ideally, the socks should be worn and smelly.
  • A chipmunk for Bailey. Specifically, this gift should be deposited inside Bailey’s house. She thinks that if the chipmunk is indoors, she will finally be able to catch it. This gift probably does not need to be wrapped.

Thank you for considering my requests.

Love,

Charlotte

Note: This article was originally published on ithaca.com. I know it’s completely off-topic in terms of what I usually post here, but it was fun so I put it up. Plus, Charlotte demanded that I repost it.