As part of the MLK Commemoration at the University of South Carolina, the Black Law Student’s Association held a screening of a documentary film called Rikers: An American Jail.
The film profiled multiple people who had once been incarcerated at Rikers Island Prison Complex in New York City. The sobering production was followed by a discussion panel moderated by WIS TV’s Judi Gatson, along with some of Columbia and USC’s greatest minds, and a reverend from New York who was a former inmate of Rikers.
The discussions were very much geared toward racial disparities and their history in our judicial system along with the revolving door and the effects those disparities have on communities of color in the U.S.
Reverend Dr. Benny Custodio shared how he was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 125 years to life in an upstate NY prison. He gave insight into how being housed at Rikers was inhumane and how prisoners, “began to lose [themselves] and start to regress]”.
The conversations went from how inmates are treated in jail and also when they are released, Professor Seth Stoughton of USC Law gave an in depth look on how legislation could very well change how the “revolving door” catches people. Mr. Leevy Johnson, lawyer and former politician, silenced the room with his reply saying that “anytime you hear reform, someone is getting screwed”.
Overall the meeting was enlightening and shed a lot of light on the problems the U.S. government is facing, people of the community were also in attendance and many of them had a lot to say on the issues at hand.
The forum was so detailed and informative that it ended up going half an hour over the end time. As people filtered out of USC School of Law’s spacious courtroom there was a beautiful sense of fellowship and shared emotions. The panel was just one of the many events that promoted conversations on racism and fixing the racial divide.