Know When To Go (with Chris Gelardi) | Crooked Media
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January 10, 2023
Pod Save The People
Know When To Go (with Chris Gelardi)

In This Episode

DeRay, Kaya, and De’Ara cover the underreported news of the week— including the killing of LGBTQ activist Edwin Chiloba, Arizona prisons inducing labor against mother’s will, and miscarriages punishable under post-Roe v Wade legislation. DeRay interviews  investigative reporter Chris Gelardi about his report Lesser Infractions Aren’t Supposed to Land You in Solitary Confinement. They Do Anyway.












DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. On this episode is me, De’Ara, and Kaya talking about the underreported news of the week. And then I sit down with Chris Gelardi, an investigative reporter for New York Focus, covering the state’s criminal legal system. We talk about the history and future of solitary confinement in this country as we know it. Super informative. Learned a lot. You’ve heard a lot about um solitary temperament, but you will learn in this one. Here we go. My advice for this week is to stay where you stay. Leave when you leave. That part of the battle is is like showing up in people’s lives and being present. But, you know, sometimes you got to go. And knowing where to go is really uh some of the work sometimes. So stay when you stay. Go when you go. 


De’Ara Balenger: Family. Welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. Happy New Year. [cheers]


Kaya Henderson: Happy New Year. 


De’Ara Balenger: We made it. We made it. Um. I am De’Ara Balenger. You can find me uh on Instagram at @dearabalenger.


Kaya Henderson: I’m Kaya Henderson. You can find me on Twitter at @HendersonKaya 


DeRay Mckesson: I’m DeRay at @deray on Twitter. 


De’Ara Balenger: [sigh] So lots going on as usual. America is in utter chaos. Um. I don’t know if you all saw what happened with the speaker election, Kevin McCarthy and how many millions of times it took before he got elected. Um. A six year old in Newport News, Virginia, shot his teacher. Thank God she is surviving thus far. Yes, all those things are going on. But what my co-hosts want to talk about is Prince Harry here. So I just, you know, want to want to set that up so we know what our priorities are–


Kaya Henderson: Wait wait wait wait wait wait. Don’t do that–


De’Ara Balenger: –For 2023. 


Kaya Henderson: Don’t do that to us. Don’t do that to us. We also want to talk about the speaker thing. We want to talk about it all. We we got range. We can do it all. [laughter] What my co-hosts want to talk about. 


DeRay Mckesson: It’s been a lot. It’s been a lot going on since the last time we talked. 


Kaya Henderson: A lot. 


De’Ara Balenger: It is also, Megan Thee Stallion. Justice was served there. 


Kaya Henderson: Uh. [in approval]


De’Ara Balenger: Tory Lanez’s. That happened. 


Kaya Henderson: Yeah. Um. 


De’Ara Balenger: You know. 


Kaya Henderson: Okay. Where we starting? 


De’Ara Balenger: I mean, let’s just get Prince Harry over with. I have to say, I’m tired, tired, tired of the both of them. 


Kaya Henderson: Honey. 


De’Ara Balenger: I had a lot of grace over the holidays because I did watch a million hours of their their show on Netflix. And I actually was like really starting to develop even more empathy and understanding for them. But now I’m sick of it. Now I’m– 


Kaya Henderson: Girl. 


De’Ara Balenger: –sick and tired.


Kaya Henderson: Say it, I’m the exact same thing. I watched the documentary. I was like, Oh, wow. Like, he’s got PTSD from his mother. He wants to protect his family. The royals are trash, blah, blah, blah. And I was totally on their side after the documentary. And then, honey, all this Spare stuff and you spilling all the tea and at the same time talking about I just want my brother and my father back. No, you don’t brah. Like this is too much. It’s way too much. It is nuclear. It is like there’s too much. And y’all need to go sit down somewhere. Like, whoever whoever is, like, coordinating the timing of their public stuff is just wrong because they should have let the documentary marinate for a little while, build public, whatever, whatever. But this dropping this book right behind the documentary is absolutely it’s going to backfire on them tremendously. 


DeRay Mckesson: And what do you think the backfire is too much too soon? like, what do you think the? Because I could see people advising them, like get the whole story out in one fell swoop. Do you know what I mean? 


Kaya Henderson: Yes. But I mean, public pressure is going I mean, I think public sympathy. Just me and De’Ara are John Q. Public, Joan Q. Public. [laughing] [laughter]


DeRay Mckesson: Why can’t I be the public? [laughter] [indistinct banter] I didn’t watch the documentary. The only thing I saw on Twitter was when she says she never identified as Black. And people were like, okay, girl, okay. 


Kaya Henderson: Did she say [?]– 


De’Ara Balenger: But why cause–


Kaya Henderson: –cause that’s not what the documentary says. 


De’Ara Balenger: We can’t be surprised. 


Kaya Henderson: That’s not what the documentary says! 


De’Ara Balenger: Kaya. Kaya. All her friends were named Rachel. Every single one. Or Lindsey.


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah she said something like one of the quotes is like, I you know, I didn’t see myself as a Black woman. Like, that was one of the things that Twitter that, like, surfaced in Twitter that people are talking about. 


De’Ara Balenger: Yeah, that’s– 


DeRay Mckesson: Um. 


De’Ara Balenger: –the truth. She still calls herself mixed race. Like, what is that? Mixed race? 


Kaya Henderson: Girl. Listen. 


De’Ara Balenger: Girl. Come on, girl, Come on. 


DeRay Mckesson: So that’s when I saw people get off the train. [laughter]


Kaya Henderson: I felt like in the documentary she just talked about, like, not being Black enough, not being white enough, not fitting, her whole life is a question of like where she belongs. Right. And, you know, that’s cool. Whatever. I get it. That’s not my experience and whatever. But, you know, your mom was going to tell you at some point they’re going to figure out that you are a Black woman and treat you as such. So whether you claim it or not, welcome to the party, Black girl. Here it is. All of this is wrought from that. Uh. Yeah. So. Mmm. But I, I think–


DeRay Mckesson: But why? But tell me why–


Kaya Henderson: I think– 


DeRay Mckesson: –why you’re over it. That’s what I don’t get. Like, why? What do you think [throat clear] was the mistake by putting it all? I’m neutral about this. I’m actually just curious. 


Kaya Henderson: So I think. I mean, Harry is spilling real tea, like, very intimate– 


DeRay Mckesson: Like my brother hit me. He made me– 


Kaya Henderson: Yes. 


DeRay Mckesson: –wear the Nazi outfit? Da da da da da.


Kaya Henderson: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: He’s cheating on his wife. 


Kaya Henderson: All of– 


DeRay Mckesson: Yes. 


Kaya Henderson: All of that stuff. Right. And like, if you are really trying to repair things with your family, you are not– 


DeRay Mckesson: Oh. 


Kaya Henderson: –putting all of that stuff– 


DeRay Mckesson: Got it got it. 


Kaya Henderson: –out, right? And so you look disingenuous. You are–


DeRay Mckesson: So you feel like the documentary was like, I can’t believe they did this to me. I want to make it right. And then the book is like, F those people. 


Kaya Henderson: Give it to em. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yes. 


Kaya Henderson: I mean– 


DeRay Mckesson: Okay okay okay. 


Kaya Henderson: If the book does not do that, the publicity around the book– 


DeRay Mckesson: Definitely did it. 


Kaya Henderson: –is like, I’m throwing it all. Now. There’s a part of me that also feels like and this is my last comment, because I don’t think that much about this, but there’s a part of me that feels like he thinks that he is in a unique position to blow up the monarchy and force change, right? That nobody else is going to break ranks. Nobody else is going to like say this stuff. And I think he thinks that he’s trying to push for something different. But I don’t think I think they are going to circle the wagons. I think if he thought he was a Spare before, we don’t even need a Spare no more. And uh I think, [laughing] I think he and Meghan better move on because this thing is over. 


DeRay Mckesson: Got it. 


De’Ara Balenger: I just feel like this is also just the beginning of the end for this whole thing. Like I think– 


Kaya Henderson: I think I think– 


De’Ara Balenger: –that’s–


Kaya Henderson: –I think he knows that too. 


De’Ara Balenger: You know all of us have had a grandma who couldn’t die because we had uncles and cousins who just depended on her, and she kept it together. And now, you know, when grandma [?] you know when granny passes, that’s it. Everything falls to pieces. 


DeRay Mckesson: It’s all a mess. Literally. 


De’Ara Balenger: That’s it. [laughter]


DeRay Mckesson: No more family dinners, [?], aunts not talking to each other no more, the cousins don’t get along. Yes. Yes. 


Kaya Henderson: Y’all. And I used to watch the British Parliament for all of this chicanery and shenanigans. And now it’s right at our doorstep in our Congress, where we’ve got the same rock em sock em action after [laughing] [?].


DeRay Mckesson: You know I, the confidence of mediocre white men is really something to be studied. Because Kevin was like, it’s cool. The quote he said, it’s not where you start it’s where you finish. 


Kaya Henderson: Yes, that is I mean. 15 votes later. 


DeRay Mckesson: What!? My ego, like if I–


Kaya Henderson: Right. 


DeRay Mckesson: –If people voted against me, 15 times! I wouldn’t you would see it on my face. 


Kaya Henderson: We would never get to 15. 


DeRay Mckesson: Right. You right. 


Kaya Henderson: Because after two or three– 


De’Ara Balenger: No. 


Kaya Henderson: I’d be like, you know what, let’s try something different. [laughing]


De’Ara Balenger: And he, he was–


DeRay Mckesson: And, and the black guy, whatever that black guy is, who I didn’t even know existed, by the way– 


De’Ara Balenger: Oh, my God. 


Kaya Henderson: Nobody knew. 


DeRay Mckesson: Where he got those fake 20 votes. And up there talking about they [?], you’re like, Sir, these people are what delusion are you? They are playing you so hard, they pat you on the head and you up here talking about–


Kaya Henderson: They’re not even playing you like I mean, it is just and you are. You’re like, Yeah, use me. It’s okay. Bend me over. Sure. 


De’Ara Balenger: But you know it. But it’s also just like it took me to the um Herschel Walker thing because whoever is behind the election of these people and for they are like, you can see now what they are trying to do, Like they are trying to create chaos so that our government can be in chaos, so that they can get away with whatever shenanigans they’re trying to get away with. Because now we understand why these why these folks are in Congress like it is that. 


Kaya Henderson: And and George Santos, they put him up like these these people are just bankrolling [laughter] these absolute clowns. What like–


De’Ara Balenger: We don’t even know if his name is George Santos. AKA [?] [banter]


DeRay Mckesson: Right. Right. 


De’Ara Balenger: [?]. AKA. 


DeRay Mckesson: Right. 


Kaya Henderson: Oh. 


De’Ara Balenger: We don’t even know. We don’t even know. 


Kaya Henderson: Oh my soul. What is this place? Where do I get off the ride? Tell me.


DeRay Mckesson: And I you know–


De’Ara Balenger: But– 


DeRay Mckesson: –some people didn’t like it, but I really did like Hakeem Jeffries little ABCD. [banter]


Kaya Henderson: Oh, yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: I thought it was cute. 


De’Ara Balenger: Oh my God, DeRay I loved it. 


Kaya Henderson: I loved it. I loved it. 


DeRay Mckesson: He delivered it well, you didn’t know we’d never heard him talk. There wasn’t like any of us could pinpoint a single thing that man had ever said out loud. I mean, I’ve met him and all blah, blah. But what speech has heever given? And when he started, I’m like, I don’t know where this is going. And then I’m like–


Kaya Henderson: Me neither. 


DeRay Mckesson: You gonna come on with the ABCDs. [laughter] Preacher call and response got that [?] they’re like you got the whole thing. 


De’Ara Balenger: He did. He had me going.


Kaya Henderson: I love us. 


De’Ara Balenger: In with maturity. Out with Mar-A-Lago. I said [laughter] you go ahead [?] king.


DeRay Mckesson: He’s a and he delivered it like– 


De’Ara Balenger: Power to the people. 


DeRay Mckesson: He delivered it like–


Kaya Henderson: –a Baptist preacher. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. [banter]


De’Ara Balenger: Like and also like, like Brooklyn. Like he’s from Brooklyn.


Kaya Henderson: Yes. Ooo yeah yeah.


DeRay Mckesson: It but it wasn’t like reading, you know we all have given talks, and to do that that well from A to Z is actually pretty difficult, you know what I mean? 


Kaya Henderson: Yeah, yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: Like that’s not like a–


De’Ara Balenger: But– 


DeRay Mckesson: –that is not an– 


De’Ara Balenger: –DeRay– 


DeRay Mckesson: –easy skill. 


De’Ara Balenger: –he had, he had this long, long ass vote to memorize that whole thing that’s probably– 


DeRay Mckesson: He did. 


De’Ara Balenger: What he was [?].


DeRay Mckesson: And he did it. I was like go ahead boo. And you know, people, some of the haters were like, da da da, but I’m like, I thought it was great. I thought it was a great way to use the moment as I was pretty pumped. 


De’Ara Balenger: I’m excited. I’m so excited for him and I’m so excited, like, just to have like another spokesperson for, like our party and what we’re doing because we need one. Let me just say that. 


Kaya Henderson: I mean, you are my resident what’s going on with the Dems person. [laughing] And so, like, will we be able to meet the moment? Will we be able to seize the opportunity? I mean, it was a good showing during uh speaker debacle, right? I think that the Dems stayed united. People were– 


De’Ara Balenger: That’s right. 


Kaya Henderson: –on message. It was lovely and it gave me– 


DeRay Mckesson: Yup. 


Kaya Henderson: –a moment of hope that like maybe we could get out of our own way and make something happen. 


De’Ara Balenger: Yup. 


Kaya Henderson: What’s your prognostication for 2023 De’Ara? 


De’Ara Balenger: Well, you know, it’s fascinating because I was in D.C. this weekend um and ended up with some old, you know, my my friends who are kind of still still in that world. And one of them was like, you know, Joe Biden has accomplished so much. And I was like, hmm. Tell me more. And she started to go through all these accomplishments. And I was like, you know, that is not being communicated widely, like because if I don’t know if we don’t know that. Like who? So I think I’m just I’m hoping that with Hakeem Jeffries comes sort of a new layer or a new yeah, a new excitement around where we even go to look for what’s happening, right? Because it’s like, okay, well, now I know I can go to Hakeem, I can go to his socials to figure out what’s going on, because, you know, I don’t know where. You know, looking to Joe Biden’s Twitter to figure out the latest and greatest around [laughing] what’s happening. And like, are we supposed to go to Like, where are we supposed to go to see said accomplishments? So I don’t know. I just thought that was interesting. So my news today is out of Kenya, um and this news spoke to me because I spent a lot of time out of the country over the holidays. And one of the places I went was Morocco. And so although this news is about Kenya, I think what has been sitting with me is even though I love Marrakesh and I love Morocco, that, you know, Pao and I as a couple aren’t necessarily completely comfortable there. And so I think just the having to walk around, not being able to hold hands, having to walk around, being very discreet, having to like things that I think we take so much for granted in some places in the United States um was very much like charged um in Marrakesh. And so when I was looking for news, I actually came across this gay rights activist that was killed recently in Kenya. I feel like Myles talks about this often, just in that, you know, there are still there’s still so much hatred and homophobia, transphobia, etc., in the world. And like I think oftentimes in New York City and D.C., in some of our our bubbles, it’s just not top of mind. But there are still places where it is and still places in the United States where it is literally illegal um to love who you love and to be who you want, who you who you are in your body. And so Edwin Chiloba, his body was dumped on a roadside in Kenya. His police, police have arrested a friend and they’re pursuing two others in the case. He is a prominent figure. He’s a fashion designer, a model, etc.. Um. And this has just raised so many questions in Kenya. I hope I mean, I think that’s what that’s what journalists are telling us, that it has raised lots of questions about dangers and discrimination that face gay people in East Africa. But, yeah, I just I just I don’t know. I just was so impacted by this and the photos because then, of course, I went into a spiral looking at his photos and they’re so beautiful and and you kind of forget that what he’s doing is is is also has so much danger in it. So there are you know, there’s a very prominent and courageous LGBT community in Kenya. So they are asking for swift investigation when it comes to figuring out what’s going on. The Kenyan Human Rights Commission has called this, you know, called the killing reprehensible and deeply unjust. Um. And there’s also a worry around violence escalating for for gay Kenyans. But this was one where I just you know, I think not that I’ve not that I forget, but that it is it is. I wonder for so many queer folks what news like this, what kind of daily living, um what kind of [?] with without this unprocessed trauma, like what that does to us um over the long term. So I just wanted to bring it to the pod because I was just feeling some kind of way given my travels. And then I saw this and I was like this is wild. 


Kaya Henderson: Yeah. Thank you for bringing it De’Ara. I think um because we live in a place where um we where LGBTQ folks can at least have a more significant modicum of safety and freedom. Um. One, it reminds me that everybody ain’t free here either um we don’t have to go all the way to Kenya to see homophobia or transphobia or violence against the LGBTQ community. Um. But it also reminds me that in most places in the world, um people can’t live how they want to live and love who they want to love. And I am you know, I think for me, it raises the question of like, what does allyship look like in moments like this? What how, what do what are we as individuals able to do to help shift perspectives in other places? Um. It’s a real question from me. Um. How can how can I be supportive as an ally in moments like this is the question that this raises for me. And I don’t have easy answers, but I think being conscious of what is happening is, you know, is the first step. So if people have suggestions about what we could be doing to be supportive, I’m all ears hit us up on on Twitter or Instagram or whatever and let us know what you think. 


DeRay Mckesson: I will say it was heartbreaking. And, you know, this is one of the hard things about the Internet is I inadvertently saw the video of his body being taken out of the box because it was all over Twitter. And it just is like you’re just reminded that that it just is dangerous to be gay, to be queer in so many places, and that people, um you know, people are really brave and courageous and show up as who they are. And and that leads to dire consequences. I think about when I was in Ghana, um you know, I tweeted that I was there and a set of gay activists like they wanted to meet. I met with them, but it was it was like I couldn’t I didn’t post any photos. I didn’t you know, it was like they were like, there are moments where we can be safe. But it was like, I just have too many files. I don’t want to [sigh] I don’t want to inadvertently contribute to um to any harm. And they were just like, Yeah, but it’s still not safe in so many places. And you think about like Grinder, Jack’d all those apps and, you know, people use them to prey on queer people to lure them into situations and harm them or kill them. And it just is like, you know, such a [?] reminder. And this young man was so young and full of life and out and, you know, like all the things and it’s so, so tragic and so sad and a reminder that we got a lot of work to do. 


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming. 




Kaya Henderson: My news today is about um some of the unintended consequences of the roe, the overturning of the Roe v Wade decision. This news is about a young couple in Louisiana, Kaitlyn Joshua, and her husband Landon, um who are parents of a four year old and who found themselves pregnant with a second child and were very, very excited about it. And um in Louisiana, there is actually a near-total abortion ban that came into effect after the overturning um became effective August 1st, where basically you cannot have an abortion for any reason, including rape and incest. Uh. There’s a narrow exception on the ban from miscarriages, but the language is super vague. There’s fear and confusion. And all of this is leading to delays in pregnancy care. First of all, Louisiana as a state has one of the highest maternal death rates in the country. You know, if that’s the case for white folks, it’s particularly white women, it’s particularly detrimental, a higher risk for Black women. Um. There is a very high bar for physicians to prove that they have not been involved in any kind of abortion, because what the law says is if you provide an abortion or abortion services, you get 10 to 15 years in jail, $100,000 to $200,000 in fines, and you lose your medical license. So um this law has had a chilling effect across the medical community, and it shows up in situations like the Joshua’s who went from excited to have a second child to um having a complete and total medical crisis because first they couldn’t make an eight week prenatal appointment because no clinic sees women until after 12 weeks um anymore. Um. The reason is because many women miscarry in the first 12 weeks. And so if you’re miscarrying, um the medical term for miscarriage is actually spontaneous abortion. And so you if somebody is miscarrying, you have to put that down on their hospital records. And the according to the medical community, the word abortion triggers an investigation by the state and um in part because many of the same treatments that are, all of the same treatments that are used for abortion are used for miscarriage. So doctors are fearful to meet to treat miscarriages. So you can’t get a prenatal appointment until your 12 weeks. Um. This lady wanted to make one at eight weeks like she did for her first baby, but she could not. Um. And it turns out at week ten, between weeks ten and 11, she starts bleeding heavily, passing clots in tissues. She had worse pain than when she was giving birth. And after visits to two different medical facilities uh a clinic and an E.R., nobody would confirm that she was having a miscarriage. All the signs were there, um but nobody would say miscarriage. They wouldn’t refer her for any treatment options. Um. They wouldn’t even state miscarriage on her medical records because they were worried about triggering an investigation. And um when you ask the policy people, first of all, somebody is going to have to tell me about this woman who I think must be a sister, Senator Katrina Jackson, because I don’t know a whole lot of white women named Katrina Jackson. But who knows? Um. Sister Katrina, I think, is a dem– is I don’t think Sister Katrina is a Democrat. The sister is the partner in question. Look it up for me De’Ara. Let me know. Um. But Katrina Jackson in– 


DeRay Mckesson: The sister is the part in question. 


Kaya Henderson: –in Louisiana. 


De’Ara Balenger: Confirmed. Katrina. 


Kaya Henderson: Confirmed. 


De’Ara Balenger: Katrina is a sister. Confirmed.


Kaya Henderson: Right sister Katrina– 


De’Ara Balenger: –Katrina R. Jackson. 


Kaya Henderson: –who is a Democrat, is the author of the ban. And I’m I’m going to give her a little grace and assume that she tried to write so that the far, far right folks didn’t go too far. But she says the law is actually clear about miscarriages. And the the woman who represents the Louisiana Right to Life Coalition says the fault is not with the law but with the misinterpretation of the law. Policymakers stop this, these shenanigans. We wrote the right law, but people are just misinterpreting it. If the impact and effect of the law is that people cannot get the health care that they need, then you need to write a better policy or you need to put policy guidelines out or clarification or whatever. These are women’s lives that we’re talking about. And you want to tell me that people just don’t know how to interpret the law. This is some B.S. This law is having the absolute intended effect that it was supposed to have, which is to a chilling effect to to actually delay and prevent medical care for women. And we all know that miscarriages um are deadly in many cases if left untreated. Um. And Miss Kaitlyn Joshua and her husband Landon, I mean, Kaitlyn says she felt totally abandoned. She felt like she was being written off by the doctors and the medical staff. There’s the you’re having a miscarriage issue, let’s layer on top of that you’re a Black woman. And medical professionals don’t always listen to Black women. She says she wondered, like, do white women get treated this way? All to say she was left at home by herself bleeding, two E.R.s, totally I mean, this is out of control. Ultimately passing the baby at home without supervised medical care. And, you know, the long term effects she and her husband have decided, you know what, one kid is enough because it’s dangerous to get pregnant in a place like Louisiana. Could you imagine young couples feeling like they cannot get pregnant because they can’t get the medical care that they need? And so for all of these right to lifers who, you know, whatever, I want to talk about what happens when this happens, what happens when people are miscarrying and can’t get the medical attention that they need? This is one of the unintended consequences or maybe intended consequences of the overturning and of Roe v Wade. And it absolutely breaks my heart. And I just wanted to bring it to the pod because I think, you know, people just think that folks are out here trying to get an abortion because they messed up or whatever, whatever. And the women’s health issues around reproductive health and reproductive services are so much more complex. And I thought that this was um a real illumination of that. Um. Of that point. 


DeRay Mckesson: You know, I um I’m always I’m always shocked. I guess maybe I shouldn’t be shocked, but [sigh] at um how policy like impacts people’s real lives in um in ways that men just don’t think about. And men are pushing these things through. And it’s like you can tell that it can’t you know, it clearly came from a like, you know, we want more babies to be born who are white, like that feels like that is true and real and the downstream consequences of it are just so well like that is already wild enough, like women should be able to control their own body. But just the almost routine, like routine health issues are suddenly now huge obstacles for women. And the only thing I could think about was how this is definitely about class, right? Rich women are fine. They’re going to go somewhere else, pay some doctor to come to the house, travel across that like they will not be impacted in the same way that middle class and and poor women will be. And that’s all I think about with this is that when these rich politicians get their sidechick pregnant, da da they will be fine. Right? And it’s like you just think about how dangerous these are for just the health. You know, health care is already hard, right? It’s hard when you got all the bells and whistles and and still um this becomes a challenge. So yeah, thanks for bringing it. 


De’Ara Balenger: And I think the other thing is that, like, there’s more to come, right? Like now legislatures are going back into session. Texas is a place where they’re still going to be pushing, like making sure employers can’t provide abortions um for for their employees. So I think. You know, I think this is it really is. And going back to Democratic leadership, you know, for a long time, we weren’t paying attention to the judiciary. And I think Biden is doing a great job in making sure that we’re getting more Democrats on the bench. But this is going to be a continued onslaught if we don’t continue to get more Democrats on the bench. Like it’s just this is something that Republicans have been working on and working on and working on for decades. And they have so much now systemic and institutional advantage. Um. And so we really have to keep our eye on it. And we really have to get get active around how we really prioritize um who who gets put on benches. And it’s not just this issue, right? It’s all kinds of issues that that mostly that deeply impact folks of color. So all that to say, I think, you know, really, you know, kind of following Planned Parenthood closely [?] like these organizations that are really trying hard to push against this both from a policy level but also um a legal and legislate um legislative level. 


DeRay Mckesson: Um. So my news, I feel like I say this all the time where I’m like, you know, I’m really shocked. Da da da da. And then something comes up and I’m like, woo this system is just crazier than [?] you’re just like, what is what is the what? This is a whole episode about uh sort of women’s bodies and health and and bodies in general and queer people. So this uh is was reported in Arizona is inducing the labor of pregnant people incarcerated pregnant women incarcerated against their will. And what? I read it and I was like, what? And Arizona there are three women who have allowed their health records to be made public and um and they they were induced not of their own will, the Arizona Department of Corrections didn’t respond to requests from the media and then the state prisons health care contractor NaphCare denied having a policy of forced inductions, and they just started their service with Arizona on October 1st of 2022. Centurion, the last prison health care contractor, didn’t respond at all to um to to requests about it, but when pressed, there’s like no policy decision for why you would induce the labor of women against their will. Um. It just it doesn’t make sense. It’s like it’s so weird and it’s obviously a violation of the law. Uh. Arizona passed a Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act in 2021, um and the law ensure that there were adequate amounts of feminine hygiene products. The law also prohibits shackling of prisoners during labor, required appropriate prenatal care, and mandates that the mother be able to spend 72 hours with the baby after the birth. You can you can pass all these laws, but the implementation actually really, really matters. And I’m thankful that the women uh stepped up and made their stories public and saddened that they had stories to even make public. But I brought this here because I was just like, I don’t even know from a policy perspective, like, what would make you like, why would you do this? This is just like they’re going to have the babies, you know when the due dates are. Just very odd. 


De’Ara Balenger: You know, DeRay this is like inductions are now almost unsaid national policy. So inductions have increased like 30 something percent since they first started in the late 1980s, um as well as C-sections. And when you talk about women of color, it’s almost always that they push for C-sections, even if you’re don’t have any kind of um, you know, risk around it. So it’s and it it all comes down to like the e– making, making things cheaper and more efficient and easier for health care providers. And so, you know, this whole C-section thing is pushed because surgeons. Like, you know, surgeons like to operate on women and so they have [laughing] so that’s why that’s the point of, you know, why um C-sections has increased. But a really good resource is actually um is at is the documentary Aftershock, um because it really breaks down the increase and it breaks down what’s happening with the medical system and how that impacts Black women, women of color in terms of in terms of birthing. Um. But this hones– this is one that doesn’t surprise me at all, because they want everybody to get induced now, because it makes it makes it so that there’s less time in the hospital. Right. So the hospital is it’s it’s not carrying a burden of um having just for you to wait and have your natural, you know, birth. So it’s it’s wild. Um. What’s even wilder, I feel like, is it doesn’t, you know, birthing, pregnancy, all of it. Women’s health. It’s getting to be where it doesn’t matter what your socioeconomic status is like. It doesn’t matter how privileged you are. We’re all treated the same. So I think it’s one of those things where I think it can really be like a point of of unification among women, because it’s getting to the point obviously it’s worse, worse for women of color, but it’s getting to the point like it doesn’t matter who you are, like your your chances of getting good treatment in this country are slim. 


DeRay Mckesson: Boom. 


Kaya Henderson: The like, besides the policy stuff, like just how this impacts the women individually, right? Like they they weren’t explained to why this was happening. Right. And, and actually, like, there was one reason that I thought was pretty like decent, which is, you know, a prisoner. Like if a prisoner goes into labor in her cell by herself or whatever. Right. And they don’t get to her in time like there are, it’s high risk and whatnot. So if you’re inducing it’s in a controlled environment and whatnot. There was a mentally ill um woman who gave birth in in her cell and that didn’t work out. And so like one talk to me as an individual and explained to me why you’re doing this. And one woman said something like, you know, but like, they can do anything to us because we’re state property, right? Like, can you imagine feeling like you have literally no control over even this like, probably what is the most intimate, the most, I don’t know, whatever experience. Um, and, and you know, the the another lady says something like, you know, just because I made some bad choices doesn’t mean that, you know, you get to control my body. But in fact, that’s the whole premise of the prison industrial complex. Like, you think about what mothers and children need in that moment, right? You think about a body being ready for labor or not ready for labor and being pushed to labor. In fact, these ladies, you know, the the the one of the women says it’s a much more active labor. It took two days or it took three days for me to have this baby with the induction as opposed to a spontaneous birth. I mean, all of these things are are uh to me. I mean, the they call them human rights violations, crimes against the body. Um. And I like I really I just can’t imagine it. And I don’t know. You know, DeRay, to your point, these are men making these decisions for the most part. And even when it happens to your girlfriend, your wife, your sister, your whatever, like the distance between really what is happening and the laws and the policy that you make is so great that like until we for me, this is the case for like why we need women to be leaders, women policymakers, because the people closest to the problem often have the best solutions. And there’s no way that a man can legislate what needs to happen with my body like I sound so 1975, but like, it is just the truth. And there’s example after example after example of why this can’t keep working. 


DeRay Mckesson: Oh, see, there’s a really good um there’s a really good series on Instagram, like Instagram reels. I posted it. Maybe you’ve seen it? Where it’s like a woman goes up and asks men like questions about women bodies. She’s like, You know, what is a period? And then the men answer. Or she’s like, Hi, can you um can you do you have to take out the tampon when you pee? Like she just she asks all these questions and to see men struggle. Struggle like just struggle through the answers is so fascinating because you’re like, you know, basics. People are like, they just don’t have it right. And it is she’s so good at it and she’s so unassuming. It’s just such a good reminder because I’m like, none of these people in any elected office could be they couldn’t explain any of this stuff. What’s a fetus? Da da da, like they don’t know. Uh. And her her her series sticks out to me. 


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Don’t go anywhere. There’s more to come. 




DeRay Mckesson, narrating: This week we welcome investigative reporter Chris Gelardi on the pod to talk about his report titled Lesser Infractions aren’t supposed to land you in solitary confinement. They do anyway. Chris gave us the 411 on a new reform law known as the humane alternative to long term solitary confinement, also known as Halt Act. The law led to a steep decline in the official solitary confinement population, but his investigation found that DOCCS has failed to implement major facets of the law. We talked through his findings and the future of solitary confinement, which hopefully shouldn’t have a future. Here we go. 


DeRay Mckesson: Hey, Chris, thanks for joining us today on Pod Save the People. 


Chris Gelardi: Hey, thank you so much for having me. I’m really glad to be here. 


DeRay Mckesson: Now, let’s start with how did you how did you get to writing about prisons and jails? Like what’s your story? How did you, did you know you always cared about these issues? Like what got you interested in these issues? 


Chris Gelardi: So since I’ve been a journalist, I have focused on what I kind of call like the state violence beat. I was a freelancer for a long time, so I could pretty much cover what I wanted and um you know I the, I’m of a political persuasion that thinks that, um you know, the state has the most capacity uh to to do good, but it’s also has the most capacity to to do violence. And so I really started off I started off covering like immigration enforcement. This was right when Trump was elected. Um. And, you know, ICE was kind of on a rampage. So I started with that and covered some um some things on the U.S. military, the U.S. military’s role in the war in Yemen um and moved to um some issues on U.S. colonialism. Um. But, you know, behind all the like the the the main feature, I guess that we can see of of state violence in the U.S. is the carceral system. And that’s always kind of been in the background. Um. And so I’ve always kind of been interested in it. I’ve been covering it a lot. Um. And then, you know, 2020 happened and it uh it was in vogue, which which is good. It’s people were paying attention and there is a lot more editor interest, you know, a lot more public interest in that kind of stuff so I’ve been um yeah. Involved in it ever since. I also have a little bit of a personal connection to it um and not and not in a way that I think a lot of people do. My father is actually a corrections officer in a county jail for 20 years in Michigan. Um. 


DeRay Mckesson: Oh, wow. 


Chris Gelardi: Yeah. So I kind of grew up it uh yeah, he was so he was a seal for 20 years. Um. And, you know, there’s a lot of, like, weird stuff about that. But um I really saw how it burnt him out and how um he came home with, like, some brutal stories. And so I kind of had it um growing up on that end a little bit. Um. So it’s always kind of like been in the background of my personal life. But um yeah, I think politically it’s, it’s um yeah, one of the issues that I think yeah, everyone should be into. 


DeRay Mckesson: Now let’s talk about the article that you recently wrote about solitary confinement in New York prisons. Uh. Can you just start at the basic stuff so it’s like what is Halt? Why does it matter and what does it mean for the state? Does it apply to the city, too? Is it just the city? Is it the state? Like give us the 101. 


Chris Gelardi: Sure. Yeah. Um. So it’s a state law. It was passed in uh. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it um on March 31st of 2021, um but it only they gave prisons and jails a year to implement it. So it only went into effect on March 31st of this year. And it covers all state prisons. All county jails. Um. Yeah, all jails and prisons, all carceral settings in New York State. So it does cover New York City, it covers Rikers, it covers all of that. Um. And it’s called it’s the humane alternative to long term solitary confinement. That’s where HALT comes from. And it’s pretty much it’s it’s pretty much it’s a very robust reform law, is what I would call it. It doesn’t you know, it’s not like dismantling uh prisons, not really dismantling um the institution of solitary confinement, but it puts a lot into place. Um. It you know, one of the main features is it sets a time limit on how long prisons and jails are allowed to keep people in solitary confinement. So it’s 15 consecutive days. Um. And that kind of comes from um some United Nations publications. You know, the United Nations has called solitary confinement torture, and um especially torture if it’s longer than 15 days. So that’s kind of where that number came from. It also places limits on whom prisons and jails can send to solitary confinement. Um. So nobody with any sort of disability, um no pregnant, pregnant people, nobody over 65. Um. And it also places limits on the reasons that jails and prisons can send people to solitary. Um. So it’s purely like purely punitive, like prisons and jails can only send people to solitary for a specific set of mostly um yeah, mostly like violent infractions to to jail rules. And it also for people who, you know, prison and jail authorities think should be kept away from the general population for longer than 15 days. It creates a entire new kind of carceral unit called residential rehabilitation units, um which are supposed to be these kind of like therapeutic uh units where people in them are supposed to get a certain amount of like out of cell time, a certain amount of um recreation time and uh therapeutic programing. So they’re supposed to have, um yeah like classroom style group uh setting and programing to you know help them through whatever they’re going through so it’s a really robust law. There’s more to it, but those are those are the main facets of it. 


DeRay Mckesson: Now, what did your uh what did your study find? Is the state complying with it? Is it almost complying with it? Is there something that makes it unable to be complied with? 


Chris Gelardi: [laughter] So it is not at all complying with it. Uh um. We still have to dig into jails. Jails are a whole other story. Jails are in across the country, not just in New York. They’re um extremely hard to regulate because they are on the county level and, um you know, they’re sporadic. So that’s that’s TBD, whether or what’s happening in the jails with solitary confinement. But on the state level in New York’s many prisons, um the prison system is is pretty much flouting almost the entirety of the law. And so they’re holding I mentioned the 15 day limit they’re holding currently holding more people um for longer than 15 days than they are people like under 15 days. They’re like violating that [?]. 


DeRay Mckesson: Whoa. 


Chris Gelardi: Yeah, Yeah. It’s kind of crazy. Um. They’re sending people with uh like with severe mental health needs to solitary confinement, which is uh very much against the law. They’re sending people to solitary confinement for reasons for, like, minor, minor-ish infractions. Um. And yeah and they’re treating so I mentioned the kind of like alternate therapeutic units. Um. I’ve talked to a lot of incarcerated people that are just saying like they’re they pretty much treat them just like solitary confinement. They’re not getting they’re out of cell time. These like supposedly like this supposedly therapeutic classroom time um is really just like them sitting at a desk um with really nothing maybe a worksheet or something um or a uh like an instructor that hasn’t really been given any instructions and is just kind of winging it. Also in these, uh, these alternate units, the prisons are shackling them to desks, which is uh explicitly against HALT. So the therapeutic classroom time is supposed to be for like two or 3 hours and they’re shackled to the desk that entire time. So they like they say it’s, it’s, it’s pretty brutal. It’s almost um yeah, almost as bad as being in solitary itself and um yeah. So they’re flagrantly violating it. And the prison system itself has actually um we’ve found implemented public facing directives that say that it is adhering to the law, but privately issuing orders and memos and things like that um that violate the law. And just kind of like saying that they are in accordance with the law. So with the the disabilities thing, sending people with disabilities to solitary confinement there, um they have this like creative interpretation of what a disability is. So um they you know, it’s all sort of like prison jargon and they have their own sort of classification systems and they’ve uh designated certain health classifications as like eligible for solitary confinement, even though the law um clearly forbids that. And same thing with the shackling, like they said, that they’re not supposed to be shackling people to desks and that guards aren’t supposed to be doing that. But the prison commissioner privately sent a memo to superintendents that said that you should be shackling people to desks um whenever they’re out of their cells. So it’s yeah, it’s really wild, it’s really flagrant and um they just really haven’t been called out for it. 


DeRay Mckesson: So. So before I ask you like what, what are people supposed to do or what are the consequences? I would love to hear you talk about, you know, a lot of people when they hear solitary confinement. They’re like, well, of course, right? Like, fights break out and you need somewhere to put people. And that’s what the prison that’s what the prison people say, that the people that run the prisons are like, there’s no way we can keep everybody safe without solitary confinement. What do you say to those arguments? 


Chris Gelardi: Yeah, um that’s a really good question. And this is something. Yeah, especially like the prison union has said. Um. So solitary confinement and like separating someone from the general population are you can’t really it’s a lot of people try to conflate those things um and they’re very different. Um. So that’s kind of why HALT created these supposedly therapeutic units. It recognized that, like um prisons are are violent places, and there’s a lot of stuff to talk about behind that. Um. And sometimes you need to like separate people and kind of like move people around. Um. But solitary confinement is is brutal. It’s it’s psychologically torturous. Imagine just being in a cell um with no one to talk to and no real stimulation. People forget that like people in prison. Um sometimes there’s like movies and books, but like don’t have Internet access, don’t have any sort of like stimulation like that. Um. So you’re really just like sitting in a cell for before HALT it was 23 hours a day. Can you imagine being in like what is essentially like a large closet for 23– 


DeRay Mckesson: Wild. 


Chris Gelardi: –Hours a day? Yeah, Supposedly now it’s it’s less than that. But we’ve been talking to some people and there’s still a lot of prisons are still sticking to the 23 hours um thing. Um. But yeah, it’s really it’s psychologically torturous and people have been trying to address this for a long time. This law has been in the works for about a decade, like the advocacy campaign that started it, um started about a decade ago, and it took that long to, one, get people to to understand just how brutal isolation is and how brutal isolation is as a punishment and how inhumane that is. And then also yeah to get the people in power to recognize that it’s something that needed to be addressed. 


DeRay Mckesson: So what are the consequences? Right. So they’re clearly violating the law. Can people sue? Do people are like, what’s the I don’t do we call our legislators? Do you, I don’t know. What’s the thing? 


Chris Gelardi: This is the thing. So the law also put in a lot of um kind of mechanisms for oversight. It gave oversight responsibilities to a few different um state bodies. Um. But that’s oversight. That’s that’s not accountability. You know, like the whatever um commission or whatever oversight agency or whatever state level agency can issue all the reports it wants. But um still, the prison system, especially in New York state, but I imagine in most states, is um is borderline rogue. Like they can they can kind of do what they want, um uh b– one because um they’re founded that way and two because very few people pay attention. Um. So, yeah, there’s there’s reports forthcoming. I’ve been talking to some of these agencies that there’s reports forthcoming. I’ve also been talking to some legislators who say that there will be hearings, and but that won’t be till next year because the legislature, the legislature is currently out of session and that won’t start until 2023. Some of these reports also won’t come out until 2023. Um. So, yeah, I think it’s going to take a lot of uh a lot of noise. I have yet to see any you know, the people can file class action lawsuits um and and use the courts to try to force the system to comply. But that also takes time. Meanwhile, people are are sitting in these hard conditions. Um. So there are there are ways for accountability. Um. But they take a long time and uh it seems like there’s a real lack of urgency. I’m surprised that I’ve been the only one kind of reporting on this, because it’s all it’s based on a lot of public information. Um. Yeah. So. So. So we’ll see. But it’s been real slow moving in terms of accountability so far. 


DeRay Mckesson: You’ve also written about the New York uh prison chief, Anthony Annucci, what’s his story? Is he like uh I don’t know, does he does just not care? Is he like an old school corrections guy? You know, what’s the why why do you think he’s telling people to shackle people to desks and stuff that’s like clearly a violation of law. 


Chris Gelardi: I think old school corrections guy is an accurate way to describe him and or an accurate way to describe a lot of people that um most people that run prison systems. Um. He’s been with the Department of Corrections um and Community Supervision, formerly the Department of Corrections, for I don’t know. I don’t have it in front of me, but a very long time. Um. And he’s been the acting director. He hasn’t even been confirmed by the state legislature for almost a decade now, um which just talks to. Yeah, well, which just talks to um– 


DeRay Mckesson: What? 


Chris Gelardi: Yeah. Uh he yeah. He’s not even confirmed. He’s like the acting director. And he was renominated by Governor Kathy Hochul, who um when we were recording this just recently won her election. Um. But yeah, the state legislature recognizes that he is uh not doing very much, one, to implement laws and implement reform laws that they passed, but also to um address prison violence, to um address the dearth of mental health programs. Um. So they didn’t confirm him, but he still is able to be acting commissioner. Yeah and kind of um yeah run runs the place as he he will. 


DeRay Mckesson: Whoa I didn’t know he was acting commissioner for that long, that is wild. Do we know if there are particular prisons where the violation of the HALT act is is worse than others, or is it like across the board sort of bad? Or do we have any of that data? 


Chris Gelardi: That is interesting. So we’re trying to get that like anecdotally. Um. One interesting thing about that is that um so a couple of the people that I have been speaking with are in what are formerly known as like supermax prisons, which were really which were just large scale solitary confinement um holding units like they were foun–like they were built to just hold as many like everybody in solitary confinement. Um. And one of those actually closed as a result of this law. Um. But another one where I’ve been talking to people, Upstate Correctional Facility um is now kind of it, it transferred from a large scale like solitary confinement holding place to now just like this large scale residential rehabilitation unit, which is the kind of like alternate uh unit I was talking about that was created um by this law. And from talking to people on the inside there and talking to people, a couple of people who have visited. Um it seems that there there were some changes that took place, but it is um functionally operating in the same way. So it’s it’s really crazy like, yeah, this was like created as like this mass solitary confinement place and it some changes, but not a lot. 


DeRay Mckesson: What do you think’s next? Like, what should we be paying attention to as this unfolds? Your reporting has helped us see that they are clearly violating the law. You said that there will be some hearings coming up and the oversight bodies might sort of oversee, but you know they’re not changing [?], what should we be looking for? Should we be looking for the next hearing, what the acting [?]? Should we be, is there like another filing deadline that we need to pay attention to? Why isn’t he paying attention to your reporting? But is there something else? 


Chris Gelardi: Um. So, yeah, I I would say so the data comes out monthly um and we’ll be following up and um letting everybody know, like whether this gets better or worse or stays the same. I kind of have my um predictions, but um yeah, I would look out for whatever hearings happen. Um. I would also look out for uh whenever these, like large legal organizations um may be able to take this to court and and file these class action lawsuits. It’s really kind of sad. There’s um you know, the state government has so many avenues um to hold rogue agencies accountable, but it so often takes these private or like nonprofit organizations filing a lawsuit and taking it to court to actually, like, force them to implement these reform laws. Um. So we’ll see if if a big one comes out, I’ll be looking for that, but also be looking for like, does this enter the conversation, you know, in New York? I don’t know how many of the listeners are in New York, but this is, is a thing all over the country, um bail and bail reform and crime are all sort of like tough on crime conservatives and even conservative Democrats um kind of talk about um and yeah, we hear all sorts of like kind of conflations of um criminal justice reform moves and these like COVID era increases in interpersonal violence, but never what like rolling back those reforms actually results in which is more people incarcerated. And we really never hear about like the carceral conditions that those people will be sent to. So I’m really curious. It’s so brazen and so wild. The the stuff that the prison system is doing. I’m eager to see whether it enters the public conversation in any way that even remotely comes close to how much we’re talking about, like bail reform. 


DeRay Mckesson: Okay so the two questions we ask everybody. The first question is uh, what’s a piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that’s always stuck with you? 


Chris Gelardi: I would say so um one of my when I was having sort of my political awakening, like late in college, my um college mentor, I was talking about kind of despair and and kind of the state of the world and what to do. Um. And he just said he said, let let it drive you, let whatever you’re feeling be the thing that drives you to action um and drives you to do the work that you think you need to do to contribute to, to bettering um yeah, whatever you care about. Um. Yeah. So I think, yeah, that’s it. 


DeRay Mckesson: Boom. And the second question is um, got a lot of people who have read all of your pieces, listened to the podcast. They voted, they’ve canvased, they protested, right. And they feel like the world has not changed the way they wanted it to. What do you say to those people? 


Chris Gelardi: Well actually kind of probably the same thing. Um. Let whatever you’re feeling drive you. And also to recognize that um society and politics are very are volatile and whatever you’re doing, whatever work you’re doing may not seem like it’s doing very much right now, but it will seem like a hell of a lot whenever that um kind of like big spark comes. We saw this in 2020. Like the people who had been doing the work on the ground for so long, when that revolutionary spark kind of came um were the ones that were leading the protests and yeah, making things happen and making the most of that big moment. So I say if you’re kind of like feeling despair and seeing um really nothing happening around you, know that those thing, those kind of like sparks happen when we least expect them. And it’s important to do the groundwork up until then. 


DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Well, we consider you a friend of the pod and can’t wait to have you back. Can you tell us, is there a web–do you have a website or like, how do we make sure we’re plugged in? [?] Or is it Twitter or is it Instagram? How what’s the best way to stay in touch? 


Chris Gelardi: Yeah, I would say if you’re in New York State, anywhere in New York State, follow our coverage. We’re uh at and @NYSFocus is our Twitter and my Twitter is just at @chrisgelardi. And I would say if you’re not in New York State, try to find the local journalists um and activists and anybody who is trying to get this type of information out. And um yeah, whatever you need to do to like keep plugged in to that, do it. [music break]


DeRay Mckesson: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out. Make sure to rate it wherever you get your podcasts, whether it’s Apple Podcasts or somewhere else. And we will see you next week. Pod Save the People was a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by AJ Moultrié and mixed by Charlotte Landes. Executive produced by me and special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger and Myles Johnson. [music break]