Tax-Funded PBS NewsHour’s ‘Brief But Spectacular’ Push for Prison Abolition

News & Politics

The taxpayer-funded PBS NewsHour show on Thursday once again smuggled in left-wing propaganda in its “Brief But Spectacular” feature which occasionally appears at the ends of shows, sometimes a “black queer” poet to soften the hard-edged policies being advocated. This week it was prison abolition with a racial edge under the online rubric “A Brief But Spectacular take on how to protect your people.”

It’s not even the first time PBS has used the tax-funded segment to promote prison abolition without a dissenting view offered.

Host Geoff Bennett soft-pedaled Jayadev’s radical views.

Bennett: Raj Jayadev is a MacArthur Fellow and founder of an organization which supports people who’ve been through the criminal justice system. Tonight, he shares his Brief But Spectacular take.

Indeed, Jayadev won a “no-strings attached” fellowship grant from the left-wing MacArthur Foundation, estimated worth $800,000.

Raj Jayadev, Founder, Silicon Valley De-Bug: If you’re going to dismantle an entrenched system like mass incarceration, it needs the size and bulk of something large enough to challenge it. Participatory defense is a community organizing model for families whose loved ones are facing charges, how they, the family and community, can be part of the legal team to change the outcome of that case and free their loved one. Isolation, I believe, is a feature, not a bug, of the criminal punishment system. It is how it forces unfair decisions. It is how it harms and breaks people, particularly Black and brown people. If that is the building blocks of that oppressive system, the way to dismantle and bring down that system is to do the opposite, to take something that feels isolating and lonely and convert the solution into something collective.

….there’s something practical, urgent, and necessary that families and communities can do, and that’s to tell the fuller story of their loved one, so that the court that is trying to reduce a person to a single act or single allegation, that that narrative could be overshadowed and a person could be understood through the fuller context of their lives.

No one was around to speak up for the victims of any crimes (i.e. “a single act”) committed by those “loved ones.”

Jayadev used the A-word, though cannily giving himself enough wiggle room to sound more like a reformer rather than anti-prison “defund the police” type radical:

Participatory defense is an abolitionist strategy. It’s not about making the court experience smoother. It is trying to liberate and free and challenge that system so that our communities could be whole.

My name is Raj Jayadev, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on how to protect your people.

Jayadev was cited in this law review article, titled “Remaking Public Defense in an Abolitionist Framework: Non-Reformist Reform and the Gideon Problem,” as “the creator of participatory defense [who] argues that public defenders, working with community advocates, can help undo mass incarceration by changing the nature of criminal legal proceedings, shining light on the inhumanity of the system, and pushing for meaningful policy change.”

This prison-abolition segment was sponsored in part by the financial services firm Raymond James.

A transcript is available, click “Expand.”

PBS NewsHour

12/7/23

7:50:50 p.m. (ET)

Geoff Bennett: Raj Jayadev is a MacArthur Fellow and founder of an organization which supports people who’ve been through the criminal justice system. Tonight, he shares his Brief But Spectacular take.

Raj Jayadev, Founder, Silicon Valley De-Bug: If you’re going to dismantle an entrenched system like mass incarceration, it needs the size and bulk of something large enough to challenge it.

Participatory defense is a community organizing model for families whose loved ones are facing charges, how they, the family and community, can be part of the legal team to change the outcome of that case and free their loved one.

Isolation, I believe, is a feature, not a bug, of the criminal punishment system. It is how it forces unfair decisions. It is how it harms and breaks people, particularly Black and brown people. If that is the building blocks of that oppressive system, the way to dismantle and bring down that system is to do the opposite, to take something that feels isolating and lonely and convert the solution into something collective.

Courts are really just places where stories are told. The problem is, is that the narratives that dominate the day are almost exclusively the ones told by prosecutors and police. And so, when families would go to courts, the most common thing people would say is: “I wish they knew them like we know them.”

Well, there’s something practical, urgent, and necessary that families and communities can do, and that’s to tell the fuller story of their loved one, so that the court that is trying to reduce a person to a single act or single allegation, that that narrative could be overshadowed and a person could be understood through the fuller context of their lives.

What that means in a practical way is families and communities make what we call social biography packets and social biography videos. It changes how decisions are made in the courtroom.

We have been doing participatory defense since 2008. The biggest challenge we had when we started was people realizing that they could actually have impact, because everyone had been told that the courts is really only for the judges and the lawyers, and if you weren’t a judge or lawyer, there’s nothing you could do, except bear witness to the injustice.

And we said that, actually, families and communities have knowledge and experience that could actually tangibly make the difference if someone is at home or stuck in a prison cell.

Participatory defense is an abolitionist strategy. It’s not about making the court experience smoother. It is trying to liberate and free and challenge that system so that our communities could be whole.

My name is Raj Jayadev, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on how to protect your people.

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