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[00:00:01]

How can you help us do that? Oh, God. Previously on Syria. I'm fine. But you still have to go through it. I said I wouldn't go with this operation arsenal. I shouldn't want to portray you. You are running.

[00:00:18]

There was a lot of talk that they would check in on him and hope that that means somehow protecting him. Small commodities here. Why would you have any court date? Why would you have a court date coming up?

[00:00:39]

From this American Life and WBC Chicago, it's serial one courthouse told week by week. I'm Sara Kane in. Joshua was correct. The state was trying to invoke his s WYO. They wanted to send him to adult prison. The morning after he'd called me. Inquired over at the Juvenile Justice Center.

[00:01:07]

See what was what. So I'm actually at the courthouse right now. Are you? Yeah. So they're just going to set a date for, I guess, a hearing or the next whatever is going to happen next. But. But, yeah. How are you doing? I love all my love life is going well. Mozzie's. I was thinking about lust of love.

[00:01:35]

This is all I could muster was a solution that when I was Joshua's age, I always found irritating.

[00:01:41]

But all right, try to get some sleep. Nothing's gonna be better if you don't get sleep. I'm like your mother. Sorry. Get some sleep. I know you're worried. I know you're worried. I know. It's not my job to comfort Joshua. Certainly not my job to tell him when to go to bed. But I happen to be the one on the phone right now.

[00:02:08]

Out of all the cases we watched, Joshua's got to me most. I could not fathom that the state would give up on him. After all, he'd risked for law enforcement after all the beatdowns he'd absorbed. A 19 year old kid. I did what I know how to do. I reported out every beat of this sucker, every turn spoke to Joshua almost every day, sometimes twice a day for a year and a half, so that the story of Joshua would exist not for posterity sake, but for the sake of straight up fairness.

[00:02:41]

First thing I wanted to know, why, Joshua, what was O'Dwyer saying he'd done it made them want to eject him from their facilities and put him into the adult system. I got a copy of the motion to invoke Joshua's s WYO had been filed by the county prosecutor's office at the request of the juvenile prison Indian River. The motion claim that Joshua created a substantial risk to the safety or security of the institution, that despite all the therapeutic programming Joshua had completed, he consistently chooses to make criminal decisions.

[00:03:12]

Then there was a list of about a dozen specific incidents just from the past six months assaults, fights, disruptive behaviors. He'd thrown urine on a kid. He'd turn a remote control at a female guard. He'd smashed a video game console. I'd later find out the incident that triggered the motion to invoke. Apparently, Joshua had put out a hit on another kid, which usually means arranging for other kids to jump someone. The kid wasn't jumped. But still, the prosecutors considered it a serious threat.

[00:03:40]

I got to say, I was taken aback by the list. I had that anxious jolt of Hold-Up. Have I completely misunderstood who this person is? The list look bad.

[00:03:50]

The summary at the end, extensive 16 fights, six menacing threats, 21 disruptive behaviors, etc.. But I have another report, an internal O'Dwyer's report that documents every incident involving Joshua, whether as victim or aggressor. For almost all his time in O'Dwyer's custody and when I cross-referenced the request to invoke Joshua's as Wayo with that internal O'Dwyer's report, I realized, oh, these aren't isolated incidents. Many of them are connected. In their quest to invoke there's an assault when Joshua hit a kid on February 3rd, what's missing is February 2nd, which you can see on that internal report, February 2nd, that same kid walked up to Joshua at the water fountain and punched him in the face.

[00:04:40]

There are a few sequences like this tit for tat in which only the tat was included in the request to invoke is s WYO.

[00:04:46]

Yes, indeed. Joshua did throw PE at a kid on March 27, the day before the same kid had assaulted Joshua and threw P on him a common weapon in juvenile P. I ran the list of Joshua's offenses by people who've either worked in O'Dwyer's or worked on behalf of kids inside Oatway US. And they said it's not great. But yeah, for a kid who's been in there three years, it's not exceptional. A.D. Way s guard who known Joshua for a couple of years, she told me overall, not a troublemaker.

[00:05:17]

Not even on the radar in terms of major threats inside the facility. He gets mad sometimes, she said, but usually for a legitimate reason. Joshua did throw a video game remoted a guard, for instance. Joshua told me that was because the guard discussed his case in front of other kids, saying snitches get stitches. He said she apologized later and they were cool after that. But there it was in their quest to invoke. Another incident on the list sounded as if Joshua had caused a guard to get hurt during a fight.

[00:05:46]

He said not accurate. He was trying to defend the guard the one time I visited Indian River. I met the same guard in passing and she confirmed it. He was trying to protect me. She said she called Joshua honey. Again, I couldn't interview anyone at Ody White us on the record. They don't participate in stories about specific youth. But in a statement, they reiterated that they do investigate allegations of misconduct and take action when necessary.

[00:06:12]

When I put the two reports side by side, what I saw was the raggedy, morally compromised chronicle of a kid at war. Joshel wasn't only a victim, nor was he only a perpetrator. Like a lot of kids inside O'Dwyer's. He was both the most powerful gang and juvenile prison was after him. I felt like guards couldn't be trusted. Every day he felt unsafe. So he created alliances where he could dominated, where he could took advantage, where he could, sought protection, where he could.

[00:06:42]

That didn't make his behavior right. Then again, Odey Y. S prisons don't really spin on an axis of right and wrong. See previous episode. The prosecutors offered Joshua Deal if he didn't fight the by Nover and transferred to adult prison, he'd get nine years if he went forward with the hearing, put up an argument. He could end up with more than that, as many as 18 years. Joshua's assigned attorney was a guy named Jim Hall Flick.

[00:07:13]

Jim Hoeveler hadn't done one of these NYU vocations before. Not many people in the county had. Joshua didn't know whether to take the deal with what Helfrich telling you.

[00:07:24]

He believed he wanted to fight it. Will you vote for for like you have made it clear what was. But he's is inclined to fight it. What do you want to fight a day? I want you to fight. Everybody will. To fight it. Like who is everybody? Who's every. And it turned the tide woman to fight it. Mom want me to fight it like my uncle. Also a half a mile with this light. The.

[00:07:58]

Joshua tried to marshal support. He asked him, O'Dwyer's staff members, to write letters to the court on his behalf.

[00:08:04]

Says if you told them they were willing, Joshua's father, who lives in Jamaica, pledged to hire Josh, a private attorney.

[00:08:10]

You just need to arrange for payment.

[00:08:12]

In the meantime, Indian River declared that it wanted Joshua out. Now, while they waited for the final hearing on his WYO, the superintendent claim Joshua is causing an environment of constant response and panic.

[00:08:25]

A court magistrate okayed the transfer. Joshua was delivered to county jail. Adult. County jail. A couple of weeks went by and I could hear on the phone that Joshua was acclimating to the idea of an adult sentence in adult prison. He compressed the nine years in his head. It really be six years since he'd already spent a few years in Oatway, US probably less than six. If he was granted judicial release. Being in county with all these guys who are getting walloped with big sentences.

[00:08:54]

Joshua had a fresh perspective on the number six.

[00:08:58]

It's like it's like I said, it's like 114 years. I've got six this year. One of like one just Justin a 17 years. I know he'd rather be a lost today and then. And he knows by now. So it's like six years. Like she look at an album, like they look at it like a cult. No, this compared to double digits.

[00:09:23]

He was saying maybe six was a lucky break.

[00:09:35]

Joshua was brought to court the morning of his hearing. He still didn't know what he was going to do. He met with Jim Hall flic who'd laid out the probable truth that today, nine years was the best case scenario.

[00:09:46]

Joshua took the deal. The actual proceeding was hard to stomach.

[00:09:52]

Joshua stood there crying a few of his umpteen yes, mams barely audible.

[00:09:57]

And that you have demonstrated by your conduct that rehabilitation during the remaining period up to.

[00:10:08]

At one point, the judge asked someone to fetch Joshua some Kleenex. No one had come to his rescue. His father hadn't hired the private lawyer he said he was going to hire. Joshua's civil attorneys never did file a lawsuit on Joshua's behalf. The Indian River staff who told Joshua they'd stick up for him, vouch for his progress. Not here. I'd learned they'd been firmly reminded. You work for O'Dwyer's. While we're at it, where were the FBI agents who'd seem to like Joshua back in 2014 when they told him they check on him?

[00:10:39]

I get it. It was all too messy, too much. All those incidents on the list, the context, the tit for tat. Who started? What's too messy? Jim, hopefully Kate told me, sure, we could have picked apart three or four of the incidents on that list, explained fights on paper are more intricate than they appear. But then what about the 40 other items teetering just behind? They're gonna be crushed him, whole Flick said.

[00:11:05]

But the sheer volume of incidents. The one person who had shown up Joshua's only witness was Shaila Turner. Joshua's mentor from Freedom School. She said Jim hopefully had contacted her yesterday. She thought she might be called upon to testify. Ms. Turner was upset. I thought it could be fought, she said. I really thought it would be fine in its letter to invoke Joshua's ASIO, O'Dwyer's had written that there was no more they could do to rehabilitate Joshua.

[00:11:36]

No additional interventions and treatments that can be attempted. It is unfortunate, they wrote that he threw away the opportunity he was given.

[00:11:45]

See the idea that Joshua is unfixable? Ms Turner said. That part of it is complete B.S. Miss Turner isn't some wide eyed advocate. She's worked with lots of kids in juvenile facilities. Her master's is in public administration with a focus on youth policy. She's from East Cleveland. She's a deep and personal experience with the good and the bad of gangs. She agrees that some of the kids at Indian River aren't ready to come out yet, but they are still works in not quite enough progress.

[00:12:14]

Joshua, though, she said he is not one of the ones she most worries about and he's not one of the ones wife should be most worried about. She does not accept that he hasn't progressed because to her, Joshua, at 19, such a far cry from Joshua at 16 when he was a hothead, Eric, an asshole that just we need met at first. I met at first. There's no doubt in my mind that that's when the conversation should have had the conversation of should we buy Nemo?

[00:12:44]

Absolutely, because he's becoming a threat to the facility. And he was a shark that I thought could he be rehabilitated. He even had a question of the kind of had a complete question and didn't think that he could.

[00:12:54]

Mr. Carter said the only fight they had in freedom school inside the facility, only one Joshua, his first week in the program. He stood up on a chair and spit on somebody like I mean, just outrageous. Even in conversation with him after that, it was his arrogance to him. It was this heartiness. And that's literally doesn't exist in him anymore. So to now hear his conversation politely changed to. I want to get out of here. I want to be a better person.

[00:13:30]

I'm asking to not be put into these situations. I'm asking to be put on a different unit. Scott Talbott, that has been crying out saying this is what I need. I want to get out of this. And you ignored that. What most disturbed Miss Turner, that it was Joshua whose ethics and behavior were being scrutinized and punished. And now no one would look at what the state had done to him.

[00:13:54]

I think Josh is the best case example of why it's so bogus when we have these expectations for kids to speak up about what's happening in the community to testify and things like that. And we see their ramifications and how we don't wrap around to protect that. I think the biggest issue isn't that Joshua hasn't held up. His end of the bargain is that the state hasn't held up theirs.

[00:14:23]

They haven't protected him, haven't protected him from the gang. He inflamed by testifying for the state.

[00:14:46]

More in a minute. After the hearing, Joshua was taken back to the county lockup. He figured to be shipped out to prison within a few days. That's supposed to happen once you're sentenced. Joshua's understanding was that early on a Tuesday or Thursday morning, they were going to drive him from county jail to an intake prison about 40 minutes from Cleveland. And from there, they figure out where to put you. What's going to be your home institution? But a couple of Tuesdays and Thursdays came and went.

[00:15:19]

And Joshua sat in limbo. He wasn't getting either of the two medications.

[00:15:23]

He said he'd been prescribed for his brain injury. None of his personal stuff had followed him from Indian River. His papers and photographs and notebooks. And also, I need to emphasize county jail sucks. Go Google it. Cuyahoga County Jail to the headline Cleveland Judge. I will not send people to jail after 6th inmate dies in four months. Granted, that was a post Joshua headline, but it was true then as well. County is not a place you want to spend even one extra day.

[00:15:53]

Insult to injury. Joshua had no money on his books. He couldn't buy any edible food or an extra T-shirt or a normal toothbrush or minutes on a phone account. Why were they keeping him in county? What did they want with him?

[00:16:05]

They understood they're for nothing. My life. Yeah, I think that's pretty much what's happening. Yeah.

[00:16:13]

After he'd sat in jail for a month of Tuesdays and Thursdays, I e-mailed Jim Ho Flic to ask and to nudge. Can you explain why Joshua's still in county? His response? Joshua's still in county. Jim Homelike wasn't Joshua's lawyer anymore, but he said he'd look into it. Jim discovered a communication breakdown between the juvenile court and the county sheriff's office, which runs the jail administratively. No one knew or seemed to notice or care that they didn't know who had jurisdiction over Joshua.

[00:16:43]

But Jim said they'd clear it up. Josh and I developed a new routine, he'd call me and ask any word from Mr. Hopefully. And I'd say something like.

[00:16:52]

So apparently now everybody knows what's up. And maybe they'll transfer you. All right.

[00:17:00]

Nope. That was early November, late November, two months after he'd been sentenced. Joshua was still lousy in county. I'd run out of encouraging reports from the outside.

[00:17:12]

Is somebody at some point has to do something? That's that's all I know. Somebody at some point we'll have to do something. They cannot keep you in county jail indefinitely. What are they doing?

[00:17:26]

The metaphor could not have been clumsier. The government had forgotten about Joshua. In county jail, Joshua was bored. Sometimes he'd be cooped in his cell. They all would be nearly 24 hours straight.

[00:17:41]

But what I noticed was that Joshua wasn't raging. He wasn't getting in fights.

[00:17:48]

You know, you sound like concrete. Could be a really stress reliever like. Is this the best move here? Well, it feels better than any river to me. Like it's a stress reliever. Is it like this armor, I guess, armor and test less stressful there. That's part of being in county jail was a stress reliever.

[00:18:19]

The CEOs just did their jobs. As far as you could tell, people were nicer to one another, more relaxed with one another, more supportive. He said he was noticing what I'd noticed in the shift from middle school to high school just because one person didn't like you. That didn't mean the whole pod was against you. It was something of a revelation to him. Even white people do OK. And here he said, you, the white people if like White Boulevard.

[00:18:42]

You got to like it. Like the cold feet are like a river, like white. But he had a heart beat her day.

[00:18:49]

They call the other young men. I'd spoken to Leo Malique Davon white kid named Wave, who'd been in both O'Dwyer's and then in adult jail. They'd all agree that it was dangerous as it was was still better than juvenile. Less stress. That same feeling, less stress, more relaxed with stretch out and hold true. When Joshua arrived at adult prison, he finally shipped eleven point five weeks after he'd been sentenced to a place called Allen Oakwood Correctional in Lima, Ohio, about a three hour drive from Cleveland.

[00:19:24]

So his family couldn't visit, but Joshua was just happy to be sprung from his cell.

[00:19:28]

He, walking back and forth, just couldn't care less because he'd cooperated and adult enemies lurked in adult prison.

[00:19:38]

Joshua was put in protective custody, no heartless felons on his unit. He wasn't feuding with other inmates or getting into it with CEOs.

[00:19:46]

Joshua marveled there were fewer guards, yet the inmates had more freedom. Part of it was maturity, he said.

[00:19:52]

People trying to get home see their kids.

[00:19:55]

But the main reason the adult system was better, he said, was because it was harsher, a tighter, less forgiving ship all around. If you fight or act out, throw urine on a S.O.S, a severe consequences.

[00:20:07]

Rain Down is in jail now, a number one. And while you vary, they haven't. They say those you able to focus on the sealed armor. Another illegal has how many parties fail feels you all still for the rest of us. Let me come off the mall using in juvenile the worst that had happen.

[00:20:28]

You'd be shut up in your room for the day. Try throwing piss in adult prison.

[00:20:32]

Here you go. Even though you don't want to see your legal mace, you see the holes. How jack your level if Holga charges guards here or put their hands on you.

[00:20:41]

He said they do not play. You could lose your phone calls or your visitation and you could fester in the hole for months. The whole especially major deterrent, he said.

[00:20:52]

In O'Dwyer's, the longest you're held in seclusion is four hours. Joshua said juveniles take advantage of that shit to the max.

[00:21:01]

So if you were to if you were to propose juvenile justice reforms, it would be that they should be stricter. Right. And not just not just home to you. The only illness staff to your service.

[00:21:19]

County jail was better than juvenile. Adult prison was better than county jail. Harsher punishment was better than lenity. Joshua's world had rotated a full 180. If he'd known what adult prison was going to be like, he said, he would skip juvenile. It is said to those cops and prosecutors back in 2014. Just buy me over. I'll take my chances. Cooperation had gotten him nothing, he said. No real benefit. I said, What about a shorter sentence, though?

[00:21:47]

Three armed robberies in adult court warned of time in the teens or 20s even. He said, Look at my co-defendants. Half of them are already out.

[00:21:57]

Yeah, you run your finger down the list of the 13 people named in the Cut-throat indictment. Bunch of them got two or three years.

[00:22:04]

Only a few were serving more significant sentences. 11 years, 13 years. Joshua got nine.

[00:22:11]

Just come straight here, he said. So having my ass beat Nodaway us for three years. Now, Joshua was in prison. His six years ticking for my purposes in terms of plot. His story had ended, but he kept calling, kept calling, and I kept answering. I just took a 10 minute break, in fact, because he called me while I was writing these sentences. I learned day by day what Joshua's life was turning into on the cusp of 20 years old in protective custody.

[00:22:47]

I'm on a pile and I've always had police officers, Navy SEALs lawyer. He would ask me why you're on a spot with our police officers and former CEO. Yes.

[00:23:03]

About 60 people who couldn't mix with the general prison population in a different building across the street.

[00:23:09]

Cops, CEOs, for reasons I never fully understood, a lot of white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood, just that everyone seemed to get along OK. He was like, yeah, maybe they're cool. I got no problem with them anyway. So you kind of had to get along. The unit was too small for anything else. During our phone calls from Indian River, I'd often hear hollering in the background. Now from Allen Correctional, I can hear the soft click of billiard balls in a pool table in the day room.

[00:23:37]

Joshua was the youngest on the party, said, but he didn't feel like the adults around him were dangerous. And the adults in charge of the prison didn't feel like Joshua was dangerous. O'Dwyer's had tagged Joshua as a gang member, but he said the gang coordinator for the adult prison system had a chat with him, checked out his history. His tattoos did not tag him as gang affiliated. On a scale of one to five five being supermax material, Joshua was designated a level two prisoner.

[00:24:05]

The sacrifice of being a prisoner in protective custody was the closeness of the unit and the tedium. Joshua says he couldn't take advantage of some of the programs and apprenticeships across the street where Gen Pop was housed. He was feeling the time, filling the time with people.

[00:24:22]

Josh was intensely social. He's a talent for gathering people, pulling people towards him, including people who can help him out like me.

[00:24:31]

I do him small favors, favors that a reporter shouldn't really do, connecting him to the outside world, mostly via a three-Way phone calls.

[00:24:39]

My most immediate benefit to Joshua was that unlike mostly people in his life, I could afford an endless supply of global Tel Link minutes. All right.

[00:24:48]

What's the number of sources Sir Joshua wanted?

[00:24:52]

Contact, continual contact, usually with family. I became the operator.

[00:24:59]

Joshua. Yeah. Your granddad's on the phone. Hello. A grandson.

[00:25:06]

Joshua's troubles aren't news to his family. Obviously, incarceration isn't news to them either. Even so, it's heavy information when it comes.

[00:25:16]

That was lost. What's up, man? Person. I heard, man. Josh, man, break my heart. Your dad told me what happened.

[00:25:30]

I can hear it.

[00:25:32]

Joshua lived with his grandfather for a year and he's about 12. When you say your. Are you safe. Right. Live right now.

[00:25:43]

Joshua's relative said it was okay to use these recordings. His family's huge. They live all over in Cleveland, of course, but also in Florida. California. Jamaica.

[00:25:52]

Yes. His son, me, his little niece.

[00:25:56]

His great grandmother. His aunts and cousins. His parents, his sisters, his daughter. And every call he tells them he loves them and they say it back.

[00:26:05]

He won only nine youth. I love you too, baby. Put Mommy on the phone.

[00:26:13]

When Josh was four, his father was arrested by the DEA for conspiracy to distribute more than a thousand kilograms of marijuana in the United States. He had a long sentence in federal prison.

[00:26:23]

His mother went to prison a couple years later. Once they were both locked up, what happened was what you might imagine would happen to a kid longing for his absent parents. He floated from house to house. Miserable.

[00:26:34]

Probably the most stable person in his life is his grandmother. She was his legal guardian. He lived with her for long stretches growing out of her.

[00:26:41]

I put you in the backseat, remember? Yeah. I was driving an idea. Aesthetical. What sort of actor?

[00:26:52]

Dry by the time he was 13. Joshua began to paying at the juvenile court initially for petty stuff, being unruly, fighting at school. Then it got more serious. At 14, he was caught for strong arm robbery. Some friends mug the guy they knew. Joshua was sent to an O'Dwyer's residential facility. He escaped, climbed over a wall with a friend and called his sister from a gas station payphone. She drove out to collect them once he was home.

[00:27:22]

Heartless felons, drug dealing guns, some robberies. When he held up the two beepers in the Popeyes, he was 15.

[00:27:30]

This in silly place just after he turned 16. His baby daughter was born two months later. The FBI came to get him.

[00:27:41]

I love you, Mommy. Right. Your mom was 12 years old.

[00:27:53]

Sometimes in the calls, it feels like the master clock of Joshua's immediate family is the criminal justice system itself. A continual pulse of court dates and visitation forms and commissary money.

[00:28:05]

We come down at a drop the now and I say I had no idea they would let your mother leave. Might have had that just, my dear, and bring it back and we shall have to bring it back to you. Joshua knew I was recording these calls. Occasionally we'd discuss the content afterwards, debrief about his relationships, his open like that, strikingly so he knew I was rooting for him. And so sometimes he'd call me just to call me first.

[00:28:32]

Few us from recording. I don't know why. In case you have something fascinating to tell me. I do that. I'm fascinated to see what. MACV. Yes. No way, really. Yeah, I got nothing else.

[00:28:54]

He was relieved. Joshua had wrestled with the language arts portion of his G.D. twice before. A former O'Dwyer's guard who knew Joshua was a younger teenager had described him as impressionable. The kind of person who'll do good if he's around good, do bad if he's around bad. Adult prison is filled by and large with adult criminals. I kept an antenna up for signs that Joshua might be listing toward darkness. Sometimes I'd hear a hard blade of anger in his voice.

[00:29:22]

He started swearing more on the phone. I couldn't really tell what that meant. Maybe he was just more comfortable with me. Maybe he's just in a bad mood. On the positive side, Josh had become friends with an ex cop on the protective custody unit. A big guy who Joshua laughingly told me was making his huge muscles, even huger, working out all the time. This ex cop, Ginnane Dixon from East Cleveland, from Jesse Nickerson's case, the officer who'd taken Jesse to the park and pleaded guilty to a couple of felonies as a result.

[00:29:52]

Josh, I really like name. They knew people in common and Denay like Joshua, who's funny and charismatic and and told me. Feels like having a little brother around. I was interested in Denise's assessment once Joshua got out. Did he think Joshua could have an okay future when that didn't include perpetual incarceration?

[00:30:12]

Right now, at this point, no. Because why? This is all, you know. And somebody is into life negatively. Know. I know. I'm just I hated this answer because Joshua was bound over.

[00:30:34]

He would now have an adult felony record. Joshua knew that would wreak the most long term damage to his prospects once he got out. Tattoos began creeping back onto his hands and neck and face, all the places he'd had them removed before.

[00:31:00]

I spent many phone calls looking up people on the Internet for Joshua. People who knew from Cleveland who were in county jail. What were their charges? He was asking, are they going to trial? Or else he'd ask about people who'd already been sentenced, how long they got. Which institution can give me the inmate number? My zip code again. Who's writing to them? Making contact. But some of the people he was having me look up their cases sounded terrible.

[00:31:28]

A premeditated murder. Somebody shot and then burned in a car. I asked him, what are you doing?

[00:31:35]

Write me no matter what situation and what you did with your price is that I'm not I'm not here to judge. Like, nobody is perfect, everybody in this world made bad choices before, rather, they got caught for me, not them. And they gave you a thing about people like that might not ever get out of prison then. So there might be there for a long time. So, like, people need good friends or very personal things to cell just to tell them like they like.

[00:32:05]

Hey, nobody would give the model more somebody than somebody. Sometimes somebody needs a good friend. Keep the hopes up. Ray. There, but they don't have to fill a seat, so. He was being kind and I understood he was trying to give other people what he himself needed, a reminder that he wasn't a piece of shit that was forgivable redeemable.

[00:32:29]

He was taking a position far more humane than the one the criminal justice system had taken with him. So I had to think for a minute about why I was getting angry. I realized this community of inmates he was stitching together was worrying me for when he got out.

[00:32:43]

So I think my root the reaction I'm having is like, could you just please stay the fuck away from some criminals for a while so that you have a chance of not falling back into that world. And I think that's why I'm having this reaction, which isn't fair.

[00:32:58]

You might say like. Right. Right. Data people to understand the most and them. So that's what it is like. Like it's not like these. All the good I've been around my whole life before.

[00:33:15]

It's on do I've been around? I mean, are. It's tempting to think that all of this prison and punishment leads somewhere, that there's a goal we can point to people who commit crimes. Maybe if they turn their lives around, a civic reward awaits them back home. But for someone like Joshua, it's hard to imagine what that reward would be. Miss Turner told me the young men she's worked with inside the prisons, kids who've been able to crack open their feelings, make themselves vulnerable.

[00:33:49]

She's watched many of them come home and then crumble because they're back in violent neighborhoods where they need armor to survive. She told me the most successful ones, I hate to say the ones that are communicating that they actually feel joy are the ones who went back to the streets. Joshua knew you'd said it to me many times. His only chance of survival was to never go back to Cleveland if he returned home. He was going to end up hurting someone or getting hurt.

[00:34:19]

You'd end up right back at the justice center. This is the year we were in Cleveland. Twenty, seventeen. More than 13000 felony cases moved through the Justice Center Brutalist Tower downtown. 26 stories high. Hundreds of people coming in every day wound up emotional.

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Well, this famous prowler, the chichi juice, maybe watching a little TV will help them relax.

[00:35:08]

That was the idea when the court had TV's installed in the waiting areas near the courtrooms on the 15th floor. An older woman's weeping. She retreats into the ladies room. I can hear her howling in there. She comes back out, still crying. A young man, maybe it's her son, is folded over head in his hands right above them.

[00:35:25]

Just top off with a touch of vodka. Cheers. The Food Network. That's the courthouse soundtrack. Clean kitchens, cupboards, well stocked. The administrative judge addition to other options.

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The news too upsetting History Channel. And boom, there was something about the Nazis and the concentration camps. He thought of Animal Planet Cartoon Network. In the end, the most reliably soothing food network. It does love you. You forget for a moment how much is happening all over this building.

[00:35:59]

Thirty eminent turnier scientists are in the space of a year. All those thousands of cases begin here in the arraignment room. Crucial decisions are made in the arraignment room. The judge chooses your lawyer. If you can't afford one, can't usually assigned your case to a courtroom.

[00:36:16]

Reviews your bond by the cashier.

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Adjust it up or down if he wants. Keeps you in jail or lets you out.

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Procedure. Diamond. Right.

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It didn't really quite understand it. Dozens of people are waiting their turn with this judge. The bailiff is at the ready big pile of case folders.

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Ask you if you understand what the charge means, that the facts resistance's are asking questions slows the rhythm.

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So you understand the church's arraignment.

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Is the justice center's intake valve. The rush of cases now process. They all rush upstairs into courtrooms.

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Has anyone made any promises? In order to induce change.

[00:37:06]

Upon 21, they're teeing up the three words that will button closed many thousands of plea bargains this year, knowingly, voluntarily, until recently, knowing voluntary unintelligence cash.

[00:37:18]

And I want to be sure you're doing this voluntarily and voluntarily, normally, intelligently and volunteer. A few floors down, Judge Daniel Gall, just re-elected, by the way, tells a defendant to pull up his pants. The guy's been in jail, doesn't have a belt.

[00:37:37]

Pull them. Disappear. Oh. Oh, your trousers.

[00:37:45]

And the cases are decided, 19th floor, a trial's just beginning. Jury selection. The jury pool, all white, say, for one woman who's black.

[00:37:55]

She works in I.T. at a law firm. The defense attorney starts asking her questions. She stops them.

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I think I have to go. Full disclosure here, I am not emotionally ready to participate in our legal system. I have so much personal disappointment in the inequities in our systems on the ground floor, in the hallway, outside the doors to the county jail.

[00:38:29]

A crowd is waiting for a man named Evan King to walk out. He spent 22 years in prison for a murder he didn't do. People are singing, crying when they see him exonerated.

[00:38:50]

Here outside on the street. Police officers from all over the county.

[00:38:56]

The state march in the annual memorial parade.

[00:39:04]

Honoring two local police officers who died during the past year in the line of duty, separate incidents, but both hit by cars while working on the highway. Back up on 18 in Judge O'Donnells courtroom sentencing, the brother of a murdered woman gives his statement. He talks quietly, angrily for a few minutes, says he's glad the defendant is going to suffer every day in prison.

[00:39:40]

I'm just like you are.

[00:39:44]

It seems like maybe he's winding down. And then he launches himself like a missile at the defendant.

[00:39:55]

Another sentencing for triple murder in a barbershop. It's a capital case. The courtrooms crammed relatives of the victims and of the defendant fill the gallery. The media is set up in the jury box. Their cameras and microphones. A man named Alvin Wright comes forward. He was a victim in the case. He'd been cutting someone's hair when shooting exploded the shop.

[00:40:16]

He saw people he knew get killed. Alvin Wright had testified for the prosecution at trial. Now, just before the judge issues her final decision, whether she's going to sentence the defendant who's 21 to death, Alvin Wright addresses the court. The whole situation is fucked up.

[00:40:36]

I mean I mean this when I'm dealing with the judge tells him to court of law.

[00:40:45]

There's different words. Go ahead.

[00:40:48]

I mean, the situation is messed up. Let's go. Situational. Do not agree with putting them down like a dog. No. That's just me. Anybody? You put him down. We don't get nobody back. Nothing. Just like we we just keep losing just black people, period. We just keep losing. We've got all these white people right here looking at my girls like me in a zoo. And just real shit. I went to zoos, right?

[00:41:36]

No, no, no, no. I'm just I'm I'm just looking at the big picture. I look at this. Well, look at this. That's life. We got to do better.

[00:42:05]

The best kept secret in the justice center is in the lobby. It's tucked between two pillars near the elevators. Looks like a wheel you might see in a raffle or bingo game.

[00:42:14]

But it functions as a suggestion box. You can send kites to the staff. The administrative judge will get them.

[00:42:20]

He's got the key to hang around this building for a year.

[00:42:24]

I have many suggestions. Just off the top of my head, I'd say go minimalist. Don't pile six charges onto a single crime when one charge will do. Don't overcharge to force a guilty plea. Don't lock anyone up unless they're demonstrably violent. Admit that police officers lie under oath. Get out of the punishment business and turn toward the urgent problem of fairness. Keep obsessive track of who exactly is being charged with what crime, how their sentence shakes out and what their life looks like in three years or five years.

[00:42:56]

Take note of the color of their skin and how much money they have. Don't shove what you learn in a drawer and forget about it. Don't be insensibly tempted, as Charles Dickens wrote, into a loose way of letting bad things alone to take their own bad course.

[00:43:10]

Cops, prosecutors, judges, lawyers call out the colleagues who degrade your profession, pay assigned attorneys and public defenders at least twice as much as you're paying them now. Judges stop choosing those assigned attorneys. Citizens mix of the bench, stop electing judges countywide and overall slowdown. Doubt yourselves.

[00:43:31]

And I know how corny this sounds, but imagine that every person in the elevator car is part of your own family and reflect on the far reaching pain of prosecution. Also, don't tape anyone's mouth shut in court.

[00:43:43]

That happened. And consider getting rid of the grand jury. I could cram that wheel to bursting, but if I'm only allowed one suggestion, I'd say let's all accept that something's gone wrong. Let's make that our premise. Many times during our reporting in Cleveland, when I'd ask about problems or reforms, someone would throw out. Well, let's remember we have the best system in the world. County prosecutor Michael OMalley said it to me.

[00:44:09]

I just think people need to realize we have the best criminal justice system in the world. The people who operate that system know about the wards and they concede we can always improve. But generally they're not chomping for an overhaul. The kind of extreme makeover that the data is screaming at us to undertake.

[00:44:26]

We've all heard the stats that we hear in the United States in prison, a vastly higher percentage of our population than any other country in the world. We are number one.

[00:44:36]

The numbers are well-documented, wildly out of whack and unprecedented in our history. Also, well-documented inequity. Every joint in the skeleton of our criminal justice system is greased by racial discrimination compared to white people who've committed the same crime and who have similar criminal histories.

[00:44:55]

Black people and other people of color are arrested more often.

[00:44:58]

They're charged more harshly. Given higher bails offered was plea deals. They're handed longer prison sentences and their probation is more often revoked. These numbers aren't floating above us in the sky. They're alive all over the country. We looked at studies from New York City and Alabama and Wisconsin and Iowa's 6th District and Hampton Roads, Virginia, Harris County, Texas. It's everywhere in all our courthouses.

[00:45:26]

Reporters often hear that we only report the bad stories exaggerate and sensationalize, especially when it comes to law enforcement or wanky prosecutions.

[00:45:35]

But we didn't go to Cleveland and sift through hundreds of cases looking for the most egregious injustices we could find. We didn't have to be ordinary ones told us everything we needed to know.

[00:46:01]

Serials produced by Julie Snyder, Emmanuel Joce, Ben Calhoun and me. With additional reporting by Iida Laskoski, editing on this episode from IRA Glass and Nancy Updike, tape transcription by Robin Smith. Whitney Dangerfield's, our digital editor. Research, in fact, checking by Ben Feiglin. Sound Design and Mixed by Stone Nelson Music Clearance by Anthony Roman. Seth Lind is our director of Operations. The zero staff includes Emily Condon and Julie Whitaker. Cassie Howley, Frances Swanson and Matt Tierney.

[00:46:28]

Our music is by Adam Dorn and how Willner with additional music from Matt McGinley. Our theme song is by Nick Thorburn and remixed by Adam Dorn. This is our final episode this season. So we have some special thank you's are top bloggers Valery Caesar, Beth Card, Nicole Richter, Sarah Stalter and Meredith Francis.

[00:46:45]

Thanks to the entire staff at the Cuyahoga County Criminal Justice Center, thanks to Ed Ferentz, Kevin Brigman, Gillian Eckardt, Joe Buckley, Ryan today and Kathleen Caffery at the juvenile courthouse. Thanks to Mary Davidson and Gregory Moore. Thanks also to Kimberly Henderson, Elise Bergerson, Sarah Adams, Bennett Epstein, Lisa Noller, Melissa Georges IWR, Guten Tag, Ittai Suker, Ryan Angat, Cobie Mohtarma and Christina Hagner. Annette Naveh, Ad Results Media. Keesha Ladson.

[00:47:11]

Angela Ladson in Friedman, Kevin Cobain, Addison Riley, Tom Shaunessy, Eric Norten, Wendy Finn, Danny Trafalgar and to the Ohio Highway Patrol and Amy Giffard at the Stark County Clerk of Courts.

[00:47:24]

Also a personal thanks to Jeff Melman, Ben Schreyer and Arlene Richman, and a huge thanks to Rich ORUs, who builds and managers are fantastic Web site.

[00:47:33]

The talented team at Moth's Studio did the animation and illustration for this episode, and it is great.

[00:47:38]

You can check it out on our Web site and serial podcast.

[00:47:40]

Got word that his serial podcast scored.

[00:47:43]

You can also sign up for our email newsletter. Occasionally we'll take the show on the road and hold events at theaters and universities. So if you're interested. Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you the details for those and for our next season.

[00:47:54]

A new projects. Again, you can sign up at serial podcast dot org. Serials are production of This American Life and WB Easy Chicago.