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Society & Culture

Off the Block

Updated 14 days ago

Society & Culture
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A trip to jail, even a short stint, can upend many lives - the inmate, their loved ones, and their children among others. This series traces the path from city block to jail block and back.

Read more

A trip to jail, even a short stint, can upend many lives - the inmate, their loved ones, and their children among others. This series traces the path from city block to jail block and back.

iTunes Ratings

25 Ratings
Average Ratings
23
1
0
0
1

“Episode Unavailable” only

By Nkay666 - Jul 16 2019
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Doesn’t matter what podcast system I use-IT DOES NOT PLAY-only shows “Episode Unavailable” pretty lame they advertise non stop and now it doesn’t even play?! Get it together!

Impactful!!

By Batgirl2011 - Oct 02 2016
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Really enjoying this podcast! It gets at the real story, the human impact. Great reporting!!

iTunes Ratings

25 Ratings
Average Ratings
23
1
0
0
1

“Episode Unavailable” only

By Nkay666 - Jul 16 2019
Read more
Doesn’t matter what podcast system I use-IT DOES NOT PLAY-only shows “Episode Unavailable” pretty lame they advertise non stop and now it doesn’t even play?! Get it together!

Impactful!!

By Batgirl2011 - Oct 02 2016
Read more
Really enjoying this podcast! It gets at the real story, the human impact. Great reporting!!
Cover image of Off the Block

Off the Block

Updated 14 days ago

Read more

A trip to jail, even a short stint, can upend many lives - the inmate, their loved ones, and their children among others. This series traces the path from city block to jail block and back.

Warning: This podcast has few episodes.

This means there isn't enough episodes to provide the most popular episodes. Here's the rankings of the current episodes anyway, we recommend you to revisit when there's more episodes!

Rank #1: Away from home: An audio journal

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Every year, tens of thousands of people are booked into L.A. county jails. Their absence from home, even if short, can be felt deeply by family members and loved ones.

Nancy Rivera lives in Panorama City. Her boyfriend, Daniel Caceres, has spent the last year in jail. While he's been away Nancy's had to get on with work, school, and looking after their baby. KCRW’s George Lavender asked Nancy to keep an audio journal as she dealt with Daniel's time away, his court dates, and his potential release.

In the final installment of our series we bring you a few entries from that journal 

Photo: Nancy Rivera with her son Elijah

Oct 18 2016
13 mins
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Rank #2: In and out of the biggest mental health facility in Los Angeles

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Across the United States local jails are often filled by people with serious mental health issues. Here in Los Angeles, the Sheriff’s Department says one in four jail inmates are being treated for their mental health. When mentally ill inmates are released they often end up living on the streets where they’re frequently rearrested in a matter of days. On this episode, we meet LePriest Valentine, who kept winding up in the only sanctuary he could find after getting out of jail: Skid Row.

Photo: LePriest Valentine (George Lavender)

Oct 11 2016
13 mins
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Rank #3: There's no glamour in a jailhouse wedding

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On average, there is a wedding in a Los Angeles County jail every other week.

At Pitchess Detention Center, the large jail complex in Castaic, California, weddings are performed through the glass of the visiting room window. This is where Elizabeth Wenkuna will marry inmate Hans Ritter. He's about to be moved hundreds of miles away to a state prison where he'll spend at least 10 years. She's 22 years old. Hans is her first boyfriend.

"I don't like to tell people that I'm married to a man in jail because then they look at him as a bad person, and he's not a bad person. He made a bad mistake," she says.

All prisoners have the right to marry. But there are lots of restrictions like, "No provisions shall be made for special religious or other ceremonial requests" and "No rings shall be passed to the inmate."

A jailhouse wedding can be complicated, so Elizabeth found a wedding planner who knows how it's done. Cindy Richardson has helped with lots of weddings, and explains why so many people get married even though they're separated by many miles and a layer of thick glass.

Photo: Elizabeth Wenkuna and her mother outside the jail (George Lavender)

Oct 04 2016
10 mins
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Rank #4: Lost weekends

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Thousands of Los Angeles County prisoners are housed in Pitchess Detention center, 50 miles from the inner city neighborhoods where police make many arrests. The closest bus stop is a mile away from the jail, and visitors can either walk the last mile or get a ride from Mama Betty.

The journey, which can take hours, ends in a 30 minute visit with the person behind bars. "It's like the whole journey the whole process is longer than the visit itself," says 25-year-old Nancy Rivera, who has visited the jail countless times.

Reporter George Lavender finds out how this weekly journey to the jail has made a community out of the visitors, and an unlikely hero out of a woman named Mama Betty.

Photo: Betty Peters, known as Mama Betty, shuttles jail visitors along the last mile of the journey. (George Lavender)

Sep 27 2016
12 mins
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Rank #5: Bail: How to buy your freedom [Explicit]

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Whether or not someone is able to bail out of jail can have major consequences on sentencing and conviction. A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that people who remained in jail before trial were more likely to plead guilty to a crime, and more likely to be found guilty by a jury.

Plus, forty percent of those in the Los Angeles County jail system are pre-trial. That means about 6,500 prisoners are not serving a sentence for a crime, they're just waiting for a resolution to their case.

If you have the money, getting out on bail is pretty straightforward. But if you don't, you need to hire the services of someone like Clay Potter, a bail bondsman.

In this episode, George Lavender talks to Potter about how he decides whether or not to help bail someone out. Then, Lavender follows two arrestees as they wind their way through the bail system. Finally, Lavender asks a criminal defense attorney whether she thinks the current system is fair.

Photo: The Los Angeles bail bonds office of Bob Swann (George Lavender)

Sep 20 2016
10 mins
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Rank #6: Life on a million dollar block [Explicit]

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One small neighborhood of Los Angeles accounted for thousands of bookings into county jail over a five year period.

"If you try to do better with your life but they won’t let you then you just revert back to the same thing," says one resident who's been to jail many times, "you just continue the cycle."

Even a short time in jail can have long-term consequences. Across LA, some blocks have higher arrest rates than others. How does that affect the neighborhood?

Reporter George Lavender talks to a UCLA researcher working to identify areas in LA County where millions of dollars have been spent locking people up. Then he talks to residents on a 'million dollar block' in Westmont, where almost everyone knows what it's like to be in jail -- and to try to stay out.

Photo: Kelly Cotton walks through the Westmont neighborhood with her kids (George Lavender)

Sep 13 2016
12 mins
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Rank #7: Subscribe now to 'Off the Block'

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Subscribe: iTunes

Los Angeles has the largest jail system in the country - about 17,000 people are currently locked up here, equal to the population of a small city. And they come from neighborhoods all over the county, from Hollywood to Lancaster to downtown LA.

How are LA's neighborhoods affected by its jails? KCRW criminal justice reporter George Lavender hosts a new series that explores this question. The series starts in Westmont, a South LA neighborhood that saw thousands of residents booked into county jails over a five year period.

Off the Block will feature six episodes, released weekly beginning Tuesday September 13. You can subscribe now to get the first episode as soon as it’s ready.

Sep 02 2016
10 mins
Play

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