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tv   America Tonight  Al Jazeera  February 16, 2016 9:30pm-10:01pm EST

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should not be available to everyone that is our show for today. i'm ali velshi, thank you for joining us, the news continues here on al jazeera america . >> thanks for joining us on "america tonight", i'm melissa chan. we looked at crime and punishment with an eye to the victims, there are hidden victims, those that the justice system didn't intend to punish, but who suffered anyway.
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consider that a third of the people in prison are women, and most of them are mothers. tonight we consider what happens to the kids when their mothers go to prison. here is "america tonight"s sheila macvicar. >> reporter: it's a long journey into night to new york city's burro burrows. this family makes the trek five times a week. when the children's afterschool programme ends, this disming mother heads home with her -- this single mother heads home with her daughters. it will take one bus ride and two trains. for 17-year-old arlene, it's a physical and emotional journey to be there. it began by doing hard time. >> can you tell me what took you to prison? >> i was home, sleep with my
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children, and just like any other night their father he did whatever he did on the streets, and would come home late. you know, we were going through domestic violence. he came in 1:00a.m.. drunk and belligerent. his eyes were a shade that i never saw before. it was like death. ha wants to have sex with me. because i don't want to have sex i'm accused of being a cheater and a whore. >> reporter: arlene's girls, 2 and 4, were in the apartment. >> the children woke up. i put them back into their room. i always grabbed the knife for protection. he started to hit me. he started to punch me in the head. i couldn't take it. i swung the nice in attempts of getting him off -- knife in attempts of getting him off me. he fell in front of me bleeding. there was so much blood. i called the cops.
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they took me out in the ambulance. once the kids came out of their room, they walked around in a pool of blood. >> reporter: as their daughters watched arlene was arrested and charged with murder 25 years to life. their daughters were placed in doctor's care. i remember them asking when was i coming home. the hardest part was the visit at the end. >> reporter: when you had to say good by. >> that was the hardest part. when the kids left, and the door shut. because i would stay in my sell for the rest of the day. >> arlene did two years at rikers island in new york, before her charge was reduced to manslaughter, because of years of domestic abuse.
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afterwards, she was sentenced to five years probation. >> >> reporter: how did your relationship with your daughters changes while you were in prison, at rikers? >> there was a big gap. one minute my tooth was falling out, the next someone was graduating kindergarten. >> it was hard trying to parent through the phone. i missed the birthdays. i missed graduations and the sleep. it was so difficult. trying to tell a child to do certain things so that they won'tened up the same place you are -- won't end up the same place you are. >> reporter: more than a million women in the u.s. are serving time. like arlene, many are victims of domestic abuse. more than 2.5 million children have an incarcerated parent. 8 million have a parent under
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correctional supervision. children are the victims of criminal justice. >> you would be surprised the amount of individuals i speak with that say "i never taught of that population." >> to those that say the parent made a decision, they have some... ..it's their fault that the child is dealing with the issue or challenge. >> you started this in your basement. >> sharon is the founder of children of promise, nyc. a unique nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children deal with the drama of having a parent in prison. >> no one thinks 62% of the women in state prison, and 58% in federal prison have a child under the age of 18. the child wears the burred in, you have lost your mum, and you have not received support and sympathy. children of promise, nyc runs an
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afterschool programme aimed at providing an emotionally safe space and therapy. for the children of incarcerated mums and dads to help them handle confuse and anger. it takes a long time to learn what we were feeling. what would you do? what is your action. >> i throw a lot of tantrums. >> yes, you would, where would you throw them? >> in class. i want to know a lot about my mother. armani is the oldest daughter and like others is working through her feelings. >> what is the feeling that you have connected to the thoughts connected to your mother. >> sad. >> son staff children promise a psychiatrist and licensed clinical social workers. they lead the children to share
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emotions with each other. and on this day with "america tonight". . >> you are nodding. what would happen. >> i was in class, and i got uch. and if anyone said anything to me, i'd blackout. i fought a lot. not knowing there was a way to get over it. >> i would blackout after i go crazy, i don't remember a thing that happened. >> like how? >> in school, for career day. i want my mum to come. she couldn't. everyone asked me why didn't i have a parent. >> listen how this 8-year-old processed his mum's absence. >> i thought if i did what my mum did, i would be able to be there. >> reporter: when you look at the kids, what's the need you
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see? >> i'm 8 years old and i'm pised off i don't have my mum, and the only way to express the anger is to lash out. i don't know how to express it in words. sharon came to this after a career on wall street, in part because she lived with the stigma of incarceration. >> on saturday morning as i left my home. it was something that i kept a secret. >> why is it important to support families like this. what is the difference in the outcome. >> the goal is so that children that attend the programme are not involved in the criminal justice system. and the mechanism that will ensure that that cycle does not continue. is the support that we provide that young person as well as the family. we need to support the young person, so they can deal with the stigma and the shame.
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and for many, the stigma of having a parent in prison. in addition, children promised nyc are activities. >> i never got to see him. >> art therapy. and music class. and, of course, the opportunity to be part of a team. >> did anyone have anything else they wanted to share. >> there's supervised letter writing. notes to a parent, a written life line between parent and child. >> my mum told me when i'm 21, you are going to be... ..sometimes i wonder if i'm okay. >> what we are talking about are some of the big feelings that come up when we write letters to loved ones. what are some feelings that come up. behind that, i'm doing really
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good, and i miss you. >> what is the most important thing that you want your daughters to know about you? >> that i never gave up. i'm not giving up. i'm struggling now. every day now. so they won't. they need higher education. i need them to see if mummy did it, so can they. >> arlene earned her g.e.d. there were no prison guards telling her when to get up. three months ago arlene's family moved into her own house. the first time they moved. >> when released she was homeless. she couldn't provide stability for her daughters and kept them at her mothers. she tucked them into bed and woke them. the hours between were a
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nightmare. she slept where she could. sometimes she rode the night train. she distributed herself as zombieified. >> my big old bed. and it's mine, it's mine. on rikers island, you know, we had a cot. it was a thin piece of got like you know the metal frame end. i suffer from back pains now. the kids are coming here at 4 o'clock in the morning, trying to either wake me up or join in the bed with me. >> arlene credits children of promise with helping her and her girls adjust.
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she's determined to help others deal with prison trauma of their own, encouraging them to stay positive, and communicate with their kids on a daily basis. >> my mummy was craig. >> reporter: armani and her younger sister had to absorb big lessons. >> but they were tears of what? >> joy. >> those are the tears we cry now, right. >> that's what my mum taught me. >> it's not bad to cry. >> no. i'm just trying to say you are human. break it in the pan. >> arlene is determined to teacher girls to be independent. >> it's a lesson she's learning and is humbled by the opportunity for the family to get it right. >> i always wanted to walk without being handcuffed to someone. without wearing a jump suit or a
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co telling me to get in line. that's what i wanted. just to walk down the block. and to be with my children and my children be with me. that was my biggest dream. >> next, cruelty and corruption behind bars, one of the biggest sheriff's departments and what could put their officers in prison. >> and a look inside america's special ward for a young patient. we have a preview on that. hot on the website now - tragic history, could the next american resident carry out plans to deport foreign nationals and u.s. citizens? turns out it has been done before. the proof at aljazeera.com/americatonight.
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now look at crime behind bars, when perpetrated by those charged with upholding the law. one of the biggest prison systems is under the control of the l.a. county sheriff. now the former sheriff, himself, may be headed to prison for his role in obstructing a federal investigation into abuse inside the l.a. county gaol. the young running case leading to bacca forced to step down two
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years ago. michael oku brought us a look at the abuse behind bars. >> i'm face down, face on the crowned. hands behind my back, and i have four or five officers around me. then i here a noise. >> reporter: that's what happened, says leo when they went to visit his brother at a notorious gaol in america. the men's central gaol in downtown los angeles. in july, 2010, figura had a phone call from his younger brother juan. juan, a veteran of desert storm had trouble adjusting to civilian life since leaving the army. over the years he had a few minor scrapes with the war. it never amounted to much. what he heard left him stunned. your brother calls you from gaol and tells you that his teeth are busted. >> yes, sir. >> and what else.
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>> his ribs are broken. >> did he give you any information as to whether he sustained the injuries. >> that the los angeles sheriffs hurt him. >> yes. >> did you believe that. >> yes. >> reporter: figerrela went to the gaol hoping to see his brother. he approached a deputy in the visiting area, and so began his own ordeal at the hands of the los angeles sheriff's department. stop resisting. i yelled out. i'm in handcuffs. this is an x-ray taken shortly after the incident. how is your arm now. >> i want to lift my arm. >> is there pain? >> yes. >> reporter: the gaol system ran by the los angeles sheriff's department is the largest in the country. critics say it was one of the worst. a place where beatings and broken bones were the preferred
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method of disciplining inmates and visitors alike. that culture, they say, was condoned by the brass, including a former sheriff himself. last week, bacca pleaded guilty to a charge related. 18 other officers were implicated. figura's story is one of several encountered in the indictment. it wasn't just gaol house visitors, the indictments made clear inmates were harshly treated as well. >> a young gentleman, a pre-trial detainee at the gaol was brutally beaten by three deputies. sonya was a civil rights attorney who represented several
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inmates. his eyes were black and blue. what did he do to provoke that kind of beating? >> he didn't do anything. >> in their depositions the deputies said the man was unruly, dressed in his underwear and was physically retrained when the blows were delivered. the sheriff's deputies can be heard joking about the injuries. >> he's fine. >> if you're difficult in gaol, you'll be disciplined. everyone assumes na. >> why should we care. >> i think if you are difficult in gaol, you should be disciplined. it's not by breaking the bone on his ankle. because you took a flashlight that was 40 ounces and you built
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his angle until it broke in four or five places. that is not punishment. it's brutality. after suing the sheriff's department and the officers, a jury awarded the man 125,000 in damages. sheriff bacca and the deputies agreed to pay 165,000 in punitive penalties. >> the sheriff's department would not comment on the case or mr figuras. following the indictment. we were given a tour of the men's central gale by the recently appointed captain dwyer. >> dwyer oversees day to day operations at the gaol. >> what was your first thought when you heard guards were abusing not only inmates, but
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visitor's of inmates. >> disbelief. >> reporter: a lot was poor moral, they say. that it was a stop for more glamorous jobs. >> reporter: how important is it to build a rapport. >> most indicated that. it was remarkable. >> reporter: i don't need to tell you, you look around, bars are everywhere. this is a gale. with all that neg difficulty, one has to imagine them not to fall into the abyss. i can't speak to the incident. there's ongoing litigation. it hurts you. >> why too much. it's o profession that we take
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pride in. >> it's highly assaulted inmates. >> a serious allegation is that gut miss formed into gardenings. sporting tattoos, and requiring members to bet inmates. reportedly they named themselves the 2,000 boards, and the 3,000 boards after the floors on which they worked. >> this is the 3,000 floor, and this is one of the floors where people allege some of the wrong doing were inflicted. is there abuse happening at the gaol, or has abuse in the past happened at the gaol. was it as rampant as some of the media portrays it. no. i have understanding men and women every day. we work with l.a. street criminals. >> reporter: i am sure you have dedicated people. sounds a little like spin when you say that it might have been overblown by the media.
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we are talking about 18 separate individuals here. >> there's no doubt. >> that's a lot of folks. >> it is a lot of folks. >> there are serious allegations, and we take every one of those seriously. >> we've done a lot of things since then. i almost doubled my supervision, we changed protocols, and basically gone back to the drawing board on a few things. >> reporter: as forward leo, a judge awarded him 320,000 for his ordeal. figura says 100,000 of that goes to medical costs. he also says studies have helped him. what is important is the truth about what happened to him has come out. so that it's just a visit to the l.a. county gaol is no longer a life threatening experience.
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next here - a look ahead, with a rare visit inside a ward where some of america's greatest medical mysteries are under the microscope.
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[ ♪ ] a quick peak at a special "america tonight". the miracles of modern medicine lead us to believe doctors can gix anything. there are medical mysteries that the best physicians cannot unravel. lisa fletcher had a look inside the one treatment center in america where doctors are faced with answering the unanswerable questions about diseases with no known cure. >> reporter: this is building
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10, a surprisingly generic name for the facility at the epic center for research for rare, unidentified and untreatable diseases. it is here where scientists are scrambling to find a cure for a fatal condition called mean and pick. destroying memory, motor skills and the lives of kids like 15-year-old julia cane. how does it make you feel. what is it doing to you. >> it burns up cholesterol. causes me to not memorize like other people memorize. and it causes me to not walk right like my walking is not stable.
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my handwriting is sometimes sloppy. >> reporter: do you remember life before, do you remember running around, or life being different? >> if i looked at something, then something was coming up, i'd probably remember it. but just sitting here, i can't think of anything that i did when i was little. >> reporter: and you can see all of "america tonight"s lisa fletcher's report wednesday on "america tonight". . >> that's "america tonight" for this evening. tell us what you think at aljazeera.com/americatonight. talk to us on twitter and facebook and cut back. we'll have more "america tonight" tomorrow.
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and we show you like no-one else can. this is our american story. this is america tonight. [ explosion ] aleppo assault. >> we are pretty confident in our safety that this was russia that carried out the strikes. >> reporter: russia deies allegations of -- denies allegations of war crimes after a video released showing them dropping bombs in syria. >> dangerous ground. pope francis visits a mexican state rive with drug -- rife with drug traki

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