tv Burton and Anita Folsom Discuss Death on Hold CSPAN October 30, 2016 1:00pm-1:37pm EDT
>> code written three books with my husband and i'm happy to be here today with dirt talking about death on howl -- tough on hold. >> i usually write about economic history. i'm interested not rigorous, the rest of the united states becoming a world power. what propelled the united states to achieve and that greatness. >> host: if you had to narrow that down into a semi-soundbite what would that be. >> guest: the rise of the united states and the ability of entrepreneurs in a free market having with property rights to establish tremendous economic development. >> host: where did you two meet? >> guest: we met at murray's take university in kentucky when bert came there to work and he was a very young fellow then and i was a lot younger. but i graduated and then was working in the department and he
was there as a very young teacher and so we met and began dating. >> host: are you from kentucky? >> guest: i'm originally from western kentucky and artists from nebraska. >> guest: she's too modest issue is the best in the first class i ever sought at murray state university. i did not date her until after she graduated, but i have my eye on her. >> host: prior to hillsdale, where were you? >> guest: we were in eastern texas and burke worked for houston good we lived in the houston area for four years and before that, and the center public policy here in michigan and before that, he taught for 18 years at murray state. >> host: what is your connection to washington d.c., the heritage foundation? >> guest: i often speak at events those groups bond or an especially the young america
foundation i do a lot of events that they do for college students. they have conferences for high school students and college students to teach them principles in the united states. >> host: why are you conservative? >> guest: i'm a conservative because i believe the principles that conservatives were free-market anchors use work best for people. we study the economy, bert especially studied the economy all through the centuries that the u.s. history. the principles that free markets follow work. if you study the administration of franklin roosevelt and we've done that in depth, he came up with some ideas that they don't work. policy to franklin roosevelt prolonged the great depression. >> guest: freedom works and the voluntary exchange of people working with one another, businesses, competition from
incentive to do well, all of that works well and freedom create not only happiness but it creates more prosperity and more prosperity in society and the more the united dates have moved in that direction, the better we have become so we in the late 1800s and 1900s became complete world leaders and economic development. >> host: what is the process like for you to to cowrite about? >> guest: bert is smiling. it's difficult writing a book with your spouse. we've done three. somehow we survived it. part of it is we each have expertise in certain areas and so we leave the other one of loan in that area so we are each writing chapters. then, the other one and it's the chapters. it's about time stirs up some controversy. we have done well. the lord has guided us and we have produced three books
together. >> host: your most recent book is not an economic history or i'm free-market. what's it about? >> guest: it's a story of a prisoner we got to know in 1983 for the first time and he was on death row than. he was under the death sentence. he killed a man in alabama and he was in a prison in alabama on death row and in 1983, "time" magazine published an article on the death penalty. a large cover story because the death tunnel table is much debated the 80s. it had just become used again in the united states. time magazine wrote an article and we read it and we both were struck by the story, but berg was the one who took action on that. >> guest: i wrote this story and they had described mitchell
rutledge has been really. they said he couldn't read or write in nobody visited him except his lawyer. the thing that struck me about the story in "time" magazine, remember was the cover story that mitch was the only person interviewed in the article who was sorry for what he had done. he admitted i did it and it was wrong and i apologize for it. he was subject to the.penalty and the author of that piece in "time" magazine concluded that his life was not worth anything, that he was a disposable person. so i was shocked that he would draw that conclusion because he's the only one who showed remorse for what he done. here he was in a prison and i couldn't sleep that night thinking about this. especially from a christian standpoint. i thought he might be executed, a year away from being executed.
because he's sorry for what he's done from the lord can forgive him. he can still go to heaven. i thought that he can't read or write. how can ever communicate with them? let me just try it for if god didn't ask him the good things will happen. i wrote him a letter. in block letters. the article said he was at home in prisons i looked at not less than there was no home in alabama. so i think i put home in alabama and cookies that code. it turns out if it went in northern alabama and he's in southern alabama. i wrote the letter stain your right to -- sorry for what you did, but you can be forgiven and still go to heaven. just a very short letter and signed it. i wasn't sure he was going to get it, but if he does of this i
discharged my duty. the lord wants me to do something then i felt the need to do this and i did it. a couple weeks later, a letter came back in the mail and it was from mitchell. it turns of course i had the wrong zip code and i didn't have his prisoner number either a male is hard to get through with that. somebody, somehow the letter came through to him. it turns out he had another prisoner read the letter and then he was able to compose because he couldn't read. he was able to compose a letter to me in broken english that thanked me for my letter and continue to communicate with me and was sorry for what he had done. so i wrote back. and nato became involved, too. i became our correspondence with mitchell rutledge. >> host: how many letters were written back in court over the years? how many visits? >> guest: i think hundreds and
hundreds. we don't even have the early letters come in the letters in our possession because we turned them in to one of the coming court hearings mitchell has gone through. hundreds and hundreds we visited him the following year in 1984. we needed to go to florida anyway and he's in southern alabama so he wrote and said what you like to have a visit? i've been it to others. when 10 years before they prison in western kentucky with a church group and then in the early 1980s, bert and i were in the philippines and went to a maximum-security prison in the philippines also with another christian group where there was the night in christian ministry to maximum-security prisoners. >> host: this is incidental to other work. we wanted to be involved. >> guest: these are not
long-term ongoing ministries. this was just one for each place. so with all these letters without we will go to visit him. >> host: what was your biggest concern? >> guest: my biggest concern i think would be just communicating with him. i had been into other prisoners so i knew a little bit. this is a sitdown visit with one hand. >> host: uneducated african-american prisoner. >> guest: his letters were still hard to understand because it's written english was so bad. he went all through public school, never graduated from high school. didn't learn to read. mainly went to high school when he was 14, 15, 16 because he could get a free lunch and often that was his only meal of the day. he would get his free lunch and ate the number learned anything.
i was concerned what we would speak about. we drove down to alabama where is located just outside of a very small southern town. i was familiar with that because i had grown up in small southern town. we pulled up to the prison and it was seared typical maximum-security prison, guards and the towers, razor wire all-around defense and push the button. we didn't know how to get men. they would does this through. we went in. at that time with death row inmates i believe we were the only visitors in the room that day. so we sat there for 10 or 15 minutes after they searched us. they always search you when you go in to visit prisoners and sat down at one of the little tables there with souls around at all attached to the floor so no one can pick up a stool. it was a very, very somber environment.
in a few moments we heard noise outside the visiting room may open the door they were taking handcuffs off this very tall black man and he looked at us. he says the picture and he walked and emma shook his hand and that was our introduction to mitchell rutledge. the funny thing to me was it was obvious michel was extremely nervous when he walked in. this was his first time in the visiting room. here were two white people he didn't know. he'd never had a visitor. the thought immediately occur to me, why is he so nervous? we are the ones that should be nervous. >> guest: you realize i am locked in this room. it was quite an eerie feeling. >> mitchell, he really wanted this to work. he wanted to have some friends and someone he could communicate with on the outside.
so we sat down and talked and he was very surprising. he was a very interesting young man. his grammar wasn't what we were accustomed to, but he was very articulate in his own way. >> guest: and very smart. that's what surprised me. a college professor used to dealing with young people. he was above average in intellect and i thought emotional intelligence is the way he connected with people and related to the world way above average. >> host: how did the prison administration, the guards treat you to showing up at this maximum security prison? >> over the years, because we came back regularly, they have been very friendly and they have, as i say, they recognize how important these visits are to prisoners. we begin to understand later over understand later over the
years their incredible element because if you have somebody on the outside who cares about you, that elevates you. that means you are somewhat important. it also sends a signal to outsiders. you can't really mess with this guy too much because he has people who care about him. keep in mind i have over the half the people have no visitors at all. that separates mitch from the others. he had no friends going into that and the lawyer was the only one who ever visited him. no one on the outside would even take a call from him. so this was very special for him and was significant in our lives as well. 1984, 32 years ago. >> host: have even visiting every year since? >> guest: virtually every year. anita is visiting him this saturday. going down to alabama.
>> guest: yes, you can only visit once every four weeks. >> host: wiseguy rolled in place? >> guest: because of overcrowding. what first got to know mitchell, you could visit every two weeks. we couldn't do that because we lead the way. you have lots of visiting days available. a number of years ago the state of alabama change the rules and now it can only visit once every four weeks and that's the only day you can tell them you have to be there at a certain time. you have to set your time out to make that day. if i don't visit this saturday, we may not see him again until december because of the way today's fall. >> host: anita folsom, is it just overcrowding? >> guest: that so we understand. mitchell says he believes he thinks it's more a process to try to separate the men from the
outside, but i think it is simply overcrowding. that's my opinion. he's now in donaldson prison, 1600 men. that is visiting a double seat probably 40 family and they have visiting on saturday and visiting on sundays. mitchell said saturday. >> host: you are flying down to birmingham. >> guest: yes, i have to go the night before she stay over and then you have to be in front of the prison at 7:00 a.m. the next morning. >> guest: shall have to get up at 4:00 or 5:00 to drive the prison to go when. they take the visitors. you'll have to get extra time. you'll be early. but they start letting people out and you get as long as you
can. if it gets too crowded to have to leave after a few hours. the visiting those until 2:00. >> host: you read that article in time magazine in 1983 still visiting him in prison. >> guest: his remarkable men. >> host: what happened in death row? >> guest: he managed to be removed from death row because of two trials that he had an anita and i were there for both of them. anita was not able to make the first one. the second one she was therefore i were a character witnesses for mitch to show they cared about him, the lieutenant, but we believed his life was worth preserving and we made that argument to the jury. there were some others who were contacted mitch as well. a woman named lillian had become a in him. and so we have a few people
there that are lawyer, dennis polsky who was hired by the southern poverty law center was brought in their to help match and beat his lawyer. he did a great job and all of us went in there and did our best to make the case. this person should go for being executed to have in life without parole. we ultimately won the case. 1989 set out was five years after her first visit. we won the case and he was off death row. >> host: is still in prison? >> guest: his sentence was reduced to life without parole. in alabama they had passed laws in the meantime. the pardons that were done by president clinton in the 90s really affect did the life without parole sentences because many states after midnight pardon of bill clinton as he was leaving office, he pardon dozens
and dozens of people. some of those were more for political favors and even for money involved. but that's another story. it affected faith because many legislators were very concerned that a future president or future governor might try the same thing. they change the laws. now in alabama, life without parole, the only way mitch can get a pardon is if i enact a state legislature. they would actually have to pardon him specifically. >> host: we've been visiting the state legislators. the minority leader, clint ross was given a book in talk to them. cam ward who is the republican leader in prison reform. they've both been sympathetic, ready to listen to our case and we are working through some of the legislators, hoping this will be a literacy that pardon. he's been in for a total of 36 years, has never had a violent offense. he's a leader in the prison.
our society would be much better served having mitch on the outside working to help young people prevent them from going into prison are working with prisoners who have been released to help lower the recidivism rate. >> host: at what point were mitch rutledge's letters back to you coming in poetry form? how did that happen? >> guest: early on. one of the other friends in this life, i believe sister lillian who was a catholic sister from california -- at about tenure she moved. >> she literally nurse so she could visit more regularly. >> she was teaching in the area. lilly had encouraged him to write his poetry. mitchell is a very talented man. so he began writing poetry early on just about as silent as conditions about how how small the bed was. he's on a very short bed.
six feet long, two feet wide. that really touched me about how hard it was to rest when you're that arch in your own small bed. it's about getting the back of cookies on the weekend, how important it was. his poetry was very primitive, but very touching. when we wrote the book, we put the poems in the book just as he wrote them and we tried to put them in about the time he wrote them and they meant a lot to us. we kept his letters of coors and sister lynn in made a point to keep all of his poems and eventually have them printed and bound in a very informal way to keep them all together. when we wrote the book we went back and looked at those poems and try to pull out the best ones that showed mitch as he was and what he was thinking at the time. >> host: in 1983 we supporter of capital punishment?
>> guest: this system in and 83 bert and i differ on a little bit. i was very hesitant about capital punishment although i could see i thought it might be a deterrent and i believe burr was much more actively in support. >> host: what about today? >> guest: i still believe that it does work as a deterrent and the penalty for murdering another person with the least consideration of death penalty is appropriate. in mitch's case, he did when the pardon. he was able to demonstrate this life is worth preserving. within the legal system which did win his case. capital punishment needs to be considered still >> host: there several conversations going on in the country today about prison
reform and whether or not these are correctional institutes or perhaps just pay no institutes. what are your views on that? >> guest: there's no rehabilitation rehabilitation that makes place. mitch says you have to rehabilitate herself. the atmosphere within the prison is totally unsuitable for rehabilitation. prisoners are locked up in a state of nature inside the prison. mitch talks about seeing magazines when he first came in. you see people in effect dominated other people and honoring the slave system. this kind of survival of the fittest you see within this. once he became a christian, he converted. is that i want to live that kind of life. so the challenge to mention others who converted as well is how to practice your faith in this atmosphere that is so drab old for someone to practice his
or her faith in. that is the kind of difficulty mesh faces. the way he's done it over years, the way he's out with hostile people is fascinating and we talk a lot about how people who want to confront him, who want to fight him, how he deals with them, how he talks with them and how he maneuvers them in a different direction. it's quite impressive matches actions in the way she was able to stand up for himself. that's why he was the lack did as a teacher to be teaching other prisoners. he did learn to write. he's received college credit. he was on death row and was he like to buy the other prisoners has been their leader. he's a model for others and prisoners who have read his book
almost uniformly. you have told my story as well. your hard background is my story as well. many are amazed at what he's done to overcome that. >> host: one of his trials, u2 were accused of supporting him so you could write a book and profit from his experience. >> guest: the prosecutor accused us of that. >> guest: this is 30 years later. >> yes, the prosecutor and he's doing his job. he was very good. he looked at the background at that time. i haven't done any writing and bert had written three history books. he came right at us. you're doing this for profit. what other motive -- >> article in "the wall street journal." he was convinced somehow we were bringing her the defense had
gotten in there because it's too much to be true. the fellow was politically conservative would be coming into this setting and arguing for the release for at least the removal of this prison are from death row. so he thought we must have some kind of ulterior motives. he didn't understand the didn't understand were absolutely captivated by this man's story. we believed in him. we were fighting for him because we believed in him and god was guiding our relationship. >> exactly. >> host: when the book came out, was mitch rutledge able to do any interviews or with siebel to correspond with anybody in the press to talk about this? >> guest: not a great deal. as you can imagine it's very limited. there was a website, death on hold vote.com that our publisher, nelson publishing, has put together. may actually have mitch's voice
on that website talking about physics and. but it's limited access and we do have a friend in california who is working on a small documentary on mitchell and he had been able to get permission from the state of alabama and he went in and set up an interview. takes a lot of red tape to get in. >> host: are there too many people in prison in america today? >> guest: i believe there are. i don't think anywhere near everyone who's in prison should be in. we have seen this. there are a lot of people, i'm no expert, but i would call them clinically in vain. they have to be separated from the public. they are dangerous. mitchell will tell you that. it's frightening.
some of them have to be removed from society. but there are people in prison i think who are in there who can get out and do while and there are many people -- many ministry groups working with prisoners when they get out. it is hard to sometimes identify everyone in this mitch says, men have few rehabilitate themselves. they have to get themselves together. the sad thing is so many men and prison have no one on the outside. they have no support groups. mitchell's mother died when she was nine. she actually gave birth to mitchell when she was third team. he was 16 years old when his mother died and then was on the street. so many of the men have said mitch, this is my story, too. they don't have parents or their parents have died in drug shootout overdose is in the main problem that leads to all of
this is the break down of the family. that is the national disaster we are dealing with. >> if you look at the rise in the prison population in the united states in the 70s and 80s, it followed the big rise in number unwed mothers giving birth to children for the father was not present. the fatherlessness is very significant here. we always know when we go on to the visiting your to visit mitch, we will see a father which we don't often do. we see a father coming to visit that child is in prison. first of all we don't see too many in the prison who have fathers in midlife, but when we do, we know the prisoner has more hope than those without the male figure. >> host: but was delayed for a former republican county chairman to work with the southern poverty law center?
>> guest: that was very interesting. dennis polsky was a hero in this story. >> he is. he is mitch rutledge's lawyer. were still in touch with them. >> he defended mitchell in the first trial and in the subsequent two hearing to get a sentence review. dennis is from ohio originally. he went to the southern poverty law center in the 70s to work down there practically free of charge and help men like mitchell rupp h. and the southern poverty law center would only take desperate case is. mitchell's was pretty desperate. so dennis took it to defend him and stuck with him all through the hearing. it was pretty interesting. dennis b. in a very practical attorney and a good one, he was glad to have character witnesses. he simply said i never expected to republicans to show up to testify for mitchell routledge.
there were a number of people pro and con at the second we sentencing hearing for mitchell and sister lillian was there. we were there. >> host: pamina story as well. the woman from virginia. >> she was supportive. she could not attend a trial, but she was at home when you are going to get her back. consumer weekend was there in dennis even with this background was funny because he put sister lillian on the stand for the defense first because sister lillian was a very gentle person and she was one of days. she thought everyone should be let out and they would do much better the next time. he didn't want her ruining the whole thing were saying that. he gave her a lot of coaching. and he put her on the stand because he couldn't paint her as
a bleeding heart liberal. you are going to get away with that. dennis was delighted we were there, but i did have to poke him a few times. i said i wanted to know your two star witnesses are republicans here. he said i know that. >> he was delighted in its open the doors for us to discuss political issues which often can't be done between people on different sides. we have respect for one another and with help one another and we both enjoyed being in the company of one another. >> host: "death on hold," much of it is in mitch's voice. is there a limit to the proceeds he can receive from this? >> guest: yes, some people have wondered why we are the best the authors. we put it in mitchell's was because we thought that was much more effect is.
>> host: it was men or action we could never interview him so the book was written by mitch writing letters. we would edit the letters, send them back, and then we would go forward. it took years to write up. >> the everything is mitchell basically had to give us the facts. some of the sentences in the book are mitchell's and it is. much of it is taking mitchell's lies in putting them together. we called all of the characters involved. we interviewed dennis. we interviewed some of the sisters who are in the book. we interviewed sister lillian. we knew her personally very well. we talked to all of these people that put it together. so we put it in mitch's voice but he didn't write the book. it's his story. he gave us the fact that meant we had to fit it together.
his speech in his grammar, when you're writing a book you have to read a certain way, you certain words, and that is not what mitchell is thinking about you but it's definitely his story. >> host: this is similar to a lot of the cases are situations that brian stephenson for montgomery alabama. >> guest: he works with death penalty prisoners and he's been very fact that. he didn't necessarily start wanted to do that, but he stumbled into it. that is correct. >> host: "death on hold: a prisoner's desperate prayer and the unlikely family who became god's anwer" is the name of the book. burton folsom and anita folsom are the two authors that work with mitchell routledge on this big website one right time. >> .com hold book.com.
>> it's interesting that it was that not the ghetto that was the main ghetto that was on my mind are we not because in fact for most of history, if you referred to the ghetto, you weren't referring to anything they did. you were referring to the ghetto in venice in 1516 which was the first ghetto that was created fo