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Interchange – Toxic Prison Blues: The Prison Ecology Project


With me today to discuss the environmental hazards facing America’s prison population as well as the environmental hazards caused by prisons themselves is co-host Micol Siegel, who is an associate professor in the American Studies and History Departments at Indiana University. And joining us by phone is our guest Panagioti Tsolkas of the Human Rights Defense Center who’s here to tell us about the HRDC’s Prison Ecology Project which works to shine a light on the way prisons and jails are built on or near landfills, toxic waste dumps, Superfund cleanup sites, and coal mining sites, and that they are vulnerable to natural disasters such as flooding and environmental hazards like contaminated water.

According to HRDC, there is overwhelming evidence that the population of people in prison represents one of the most vulnerable and uniquely-overburdened demographics in our nation; people of low-income, black, Hispanic/Latino and Native Americans are consistently over-represented in prisons and jails in every one of our 50 states.

We’ll also hear from Paul Wright, Director of the Human Rights Defense Center, and Editor of the Prison Legal News, via the magic of editing. Paul Wright was one of the speakers on a panel called “Ecology of the Police State” which was part of the recent Public Interest Environmental Law Conference and we’ll be playing clips from that event throughout the program.

Crucial to the discussion and understanding of the politics and economics of this issue is a common or tacit acceptance that the incarcerated person represents a kind of waste management dilemma.

Panagioti Tsolkas, Prison Ecology Project Coordinator, Human Rights Defense Center.

“Parchman Farm Blues” by Bukka White
“New Prisoner’s Song” by Dock Boggs
“Early In the Mornin’” sung by “22″, Little Red, Tangle Eye, and Hard Hair, from “Prison Songs: Historical Recordings from Parchman Farm 1947-48,” Vol. 1.
“Work Song” by Charles Mingus

Human Rights Defense Center
Updates from the Fight to Stop a New Toxic Prison in Central Appalachia
Federal prison in Letcher County wrong for region, environment, prisoners
Activists Work to Stop Building of New Prison in Appalachia
The Ecology of a Police State: 2015 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference panel
Public Interest Environmental Law Conference

Producer & Host: Doug Storm
Co-Host: Micol Seigel
Board Engineer: Joe Crawford
Executive Producer: Joe Crawford

Interchange – The Best of Andy Mahler: A Poet Protecting Mountaintops


This episode features award-winning poet and author Maurice Manning, a native of Danville, Kentucky. Manning’s work has appeared in The Green Mountains Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Sonora Review, and The New Yorker. His collection entitled “Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions” was the 2001 winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. In the third segment of the interview Manning discusses his active efforts to put a stop to the coal industry’s destructive technique of “mountaintop removal” in his native Kentucky.

This is the third of four installments in our News Summit Special series “The Best of Andy Mahler” chosen from our deep archive of available podcasts. Mahler was a long-time host for Interchange who, in 2009, was presented with a WFHB Legacy Award for his service to the station. Mahler is active in Heartwood, a regional network founded in 1991 that protects forests and supports community activism in the Eastern United States through education, advocacy and citizen empowerment.

Maurice Manning

NEXT WEEK: PCBs in Bloomington.

The final installment in our WFHB News Summit “Best of Andy Mahler” series. Bloomington resident Mick Harrison, one of the nation’s foremost environmental and public interest attorneys, talks with Mahler about the PCB contamination left behind by Westinghouse and their decades-long efforts to avoid responsibility for cleaning it up.

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