Signs of Life

5 Reasons

A Little Improvement For Lives on the Inside5 Prisons Building Hope Behind Bars

Canine CellMates

More than 100 inmates have participated in the Canine CellMates program at the Fulton County Jail. It’s “extremely rare” for an inmate to reoffend after completing the program, says the coordinator. Photo by Kelly Kline

For the roughly 2.2 million people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails, daily life is often violent, degrading, and hopeless. In a 2010 study of inmates released from 30 prisons, the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics found that more than three-quarters were arrested for a new crime within five years of being freed.

Marcus Harrison Green

Marcus Harrison Green is a YES! Reporting Fellow. He is the founder of the South Seattle Emerald. Follow him on Twitter @mhgreen3000.

But what if our approach to those behind bars were constructive, rather than destructive? What if correctional facilities provided programs and resources to educate and encourage? What if communities partnered with prisons not only to improve life on the inside, but also to increase the prospect of success on the outside?

Today, programs at jails and prisons across the country are demonstrating that this is possible. In these programs, inmates are finding compassion for others and purpose for themselves.

1. Canine CellMates Fulton County Jail, Atlanta

A dog’s companionship can never be undervalued, at least not to Susan Jacobs-Meadows.

“Dogs have the ability to see the good inside a human being, even when people can’t,” she says.

A dog-lover “since I could crawl,” Jacobs-Meadows possesses the same ability to see the good in others as the four-legged companions that share living quarters with Fulton County Jail inmates as part of the Canine CellMates program in Atlanta.

Believing all inmates have a capacity for good is what inspired the Army veteran to found the program at the jail 2 1/2 years ago. For 10 weeks, felons train dogs from local shelters to sit, stay, and fetch.

Serving mainly repeat offenders, Canine CellMates is designed to do more than provide obedience training to dogs before adoption by local families. The mostly volunteer-led endeavor puts a heavy focus on transforming lives through the unique bond developed between teacher and pupil, both of whom can be viewed as society’s castaways. More than 100 inmates have participated, and Jacobs-Meadows says it is extremely rare for an inmate to reoffend after completing the program.

Prior to participating in the program, Leon Jennings had to strain just to make eye contact with another person. Out of jail for more than 15 months, Jennings has an outgoing demeanor and a vow to never return. He credits the program, and the German Shepherd with whom it partnered him, for his own change in disposition.

2. Prairie Conservation Stafford Creek Correction Center, Aberdeen Washington

Prairie Conservation

The Sustainability in Prisons Project’s Prairie Conservation Nursery Program works with inmates in four different Washington state prisons. An inmate labels trays and replants seedlings in a Conservation Nursery Program hoop house at the Washington Corrections Center for Women. Photo by Benjamin Drummond / Sara Joy Steele

Since 2009, inmates at Washington’s Stafford Creek Corrections Center have been reconnecting with nature.

These inmates have transformed prairies once overrun with noxious bitterweed to lush pastures and have planted more than 1.5 million flowers as environmental stewards in the Sustainability in Prisons Project’s Prairie Conservation Nursery Program.

The program, also available at three other Washington state prisons, allows 45 Stafford Creek inmates per year to escape their cells for six hours a day, five days a week. For many of them, it also serves as their first connection to the environment.

One inmate said he used to love riding all-terrain vehicles, “tearing up” what he thought was simply wasteland. Since participating in the program, he said he’s “woken up” to the environment as a living thing deserving of care, helping to restore some of the very areas he once destroyed.

Researchers at The Evergreen State College, who help manage the nursery program, credit the program with a reduction in prisoners’ anxiety and aggressive behavior, and an increase in empathy.

The program also offers the potential for college credit, so inmates can apply skills learned “on the job” to a future career.

Since participating in the program, an inmate said he’s “woken up” to the environment as a living thing deserving of care, helping to restore some of the very areas he once destroyed.

3. The Blue Room Snake River Correctional Institution, Ontario, Oregon

Solitary confinement at Oregon’s Snake River Correctional Institution used to mean a concrete cell, no bigger than a parking stall.

Prisoners spent about 23 hours a day there, a prolonged isolation that often provoked aggressive behavior from prisoners, who sometimes tried to bite or hit the facility’s guards. So guards tried an experiment: Send inmates back to nature or, more accurately, bring nature to them.

The Blue Room, implemented in April 2013, immerses inmates in nature for an hour by playing videos of arid deserts, lush forests, and open oceans as they sit in a chair alone, imagining roaming the wide open spaces before them.

The room, named for the glare from the images projected on its wall, has been credited with a reduction in reported incidents of violence against guards. Prison officials in Nebraska, Michigan, Hawai‘i, and Australia have shown interest in having their own Blue Rooms as a way to improve inmate moods. The project cost the Oregon prison about $1,500.

“Prisoners in solitary confinement are nature-deprived like no other human beings,” says Nalini Nadkarni, a forest ecologist at the University of Utah who came up with the Blue Room concept. “We know nature can affect human beings … it provides them with a sense of well-being.”

4. Creative Writing San Quentin State Prison, California

Stories can change lives. Just ask the inmates in San Quentin’s Brothers in Pen writing class. Every Wednesday night, some of the most hardened criminals in California’s notoriously tough prison meet to write, read, and critique their own fiction and memoirs.

A writer walks to the center of the room, nervous to read a story mined directly from his life. His fellow inmates eagerly form a circle of support around him, waiting for what was painstakingly put on paper to be read aloud. “I love so much that moment of suspense, and you have no idea what kind of creation he has made,” says Zoe Mullery, who has been teaching the class since 1999.

Whatever the writer’s skills, Mullery says her class responds with encouragement and thoughtful, specific critiques. This support becomes a powerful outlet of emotion and creativity.

“Writing is where the human spirit truly and purely soars. Lack of self-expression, in the form of writing, kills the spirit,” says Brothers in Pen student J.B. Wells.

For him, and others, the class provides living proof that stories possess the power of transformation — but only when they’re allowed to be told.

5. Computer Training Folsom State Prison, Represa, California

Improving landscapes and designing striking skyscrapers are high priorities for the women sitting in Folsom Prison’s computer lab, but there’s a greater goal on their minds. These inmates are using the skills learned from the state’s Autodesk Authorized Training Center Program to craft something more important than buildings and computer code: a better life.

Instituted just over a year ago, this program is the only one in the nation to teach female inmates computer design skills used in architecture and engineering. The six-month class is taught by engineers with the California Prison Industry Authority, a state agency that provides productive work for inmates.

The goal is to provide participants with skills that can help them get jobs once they’re released. Many have found jobs in fields that would have been closed to them, including a recent graduate who landed a job in New York and has completed more than 100 design projects since her sentence ended.

With nearly 70 women graduating last June, the program’s 90 percent completion rate exceeds that of similar computer design programs available to vocational students on the outside, where the completion rate is about 50 percent.

Marcus Harrison Green

Marcus Harrison Green is a YES! Reporting Fellow. He is the founder of the South Seattle Emerald. Follow him on Twitter @mhgreen3000.

Angela Davis and Fania DavisWhen Revolution is a Sister Act

Angela and Fania Davis embrace.

YES! Photo by Kristin Little

Angela Davis and her sister Fania Davis were working for social justice before many of today’s activists were born. From their childhood in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, where their friends were victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, to their association with the Black Panther Party and the Communist Party, to their work countering the prison-industrial complex, their lives have centered on lifting up the rights of African Americans.

Sarah van Gelder

Sarah van Gelder is co-founder and editor at large for YES! Magazine.

In 1969, Angela Davis was fired from her teaching position at UCLA because of her membership in the Communist Party. She was later accused of playing a supporting role in a courtroom kidnapping that resulted in four deaths. The international campaign to secure her release from prison was led by, among others, her sister Fania. Angela was eventually acquitted and continues to advocate for criminal justice reform.

Inspired by Angela’s defense attorneys, Fania became a civil rights lawyer in the late 1970s and practiced into the mid-1990s, when she enrolled in an indigenous studies program at the California Institute of Integral Studies and studied with a Zulu healer in South Africa. Upon her return, she founded Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth. Today, she is calling for a truth and reconciliation process focused on the historic racial trauma that continues to haunt the United States.

Sarah van Gelder: You were both activists from a very young age. I’m wondering how your activism grew out of your family life, and how you talked about it between the two of you.

Fania Davis: When I was still a toddler, our family moved into a neighborhood that had been all white. That neighborhood came to be known as Dynamite Hill because black families moving in were harassed by the Ku Klux Klan. Our home was never bombed, but homes around us were.

Angela Davis: Fania is probably too young to remember this, but I remember that strange sounds would be heard outside, and my father would go up to the bedroom and get his gun out of the drawer, and go outside and check to see whether the Ku Klux Klan had planted a bomb in the bushes. That was a part of our daily lives.

Many people assume that the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church was a singular event, but actually there were bombings and burnings all the time. When I was 11 and Fania was 7, the church we attended, the First Congregational Church, was burned. I was a member of an interracial discussion group there, and the church was burned as a result of that group.

We grew up in an atmosphere of terror. And today, with all the discussion about terror, I think it’s important to recognize that there were reigns of terror throughout the 20th century.

Sarah: So where were you when you heard the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing had happened?

Fania: I was attending high school in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. And I didn’t take no stuff from nobody. I was always talking about James Baldwin or Malcolm X, and always bringing up issues of racial equity and justice.

I heard about the bombing when my mother told me that one of the girls’ mother had called her up — because they were close friends — and said, “There’s been a bombing at the church. Come and ride down with me so we can get Carole, because Carole’s at church today.” And they drive down there together, and she finds that there is no Carole, she’s been … there’s no body even. I think it fueled this fire, the fire of anger and just made me determined to fight injustice with all of the energy and strength that I could muster.

I found myself, even as a 10-year-old, just going into the white bathrooms and drinking out of the white water fountains, because from a very early age I had a fierce sense of right and wrong.
—Fania Davis

Sarah: Can you say more about what everyday life was like for you growing up?

Angela: We went to segregated schools, libraries, churches.We went to segregated everything!

Fania: Of course, in some ways it was a good thing that we were very tight as a black community.

When we went outside of our homes and communities, the social messaging was that you’re inferior: You don’t deserve to go to this amusement park because of your color or to eat when you go downtown shopping. You must sit in the back of the bus.

At the same time, at home, our mother always told us, “Don’t listen to what they say! Don’t let anybody ever tell you that you’re less than they are.”

And so I found myself — even as a 10-year-old — just going into the white bathrooms and drinking out of the white water fountains, because from a very early age I had a fierce sense of right and wrong. My mother would be shopping somewhere else in the store, and before she knew it, the police were called.

Sarah: Let’s skip ahead to when it became clear that you, Angela, were going to need a whole movement in your defense. And Fania, you ended up spending years defending her.

Fania: Yeah, about two years.

Angela: In 1969, I was fired from a position in the philosophy department at UCLA. That’s when all the problems started, and I would get threats like every single day. I was under attack only because of my membership in the Communist Party.

Fania: Angela had been very involved with prison-rights activism at the time, leading demonstrations up and down the state. And then she was all over the news: “Communist Fired From Teaching at UCLA,” you know, “Black Power Radical.”

Angela: Then in August 1970, I was charged with murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy. And so I had to go underground. I found my way to Chicago, then to New York and Florida, and finally I was arrested in New York in October. It was during the time that I was underground that the campaign really began to develop.

Sarah: So, Fania, when did you turn your focus to supporting your sister’s cause?

Fania: The night before I left Cuba, I found out that she had been captured. So instead of going home to California, I immediately went to where Angela was in the Women’s House of Detention in Greenwich Village.

Angela: All of my friends and comrades began to build the campaign. Once I was arrested and extradited, they all moved up to the Bay Area.

We were active in the Communist Party, and, you know, whatever criticisms one might have of the Communist Party, we could go anywhere in the world and find people with whom we had some kinship, and people opened their homes.

It was the Party that was the core of the organizing for my release, and the movement was taken up by students on campus and church people.

This happened all over the world. Every time I visit a place for the first time, I always find myself having to thank people who come up to me and say, “We were involved in your case.”

Left photo
Right photo

YES! Photos by Kristin Little

Sarah: Did you know that there was that kind of support happening?

Angela: I knew, and I didn’t know. I knew abstractly, but Fania was the one who traveled and actually got to witness it.

Fania: Yeah, I was speaking to 60,000 people in France and 20,000 in Rome, London, and East and West Germany, all over the world, and seeing this massive movement to free her.

Angela: It was an exciting era because people really did believe that revolutionary change was possible. Countries were getting their independence, and the liberation movements were going on, and there was this hope all over the world that we would bring an end to capitalism. And I think that I was fortunate to have been singled out at a moment of conjuncture of a whole number of things.

Sarah: Your work since that time has centered on the criminal justice system. Are you both prison abolitionists?

Angela: Oh, absolutely. And it’s exciting to see that the notion of abolition is being broadly embraced not only as a way to address overincarceration, but as a way to imagine a different society that no longer relies on repressive efforts of violence and incarceration.

Abolition has its origin in the work of W.E.B. Du Bois and the idea that slavery itself was dismantled, but the means of addressing the consequences of that institution were never developed. In the late 1800s, there was a brief period of radical reconstruction that shows us the promise of what might have been. Black people were able to generate some economic power, start newspapers and all kinds of businesses. But all of this was destroyed with the reversal of Reconstruction and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1880s.

Fania: Yeah, we abolished the institution of slavery, but then it was replaced by sharecropping, Jim Crow, lynching, convict leasing. The essence of the racial violence and trauma that we saw in the institution of slavery and in those successive institutions continues today in the form of mass incarceration and deadly police practices.

Angela: We’re taking up struggles that link us to the anti-slavery abolitionists, and the institution of the prison and the death penalty are the most obvious examples of the ways in which slavery has continued to haunt our society. So it’s not only about getting rid of mass incarceration, although that’s important. It’s about transforming the entire society.

Sarah: How might restorative justice help with this transformation?

Fania: A lot of people think that restorative justice can only address interpersonal harm — and it’s very successful in that. But the truth and reconciliation model is one that’s supposed to address mass harm — to heal the wounds of structural violence. We’ve seen that at work in about 40 different nations; the most well-known is, of course, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In South Africa, the commission invited victims of apartheid to testify, and, for the first time ever, they told their stories publicly. It was on all the radio stations, in all the newspapers, it was all over the television, so people would come home and tune in and learn things about apartheid that they had never known before. There was an intense national discussion going on, and people who were harmed felt vindicated in some way.

That kind of thing can happen here, also, through a truth and reconciliation process. In addition to that sort of hearing commission structure, there could be circles happening on the local levels — circles between, say, persons who were victims of violence and the persons who caused them harm.

Angela: How does one imagine accountability for someone representing the state who has committed unspeakable acts of violence? If we simply rely on the old form of sending them to prison or the death penalty, I think we end up reproducing the very process that we’re trying to challenge.

So maybe can we talk about restorative justice more broadly? Many of the campaigns initially called for the prosecution of the police officer, and it seems to me that we can learn from restorative justice and think about alternatives.

Self-care and healing and attention to the body and the spiritual dimension — all of this is now a part of radical social justice struggles. That wasn’t the case before.
—Angela Davis

Sarah: Fania, you told me when we talked last year that your work on restorative justice actually came about after you went through a personal transition period in the mid-1990s, when you decided to shift gears.

Fania: I reached a point where I felt out of balance from all of the anger, the fighting, from a kind of hypermasculine way of being that I had to adopt to be a successful trial lawyer. And also from around 30 years of the hyperaggressive stance that I was compelled to take as an activist — from being against this and against that, and fighting this and fighting that.

Intuitively, I realized that I needed an infusion of more feminine and spiritual and creative and healing energies to come back into balance.

Angela and Fania Davis embrace.

YES! Photo by Kristin Little

Sarah: How did that affect your relationship as sisters?

Fania: My sister and I had a period — right in the middle of that — when our relations were strained for about a year, due in part to this transformation. It was very painful. At the same time, I finally understood that it needed to happen because I was forging my own identity separate from her. I had always been a little sister who followed right in her footsteps.

Yeah, and so now we are close again. And she’s becoming more spiritual.

Angela: I think our notions of what counts as radical have changed over time. Self-care and healing and attention to the body and the spiritual dimension — all of this is now a part of radical social justice struggles. That wasn’t the case before.

And I think that now we’re thinking deeply about the connection between interior life and what happens in the social world. Even those who are fighting against state violence often incorporate impulses that are based on state violence in their relations with other people.

Fania: When I learned about restorative justice, it was a real epiphany because it integrated for the first time the lawyer, the warrior, and the healer in me.

The question now is how we craft a process that brings the healing piece together with the social and racial justice piece — how we heal the racial traumas that keep re-enacting.

Angela: I think that restorative justice is a really important dimension of the process of living the way we want to live in the future. Embodying it.

We have to imagine the kind of society we want to inhabit. We can’t simply assume that somehow, magically, we’re going to create a new society in which there will be new human beings. No, we have to begin that process of creating the society we want to inhabit right now.

Sarah van Gelder

Sarah van Gelder is co-founder and editor at large for YES! Magazine.


“Pidgin” Language Tells a Unique Immigrant Story

Image via UH-Manoa Historical Archives

Image via UH-Manoa Historical Archives

Pau. I stared hard at the word, written in Magic Marker on colored cardstock and tacked up on the bulletin board of my mom’s first-grade classroom, until it dawned on my 11-year-old brain that it wasn’t English.

Sheldon Ito

Sheldon Ito, a watch officer for Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, trains high school and college students for and through the sea aboard 30-foot wooden ketches on the waters of Maine and the Florida Keys. He was born and raised in Honolulu and attended Wai‘alae Elementary School.

It’s a word so common in Hawai‘i that I’d never recognized it as a word, distinct from its meaning (“finished” or “done”), and I’d never seen it written anywhere in any of the English-centric classrooms designed to wash the lo‘i and plantation off of us and make us American. As much as my schoolteacher mother tried to impress upon her children the importance of being able to speak “good English,” there I was, the son of two college graduates, the third generation of my family born in Hawai‘i, and, at the age of 11, unsure when I was speaking English and when I wasn’t.

It turns out that, most of the time, I wasn’t speaking “bad” or “pidgin” English, but Hawaiian Creole, a language all its own. I first learned this in grad school when, after reading a chapter on linguist Noam Chomsky’s theory of universal grammar, I half-jokingly, half-defiantly updated my resume and declared myself a native speaker of Hawaiian Creole and thereby, retroactively, proudly bilingual.

This past November, a U.S. Census Bureau survey included “Hawaiian Pidgin Creole,” which some linguists cite as a prime example of the brain’s innate capacity for language creation, as one of the 350 languages spoken in U.S. homes. This simple act gave the Creole, which researchers say emerged with remarkable speed and uniformity from the polyglot multiethnic sugar plantations of the early 1900s, the imprimatur of federal recognition. It may be coincidence that this happened during the watch of our first Hawaiian-Creole-speaking president, but, regardless, the move helps vindicate decades of struggle by local educators, activists, and artists to elevate “Pidgin,” as it’s commonly referred to in the Islands, from its status as a dialect of the uneducated, “country,” lower classes. And with the stroke of a pen, some anonymous census bureaucrat helped me (and my resume) achieve what seven years of after-school Japanese language classes and many embarrassing oral examinations in college Spanish could not.

I wrote this while home for the holidays in Honolulu, where I found myself, as always, automatically code-switching to my native tongue. Partly because it’s a marker — one could argue the marker — of being local. And in this prideful, injured place, often wary of outsiders after so many decades of land grabs, militarization, and accommodating millions of tourists each year, I want to put people at ease. But partly, when I think about it, to align myself with all the nameless immigrants — the Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, Puerto Rican, Filipino, and my own Japan-born fieldworker great-grandparents — whose children, along with those of Native Hawaiians, invented Hawaiian Creole (not a “pidgin,” which linguists would say lacks a complete and uniform grammar) out there amid the endless dusty rows of sugar cane. I’ve lived outside of my culture for too long, and I’m looking to get some of that plantation dirt back on me.

These laborers and their families, segregated by the haole (white) American plantation owners but united by their shared station in life and inspired no doubt by the openness and generosity of the host Hawaiian culture, overcame their prejudices and grievances from the old country, mostly. And in a single generation, they forged a language. I don’t think they were intentionally trying to create a language — probably more just trying to share a musubi or avoid the luna’s whip — but that’s what ended up happening. Now there’s talk on the continent of building higher walls, religion tests at the borders, mass deportations — as if the problem with our country was freedom, liberty.

We have a language that, as we already kind of know but are reluctant to say, makes us a people. You taste it in our food, hear it in our names, see it in our faces.

I once worked with a carpenter on the Big Island, a haole transplant from the mainland, who sardonically called white-led, anti-development protests on the island “last haole syndrome.” “After me, no more, this island is getting ruined,” he laughed. Too many haoles here, say the haoles. And we do have our problems: Native Hawaiians in the midst of a cultural renaissance but still struggling to find a path to sovereignty and justice in their own land, real estate prices floating ever higher in the backwash of money from the winners of global capitalism, the city and county of Honolulu struggling to come up with long-term solutions for the homeless as they chase people from one makeshift encampment to the next. We’re even grappling with fears about immigrants and terrorism, as evidenced by the furious backlash on social media at the governor’s extending a welcome to Syrian refugees.

Homelessness. Who belongs, who doesn’t belong. Last haole syndrome. The Census Bureau decision to recognize Hawaiian Creole as a language is a good reminder for us: that we have a language, and it is the big tent of languages, accepting all comers. We have a language that, as we already kind of know but are reluctant to say, makes us a people. You taste it in our food, hear it in our names, see it in our faces. Even Native Hawaiians, down to their last 24,000 in 1920, are today a powerful 300,000, mostly of mixed race, saved by this immigrant wave and decision to embrace rather than deny. It’s not an official language, but Hawaiian Creole is our language. And when I say “our,” I mean everybody who’s from here and everyone who chooses to live here.

Immigrants to Hawai‘i, howzit, e komo mai, learn our language as soon as you can. It’s crowded here, but we can make room. Try to fit in. And you keiki at Kalihi Kai Elementary, learn English, or Japanese, or Mandarin, the language of whatever dominant power we’re going to have to befriend or fend off in the future; hold on to your native Tongan, Tagalog, or Thai; and by all means learn Hawaiian, our other official language and the mother tongue of the islands. But bus’ out da kine Pidgin or Creole or whatevah, whenevah can. No shame, eh! And no fohget. It’s your language. It belongs here and so do you. Dat’s it. Pau.

Sheldon Ito

Sheldon Ito, a watch officer for Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, trains high school and college students for and through the sea aboard 30-foot wooden ketches on the waters of Maine and the Florida Keys. He was born and raised in Honolulu and attended Wai‘alae Elementary School.

Generations of Immigrant Portraits Laura Kina is a Chicago-based artist who was born in California and grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Her Sugar series of oil paintings explore her family history as Okinawan sugarcane plantation workers from the Big Island of Hawaii. Kina’s portraits use Japanese language terms to portray her multiracial family across five generations, with Issei referring to the first generation to immigrate from Japan. Kina is professor of art, media, and design at DePaul University. Kina's solo show “Uchinanchu” is currently on view at the Kellogg University Art Gallery at Cal Poly Pomona.

Laura Kina, Issei, 2011. Oil on Canvas 30x45”

Laura Kina, Issei, 2011 Oil on Canvas 30x45”

Laura Kina, Kibei Nisei, 2012. Oil on Canvas 30x45”

Laura Kina, Kibei Nisei, 2012. Oil on Canvas 30x45”

Laura Kina, Sansei, 2013. Oil on Canvas 30x45”

Laura Kina, Sansei, 2013. Oil on Canvas 30x45”

Laura Kina, Yonsei, 2013. Oil on Canvas 30x45”

Laura Kina, Yonsei, 2013. Oil on Canvas 30x45”

Laura Kina, Gosei, 2012. Oil on Canvas 30x45”

Laura Kina, Gosei, 2012. Oil on Canvas 30x45”

Laura Kina, Cane Fire, 2010. Oil on Canvas 30x45”

Laura Kina, Cane Fire, 2010. Oil on Canvas 30x45”

Laura Kina, Kasuri, 2010. Oil on Wood Panel 30x45” Private collection

Laura Kina, Kasuri, 2010. Oil on Wood Panel 30x45” Private collection

Laura Kina, Ho Hana, 2010. Oil on Wood Panel 12x12” Private collection

Laura Kina, Ho Hana, 2010. Oil on Wood Panel 12x12” Private collection

Laura Kina, Palaka, 2010. Oil on Canvas 30x45”

Laura Kina, Palaka, 2010. Oil on Canvas 30x45”

The Page That Counts

The Numbers That Define Our World

Percentage of cellphone owners who check their phone for messages even when they didn’t get a notification 67

Percentage of American Internet users who describe their usage as constant 21 1

Percentage of adults who struggle to restrict their phone use while supervising children 44 2

New cases of HIV in Portugal among injection drug users (IDUs) in 2000 1,482

New cases of HIV in Portugal among IDUs in 2013 (12 years after decriminalizing all drugs) 78 3

Percent change in drug use among young people in Portugal between 2000 and 2013 -2 4

Average price of solar panels for a U.S. home in 1998 $12/watt 5

Average price of solar panels for a U.S. home in 2014: $3.48/watt 6

Approximate number of U.S. homes generating solar energy as of 2015 700,000 7

State abortion restrictions enacted between 2001 and 2010 189

State abortion restrictions enacted between 2011 and 2013 205 8

States that directly fund anti-abortion organizations through the sale of pro-life license plates 15 9

Miles from Lubbock, Texas, to the nearest clinic providing abortion services 290 10

Percent change in National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) requests (the most reliable indication of U.S. gun purchasing trends) from 2005–2015 +258

Total NICS firearm checks in last 10 years 160,303,181 11

Percent change in American households with guns from 2004–2014 -3.7 12

Number of Netflix subscribers as of the end of 2015 75 million

Total hours streamed during the first quarter of 2015 10 billion 13

Hours a Netflix subscriber saves annually not watching advertisements 130 14

Percentage of LGBT students who felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation in 2013 55.5

Among LGBT students at schools with a Gay-Straight Alliance 46

At schools with an inclusive curriculum (i.e., one with positive representations of LGBT people, history, or events) 34.8 15

Lifespan of Pluto as a planet 1930–2006 16

Expected lifespan of Pluto as a copyrighted character 1930–2025 17

Complete citations at

1.PEW Research Center 2. Human Centered Design and Engineering, University of Washington 3. European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Addiction 4. Drug Policy Alliance 5. U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office 6. Green Tech Media 7. Solar Energy Industries Association 8. Guttmacher Institute 9. Women’s Health Policy Report 10., distance determined with Google Maps 11. FBI 12. General Social Survey 13. Netflix letter to shareholders, first quarter 2015 14. 15. GSLEN National School Climate Survey, 2013 16. International Astronomical Union 17. United States Copyright Office