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Live at Truthdig: What Can Be Done to Reform the U.S. Prison System?

KCRW

A life on death row is unimaginable for most people — but for almost 3,000 prisoners in the United States, it is stark reality.

Gary Tyler used to be one such prisoner, unjustly convicted and sentenced to death at age 16 for a crime he did not commit. After spending 41 years of his life at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, America’s largest maximum-security prison, Tyler was released in April.

Thursday at 1 p.m. PDT/4 p.m. EDT, Tyler will join the Truthdig team for a live discussion on the U.S. prison system, streamed directly to our Facebook page. Tyler recently sat for an interview with Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer for KCRW’s “Scheer Intelligence” podcast. They discussed how Tyler was able to hold on to hope during those dark decades — for himself and for the prison system itself.

“When I was in prison, I was introduced to a culture that I never thought existed,” Tyler told Scheer. “I’ll never forget that when I went to death row, they had these doors that were slamming and prisoners shouting and hollering. It was like being introduced to an insane asylum, I guess.”

During his time in prison, Tyler directed a passion play exclusively featuring other inmates as cast members. This project became the basis of the documentary “Cast the First Stone.” Tyler explains:

Of course, I was able to recruit people from all walks of life in the prison. Also, that we’re talking about some people that had disciplinary problems and I knew these guys. I knew that giving them a chance, an opportunity, I could help transform them. I like that I had opportunity to interview and audition, you understand, these guys, because I opened it up to the prison population and I was getting, if you consider the worst of the worst, and to hear these guys say, “Give me chance. Let me prove myself.” It’s like people asking society, “Give me a second chance.” So, I heard their cries and I gave them that chance. I found them to be the most committed and dedicated actors that I had in the production.

Tune in Thursday to hear more from Tyler about his experiences in, and his take on, America’s prison system — as well as what he’s doing with his life of freedom.

–Posted by Emma Niles

Emma Niles
Assistant Editor
Emma Niles, an assistant editor at Truthdig, graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a degree in political science. She has worked for the National Women’s Law Center and Ms. Magazine.…
Emma Niles

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