Josie Duffy Rice’s ‘Unreformed’ Exposes State Violence Towards Black Children

By the point Josie Duffy Rice graduated from Harvard Legislation Faculty, she knew she did not need to be a lawyer. As a substitute, she turned a journalist sitting on the intersection of politics and the felony authorized system. Her newest story—Unreformed: The Story of the Alabama Industrial Faculty for Negro Kids—is a podcast delving into Mt. Meigs, a state-run establishment the place black youngsters suffered “bodily and sexual violence, unlivable services, and grueling labor within the fields surrounding the varsity.” That historical past had largely gone unreported. Centered round a second within the Nineteen Sixties when 5 ladies escaped and tried to blow the whistle, the podcast is full of uncomfortable truths that too many individuals would like to disregard. In February, Purpose‘s Billy Binion interviewed Duffy Rice by cellphone.

Q: Why do you suppose these tales went untold for therefore lengthy, regardless of being fairly surprising?

A: We make numerous excuses for the best way we deal with individuals who we deem unhealthy. I believe these items additionally snowballs. If individuals received out—generally they did not—they by no means spoke about it once more. They by no means informed their households. They have been so traumatized. A few of it’s simply seeing another person being prepared to talk out. One of many stuff you additionally notice is what number of victims weren’t positive if they may belief their reminiscence. They’re so younger after they go to those locations. What has been sort of wonderful is seeing individuals’s experiences and recollections validated. They’ve gone 50 years questioning what really occurred. And you then discover different individuals who have the very same story, who bear in mind the very same factor.

Q: There are some individuals who could say, “That is previously.” Why do you suppose it is essential these tales be informed?

A: We actually like this concept that there was a nasty factor, one thing occurred that fastened it, and now we needn’t fear about it as a result of that is not who we’re anymore. It is cliché, however those that do not study historical past are doomed to repeat it. I’ve no cause to suppose what was taking place again then continues to be taking place at Mt. Meigs, however I have never heard good issues. It is actually comforting to suppose that was unimaginably way back when it wasn’t.

Q: A premise of the podcast appears to be that the injustices of the previous bleed into the current and future.

A: What made me on this story is that precise factor. Many individuals who went to Mt. Meigs within the Nineteen Sixties for loitering or breaking curfew, or as a result of their dad and mom died, are actually serving life with out parole or are on demise row for homicide. We enable establishments to form individuals, and we prefer to think about we would not be formed the identical method—and possibly we would not. Not all people did these issues. However lots of people did.

This podcast is in regards to the specter of state violence. As a result of what you see are tragic tales of youngsters who went in as youngsters, received out as youngsters, and it formed the remainder of their lives. They worth life in keeping with how a lot their life is valued. And lots of people, their lives are simply not valued by the state.

Q: Was there something that stunned you as you have been reporting?

A: Lots stunned me within the sense that it was a lot worse than I might’ve imagined. However I’m eternally stunned by individuals’s resilience. I believe that will get manipulated so much as a result of the dialog turns into, “Individuals are resilient so you possibly can put them by means of no matter.” That is not what I am saying. What I am saying is the resilience of the human spirit is extra exceptional than it will get credit score for. Folks handle to make it by means of such hellish circumstances with out completely dropping their humanity, and there is at all times the prospect they will discover that humanity once more.

This interview has been condensed and edited for fashion and readability.

Leave a Reply