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China’s Camps Have Forced Labor And Growing US Market


This is Part 4 of a BuzzFeed News investigation. For Part 1, click here. For Part 2, click here. For Part 3, click here.

This project was supported by the Eyebeam Center for the Future of Journalism, the Pulitzer Center, and the Open Technology Fund.

ALMATY — China has built more than 100 new facilities in Xinjiang where it can not only lock people up, but also force them to work in dedicated factory buildings right on site, BuzzFeed News can reveal based on government records, interviews, and hundreds of satellite images.

In August, BuzzFeed News uncovered hundreds of compounds in Xinjiang bearing the hallmarks of prisons or detention camps, many built during the last three years in a rapid escalation of China’s campaign against Muslim minorities including Uighurs, Kazakhs, and others. A new analysis shows that at least 135 of these compounds also hold factory buildings. Forced labor on a vast scale is almost certainly taking place inside facilities like these, according to researchers and interviews with former detainees.

Factories across Xinjiang — both inside and outside the camps — tend to share similar characteristics. They are typically long and rectangular, and their metal roofs are usually brightly colored — often blue, sometimes red. In contrast to the masonry and concrete of typical detention buildings, the factories have steel frames, which can be erected within as little as a month. The steel frame is sturdy enough to hold the roof without interior columns, leaving more space inside for large machinery or assembly lines. Some of the biggest factory buildings have strips of skylights to let light in.

Collectively, the factory facilities identified by BuzzFeed News cover more than 21 million square feet — nearly four times the size of the Mall of America. (Ford’s historic River Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan, once the largest industrial complex in the world, is 16 million square feet.)

And they are growing in a way that mirrors the rapid expansion of the mass detention campaign, which has ensnared more than 1 million people since it began in 2016. Fourteen million square feet of new factories were built in 2018 alone.

Two former detainees told BuzzFeed News they had worked in factories while they were detained. One of them, Gulzira Auelhan, said she and other women traveled by bus to a factory where they would sew gloves. Asked if she was paid, she simply laughed.

“They created this evil place and they destroyed my life,” she said.

The former detainees said they were never given a choice about working, and that they earned a pittance or no pay at all. “I felt like I was in hell,” Dina Nurdybai, who was detained in 2017 and 2018, told BuzzFeed News. Before her confinement, Nurdybai ran a small garment business. At a factory inside the internment camp where she was held, she said she worked in a cubicle that was locked from the outside, sewing pockets onto school uniforms. “They created this evil place and they destroyed my life,” she said.

In response to questions about this article, the Chinese consulate in New York quoted a worker from Xinjiang’s Karakax County who called allegations of forced labor in the region “slander” while speaking at a government press conference, saying villagers in the region are earning higher salaries and learning new skills. “We hope everyone can distinguish right from wrong, respect the facts and do not be deceived by rumors,” the consulate added.

Xinjiang’s industry is booming, and the region has one of the fastest GDP growth rates in China. Xinjiang exports a range of products, from clothing to machinery, and the US is one of the region’s fastest-growing markets. Xinjiang’s factories produce many goods that eventually make their way to US consumers. Apple, Nike, and Coca-Cola, among others, lobbied Congress this year to water down a bill that would ban the import of products made with forced labor there. (Apple has said it did not try to weaken the measure, and Nike has said it “did not lobby against” it.) The bill overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives in September, but the Senate has yet to debate it.

“Corporations should stop producing in, and sourcing from, Xinjiang,” said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium. “There is no way to produce responsibly in the region until the forced labor and broader repression ends.”

Nova and other labor rights advocates, as well as experts who have examined the abuses in Xinjiang, argue that forced labor is so widespread in the region that no company that manufactures there could conclude that its supply chain is free from it. That would mean that US consumers have no real way of knowing whether the goods they purchase from Xinjiang are tainted.


Greg Baker / Getty Images

This photo taken on June 4, 2019, shows people walking past a screen showing images of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Kashgar, in China’s western Xinjiang region.

The Chinese government in Xinjiang surveils people so thoroughly and monitors interviews so closely that it is nearly impossible to independently assess if any one factory relies on forced labor. This is especially true given that economic programs, designed to move people out of poverty by moving rural farmworkers into factory jobs, effectively give cover for the government to conceal why a person might be working far from their home. But when factories are located inside internment compounds — cut off from the world by high walls and barbed wire — it beggars belief to claim workers are there willingly.

Detention camp factories are woven deeply into Xinjiang’s economy. The Washington, DC–based nonprofit research institute C4ADS compared the locations of the factories identified by BuzzFeed News to a database that compiles address information from China’s government registry for businesses. C4ADS identified 1,500 Chinese companies located at or right by the factories. Of those, 92 listed “import/export” as part of the scope of their business. BuzzFeed News found further information about these companies in corporate documents, state media reports, and other public data. According to trade data dating back to 2016, some of these companies have exported goods all over the world, including Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Panama, and France. One company sent pants to California.

One of these firms is Xinjiang Jihua Seven-Five-Five-Five Occupational Wear, which makes military uniforms. It has counted the People’s Liberation Army, the paramilitary People’s Armed Police, and China’s Public Security bureau among its customers, producing hundreds of thousands of pieces of clothing each year.

In its parent company’s 2019 annual report, the company is explicit about its participation in labor transfer programs. The company transferred at least 45 ethnic minorities “who do not speak Chinese” from southern Xinjiang to work, the report says. They stayed in shared rooms holding three or four people, according to the report, and they received a monthly food stipend of 360 yuan (about $55).

An article in the state-controlled China News Service said the company’s workers at its Hejing branch were laboring overtime to fulfill a clothing order for protective coveralls, having already skipped a vacation that the factory manager said was offered last year. The workers also attend “bilingual night school” to learn Chinese. Every Monday, they hold a flag-raising ceremony and sing the praises of the Communist Party’s policies as well as “socialist thought with Chinese characteristics in the Xi Jinping new era.”

The way these workers were treated tracks with China’s known behavior in the region. The government’s anti-poverty campaign moves impoverished ethnic minorities referred to as “surplus labor” to jobs ranging from picking cotton to sewing clothing. Local policy documents refer to these workers as having “lazy thinking” and praise the government for “creating an atmosphere that labor is glorious and laziness is shameful,” according to recent research on Xinjiang from the German scholar Adrian Zenz.

Zenz and other researchers say these “labor transfers” can be a front for forced labor, especially in an environment where Muslim minorities live in fear of being arbitrarily locked up. As part of its campaign targeting ethnic minorities in the region, the government has also crushed education in minority languages. Dozens of ex-detainees told BuzzFeed News they were forced to study Chinese in internment camps and regularly praise the ruling Communist Party.

One of Xinjiang Jihua’s registered addresses matches the location of a large complex of internment facilities, which together can hold 11,700 people. This sprawling installation lies just over 3.5 miles from the center of Hejing county, in an isolated area bounded by empty plots of land and an industrial estate to the north and farmland to the south. Six blue-roofed factory buildings sit in their own compound right in the middle of the complex. They appear to be linked directly to adjacent detention buildings via a gate in the wall.


Planet Labs

A camp in Hejing county with six factories.

Xinjiang Jihua did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Another company, Hetian Yudu Handicrafts, is registered inside a compound in Lop County in southern Xinjiang; satellite photos show it bears the telltale signs of an internment camp. A state media article about labor transfer programs in the area quotes a Uighur woman, who went to work there weaving carpets, promising to earn a “surplus” for the company. Hetian Yudu did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Labor transfer for Uighurs, Kazakhs, and Xinjiang’s other minority groups extend beyond the region to other parts of China. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a Canberra-based think tank that has published research documenting human rights abuses in Xinjiang, in March identified 27 factories in nine Chinese provinces using Uighur and Kazakh workers from Xinjiang under a government labor transfer program. Refusing these work assignments is “extremely difficult,” the institute found, because they “are enmeshed with the apparatus of detention and political indoctrination.”

In many cases, Chinese language state media articles show photos of migrant workers who appear to be ethnic minorities boarding buses or working on assembly lines. The articles say that they’re participating in a poverty alleviation program. But they’re subject to strict controls and constant surveillance, and live in fear of being sent to camps or otherwise punished if they don’t comply. After work, they must participate in “patriotic education,” according to former detainees and Chinese language news articles about the programs.

A white paper published by the Chinese government in September offers clues into the scale of the program, saying the average “relocation of surplus labor” per year topped 2.76 million people.

According to state media reports, efforts to alleviate poverty in Xinjiang comprise a wide range of industries ranging from textile factories and food processing to livestock slaughter and cotton farming. It’s unclear what portion of workers in these programs are being forced to work, underpaid, or otherwise mistreated. But experts say the number is large and growing.

“Research suggests that some of those transferred to work are not willing and are severely underpaid, raising concerns about forced labor, potentially at a significant scale,” the Washington, DC–based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies found. The US Department of Labor estimated that 100,000 Uighurs and other ethnic minorities are working in forced labor.

The Better Cotton Initiative, an industry group that promotes ethical standards for cotton producers, told the BBC this month that it had stopped auditing and certifying farms in Xinjiang in part because the poverty alleviation schemes cast the shadow of forced labor over the entire industry there.

The abuses in Xinjiang may affect the supply chains of some of the world’s most recognizable brands. In its March report, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute also identified 82 multinational companies with suppliers that used Uighur workers outside Xinjiang as part of a labor transfer program, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Dell, Apple, Amazon, H&M, Nike, Nintendo, General Motors, and others.

Some brands said they stopped working with those suppliers this year, according to the Institute’s report. Others said they had no contractual relationships with suppliers involved in labor transfer programs, “but no brands were able to rule out a link further down their supply chain,” the report says. Apple said in July that it had found no evidence of forced labor on its production lines.


Ekaterina Anchevskaya for BuzzFeed News

Dina Nurdybai in her sewing workshop at her home in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on February 25, 2020.

Nurdybai turned 28 this year. She’s a busy woman, with a toddler she dotes on and a fledgling garment business she’s started in her new home in Almaty, Kazakhstan. In person she is fresh-faced, with perfectly microbladed eyebrows and wisps of bright green shadow brushed across her eyelids.

Her ordeal started in 2017. At the time, she was running a tailoring shop and a second thriving business selling traditional Kazakh-made clothing in China, called Kunikai Clothing. The company employed about 30 people and specialized in the intricate embroidery found on traditional Kazakh clothing, even offering training and consulting on the complex designs, according to public records. A photo that year shows her posing at a trade expo in the regional capital of Ürümqi, wearing a sleek black sheath dress and big dark sunglasses. She was hands-on in her factory — another old photo shows her explaining to workers how to cut fabric, the cuts marked with a chalked-on dotted line.


Courtesy Nurdybai via RFA

Nurdybai (left) demonstrates how to cut fabric to workers at a trade expo.

One night in October 2017, she returned from work so burned out that she immediately turned her phone off and collapsed into bed. She later found out that the police were looking for her that night and had phoned several of her relatives to try and reach her. The next morning, they called again, and then came to her door.

She was taken to a camp not far from where she lived in the county of Nilka, located in northeast Xinjiang, near the border with Kazakhstan. Located in the Kashgar River Valley, Nilka is small and remote, and manual labor is embedded in its history — one of its few tourist sites are the ruins of an ancient copper mine.

The camp was growing quickly. It seemed to Nurdybai that dozens of people were coming in each day, often wearing hoods so they could not see. “You could hear the clinking of their shackles as they came in,” she said.

There was no heating, and she shivered all the time in her thin uniform. There were 16 women in her dorm room. Inside, she was given a book of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speeches. Instead of running her tailoring shop or fulfilling clothing orders, she would now spend three and a half hours each day studying Xi’s speeches. She couldn’t understand why. Soon enough her days would be filled with labor.

BuzzFeed News; Source: Alison Killing

Forced labor has a long history in Xinjiang that predates the detention campaign. Some lower-security prisons were linked to farms, while many high-security prisons contained heavy industrial facilities, such as a smelting plant for lead and zinc, fertilizer plants, and coal and uranium mines. A few contained buildings for light manufacturing.

Factories started appearing in the makeshift camps of the early detention campaign in spring 2017. Often they appeared as a single factory wedged onto the site wherever there was room, squashed between the existing buildings, or built on the sports field of a former school. At the same time, new and expanding high-security facilities also added factories, typically in larger numbers.

With the explosion of factory-building in 2018, new patterns emerged. The piecemeal addition of factory buildings on cramped existing sites continued. But the detention compounds on the edge of cities, which had more room, expanded to accommodate new factories that were typically arranged in a neat grid and often separated from the main compound — by a fence, or even a road with barbed wire walkways connecting the two. The factory area often had a separate entrance from the surrounding roads, allowing raw materials to be delivered and finished goods to be picked up without disturbing the wider camp.

While some of the new factories have been built in higher-security facilities, they are more often found in lower-security compounds, and they appear to be for light industry — manufacturing clothes rather than smelting zinc or mining. Much of the construction since 2017 has been concentrated in Xinjiang’s south and west: the regions with the highest numbers of Uighur and Kazakh people.

Hotan prefecture, for instance, contains nearly a third of the factories built between the start of 2017 and the end of 2020. Two counties within it — Hotan and Lop — saw 1.9 million square feet and 1.8 million square feet of factories built there respectively during that time period.


BuzzFeed News; Source: Alison Killing

Camps with factories in Hotan Prefecture.

Forced labor in Xinjiang ramped up in 2018, according to researchers and news reports. One ethnic Kazakh factory owner from northern Xinjiang, who asked that her name and company be withheld out of fear of retaliation, described the government’s relentless efforts to round up workers that year. BuzzFeed News was able to verify details about her company’s registration. “I was an entrepreneur. I had a small garment factory,” she said. “I had to go through a lot of bureaucracy, but I did it.”

In 2018, police officers visited her factory five times, asking her to recommend workers to be “reeducated” in order to meet a quota. They told her to look for behavioral slights — using a ceramic bowl with Uyghur-language writing on the bottom, for instance, or repeatedly wearing a headscarf for women.

“We had heard that mass detention had occurred, that people were disappearing into these schools. We didn’t know much but we knew that it wasn’t a good place.”

All five times, she managed to fob them off, offering bribes and excuses.

The business owner had heard rumors that the internment camps were not for education, as the government claimed, but mass detention. “We had heard that mass detention had occurred, that people were disappearing into these schools. We didn’t know much but we knew that it wasn’t a good place,” she said. She was afraid of being sent to a camp herself, but she could not bear to hand over the names of her workers either. “I never sent a single person to the camp,” she said, a note of pride creeping into her voice.

Government officials also told the entrepreneur about poverty alleviation programs, saying that people could get jobs in other parts of the country, which ethnic Kazakhs sometimes call “inner China.” A group of people from her village departed for one of these programs, she said. They returned in six months and told her they had been paid much less than they were originally promised, she said.


BuzzFeed News; Google Earth

The camp at Nilka on June 27, 2019.

By May 2018, Nurdybai was moved to another camp in Nilka County — one of several in which she’d been held. That summer, the camp contained two residential buildings and several blue-roofed factories, with two more under construction, satellite images show. The first buildings in the compound — two five-story residential buildings and 11 factories — had likely been built by late 2015. By the time Nurdybai arrived, an additional 15 factories had been added, covering the grassy field at the northern end of the site.

Much later, after she had moved to Kazakhstan, Nurdybai found the location of the camp herself on Google Earth. It looked strangely familiar. Yet, by then, it had grown even more.

In October 2019, construction started on four more factories, but the workers only finished building the steel frame before the first snow arrived in the second week of November and they had to stop work. They finished by May of this year, and three further factories were added this fall. There are now 33 factory buildings in the compound. Together, they cover 428,705 square feet, an area larger than seven football fields.

Nurdybai stayed at the camp for a couple of months before she was ordered to work in one of the factories in the camp. When officials realized she had worked in the garment industry in the past, she was told to teach other women how to sew clothes — school uniforms, she remembered. She taught them how to sew square pockets on the tops of the tunics and how to sew a collar straight.

“It was a huge place. There were so many women in there. They were all like me — prisoners,” she said.

She said she was paid a salary of 9 yuan — about $1.38 — in a month, far less than prevailing wages outside the walls of the detention camp.

It was a short walk to work — the distance from the residential buildings to the nearest factory was only 25 yards or so, while the farthest, on the opposite side of the site, was still just five minutes away. The women would work from 8 a.m. to noon, she said, and after lunch, again from 1:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. After the nine-hour day, they were required to take classes back in the building where they stayed, memorizing and repeating Chinese Communist Party propaganda and studying Mandarin Chinese.

The factory was equipped with new sewing machines, Nurdybai remembered. In fact, all the equipment inside looked new. But there were clues that those who worked there were not doing it by choice. Pairs of scissors were chained to each work table to prevent the women from taking them to the dorms, where they could, in theory, use them to harm themselves or stab the camp’s guards. And there were cameras everywhere, Nurdybai said, even in the bathrooms.

Inside the factory building, the floor was divided up, grid style, Nurdybai said. It was not like the factories that she had seen while running her own business. “There were cubicles at about chin height so you couldn’t see or talk to others. Each had a door, which locked,” she said, from the outside. Each cubicle had between 25 and 30 people, she said.

On one occasion, one of the camp staff justified the locked cubicles by saying, “These people are criminals, they can seriously harm you.” Police patrolled the floor of the factory.

Nurdybai ate with the other workers and slept in the same quarters as them. But, she said, her position as a trainer gave her one special privilege: She had a key fob with which she could open the doors to the bathroom. Others had to ask for permission to go.


Ekaterina Anchevskaya For Buzzfeed News

Dina Nurdybai working in her sewing workshop at her home in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Feb. 25, 2020.

Near the end of Nurdybai’s time in internment camps in September 2018, police officers finally told her what she was said to have done wrong: She had downloaded an illegal app called WhatsApp. She was later released and told her “education” was over. Her boyfriend at the time brought her a bouquet of flowers, as if she had just come home from a long trip.

But in the time she spent in the camps, her life had fallen apart. She owed a bank 70,000 yuan, or about $10,700, in business loans, on which she had been unable to make payments while she was detained.

Her clothing orders, too, had sat unfulfilled. “They took everything from my factory — expensive materials — they took it,” she said. “My customers, I had to pay them back.” She began selling off her possessions, even her car, to try and pay down the loan.

“I’ve learned to cherish my freedom.”

Eventually, she saved up enough money to leave China and immigrate to Kazakhstan. She is still paying back her loans in China, though she managed to negotiate them down with the bank. Mostly she tries to take things one day at a time. “I’ve learned to cherish my freedom,” she said. “Before all this, I was successful. I had money. But now I understand that money is nothing without freedom.”

She started a small garment business again. She had a baby. And she began speaking out about what had happened to her, telling the story of how she lost everything she had worked for.

She went to the offices of Atajurt, a small human rights NGO located in a worn-down building in central Almaty. It didn’t have much in the way of resources — on a visit this year, a conference room door was broken and had to be held shut by a strip of red ribbon. But it had quickly become a hub for ex-detainees from Xinjiang’s camps, who often came to record their stories for YouTube, and to speak to journalists and university professors visiting the city.

Nurdybai’s workshop is in a small two-floor building tucked away in a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of Almaty, lined with houses and a neighborhood school. Inside, there’s just one window, with a narrow staircase whose railing is painted white. On the first floor, her workshop was strewn with scraps of fabric in purple and red, with two sewing machines set on tables.

She was a healthy woman before her internment. But after she was detained she developed a hernia, which still causes stabbing pains in her abdomen — she suspected she got it from being forced to sit for long hours while studying Chinese. Worse, she began to get migraines, which started with searing pain that moved up the back of her neck. She wondered if the ice-cold showers she had been forced to take could be to blame.

“I worked hard for 10 years to succeed,” she said. “I lost everything, including my health.” ●

Ekaterina Anchevskaya contributed reporting.



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Health

Minneapolis Group Is Growing Food To Protect Members From Effects Of Racism, Disease : NPR


Access to fresh food in North Minneapolis has been a struggle for decades. Members of one group are growing food to protect themselves from the health effects of both racism and the pandemic.



AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

When police killed George Floyd outside a Minneapolis corner store, it reminded the world of how racism can become lethal. But just a few miles away, on the north side of the city, racial inequality plays out in more ordinary, yet still harmful ways. Access to fresh food in north Minneapolis has been a struggle for decades, compounding the health effects of the pandemic. NPR’s Yuki Noguchi reports on a group growing food to fight racism and disease.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: In north Minneapolis, protests after George Floyd’s death damaged and shut down the only full-service grocery store within 3 miles. What remained were dozens of fast food and convenience stores. With little access to fresh food, some, like Princess Haley, are trying to lead her community down a different path.

PRINCESS HALEY: And then, of course, we’ve got dino kale, which is perfect for kale…

NOGUCHI: Haley stands in a community garden the size of a soccer field. It brims with end-of-season rainbow chard, habanero peppers and purple tomatoes.

HALEY: Oh, these are poblano.

NOGUCHI: Haley is a teacher with a cheerleader’s energy. She passes on her love of growing food to her kids. She and her son, Anthony Titus, grew cucumbers together in a plastic baby pool.

HALEY: Anthony and I had laughed and teased each other about tasting manure.

NOGUCHI: In the summer, Anthony babysat local kids. One Fourth of July, he was walking by this garden when a stray bullet pierced his back.

HALEY: I’m looking right at the house where he died in their yard. I can see the fence where the bullet hit him and his hat felt.

NOGUCHI: The kid everyone called Prince Charming was 16.

HALEY: That trauma took me away from my garden.

NOGUCHI: Grief killed her appetite for life. She withdrew. The garden withered. Then, one day, she felt called outdoors.

HALEY: I remember the sun, clear as day, saying to me, why didn’t you go back to the garden? Why did you let your garden die?

NOGUCHI: Bringing it back to life revived her.

HALEY: I could only pull myself out of it in the garden. I felt like the garden is truly a healing space.

NOGUCHI: Over time, she began to see her community’s problems of violence and poverty in a new light. So much of healthy interaction, she realized, is based on how we eat.

HALEY: And the stereotype is police eat donuts. And the kids in the hood, they’re eating chips, sodas as well. So when they come together, how do we expect them to have a well interaction when what they’ve fed their body is primarily sugar?

NOGUCHI: Haley eventually co-founded Appetite for Change. Its mission is to improve the local diet. Since the pandemic, it’s supplied artichokes, greens and other produce grown here to 300 local families. LaTasha Powell, another co-founder, says it’s one tiny solution within a huge, long-standing problem. As a child, Powell could walk to five grocery stores from home.

LATASHA POWELL: We did all our shopping here on Broadway.

NOGUCHI: Shopping was a family affair.

POWELL: The cousins and siblings…

NOGUCHI: And Powell’s grandmother, nicknamed Chip (ph), fed her sprawling crew of family and friends.

POWELL: Man, Chip could cook her butt off. Man, she cooked…

NOGUCHI: One by one, the stores shut down. Meanwhile, poor diet is one of the big reasons more Black and Latino people are dying of COVID-19 here and nationally.

POWELL: For people to constantly die in my neighborhood every day and a lot of that have to relate to the diet that they have is not OK.

NOGUCHI: Powell says the community’s expectations about food and healthy eating in general are shaped by paltry local options. She lobbied chain stores to stock more fruits and vegetables like they do in suburban stores. They didn’t. Steve Belton explains why. Belton is president and CEO of Urban League Twin Cities.

STEVE BELTON: It becomes a vicious cycle because you don’t have the businesses there. People are not able to support themselves and to live healthy lives. There are not of employment opportunities represented by those businesses. And people’s health is suffering because of the absence of healthy choices.

NOGUCHI: LaTasha Powell got fed up.

POWELL: I don’t have the energy or the power to fight a corporation who don’t want to do right by my community. But what is a alternative way that we can get what we need for the people that live here in this community?

NOGUCHI: That alternative way, for now, brings us back to those gardens and Princess Haley, the woman whose son died on the Fourth of July 10 years ago.

HALEY: Tasha, where’s cucumbers?

NOGUCHI: Haley has brought local students, including her 15-year-old, to help harvest produce. Her daughter, Princess Ann, complains of hunger.

HALEY: Find something in the garden.

PRINCESS ANN: What – I want a granola bar…

HALEY: Taste this.

PRINCESS ANN: …And some fruit. Mama, I don’t like tomatoes.

HALEY: Just taste it. You don’t like store-bought tomatoes.

PRINCESS ANN: I don’t like tomatoes in general.

NOGUCHI: Haley ignores her and gently hugs a plant.

HALEY: My babies – okra.

NOGUCHI: Okra, she says, healed her arthritic knees.

HALEY: Like, drinking okra water a whole year – both of these are still my knees. Amen, amen.

NOGUCHI: The garden soothes the deeper pain from losing her son, too. It resurfaces with every shooting.

HALEY: Having that happen so often takes me back to the Fourth of July.

NOGUCHI: Yet she keeps coming back.

HALEY: The meaning of the name George – and I am talking about George Floyd – his name means the farmer. His name represents the land.

NOGUCHI: Haley says some friends say gardening feels too reminiscent of slavery. It’s the opposite, she tells them. It’s a source of justice. When grocery shelves are bare, gardens feed you.

HALEY: Then they become concerned about the soil, the air and the water. Once that individual makes that change, then their social circle changes. Their children make different decisions. Their friends want to know, girl, what’s that in that pot?

NOGUCHI: One of her converts is 17-year-old Carl Childs, who’s plucking fronds of dino kale.

CARL CHILDS: This noise right here – you know it’s, like, fresh. And, you know…

NOGUCHI: Childs discovered a love of snap peas working after school with Appetite for Change. He says supplying produce to neighbors without access to it feels powerful.

CHILDS: Local fresh food to eat – so like, it’s really important, and I love it. I love the feeling, giving back to the community.

NOGUCHI: Haley’s daughter, Princess Ann, watches Childs eat a speckled tomato. It looks like the one she told her mother she hated.

CHILDS: It’s a tomato.

PRINCESS ANN: Oh, this is good. This is good. You – we used to grow a lot of carrots.

NOGUCHI: With her mother out of earshot, she raves about those carrots.

PRINCESS ANN: I ate purple carrots, green carrots, yellow carrots straight out the ground. Those are the best foods ever.

NOGUCHI: And that’s how the convert becomes the preacher.

Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, North Minneapolis.

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Celebrity

Alexandra Holzer on growing up in a famous ghost hunting family



Ghosts are Alexandra Holzer’s family business.

That’s because the reality show star is the daughter of Hans Holzer, who’s often referred to “America’s first ghost hunter.” He even inspired Dan Aykroyd for the 1984 hit “Ghostbusters.”

Hans, who did the bulk of his work in the 1960’s and ’70s, has been deceased since 2009 but wrote over 120 books on the supernatural and was involved in investigating famous cases such as The Amityville Horror. His daughter Alexandra continues the legacy on Travel Channel’s “The Holzer Files.”

Season 2, premiering Oct. 29 at 11 p.m., follows Holzer and her paranormal team as they revisit her father’s famous cases. New York native Holzer, 49, talked to The Post about what it was like growing up as the daughter of a famous ghost hunter, “The Holzer Files,” and more.

What’s it been like for you to revisit your father’s work for the show?

It forced me to get to know Dad more intimately and see how he was working. I grew up in the environment of a healthy diet of the supernatural. So that [aspect] was nothing new for me, but to actually go through all of his archives and start digging through the letters and handwritten notes and photography and audio recordings…it’s been a long time, he’s been gone eleven years. It was very emotional to hear his voice.

Growing up, were you aware that your father’s line of work was unusual?

Oy vey, when I was in grade school, it was in the ‘70s and we always gave presents to the teachers. And my mom said, “Let’s wrap up some of your father’s books.” So [the teacher] sits there and opens the presents, and he gets to mine and I start scooting back my chair as if I want to become indivisible. Because nobody at that time thought that [the supernatural] was cool, and I wasn’t very popular to begin with. The teacher opens up books with “ghosts” and “witches” in the title, and everyone started to look at me. I was like, ‘I am so dead, I am not coming back to school tomorrow!’

My friend’s fathers went to work with suits and ties and briefcases. My father’s quasi-briefcase was filled with equipment and ghost photography.

You initially did not pursue the family business. What made you change?

It was because [ghost hunting] was constantly in my face. When I got a bit older, my mother also went to FIT, so I said, “I’ll go down that route,” because I felt embarrassed. So I kind of did go away from the family business, and I went to FIT for advertising design and graphics. Then, in my late 20s, I had [a supernatural experience] with my late aunt. That really opened up the conversation with my father, and that’s how I accepted my role in the family business. It’s evolved.

Are there any of your dad’s cases that you most enjoyed revisiting on the show?

Merchant House, because as a New Yorker, it’s there. These are amazing cases because they’re so layered in history of different timelines and people who have died and how they died. Merchant House is a beautiful curated mansion and museum. And that’s my stomping ground. As a native New Yorker who has also created her family here like my parents before me, I’m very proud that I’m able to continue the work in that next generation.



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‘Growing Belushi’ goes inside Jim Belushi’s cannabis empire


Jim Belushi is eager for you to see how his career has gone to pot.

The actor, Blues Brother and TV veteran (ABC’s “According to Jim”) stars in “Growing Belushi,” a three-part Discovery series taking viewers inside the legal cannabis business he runs from his southern Oregon spread, Belushi’s Farm. It premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m.

“Once you engage with this plant, it kind of leads you where you want to go,” says Belushi, 66, who brought the now-93 acre farm on the Rogue River just as marijuana was being legalized in Oregon. “I was like, ‘Wow, new agriculture, let’s do that,’” he says. “And it started me on that path.

“It’s taken me to a whole different level.”

Belushi says he’s “a boots-on-the-ground guy” and regularly visits marijuana dispensaries. His business philosophy changed, he says, when he encountered an Iraq War vet on one of those visits.

“He said, ‘I was a medic and I saw things that happened to the human body that nobody should ever see.’ He had PTSD and had gotten off Oxycontin with cannabis and said, ‘I couldn’t talk to my kids or my wife and I couldn’t sleep, but your Black Diamond OG [cannabis] allows me to do that.’ He teared up and hugged me.

“This is a business about healing,” he says. “People are suffering from depression, PTSD, Alzheimer’s, anxiety. I always followed my passion and the money came and the business behind it — but this vet changed my purpose.”

Jim Belushi runs an legal cannabis business from his southern Oregon spread, Belushi's Farm.
Jim Belushi runs an legal cannabis business from his southern Oregon spread, Belushi’s Farm.Discovery Channel

And, if you’re wondering, Belushi doesn’t sample his product too much.

“I’m a microdoser. If I have a joint it lasts me like 10 days,” he says. “I take 2.5 milligrams of [THC-infused] Bhang Chocolate — it’s an easy sleep and I wake up feeling great — and maybe a little hit of [hybrid cannabis] Cherry Pie — which makes me pleasant and charming and chills my anxiety and I get along with my wife.

“I call it ‘The Marriage Counselor.’”

Most of “Growing Belushi” shows him running the business he started in 2015 and interacting with his staffers, including his prone-to-exaggeration cousin, Chris — who oversees the day-to-day operations — and young growers Ben and Alex, whom he’s known since they were kids (he’s friends with their father). Viewers also get a glimpse at his personal life.

Another featured character is Jack Murtha, aka marijuana celebrity “Captain Jack,” whose rare strain of Afghan weed was known as “The Smell of ‘SNL’” when Belushi’s late brother, John, rose to stardom on “Saturday Night Live” in the mid-’70s.

“I met Jack when Danny [Aykroyd] and I started doing the Blues Brothers and we were playing an East Coast gig,” Belushi says. “Jack and Danny were friends, and when I started my business, Danny said, ‘You can have Captain Jack’s strain. It’s very unique.’ Where else would those guys [on ‘SNL’] stay up and get stimulated and come up with ‘The Coneheads?’”

Belushi mentions his brother several times — John’s wife, Judy, appears in the series, along with Aykroyd — and says he thinks Belushi’s drug use, and eventual overdose death in 1982, was partly caused by a traumatic brain injury he suffered while playing high school football.

“I saw my brother have a seizure in my house and we didn’t know what that was from,” he says. “It was from banging his head and getting his bell rung. That’s what I believe. If Johnny was a pothead, he’d be alive today.

“In the second episode I go to Colombia and I go up in a helicopter and ride into the ‘Red Zone,’ which is where all the coke is grown,” he says. “I look down on those fields and there’s a moment that really struck me. I went, ‘Wow, these fields are really cemeteries, all those people who died from that coke.’ I wondered, looking at these fields, if I’m looking at the coke my brother used.

“If Colombia can take these fields and convert them to cannabis fields, they can heal people instead of killing them.

“Everybody is screaming inside,” he says. “Sometimes we take a Xanax or Ambien or a prescription medication. [Cannabis] is the safest, most non-violent choice. It helps repair families in trauma — not only losing a sibling, like me, but illness in the family, the loss of a job or a house … I’ve experienced it myself with divorce. It’s for the battle in all of us.

“One of the reasons cannabis is so prolific is that it finds a peaceful way to stop the screaming.”



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Psych 2 Stars Talk Bringing Lassie Home and Growing Up at Least a Little Bit


Along with paying tribute to Detective Lassiter, Psych 2 features an unexpected amount of growing up—or attempts at growing up—that the cast say will hopefully allow the movies to keep coming. 

“It says so much about the writers that over time we can still stay Psych…We’re all still growing together very much, our characters are still growing together, and I think we play that,” Lawson says. “I think there’s a lot of life stuff happening, especially in this movie with Tim, and not shying away from the emotion of that, but still also all of us being, you know, Shawn, Gus, Juliet. We have a long way to go still, which is why we hope we have more movies. But I love that we’re following that and playing into that while still staying true to our characters.” 

“I don’t know if this would able to go on for this long if there wasn’t some evolving happening,” adds Hill. “If we still were doing the same thing from the first eight episodes of Psych, I don’t know if we’d have gone through eight seasons, and I definitely don’t think we’d have gone through two Psych movies. I think that’s part of the joy, seeing where these people grow too, while our audience grows and expands. 



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Growing divide between Trump and McConnell over impeachment trial



In conversations with the White House, the Kentucky Republican has made clear he hopes to end the trial as soon as he can, an effort to both get impeachment off his lap and protect his conference from potentially damaging votes should the process break out into partisan warfare. That will include a continuous whip count until McConnell feels he has the votes to acquit the President and end the show. He has even floated a 10-day minimum during these talks, one person said.

But the show is exactly what Trump wants. He’s made clear to advisers privately that rather than end the trial as quickly as possible, he is hoping for a dramatic event, according to two people familiar with his thinking. He wants Hunter Biden, Rep. Adam Schiff and the whistleblower to testify. He wants the witnesses to be live, not clips of taped depositions. And he’s hoping to turn it into a spectacle, which he thinks is his best chance to hurt Democrats in the election.

People close to the President say this is because he has been sitting back and watching as current and former aides testified for hours before lawmakers about his behavior that they described as inappropriate, problematic and potentially dangerous.

Infuriated, Trump has been told he will have his day to defend himself soon, one person said.

Both the White House and McConnell’s office declined to comment.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, McConnell said he did not foresee the Senate taking up the impeachment matter before the holidays — meaning the trial is likely to begin early next year.

He said a decision on hearing from witnesses live, as opposed to on taped depositions, would come after hearing the opening argument in the matter.

Any difference of strategic opinion is as much a reflection of the fluid nature on what a Senate trial will entail, multiple people involved said. McConnell himself has repeatedly said publicly that at this point, there simply isn’t an answer as to the length, structure or potential witnesses until the House moves further along with its articles of impeachment. For the moment, these people say, ideas or specific positions on how a trial should go are just that: ideas and opinions. The final form will likely be dictated by where McConnell’s 53-member conference stands on the issue in the weeks ahead.

McConnell is also planning to meet with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer at some point soon to see if a bipartisan resolution laying out the rules of the road — akin to what was agreed to during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial — is possible. Such a resolution might address many of the elements that remain clear unknowns at the moment.

But Trump’s position is the opposite of what some Republican senators, including some of Trump’s closest allies on the Capitol Hill, are advising at this point. In closed-door meetings and phone calls over the course of the last month, several Republican senators have warned Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, not to “turn the Senate into a circus,” according to one Republican senator. A source familiar with the matter said there was no daylight between Trump and Cipollone on the trial.

Instead, there has been a concerted push to allow both sides — the House Democratic managers and the White House defense team — to present their case, then quickly move to a vote to end the proceedings. It would give enough time for moderate Republicans to see it as a fulsome and fair process, while shielding the conference from divisive votes on potential witnesses, one person involved with internal GOP discussions said.

After House Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment against Trump on Tuesday, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the move “does not hurt the President, it hurts the American people, who expect their elected officials to work on their behalf to strengthen our Nation.”

“The President will address these false charges in the Senate and expects to be fully exonerated, because he did nothing wrong,” Grisham added.

While it was initially unclear if that meant Trump himself wanted to testify, a White House source familiar said the line was intended to convey that the President’s case will be made through his lawyers. This person said there aren’t plans as of now for Trump to play a direct role.

“Read the Transcripts! ‘us’ is a reference to USA, not me!” Trump claimed.

CNN’s Pamela Brown contributed to this report.



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New NYPD chief of detectives had ‘negative interactions’ with police growing up, lost close friends to gun violence


Rodney Harrison, who made history this past week when he was appointed NYPD chief of detectives—the first black person assigned to that role—said he never aspired to be a cop as a kid in Jamaica, Queens.

“Actually, I had negative interactions with police officers growing up,” Chief Harrison said in his first interview since getting the prestigious promotion.

When asked to explain what happened, Harrison responded, “I’ve been what I believe is unnecessarily stopped. Pulled over and my vehicle searched. Frisked. Now, we have neighborhood policing.”

Harrison, the father of three daughters and married to a former NYPD Lieutenant, said he changed his mind about policing after joining the department’s cadet program in the early 1990s.

“Once I tried the cadet corps, an internship which helps pay for your college tuition, I saw some of the great work that NYPD does and how they give back,” he said.

Raised in Rochdale Village by Carl and Dee Harrison, the chief talked about his dangerous assignments and said, “I’m an only child, so it’s something my mother gets a little nervous about. But she’s told me she’s very proud of me.”

“Some of my close friends got killed to gun violence,” Harrison told PIX11 on Monday night’s edition of the ‘Mary Murphy Files’ on Facebook Live. “Some of my best friends just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Harrison said he related to the recent case of 14-year-old Aamir Griffin, who was shot dead in October while practicing basketball on a court in Baisley Park Houses in south Queens. Harrison used to play ball in the same area and attended the same school as Griffin, Benjamin Cardoza in Bayside, Queens.

“Aamir was not the intended target,” Harrison said. “That location is a place where I would have played ball.”

As a young officer, Harrison worked undercover in the mid-1990s in the narcotics division. He and his partner were shot at by a drug dealer, with Harrison’s colleague hit in the arm and chest. Harrison fired back and apprehended the suspect.

He and his partner were awarded the NYPD’s Combat Cross for their heroism and received promotions to detective.

When we asked Chief Harrison about the new NYPD Commissioner, Dermot Shea—and his commitment to promoting diversity in the department’s highest ranks—Harrison answered by focusing on his own credentials.

“Let’s talk about my background,” Chief Harrison said. “I worked undercover from ’94 to ’97. I was in the 71 Squad and the 73 Squad. I worked in Brooklyn North Detectives as Commander.”

“I know what investigators need,” Harrison added.

He talked about his time as Commanding Officer of the 28 and 32 Precincts in Manhattan.

“One of my best traits was working with the community,” Chief Harrison noted.

After community tensions heightened on Staten Island after the 2014 Eric Garner chokehold case, Harrison was sent there as executive officer.

The chief told PIX11 his biggest challenge now is confronting gang violence.

“The biggest number of shootings, 40 to 45 percent, are gang on gang,” Chief Harrison observed.

Looking back on his 27-year career, Harrison said, “My favorite time in the police department was working undercover, as dangerous as it was.”

He added, “There was a show called ‘New York Undercover.’ I wanted to be like that guy Malik Yoba!’”

Chief Harrison spoke with pride of his three daughters, ages 24, 23 and 18. All three are scholar-athletes who play college basketball.

Some of them are eyeing NYPD careers.

“My oldest two, Amber and Tyra, just took the test,” he revealed to PIX11.

When we asked Chief Harrison what advice he would give his daughters, he responded, “Treat people the way they’re supposed to be treated.”





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U.S. economy growing modestly, labor market still tight: Fed report


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. economy expanded modestly from October to mid-November and the outlook for growth was generally positive while labor markets remained tight across the country, the Federal Reserve said in a report on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Work crews construct a new hotel complex on oceanfront property in Encinitas, California, U.S., November 26, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The latest temperature check of the economy, gathered from the central bank’s discussions with business contacts around the country, also said prices had increased at a modest pace.

“Outlooks generally remained positive with some contacts expecting the current pace of growth to continue into next year,” the Fed said in its “Beige Book” report.

Several Fed districts reported “relatively strong job gains” in professional and technical services as well as in health care. The picture was more mixed for manufacturing, with some districts noting rising headcounts while others said employment remained stable. One district reported layoffs.

Overall, employment continued to rise, even as tight labor markets across the country made it difficult for employers to find the workers they needed. Some contacts said their inability to fill vacancies was constraining business growth.

For example, two employment agencies in the New York district said “almost all job candidates” already are employed and are not interested in changing positions at this time of year.

Agricultural conditions were largely unchanged and remained strained by weather and low crop prices. In the Fed’s Richmond district, farmers have been hesitant to invest in land or equipment.

Parts of the Atlanta district also experienced drought conditions.

The U.S.-China trade war, now in its 16th month, has dragged on economic growth. U.S. manufacturing activity has softened and business investment has cooled as firms delay making decisions due to the uncertainty over tariffs.

Retailers mentioned higher costs, with contacts in some districts attributing the rises to tariffs, the Fed said. Some firms said they were limited in their ability to raise prices, while others were more able to pass on the costs.

Most districts reported stable-to-moderately growing consumer spending, with several districts reporting increases in auto sales and tourism, the Fed said.

However, some areas reported pockets of weakness. Retailers in the St. Louis district said the outlook for future economic conditions had turned pessimistic and that sales have been the same or slightly lower than last year. Attendance at Broadway shows in New York City dropped off during the first half of November and ticket prices were slightly lower than a year ago.

STRONG LABOR MARKET

The Fed has cut interest rates three times this year in an effort to protect the economy from the trade dispute with China, slowing global growth and a slump in business investment.

U.S. consumer confidence fell in November for the fourth straight month amid concerns about current business conditions, but the index is still consistent with an economy growing at a moderate pace.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Monday monetary policy is now “well-positioned to support a strong labor market” and help the central bank reach its 2% inflation target, a hint that interest rates are likely to remain steady unless there is a sharp decline in the economic outlook.

Elsewhere in the Beige Book, some districts said the restaurant industry was particularly strained by a shortage of labor. Some restaurants in Southern California had closed because of labor and operating costs. In Minneapolis, some restaurants cut hours due to a lack of staff.

The Beige Book was prepared by the Dallas Fed with information collected on or before November 18.

Reporting by Jonnelle Marte Editing by Heather Timmons and Paul Simao



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CrossFit: How small US town became mecca of growing global sport


Or perhaps soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar all taking root in the same small village in Spain. Bumping into each other at the grocery store and all getting together for dinner once a week.

You can’t. It just wouldn’t happen.

Well, in the sport of competitive CrossFit, that unlikely scenario has become reality with arguably the three greatest competitors in the sport’s history all residing within a few short miles of each other, deep in the heart of rural Tennessee.

As a result, Cookeville, a city of just 30,000 people, has become a mecca in CrossFit, with devotees making pilgrimages all over the world just to work out in the company of some of the fittest people on Earth.

The reason for this mass migration to Cookeville, is Rich Froning. The 32-year-old Cookeville native dominated the sport from 2011 to 2014 — winning four straight individual CrossFit Games titles — before making the switch to the team format, and subsequently going on to dominate that too.

Froning opened his gym — CrossFit Mayhem — in 2009, primarily for himself to train in, but soon the best in the world flocked to work out alongside him.

CrossFit stars such as Josh Bridges (fourth at the 2014 CrossFit Games), Dan Bailey (fourth at the 2015 Games), and Sara Sigmundsdottir (third at the 2016 and 2017 Games) have all made Cookeville their home at various times.

In 2017, CrossFit’s really big hitters moved in.

After winning the second of his fourth (to date) men’s individual CrossFit Games titles, Mat Fraser relocated to Cookeville, “I just want company in the gym.” Fraser told CNN Sport. “So whether I’m in Vermont or in Cookeville, that’s what I’m getting. It’s just in Cookeville they’re a little fitter.”

The company he keeps certainly is fitter. For the last year, Fraser has been training alongside the three-time defending women’s champion Tia-Clair Toomey.

In what may be unique in the history of any sport, the men’s and women’s world No. 1’s train together daily. The two do so under the watchful eye of Toomey’s husband Shane Orr, who now coaches them both.

“I’m excited when I know there’s so many other people here who are trying to achieve the exact same thing as me,” Toomey told CNN Sport ahead of her move to Cookeville.
Mat Fraser has won four men's individual CrossFit Games titles.

And it’s not just those two training in Cookeville.

Froning’s team, CrossFit Mayhem Freedom who have won four of the last five CrossFit Games, also trains in Cookeville, as well as aspiring individual competitors such as Haley Adams — her sixth placed finish at the 2019 Games earned her the “Rookie of the Year” award — creating a unique competitive training environment.

“It’s just a constant competition in here,” Froning told CNN Sport ahead of his eighth CrossFit Games title (four individual and four team) earlier in 2019.

“When we push ourselves and we push each other, it just kind of elevates the whole group. And so it’s been fun to get those like-minded individuals together and to really push and see what we’re made of. It’s fun.”

While arguably Cookeville cannot take credit for creating such talent, rather just cultivating it, not every success story has been a post-Froning transplant.

Angelo DiCicco grew up in Cookeville, joining Mayhem after hearing Froning speak at his middle school. DiCicco quickly rose up the ranks, eventually claiming two world championships in the teen divisions.

You too could train with Tia-Clair Toomey ...

Now, it’s become a destination for CrossFit fanatics to make a pilgrimage to central Tennessee, flying in from all over the world, just for an opportunity to see and workout alongside some of the biggest stars in their sport.

Remarkably, it’s not uncommon for stars such as Toomey to step in and coach classes at the gym. So, if you’re looking for somewhere to help shed a few pounds and aren’t intimidated by working out alongside the fittest men and women on Earth, perhaps a trip to Cookeville is on the cards for you.



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Growing seeds of hope: Eastern Shore jail re-entry program prepares inmates for their future



NORTHAMPTON Co., Va. – It’s a strange sight: inmates under the fall Eastern Shore sun, picking lettuce for their next meal.

“So I think we’ve got Cobb salad for lunch tomorrow, right guys,” yells Deputy Clark Lovelady.

The garden at the Eastern Shore Regional Jail is bright green, and inmates eagerly dig in the soil.

“A lot of these guys aren’t used to eating this type of food,” Lovelady said.

Deputy Clark Lovelady explained that some of the garden’s produce includes bok choy, turnips, broccoli and mustard greens.

The garden is Lovelady’s brainchild. The Northampton County deputy previously worked in Richmond building gardens and spent extra time teaching elementary students how to tend to plants.

“This garden is special,” Lovelady said. “It gives them [the inmates] a sense of accomplishment and [as if they are] treated like a normal person. I mean, a lot of these guys I went to high school with.”

The garden is the focal point of the jail’s recently launched re-entry program. It’s a six-month curriculum that includes GED certification, Thinking for a Change, anger management, family reunification, substance abuse therapy and job training.

“Part of being released back into society is to feel like you are a human being,” said Rev. Kelvin Jones, the program director and jail chaplain. “It’s hard to do when you are locked in a cage.”

“We are not shackled, we are not handcuffed, we are just free to enjoy the day,” said inmate Nicole Koester.

Koester is one of eight women and eight men in the first class of the six-month program.

“You just feel so ashamed,” Koester said. “You just want an opportunity to make amends and not come back and repeat it over, because once you start the cycle it’s endless and you want to step off.”

Rev. Jones said the re-entry program is based on the state model. He had a hand in creating it during his previous work with the Virginia Department of Corrections.

“The goal is to shift the mindset, educate these inmates, change their way of thinking and then ultimately we reduce recidivism and increase public safety,” explained Rev. Jones.  “We have a choice: we can put people in prison as corrections has done over the years, give them three meals a day, let them lay in a cot, but they may not change their mindset.”

George Walker is one of the eight men in the program, doing a stint of four years in the jail for malicious wounding.

“Everything I’ve taken from this program so far, I will apply to my life when I get out,” Walker said. “I never want to come back to jail.”

“We are investing in people, and when you invest in people’s lives and make them feel better and valued, the end result will be productive,” said Sheriff David Doughty, who oversees the jail.

Business owners on the Eastern Shore that hire the ex-offenders that complete the program are even eligible for a $2,400 dollar tax credit for each hire.

“We have a small community here,” Doughty said. “Whether it be at the grocery store, gas pump, moving next door or the bus stop, these people will soon be our neighbors.”



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