by Judith Trustone (blog)

We can all see her in our mind’s eye
Dumped by her captors to die holding her wailing infant, she staggers across the grueling desert, choking on her swollen tongue and teeth left broken from the fists that had subdued her.

She’s desperate for water for her and her baby, her teenaged once-budding breasts now withered and empty in the cruel sun. 

She has only a few occasional drops of spit to offer the hungry infant.

Terrified by their brutal attempts at making her compliant, she’d begged the hired coyotes not to kill her baby as they’d held a gun to the tiny head, laughing at her terror, forcing her to accept them without resistance into her sore, struggling body, both of them, one debasement after another as she submits to protect the tiny being with her very life.

Would the child remember?
She’d fled the murderous gangs in her blood-soaked former Central American paradise with her fretful new baby daughter, just days old. They’d named her Maria after her mother who’d been raped and murdered by the same gang of thugs, one of the many reasons she was fleeing in terror.

The young mother had watched in horror as her husband was slaughtered in front of her, and it was only a nearby explosion distracting the killers that had enabled her to escape to the waiting coyotes. They’d already been paid all the money they had to escort the young family to freedom in America despite the tales of the dangerous trip to an unwelcoming destination. 

Would the child remember?
She and her newborn had traveled alone with the coyotes, her only choice.Her sobbing, hungry infant had caused her to be abandoned by them; they’d claimed her baby’s cries had gotten on their nerves, their lame excuse for killing. They’d left her barely conscious, raped and beaten,  kicking sand on them both.

Would the child remember?
The mother was alone with her pain and her grief, guided during freezing nights by the moon and the stars, protected only by a shabby blanket, sheltering in burrows where she could, finding sustenance from the occasional cactus. Her only thoughts besides the profound numbness, a feeling of cement in her soul, were of a dream of life in America, safety for her daughter, a chance to live decently, to prosper, to get an education for her and her daughter, to have the space and support to heal, to grieve and maybe once again feel joy.

Now her brown body is covered by a torn garment and insect bites, bruises, dirt, crusted semen and cuts from her rapists. Had baby Maria been watching, screaming in her mother’s arms while she was being assaulted?

Would the child remember?
Feeling abandoned by everyone, even God, she scoops up the sunburned infant,  and sobs a raspy lullaby as an avalanche of salty tears flow, dampening her baby’s sand-filled hair, both their sobs of anguish blending, unbearable to hear if one were listening.

All the mother’s belongings and papers are gone with the cruel menalong with the water and food to sustain them on their final miles to freedom.

Beyond exhaustion, she resists the urge to give up, to curl up on the burning ground.Her baby held close to her battered heart, staggering on, a bloodied Warrior Woman, determined to start a new life for her and her child.

Overhead, vultures circle patiently, following her blistered footsteps. 

Suddenly she believes she is hallucinating, for there in the distance, she spots on the horizon what must surely be a mirage, a border fence where good Samaritans have stashed nearby jugs of water and cans of food for which they would be arrested! 

She forges ahead in disbelief and wonder toward a mountain of precious, life-giving water, gallons and gallons, beside sparkling cans of nourishing beans. She hadn’t eaten in days and was often delirious, hanging on only for the sake of her precious baby.

From a deep reservoir of whatever incredible strength mothers have to protect their babies no matter the cost, the young woman begins to run, hope springing as it eternally does, propelling her toward the possibility of life.

Baby bouncing on her skinny shoulders, gasping, sobbing with relief, doubting what she’s seeing, she draws closer and closer to salvation.

Suddenly stopping in shock, her voice hoarse and dry, she screams, “NO” and sinks to her knees in the hot sand, unable to believe her eyes.She can’t comprehending how anyone could do such a cruel thing by pouring out the water and food, taunting desperate refugees by leaving piles of empty jugs and cans that can lead to only one thing:  deliberate murder.

Border police had dumped it all out, laughing for the television cameras, following the orders of their despotic president.

Her mind ablaze with only hot light and unbearable pain, she stops, staring in disbelief. What human being could have done this? Pulling the baby up to her face, she screams, disbelieving,  an endless scream as Maria’s little head lolls on the tiny neck. The tiny baby has finally stopped crying…

We can all see them in our mind’s eye…if we’ll only look…




The United States Team for the Impartial And Fair Treatment In Parole Initiative just received the following harrowing and startling communication form an incarcerated soul — whose identity is being withheld for obvious reasons — at SCI Phoenix in Collegeville, Pennsylvania in the United States.

Hope you are doing well and keeping in good spirits too. I am doing okay. Not sure if you heard but, the prison is back on lockdown, there was a spike in COVID-19 Coronavirus here. It was disclosed on Wednesday, September 30, and the decision to lockdown the institution was made on Thursday, October 1. So, we are back to where we were in March, 2020 when we were initially quarantined due to the pandemic. We get 15 minutes out of the cell for shower and kiosk. So far, no recreation, no programs, no law library, no religious services, no school, no telephone, no free cable or free in-house t.v. for updates on what the administration is doing to eradicate or eliminate the virus from this institution. All medical situations are being administered through the door wicket, including needle sticks, T.B. sticks, Diabetes stick, temperature readings, etc., the same wicket they place our food on. No cleaning supplies are being handed out. The temperature checks twice a day are inadequate because you don’t have to have a fever to have the virus. The showers are filthy. All kinds of trash and flies in the shower. No one is cleaning them before each group is let out for a shower. We have guards and staff walking around without a mask and saying they haven’t had taste or smell in weeks. So, just as we thought things were getting better, here we are déjà vu! I’ll let you if anything changes. Have to get this out, it’s my time to come out of cell. Keep Safe! Blessings & Peace!

A number of incarcerated souls at SCI Phoenix are model prisoners or are aging/elderly and have pre-existing medical conditions which make them vulnerable to contracting and dying from COVID-19.   They do not and will not pose a public safety risk and have an extremely low recidivism rate which research attests to.   We must work — with all deliberate speed — to bring these souls home and simultaneously ensure that sanitary conditions are created and maintained at SCI Phoenix and all correctional facilities throughout the United States.

SCI PHOENIX SUPERINTENDENT:  Jamie Sorber  – (610) 409-7890

Mandy Sipple – (610) 410-7890

The Honorable John E. Wetzel – (717) 728-4109

What does “Black Lives Matter” mean?


The other day I stopped at the Wawa on Fairview Rd. near Swarthmore for my morning mocha cappuccino. I was wearing my “Black Lives Matter” mask that I’d gotten at the nearby Dollar Store. Next to me at the ordering screens was an older white woman with a mask dangling from one ear. When she finished, she turned toward me and when she saw the mask on my white face with my white hair, she gasped in horror, shaking her head no! no! no! and sending such a wave of hatred toward me that I felt it like a punch in the gut. Her loathing was so strong it seemed to take all her will power not to spit on me!

While over my eight plus decades I’ve been next to friends, colleagues, protesters, fellow activists and neighbors more times than I could ever count as they were subjected to subtle and vicious attacks of racism, I could only protest; my voice was usually ignored unless I wrote about it publicly. I’ve seen racism in politics and policies for most of my life, and have seen our distorted history books and the systemic racism legislated to create the horrific inequities that make America the white supremacist country that it is today, so well-delineated by Michelle Alexander in her book, The New Jim Crow. I took some deep breaths and looked this terrified woman in the eye with compassion. What could I possibly say to her? I caught myself wondering if she had a gun…maybe in her car? I try my best not to think in these ways.

Feeling powerless, I grabbed my coffee and left, shaken at the thought of how people of color are subjected to this kind of barrage of personal, political and legal hatred every moment of their lives, where once they step out into white America, their bodies are no longer their own. Yes, institutionalized racism in every aspect of life does cause health problems in people of color!

A couple of days later, I was talking with my son, Eric, who lives across from Herbert Best VFW post 928, a headquarters to law enforcement motorcycle clubs in Folsom. He said that on Saturday, a gathering of about 75 protesters were to gather in support of Black Lives Matter. When the got to the park, they were blocked by about 50 bikers, armed with Trump signs and a Confederate flag, protesting involvement of overpaid athletes who “took a knee against police brutality”, their scary visages threatening violence. No mention of guns was made in a brief article in the Delaware County Daily Times. There is a video of truckers “burning rubber” surrounding demonstrators in black smoke.

The marches went around the edge of the park, continuing on to the municipal building at Rte. 320 and MacDade Blvd. where the bikers again blocked their entrance. Both groups ended at the Ridley Twp. police station where they apparently disbanded without further incidents.

What is it about the Black Lives Matter movement that evokes such fear and hatred and propensity for violence so close to the edges of our town, which for the most part hasn’t dealt with much more serious things than the theft of yard gremlins?

Why did my mask of support evoke such irrational fear in a woman who knew nothing about me, only that my skin and my hair were white? I confess for a moment I had a blip of prejudice crop up in me when I thought “She’s obviously a “Karen!” I wouldn’t let myself hold onto that thought, stomping it out of my head with some deep, releasing breaths. But I was still scared, and confess I was hesitant before I went out with that mask on again. But I did.

But who are these people? What fears have molded them into haters, killers, and supporters of a regime that is killing them through lack of a national plan to fight a virus that knows no politics. How have we come to this? And is there any way, considering who is in charge, of coming out of this violence and fear, and moving toward a new vision of a new America that works for ALL?

Judith Trustone, Co-Director
Global Kindness Revolution


by Judith Trustone

Recently I adopted a rescue cat, Fiona, my first pet since going condo twenty years ago. Adjusting to living again with a four-legged companion, I thought back on my long wonderful (and not so wonderful) life with pets.

Most memorable was Inky, my pet rabbit when I was about ten. He’d come into our family as a tiny Easter bunny who soon adjusted to being housebroken—he’d hop over to the door and just sit and stare at it when he needed to go, and once outside, he took care of business. He ran with the neighborhood dogs, who played with him gently, surprising us all. It was fun to watch him chasing after a giant Shnauzer as if he were a Great Dane.

When it was dinnertime, he came, as usual, when called. He was a most unusual rabbit.

One Sunday, a cousin I barely knew, for she was a grownup, came with her parents and her new fiancé’ to introduce him to our family. When they heard about Inky, they wanted to meet him. Inky was outside, playing with the pack. I went to the door and called him, and a few minutes later Inky came hopping up to the door. I picked him up and took him into the living room to the circle of eager-to-meet-him relatives.

Rabbits are generally believed to be lucky spirit animals; they are usually seen as carriers of good and fortunate news, heralds of good times, prosperity, wealth, health, long life and love.

The rabbit as well as the hare have been associated with moon deities and may signify rebirth or resurrection. They may also be symbols of fertility or sensuality. And successful marriage?

As I proudly presented him to each person, Inky looked carefully at each one, giving what seemed a serious scrutiny to each. He was a very thoughtful rabbit. They fawned over him, tentatively petting him and exclaiming over his size. He was a very big bunny.

When we came to the cousins fiancé, Inky stiffened in my arms and and suddenly sent a stream of urine into the fiancé’s lap. Embarrassed, my mom and I tried to clean him up with paper towels, apologizing profusely. Inky had never done such a thing before and we were shocked.

The wedding went on as planned. I don’t remember if we were invited. But Inky must have sensed something, for the marriage didn’t last, ending just two years later in divorce.

If only they’d listened to Inky.


Women Who Never Give Up, Inc.

The BREATHE Act—a 21st Century Black Movement Civil Rights Bill, drafted by Electoral Justice Project of the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL). Essie Justice Group, as a member organization of the M4BL ecosystem, is co-leading the team advancing this bill, rooted in our mission to address the harms of mass incarceration. The M4BL network has created a bill that reflects the increasingly loud mandate from the people: defund the policing and prisons that are killing us and invest in our health, wellness, and communities.

Read more…

Award winning author, activist and filmmaker

Award winning author, activist and filmmaker, Judith Trustone is the founder and director, with people in prison and others, of Sagewriters, which, in addition to advocating for human rights, has published a dozen books of literary and social merit about America’s justice system. Sagewriters grew out of her creative writing classes in prisons.

Her documentaries have been shown on public television and at universities nationally. In response to perceiving that America is becoming an increasingly meaner and more fearful, violence dominated culture, after 54 years of human rights advocacy, she is determined to work toward a more civil and compassionate society through the Global Kindness Revolution which originated with her work with anti-violence prisoners and their families concerned about violence on both sides of prison walls. Together, with the leadership of Lifer Patrick Middleton, Ph.D., Tyrone Werts and Paul Perry, all of whom have been in prison for over 30 years, they are designing Kindness Circles behind bars as well as the Virtual Kindness Circles (see free download) which enables the more than 2,000 Sagewriters nationally to take leadership roles in the Kindness Revolution. To date they’ve distributed more than 50,000 Kindness Cards globally with funds and design by prisoners and advocates.

Judith is leading Community Kindness Circles every month in Swarthmore, PA’s town hall in addition to in shelters, organizations and corporations. For those in prison or in other locations, she’s created the Virtual Kindness Circle where every Saturday at 4:00 pm eastern, where participants sit in quiet and visualize their interconnectedness with each other. Her passion for justice through social change and art grew out of her 14 year apprenticeship to Sun Bear, a Native American medicine person from the Ojibway tribe, her 35 years as a social worker, her many published works and her success as a workshop leader which place a heavy emphasis on delight.

An creator of innovative programs for social change through art, she sees the Kindness Circles as a force for energizing compassion and healing for grass roots groups as well as elected officials and voters. She has been deemed an “Author Who Makes a Difference” by Infinity Publishing, “Peacekeeper of the Year” by the Delaware County, PA Peace Center, and was the recipient of the Leeway Foundation’s “Transformation Award” for women who use their art for social change.

The grandmother of twelve, she is currently working on a book about Kindness and invites you to send her your stories of Kind experiences. Be Sociable, Share!

John N. Mitchell Tribune Staff Writer Mar 5, 2019  Shawn Baker, locked up for eight years, is now working and productive — John Mitchell John N. Mitchell Tribune Staff Writer


After her release from prison in November 2017, Shawn Baker
needed help.

“I didn’t know what to do next,” said Baker, who served eight
years on an aggravated assault charge. “You are by yourself
when you get out and you can become desperate if you don’t
have help.”

She got that help through  Ardella’s House , a nonprofit that helps
incarcerated women transition back into society. They helped her
find a job with  Peerstar LLC , which helps incarcerated women find
housing and jobs upon their release from jail.“I’m helping people,”
Baker said. “People helped me.”On Tuesday at City Hall, Baker
joined local politicians, lawmakers and other stakeholders
participating in the  National Day of Empathy (NDE). The brainchild
of #cut50, NDE is a national bipartisan program whose goal is to
cut the national prison population in half over the next 10 years.

Almost 3 million Americans were behind bars at the end of
2016,  according to the Prison Policy Initiative .“We’re trying to

humanize mass incarceration. If you listen to the stories, they are
powerful,” said Tonie Willis, executive director at Ardella’s House
and the #cut50 Pennsylvania ambassador. “Once the people tell
the story, they want you to take their story and  put  a face to mass
incarceration. Words are powerful. Our hope is that if you listen to
the words it might make you move on empathy and think about
the things that incarcerated people are going through.”

The program, which ran for about three hours, included brief
addresses by state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, City Council
members Jannie Blackwell and Curtis Jones and state Reps.
Jordan Harris and Joanna McClinton. Other speakers, all of them
addressing the subject of empathy, included District Attorney
Larry Krasner and Keia Bradford-Grey, chief defender of the
Philadelphia Defenders Association.

Bradford-Grey wanted to drive  home  the point that the day was
not about creating good feelings around a discussion about
empathy, but about encouraging those who participated in the
session — there were about 100 people in attendance — to
consciously guard against having biases against the incarcerated
and the formerly incarcerated.

“Empathy will guide our actions. If you understand people and
human capacity, you  start  to see the value in them,” Bradford-
Grey said. “When you start to see the value in them, you don’t just
make these biased decisions that keep them in cages or not give
them opportunities when they come out.

“Empathy helps us to recognize people for who they are rather
than what they may have done in their worst moments,” she
continued, “and not label them forever based on that factor.”

Baker didn’t speak with the elected officials on Tuesday. However,
that does not prevent her from telling others about her
experiences and those who helped her.

“I worked on myself while I was in jail. I was determined to come
out a better person,” Baker said. “And then others helped me. So I
feel obligated to do the same thing for other people going through
what I’ve been through.”