Like Skype for prisons: How tech is used in PA for virtual inmate visitation

Like Skype for prisons: How tech is used in PA for virtual inmate visitation

Myra Gaskins’ life changed in 1989. Her son, LaFaye Gaskins, had been arrested for murder. Myra still insists her son is innocent, but a jury found him guilty in May 1990 of killing Albert Dodson, a drug dealer. LaFaye is currently serving a life sentence at the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy in Schuylkill County. The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, a nonprofit corporation housed at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, is looking into her son’s case, Myra said, with the goal of getting him a new trial. The only way Myra and LaFaye have been able to visit with each other over the last five years is through the Virtual Visitation Program, which allows inmates to communicate with their loved ones through a television, camera and internet hook up — similar to a Skype session. These visits may soon be interrupted as the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ends the contract with the company that provides these services. Myra and other families with incarcerated loved...
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I’m Joining Billy Penn!

I’m Joining Billy Penn!

Starting Monday, Feb. 6, I'll be working along side the awesome journalists at Billy Penn as a Knight Foundation Fellow. I'm really pumped as I will be working on stories for the Solutions Journalism Network’s Philadelphia project, a 16-organization group covering prisoner reentry and  recidivism in Philadelphia. It's going to be so awesome and I'm so pumped to get started.  ...
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The Rooms Project: Recovery doesn’t have to be a struggle

The Rooms Project: Recovery doesn’t have to be a struggle

On a humid Tuesday morning in Bucks County, in the surrounding neighborhood, a cul-de-sac setting, the only noise that can be heard is a water fountain from across the street. A backpack slung over her shoulder and a folding chair in one hand, Jillian Bauer, creator of The Rooms Project, walks up the stairs of Independence Lodge Sober Living, a recovery house. The Rooms Project is a way that Bauer gives “recovery a voice” through the stories of experience, strength, and hope she often heard in “the rooms” of recovery support groups and meetings. After scrolling through her phone, checking to make sure that she has the right address and time, a man looking to be in his late 30s invites Bauer into the house. She sits in the kitchen, waiting for her interviewee Bryan Kennedy, the owner and founder of Independence Lodge Sober Living. Bauer started The Rooms Project just a few years ago, in March 2014 after celebrating a year of sobriety. She...
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Uber PA’s general manager calls PPA ‘a broken system’

Uber PA’s general manager calls PPA ‘a broken system’

Last year, Raymond Reyes, a 25 year veteran in the army, retired. Searching for something new to hold him over he was first introduced to Uber when visiting his brother in New York City when he was traveling from the JFK airport. He recalled his story earlier at a Uber press conference in response to the targeting of ridesharing by the Philadelphia Parking Association (PPA). Mostly brought to light after yesterday’s Philadelphia Daily News article. “I realized that for me, driving for Uber would be the perfect way to get out of the house to see the city and meet new people,” Reyes said. Reyes signed up to join the popular ridesharing service and everything seemed to be going well, he said, until one day in Center City he received a trick request. Two riders, wearing plain clothes, jumped into the back seat making Reyes suspicious. The riders, Reyes said, were seemingly staging a conversation that centered around bashing the PPA and making sure Reyes...
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Butkovitz unveils plans for potential drone usage

Butkovitz unveils plans for potential drone usage

As part of an ongoing effort to explore how technology can be utilized to improve government function, City Controller Alan Butkovitz announced Wednesday that the city has been using drones to inspect dangerous buildings in neighborhoods across Philadelphia. Butkovitz and his team selected four locations around the city to test the drone's capacity to make visual inspections. The drone was utilized to gain a broader view of collapsing buildings in Hunting Park, West Philadelphia, Point Breeze and South Philadelphia on Manton Street. “Our latest project joins our record of technology initiatives since I first took office 10 years ago, including transparency over campaign finance reporting through our website and developing a mobile application that allows citizens to report fraud directly to our office,” Butkovitz said. “The immediate advantage of utilizing a drone was realized with the ability to cover more ground in less time, making the process more efficient and effective. We found a visual inspection of one block consisting of 56...
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Who is Philly’s first digital director?

Who is Philly’s first digital director?

Under Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration, the city of Philadelphia has its first digital director. Stephanie Waters, the former digital director for Kenney’s campaign, officially took the reins of her new title just last week. She’s still getting used to her new position, learning the ins and outs of City Hall — and getting use to working with a PC after using Mac computers for so long. So far, she says, other City Hallers have been very helpful. As digital director, Waters is primarily tasked with assisting Kenney on his social media accounts, but she’ll also be a resource to other departments within City Hall that lack a social media presence. “I saw the opportunity in government to be able to engage with citizens as incredibly important and a really valuable way that we could improve what was currently happening on the existing social accounts,” Waters said. “It wasn’t a role that existed before and I thought that if we showed that we were...
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Radio Times at the movies: “Star Wars” and “Creed”

Radio Times at the movies: “Star Wars” and “Creed”

  Guest: Peak Johnson, Joe Turner, Jake Blumgart, Frank Kubach, Terrence Lewis Today Radio Times goes to the movies. We’ll start off with the most anticipated film of the year, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” which opened last night. Marty talks with two diehard Star Wars fans — PEAK JOHNSON, a Philadelphia writer who contributes to The Huffington Post, Newsworks.org, and Geekadelphia and JOE TURNER, the co-owner of Atomic City Comic in Philadelphia. Then, the new “Rocky” film, “Creed,” returns to the city of brotherly love featuring locations all around the city. Marty talks with JAKE BLUMGART, a reporter and editor based in West Philadelphia who has written about the movie’s depiction of poverty in Philadelphia. We’ll also hear from FRANK KUBACH, the owner of Front Street Gym in Kensington where scenes for the movie were shot and TERRENCE LEWIS, a trainer at Front Street Gym and a former heavyweight fighter about the Rocky movies and Philadelphia’s boxing culture -...
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Students say state’s treatment of Philadelphia schools a form of violence

Students say state’s treatment of Philadelphia schools a form of violence

Students gathered at the School District's headquarters late Thursday afternoon to participate in a "die-in" to protest the grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. They also honored the death of Laporshia Massey, a Philadelphia student who died last year after suffering an asthma attack in school, where no nurse was on duty. More than 100 students and supporters took to the steps of 440 N. Broad St. to demand justice for those lost and for the unequal system of education in the Philadelphia area. They held signs and chanted phrases like "Black lives matter" and “No justice, no peace,” which have become rallying cries of protesters in the wake of recent shooting deaths of unarmed Black men and boys by White police officers. Standing with her peers, Ruby Jane Anderson, a senior at Science Leadership Academy, said she wanted to highlight the kind of institutional violence enacted on African American students...
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Summer Teaching

Summer Teaching

Can't remember if I posted this or not, but I worked on the above video for the majority of the summer while assisting with Temple University's High School summer journalism program, otherwise known as Prime Movers and Shakers. It's led by Professor Maida Odom, former reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and one of my former professors. The goal of the summer program is to teach the students, who are from different Philadelphia area high schools, about journalism and the different aspects of the field in a few short weeks. At the end they produced a newspaper that is printed by the Philadelphia Daily News. This was my second time working with the program and this time my main responsibility was putting together a video of the students experience with the program. It's not the best, but I was proud in the fact that I was able to put this together after not working with FinalCut Pro for a a few...
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Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk Connects Philadelphians

Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk Connects Philadelphians

Opening on October 2nd, the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk is a 2,000-foot long concrete structure running parallel to the Eastern Shore of the river from Locust St. to the new stair tower on the southern side of the South Street Bridge. This project provides an important link to the Schuylkill River Trail and Center City from University City and West Philadelphia. Runners, cyclists and others who frequent the Schuylkill River trail will now be able to extend their route with this newest addition. Mayor Michael Nutter said during the boardwalk’s groundbreaking ceremony. “The Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk project, now that it is complete, will go from a street departments construction project to become officially a part of the Fairmount Park system under the jurisdiction of the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation department.” The ramp and boardwalk are designed to accommodate emergency and maintenance vehicles, according to the Schuylkill River Development Corporation (SRDC). The boardwalk’s 15 foot wide pathway is supplemented by four widened overlooks that allow...
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