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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Solitary confinement; Clown sightings

Written by Rich Copeland | Sep 29, 2016 9:30 AM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, September 29, 2016:

Arthur Johnson spent 37 years in solitary confinement while incarcerated by the State of Pennsylvania.  A federal judge recently ordered Mr. Johnson to be re-acclimated into general population.

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Brete Grote, Abolitionist Law Center / Arthur Johnson (

Johnson was sentenced to life, no parole for a 1970 gang-killing in Philadelphia.  He was 18 years old when he shot and stabbed Jerome Wakefield in a street fight.  After several escape attempts, Johnson was placed in a 7 by 12 foot cell where he spent 23 hours a day, alone. 

Arthur Johnson's situation was brought to the attention of the Abolitionist Law Center, a Pittsburgh-based firm addressing civil and prisoner's rights.  Their advocacy help release Arthur Johnson from the closet that had become his world for nearly four decades.

We will speak with Mr. Johnson's attorney, Bret Grote of the Abolition Law Center about this case as well as Jamelia Morgan, a fellow with the ACLU's National Prison Project whose work has focused on curtailing the use of solitary confinement.

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Jamelia Morgan, Fellow, ACLU National Prison Project

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Also, clown sightings have been reported from the Carolinas to Pennsylvania.  Random people, dressed as clowns, literally lurking around residential neighborhoods.  Law enforcement seems perplexed as to how to address these clowns, as they do little more than act creepy.  In recent weeks, clowns have been reported in Lebanon, York and Reading, where clown activity turned violent.


Andrew McConnell Stott, Professor of English, University of Buffalo, SUNY

We'll explore the history of clowns with historian Andrew Stott, English professor at the University of Buffalo, SUNY.  We'll also speak with Jennifer Diaz about overcoming coulrophobia, the fear of clowns and Jimbo the Clown will tell us what it's like being a clown in 2016.

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Jennifer Diaz, LSW / Jimbo the Clown

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