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tv   America Tonight  Al Jazeera  March 23, 2016 9:30pm-10:01pm EDT

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>> thanks for joining us on "america tonight." i'm joie chen. tonight we look behind the walls of communities facing america's toughest challenges. so often housing projects are written off, considered too hopelessly riddled with poverty and crime to even begin to think about a future. tragically, the residents of public housing are written off
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with their homes and their stories of trying oreshape their opportunities make their lives better are left untold. "america tonight's" fully cole grether found sometimes it takes someone from the inside to give voice to the voiceless. >> quiet on the set. >> this is project heat. it's a drama series about life living in the projects. >> action. >> it's crazy out here yawl,. >> what's up? >> policeman chasing me down and now older man. >> i don't know what to do, police told me something. >> cut cut cut. >> when the cameras stop rolling, life goes on for cast and crew. the actors live where they work. >> that's how you open a building. >> it's called lewis h. pink houses. and is the set of project heat.
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creator of the series is tifan dunn, known as pop. he's also the star of the show. >> i'm trying to get a connect. please tell me that you got along with somebody that could put me some white right now i'm in desperate need, doll. >> the show is based on his life growing up in the projects in the late '80s and early '90s. >> that was perfect. >> what have you been through? >> oh man, i've been shot. once in my face. got shot in my neck, you know growing up in pink houses you know, you get trapped off. there's a lot of negativity going on around you and if you ain't strong minded, if you ain't focused on what you got and what you want to achieve, you're going to get caught up. you definitely going to get caught up in the mix and then
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it's like it's no way out. >> pop takes us around pink houses along with doug, also known as kd. >> a very popular dude that nobody knows that needs to be known. >> kd is responsible for taking pop's life from the streets to the screen. >> anybody in the streets could be running around shooting an d all that but it's the direction he chose. >> the show debuted in may of last year. now on season 2 on youtube. each episode features a different story and no subject goes untouched. from drug deals, even gun violence, if it happens in pink houses, it happens on project heat. >> sounds like it's urgent. >> reporter: except on the set there are a few starts. >> action. >> reporter: and then stops. >> she gave me an ankle tag.
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i'm going to nail it right now for you to take. >> reporter: and shared laughs about subbed. >> when you down you ask everybody. >> what is it like when you're filming? >> it's natural the stuff we go through you are know? and depicting the world for them to see. so it's a great feeling every time we record. >> season 1 episode 1 depicted the shooting of 28-year-old akai girlie, shot inside pink houses by a rookie nypd police officer. pop kd and the crew take us inside the stairwell when it all happened. >> he opened the door, came in
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and ricocheted. >> when we come in we get stuck inside the elevator. and end up taking those same stairs, not unusual, project problems, as they call them. the cast uses fake guns. and fake rap sheets. but their meaning is real. >> what kind of message do you want to send out to your viewers? >> it's really, at the end of the day, it's really about changing things, you know. >> we need justice and the only way we're going to get justice is by coming together. >> want to send a positive message to everybody that uses project heat that don't just look at the drama and the negativity, but learn from the drama and the negativity and see what you really want to become in this life, does it have to consist of those things you know. >> reporter: back on the set pop tells us he has eight
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siblings, six sisters and two brothers. >> what happened to your mom? >> my mom actually passed away when i was incarceratein 1997. that's the most important thing that happened, i really blanked out, i didn't know what to do. >> reporter: was that your turning point? >> yeah, of course. so she really put me on my p's and q's like what direction do you want to go in life? >> reporter: her episode of project heat is still being written. >> what is hers like? >> that will be a touchy situation with that one. she actually died of a heart attack. she definitely was my backbone and she made me turn my life around. >> reporter: it is our last
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day with the program. they needed a character playing a news reporter. i fit the action. project lead, proof of how far -- projects heat, proof of how far they have come and how far they can take their message. nicole gresser. al jazeera, new york city. why victims of domestic violence find themselves stifles by the fear of losing their homes.
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>> look now at safety and shelter and the challenge facing those threatened by domestic violence. but yourself for a moment in their shoes. in a moment of december operation should you call for help? you might think the only concern is whether a 911 call might agitate the abuser, make things worse. but "america tonight's" sarah hoye found, it could force them from the safety of their homes.
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>> nobody would choose to live like that. that's a hard way to live. that's a hard way to live. >> reporter: for months, lakeisha briggs lived in fear. after her boyfriend became violent, they warned her, two more calls and there would be trouble. >> nobody called to get in front of my house. that was it. >> what else do you want to draw? >> instead of protection, the mother of two working double shifts to make ends meet faced eviction from her home because of a public nuisance ordinance in her city of norristown, pennsylvania. >> you want to draw a house? >> yes. >> reporter: the norristown ordinance allowed a landlord to evict a tenant, who called three times 911.
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forcing residents like lakeisha into a catch 22. >> i can't have anybody call y'all, i can't have anybody physically remove them, if i cet put out of my house. >> in the weeks that followed the warning by police, la keisha's boyfriend would commit the most violent act yet. >> how dangerous did it get for you? >> dot real bad. got my lip bit off, hit in the head with an ash tray, then took a piece of the ash tray and slit my neck down here. >> reporter: all this time you couldn't call the police? >> all that happened in one night. >> one night? >> in one night, yes. >> could you have been killed. >> absolutely. yep.
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>> reporter: after the warning from police, lakeisha was afraid to call for help and even pleaded with her neighbors not to call the police out of fear of loser her home. >> i was outside, i saw my neighbors, i said don't call the cops, they're going to put me out of the house. she said i got to, i got to call the cops. i went the opposite direction. >> reporter: that night, lakeisha was air lifted to a nearby trauma center. >> but it didn't end there. got worse. scale home from the hospital i believe it was june the 25th about 8:30 at night. that next morning, the 26th, my landlord was knocking on my window. with a letter saying that i had about 14 days to vacate the premises, if not, i would be
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locked up for criminal trespassing. >> reporter: la keisha briggs is not alone. in rochester, new york, after her boyfriend attacks her, she too faced eviction. >> i remember him grabbing me and pulling me off the bed and onto the floor and he was choking me. and i remember trying to, like, force myself out of that choke-position. so i grabbed the phone. and i dialed 911. >> reporter: the nuisance ordinance in rochester operates on a point system. too many points and landlords can lose their rental license. after her call to police, javonte says she was informed by
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her landlord that she needed to move immediately. >> i still can't understand why the police would call them, to tell them that because there was a domestic violence case at my address, that they would have to get rid of me. because my boyfriend had a gun, like, i didn't have the gun. so i was really confused. you know. but by me being the person who actually rented the apartment, everything fell on me, i thought i was going to need something in writing stating what we were talking about and when was going on. she stated to me, if i see anything in writing it will be an eviction notice. >> aclu senior attorney sandra park said those are unintended consequences of laws created to
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protect renters. >> when you are dealing with a law that is tied to police calls, you are going to unnext harm abuse victims. >> the aclu's women's rights project released a report this june, that looked at two cities. it found the laws disproportionately affect victims of domestic violence. >> we find that domestic violence victims are somehow blamed for the violence committed against them, and the city feels perfectly justified to move ahead with laws like this. >> according to a study of citations issued to landlords in milwaukee. domestic violence was involved
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in he nearly one-third of the cases there. domestic violence in predominantly black neighborhoods. >> the last toart years around domestic violence in this country has all been about encouraging victims to come forward to report to law enforcement despite all the other barriers they have to reporting and these laws are basically stating not only are we discouraging from reporting but we are going to punish you for it. >> she says in many instances instead of taking action against perpetrator, city officials threaten landlords with taking away their rental permits. facing homelessness, lakeisha briggs decided to fight back, she partnered with the aclu, filing a lawsuit against the city. the following year, norristown agreed to pay $425,000 and even
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repealing its ordinance. >> why do you think it was important for you? >> because i almost lost my life. >> for you it wasn't about the money. >> what was it for you? >> saving another woman's life, so she wouldn't have to go through the same thing i went through, like picking the less of two evils, like get beat up rather than get thrown out. that's a hard thing to have to go through. >> javonte simmons is still waiting for her day in court. in 2012 she filed a lawsuit against the city of rochester, the player and the police chief, challenging the ordinance. the waiting is as nerve racking as it is exhausting she says. >> this has been a very long time.
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>> both of the women's attackers serve time in jail and are now out. this summer, lakeisha and her six-year-old daughter moved into a new home she was able to purchase with her settlement money. she goes freely about her day and refuses to live in fear. >> i want these municipalities to really understand the danger that they put in people. we know that you have to keep your town your city whatever, safe. but use better judgment when it comes to what a nuisance really is. because somebody that's fighting for their life is not a nuisance. >> reporter: lakeisha may have won her fight but countless women around the country are still fighting in fear. sarah hoye, al jazeera. >> not the million dollar block you might be thinking of but
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investment taxpayers are making, the only profit is paying.
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think for a moment about the cost of justice. it is high. every year, we, as taxpayers, spent $80 billion to incarcerate people to put people in prison. if you focus in on certain neighborhoods, it can be especially staggering. take brownsville, brooklyn, for example, new york state spends $1 million a year to imprison just one block there, and who is
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really paying the price? >> let's not keep disproportionately punishing blacks. >> the statistics cannot be ignored. [simultaneous speech] >> brownsville seems to be what we call the million dollar blocks. black men are going to prison at an alarming rate. >> generally low income communities of color there's actually millions of dollars being spent to incarcerate people from those blocks. that teaches us a lot about how families are really paying the true cost of incarceration. >> there's 60,000 people that live in brownsville. 75% of the household are women dominated households.
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>> andre got caught up in the criminal system i would say at the age of 18. and he's been incarcerated for 13 and a half years. at that time, i had isaiah and i was a month pregnant with ayana. you love someone, they're taken away from you and there's nothing you can do about it. so now you have to be the strong one. no matter what the situation, whether it's your husband your son your uncle your cousin you have to be the strong one. >> that means she has to accept collect phone calls which cost money, go buy food which costs money and go visit him which costs money and has to meet the cost of food clothing shelter much her family. the fight against poverty. >> my son was arrested in 2013, he got ready arrested to selling
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to an -- of selling to an undercover. it was his first arrest so it was real difficult dealing 4 children and a granddaughter and had to support my son in a situation that he should never have been in. the biggest financial situation was paying for a lawyer. throughout this whole process. which put me in the hole for almost $3500 that i did not have. >> in average, it equals about $13,600 in terms of supporting somebody who is locked up, who is a loved one. a huge percentage of people reported an average income of $15,000. my uncle has been locked up for most of my life.
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i also realize that i'm the third generation of woman in my family to support him. >> ainc. of 14, 1979 i got arrested for participating in a robbery that became a murder. and i was sentenced to 20 to life. so from 1979 to 2005, i spent most of my adult years in new york state prison system. after a while i stopped calling my family because i know the exorbitant prices they were paying. i started to plead upon them don't come visit me because i knew the toll it was taking on them. >> so this is all of them together, my dre, my asaya, my mama. the cost of visiting him, imagine spending $200 to visit him, five to six hours, your kids are asking you questions, daddy, why you not leaving with us, or mommy when is daddy coming home. and you're just lost and you
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have no answer for your kids. and this is first time i'm really speaking about it. i didn't know i was so hurt. it's a lie, like it's really a lie. >> about 50% of the people said that they had health related issues, so that's a cost. in terms of you know thinking about anxiety, depression, supporting family members, people reported symptoms of ptsd, having nightmares. >> i didn't trust the police. i didn't trust the probation officer, i didn't trust that system anymore. it's like him being there, getting phone calls in the middle of the night, stating that the officers got my son in a choke hold. i still didn't get over what the abuse in the prison system.
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i -- that still bothers me. >> i think biggest cost is thinking about how families are broken apart. >> i was 17, i had a child. i was in high school. andre was 18, 19, when he went to prison. i thought both of us were statistics. and reply goal is notto to let that happen to neither one of them. isaiah which is my oldest, my first born. >> i see him this way over 100 years, i could finally hug him i can't do that every day. >> ayanna my second born is 13. >> sometimes when we leave i just think what if he would come with us. >> he has six more years off a 20 year sentence. so hopefully he comes out.
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as much as i want him to come out for me, i want him to come out for his children. my dream that i pray is that he accommodation home before his first born graduates from high school, or even college. is that a possibility? i don't know. but that's what i pray for. just to at least have that moment, to share with your kids. because a lot of time he comes home, i'm sure they're going to be grown and he's missed everything. >> that is "america tonight." please come back. we'll have more of "america tonight," tomorrow.
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>> massive manhunt. >> translator: the third suspect wearing a light-colored jacket and a hat is on the run. he put down a large bag then left before the explosion. >> belgian police conduct a series of raids, looking for a key suspect in the brussels attack as be officials identify the suicide bombers. syrian suffering. >> the u.n. hcr has