Source: BET (Black Entertainment Television)

Press Release: August 19, 2004

BET News Series 'Locked Up, Locked Out' Looks at Parolees and Struggles Around Voting in 2004

Five-Part BET NIGHTLY NEWS Series Starts August 23 at 11 p.m. ET/PT


NEW YORK, Aug. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- They may well be the most forgotten block of voters in the electorate for the 2004 Presidential Election -- prison parolees, individuals who have paid their debts to society for crimes of the past. Like so many, all they want to do is become contributing members in their local communities and exercise their constitutional rights. Some will finally have that chance in November, while others remain locked out by the political system.

Beginning Monday, August 23 at 11 p.m. ET/PT, BET NIGHTLY NEWS begins a five-part investigative series entitled "Locked Up, Locked Out," which looks into the lives of five successful African Americans who have struggled as parolees to regain a place among the voting populous in this pivotal political year. Award-winning CBS News journalist Randall Pinkston lends his talents as the narrator voice for the series. Among those subjects who can't escape the shackles of past transgressions is renowned actor, producer and director Charles "Roc" Dutton, who some 30 years following his parole for a manslaughter conviction still is not allowed to vote in his home state of Maryland.

"This series is a sobering and inspirational look at what some African Americans are facing as our nation prepares for the Presidential Elections this fall," said Heather Vincent Holley, Executive Producer for BET NIGHTLY NEWS. "Each featured individual in the series has rebounded from their crime conviction to become success stories as artists, business owners, writers and community activists. Yet the very system to which they pay taxes as citizens has either limited or outright denied a basic right of a democracy -- voting."

The following is a schedule and synopsis of featured subjects for the BET NIGHTLY NEWS investigative series "Locked Up, Locked Out" beginning Monday, August 23 on BET (home towns in parenthesis):

* Monday, August 23: Elaine Bartlett (Harlem, New York) -- Bartlett
served 16 years of a 20-years-to-life sentence on a first-time drug
offense before being granted clemency by New York Governor George
Pataki. Befriended by Village Voice reporter Jennifer Gonnerman,
Bartlett has allowed her life story to become the subject of a new book
"Life on the Outside" written by Gonnerman. The book chronicles the
struggles that ex-convicts often face upon release back into society.
In 2004, Bartlett will vote for the first time ever.

* Tuesday, August 24: Jonathon Romain (Chicago, Illinois) -- At age 24
and just two weeks following his college graduation, Romain was on the
receiving end of a 15-year sentence for selling cocaine. Romain served
seven years and was paroled in 2000. Having sharpened his art skills
while in prison, Romain has now opened his fifth art gallery and counts
actress Angela Bassett and local Chicago politicians among his
clientele. Some of his works have sold for as much as $20,000. With
terms of his parole now behind him, Romain will rejoin the voting ranks
in November.

* Wednesday, August 25: Shakoor Watson (Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York) --
While serving eight years of a 12-year sentence for assault, Watson
began cooking and baking in the prison kitchen. The skills he acquired
led him to launch Shakoor's Sweet Tooth, which now exports his sweets
and baked goods all over the country. Shakoor has also begun speaking at
local high schools, prisons and after-school programs about his life
experiences. Now age 45, Watson is eligible to vote this year for the
first time since his parole 10 years ago.

* Thursday, August 26: Jeff Henderson (Watts, California) -- Drug charges
landed Henderson in prison for 10 years where he learned cooking skills.
Since his release five years ago, Henderson has lived in Las Vegas and
blossomed into one of the nation's top chefs and caterers. In 2001,
Henderson was named Chef of the Year by the American Food and Wine
Tasting Federation. His dishes are well-renown in the entertainment
world and in high demand among celebrities. Having fulfilled the terms
of his parole, Henderson is now a registered voter once again.

* Friday, August 27: Charles "Roc" Dutton (Baltimore, Maryland) -- He is
one of Hollywood's most talented actors, producers and directors with
more than 50 films and a successful television series to his credit.
Yet in spite of his success and immersion back into society, Dutton
remains outside America's political process. Convicted of manslaughter
at age 17, Dutton still can't vote in his home state of Maryland some 30
years after his parole.

 

ABOUT BET NIGHTLY NEWS AND BET

BET NIGHTLY NEWS covers the news of the day -- from the main events to in- depth feature segments -- with a special focus on African-American viewers. This includes many stories not covered with the same insight or depth by mainstream media. From the decisions of policymakers in Washington to the economy, urban affairs, social issues, sports, entertainment and the world at- large, BET delivers what's important five nights a week.

BET, a division of Viacom (NYSE: VIA - News and VIA.B - News), is the nation's leading television network providing quality entertainment, music, news and public affairs programming for the African-American audience. The BET Network reaches more than 78 million households according to Nielsen Media Research, and can be seen in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.