tv PBS News Hour PBS February 16, 2021 6:00pm-7:01pm PST
♪ judy: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. on the "newshour" tonight, the wrath of winter. millions remain without power in frigid temperatures as the u.s. continues to grapple with the effects of a major storm. then a crisis of care -- the , governor of new york admits under-reporting the often deadly impact of the covid-19 pandemic in the state's nursing homes. and searching for justice -- the simple task of obtaining identification becomes a major roadblock to re-entering society for former prisoners. >> you knew who i was when you sentenced me. so you kept me there 27 and half years. you kept me there knowing who i
was. right? then you sent me out there like you don't know who i was. judy: all that and more on tonight's “pbs newshour.” announcer: maj funding for the "pbs newshour" has been provided by -- >> f 25 years, consumer cellular's goal has been to provide wireless service to help people communicate and connect. we offer a variety of no contract plans and our u.s.-based customer service can help one that finds you -- fitzhugh. to learn more, visit consumercellular.tv. announcer: johnson & johnson. bnsf railway. ♪ >> the john and james l. knight foundation, fostering informed and engaged communities.
more at kf.org. announcer: and with the ongoing support of these individuals and institutions. ♪ announcer: this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. judy: some of the worst winter weather on record is disrupting much of the nation's life again tonight. extreme conditions have claimed at least 15 lives,temming from a variety of causes -- including a tornado.
stephanie sy has our report. stephanie: in southeastern north carolina today, downed power lines and homes ripped off their foundations. >> this is going to take a lot of hard work and effort, between clean-up, rebuilding. stephanie: officials say at least three people were killed and 10 others injured by a tornado that ripped through brunswick county just after midnight. it struck with little warning near ocean ridge plantation -- a coastal community some 45 miles south of wilmington. >> we have a lot ohard work to do as a community to get it back to normal, to make the community safe for residents to go back into the areas that were unaffected, but it is definitely a very hazardous situation with debris, homes damaged, stuff all over the place. stephanie: elsewhere, more chaos from an unrelenting weather pattern that's gripped much of the country. winter storm advisories by the national weather service again today stretched from coast to coast. bitter cold engulfed cities
across new england and the eastern great lake chicago woke up to more than a foot of sn -- with more falling by the hour -- and dangerous wind chills. >> you really have to hold your ground, i mean seriously, you have to stand sturdy. stephanie: in the southern plainsrecord cold temperatures extended to another day. the surge in demand for energy has prompted more utilities across central and western states linked to the same power grid to initiate rolling blackouts. today in oklahoma, more than 130,000 homes and businesses were without power. in texas, largely on its own electric grid -- 4 million were in the dark. >> it's cold. kids are around, tryg to stay rm, fireplace. you know, there's no firewood anywhere, no stores are open. stephanie: many rushed to hotels to keep warm. >> the temperature being so low, it gets so cold in my house, so fast. stephanie: while others turned to shelters. but, in houston, mayor sylvester turner said space is running
out. >> because of covid and the healthcare protocols, we simply can't take anymore. we've gone significantly over and above what we had scheduled, what we had planned. stephanie: texas governor greg abbott deployed the national guard to conduct welfare checks until poweis restored. the weather brought covid vaccine distribution to a halt in some places, amid icy road conditions and widespread airport shutdowns. and, it closed the houston ship channel and gulf coast refineries -- spiking the price of oil. just to underscore the scale of this deep freeze, the national weather service put out a list of 20 cities from the gulf coast, up through the great plains that are seeing record low temperatures today. the demand is taxing the capacities of energy grids, most significantly in texas. to help us understand what's happening, i'm joined by michael wara, director of the climate and energy policy program at the stanford woods institute for the environment.
thank you for joining us. texas is the largest energy producer in the entire united states. how is it that residents there are in a situation of multiple days of power outages? >> it's a combination of two factors. one is really unprecedented demand for electricity during the wintertime. the demand for power has exceeded the grid planners worst-case scenarios by a significant degree. also, power plants are not performing as expected, especially natural gas fire wer plants in texas right now. stephanie: used the energy crisis in the last couple days in texas to point down that texas's turn to renewable energy, mainly wind
power, is more the issue. why do you say natural gas is the problem? >> let me just say it is a complex set of factors, but what we know right now is that the wind power plants are mostly meeting their expected performance level but what is not happening in texas is many of the thermal power plants, the plants that oil water to make electricity, like coal-fired power plants and natural gas and nuclear unit, are not producing energy. they are suffering outages. that dwarfs the amount of wind resource that is not performing right now. it really is a traditional powerplant problem, not a clean energy problem. stephanie: ok, but this is texas and they are not used to a peak demand in february for heating and electricity. could this have been anticipated in any way and what does this say about the need to perhaps
update infrastructure? >> i think it raises important questions about how grid planners plan extreme events in the context of climate change. in california over the summer, we saw unprecedented heat waves that led to power outages. now in the winter, we are seeing unprecedented cold snap. this extreme weather is what scientists believe is most likely what will occur during climate change. it suggests to me that planners need to be updating the forecast and take count of the extremes that are likely to come our way. stephanie: and what can be done in the near term that is realistic to update the nation's power grids to deal with extreme weather events? you point out climate change is expected to bring more of it, not just in texas but in california and the east coast as well? >> i think you used the best word when you said what can be done about the power grids.
the most important step is for the united states to invest in building a truly national power system. that is something president biden suggested is a good idea for a stimulus program. there's no question that having an national architecture for the power system would help to avoid circumstances like what is happening in texas and in the midwest as well right now. if we had wires stretching from coast to coast, the places that had problems could lean on the places that there isn't bad weather, like where you and i are today. stephanie: are you confident that renewable ergy sources like solar and wind, that the technology exists to store those the same way that natural gas would be, so those transmission lines would reliably and flexibly carry energy to customers? >> there's no question that long-term storage, particularly in the winter, is a difficult technological challenge that we really don't have all the
answers for yet. but we could certainly produce a lot more of our electric power from clean resources than we do today, and do it reliably and safely if we had a more robust transmission system. in the long run, we will have to solve difficult technological problems, but that's in the long run. today, we could put much more wind and solar on the grid and serve everyone's needs, but we will need to build a more robust mechanism to get the power to where it's needed. stephanie: there are a lot of people in freezing cold temperatures right now in texas and elsewhere in the country hoping for solutions. michael wara with the stanford woods institu for the environment, thank you very much. >> thanks for having me. stephanie: we will return to judy woodruff and the full show afte the latest headlines. an update to the top story.
we are learning more about deaths related to the winter storm. four people were killed in a house fire in the houston area while using a fireplace to stay warm. other causes were car crashes and carbon monoxide poisoning. also, a number of animals at a san antonio area wildlife sanctuary died while the facility lost power. on south padre island, texas, volunteers were able to save some 2500 sea turtles who were also at risk from the deep-freeze. officials in some cities scrambled to use of covid-19 vaccine doses after refrigeration units lost power in the storm. at the same time, the federal disaster agency, fema, opened mass vaccination sites in los angeles and oakland, california. meanwhile, the president's top medical adviser dr. anthony fauci said it could be late may or early june before vaccine is available everywhere, due to limited supplies. president biden is on his first
official trip outside washington since taking office, and he's pushing his pandemic relief bill. he headed out this afternoon for a cnn town hall event with an invitation-only audience. he said republicans will hurt the nation if they unite against his $1.9 trillion relief plan. in iraq, the u.s. began investigating an overnight attack that killed a coalition contractor and injured a u.s. service-member and iraqi civilians. rockets struck at a military base outside urbil. the u.s. state department condemned the attack, but did not go further. >> it would be premature to speak in specific terms about retaliation before we know precisely what happened. we reserve the right to spond at a time a place of our choosing csistent with our partnership with the people and government of iraq. stephanie: a little-known shiite militant group claimed responsibility. the government of iran denied
any role in the attack. police in myanmar filed a new charge against deposed leader aung san suu kyi today. it accused her of violating covid-19 restrictions, and it could keep her detained indefinitely, without trial. meanwhile, protesters again turned out in yangon, chanting slogans against the military coup while lying down to block rail tracks. others occupied streets near the central bank. back in this country, a top democrat in the u.s. house of representatives sued former president trump for allegedly inciting the capitol insurrection. mississippi congressman bennie thompson chairs the homeland security committee. his suit seeks unspecified damages. it could be the first in a wave of new legal action against mr. trump. the former president attacked senate republican leader mitch mcconnell today as a "political
hack." in a statement, he blamed mcconnell for losing the senate majority, and said if republicans stay with him, they will not win again. mcconnell voted to acquit mr. trump in his senate impeachment trial, but condemned his behavior. a cold and quiet mardi gras passed today in new orleans. the pandemic and the weather canceled parades, and kept bourbon street blocked off. instead, homeowners had elaborately decorated their houses and front yards as stationary floats for people to visit. they ranged from life-sized gardens to dinosaur exhibits. and on wall street, the dow jones industrial average gained 64 points to close at 31,522. but the nasdaq fell 48 points, and the s&p 500 index slipped two. still to come on the "newshour" with judy woodruff, the governor of new york admits under reporting the often deadly impact of covid-19 in nursing homes. yemen confronts a tenuous future amid war, the pandemic, and changing u.s. policy. despite impeachment acquittal,
former president trump still faces legal challenges in multiple areas plus, much more. ,announcer: this is the "pbs newshour," from weta studios in washington and in the west from the walter cronkite school of journalism at arizona state university. ju: from the earliest days of the pandemic when new york was an epicenter of covid, governor andrew cuomo often has been in the spotlight. that is partially because of the very public manner in which he first addressed the crisis. but increasingly, there are questions about whether his administration was transparent enough about disclosing how many nursing home residents died. as amna nawaz tells us, the governor is now at the center of significant criticism. amna: judy, the governor admitted yesterday that he made mistakes when it came to not
disclosing key data. nationwide, by some estimates , more than 160,000 residents of long-term care facilities have died from covid-related issues. that's about a third of all covid deaths. about 15,000 of those were in new york state. but just a few weeks ago, cuomo's administration reported only about 8,500 of them. meaning thousands of nursing home residents who died in hospitals were not included in that nursing home tally. jesse mckinley is the albany bureau chief for the new york times who has been covering this story and the fallout. he joins me now. thank you for making the time. let's start with why we are learning about this right now. what led to these revelations? >> this actually dates back to a report from the state attorney general about three weeks ago that shows the cuomo administration was undercounted deaths at nursing homes by 50%. after the state was shamed by
this report, they began to release thousands more, which raised the death toll here in new york from 8500 to over 50,000, which is where we are sitting now. the cuomo administration has said that the reason they were flow to put out this -- slow to put this is they were worried about an investigation from the doj in the trump administration, which they believed was politically motivated. but there has been a lot of skepticism about that explanation. amna: of course, governor cuomo facing a lot of question since that revelation. he addressed some of this in a press conference yesterday for the first time. here is just part of what he said. governor cuomo i am in charge. : i take responsibility. we should have provided more information faster. we were too focused on doing the job and addressing the crisis of the moment, and we did not do a good enough job in providing information. i take total responsibility for
that. amna: the governor they are taking responsibility, notably stopping short of apologizing even when he was explicitly asked to. among new yorkers, how is that response going over? >> i think amongst, new yorkers, it would be tough to say, but here in albany amongst lawmakers, the response has not been a slamdunk. i don't think the governor went far enough for any lawmakers taste considering he stonewalled for months on the data. similarly, republicans in new york, who are a minority, are outraged by this and calling for investigations and resignations. and even on the democratic side, there are some similar calls. a lot of people at the elected official level are upset about this and they don't think the governor went far enough yesterday to quell the anger. amna: what about reaction from people who lost family members in nursing homes or long-term
care facilities? any reaction from them? >> that is where the rubber meets the road. keep in mind this wasn't just data for data's sake. people were making decisions for their loved ones depending on whether nursing homes were safe, that the death rates, if they were being suppressed artificially by the data not being up-to-date or incomplete, could have affected someone's decision whether or not to put their parents into a nursing home. that reaction from people who leave her -- either advocate for the elderly or have elderly family, there is a lot of people who are upset about the way the governor handled this. amna: there was this early policy cuomo faced criticism for, which was to send nursing patients hospitalized with covid-19 back to nursing homes. deflecting attention away from the data. is there anything supporting that? >> since the beginning of that
policy instituted march 25, it has been controversial. the governor pushed back on said we were following federal goat lines -- guidelines and other states did this. the problem is because the data has shown to be incomplete, a lot of people took that as an admission of guilt, and the governor suggested as much yesterday that he had failed and his major failing was not batting back those reports and creating a void, the way he presented it, which then allowed other theories to be represented. keep in mind, more data has come out. our publication and others will be looking very carefully at whether or not there was a spike as a result of the march 25 memo. i think those reports will continue in the weeks to come. amna: it is worth reminding people, early in the pandemic, new york was the nation's epicenter. we saw again and again hospitals, overwhelmed health
care workers overwhelmed. governor cuomo was sort of held up as a pandemic hero. he held daily briefings, he was hailed for his response, he wrote a book about it. what kind of impact of these revelations have on all that? > i will tell you as someone who was at most of those briefings early on, he was getting very great reviews from a lot of people saying he was handling the situation in a way that the federal administration was not, that he was being forthright, that he was being honest, that he was following the signs, when the trump administration was not doing that. now with these revelations, that sort of no-nonsense, straight shooter kind of political brand he built up through the early stages of the pandemic, that has taken a hit. because at its core, what we have been looking at is a government that was not willing to be straight with the people who elected it or the people who cover it like myself, or the
lawmakers by telling them the truth about how many people died. amna: jesse mckinley, albany bureau chief for "the new york times," thank you for joining us. ♪ judy: today the biden administration officially lifted the designation of the iranian backed houthis in yemen, as a global terrorist organization. that announcement comes within a larger review of the u.s. relationship with saudi arabia, which has waged a six-year campaign against the houthis. it is one of the most significant foreign policy shifts yet of the biden administration. nick schifrin reports on the prospects for diplomacy, and speaks to the new u.s. envoy to yemen. nick: when yemen's new government cabinet arrived to fanfare six weeks ago, it was
supposed to be a step toward ending the war. instead, a houthi rocket hit the tarmac. there was chaos and smoke. parts of the airport were pulverized. for six years, a saudi-led campaign tried to unseat the iranian-backed houthis from the capital sanaa. it failed. the houthis are currently attacking the internationally recognized government's final northern stronghold. and last month, the houthis hit another airport, in saudi arabia, and ripped a hole in a civilian airplane. but the campaign and houthi intransigence have succeeded in transforming the arab world's poorest country into a humanitarian catastrophe. the un warns yemen is in imminent danger of the worst famine in decades, and this year, 2 million children under 5 will suffer from acute malnutrition. last month, the trump administration labelled the houthis a global terrorist organization to try and cut off their funding and weapons, in part supplied by iran. over the objection of
humanitarians, including world food program director david beasley. >> it is literally igoing to be a death sentence to hundreds of thousands, if not millions . it needs to be reevaluated, and quite frankly, it needs to be reversed. reporter: today the biden administration officially made that reversal. tim lenderking is the new envoy to yemen. >> ending this war through a lasting political solution is the only way to end the humanitarian crisis. nick: lenderking is leading a new push for diplomacy. last week he visited saudi capital riyadh with un special envoy martin griffiths. and griffiths visited tehran. but diplomacy has been tried before. a 2018 deal largely fell apart. and today, yemen is even more splintered, and both sides have more than enough weapons, and incentive, to keep fighting. the biden administration is trying to put pressure on saudi arabia. it froze the sale of arms the kingdom uses in yemen. and it ended the targeting assistance the u.s. military
argued improved saudi precision. during the campaign, president biden warned saudi arabia that as president, he would hold them accountable. president biden: we were in fact going to make them pay the price, and make them in fact the pariah that they are. nick: but today the administration pledged to help protect saudi arabia from houthi attacks. >> we are making clear that we are not going to allow saudi arabia to be target practice. saudi needs to be able to defend itself. nick: and for more on this, we are joined by tim lenderking, the new u.s. special envoy to yemen. secretary blinken said today that who the attacks -- houthi attacks are not the actions of a group that claims to want peace. how can you negotiate a settlement if one of the sides does not want peace? >> certainly, we see the houthis in a very aggressive stance. the last couple days, there were cross-border attacks on saudi arabia. the offensive they are apparently launching, on a kia
many government town in northern yemen, and also has oil platforms, that has been fairly aggressive. their movements on both of those fronts. i think we will have to test the proposition. they have sent messages indicating they are prepared to do the heavy lifting for peace. certainly what we are seeing in the last couple days is not owed well. nick: have they sent messags to the united states? does it matter if the public messaging is ongoing attacks? >> we have multiple ways of -- receiving messages from different organizations and multiple ways of sending messages to organizations. and in the yemen context, we do want to keep the various channels open. they're going to be very important to us going forward. nick: have the houthis sent private messages? >> as i say, they have ways of getting messages to us, and so we have taken those and we will we will do our best to work
constructively with those messages and with the various groups in yemen who are, you know, who are supportive of a peace process. nick: your critics say that lifting the global terrorist organization label on the houthis before they had to make any concessions means you've lost the chance for leverage to try and get them back to the negotiating table. do you believe that you've lost some leverage by lifting that global terrorist organization label? >> i don't, in the end, think so. i think there was a decision, a realization by the new administration that the the fto designation was really a mixed bag. that on the one hand, it memorialized certain activities of the houthis that were terrorist in nature, their attacks on civilian infrastructure, their kidnapping of u.s. citizens, their close relationship with the irgc. but the new administration asks, well, what does that give us in
terms of benefit to the political process and benefit to other aspects of yemen? and there was a quick realization that it's a net negative on the humanitarian space and that if we're going to make improvements in the humanitarian sphere, bearing in mind that yemen is t world's greatest humanitarian disaster at this moment, we ca't stress that system any further. so that is, i think, a key factor in why the administration decided to undo this designation. it doesn't remove every every sanction on some of the houthi leaders. some of those remain from several years ago. so it's not a free pass at all. nick: as you know, in sana'a, the capital, the houthis have their own administration, they have their own police, they levy taxes and of course, they continue to launch attacks both in yemen and across the border in saudi arabia. you've put pressure on saudi arabia with some recent moves. what pressure on the houthis is there to make any concessions? >> i think that the houthis need to be tested in terms of their
stated commitments and the messages that they've sent, that they are committed to a peace process and to the betterment of of yemen. and i think there are international actors here that we're going to be leaning on and looking toward who have influence over the houthis to see what they could do as well. this is not something the united states can do alone. it's going to require very close coordination with the u.n. envoy, martin griffiths, with the saudis and with the the neighboring countries as well. nick: one of the regional countries that has the most influence over the houthis is iran. last night, aco group took credit -- a shia militia took credit for an attack that injured five americans, including one u.s. service member. and those were rockets that we have seen before from iran. so do you believe that attack was by iran? and what does it say to you about iran's willingness to conduct diplomacy in the region? >> certainly when we look at iran's behavior in the region,
it's hily problematic. in many cases, it is antithetical to the peace efforts that much of the rest of the world is trying to engender. so whether you look at iraq or syria or other places where iran uses proxy forces. and let it be known to the iranians that if they want to do something positive for the region, yemen is not a bad place for them to start. and that involves their relationship with the houthis and the arming, the training, the training and the abetting of the houthis that they do. so would be an excellent way for iran to show goodwill during the campaign, as we saw in the story, president biden -- to bring goodness goodwill in the diplomatic space. nick: during the campaign as we saw in the story, president biden referred to saudi arabia as a pariah and vowed to hold the kingdom accountable for the death of jamal khashoggi, who, of course, died in saudi arabia's consulate in istanbul. how will the biden administration hold saudi arabia and mohammed bin salman, the
crown prince, responsible for jamal khashoggi's death? >> well at this point, i focus on yemen. and in the yemen conflict, you need saudi arabia. they'll have to play a leading role. after all, this is their backyard. this ithe gulf region's backyard. and just as we follow things that happen in our backyard very carefully, so must the saudis, and so will the saudis. so they will ba very strong partner in this effort, i'm convinced. we'll be able to to maintain the president's commitments with regard to saudi arabia, while ensuring that that the yemen conflict is brought to a close. that is very much the goal. tim lenderking special envoy for yemen, thank you very much. >> thank you.
judy: the new lawsuit we reported earlier against former president trump over the capitol riot adds to the legal challenges now that he's out of office. for the most part, they are state, criminal, and civil investigations, or lawsuits like the one today filed by private parties. but what conduct is still being looked at, and what, if any, consequences may result? andrea bernstine of public radio station wnyc has been reporting on trump finances as part of their trump inc. project. welcome back to the "newshour." my first question, now that donald trump is out of office, is he in more legal trouble or less? >> he is certainly in a lot of legal trouble. we do know in the impeachment trial that the argument was he couldn't be convicted because he was out of office,ut that's the only case i know of where it's better for him to have not
been president. he's been arguing to great effect in the last several years that for various reasons under article two, that he couldn't be in some cases even investigated because of the presidency. he also used the power of his own justice department in many cases to file briefs along with his private business interests. in one case, he argued the justice department was able to defend him in a private defamation suit brought by a former gossip columnist. now trump, as a private citizen, has to defend himself as private citizens to. while that may sound like justice may be more quickly delivered when he was a private citizen, he was so notoriously litigious, the cases went on in some cases for over a decade. judy: we look today with you, and there are now so many legal actions surrounding the former
president that it's hard to keep track of all of them. you were telling us that it is the criminal investigation that may be most serious. explain what those are about. >> president trump, and before that, businessman donald trump, was involved in literally thousands of lawsuits, but he has never been criminally charged. what he now faces in at least two jurisdictions are criminal charges. the most far along is the manhattan district attorney's investigation which has not resulted in an indictment because donald trump has effectively gone to the supreme court twice to prevent the manhattan da from getting his tax returns. but if that case is resolved as expected, the manhattan district attorney is looking at possibly indicting donald trump for bank fraud, insurance fraud, and tax fraud. we don't know if he has enough evidence, if he wants to indict the president or his business or associates, but the da has said
on the record that he is very seriously considering bringing charges. the fact that this case has gone on for so long is further indication of the seriousness with which the district attorney is taking it. the second investigation is much more recent and fulton county, georgia, where the district attorney is looking at whether president trump, then president trump, violated racketeering and other statutes when he tried to overturn the election in georgia and that case, while much more recent, is in theory less complex than the white collar crimes the manhattan district attorney is looking at. either of those cases could result in charges in the not-too-distant future at some time. judy: and you mentioned the number of civil lawsuits, the personal filing today, the naacp on behalf of several members of congress, including bennie thompson. tell us about the core something
like that could take. -- the course something like that could take. >> this is very>> interesting because it's using a statute based in the 19th century, basically to use as a private weapon against the ku klux klan by lawmakers who were not allowed to carry out their official duties. while a case like this can't result in jail time, what can happen is that through the discovy process and depositions, possibly even a trial, we learn a lot of information that we don't know. in these civil litigation cases, the private parties can use the power of the court system to bring forth information which can otherwise remain hidden. we saw many questions left after the impeachment trial. this would be an example of the ivate litigation that could ferret out information that would not only potentially give the plaintiff's information, but
also a lot more information for us as journalists and the history books on what actually happened leading up to january 6. judy: is it possible to say what the odds are that former president trump could end up, threw one of these verdicts, one of these decisions, in prison? >> it is so hard to say because there haven't even been any charges brought. but we do know for example in manhattan that the district attorney is looking at conspiracy fraud charges, which are b felonies, carrying up to 25 years prison time in new york. it is very serious. because this investigation has gone on for two years, the suggestion is the district attorney really believes he has evidence that crimes were committed, and when he gets all the documents he is seeking, that is when we might know what kind of charges the president or his business or associates are facing. judy: so many to keep track of,
the defamation, from e jean carol who accused the president of rape, and he says he defamed her, then the hush money cases. we don't have time to get 12 them, but we thank you, andrea bernstine, for keeping track of all of this peer thank you very much. >> thank you. always great to talk to you. judy: for men and women coming out of prison every year, one of the first steps to re-entering society can be one of the most difficult -- simply getting a valid id. william brangham examines the many hurdles returning citizens face trying to rebuild their identification. this story is part of our ongoing series, searching for
justice. william: after 27 years behind bars for armed robbery, in september, kenneth taylor became a free man. free from jail, yes. but stuck in limbo. >> it's crazy. i feel invisible, i do. william: why? because taylor left a louisiana prison without any form of valid identification. no social security card, no birth certificate, no way to prove who he actually was. >> it's crazy. nobody knows i exist right now. >> i remember this picture vividly. william: he's been out more than four months like this. hison, ken mackie, and lawyers at a local new orleans nonprofit , are still helping him piece his life back together, one document at a time. >> it's been just obstacle after obstacle trying to get his id, his social security and birth certificate. reporter: they've been in frequent contact with louisiana's department of corrections trying to get this fixed. >> they attempted to send me a
birth certificate and a social security card, which was totally not me. william: they sent you identifications that they thought were supposed to be yours and they were not yours? >> they were not mine. william: taylor later received his actual birth certificate -- that'll help, but he still doesn't have a social security card. that means he can't apply for many jobs, or social services like food assistance. and in louisiana, you can actually be arrested for not being able to provide proof of identity. >> my biggest fear is being stopped by the police department and taken to jail because i don't have an id. william: not having an id is a problem that thousands of people face every year re-entering society. and during the plan pandemic its , only gotten worse, according to martin horn. he used to be the head of corrections for both new york city and the state of pennsylvania. >> the offices are closed.
even the people who might be able to assist them in prison are often either absent because they're ill or working remotely, not to mention the fact that prisoners, by and large, do not have easy access to the kinds of internet connections that would be necessary. william: and without identification horn says it's , impossible to reintegrate into society. >> getting out of prison or jail, the most crucial element to success is being able to support yourself. and without the documents, you can't support yourself. you can't get a job. >> you have your passport, birth certificate, social, two proof of address. william: just navigating the bureaucracy can be overwhelming. >> two proofs of address? i only have my birth certificate and social security card. >> we are still missing one more proof because we don't have anything on file for you. william: marlon jackson just got out of prison a few weeks ago. he served 24 years for robbery and sexual battery.
>> the only thing they gave me upon my release was this right here. they gave me no other form of id nothing. william: he's at a mobil dmv office in richmond, virginia, trying to prove he's who he says he is, and to get a legitimate, legal id. >> we won't be able to take this because this is an original document. william: the problem is his -- the only document he received upon leaving prison had the wrong social security number on it. >> this is not sufficient because i need primary proof of address. william: sarah scarborough is the founder of a nonprofit called real life. they organized this makeshift dmv because of the massive backlog created by the pandemic. >> so if our folks got out of jail, they would have to wait for about five months to be able to get an appointment at dmv to get an id, which means five months until they can get a job, five months until they can find a place to live and sign a rental agreement or anything. william: after more than an hour of waiting and pleading, it looked like jackson would be turned away.
seems he needed more evidence of his housing. >> you probably won't be able to get that today because we're only here until 11:30. >> this moment right now is big. it's important. imperative if i don't receive an id today, which may be i have 15 or 20 more minutes to get it, but hopefully i will. william: but otherwise you might have to wait three or four months? >> otherwise, i will be waiting 90 to 100 days. william: but at the last minute, with scarborough and her colleagues' health, jackson got his id. >> this is a start of something beautiful. this is a picture. saying this is marlon, this is where i live, it will unlock one door. william: the last hurdle though, for many formerly incarcerated people, is what is considered the gold standard id a driver's , license. >> i can't believe it. i can drive. william: anthony gomez was released from prison in
september after doing 23 years for a murder he committed when he was 17. he's just passed the virginia driver's test, after waiting weeks to get a dmv appointment . >> you couldn't get a dmv appointment to save your life. william:william: since his release, he's found a job as a paralegal, working with a lawyer he met while he was behind bars. he's now living with his mom outside of richmond. he's hoping to also get some construction work, but can't take a job that he can't get to. >> and so, you know, with those type of jobs, you have to move around. you know, you have to get from point a to point b, and then when that job is done, you have to get over here and you can't be dependent on the people that's hiring you, you know, to come pick you up and then take you. william: and i can tell from where you live. it's not like there's a bus or a subway at the corner. >> yeah. for that reason alone i really , want my license. it doesn't mean that i will be getting in a car and disappearing every day. but i think just the thought that if i want to go somewhere,
i don't have to be dependent on someone, you know, that's part of the freedom. william: kenneth tayr is still searching for that freedom. he found work as a personal trainer at a boxing gym, but he remains frustrated that the department of corrections released him with no real way to start over. >> you knew who i was when you sentenced me. so you kept me there 27 and a half years. you kept me there knowing who i was. right. then you sent me out there like you don't know who i was. william: we reached out to louiana's department of corrections for comment on kenneth taylor's case. a spokesman responded saying, "despite the pandemic, last year, 96.7% of inmates who were released from louisiana's state institutions walked out of prison with at least two forms of identification. cases like mr. taylor's are the exception and not the rule." generally speaking, do prisons and and prison officials help people returning to society get those documents ahead of time?
>> some more than others. i think there are very few that actually invest time, effort and money in providing assistance in dog that because there is a cost to providing that assistance, but the cost of them being unemployed, the cost of them being homeless and in need of shelter, the cost of their admission to the emergency room or the cost of a new crime and re-imprisonment is going to be far greater than whatever we spend to facilitate their success. william: kenneth taylor says he can't fully start a new life until he can prove his old one existed. >> it's like a ball and chain type of deal. like i'm still connected to the prison and i don't want to be connected to the prison system ever. i'm trying to chop the chain off. i can move where i want to move freely and don't live and be scared. william: for the “pbs newshour”"
i'm william brangham. judy: in the aftermath of police killings of black men and women , and amidst renewed calls in congress to consider a reparations commission, american institutions of all kinds have looked to their pasts and presents to understand their relationships to racism. that reckoning continues at colleges and universities, many of which have direct connections to the history of slavery. jeffrey brown has our report,part of our race matters series and our arts and culture coverage, canvas. reporter: on the campus of the university of virginia, a new memorial to the thousands of enslaved people who helped build the school and then worked there -- craftsmen, construction workers, cooks, domestic servants.
some of their names are known, but most -- more than 3000 -- remain anonymous, honored by so-called memory marks in the stone. >> this site was picked intentionally because it was visible in the community. reporter: historian kirt von daacke helped lead the effort to uncover his school's past. >> this story has to be visible on our landscape in a way that the casual visitor will understand when they visit here. and we have to acknowledge the humanity, the skill, the life, the labor of the enslaved, and do it in a way that responds to current community concerns. and i think our memorial really does a fantastic job of that. but it's not an end. it's a beginning. reporter: it's a story often hidden in plain sight, as in this 19th century engraving, intended to capture the campus in all its glory. they are on a balcony an , enslaved woman holding the child of a professor. the campus was designed and founded in 1819 by thomas jefferson -- drafter of the
declaration of independence and slave owner, the embodiment of the contradictions of u.s. history. >> the american academy writ large, not just uva, has been built on money from the slave trade, built by enslaved people. it has a very long financial and human history tied up in this story that universities in some ways are now coming to terms with. reporter: it's not just in the south. higher education's look within began early in the 2000's at several schools, including brown university in providence, rhode island. >> what can we do to suggest ways of being in the world that improve upon everybody's life? reporter: then-president ruth simmons, the first african-american to serve as president of an ivy league school, and herself the great-granddaughter of slaves, says when she looked for the history -- she found little. >> and so what's the reason for that?
i think slavery was an uncomfortable topic for people for so long in this country, and rather than deal with the issues involving slavery, people simply deleted the reference. and if you delete it long enough, of course, what happens is that there is this systematic forgetting of the history. reporter: as documented in a landmark 2006 report, the history was all around, including lists of slaves trafficked in ship's owned by john brown, one of the school's founders. his former home across the street from the president's residence. >> that's the thing, is that we were surrounded by evidence of brown's relationship to slavery at one time, and yet we chose to ignore it and we basically built a new narrative around it. reporter: with a more painful past revealed, brown took a
number of steps, including creating a new center for the study of slavery and justice to further explore the history through scholarship and exhibitions. and it commissioned a public art work, titled slave memorial, by prominent black artist martin puryear. >> to me, it always seemed the most important element of it was the truth telling. if one wants to atone for it, for lying for so many decades, centuries even, the clear indication is that you should atone for that by telling the truth. so the report to me was the most important thing and it has lived long, actually, and i think has been borne out by what followed , because that report has become the document that so many other institutions have used to follow that same course.
reporter: a consortium founded at the university of virginia, universities studying slavery, has grown to more than 70 members from five countries, in some cases moving beyond slavery times to study jim crow era racism and injustices against their land native americans -- their lands taken for use by western colleges. importantly, historically black colleges and universities are also looking at their histories and, in some cases partnering with majority white schools on research and other projects. ruth simmons is now president of one prominent hbcu, prairie view a&m university in texas. >> one of the things that we are committed to doing is making sure that these maers enter all curricula and the people stop being afraid, afraid of the truth, afraid to teach what really transpired. wreporter: but after a year of protests, in the wake of the
police killings of george floyd and other black men and women, universities -- like other institutions -- face renewed calls to go beyond research and teaching. >> this is the recurring question. what now? i think the 'what now' is there's no simple solution, but it's an awareness and a consciousness and a working through of the problem. reporter: leslie harris, an historian now at northwestern university, has studied both the past and contemporary efforts to seek redress. the movement for direct monetary reparations has grown, but remains controversial. harris and others propose another way in. >> i want to remind people that the root of that word is repair. how do we repair? how do we make whole relationships and communities that have been driven apart? and that can come in many different ways. reporter: colleges are often the largest landowners and employers in their cities, with direct influence on housing costs and jobs.
they employ their own police and security forces, in some cases exacerbating tensions with the , surrounding community. >> i could do the history all day of how we got here in terms of policing, how we got here in terms of real estate. the question, though, then becomes -- and this is definitely a question for higher education institutions. it is not simply about studying and understanding and then putting the book on the shelf and then saying, “phew, now i understand!” it is about, “how do we move forward differently?” reporter: study and remember what happened, and seek repair. at a pivot point for american institutions of all kinds, scholars and activists are saying universities have a unique role to play. for the “pbs newshour”, i'm jeffrey brown. judy: continuing to ask the questions and continue to seek the answers. and th is the "newshour" for
tonight, i'm judy woodruff. join us online and again her tomorrow evening. for all of us at the “pbs newshour,” thank you, please stay safe and see you soon. announcer: major funding for the "pbs newshour" has been provided by -- ♪ >> consumer cellular. johnson & johnson. bnsf railway. carnegie corporation of new york , supporting innovations in immigration -- education, democratic engagement, and the advancement of international peace and security at carnegie.org. and with the ongoing support of these institutions. this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you.
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p pati narrates about halfway down the baja peninsula on the eastern coast, the city of la paz is home to one of the most unique, humbling, thrilling experiences in the world. here in the sea of cortez just below the surface you can swim face to face with the largest fish in the sea, the whale shark, and i'm diving in. and in la paz the sea gives in so many ways. amazing! woah, mmm! in my kitchen a light, tender flaky pan seared halibut with 5-pepper sauce. and crunchy, packed with flavor coconut rice. but first, i can't wait for these - empanadas