Posts Tagged ‘Incarceration’

Hello all.

I have been transferred from one prison to another. This is the reason why I have been out of touch. The transition has been somewhat of an eye opening experience. I had been in the last place for over 4 years and did not have any intentions on leaving. When I was up for parole I transitioned out mentally. One of the things that I was looking forward to, had I made parole, was never putting on another pair of shackles or handcuffs. This was in my head and I would tell myself this everyday. To me those handcuffs and shackles symbolize everything that I want to be free of.

Being in transit is one of the worst experiences that one can suffer while incarcerated. You are stripped of all of your property. You are given paper pants, a t shirt and those karate shoes to wear. In the winter, as in my case, it is the worse. We were given 10 packs of crackers, the kind that has two crackers in them, to eat. That was to last us for a 6 hour ride. We were not given breakfast.

Luckily, I was transferred from general population and knew the routine so I ate a piece of fruit before I went to R&D. I knew not to eat heavy or drink a lot of fluids, because it is almost impossible to use the toilet in chains and shackles, the also belly chain us.

One of the most humiliating aspects of this is to use the toilet and splash urine all over yourself, due to the motion of the bus. There is no water to wash/rinse your hands, so you have to ride with urine on your hands. Bear in mind that you have to also eat those crackers with those same hands. The best thing to do is not eat. That leaves you feeling sick and tired but it beats the other alternative.

If you are lucky you will get a good guy to ride with. Usually, I am not in my best mood and want to be left alone. I don’t want to talk or chat. I just sit, endure the pain of tight handcuffs and watch the scenery.

One of the things that I noticed was all off of the paths that were cut into the mountains. I like to ski so when I see something that resembles a slope I try to see if people are skiing it. As we were riding I kept seeing these paths that looked like ski slopes. I kept asking myself,” why are people skiing one trail mountains.” What I came to realize was that they were not slopes but paths that were cut in order to put up telephone towers. It was the towers and the wires that made it look like a ski lift and a slope. It made me think how much people, even in mountain rural areas, depend on cell phones.

I also noticed that all of the cars looked the same. I had a hard time distinguishing between some of the newer model cars. They all looked boxed and bulky. Not like the cars of the early 90’s, the cars that I remember. Another interesting thing is that as we rode and passed other vehicles nobody even noticed the prison bus. It was as if we did not exist in the minds and worlds of other people. When you see a prison bus you know that it is a prison bus, but people seemed to not even care.

Depending on where you are going you may have to pass through a transit center. I had to pass through USP Canaan. An officer was recently killed there so they run that place real tight. They treated us as if we had something to do with it. The operation hours were so that we were out from 6 to 3.  After 3 we were locked in the cells for the rest of the night. On the weekends were were locked in all day. I was fortunate that I got in on a Thursday and left that Monday. I spent the weekend locked down. I read four 400 page novels in that time. I was alone so I read. One of the things that I noticed was that I did not utter one word while I was in that cell alone. Not one word. I read and slept. I had no concept of time or anything else.

Funny how humans can adapt and adjust to almost anything. I had spent time in the hole before and being there resembled that time spent in the hole. The thing is that I have not been in the hole in years so to be able to just accept the situation and adapt to it without thought was somewhat scary. It is scary to be able to accept that time of segregation as something that is normal.

When we left there we had to go to the airport. There are some prisoners that have to fly to other destinations, while others get on a bus at the airfield. I took a bus but had to get on it at the airport.

They had two planes there. One was a federal plane and the other was a deportation plane. The deportation plane was the saddest thing that I have ever saw. I counted about 400 men and women that were being deported back to their respected countries. Most here of Hispanic origin. They had them with all of their worlds possessions in one bag. They were shackled and handcuffed as they were lead onto the plane.

I felt the sorriest for the women. I know that many of them were leaving behind young kids and families that they may never see again. The journey to this country is not an easy one. It is easier for the men but quite dangerous for the women. They stand to be raped and held against their will. So to see them leaving behind this place that has been home to them broke my heart. Another broken family. I can think of many alternatives to what is being used now. Alternatives to deal with this issue. This issue is one of the issues that drives my love for the Spanish language. It is my intent to work with that community when I am released.

Well after sitting on the bus for 6 hours waiting. We left and 3 hours later we arrived at the new place that I am in. It is not that bad here. To me it is another prison. After so many years they all look the same. The biggest thing here is that I am 2 hours from DC, home, and it is easier for my family to come see me. I in fact got a visit this weekend from them.

Being able to see my family was worth the trouble that it took to get here. Hopefully something gives with my case and I get out sooner than later. If not this is where I will be until my next parole hearing, 2018.

I hope that some good things happen here. We will see and I will keep you all posted!

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I am having a hard at answering this question because it appears to me that there is little faith and hope that I can redeem myself.  The funny thing about redemption is that it often takes someone else  to set the stage for it to take place.  Meaning there has to be a willingness on the behalf of others to trust you enough to allow you the opportunity to redeem yourself.  Almost like a champion boxer, as long as he has the belt he can pick and choose who he wants to fight.  So ones chance at a shot at the title depends on his willingness to let you fight him.  So nothing else matters without his consent.

I feel like that underdog fighter begging for a shot at the title, at a chance to redeem myself.  The one that is often overlooked and never taken serious.  Have you ever seen that person?  Often when that person gets the chance to show off their skills they leave a heck of an impression.

I guess freedom is like that and society is that ring.  I liken it to that in some many aspects. There are a lot of men and women that have been in here training for that big fight and redemption.  The fight that no one thinks they can win.  The fight of their lives.  All odds are against them and all bets are on!  These men and women are begging for the chance to show that they can succeed if given the chance.  The sad reality is that some of us are never going to get that chance and the never have that opportunity to show the world what we really are made of.  We will never get a chance to leave our mark on the world.

Everyone that comes to prison is not bad, even though prison is where they send bad people.  I think that the society is starting to realize this, that all people in prison are not bad.  There are some fighters in here, waiting to get out and show the world that they are not bad people.  They are training for redemption!

I thought that the training that I have been going through for the past 20 years would have made me a good contender for a shot at the title, the world.  But, it is obvious that there are still some doubters out there that do not think that I deserve that title shot.  That I do not deserve redemption.  The only way that I can get out and redeem myself is that they have to let me out and give me a shot at that title.  I know that I will leave my mark and a heck of an impression on the world!  All I need is that shot at the title!

Where does hope come from in a time and place of adversity? That is the question that I have been asked a few times in the last week since finding out that that I was denied parole and given another 5 years.  It is hard to explain that when you come to find out that you are and have been that beacon of hope for so many people for so long. I have heard quite a few times in passing and directly that if a person like me, who has conformed to the rules and regulations and has exceed the expectations of almost everyone, can not make parole and be given another chance at society, how can I even think about it?  This is the mindset of a lot of the men here at this moment.  Some of them have vowed to give up attending programs that were once thought of as programs that would be looked at favorably. They have vowed to not make the effort to spend too much time involved in programs that would be perceived as making the prison look good.  To these men at the end of the day it does not matter and therefore they have lost hope.

What message does this send to our society? That the system does not believe in its own system of rehabilitation. That is the message that everyone is getting here. So it has all been a lie. The masses have been lied to and made to believe that there is a system set up that will make them safer as a society.

One of the statements that come out is that if I can’t make parole, or if I am not deemed parolable, who is? Like that is the question of the day, no of the century.  If a person who had the full support of the Executive Staff, and had one of them speak on his behalf and say that I was ready to go back out and that once I arrived there I would be productive, is not deemed appropriate for release the question is (1) who is appropriate and (2) who are they letting out?  Aren’t those the people that know the best?  Those that are around you and monitor you? They are the ones that can say if and when a person has done all that can be done to become better.  The message that is being given here is that they don’t really trust the system that is in place to gauge when an offender has taken the steps to change.

The other day a bus arrived here and on that bus of 40 inmates 10 were violators of parole.  Some of them never even made it out the halfway house.  Two weeks ago a bus arrived and on the bus of 40 inmates 22 were violators.  Now I know that there are quite a few obstacles out there in the world but look at the numbers of guys that are coming back to prison.  Now that was just the count of the past month.  A bus arrives here every other week and out of every bus there are at least 5 violators on a bus.  So who is being let out of prison?

When I went to the parole board I had all of the requirements that are needed for one to get out and stay out.  (1) I had a job (2) I had family support (3) i had a savings of money to start out with (4) i had community support (5) I had a stable crime/drug free residence to go home to (6) I had all the proper paper work that is needed to obtain proper ID.  So I had all the things that were needed to get out and stay out.  So a person who knows this, and most of the inmates here did, is not deemed appropriate for parole it kills the hopes of those who don’t have half of that.

One of the things that I have been telling guys is that when things happen we have to find ways to overcome them.  A lot of guys here have had their hopes dashed and have become pessimistic in the possibilities that they have in their lives.  I tell them that they must push on because the road to success and personal development is uphill and will be a struggle. Personal development does not stop because someone denies you something.  When one is one a journey to be become a whole person it takes trials in different areas to reach that wholeness.  So, this is a time for me to practice what I preach.  It i hard but it can be done.  Nothing is going to deter me from reaching the goals that I have set for myself.  I must continue on and work harder.

Where does hope come from?  It has to come from within, anything else may create some entitlement and false expectations.  When one understands hope they find themselves aligned with faith.  Faith is not this esoteric concept or solely a concept of religion.  It is a drive and determination that resides in all of us.  When hope and faith are aligned together people achieve great things.  Obstacles that seemed impossible at one point become possible and achievable. That is the message that I want to sent to others. That there is hope I just need to keep the faith!

August 7, 2013 was one of the most disappointing days of my life, as I was denied parole for the second time.  Not only was I denied parole but I was given a harsher set off than I was given the first time that I saw the parole board. The first time I was given a 36 month set off, three years, and this time I was given a 60 month set off, 5 years.  Which is crazy considering what I have going for me in terms of support.

I went to the parole board with the Associate Warden as my staff representative. For those of you who don’t understand what that means let me tell you. That is the second highest Executive Official in the Prison, second to the Warden. That person has to have the approval of the Warden of the institution to be present.  So in essence that person was there to represent me with the approval of the Warden.  So that is like the ultimate staff support that a person can get.  This person spoke of all of the things that I have done here in terms of teaching and facilitating classes.  Classes such as Victim Impact which is a very important class and course for violent offenders.  This person stated that based upon my behavior and actions within the prison that it was clear that I would be productive in society.

I showed the board that I was a good candidate for parole as I demonstrated and proved that I had covered all of the risk factors that are associated with recidivism.  I showed and proved that I (1) had strong family support, ties and a place to live, (2) that i had all of the necessary paperwork needed to get a valid identification, birth certificates and social security card, (3) I had a job lined up waiting and had been in contact with other organizations to come and do volunteer work that may have lead to gainful employment with them, and (4) I have done a substantial amount of time incarcerated with no infractions nor new/continual criminal conduct.

The time between my first parole hearing three years ago and the hearing this June, 2013, I went outside the institution and sought education.  Education that I personally paid for.  Education that is not even provided in the institution.  So that showed my continual achievement of programs.

It is not often that a person comes before them with the support, plans and goals that I have.  It is not often that a person who came to prison as a child makes the mature adult changes and choices that I have made.  It is not often that one comes to a parole hearing with the highest of the executive staff speaking on their behalf.  It is not often that a person comes to the parole board with a genuine and reputable mentor who has invested time and energy towards the success of that person to be denied parole.  Not only denied parole but given a harsher penalty than the first time.

If I am not a prime candidate to make parole my question is who is? I was referred to as model prisoner by one of the staff members.  It makes no sense and everyone is stunned by the decision.  It has even affected the way that the other inmates see the possibilities that exist in their lives. I was like the beacon of hope and motivation for these guys and the way that they see it if I can’t make parole how can they.

The reason that they used to deny parole is that due to the nature of my offense, there is a high probability that I will not obey the laws of society.  That reason is in total contradiction to what I have done in the last 20 years and what I am doing now.  I have been a big advocate for victims and have taught those classes.  I have also done other work that has been shown to improve the well being of others and have fostered good relations between the men and their families and communities.  So even from here I have been active in being pro-social.  How is it that I could not do it out there with more resources at my disposal?

Not to minimize my offense, but for those of you who may be wondering.  I have a regular street crime as my charge.  That means that there are no extraordinary elements to my crime.  It didn’t involve women, children or elderly people.  Nothing that would warrant what has happened to me in regards to the set off that I received.  Furthermore I was 17 when this offense was committed.  I am being punished as if I was fully aware of the penalty and repercussions of my behavior at the time . Not to justify my actions, but it is relevant. 

To be fair to all I will just briefly recap the events of my offense.  A guy was killed in a failed robbery attempt. The ironic thing is that I made this poor decision trying to get to a better place.  A place that offered support that was needed for me to be successful.  At the time I didn’t have the means to pay for the travel expense and in a desperate and foolish attempt to get the money needed I borrowed a gun and bought a 5th of gin to calm my nerves.  For some reason I thought that I could just do a harmless stick up.  In my mind I never thought that anyone would buck up against a gun.  When I went into this place there was a clerk sitting on the freezer who, I didn’t know at the time, spoke no English.  So when I ask for him to lay down he jumped up and I panicked and fired the gun.  He was about 15 feet from where I was at.

One thing that came out in trial was that there was no way that I intended to shoot the guy due to the gunshot wound.  He was shot in the neck which was consistent to the motion of him standing up. I had the gun aimed over his head and when he stood he became lined up with the gun.  Had I intended to shoot and kill him he would have been shot in the body area as the gun would have been pointed at his head and his upward movement would have changed the target of the gun.  Due to that evidence I was convicted of 2nd degree murder. The board is judging me and making decisions as if I intentionally went in here to kill this person during the robbery. They are making independent decisions despite trial testimonies and legal decisions that were made in my case.  I never denied the offense.  When I was captured I confessed and expressed regret for that act.  That is not what hardcore criminals do.  That is not what people who intentionally kill people do.  The judge in my case recognized these elements and sentenced me based on those mitigating factors.

What I did was reckless and careless, and I have done my time for that act and have done the best that I could to offset that act while incarcerated.  So, at what point am I allowed to redeem myself and repay my debt to society by entering back into society?  I can’t do it from in here.

In fact to demonstrate how punitive this measure is, usually when the board denies someone parole it is to give that person enough time to get a needed program of evaluation.  So they say, we are gong to deny you parole for 2 years so that will give you enough time to get a GED.” So they tell the person what is needed to make parole.  In my case because I have already done everything, they set me off and cannot even recommend that I take a program or get an evaluation during the time of the set off.  So it becomes clear that they want to be punitive by punishing me with out even telling me what is needed of me to make parole. That is because I have done it all. There is not another program in the BOP that I can do, I have literally done them all.  This suggests that they do not believe in their own system of rehabilitation.  If they did they would give me the parole that I have worked hard for.

How is it that a child, literally, is punished as an adult and serves his time as an adult and conforms to all of the rules and regulations, goes above and beyond what is necessary and achieves high recognition to not be given a second chance at a time in his life where he is less likely to recidivate, according to statically findings. What logic and reason is used to make that decision?

I am making a plea to all of those that follow me on this site to aid me in fighting this decision. To call to attention the system that is in place and demand answers from the people that make these decisions.  What criteria is being used when deciding these cases?   Why has my case been denied parole, and what exactly is expected of me to achieve it?

I am reaching out to those advocates of juvenile justice, penal justice and human rights, as well as concerned members of society to seek justice and answers.  At a time where this country is in difficult and challenging economical strains, does it make economical sense to spend $40,000 for the next 5 years, totaling $200,000, for my continued incarceration?  A person that has clearly rehabilitated? This in itself should cause one to be concerned.  I am not the only one.  If there are five of us, which there are, that is 1 million dollars spent.  There are approximately 2.3 million people locked up in the U.S., and if there are just 5,000 people being treated the way that I am being treated?  The math speaks for itself.

This is a time where some of America’s most conservative leaders have spoken out about the issues regarding teen offenders.   Newt Gingrich has openly opposed the way that juvenile offenders are treated and dealt with in the system.  In an op-ed with Pat Nolan he says, “We did some pretty stupid things as teenagers that might have caused a lot of harm. You probably did, too. Fortunately, we didn’t hurt anyone badly, but we cringe now at how clueless we were about the possible consequences of what we did.”

Teenagers don’t often make very good decisions. Our laws take this into account in many ways:  we don’t let them drink until they are 21, and they can’t sign contracts, vote or serve on juries until they are 18.  But there is one area in which we ignore teens’ youthfullness and impulsiveness:  our criminal laws.  The application of our laws often ignores the differences between adults and teens, and some youngsters are sentenced to life in prison without parole.  Despite urban legends to the contrary, this law has no exceptions:  A teen sentenced to life without parole will die in prison as an old man or woman.  No exceptions for good behavior, no exceptions period.  No hope.

You might expect that these LWOP sentences are limited to the “worst of the worst,” but that is not the case.  A young teen can be a bit player in a crime, e.g., act as a lookout while his buddies go in to steal beer from the convenience store…About 45 percent of the inmates serving LWOP for teenage crime were not the person who caused the death.  Yet they will die in prison of old age, with no chance for release.  But should these youngsters die in prison for something they did when they were so young?  Would it not be better to re-evaluate them after having served a long stretch in prison to consider whether they have matured and improved themselves?

“We are conservative Republicans, and we believe that some people are so dangerous that we must separate them from our communities. That is what prisons are for.  But sometimes we overuse our institutions.  California’s teen LWOP [law] is an overuse of incarceration.  It denies the reality that young people often change for the better.  And it denies hope to those sentenced under it.  Of course, not every young person going through the system turns his or her life around.  But would not it be better to at least consider whether these inmates have matured and improved themselves after a long prison stretch?” (As quoted by Newt Gingrich)

So in light of this what does this say about a person such as myself who has demonstrated that I have matured and changed my life for the better?  Where is the justice in that.  I think someone needs to call Newt and ask him about my situation.  Like hey Newt here is the perfect example that what you consider to be appropriate in terms of release for juvenile offenders of violent offense that have served a long stretch.  Why can’t I get out and I don’t even have life without parole?  I have life with parole. So if a person who has demonstrated this with a parolable sentence can not make parole how is a teen with a LWOP going to ever be given a second chance?  Makes you think and wonder.

I am appealing to those interested parties to send this out to your colleagues, families and friends, teachers, professors, advocates, law centers whoever may find interest in this to join me in finding out solid answers.  Answers that are needed that will hopefully help free me from prison,  sooner rather than later.  One this that has been proven is that longer sentences create a loss of ties with the family and community. How is it that at the time where I would be the most productive I could be denied the chance to go out and be productive?  Is it that they are holding my age against me? I am 37 now and will be 42 if I have to do this whole 5 years. What if they decide to set me off again 5 more years? Now I would be 47. What productive years do i have left in me? I just become a product of another system that tax the American public because now I become too old to compete in the work force. That is the system of welfare and subsidized ex-offender government programs.

Pass the word and get this message out. It is what this site is about, A voice from the inside. This is a voice that needs to be heard. This is a call to action to see that this voice gets heard and to challenge those powers that are trying to suppress it. Please send this and link this message to you loved ones, friends and colleagues. I want as many people to know of this and hopefully stand in support of me as I fight it. It is important that you sign up as followers so that you get the updates as they come.

My plan is to formulate a letter that can be used by all to send to the parole commissioner asking for a reconsideration and a reopening of my case. The more support that I have the louder the voice becomes. If you know of anyone that has access to any type of media outlet, contact them about this story.  Whether it is through another blog site, the associated press, or NPR, and so on.

In closing I want to say thank you all for you support and I hope that this message is heart felt and taken into consideration by all.  I will be sending out another letter along with the address to write to.  If there are any specific questions that you have for me that may help you come to a decision please feel free to voice them, no matter what they are.

Thanks all

I just read an article yesterday that really blew me away. One of the things that I always hear, as most people, is how the various generations in this country are very different. I never understood this and why it is so important for people to hold strongly to those concepts that they identify the most with, within their generations. As apposed to seeking out the things that work and have been successful within all of these generations to make a better society. Well, yesterday I had one of those “aha” moments. One of those moments that spoke to my spirit and soul.

There is an article in The Sun magazine (July 2013) written by Katti Gray called, The Run-One Sentence, that spoke of the story of Eddie Ellis and his journey through a 25 year sentence and what he did with that time and how he lives now. I have never read anything about the prison experience and felt that I shared so much with the writer.

One of the things that really stuck out to me was the generational differences yet at the same time the similarities. It is almost like feeling stuck in a time capsule while doing this time, and to hear the story of an 86 year old man that did 25 years and went home shortly after I came to prison, i felt that it was me speaking in this article. The same frustrations, fears, apprehensions, concerns, zeal, motivation, insight, and desire to make things right were all the thing that we shared and had in common, similarities, yet we are generations apart.

So it leads me to believe that it is the experience that we have that provokes the way that we live out our values. It doesn’t matter what generation you come from it is the experiences that you have that define the way that you see the world and those in it. When I think about the state of low income neighborhoods and the conditions of these neighborhoods and its members it makes me think about how no matter the age or the era if the experience doesn’t change the people will not change. There are guys in my old neighborhood that are doing the same thing that they were doing 20 years ago when I cam to prison. The state of the people and the conditions are the same.

When I read of how Eddie felt when he had to check the young guy about the phone I understood what he meant and felt. I have had that happen to me before and it is always a battle between looking and being. In here it is not about being but looking the part. It is a fine line to walk.

When I am asked what makes me sad about this system I have to say that the lack of people that understand this system and what it takes to change to be a better person. There are so many lost souls behind these walls. Because we have been taught to shy away from those of other generations the youth are missing out on a lot. The answer to the experience lies with those that came before us. They are the ones that have experienced it and have the wisdom to deal with it.

One of the most important points that he made was the point about education being one of the main determining factors of reducing recidivism. I think that this is something that needs to be looked at and given consideration. One would be surprised by the outcry within the prison systems for programs that will make one productive upon ones return to society. For instance I was talking to a guy today who was sent back to prison from the halfway house. He was declared to have had escaped at a time he was at a government subsidized program taking an apprentice course test. So he was sent back to prison as a result of being late returning to the halfway house.

There are so many factors that weigh in on whether guys stay out once they are out. There are a lot things that are not working that need to be readdressed in order for guys to succeed. One of those things is education. There has to be an emphasis on education and an incentive for guys that succeed in that area. Not punishment.

I am at that place that Eddie was prior to his release and I could not be more thankful to read his story and find that I am not alone in what I see and have gone through. It is as if those of my generation can not understand me. I mean not may of them can say that they have 20 years of doing time under their belt. Not that it is something to be proud of but who can relate expect those that have done it.

I think that this is one of the most up-close and personal accounts that the civilian can get as it concerns the penal system and the dynamics that lead to mass incarceration and the social issues that cater to the perpetuation of recidivism. Also the challenges that men and women go through in order to obtain the things that they need to make them successful, education and realistic programs. I give this article two thumbs up and encourage all of my followers to find it, read it and build discussions around it. I am definitely interested to hear the opinions and questions of others.

Free Prisoner

It has been a while since I have written anything and I just want to share the reasons why. It has been a long time coming now and I am now about to go back up for parole, next week hopefully. I have been asked many times about how do I feel about being this close to home, if I make parole. It is hard to really say what I am feeling right now. I can describe how it was the first time that I went before the board.

When I went up the last time I was told that I was parole eligible and asked if I had an address to use in the event that I make parole. I was left speechless and it took me a minute to think of the address that I would use. Well, I didn’t make parole and was given another three years to do, what I am finishing up on now.

It was a surreal feeling when I was told that I would be recommended parole just as it was a surreal feeling when I was denied and told to do three more years. Now, I know that you may be thinking, “what is three more years after you have done so much time now?” Well, it is not the time, amount of time, it is the mindset that one has to go through in order to do the time.

I believe that there is a lot of institutional behaviors, thoughts and habits that one must shed before going home. Behaviors, thoughts and habits that are needed to survive within prison.

What roles am I talking about? Well, there are many roles that one has to play and I will try to give you some examples. One thing that seems to be noticeable is how possessive guys can be. Not only are they possessive they will take your life for some of these possessions. Things such as small as a spot on the floor. There are five TV’ s on the unit and the units are open so that means that it is like being in a crowded room all the time. They give us plastic chairs and guys come out in the morning and put there chairs in what is “their” spots on the floor. To move a guys chair is disrespectful and one will get hurt for this type of disrespect.

To move a guys shower stuff that is hanging on the shower door is a act of disrespect and one will get hurt about that. Another thing is that one often has to go to the showers in tennis shoes or boots, in the event that something breaks out. One has to be ready at all times for what ever may happen. Or what about not being able to take a nap during the day while the cell doors are unlocked. Or having to defecate with one leg out of ones pants. To get caught using that bathroom with both legs in your pants can cost you your life. It is hard to defend yourself when you are sitting on the toilet so you have to make sure that your legs don’t get tied up in your pants.

There are many roles that one has to take on in order to survive in here so to be told that I may be going home I felt that I needed to shed those roles and step into the role of being a law abiding citizen. A person who don’t get crazy stares for walking around in slippers. A person who don’t have to walk by a dying person and act as if nothing is going on. I think that has to have been one of the hardest things to adapt to. To see a guy getting stabbed to death and to have to walk away while hearing the screams and pleas of a dying man. To wake up everyday and to see the bloodstains from the events that have taken place over the years. It use to be hard to sleep at night when I was in Lorton. Lorton was open dormitory and there was always action going on. When the dorm lights went out the predators came out.

Well those are the skill that I didn’t want to take back to the free world with me so when I went to see the parole board the first time I thought that I was done with having to deal with all of the stuff that one has to deal with in prison. When I was denied parole I was stuck in between two worlds and it was hard to readjust to having to do three more years. That was the hardest part of that process. It was like day one all over again.

So this time around I think that I am hopefully but that is about it. I mean I would love to make parole and come home but the reality is that until I am actually released I have to stay focused on doing time. This is a tragedy for those guys that can’t get out of these roles, easily. They take the prison mentality home with them and the prison mentality is criminal therefore it is easy to result back to crime. That is the state that many find themselves in when they can’t switch roles.

I think that I will be alright as long as I can tell the difference and keep in my head that it is just a phase and that one day it will pass.

“It was once said that the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering in to its prisons.”

When it come to corrections there are four major goals that are primarily used to achieve a reduction in crime and recidivism, these goals consist of:

1.Rehabilitation-which stresses the re-socialization or reformation of the offender through institutional or community programs.
2.Incapacitation-which seeks to reduce crime through the actual physical restraints of the convicted offender.
3. Deterrence- which refers to the notion that the punishment of the offender serves as an example to the rest of the society.
4. Retribution-which refers to the correctional policies that are predicated on two principals:
(a)individual responsibility
(b) proportionality, meaning a convicted offender deserves to be punished because they are responsible for committing a specific criminal violation, and that the punishment must be proportional to the severity of the offense committed.

If these are the goals of incarceration there are certain elements that must be considered, in order for these goals to be met.

1 If rehabilitation is the goal of incarceration sentencing polices must involve flexibility and the goal has to reflect the characteristics and needs of the “individual”offender.
2 If incapacitation is the goal of incarceration it is expected that the goal to reduce crime and recidivism is met but using a system of sentencing based on legislative’s or the courts desire to keep of the streets those offenders who might otherwise engage in criminal behavior off the streets.
3. If deterrence is the goal of incarceration it may cater more to the side of the public and society, as they seek means to inhibit criminal behavior through these exemplary sanctions, therefore making the needs of society precedent over the needs of the individual offender.
4. If retribution is the goal of incarceration it would require a relatively inflexible sentencing system and little discretion would be permitted at the sentencing stage.

Often times what is overlooked is that there are very few direct links to crime and incarceration. Other than the one who commits crime eventually is incarcerated. Crime is a result of, and depends on, social conditions such as poverty, underemployment and urbanization, Currently incarceration polices respond not to crime but to political climates and legislative intent. The get tough on crime model has not worked and has been proven to be ineffective in reducing recidivism. Actually, there has been an increase in crime, violence and homelessness each year since the war on drugs began, or what is commonly now called “the get tough on crime”, policies have been used to address this issue.

Statistics show:

Between the years 2010 and 2011 violent victimization increased from 4.9 million to 5.8 million, an 18% increase.
1. Assaults, which account for 86% of all violent victimizations increased by 22 %
2. Total domestic violence increased from 1.1 million to 1.4 million in 2011.
3. Domestic violence increased from 4.4 million in 2010 to 5.3 million in 2011, a 19% increase.
4. Intimate violence increased from 3.0 million in 2010 to 3.3 million in 2011, a 9 % increase.

Crime is equated with social disruption and its perpetrators are a threat to the dominant culture. The role of the criminal justice system and especially prisons, is to protect societies lawful and the values of society. So the mindset is that if rehabilitation doesn’t work there is a primarily reliance of incapacitation, deterrence and retribution, which has become a cause to the overcrowdedness that exists in prisons today. It has been proved that incapatictaion, deterrence and retribution has not reduced criminality or recidivism, often most prisoners will leave prison in a worsened condition than when they entered.

What is recidivism and how is it defined?
*Recidivism is defined, by some, as the relapse of an individual into criminal activity based on re-arrest for new offenses that lead to incarceration.
What is Re-entry and how is it defined?
*Re-entry (often associated with recidivism) is the process of releasing prisoners into society , where plans for inmate’s transition, into society, are addressed. To help them develop the skills needed to live free of crime, to help them maximize the time they spend during incarceration and what its expected upon release.
So, if recidivism is associated with re-entry and it has been proven that incarceration doesn’t reduce recidivism nor protect the public, the question becomes, why is there an increasing flow of tax dollars in building more prisons when it could be used to developed more effective programs geared towards re-entry? one of the current strategies to reduce recidivism includes building more prisons and imposing harsher sentences, even though these methods have been proven to be ineffective. The sad reality is that tax payers are paying lager amounts of money to build more prisons rather than trying to find more effective and efficient ways to address this issue.

According to the Justice Mapping Center, www.justiceatlas.org.  “In Pennsylvania, taxpayers will spend over $40 million dollars to imprison residents of neighborhoods in a single zip code in Philadelphia, where %36 of the households have incomes under $25, 000.”   In an article that is posted on my blog, called the Million Dollar Block.   It speaks about places that spend more than a million dollars each year to incarcerate residents of a single block.  You can visit my site to read these articles.

The agencies that have changed the trend some and have seen bits of results in the area of reducing recidivism are the agencies that utilize what is called re-entry courts, which are working well and have had much success in reducing recidivism. Reentry courts consist of a system where the courts collaborate with probations and parole to accommodate some of the needs of the ex-offender.

A recidivism rate of two-third ( as of now the rate is 70%) clearly shows that something is amiss and some of the offenders are not being adequately prepared to return to society. This is often due the the lack of funding that is needed to develop the appropriate programs needed to better prepare and equip the offender.

10’s of thousands of Americans are released into the community from prison and jail every year and very few of them have the basic resources needed to stay out of prison. Sadly, often prison conditions make it easy for offenders to reoffend, as the basic necessities that most of them do not have out society they are provided in prison.

There is a need for access to services, including education, job training and job placement. There is also a need for substance and alcohol abuse treatment before and after release. Half of state prisoners and one-third of federal prisoners in 1997 reported committing their offenses while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Yet, among those who had used alcohol or drugs in the month before their crime, only %14 had received treatment since their admission into prison.
Many offenders have limited employment history and/or no experience needed to perform certain jobs. Some of these limitation are related to illiteracy as well as the lack of work training skills need to achieve self-sufficiency. Yet, few receive these services while in prison. Not necessary because they are not offered these skills but sometimes it is due to lack of enthusiasm.

How can this be addressed?

1. By redesigning the methods which are currently being used to address these issues.
2. Implementing and redesigning programs, as well as building facilities that specialize in the needs that are that are closely associated with crime and recidivism reduction.

The BOP has been looking for more ways to address some of these needs.  Here at this institution some of these steps include, but are not limited to:

1. Mock job fairs where one of the requirements is that the inmates learn how to write resumes and cover letters.

2. Partnerships with the local halfway houses and probation departments to speak to the guys about the realities of what to expect upon release.

3. The BOP also has an Inmate Employment Information Handbook that contains a list of the agencies and information that will be needed upon release.  This handbook is free and accessible to every BOP inmate.  Here at this institution we keep that information on hand and available to whoever wants it.  

4. A Career Resource Center where the inmates can gather information needed to obtain birth certificates, social security cards and other identification related information.  Information which is critical in gaining employment.  

One of the most important points that I want to make is how education is connected to the problem of recidivism. At least 70% of all people incarcerated have not completed high school. Out of this group %16 have not high school education at all. %40 are functionally illiterate, meaning that they read below or at the 5th grade level., %19 are completely illiterate. In the population of adults in America %21 are functionally illiterate and %4 are completely illiterate.

Studies show that education and recidivism are related because inmates with at lest two years of college education have a %10 re-arrest rate, while the national re-arrest is about %66. Despite the conclusive evidence the education has a direct link to crime, poverty, incarceration and recidivism education as a means of solution is often overlooked.

Education provides for employment, important to successful re-entry. There are two main systems in our society, Penal and Educational. When one fails the other takes its place. Those that adjust and do well in the educational system almost never find themselves in prison. Those that learn the importance of education while in prison almost never re-offend. Which is why furthering my education is so important to me, as well as advocating the importance of education on all levels, as a means to address these social issues that exist within our society.

Also attached to education is self worth and value, It is through education that one learns life skills, social and other proactive skills needed to stay connected to society. One also learns essential skills that will be essential to avoiding prison in the future. Lack of employment is one of the major reasons for committing crime. Lack of employment is often due to lack of education, in the communities that are more commonly associated with crime and low income.

It is through education that one learns their role in society. Many offender often return to communities that breed fragmentation and negative influences. Poverty  crime and ethnic disparity can create an imbalance in these communities therefore the community can no longer positively influence those that reside within it. The order of the day becomes survival. One begins to not only think this way but act out these roles as a means to survive. They begin to believe this is the role that they are supposed to play in life, as crime has now become a way of life for them. it is through education that this cycle is disrupted, and one learns to understand their roles in the greater society, and not just in one small destitute community.

(Would it be safe to say that what people learn in this community they practice in prison, and what they learn in prison they practice in the community?)

So that I am clear here let me go on the record as saying that it is important for those who have committed crimes to be punished, accordingly.  Therefore if incarceration is a reality of our society lets deal with the issue so that there becomes less of a need to use it in areas where it may not benefit and becomes more of a financial burden.

Along with the four goals of incarceration that are used today education has to be included as one of these goals. Not only does it have to be a component but the process of education has to start at an early age.

1. These components have to place a serious expectation, which members of the above communities can learn and benefit from education.

2. There has to be an upgrade tin the educational system at the early stages of development. Many people from these communities have been deemed unteachable and unlikely to learn. This is why of the when they enter into prisons they do not understand the value of education nor can they make the connections as to why it is important to have and education in order to remain free.

3. There has to be a broadening of opportunities and possibilities that are achieved through education. It is not enough to tell them, but to show that and continue to show them amd continue to reinforce the ideas, concepts and beliefs.

Although for some members of these communities going to prison is a given, and often considered normal, it is never too late to change. So as this stage the focus had to be on developing needs based programs, for the offender, specialized for their needs. These steps have to be taken earlier and also be workable and realistic. This plan has to focus on accountability, responsibility and be designed to set goals that will aid in the re-entry concerns that the offender must meet in order to remain free.

*The BOP has what is called an ISDS (Inmate System Development System) yet one of the concerns that I have with it is that the process of developing the plan can often come too late.  What do I mean?  The process in developing that plan needs to start at admission, at the very first jail that the inmate lands in.  It is often the case that this plan doesn’t start to develop until the inmate is sentenced and sent to their designated institution and often they have been exposed to other outside influences that may steer them away from starting the process of re-entry at an earlier point of their incarceration.  The earlier the better.

I strongly believe that investing in therapeutic learning communities and institutions, are a better investment of tax dollars, and would aid in addressing the needs that must be met to reintegrate into society. The intent and focus of these communities and program would be the acceptance of responsibility, restorative justice and meeting the educational and rehabilitation needs.

Without these programs and living conditions there is a higher chance that many offenders will fall victim to a certain type of prison socialization. The subculture that we call prison politics. It is a way of life that one has to adapt to in order to survive within the prison system. The subculture often breeds hostility, anger and resentment. Inmates often suffer extremes bouts of depression and anxiety. In some case there is a need to confine them to special housing units where they are locked down 23 hours a day depending on the time of year it could be for 24 hours at a time. I have experienced this type of solitary confinement many times during my incarceration. The SHU is used as a mechanism to modify inmates behavior. There are some of us who can withstand being locked down at lengths at a time, but there are more that can not withstand the hole. The longest time that I have done in the SHU at one time is 16 months.

These conditions and this subculture can deaden the emotions that are needed to be empathetic to the experiences of those who are harmed as a result of crime. Empathy is an important aspect in the process of change and transformation.

One of the programs that I helped to develop and facilitate here is a a program called “The New Beginnings Program”. It is a program that focus on many of the pre-incarceration issues which often lead to prison m as well as many of the post incarceration issues which often leads one back to prison. There are several components to The New Beginning Program some of them being:

1. Crime prevention – where the realities of crime and its roots are addressed. We discuss the importance of living a productive and responsible lifestyle, free of crime. Thorough increasing awareness of certain social behaviors and conditions that contribute to crime and violence.

2. we discuss thinking barriers and tactic use that complements the criminal personality. so it is here that we work on correcting think patterns.

3. we focus on substance and alcohol abuse awareness, as well as lifestyles that are equally addictive and dangerous.
4. we also have a mentoring and coaching component.

The New Beginnings Program is based on the concept that, if a person is willing to make the choice to change there are three concepts that can be applied to their lives for what we call transformation to work.  Those three concepts being:

1. Relationships – the developing of positive and productive relationships that nurture growth and development.  This is where coaching has been very effective.

2. Reframing – changing the way that one views life on a whole.

3. Repetition – getting into the practice of doing these things over and over again

The most important and critical component of this program is relationships, and the goal of this program is to stress the importance of building, mending and fostering healthy positive and productive relationships.

Another and very important program that is in the developmental stages is a program geared and focused towards preparing guys for the transition back into the family.  One of the most critical components in reducing recidivism is support, family in particular.  This is an area that is often overlooked.  How is the person going to be received back into the home?  What transitions and changes does the family have to make to accommodate the person back into their lives?  I know that there are many accommodations needed upon my release; the question now becomes is my family ready to meet the man who left a boy?

Another project that I am currently involved with is a project that I have going on with a Dr. Patrick Williams, founder of The Institute for Life Coach Training and co-author of the book Becoming a Professional Life Coach. What we are doing is finding ways to incorporate Life Coaching as a means of intervention in the area of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency. We are looking for organizations to network with and work with to achieve this goal.  This is something that is most important to me.  This is where I focus most of my attention and why I designed the RECONSTRUCT PROGRAM.  My focus is in the area of Juvenile Justice.  Please visit Coaching The Global Village to read more about this project.

I came to prison as a juvenile and I will tell you that they system has it all wrong when it comes to that area. I am not talking about juveniles being charged as adults but the treatment of juvenile and the expectations for them to act and think as adults once in the system.  So, my goal is to get involved with others that need first hand education on this issue.

One of the projects that I wanted to do was a project called the first 365. It is a documentary that recounts the first year after my release. How does a guy that came to prison a child and leaves a man after 20 plus years adjust to a new world. I can not imagine a world with computers while you can not imagine a world with out one!! So how is the re-entry process for a person such as this. This is something that I have, unsuccessfully, been trying to get others involved in, making and filming this documentary. If push come to shove I will do it on a I PHONE, because the message needs to get out there and people need to see it.

One of my future plans is to use my experiences, expertise and skills to work with wayward youth, which to me is the ultimate recidivism reducer.  Get them before they get here.  I really want to focus on the concept of relationships and Life Coaching.  I also intend to work in the field of re-entry and with ex-offenders.

In closing, I want to say that this is a societal issue that concerns us all and that to fix any of it requires that those who share the common goal of changing what exists today collaborate and work together to get the job done. These partnerships are essential in more ways than one.

As I get closer to coming home I ask myself, What makes me so different from the statistics that I just mentioned?  I ask myself who is really invested in, no only, my transition back into society, but also the transition of the other men that will be released from prison, who may have the same potentials that I have if not more.  I am fully confident that I have the tools to succeed, but what concerns me is not my capabilities but the willingness of others in extending the hand of opportunity needed in order to use the skills that I have to make a difference in a problem that will be just as much mine one day as it is yours now.  My goal and the question of what I am going to do becomes clear.  That is get out and become a citizen regardless if others are willing to help me along the way.  I am going to ask myself, Have I left something behind that is worthwhile, something productive?  Did I leave prison, making a difference and what have I done to become part of the solution?  The question now becomes what are you going to do?