Monthly Archives: March 2015

An Inside View of the Criminal Justice System

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons’ inmate population dropped from almost 220,000 in 2013 to 214,277 inmates on October 4, 2014. It is unlikely that the B.O.P. had anything to do with the reduction. I am certain that the reduced numbers came from policies implemented by Attorney General Eric Holder to slow the influx of prisoners into the system. The B.O.P. does not have a track record for doing anything to slow or to reduce their prison growth rate.  On paper they do a lot. In actuality they do very little.  At least from my perspective that is how it is, unless another agency successfully puts pressure on them to actually do something. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) noted B.O.P.’s failure to take action in several situations, including those recommended by the OIG.  See OIG December 2013 report on “Addressing the Growing Crisis in the Federal Prison System” (provided by Jeremy Gordon, ESQ (www.gordondefence.com) in his weekly newsletter info@topfederallawyer.com).

The report showed that the B.O.P. consumed $4.3 billion of the Department of Justice budget in 2001 (20%), and that by Fiscal Year 2013, that number ($4.3 billion) had grown to $6.4 billion (25%). The OIG then criticized them for not taking measures to reduce their prison population. Even when Congress provided relief valves for the B.O.P. to use to reduce their prison population, nothing happened. The Compassionate Release program is one example: prisoners usually die before being released for terminal illness. After the revised program statement that added other factors warranting consideration, nothing changed. I could give real life examples to prove the point, many men I knew qualified but were still denied. The revised Program Statement looked good on paper but the B.O.P. ideology stayed the same. The facts prove that B.O.P. officials are not concerned about doing anything to interfere with their job security. Maybe that is why AG Holder took the initiative in August 2013 to change D.O.J. Policies to reduce their budgetary needs, since evidence proved that the B.O.P. would not do anything to thin out their over-populated prison system. Ironically, two of the last three B.O.P. directors, who left the B.O.P. under unfavorable circumstances, went to work for Correctional Corporation of America, the world’s largest private prison industry. The number of prisoners contracted out to CCA increased after Michael Quinlan and Harley Lappin left the B.O.P. and joined CCA. The B.O.P.’s 2014 budget request included $26.2 million for 1,000 contract beds.

By the way, it seems as though anytime an Attorney General comes up with something that works or would work if implemented, they resign or move on shortly thereafter, as will Eric Holder, and as did AG John Ashcroft (after he instructed prosecutors to stop dismissing the most serious charges to get plea bargains, in order to bring practices in line with Congress’ Truth in Sentencing Act designed to reduce sentencing disparities). When AG Ashcroft sent out his memorandum, the biggest complaints came from the Public Defender Association (PDA), who threatened to recommend that more people go to trial. The PDA claimed that for every five percent decrease in guilty pleas, the court’s docket would increase by 30%. Translation: 1 out of 10 more defendants electing for trial would equate into a 60% increase in court dockets and thus overwhelm the system. Quite frankly, attorneys are “Friends of the Courts” and profit more by convincing defendants to plead guilty rather than to go to trial. Going to trial is a time consuming process. The Plea System is a “Wham Bam Thank You Mam” process that allows attorneys to send hundreds of defendants before judges for sentencing each month, versus spending days with each client who goes to trial. If more defendants went to trial, Sentencing laws would have changed years ago. The first report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission (released in 1993), found that just as many people were pleading guilty and the new law was not clogging up the courts, so there was no need to recommend a change. Translation: had more people faced the devil by going to trial, instead of succumbing to the government’s often over-exaggerated threats, the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 would have resulted in mass chaos in the courts and been aborted.

Another example of the B.O.P. not taking action to reduce populations, lies in their ability to give prisoners up to 54-days per year off of their sentences; instead, they choose to give 48-days, based upon their interpretation of the statute Congress created for prisoners to serve 85% of prison sentences (15% off for good behavior is 54-days that no one gets). Some states have taken initiatives to reduce their prison populations, such as California and New York. Maybe the New York success influenced AG Holder to do as he did.

California and New York legislators deserve praise, and with that coming from me, that says a lot. I am a federal prisoner serving a 35-year prison sentence for driving a second getaway vehicle in an armed bank robbery and associated charges.  As a result of my part in the crimes, I will have served thirty-years and nine months by the time I am released on April 24, 2019, whereas numerous rapists, child molesters, murderers, and an assortment of other violent offenders were released within a few years of committing their crimes. Legislatures helped create the absurd laws that have kept me in prison since August 18, 1988; therefore, I normally do not give legislators much praise because of my belief that most operate more on financial initiates than on moral convictions. Maybe the same was true for those in New York and California who voted to change policies and laws. I do not know. Either way, New York legislators did well by changing the Rockefeller drug laws to slow the influx of prisoners pouring into the system, and offering early release programs for non-violent offenders to help lower deficits.

In 1991 the New York prison population was at 71,500. Since then it has dropped by 25%, which has led to the closure of several prisons and jails. Of course, when state officials announced their plan to close and sell some of those old prisons and jails, it created opposition from unionized prison workers and local residents who relied on the prisons for financial security. I do not blame anyone for not wanting to lose a job or business, but I am happy that some people got out of prison and have not had to return to feed the appetite of those who thrive off others’ misery. Those actions by NY’s legislators also helped many drug addicts hustling to get high, who no longer had to serve decades of their lives in prison for what most people seemed to view as minor offenses. The benefit for the State came from being able to reduce their prison population and then closing human warehouses for the poor and mentally ill (prisons). Taxpayers benefit through reduced tax liabilities and maybe even by gaining co-taxpayers, should those who committed sins against the state not reoffend and then become productive members of society.

My praise for California legislators comes from another article I read in the June 2014 issue of PRISON LEGAL NEWS (“Consequences of California’s Realignment Initiative,” by Christopher Petrella and Alex Friedmann), which said, “[t]he Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to proceed with plans to demolish the Men’s Central Jail …. [which] holds 19,000 prisoners.” The area that remains after the demolition of the jail will become “[a] treatment facility for offenders with substance abuse and mental health problems.” Treating prisoners with dual or co-occurring disorders (substance abuse & mental illness) will have a substantial effect on lowering recidivism rates. Even though some criticize the plan for various reasons, the politicians deserve praise because of the long-term effect that the treatment facility will have at reducing recidivism and giving the offenders another shot at life. A study reported in the December 2, 2002, edition of USA TODAY illustrates the seriousness of those suffering from co-occurring disorders (“Study: Treat addicts’ mental illness,” by Marilyn Elias).*  Specialists have known for years that it took combining treatment for addiction problems and mental illness for successful treatment, and that treating those for dual disorders would reduce recidivism when the afflicted did not return to prison.

Recidivism is the return to old behaviors, such as a recovering addict or alcoholic who relapses and returns to using a mind-altering substance, or an ex-convict who returns to criminal or delinquent behaviors upon release. Unfortunately,  an overwhelming percentage of prisoners recidivate: 76.6% return with a new charge within five-years of their release.**  Many individual categories exceed 75%; e.g., larceny/motor vehicle theft (84.1%); burglary (81.8%); for drug offenders, 78.3% who were in for possession, and 75.4% who were in for trafficking. With such a high return rate, the numbers prove that the Get-Tough-On-Crime policies only succeed at maybe increasing the wealth of politicians and others who invest in private prison industries or companies providing goods and services to the Prison Machine. If the Incarceration of America worked, it would seem as though a higher percentage of released prisoners would not recidivate; especially, if their captors had provided treatment options for problems that led them to prison. Providing educational opportunities is another proven method to reduce recidivism but rarely acted upon.

When prison administrators failed to take action in response to the 2002 study about treating co-occurring disorders, it illustrated a lack of concern for reducing recidivism; understandably, though, since prisoners are their commodity. (It has been over twelve years since that study. To date, the B.O.P. has one small unit in Lexington, KY where treatment is combined.) In response to the study findings, Dr. Charles Curie, Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said, “And we know if these inmates recover from the disorders, they’re unlikely to repeat crimes.”  Maybe that standing alone does not carry much of an impact, but when combined with the other numbers concerning the number of prisoners suffering from dual disorders who need help and are not getting it in prison, it knocks a tremendous hole in any defense the B.O.P. or any other “incarceration agency” might make to defend not taking action years ago. From that same article, Ms. Elias reported that “[a] recent study of the Pennsylvania state prison system found that 85% of inmates had addiction problems, and half of them mental disorders as well.  ‘That’s typical of prison systems nationally,'” Dr. Currie said. That equates into 42.5% of prisoners having dual disorders. Considering that the United States has approximately 2.3 million prisoners, 42.5% is a lot of prisoners and a lot of tax dollars that could have been saved if prison administrations had acted to provide treatment for those who wanted to fight their co-occurring disorders. One would think that those concerned with protecting the public would have concentrated their efforts to help reform and rehabilitate prisoners who would be released back into society, so that those released would not get out and collect victims by committing more crimes.

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NOTES:

* In one of my personal essays, I wrote about the findings reported in USA TODAY and show by the numbers how my life of crime has cost American taxpayers well over a million dollars. I also show the effect of recidivism on society from a personal standpoint. I added “No Sympathy” to my collection to be released soon (ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN by Wayne T. Dowdy, $17.95, Midnight Express Books & other print & eBook distributors ($9.95)).  I tell part of my personal history in dealing with addiction problems and a mental illness, from which I have been in recovery for almost twenty-years.

** NCJ244205, April 2014, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Statistics, “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010,” Mathew R. Durose, Alexia D. Cooper, Ph.D, and Howard N. Snyder, Ph.D, BJS Statisticians.

Fighting For The Right To Write

I am in a battle that should not be: with the head of the Education Department and prison authorities over my right to type book manuscripts and other non-legal documents, such as business or personal letters, college course assignments, resumes, etc. (Technically, if something is not illegal, it would actually be “legal.” ) Imagine that — a prisoner fighting his keepers so he can do something to constructively occupy his time. By the way, this is not a national issue, since the majority of prison administrators encourage prisoners to constructively occupy their time by learning new skills, trades, getting a better education, reading, as well as writing business and personal letters to prepare for release from prison.

Writing can be instrumental in the life of a prisoner who needs to establish contacts within the community to help secure employment, housing, and to build family and community ties. Furthermore, federal officials consider an inmate’s family and community ties as a factor in determining the custody and security score of inmates. The staff use that score to determine the level of security necessary to manage the inmate; e.g., placement in low, medium, or high security facilities, each of which have different programs available for inmates to use, and different management techniques for staff to follow.

What I find insane about the situation, is that the Director of the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons, Mr. Charles E. Samuels, Jr., encourages his 216,000* inmates to “[p]repare for a successful return to the community.” In his December 9, 2013, MEMORANDUM TO ALL BUREAU INMATES, he wrote, “Our long standing approach that ‘Reentry Begins on the First Day of Incarceration’ is as true today as it has ever been in the past. The Bureau of Prisons provides and searches for new opportunities to help you be as productive as possible while in prison, preparing to return to your family and community as a productive, law abiding citizen.” I believe he means what he wrote. The sad part is that some of those he entrusts to carry out his mission are not on the same page, as many prison officials are stuck in the “old mentality” and would revert to the days of putting prisoners in sweat boxes and beating them, if the laws had not changed to deter them from doing it.

According to the Bureau of Prisons Program Statement P.5350.27, Inmate Manuscripts, dated 07/27/99, which was written to “[e]ncourage inmates to use their leisure time for creative writing …..” In other words, the Program Statement authorizes me to “[p]repare a manuscript for private use or for publication while in custody without staff approval.”

My use of the program statement to support my opposition against the new policy was unsuccessful, never mind the fact that that is one of many program statements that changed because a judge determined that the former program statement contained unconstitutional provisions that violated an inmate’s First Amendment right to the United States Constitution (freedom of speech). Their response was that it does not specify that I can type one, only that I can, so I pointed out that it is an industry standard and known that all manuscripts submitted for publication have to be typed, not handwritten. Personally, I believe the recent change implemented here by the Supervisor of Education and the Associate Warden of Industries, Education, and Recreation, has some root in my speaking out against the system in some of my published works: “Education, the Prisoner, and Recidivism” by Wayne T. Dowdy (www.PrisonEducation.com); UNDER PRESSURE-MOTIVATIONAL VERSION by Mr. D. (Midnight Express Books, $9.99 @ Amazon.com and CreateSpace.com (https://www.createspace.com/4325313)).  Whatever the case may be, I will continue the fight for the right to write, because it is not just about me.  Other prisoners deserve the same privilege and may not have the skills or courage needed to fight Goliath with pens and paper or keys on a keyboard. I do.

Retaliation against those of us who speak out is common, even if not as common as it once was, it still occurs. Doing the right thing often has risks and consequences. Frankly, I cannot allow the fear of possible retaliation to stop me from doing what I feel I should do. Since I am a writer with a vested interest in the situation, what kind of man would I be to not use the skills I have that are needed to possibly resolve the issue? Anyway, I am 30,000-words into the sequel (UNKNOWN INNOCENCE) and have people waiting for its completion, so, I would like to deliver on my promise of putting it in their hands in the near future. I also enjoy occupying my free time writing and helping others learn to write novels, essays, and short stories.

I plan to be victorious in the battle of the fight for the right to write and will not give up until I have exhausted all available options, including bringing a civil action law suit against them, better known as a Bivens Action, when federal officials are being sued in their personal capacities. I do hope to report later that the matter was resolved without a long drawn out legal battle. Wish me luck. Thanks!

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*Based on B.O.P. population report as of January 2014.  The B.O.P. inmate population has declined, which just recently occurred, so some of the political moves initiated by Attorney General Eric Holder may now be working; e.g., instructing his underlings to be less zealous in the methods and techniques used in the prosecution of non-violent drug offenders. (The total inmate population was at 218,849 on November 21, 2013. The total population includes all of those held in private facilities, jails, halfway houses, etc.) The inmate population decline may be due to the prison growth rate slowing, rather than more prisoners being released through changes in programs like Compassionate Release and Reduction In Sentences, which was revised on August 12, 2013, to include additional categories for elderly inmates eligible for a compassionate release or a reduction in sentence. Another category added for eligible inmates are those who have young children, whose caretaker may now be in poor health, and the inmate is the only other person left to care for the child.

Education, the Prisoner and Recidivisim

In studies on prisoners, education, and recidivism, the results show a decrease in recidivism by those prisoners who received education while incarcerated. Based upon findings reported in ‘Education Reduces Crime, Three-State Recidivism Study,’ [Education, The Prisoner, and Recidivism, Stephen Steurer, Ph.D., Project Director, and Linda G. Smith, Ph.D., Research Consultant] (Feb. 2003), “The research reported here shows strong support for educating incarcerated offenders. All of the analyses described lead to several compelling conclusions.” For instance, a reduction in recidivism, and “higher wages that generally indicate that individuals are better able to support themselves and their families, and that they are engaged in jobs that hold promise of sustainability.” Image courtesy journalstar.com

As noted by the authors in their conclusion, “Focusing solely on recidivism would be inadequate, however, especially when there are many other meaningful outcomes such as family stability, workforce participation, and cost savings/benefits.” Society gains if a former prisoner becomes a productive member, instead of another crime statistic in the making. The would-be-recidivist becomes a taxpayer instead of a tax liability; many become supportive family members, community servants, skilled laborers, or business professionals helping to build their communities.

In another report, “Cuts in Prison Education Put Illinois at Risk,” written by Robert Manor, with assistance from John Maki, both from the John Howard Association of Illinois, “It costs anywhere from $17,000 to $64,000 a year to incarcerate an inmate, depending largely on the security level of the prison … Education sharply reduces the likelihood that someone will recidivate. A 1997 study published by the Illinois Department of Corrections found that postsecondary education cut recidivism by two-thirds, from 39 percent to 14 percent.” The 1997 Illinois recidivism rate is substantially less than the 1997 National average of 67.5% for the “Re-arrest” recidivism rate of those released in 1994 Bureau of Justice Statistics Reentry Trends in the U.S.: Recidivism, which said something positive for the State of Illinois before they stopped what was working.

Providing postsecondary education apparently made a difference. In the Federal Bureau of Prisons, only a few can afford college correspondence courses, since Congress restricted prisoners from receiving federal student aid – including the need-based Pell Grants – in 1994. Even though the Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) offers an Inmate Scholarship Award program, which pays a portion of tuition fees, most prisoners cannot pay the difference and even more don’t even know about it or how to apply, so only a few can capitalize on the available benefit. (UNICOR inmate pay ranges from $30.00 to $180.00 per month: some slightly even more, but most around $100.00 or less) With federal prisoners in UNICOR earning more than state prisoners, that should give you an idea about the state of affairs in state prisons, and why recidivism rates are soaring. The federal government offers its prisoners a GED. Therefore, most prisoners leave prison armed with a GED to compete against those without a criminal history, packing postsecondary education degrees. The released prisoner’s criminal history alone presents a barrier to gainful employment in many situations, which often results in more victims, more recidivism, and more crime statistics. Providing prisoners with opportunities for postsecondary education reduces all three statistics.

In the article about Illinois being at risk, the authors wrote, “The more education an ex-offender has received in prison, the less likely he or she will again commit a crime.” Those studies remove doubt about the cost-effectiveness of educating prisoners, since it costs more to incarcerate than to educate. Therefore, there is no logical explanation for legislatures to vote to remove educational opportunities for the disadvantaged. The fear of a “Soft on Crime” label is the only explanation for such poor decisions by our Nation’s leaders. Recidivism has numerous associated costs: cost of law enforcement solving crimes, capturing and detaining criminals for judicial proceedings; judicial cost of jury trials or plea bargains; appellate processes, post-conviction relief efforts, and the cost of re-incarceration. A more cost-effective approach is for government to reduce recidivism by providing 1) educational opportunities, 2) substance abuse treatment, and 3) psychiatric care to those in need. Continuing to pay for the repeating costs of the recidivist is not financially responsible when other alternatives exist.

“More importantly, less recidivism means greater public safety. … No one can put a price on public safety, but crime prevention is the most important benefit of prison education programs.”

Life From “F”s to “A”s

I hated haircuts and going to school when I was a child. I made straight “F”s in the public school system and eventually dropped out because I kept getting expelled for disruptive behavior. I thought I was dumb because of my straight F average. Now I feel the low self-opinion came from the negative criticism I received regularly. Anyway, things change. Today I cut my own hair and wear it relatively short, and regret that I used to be disruptive and disobedient and hated school. I value the education I have since obtained.

At fifteen-years-old, on the second day of school (I had skipped the first day), the principal expelled me for the remainder of the school year for throwing a book at a teacher. I was already on Aftercare/Probation because I had served time at the Youth Development Center in Augusta, Georgia for drug charges and stealing a car, so the court made me go to school at the Juvenile Detention Center in Clayton County. I was the only one in the class the teacher allowed to listen to music while doing class assignments. He let me use headphones to listen to vinyl records on what would now be viewed as an ancient record player. He also let me work at my own pace. I excelled in all areas of study, but when I returned to the public arena, I succeeded only in getting expelled again for the rest of the year. A teacher caught me coming out of the girls’ bathroom, where I had been inside smoking with a wannabe-girlfriend. He reached to grasp my arm and I yanked away and used several expletives to tell him to keep his hands off of me, which he did due to his fear of being assaulted. After that, I gave up on the school scene and stopped trying, which ultimately lead to me getting my education in the prison system–not a wise choice.

When I was nineteen-years-old, and in prison for burglarizing a house to steal guns, I got my GED. I did not have long to go before getting out, so the education staff put me in a prep class for two-months to prepare for taking an SAT. I barely scored high enough on it to qualify for taking the GED. And then when I took the GED I barely passed it, but I did pass, and did eventually use that GED to get into college (while in prison, of course).  I was terrible in math and could not even divide when I entered college, but I had scored high enough in all other areas to pass: I guessed 31-out of-50 right on the math part of the GED test. Anyway, when at the Y.D.C. in Milledgeville, Georgia, I had a math teacher who said, “You do everything backwards but still get the correct answer.” I knew you checked division with multiplication and vice-versa, so I would multiply to get the answers for division problems. I did not see an advantage in knowing math, other than how to count, but once I entered college and realized I would need to know math to figure out whether or not I was being cheated on interest rates, if buying a house or car, I applied myself and made an “A” in a remedial math class that brought my math skills up to college level. In college, the worse grade I made was one “C”; all other grades were “A”s and “B”s, and since I stopped getting high in 1995, I have never made anything less than “A”s. Today, I am a published author that I most likely would not be if I had not obtained my education. Experience taught me the value of learning how to read. I enjoy reading books written by someone knowledgeable in subjects of interest. The writer often saves me time by having accumulated and compiling data in the book or magazine that I can use in my quest for knowledge. The written word often gives me a reference point for beginning my own research for writing an article, essay, or short story. Books of the educational variety provide me with information to use to help others by helping them learn something they asked me about: Doing so makes me feel good because I like helping others.

Words have the power to affect a change. Just as I remembered the words of the math teacher, I also remember words from another teacher who commented that many people do not chew food before swallowing. Because of her words, I learned to take my time while eating and still have a good digestive system as a result of it. Additionally, an elderly House Parent, at the same place (Augusta Y.D.C.) once said to us that, “Two things that get you in trouble are your hands and mouth.”  I have seen the wisdom of her words many times.  That was over forty years ago.  The power in some words took years to overcome. I remember many words spoken to me during my youth, many of which I wish I had forgotten; especially, the critical ones from my mother, who told me I would never amount to anything. I still love her and forgave her several years ago. I realize that she only gave me what she had been given, so I do not hold that against her and know that she never meant to harm me. Realistically, she probably added other modifiers to the sentence, like “If you don’t change your ways,” but I only heard the words that tore into my soul. Now I use that memory in dealing with others by trying to avoid insulting or demeaning them because I do not want to possibly lessen their self-esteem, and in prison, the lack of self-esteem is common. Without my education, though, I would not have as many words to use for effect or have a clue about their effect on others. Words help me to communicate feelings.

Education and acquired knowledge helped me make better decisions in changing the direction of my life, as it will anyone who puts forth the effort to change. I am not special or unique.  I am only a man who found out that it is okay to admit mistakes, who has learned to use those mistakes to help others to avoid making the same ones. Twenty-six years later, as I near the end of this 35-year-federal prison sentence, it is my hope that the words I have written will help someone change the direction of their life. My mistakes lead to me spending most of my 57-years behind walls, bars, and fences lined with razor wire. Each of us have choices: A better education allows people to make better ones. Turn “F”s into “A”s and life will be better in the end. If for no other reason, for how you feel about the person who stares back in the mirror, which is more important than what any other person may think of you. Do not let someone else determine your self-worth. That is your choice. Keep the power and speak kindly to yourself and others.

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Author:  I am a Georgia native who grew up in the Atlanta area. I have been in the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons since August 18, 1988, for armed bank robbery and associated charges. I hope that doesn’t matter to you but I understand if it does. I live my life today much differently than I did in my youth. I was 31-years-old when arrested and will be 62 upon release on April 24, 2019.

I have been published over twenty-five times in various magazines and newsletters, many under another pseudonym I use because the Twelve Traditions of Twelve-Step programs require that I do. I’ve also been published in CONFRONTATION magazine, which is the literary journal of Long Island University; twice in THE ICONOCLAST, and have had several small clips published by THE SUN magazine out of Chapel Hill, NC.

Wayne T. Dowdy, #39311-019, B-3

P.O. Box 725, FCI

Edgefield, SC 29824-0725

Social Media for Writers

[January 11, 2019:  In the future I will update this blog post to make it current, now that I am a free man and am able to do the necessary research to make the content more useful to those of you who wish to improve your social media experience.]

I am sending this out to provide what I hope to be helpful information for interested persons, or for anyone willing to share the information with a new or aspiring writer, who will capitalize on the following social media outlets: Wattpad, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook Fan Pages, Blogs & Press Releases. Readers and social media socialites may equally find something helpful. Feel free to share this with others.

WATTPAD

Wattpad is the social networking site for writers and readers that provides an outlet for writers to post their writings for readers to read for free. Check it out. Wattpad recently started offering users the possibility to raise funds for their projects, like Kickstarter.

TWITTER

Twitter limits messages to 140-characters but has continued to grow in the fast paced world and seems to be a must for many who want to be noticed, as most writers and celebrities do. Mark Haverstock says, “Twitter caters to both the busy and the attention-challenged, with a 140-word maximum microblogging format.” (See Tumblr data for more from Haverstock.) These are links to get you started:

http://michaelhyatt.com/the-beginners-guide-to-twitter.html
https://support-twitter.com/articles/100990-signing-up-with-twitter#
http://inkygirl.com/a-writers-guide-to-twitter
http://www.mitaliblog.com/2009/08/getting-started-on-twitter-quick-guide.html
TUMBLR

According to the Writer’s Guide to 2014 ($23.95, Writer’s Institute Publications), in “Stepping Into the World of Social Media” by Mark Haverstock, “Tumblr is a social media site where users can share anything and everything–blog text, pictures, videos, music files, links, and more. … Tumblr is also chock full of inspiration. You can find anything from full-length blog posts, to poems, awe-inspiring pictures, music and links, to great sites all on this one social media resource. Tags allow you to give your posts a little extra exposure, so you can share them not only with people who follow you, but others who check out those tag threads–definitely a feature worth taking advantage of.” All links come from the same source, except for those in the last section (Blogs & Press Releases). The article lists these three associated links for Tumblr:

http://www.wikihow.com/Create-a-Tumblr-Account
http://www.tumblr.com/register
http://digitalsherpa.com/setting-up-your-tumblr-account-and-getting-started
FACEBOOK FAN PAGES

Most writers will probably benefit from having a Facebook Fan Page, along with their own personal pages on Facebook, which after creating a Fan Page, would conceivably benefit by letting their friends know about their Fan Page to gain more exposure. (I recently read that writers should not use their personal Facebook page for marketing their book, since people who sign on as friends are more interested in the writer’s personal life. It is supposedly okay for the writer to write about events in their life, how these events relate to their writing career or the book, but not to use the personal page as a sales platform.) As a writer who cannot access these sites due to being in prison, and thus cannot use the available tools for marketing books and writings as most writers do, I can attest to the difficulties in generating readers and customers for self-published materials by not having the social media forum I would otherwise have if able to access those sites. I have the skills and the technical knowledge to create web pages, blogs, etc.; however, I cannot actively engage my reading audience through blogging or posting my writings on a website, because I have to depend on others for connecting with the outside world, and none of the people I am currently involved with have the time or know-how to do what I need. (I am still in the process of finding ways to do all of the above.) Here is the info for creating a Fan Page:

https://www.facebook.com/about/pages
Ten-Step quick start: http://www.wikihow.com/Create-a-Facebook-Fan-Page
Detailed instructions: http://computer-howstuffworks.com/internet/tips/how-to-make-fan-page-on-facebook.htm
Here are some writers’ Fan Pages you may view for ideas on design and content:

Stephenie Meyer: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Stephenie-Meyer/108380102517046?fref=ts (fan page)
John Green: http://www.facebook.com/JohnGreenfans?fref=ts
E.J. James: http://www.facebook.com/ELJamesAuthor
Gretchen Rubin: http://www.facebook.com/GretchenRubin
BLOGS & PRESS RELEASES

Two free blog sites are WordPress (www.wordpress.com) and Blogspot Platform (www.blogger.com). Since I see it used most often, I suspect that WordPress is the best choice. Both have templates and other accessories to help the writer set up their blog. Blogs are a must have social media platform for the aspiring writer to succeed at getting noticed and getting the word out. Some may choose to set up the blog to interact directly with their followers, while others may be too busy for that type of communication with their fans and, instead, elect to post sample chapters from a novel and post survey questions to engage their audience; e.g., which scene the reader liked most, who is their favorite character, what would they like to see happen, etc. By posting chapters in advance of completing the book, the writer is able to arouse interest in their product and have customers waiting to purchase it upon release.

For those who have a book release, try PRLOG (www.prlog.org), which is a free press release distribution service. Good luck. Wayne T. Dowdy (waynedowdy@StraightFromThePen.com).