Category Archives: Politics

Federal prisoners hold $100 million in government-run accounts, shielded from some criminal scrutiny and debt collection – The Washington Post

UPDATE (06/10/2021): The referenced program statement for the collection of fines and restitution may be read on the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) website (Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (bop.gov)). Some of the sanctions for NOT meeting financial responsibility are listed on pages 11-13, many of which are severe.

Inmates must pay or be sanctioned for non-participation. If a court ordered the defendant to pay the cost of incarceration, the BOP takes that first.

Personally, while on the Inside, I was fired three times from my position in UNICOR for not paying restitution that the court ordered to be PAID UPON RELEASE FROM IMPRISONMENT. Eventually, I won the battle and the BOP stopped extorting me.

Based upon the above, I do not find the attached article reliable, even though I am sure the reporter only stated what he had been told, much of which was misleading in my opinion.

*****************************************

I wish reporters who report this type of articles were more knowledgeable about laws and prison policies. Maybe The Washington Post will find better reporters. The BOP has a policy for collecting restitution and other debts owed by prisoners.

The fact is, though, that the BOP often collects the money from prisoners each month and then holds it in the BOP account and draws interest on the money collected.

In this case, then, the Villain is the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/bureau-of-prisons-bank-system/2021/06/08/2aff9766-c3d1-11eb-8c18-fd53a628b992_story.html

LEVIATHAN – Giving Name to the Prison Industrial Complex

By Abdul-Jalil Rashid Al-Imarah (S. Baptiste)

Paid content is as submitted, other than minor editorial changes. Straight from the Pen does not express any opinion on the subject matter or content or the validity of any statement or claim made.

“The American Prison System has grown into a leviathan unmatched in human history. The financial costs entailed are staggering, and extent of human suffering endured boggles the mind.” [1]

We live in a complicated world. We are bombarded with questions as well as skepticism regarding our various stances on multiple issues. The world today as we know it is tremendously different than yesterday. It is the age of global activism and advocacy. Where international crisis constantly buzz across our news feed. Atrocities, mayhem, and scandals. A time of global unrest sparked by economic inequality, lack of social justice, climate change, imperial military interventions under the guise of humanitarian intent, terrorism, and civil wars. The new issues we are forced to address by way of them becoming prominent in the media such as #MeToo movement, LGBQT, immigration, genocide, Islamophobia and everything else in the motley menagerie of issues that the talking heads of punditry and demagoguery tells us are important, have multiplied.

Well I’m going to tackle two issues that are significant yet overlooked: Mass incarceration and immigration, sometimes focusing on one more than the other. Mass incarceration has a great and radical impact upon the immigration experience. In a way it even defines and shapes the narrative of such. Especially in a time when the head of the US executive branch is publicly branding the majority of immigrants from Latin American countries as ‘rapists, crooks, thieves, gang members, and murderers,’ and increasing the number of deportations, restrictions on visa criteria, and banning many Africans, Arabs, and South East Asians from Muslim majority nations from entering the US, it becomes of greater importance.

From those detained at the border, sweeps conducted by ICE, all the way to those facing deportation following their arrest, its impact is felt in many ways. The shambles and disarray which we call the ‘American Justice System’ continues to baffle people around the world.[2] Mass incarceration is a monster. A beast. It is more than a system or network of interconnecting policies and agencies. To avoid being overbroad and too general as well as not being too specific enough, we will personify ‘Mass Incarceration’ as simply one entity that we shall term ‘Leviathan’.

 How pervasive is all of this and how far do its tentacles reach? We shall start off by way of introduction to this matter by quoting one reform advocate, “The US has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prison populations. Congress creates 50 crimes every year. That’s 500 things that were legal a decade ago that are now felonies. It’s no wonder the prisons are full.” [3]

People hailing from countries with progressive policies governing their criminal justice system such as Sweden, Norway, the U.K, Germany and others are appalled by the length and conditions of sentences that prisoners in America are subjected to. [4] Even countries from the so-called third world scratch their heads at things which the US government criminalizes. As one reform advocate noted ‘… The rest of the world looks at us and shakes its collective head, especially our European allies.” [5] 

Many people have begun to grow vocal about prison reform and the plight of prisoners. This is from judges, lawyers, social scientists, legislators, law students, civil liberty groups, all the way up to the president. So, what equips me or makes me fit to discuss this complex and great issue? Firsthand experience. As a first-generation child of immigrants from Haiti, an Islamist activist, political prisoner, a victim and one of the living casualty of Leviathan. Though I am relying on basically the same data used and available to others who speak on this matter, I am bringing to the equation and table a fact which sets me apart; the passion and zeal that only a prisoner can bring.

Crime is basically a violation of enacted laws. Yet manmade laws are fluid and so they constantly change. [6] Laws are what make criminals; the criminalization of acts or activities thus becomes the origin of all criminals. This may seem like circular logic but bear with me and keep reading to see the basis for this claim and others. An example of this is how the FDA treats some controlled substances. Some medicines used in other countries are banned and considered harmful and illegal as controlled substances.[7] Criminal cases stemming from this are not uncommon. Things like counter the narrative of the ‘American Dream’. 

People come to this country for opportunities, yet they have no idea that the monster Leviathan exists until confronted. Individuals are deported for mere traffic violations. Since police are the enforcers of law and have arrest powers, whenever they act within their wide latitude of their discretion into what we know as racial profiling, this has a negative impact on those minority immigrant populations. When a wave of unrest is fomented by arcane laws and incomprehensible legal technicalities you will have law abiding aliens panic about the possibility of their status being revoked or being caught up in a sweep. Many immigrants know of a person who has been deported or ordered removed. Or they have heard of a family or individual within their own ethnic group who have been affected by such.[8]

ICE agents are conducting sweeps and raids like Nazi Germany or Soviet Gestapo’s herding off people to concentration camps. And we shouldn’t be naive and think that that there are not similarities between then and now regardless of the obvious difference in the age we live in from those previous time periods. We’ve learned nothing at all from the war detention of Japanese Americans. During World War II Asians in general and specifically Japanese who were living their lives as law abiding citizens were rounded up and taken to internment camps. Executive order no. 9066 gave the authority that was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court that ‘Japs’ couldn’t be trusted and had to be ‘dealt with’ [9- German/media]

That is an irremovable stain from US history. Since that particular episode, the US government has classified and further detained more American citizens as ‘enemy combatants’ in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba via its executive branch. In illegal maneuvering, it has conducted extra judicial killings of American citizens overseas by way of armed militarized drones in the way and manner dealt to American citizen and popular Muslim cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki in Yemen and countless other Americans in Syria. The psyche of the nation or at least the mentality of its leaders and policy makers has not shifted nor pivoted away from such.

For following the attack on Pearl Harbor, many Japanese Americans were locked up without due process. In the same, more than half a century later Arab Americans, Middle Easterners, Muslims, and Southeast Asians were rounded up after September 11th (9/11). [10] A country that prides itself on being open and free has twice initiated Nazi Gestapo tactics as if it were dispatching SS squads to round up those whom it finds disagreeable in an ideological and racist manner.

“…there are millions of lives being destroyed or distorted because we haven’t fully thought through our process”- Obama [11]

“We already know that the massive waste of life in our prisons is morally troubling’- Kwame Anthony Appiah [12]

The incarcerated (or victims of Leviathan as I prefer) are left broken, chained, and tethered to their fate, which is captivity and detention. Yet in such circumstances there are those who are resilient and use whatever means at their disposal to undermine the titan by which they have been ensnared. From advocacy and raising awareness of discriminatory and repressive policies and laws, highlighting, and spreading word about the reality of incarceration as well as the conditions of prison. These are examples of ways in which the incarcerated resist the system that holds them in captivity. And by way of the same is the intent of this essay. Taking advantage of the impotent reprieve known as the grievance procedure or otherwise ‘Administrative remedies’, along with others, the most constant form of resistance is never giving up or accepting their condition with a sense of resignation or fatalism.

The incarcerated have joined the national dialogue termed ‘prison reformation’ as the most committed advocates. Yet the fact that they have become participants does not mean that they will be effective nor are they guaranteed an audience, as censorship is rife behind the steel heavy bars and concrete wall. Christopher Zoukis and Imam Jamal AL Amin are among whose voices have been heard above the dull crescendo, and they have become prominent yet still remain as constant victims of censorship.

A liberated world would first and foremost mean the complete and final eradication of Leviathan, at least ideally. It would not be some fantastic utopia nor anarchy and chaos. Rather a balance between the two is sought. Human beings will continue to behave recklessly, and some will always seek to trample the rights of others through some sort of transgression. So, there must always exist means to combat these tendencies and behaviors. Whenever crime exists in society there must always be sufficient and just deterrence and punishment. [13]

Alternatives to prisons should seriously be considered for most non-violent offenses and even violent offenses if committed by those suffering from mental illnesses and juveniles who are not yet adults. Within the 94 federal judicial districts there are only 22 alternatives to incarceration programs. [14] Funding should be diverted from other ineffective government programs to fund and create more of these programs. An increase of funding and reform of in-place re-entry program is needed. Pell grants should be restored to prisoners so they can overcome the ignorance of their criminality and open more avenues that will not include a path to crime by being qualified for better jobs and/or careers. Incentives to prosecutors that reward conviction rates and the length of sentences they seek as well as the incentives to judges who are rewarded for the lengthy sentences imposed in the climate of ‘tough on crime’ politics should be eliminated.

I could see a world where applicants for a job would be free to discuss their criminal history during the job interview without fear of automatic disqualification. A world where people will not be in jail for the sole reason of poverty. [15] A world where correctional departments do not shackle pregnant women. A world where after paying their debt to society a prisoner can easily tread up and down the pathway to success. But we are a long way from there. Unfortunately, there are many obstacles. Lack of training, along with the wrong incentives, make probation departments a tool for recidivism and not for re-integration into society. Ex-prisoners are confronted with the reality of their second-class citizen status each and every time that they fill out a job application that immediately places them into one of two categories, those with a prison history and those without,  [16] before they are even considered for the job. A study published by the Prison Policy Initiative has noted that the ex-prisoner rate of unemployment is “higher than the total US unemployment rate during any historical period, including the Great Depression”. [17] The study agrees with the findings that I’ve previously mentioned that ‘formerly incarcerated people want to work, but face structural barriers to securing employment.” “This perpetual labor market punishment creates a counter-productive system of release and poverty, hurting everyone involved: employers, the taxpayers, and certainly formerly incarcerated people looking to break the cycle.” [18]

A proper ‘Justice’ system would truly have a semblance of justice and enable a smooth transition for prisoners into society. This does not mean that Leviathan remains an unchallenged dragon that no valiant knights have confronted. Nay, there many pioneers from private citizens to organizations who attempt to tackle or ease the harmful effects of mass incarceration, but unless this beast is slayed or methodically euthanized it will only continue to spell trouble for millions of people who are victims. 

There exists a parasitic trickle-down pyramid scheme erected for a minority composed of  indifferent legislators, police unions, bail bondsmen, bounty hunters, lawyers (prosecutors and some defense attorneys), judges, probation officers, correctional guards and their unions – who benefit at the expense of the lives of prisoners, their families, and society at large. I don’t doubt that some may be skeptics and doubt just how bad the current makeup of the justice system is, so I will break down some statistics.

Citing one expert familiar with the data: ‘America’s sentences of imprisonment on average are five to ten times longer than those of France, and much longer than those of Germany…. [I]imprisonment has become the moral mode of dealing with crime in America”. [19] The following statistics were selected from public records of California:

*Nearly 70% of female inmates are non-violent offenders

*2/3 are convicted for property or drug related offenses.

*Over 1/2 of males convicted for violent offenses while only 30% of women convicted for the same.

*4/10 [female] inmates were physically or sexually abused before 18

* Approximately 67% of incarcerated women [there] are mothers, most are single parents and primary caregivers.

* [CA] has about 10,000 female inmates – more than other state

* Incarceration rate for female offenders has doubled over last 20 years.

I’ve chosen to highlight data coming out of California for the following reason: 1) It is one of the top 3 states with the largest prison population and highest incarceration rate [20];  2) People often assume that only conservative states or those run by Republicans are the main perpetrators of mass incarceration, 3) Data regarding female offenders was more easily available.

Now take a hard look at the above. Contemplate and ponder how this is perpetuated on a larger level when it comes to the whole prison population including state and federal. How many women (and parents in general) are taken from their children? How many children are themselves led to criminal behavior due to the trauma exacted upon them from having their parent taken away? How many of these children of prisoners are forced into foster homes, while being placed in one increases the likelihood that a person will turn to crime later in life? Americans need to rethink their institutions. The public have been told that there is an ‘Opioid Crisis’ in America.  The so-called ‘War on drugs’ continues despite findings from researchers and independent reporters and mainstream media such as NPR that the people most affected by it are drug users, children, and other relatives. Yet we still see mass incarceration being perpetuated and continue. 

Is Leviathan a beast that is never satisfied and its jaws like an abyss from which there is no way out? Has it become so powerful that there is a real fear of speaking against it? In the textbooks of schools and even university courses focusing on criminal justice, there is no serious thought given to combating mass incarceration. The data is out, yet we talk only about the effects and not the causes. Foolish would be a field of medicine where the doctors discuss only the symptoms of disease, and not its treatment or cure. Suffice to mention its effect on immigrants and minority population is to know that over 60% of prisoners are black or Hispanic (due to census categories this include foreigners from other countries with no slot listed to check). The DOJ has publicly stated that BOP is 38% over-crowded. So there exists not only mass incarceration but over-incarceration as well.

Things are simply messed up and to fix it we must first realize this. As Helen Keller said: “I had once believed that we were all masters of our fate- that we could mold our lives into any form we pleased… and I supposed that everyone could come out victorious if he threw himself valiantly into life’s struggle. But as I went more about the country, I learned that I had spoken with assurance on a subject I knew little about. I learned that the power to rise in the world is not within the reach of everyone.”[21]

Footnotes: 1.Glenn C. Loury & Bruce Western ‘The Challenge of Mass Incarceration in America’ in Daedalus: Journal of the academy of Arts and Science (Summer 2010) 2.-‘ The rest of the world looks at us and shakes its collective head especially our European allies.” John Kirakou 3.- John Kiriakou 4. For the same crimes American are incarcerated 2x long as English prisoners, 3x as long as Canadians, 4x as Dutch, 10x as French and 5x as Swedish prisoners. 5. Quote by John Kiriakou. ‘China is an authoritarian nation with 3x the population of the US yet the U.S still incarcerate more than it. The national incarceration rate of the US is 737 per 100,000 is more than Russia’s 581 per 100,000[and] much higher than those of peer nations with democratic, market-based economies such countries incarcerate between 36 and 196 per 100,000.”- Nicola Lacey ‘American Imprisonment in Comparative Perspective’ in Daedalus Sumer 2010 6. In the era of Prohibition alcohol was banned in the US and declared illegal yet before that period of ‘Prohibition’ and afterwards it was considered licit. This is similar to what is going on with the new pressing issue today to determine if Marijuana (Cannabis) should be a licit drug or not. This is the utter confusion and inconsistency which these laws and system leave the civilian while also baffling its enactors. 7. There was an incident with a man from the Republic of Georgia who came to the US (specifically Miami, FL) for vacation. As he was in Customs, his luggage was being inspected, he was then arrested for possession and ‘trafficking’ of controlled substances. His thyroid medication wasn’t FDA approved and with the quantity he had with him he was charged and arrested for trafficking. 8. ” If the banishment of an alien from a country in which he has been invited, as the asylum most auspicious to his happiness- a country where he may have formed the most tender connexons, where he may have vested his entire property, and acquired property of the real and permanent, as well as the movable and temporary kind; where he enjoys  under the laws a greater share of the blessings of personal security and personal liberty than he can elsewhere hope for [;]… if a banishment of this sort be not a punishment, and among the severest of punishments, it will be difficult to imagine a term to which that name can be applied.’ -James Madison inveighing against Aliens and Sedition Acts.  In ‘Letters and other writings of James Madison’ (Cornell University 2009). The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1778 curtailed many rights that people enjoyed. Woodrow Wilson and Congress something similar in 1918 called the Sedition Act and it has been described as the most serious attack on American civil liberties since 1178 Act which was short lived.  9. Whenever America is at war it demonizes its enemies along with those who look or resemble them in appearance thought, religion, or philosophy. This was done with Native Americans, Japanese Americans, German Americans, Communist, and Muslims. From both World wars, the Cold War until Post 9/11 which we are now in. This is done through their policies implemented at airports, immigration, policing, and the media. Woodrow Wilson and the DOJ allowed what was called the Creel Committee on Public information to publish ads or wanted posters for ‘German spies’. Its perpetuated mass suspicion and employed citizens to report on the activities of their neighbors. Public distrust was at an all-time high. In 1920 President Wilson vetoed a bill that would have abolished the Espionage Act of June 1917 and the 1918 Seditions Act. 10. Policy guides and direct everything that contributes to mass incarceration. As we can see today under the Trump administration where his anti-where policies have caused the arrest of legal and undocumented immigrants to skyrocket. After Bush enacted the PATRIOT ACT the same happened; there was an increase of Muslims and Middle Easterners who were arrested and/or had immigration removal proceeding initiated against them. 11. Michael Scherer Dec 19, 2012 Times 2012 person of the year. 12. The Washington Post, ‘What will future generations condemn us for?’ Sep. 26, 2010 13. Before the American Revolution, colonial courts fashioned sentences with three basic purposes in mind: to punish the offender for his crime, thereby satisfying society’s desire for retribution to deter others from committing the same crime by demonstrating its disadvantageous consequences; and to incapacitate the wrongdoer, so as to protect society from further criminal activity. -United States v. Scroggins 880 F.2d L204, 1206 (11th Cir. 1989). In the 1800’s, penological experts became “dissatisfied with the failure of prisons to rehabilitate inmates,” and rehabilitation became a fourth basis of sentencing. yet America’s system has failed at that objective in a very drastic way. See also Arthur W. Campbell, ‘The Law of Sentencing (2009) 14. Many counties, and states have begun to see the benefit of alternative to prison programs, sadly though the ‘benefits’ they consider is only in regard to taxpayers’ money. Earlier in 2018 the Brennan Center released a criminal justice agenda which offers option for reforming local prosecutors’ incentives. Jan. 2017 Ohio launched T-CAP (Targeted Community Alternative to Prison), under it the state/county pays penalty for every person sent to prison for certain low class felonies and it forces them to reprioritize whom they lock up. Illinois implemented ARI (Adult Redeploy Illinois) in 2009 which works though grants to counties so that they can develop alternatives to incarceration, problem solving courts, enhanced probation, and other alternatives. Such a program on a larger scale can only hope to succeed and a reformed criminal justice system would prioritize programs like this over incarceration. 15. “Liberty is precious to Americans and any deprivation must be scrutinized. To protect public safety and ensure that those accused of a crime will appear at trial, persons charged with breaking the law may be detained before their guilt or innocence can be adjudicated, but that detention must not extend beyond its justifications. Many who are arrested cannot afford a bail bond and remain in jail awaiting a hearing. Though presumed innocent, they lose their jobs and families, and are more likely to re-offend. And if all of this weren’t bad enough, taxpayers must shoulder the cost-a staggering, $1 billion per year.” – The Honorable Nathan L. Hecht, Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, remarks delivered to the 85th Texas legislature, Feb. 1, 2017. There is a joint lawsuit against Harris County by former inmates alleging that it deprived them, and others similarly situated, of due process and detaining them because of their inability to pay a secured money bond. A 22-year-old single parent was arrested for driving without a valid license.  She had a $2,500 bond which she was not able to pay. She struggled to meet the basic necessities of life and was a recipient the federal welfare program WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) to feed her daughter and lived with a friend because she couldn’t afford housing. She was working a stable job that she held for 7 days at the time. She was released after 3 days due to assistance by a generous individual who heard of her situation. Another 22-year-old pregnant and single woman in worst circumstances who had a child with Down’s syndrome spent 4 days due to her inability to pay a bond. This is the reason that many advocates are demanding a removal of cash bond which the state of California has become one of the first to do so. The aforementioned case is Maranda Lynn O’Donnell V. Harris County (Texas) April 28, 2017. Hostages of Leviathan who are held for ransom, basically. 16. One with a criminal history and one without. Human Rights Defense Center has said that incarceration status should be on list of protected classes when it comes to discrimination such as Race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, and disability. 17. PPI Study released July 2018 title ‘Out of prison & out of work’, which finds that ‘27% of an estimated 5 million ex-offenders are unemployed or around 1,350,000 compared to national unemployment rate of 4%. 18.Ibid 19. Joshua Kleinfeild, The Concept of Evil in German and American Criminal Punishment http//ssrn.com/author+151440 19. (Working paper Sep.9,2010) 20. They included Florida, Texas, and California. Largest incarceration rate and prison population. 21. Helen Keller [Midstream: My Later Life (New York; Greenwood, 1968 (1929) p.156]

Author Bio: My name is Abdul-Jalil Rashid Al-Imarah (S. Baptiste) and I am a political prisoner unjustly being held in an American prison due to political and religious views. I am an Islamist, Poet, and writer. I also enjoy engaging discussions about social justice, Shari’ah, and political science. I’m an avid reader and can be reached at: Samuel Baptiste #09681-104, FDC Miami, PO BOX 019120,  Miami, FL 33101

Prison Privatization and Recidivism

Can Prison Reform Initiatives Work Without Abolishing Private Prisons?

I wrote this post as a creative solution for prison reform. Money controls business decisions, and with most politicians in the pockets of private prison executives, policies remain the same. Prison reform needs allies, not enemies. This plan joins forces.

See the source image

Yes, I feel it is possible. Private prison companies can aid in the transformation of the criminal justice system by putting more resources into effective programs to help reduce recidivism.

Perhaps private prison corporations can lead the way of prison reform with new cell construction, improved prison living conditions, and programs to mimic those in Norway, the nation with the world’s lowest recidivism rates. https://phys.org/news/2016-08-norwegian-prisons-criminal.html

Evidence of decreased recidivism rates will increase profit margins by allowing higher contract prices. Privatization of prisons requires making a profit off those who go to prison. A large component of incarceration is “Reentry” into society upon release, as CoreCivic (previously Corrections Corporation of America), and GEO Group realized and began investing in Residential Reentry Centers.

Creating a component of prison privatization to aid reentry processes, opens the door for other profits to be gained by a companies.

Returning Citizens Open Doors For Companies Providing Resources

Market doors open when private prison companies invest in supplying associated services to returning citizens.  For instance,

  • building or investing in treatment centers or other services to treat drug and alcohol problems;

  • supplying psychological services (counseling/treatment for mental health and emotional issues);

  • suitable housing projects;

  • job training classes, vocational skills programs, employment opportunities (e.g., temporary job services, employment agencies, creating divisions for other companies to employ returning citizens).

If a three-year recidivism study shows a substantial reduction in recidivism, then private prison executives can charge much higher rates, since paying the increased rate saves taxpayers dollars by not having to pay to re-incarcerate returning citizens.

Profits margins increase by charging an added percentage for services provided to the former prisoners/returning citizens. 

Providing the established program is voluntary, where prisoners exiting the system have a choice of whether he or she wishes to participate, any Risk versus Benefit analysis would increase demand of offered services, because upgraded-programs would become the Gold Standard and most-desired by prisoners exiting the prison system and wanting to successfully reenter society.

Reduce Mass Incarceration

QUORA Moderation Banned my Response to the Question, “What would happen to the American criminal justice system if no one accepted plea deals and every case had to be resolved in the courtroom?”

I’ve appealed the decision! In two days, my answer generated almost two-thousand views and several upvotes, so to me, that says people were interested in my view on the subject.

This Man is Not a Real Politician

The Will of the People Will Not Be Denied!

Official Response by Wayne T. Dowdy

The system would collapse. On September 22, 2003, the Honorable Attorney General, John Ashcroft, “an American lawyer and former politician who served as the 79th U.S. Attorney General (2001–2005), in the George W. Bush Administration,” issued a guidance memorandum to the United States Attorneys (federal prosecutors) and their assistants (AUSA).

The memorandum instructed prosecutors to seek the most serious charges and to stop the practice of dropping charges to get pleas, to still give defendants reduced points for accepting responsibility for their acts, and for their cooperation, but to still seek the most serious charges.

[Click the following links to read a New York Times newspaper article and the Memorandum from the former United States Attorney General, who was correct in his agenda to reduce the disparity in sentencing.]

ASHCROFT LIMITING PROSECUTORS’ USE OF PLEA BARGAINS

#516: 09-22-03 [THE BELOW MEMO WAS DISTRIBUTED TO U.S. ATTORNEYS ON SEPTEMBER 22, 2003, AND THE ATTORNEY GENERAL ANNOUNCED THE POLICY IN MILWAUKEE, WI. REMARKS FROM HIS SPEECH THERE ARE AVAILABLE ON THE ATTORNEY GENERAL�S SPEECHES PORTION OF THE DOJ WEBSITE.]

In a Criminal Law Reporter, I read an article that said the head of the Federal Public Defenders Office, wrote a letter to the then Attorney General, John Ashcroft, and complained about the memorandum.

The article claimed that if those policies were implemented, more attorneys would recommend their clients go to trial, and that for every five-percent decrease in guilty pleas, the courts’ dockets would increase thirty-percent.

Translation: if ten out of every hundred federal defendants went to trial, instead of pleading guilty, the overburdened-judicial-system would have a sixty-percent increase in criminal cases going to trial. That would be an overwhelming number of caseloads for prosecutors to handle, with those cases having to be tried within established time frames under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution that requires a fair and speedy trial. https:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speedy_Trial_Act

Therefore, a lot of the bogus cases would be dismissed so that the more serious criminal cases could be prosecuted.

I chastised many men who complained about the sentences they were serving, after going into the courtroom to volunteer to be sentenced, some agreeing to twenty-five and thirty-year sentences, rather than taking a chance at fighting their cases. Their cooperation helped fuel mass incarceration practices.

With more guilty pleas and the courts heading for collapse, Congress would have abolished the United States Sentencing Guidelines, enacted into law under the Sentence Reform Act of 1984, which requires substantial sentences under the mandatory minimums. The politicians in Congress may have even reduce some of the ridiculous criminal penalties enacted for a vote.

Push Congress to abolish the plea-bargaining system if you want to end mass incarceration, since the practice violates the anti-bribery statute, Title18 of the United States Code, Section 201(c)(2), which prohibits, “[o]ffers, or promises [of] anything of value to any person, for or because of the testimony under oath or affirmation given or to be given by such person as a witness upon a trial, hearing, or other proceeding, before any court, any committee of either House or both Houses of Congress, or any agency, commission, or officer authorized by the laws of the United States to hear evidence or take testimony, or for or because of such person’s absence therefrom[.]” 18 U.S.C., Sect. 201(c)(2) [alterations added]

President Donald Trump on Michael Cohen’s Testimony

During the plea-bargaining process for Michael Cohen, I recall President Trump saying on television that it should be illegal to show leniency to Michael Cohen for his testimony.

The above excerpt from the United States Code proves it is unlawful to pay someone “anything of value” for their testimony.

Freedom is priceless!

Freedom or Reduced Sentences for Testimony Before a Court is Payment

Three Judges in the United States Court of Appeals ruled it violated 18 U.S.C., Sect. 201(c)(2) for prosecutors to give reduced sentences for testimony by codefendants.

https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/usvsingleton2.pdf or https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-10th-circuit/1436412.htm

Singleton v. United States was decided twenty-years ago but the principles and reasoning behind the three-panel decision is as true today as it was then.

Several politicians criticized the decision and intimidated other judges by introducing new bills and all sorts of garbage. The en banc decision (full-court) reversed the three-judge panel decision but the original three-judges held their ground and stood behind their correct opinion, not driven by political influence.

REENTRY PLANS & A FRIEND MOVES ON

This blog contains mixed topics. The first one I’ll write about is dedicated to a man who proved himself to be a true friend to me in 1995, after he came into the federal system at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. Other topics will include an update to my pending release and plans to reenter society. I must include politics, too, of which I apologize.

 

IN MEMORY OF DANIEL E. SCOTT: My friend of twenty-four years left from here on May 10, 2018, for the halfway house/Residential Reentry Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Originally, he was approved for six-months in the RRC but that was reduced to four-months when ex-director, Mark S. Inch took over the BOP.

 

Dan’s health deteriorated quickly during the last two months of his stay here, when he should have been at home with his wife and children, and would have been if not for the bureaucratic BS in Washington, DC.

 

Dan had been real sick for months. For several years he struggled with various illnesses. During the last 5-to-6 months here, he went to the medical department and complained of severe stomach pains, nausea, and as time progressed, other symptoms associated with cancer. He was told he had pancreatitis at the local hospital. His pain medication: Tylenol and Prilosec for most of that time. He did receive Tylenol-3 with codeine for his last month here.

 

He told me one day of all of the symptoms he was experiencing. I said, “I hate to say it, but that’s what Larry complained of before he passed away and it was stomach cancer.” Larry was my younger brother who passed away in 2016.

 

A month later, Dan said, “I don’t think I’m going to live long enough to make it out of here. I know I’m dying.” He was in constant pain, couldn’t sleep without waking because of the pain, and couldn’t keep any food down after eating.

 

I promised I would pray for him and that I believed he would get out where he could get help. Three weeks before leaving, a person on the medical staff informed him that a February ex-ray result showed a mass in his chest. A CT scan was done shortly before he left for the halfway house. After he got there, his condition worsened. He was hospitalized days later and did not have pancreatitis.  He had pancreatic cancer that had already spread to both lungs.

 

I spoke to him around 11:00 AM on Thursday, June 28th. He struggled to breath. I thanked him for being a true friend to me over the years and let him know I loved him. I knew his time was near.

 

Before hanging-up the phone, he said, “Good Bye, my friend,” as if he knew it would be the last time we spoke. That night I called him again but no one answered. At 8:30 PM I put him a Happy Belated Birthday card in the mail and said farewell to a good friend. He moved on to the next phase of existence two-hours later.

 

One thing I’ll always remember him for is this:  We met a few months before I decided to stop using drugs and alcohol, while at U.S.P. Atlanta.  When I told him and others that if they started talking about drugs or getting high, not to feel offended if I walked away. I explained that it was harder for me to quit by talking about it and being around it.

 

One evening I was visiting him in his cell when another prisoner came in and said, “Man, there’s some killer stuff going around.”

 

Dan held up his hand to stop him and then said, “When you see this man sitting in here, don’t come in here talking about that bullshit. He’s trying to quit and not be around it and I respect him for that.”

 

That proved to me that he was a true friend; he supported me in my pursuit of a new life. I miss my friend and hope he’s sitting on a lake in the sky with a fishing pole in his hand, not feeling any pain or sadness for the life he left behind.

*****

REENTRY PLANS: I often see the skyline of Atlanta, Georgia while watching movies. Last month I watched Tiana Taylor dancing in HONEY: RISE UP AND DANCE and saw familiar places in Atlanta, a place of my future, a remnant of my past.

 

I most often identify the City of Atlanta by the IBM Tower (if still so named). Seeing Atlanta from a distance in movies and periodic views of T.V. programs (e.g., Walking Dead, Love & Hip Hop-Atlanta, Black Ink Crew (a friend played a role in it)), makes me think of all the changes since my departure in 1988, not just in the city and its people, but in myself as well.

 

Seeing Atlanta Area Tech does the same thing to me because I once planned to go there to learn aviation mechanics, one of many ambitions wrote off to my misbehaving while young and dumb.

 

SOCIETAL CHANGES: Early one morning, I got up around 4:00 AM and was surprised to see and hear a commercial on television for Adam & Eve sex toys, a beautiful woman selling vibrators and other “pleasure toys” to pleasure seekers.

 

When I was a child, it was exciting for us children to see a Playtex bra commercial, the most sensual of all advertisements during the early ’60s. Even when arrested in 1988, I don’t think sex toy commercials were allowed on regular television in America. I don’t recall the sexy models advertising for Victoria’s Secret, either.

 

Around 1997, I did see sexually explicit scenes and segments on late night HBO and Cinemax shows. One HBO Special, in particular, showed commercials from Germany and other countries, where models were topless and commercials sexually charged. Times have changed. Women didn’t wear thongs on the beach, either. I look forward to seeing such changes.  😉

 

I also love swimming and fishing if the fish are biting, and eagerly await my chance to dive in a body of water, as well as to experience the Internet, cellphones, and typing without paying five-cents per minute.

 

Please don’t misunderstand what I wrote: I am not complaining about those types of societal changes. I don’t feel they are wrong, because I don’t feel people should be ashamed of their bodies.

 

PERSONAL PLANS: I first need to get my identification and drivers license, if I plan to drive a car, which I want to do, but I am willing to use public transportation until I can afford to purchase one and to pay for associated expenses (gas, oil, tires, maintenance, insurance). I’m not planning to get any particular type of vehicle. After thirty years, any new model will be more akin to a spaceship for me.  🙂

 

WORKING MAN: My main objective is to secure a position in a reputable company with good pay and benefits. I also want to go back to college to learn coding so I can design my own websites, and to visit the Georgia Aquarium and other places I haven’t seen.

*****

POLITICS: Since writing “Breaking News,” I had tweets sent to President Trump and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, asking them to save American taxpayers an annual $30,630,000. I included a link to Breaking News (https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com).  I hope one of them read what I wrote.

 

DEFEATED: The National Inmate Appeals Administrator denied my BP-11 on 06/04/18, cosigning the BS of previous decisions to deny my request for additional RRC time, even though the halfway house situation has lightened up.

 

It is a waste of time and $$$ to go further with the issue because Congress gave the BOP too much discretion in 18 U.S.C., Sect. 3624(c).

 

A young man left here on 07/05/18 with 5-months in the same Atlanta RRC that I’m scheduled to go to 12/26/18. He was here 10-months for a 17-month violation of the terms of his supervised release.

 

I’ve been in 30-years and received 119-days, one day short of 4-months. That was when Mark Inch was in command, so if my RRC date gets changed because of the following, I may receive more RRC time.

 

VICTORY: Two weeks ago, I learned my release date changed from 04/24/2019 to 03/08/2019 (47-days closer to Freedom’s Door). On 11/01/17, I challenged the calculation of my Good Conduct Time (GCT), including an improper deduction of 82-days for my misbehavior in 1990.

 

28 C.F.R., Sect. 523.20(a), Good Conduct Time, states, “For inmates serving a sentence for offenses committed on or after November 1, 1987, but before September 13, 1994, the Bureau will award 54 days credit toward service of sentence (good conduct time) for each year served. This amount is prorated when the time served by the inmate for the sentence during the year is less than a full year.”

 

In 1990, I was put in the Segregated Housing Unit at U.S.P. Leavenworth, KS for 60-days and lost 41-days of GCT for possession of narcotics (a paper containing methamphetamine residue). On the same day, I received 30-consecutive-days in the SHU, with another 41-days loss of GCT because I refused to provide a urine sample.

 

Under Title 18 of the United States Code, Sect. 3624(b), as enacted November 1, 1987, 54-days of GCT shall be awarded at the end of each year, providing the inmate behaved “during that year.” Crediting and deductions can only be made based upon behavior during one-year segments, and cannot be taken from future or past years. Once credited or lost, it stays that way. That is, unless unlawfully taken that can be challenged in court under 28 U.S.C., Sect. 2244, after exhausting administrative remedies.

 

On 08/17/18, I will have served 10,950-days (360-months) on my primary sentence. During that period, I lost a total of 109-days of GCT (41+41+27), all for drug-related incidents. Twenty-eight of those days were unlawfully taken for the 1990 incident, so 28-days were refunded, and then I was properly credited for 1,539-days of GCT (1,620-days, minus 81).

 

Now, with the above deduction, I only have 72-days in an RRC and am awaiting a decision from the Residential Reentry Manager concerning a modification to my RRC date. Because 18 U.S.C., Sect. 3624(b) requires any remaining time of less than one-year to be prorated and awarded six-weeks before the sentence ends, my release date will change again because I’m owed 31-more days. My date will change to February 7, 2019, the day after one of my granddaughters’ birthday.

 

If the First Step Act passes the Senate, I’ll leave earlier than that. Please urge your senator to co-sign the bill and vote, Yes.  Thanks!

*****

MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: What is the first thing you plan to eat? Where are you going to go eat at when you get out? What do you plan to do first?

 

My response: I don’t know. I’m thinking of steak and lobster but when I see the price, I may change my mind to steak and shrimp or a Burger King Whopper or a Blizzard at Dairy Queen. 🙂 Those prices may make me want to prepare my own meal. Then the grocery store prices may make me want to fast.

 

I do plan to find a good paying job with benefits so I can afford to eat the way I prefer (healthy choices on most days).

 

MOST POPULAR FREE ADVICE: Get a hooker because you’ll fall in love with the first woman you have sex with if you don’t.

 

My response: I’m not walking out the door thinking with my penis. I’ve never paid for sex and I’m not starting when I get out of prison. I’ve been thirty years without getting laid and if I have to wait a little longer, I will survive. 🙂

*****

SIMPLE MAN: One of the things I look forward to is being able to listen to music without interruptions, per se, no commercials, no distractions from the typical things we experience in prison; e.g., having to listen for a guard to announce “Count Time,” during certain times so we can stand up and be counted; or to annoying announcements on an intercom that disturbs my peace.

 

I could have bought an MP-3 player years ago and eliminated some of those problems. I didn’t feel purchasing one was wise due to the $1.55 price tag, per song, for altered (graphic lyrics restricted, etc.) and limited music selections, so … I have patiently waited and dealt with static, difficulty finding a station playing what I want to hear, and long-commercial interruptions.

 

SWEET HOME ALABAMA: On the Sunday morning following Dan’s departure from this thing we know as life, I listened to members of Lynyrd Skynyrd on Uncle Joe Benson’s, Off the Record. Hearing many of the songs reminded me of days gone by.

 

When I listened to Sweet Home Alabama, I was thankful that my friend did get to go home and leave this world as a free man. Maybe he has a guitar in his hands and is strumming God’s favorite tune.

guitar 2