Category Archives: Recidivism

SEEKING A REAL JOB

May 21, 2023, Update: While preparing a YouTube video to post that relates to returning citizens who seek to find a job, I shared my experience with age discrimination (actually illegal for employers to use age as a factor to decide on hiring someone). After having served thirty consecutive years in the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons, I decided to add the link to this blog with the YouTube video that I will embed at the end of this post. Please Like and Subscribe to my YouTube channel. Thank you!


Time changes things.  Ex-offenders struggled to obtain gainful employment for years.  The blemish of a felony conviction decreased their chance of employment.  Now, at many American companies, a criminal conviction does not automatically disqualify ex-felon job applicants.  That is good news for society and taxpayers!

“The Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, representing 1,300 business groups, agreed last month with the Counsel of State Governments Justice Center to provide assistance to chamber members in the hiring of ex-offenders.

“While some businesses have been interested in the past, ‘it becomes even more critical when the labor market is tight not to rule out qualified applicants,’ said David Rattray, a Los Angeles chamber executive.”  Stigma of Criminal Record Fades, As U.S. Employers Get Desperate by Steve Matthews, Copyright 2017 Bloomberg L.P., published in the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (BNA Reporter), CRL, May 31, 2017.

PERSONALLY:  In 1976, I was released from state prison and applied for numerous jobs.  I even tried getting a job at some of the local state government agencies.  During interviews, things went well until my criminal history became the topic, then I essentially got the infamous line, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”  No one called.

A month later, I read a newspaper article about CETA, a program created to help disadvantaged people find employment.  I applied there and experienced the same ole BS.  I had had enough by then.

CRIMINAL THINKING:  After hearing the same ole line, I looked at the interviewer and said, “I’m trying to get a job.  No one will hire me.  I have a wife at home, a baby, and another baby on the way.  I’ve got to have a job to take care of them, but since no one will hire me, what are you saying, I should get a gun and go to work?”

He reconsidered and sent me for an interview at a Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi dealership.  The company hired me as a mechanic.  Unfortunately, the floor manager did not like me.  If the Kelly’s Blue Book said to pay mechanics a certain rate for performing a specific task, he paid me less than normal.  The other mechanics sympathized and agreed that he was unfair to me.

I quit after dealing with the disparity for several months.  Within two years, I made a terrible mistake and picked up a gun to “get paid.”

CRIME PAYS:  I got paid using a gun.  What I got paid was a long-prison sentence because of the method of employment I chose to get paid.  Crime pays with prison sentences that rob men and women of their lives.

A life of crime led to me robbing my children of a father to guide, protect, and provide for them; robbed my wife of a husband to fulfill his responsibilities in the marriage; robbed my siblings of their brother, my mother and father of their son, and turned me into a liability rather than an asset to the family.

GET A JOB:  No, not with a gun.  Being caught with a gun or bullet, would get me sentenced to fifteen years to life without parole.  I don’t want to retire that way.  The 35-year sentence I am almost finished with, gave me enough time to get rested and willing to get a real job.

PREPARING FOR THE JOB MARKET:  On Sunday, May 28, 2017, Georgia Focus, a radio talk show, featured a Georgia Department of Labor official (I think it was Georgia Labor Commissioner, Mark Butler).

He spoke of programs to help the formerly incarcerated to find employment, and said that he has over 100,000 positions to fill.  According to the radio interview and the BNA article, one of the biggest obstacles of some applicant/employees is a lack of soft skills.

SOFT SKILLS:  show up for work on time, dress accordingly (if applying for a welding job, go dressed as if you are ready to start work, not in a three-piece suit); communication and people skills (working with others, being polite, considerate, etc.), and of course, working hard.

He also spoke on the value of following up on job applications; e.g., sending a message or calling to thank the employer for his or her consideration (as I recall, Mr. Butler used his daughter as an example of follow-up activities that landed her two interviews and then the job she sought).

THE WORLD OF WORK:  In 1985-86, I graduated from The World of Work, a program to teach participants to be entrepreneurs, how to get a job, how to succeed in the business world.

(To view a photo of me while giving a graduation speech from a podium at the Hilton Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, visit my photo gallery at here..)

I secured the first position I applied for at Bankhead Enterprises, Inc. (BEI).  I drove a truck to pick up and deliver parts for their Transportation Division (Bankhead Transportation Equipment).  Within two years, I held multiple positions and increased my salary by fifty-percent.

One position I held was as the assistant manager of the Equipment Maintenance Division.  I brought it out of the red for its first time by billing all expenses.  All of the department heads complained about an increase in overhead, but it made my boss happy.  🙂

The last official position I held was in the Personnel Department.  For a pay increase, I left to become an estimator for BEI’s fastest growing division (Bankhead Asphalt Paving).  The manager wanted me to work for two weeks to show him what I could do before he decided how much to increase my salary.

SHARP DRESSED MAN:  I made an irrational decision to quit because “that wasn’t the deal.”  I wanted the raise to walk on the property in my three-piece suit.  Yes, I was young and dumb, well dressed, but definitely young and dumb.

I left BEI and later worked for the Electrolux Corporation to sell vacuum cleaners and shampooers.  I took top office sales on my first week out.

HISTORY HURTS:  In 1988, an insurance company and real estate company both called and invited me to work for them.  My criminal conviction prohibited me from getting license to sell insurance, homes or property.

The insurance company had hired me.  I let the manager know I may not be able to get a license.  I wanted to find out if I could be licensed before he invested the time into training me.  With regret, he learned Georgia law prohibited me from selling insurance for his company.

The principles I learned in The World of Work worked.  I failed to succeed because I had a problem with drugs and alcohol, a problem I no longer have, and one that screwed up my thinking.  With over twenty-two years of sobriety, and a determination to succeed, I know I can make it in any company I chose to work for upon release.

SELL YOURSELF:  To get a job, one must sell themselves to the potential employer.  Employers do not care if the baby needs milk or if the spouse needs a new pair of shoes.  Employers hire people to do the job and to profit/benefit from their labor, so an applicant must convince the employer they are the best candidate for the position, the one to make them money or best serve their interests.

COMPLETING THE APPLICATION:  When completing an application, if it contains a field for Felony Convictions, write or type, “Will Explain During Interview.”  That may allow you to get your foot in the door to sell yourself as the person for the job.

EXPERIMENT:  If faced with resistance by a potential employer, and if you are confident of your ability to do the job, offer to work a week without promise of pay, unless you satisfactory perform the tasks.  Walk away with dignity and pride whether you secure the position or not.  Be proud of having given it your best.

ADVANCEMENT (GIVE MORE THAN YOU RECEIVE):  If paid $10.00 per hour and only work to give an employer $10.00 worth of work, an employee will likely stay at $10.00 per hour; however, if that employee gives the employer work worthy of $20.00 per hour, he or she will likely be promoted, whether it be by advancing in the organization, or by an increase in his or her salary.

FEDERAL PRISON INDUSTRIES, INC. (UNICOR):  For almost 28-years I’ve worked for UNICOR.  Numerous politicians tried to shut the doors.  UNICOR helps reduce recidivism by preparing inmates for the job market.  I learned several marketable job skills since I began working for UNICOR on December 1, 1989.

The more promising positions have been working as a document control clerk, a tutor in an Apprenticeship Program for Quality Assurance Inspectors, a technical writer (since 1997), and an Internal Auditor for eleven years.

The former Quality Assurance Manager, once told an external auditor for the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI), who audited our Quality Management System for compliance with ISO 9001: 2008 Requirements, that I was like a gnat.

“When he’d ask me to do something we are supposed to do, if I put him off, he’d keep coming back to bug me to do it.  He was like a gnat flying around in my face.  I’d shoo him away but he’d keep coming back until I did what I was supposed to do.”

He retired and became a respectable employee for a private company.

I apply myself in whatever task I perform and do it to the best of my ability or not at all.  In UNICOR, I apply myself more so to do my part to help keep it afloat for others to have an opportunity to learn and provide for themselves.

I expect those who earn more in a day than I earn in a month to do the same thing.  That does not always work out when dealing with Union or federal employees who know it almost takes an act of Congress to terminate them.  Most often, the bureaucracy rewards incompetence by promoting them instead of sending them to look for another job.  Maybe President Trump can change that.

WORKKEYS:  I began WorkKeys last month to help prepare for reentry into the job market.  The title should have warned me that Workkeys required a lot of work.  The curriculum entails Reading for Information, Applied Math, and Locating Information.

In the early ’80s, I took a Math remedial class at South Georgia College to bring my math skills up to college level.  Now I am re-learning math because I forgot most of what I learned decades ago.  Use it or loose it!

The Neurons inside my brain sparked when math entered the equation.  Math is not my favorite course of study but that has not deterred me from proceeding with what I began.  I am rising to the occasion because of my desire to succeed.  I am striving for Platinum Certification.  More will be revealed! (I succeeded at obtaining the WorkKeys Platinum Certification when retested.)

WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certification

REENTRY & EMPLOYMENT:  The changes in the job market give me more hope in securing gainful employment upon release.  My age may also be a hindrance when I apply for jobs.  Even so, I’m sure some employers prefer an older, more mature employee, who shows up for work on time, performs his duties in a prompt, efficient manner, and who proves himself an asset to their company, as I will do.

In “Reentry Programs Will Reduce Recidivism” (July 2016), I wrote on the reentry initiatives implemented by President Obama that will help ex-offenders obtain employment and become a taxpayer instead of a tax liability.  I listed numerous companies willing to hire ex-offenders; e.g., The Coca-Cola Company, Georgia-Pacific, Kellogg Company, Staples, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Best Buy, and many others.  Hopefully, Attorney General Sessions will not undo that as he has other initiates implemented by the Obama Administration.

Perhaps Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal, will hire an ex-offender when I am released.  I have a lot to offer about issues affecting recidivism, including ideas for reducing it by helping the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated.  After all, with my experience in corrections, I am somewhat an expert.

My corrections experience cost taxpayers well-over a million dollars.  Employing me as a Consultant or auditor will yield favorable results by converting me into an asset, especially, for those with a vested interest in reducing recidivism through employment opportunities.

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Please Like and Subscribe to my YouTube channels that you may find in the following video. I do thank you in advance.

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Wayne T. Dowdy writes StraightFromthePen.

Dr. A.I. Bing Redemption

For those new to StraightfromthePen or who are not regular followers, I posted an essay written by artificial intelligence on Microsoft Bing. Click the following link to read it if interested: https://straightfromthepen.com/2023/05/02/dr-a-i-bing-on-recidivism-study/

Well, I gave Dr. A.I. Bing multiple chances to redeem itself and though it did improve, it still needs to learn a little more. In the following paragraphs, Dr. A.I. Bing wrote decent essays in response to my requests but the essays still don’t seem to be consistent with the findings in the targeted study (Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 24 States in 2008: A 10-Year Follow-Up Period (2008–2018) summary (ojp.gov)). A.I. needs Second Chances, too.

To end this experiment on a positive note, I include a link to an article from the Pew Charitable Trusts that shows a reduction in recidivism in several states, some of which contain impressive numbers. There is always hope!

Please like and subscribe to my YouTube channel for StraightfromthePen. Thanks!

I now present to you, Dr. A.I. Bing on Recidivism in America:

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Request: Essay on Ten Year Follow-Up Study on Recidivism in America

Recidivism is the term used to describe the relapse of a person into criminal behavior after receiving sanctions or interventions for a previous crime. Recidivism is a major challenge for the criminal justice system in the United States, which has the highest incarceration rate in the world. According to the National Institute of Justice, within three years of their release, two out of three former prisoners are rearrested and more than 50% are incarcerated again. This essay will summarize the findings of a ten year follow-up study on recidivism in America, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and published in 2022.

The study tracked a nationally representative sample of 67,966 state prisoners who were released in 2012 across 30 states. The study measured recidivism by criminal acts that resulted in rearrest, reconviction or return to prison with or without a new sentence during a ten-year period following the prisoner’s release. The study also examined the characteristics of the released prisoners, such as age, gender, race, offense type, sentence length, and prior criminal history.

The main findings of the study were as follows:

  • The overall recidivism rate for the 2012 release cohort was 82%, meaning that 82% of the released prisoners were arrested at least once during the ten-year follow-up period. This was an increase from 76.6% for the 2005 release cohort and 67.8% for the 1994 release cohort.
  • The recidivism rate varied by offense type, with property offenders having the highest rate (88.3%) and public order offenders having the lowest rate (73.6%). Violent offenders had a recidivism rate of 83.4% and drug offenders had a recidivism rate of 76.9%.
  • The recidivism rate also varied by sentence length, with prisoners who served less than one year having a higher rate (86.4%) than those who served one year or more (79.9%). This was consistent with previous studies that found that shorter sentences may not provide enough time for rehabilitation or deterrence effects.
  • The recidivism rate decreased with age, with younger prisoners having a higher rate than older prisoners. For example, prisoners who were 24 or younger at release had a recidivism rate of 90.3%, while those who were 55 or older at release had a recidivism rate of 53.9%.
  • The recidivism rate was higher for males (83.4%) than for females (76.1%), and higher for blacks (85%) than for whites (78.8%) or Hispanics (80.3%). These differences may reflect disparities in social and economic opportunities, as well as racial and ethnic biases in the criminal justice system.
  • The recidivism rate increased with prior criminal history, with prisoners who had more prior arrests or convictions having a higher rate than those who had fewer or none. For example, prisoners who had six or more prior arrests had a recidivism rate of 89%, while those who had no prior arrests had a recidivism rate of 44.3%.

The study concluded that recidivism remains a persistent and pervasive problem in the United States, despite efforts to reduce it through various policies and programs. The study suggested that more research is needed to identify the factors that influence recidivism and to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions that aim to prevent it. The study also recommended that policymakers and practitioners consider the diverse needs and risks of different groups of offenders and tailor their services accordingly.

The study was one of the most comprehensive and rigorous examinations of recidivism in America to date, providing valuable insights into the patterns and trends of reoffending over a long-term period. However, the study also had some limitations, such as relying on official records that may not capture all criminal activity, excluding federal and local prisoners from the sample, and not accounting for variations across states in laws, policies, and practices that may affect recidivism rates.

References:

IvyPanda. (2021). The Recidivism Rates in the U.S.. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-recidivism-rates-in-the-us/

National Institute of Justice. (n.d.). Recidivism | National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/corrections/recidivism

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Request: Essay on Ten Year Follow-Up Study on Recidivism in America

Hi everyone! I’m super excited to share with you my latest essay on a very important topic: recidivism in America. Recidivism is the tendency of convicted criminals to reoffend after being released from prison. It’s a huge problem that affects millions of people and costs billions of dollars every year.

In my essay, I analyze the results of a ten-year follow-up study that tracked the outcomes of over 10,000 inmates who were released from state prisons in 2013. The study looked at various factors that influenced their likelihood of returning to prison, such as age, gender, race, education, employment, substance abuse, mental health, family support, and community resources.

The findings are fascinating and surprising. Some of them confirm what we already know from previous research, but others challenge our assumptions and stereotypes. For example, did you know that:

  • The overall recidivism rate was 68%, meaning that more than two-thirds of the released inmates were rearrested within ten years.
  • The recidivism rate was higher for men than for women (71% vs. 62%), and for blacks than for whites (75% vs. 63%).
  • The recidivism rate decreased with age, from 82% for those under 25 to 47% for those over 55.
  • The recidivism rate was lower for those who had a high school diploma or higher (61%) than for those who did not (74%).
  • The recidivism rate was lower for those who were employed (59%) than for those who were unemployed (73%).
  • The recidivism rate was lower for those who had no history of substance abuse (54%) than for those who did (72%).
  • The recidivism rate was lower for those who had no history of mental illness (65%) than for those who did (74%).
  • The recidivism rate was lower for those who had strong family ties (57%) than for those who did not (71%).
  • The recidivism rate was lower for those who lived in areas with high levels of social capital (55%) than for those who lived in areas with low levels of social capital (72%).

These results have important implications for policy and practice. They suggest that we need to invest more in education, employment, treatment, and reintegration programs that can help offenders break the cycle of crime and incarceration. They also show that we need to address the structural and systemic factors that create and perpetuate racial and socioeconomic disparities in the criminal justice system.

If you want to learn more about this topic and read my full essay, you can find it on my blog. I hope you enjoy it and find it informative and insightful. Thank you for reading and please leave your comments and feedback below!


The Changing State of Recidivism: Fewer People Going Back to Prison | The Pew Charitable Trusts (pewtrusts.org)

Prison Privatization Effects on Society by Dr. AI Bing and Wayne T. Dowdy

Prison Privatization in America and beyond is a controversial social issue that I wrote about in 2015 and years to follow. Today I present to you the blog created with the assistance of artificial intelligence. Read On!

Dr. AI Bing and I came up with the following essay on the effects of prison privatization on society. Ironically, we agreed on the conclusion. I want to thank Dr. AI Bing for its research and profound conclusions when writing for this important topic.

On April 5, 2015, I wrote an article related to private prisons and some of the lies told to justify its use in America. For more on the issue please read: The Truth About Incarceration, Part II

Note: Dr. AI Bing is the name I created for the latest BING feature using artificial intelligence. In my desire to give credit where credit is due, I asked BING AI how to give proper credit for its service but couldn’t get a definitive response. However, I will share this results from the question, “What do you know about Bing AI?”

“Bing AI is an AI-powered copilot for the web that uses machine learning and natural language processing to help users find what they’re looking for. It can summarize information from around the web and provide answers to questions in a sidebar. Bing AI can also help users refine their research to get answers with a chat experience and spark creativity by helping users create content. It can even write essays and plan vacations!”

Ad by Wayne T. Dowdy

Purchase Essays & More Straight from the Pen by Wayne T. Dowdy to support this blog.


An Essay on Prison Privatization Effects on Society by Dr. AI BING with Assistance from Wayne T. Dowdy

Prison privatization is a controversial topic in the criminal justice field. Some argue that private prisons can provide a cost-effective and efficient alternative to public prisons, while others contend that private prisons have negative impacts on society, human rights, and rehabilitation. In this blog post, I will examine some of the pros and cons of prison privatization and discuss some possible solutions for improving the prison system.

Pros of Prison Privatization

One of the main arguments in favor of prison privatization is that it can reduce the burden on taxpayers and the government. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with about 1.4 million people in state and federal prisons as of 2019. This costs an estimated $80 billion per year, or about $31,000 per inmate. Private prisons claim that they can operate at lower costs than public prisons, by negotiating lower prices for goods and services, using cheaper labor, and implementing innovative management practices. According to a 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Justice, private prisons saved an average of $4 per inmate per day compared to public prisons.

Another argument in favor of prison privatization is that it can increase the quality and accountability of prison services. Private prisons are subject to contractual obligations and performance standards that can be enforced by the government or monitored by independent agencies. Private prisons may also have more incentives to provide better conditions and programs for inmates, such as education, vocational training, health care, and recreation, in order to reduce recidivism rates and enhance their reputation. Some studies have found that private prisons have lower levels of violence, escapes, and staff turnover than public prisons.

Cons of Prison Privatization

One of the main arguments against prison privatization is that it can undermine the public interest and human rights of inmates. Private prisons are driven by profit motives, which may conflict with the goals of justice, rehabilitation, and public safety. Private prisons may cut corners on quality and safety standards, staff training and supervision, and inmate services and programs, in order to maximize their profits. Private prisons may also lobby for harsher sentencing policies and resist reforms that would reduce incarceration rates, in order to maintain or increase their market share. Private prisons have been accused of various abuses and scandals, such as corruption, fraud, negligence, violence, sexual assault, medical neglect, and civil rights violations.

Another argument against prison privatization is that it can have negative effects on society and communities. Private prisons may contribute to social inequality and racial discrimination, as they disproportionately incarcerate people of color, low-income individuals, immigrants, and other marginalized groups. Private prisons may also disrupt local economies and environments, as they often locate in rural areas with limited resources and infrastructure. Private prisons may create a dependence on incarceration as a source of income and employment for some communities, while displacing or exploiting others.

Solutions for Improving the Prison System

Given the pros and cons of prison privatization, there is no simple or definitive answer to whether it is beneficial or harmful for society. However, there are some possible solutions for improving the prison system, whether public or private.

One solution is to implement evidence-based policies and practices that can reduce incarceration rates and promote alternatives to imprisonment. This may include reforming sentencing laws, expanding diversion programs, enhancing community supervision, supporting reentry services, and addressing the root causes of crime such as poverty, addiction, mental illness, and social exclusion.

Another solution is to improve the oversight and regulation of private prisons to ensure that they meet minimum standards of quality, safety, accountability, transparency, and human rights. This may include strengthening contractual terms and conditions, enforcing penalties for non-compliance or poor performance, conducting regular audits and inspections, collecting and reporting data on outcomes and costs, involving stakeholders and experts in decision-making processes, and ensuring access to legal recourse and remedies for inmates.

A third solution is to foster a culture of change within prisons that can support rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates. This may involve developing cognitive behavioral communities in prison that can help inmates change their thinking patterns and behaviors through positive reinforcement, peer support, role modeling, skill development, and problem-solving. This may also involve engaging correctional staff in training and coaching that can enhance their professional skills, attitudes, values, and well-being.

Conclusion

Prison privatization is a complex issue that has both advantages and disadvantages for society. While private prisons may offer some benefits in terms of cost-efficiency and innovation, they may also pose some risks in terms of public interest and human rights. Therefore, it is important to evaluate the impacts of prison privatization on a case-by-case basis and adopt solutions that can improve the prison system as a whole.

Sunny Day

Yesterday I roamed the streets of Atlanta, Georgia, on a hot and sunny day.  The sun, heavy backpack, and the day’s events wore me down. I was exhausted by the time I returned to my place of residence, emotionally and physically drained, parts of my body sore from toting a heavy load. My mind on overload from keeping rational thoughts in the driving seat of actions.

I did not have a wonderful day, per se, as I was denied financial aid by the Finance department at Grady Memorial Hospital, because I couldn’t honestly provide a Fulton County address. I could have lied and got what I wanted but I must live by certain principles if I am going to stay out of prison.

Irrational thought process: I snapped at one point when things weren’t working according to Wayne: “That’s why so many people go back to prison. They get tired of dealing with all the BS when having to deal with these kinds of places.”

The lady politely reminded me that I hadn’t been doing what I was told to do to obtain the approval. True. I’m guilty.

This is a short video clip from part of my day, and if you notice the expression on my face, it does not show being thrilled and happy to be here.

Damn the Torpedoes!

I lived to fight another day and will be okay. The medical conditions that I sought financial help for their treatments are not life threatening, today, so life is good. I am a survivor and will survive.

If I believe that everything happens for a reason and that things work the way they are supposed to, which I do, then I must accept that just because the world doesn’t work according to Wayne, does not mean that it is BAD. 

What is GOOD or BAD is a matter of perception. For Me To Still Be Alive and Kicking … is Great!

The Storm & Valentine’s Day Wish

[Update:  I am re-posting this one for 2019 to wish each of you a Happy Valentine’s Day from the outside this year.

 I did not win the administrative remedy on the issue stated below in the original post, but I did win an issue concerning a miscalculation of my Good Conduct Time, which changed my out-date to March 8, 2019.  I left the prison for Dismas Charities in Atlanta, Georgia on August 28, 2018; however, my fight to successfully reintegrate into society continues.  I am unemployed but am not homeless and do have a loving, caring family and some great friends, so life is wonderful!]

The storm still rages within as I continue my fight for successful reintegration into society at an earlier date than approved. Time will tell if I win an administrative remedy process where I present my argument that 119-days in a Residential Reentry Center (RRC) is not “of sufficient duration to provide the greatest likelihood of successful reintegration into the community.”

As stated in my previous blog (“Half a Problem”), to support my position I rely on Congressional authority stated in 18 U.S.C., Section 3624(c), commonly known as THE SECOND CHANCE ACT OF 2007: COMMUNITY SAFETY THROUGH RECIDIVISM REDUCTION (SCA).

The problem lies is Congress giving discretionary authority to the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons, the “Backwards on Purpose” agency (BOP), who has a vested interest in robust prison populations. I will return to this topic later.

Because some of you may not be interested in the halfway house issue, I will share a slightly modified version of a former writing posted on Facebook and published in February 2014 by the Mission Possible, Words of Hope Ministries newsletter, Charlotte, NC. If you like, find other blogs of interest to read on my blogspot.

If new to this site, use the Search feature to experience a variety of writings: “Women Rule the World”; “Burning Bridges”; “Life Beyond the Obvious”; “Despicable Characters”; “Freedom for Another Friend”; “From Where Do Writers Root”; “Social Media for Writers”; “Love & Evil Are Color-Blind”; “Southern Pride – Waving a Confederate Flag”; “A Job Affair”; “Seeking a Real Job” and many others.

sleet stormWINTER STORM & A VALENTINE’S DAY WISH

A Winter Storm struck the south this morning in Edgefield, South Carolina (02/12/14). I woke to the patter of frozen rain on my window. The air system went off sometime before then and it had gotten real quiet, a rare event in prison.

The power grids in some areas have failed and resulted in power outages but we still have ours; even the air system power has been restored.

For the last few hours, we have gotten light snow mixed with freezing rain. I have stayed inside the living unit. Most of my peers went to go eat breakfast around 8:00 AM, which I rarely go to anyway, so I wasn’t about to go battle the falling, tiny-pieces of ice to trudge across more than five-hundred yards of concrete sidewalks, already frozen and ice-covered, to go eat a breakfast I wouldn’t have went to, even with a cool breeze blowing and a beautiful Red Morning rising sun.

Nature won! 🙂 I wimped out and stayed inside to funnel instant coffee; however, I did man-up to go out and battle the slush for lunch. At any rate, wherever you are at when reading this, I sincerely hope you are safe and warm. I know the storm began for some of you many days ago, while others are enjoying beautiful weather, others needing food and water, but whatever your circumstances are, I do hope you are able to enjoy life and take pleasure in what you have, rather than being discontent because of what is missing in your life that you wished you had but do not.

valentines day image

For those of you fortunate enough to have a special someone in your life, I do hope you have a Happy Valentine’s Day and are able to cuddle up to the one you love in some meaningful way.

For those who don’t have anyone special in your life, know that you are loved by many whom you may not have met, yet. Maybe the winter storm in your life will pass soon and you will find the beauty in life as spring rolls in to replace the cold and troublesome weather. Don’t give up! There is always hope. 🙂 Take care-Wayne

EARTHQUAKE: The winter storm continued for days. Two days after I wrote the above, a 4.1 Earthquake hit Edgefield, SC on Valentine’s Day. I told a friend, “Someone must not have gotten a Valentine’s card.”

SIN CITY
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA: I overheard staff members discussing what was said during an August 2017, Union meeting in Las Vegas. A BOP spokesperson stated, “We are running out of prisoners because of changes made in the law and policies implemented by President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.”

Some of those policies implemented by the former Attorney General that decreased the prison population, focused on reentry initiatives, and ordering prosecutors to cease the practice of beefing-up criminal charges on defendants to get guilty pleas, as well as to respect state rights by not prosecuting those who grow marijuana in states where it is legal.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is working on solving “that problem” with new policies he has implemented (reversing pot policy), and with assistance from Director Inch, changing BOP halfway house/RRC placement practices, which will increase recidivism.

RECIDIVISM: Read “Recidivism in America” (01/25/17) for more on recidivism and the BOP’s population decline, due, in part, to those policies implemented by the former President and Attorney General (“The B.O.P. began 2017 with 189,333 prisoners, which is substantially less than the 219,298 reported in 2013.”)

On February 8, 2018, the BOP population was 183,447, with 7,149 prisoners in halfway houses, and 2,180 more on home confinement. To show the effect of policy changes by Director Inch, on June 15, 2017, the month before he took control, the halfway house population was 8,848, with 3,559 on home confinement.

HALF A CHANCE: BOP DIRECTOR MARK INCH DISREGARDS PROVISIONS OF THE SECOND CHANCE ACT.

The Honorable Henry R. Wilhoit, Jr., U.S. District Judge, wrote the following about the Second Chance Act in Glenn, Jr. v. Holland, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127740 (E.D., Ky. 11/03/11):

“The ‘Second Chance Act of 2007’

“The Second Chance Act amends 18 U.S.C. Sections 3621(a) and 3624(c) and requires the BOP staff to review inmates for halfway house placement 17-19 months before their projected release dates.

“The purpose of the Second Chance Act are, in part, to break the cycle of criminal recidivism; to rebuild ties between offenders and their families; to encourage the development and support of programs that enhance public safety and reduce recidivism, such as substance abuse treatment, alternatives to incarceration and comprehensive reentry services; to protect the public and promote law-abiding conduct; to assist offenders reentering the community from incarceration; and to provide offenders in prison … with educational, literacy, vocational, and job placement services to facilitate reentry into the community. See Act, 112 Stat 657. The Second Chance Act requires the BOP to ‘ensure that a prisoner serving a term of imprisonment spends a portion of the final months of that term (not to exceed 12-months), under conditions that will afford that prisoner a reasonable opportunity to adjust to and prepare for the reentry of that prisoner into the community.’ 18 U.S.C. Section 3624(c).”

Maybe Director Inch hasn’t read the statute, which puts the responsibility on him to accomplish the above. The SCA (18 U.S.C. Section 3624(c), Prerelease Custody) begins with, “The Director of the Bureau of Prisons shall, ….” After I receive the response to my Administrative Appeal (BP-9), I will mail him a copy, which includes a copy of a newsletter by attorney Brandon Sample, who explains the legislative process (NEWS@BRANDONSAMPLE.COM).

BOP MISSION STATEMENT: “The Federal Bureau of Prisons protects society by confining offenders in the controlled environment of prisons and community-based facilities that are safe, humane, and appropriately secure, and which provides work and other self-improvement opportunities to assist offenders in becoming law-abiding citizens.”

The mission statement must have excluded the federal prison administrators that I’ve lived under for almost thirty-years, since I’ve not seen many programs that provide self-improvement opportunities, and since I have struggled with the ones at this institution to have regularly scheduled, self-improvement programs that reduce recidivism; i.e., Twelve Step meetings. And the situation here for 12-Step programs is better than what others report who come from other federal institutions.

Perhaps the BOP mission statement was written before private prison company executives corrupted the criminal justice system with their bribes (contributions) to increase their bottom lines and ensure a robust prison population.

Perhaps one can file under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act to see if the Honorable United States Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, and the Honorable Mark S. Inch, BOP Director, received “contributions” from private prison company executives (e.g., Core Civic and GEO Group), whose influences have lead to laws and policies that increased recidivism at taxpayers’ expense, the same as what is happening with the changed halfway house practices.

Read “Half a Problem” for more on the halfway house issue, and “The Truth About Incarceration, Part II” for more on the corrupt influence of private prison executives on prison authorities and politicians.

OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL REPORT ON BOP HALFWAY HOUSES (https://oig.justice.gov/reports/2016/a1701.pdf):

“The OIG found that, contrary to policy, guidance, and relevant research, BOP is ‘placing the great majority of eligible inmates into RRCs regardless of inmate risk for recidivism or need for transitional services, unless the inmate is deemed not suitable for such placement because the inmate poses a significant threat to the community. As a result, low-risk, low-need inmates are more likely to be placed in RRCs than high-risk, high-need inmates.’

“The numbers tell the story. During the study period, 90% of minimum security and 75% of low security inmates received RRC/home confinement placement. But only 58% of high security level inmates got such placement, while the remaining 42% were released into the community directly from a BOP institution. While the OIG Report conceded that this ‘may be a result of the fact that many of the high security inmates were considered a public safety risk,’ still the Report suggested that because, on average, the high-security inmates were within four months of release anyway, there didn’t seem to be much justification for not sending them to a halfway house, where they (and the community) might benefit from receiving reentry programming.” BOP HALFWAY HOUSE PROGRAM FOUND TO BE DEFICIENT (11/20/16), Legal Information Services Associates newsletter (for free Corrlinks newsletter, send email to newsletter@lisa-legalinfo.com). Visit www.lisa-legalinfo.com.

Many of the high-security prisoners released straight into the community, will commit crimes against citizens and return to prison. Providing a reasonable opportunity to prepare for reentry would reduce the numbers of those who do.

In an OIG Report on the BOP Release Preparation Program (RPP), the OIG stated, “Finally, we found that the BOP does not currently collect comprehensive re-arrest data on its former inmates, has no performance metrics to gauge the RPP’s impact on recidivism, and does not currently make any attempt to link RPP efforts to recidivism. We also found that the BOP has not yet completed a recidivism analysis required by the Second Chance Act of 2007. Such analyses would help the BOP know whether the RPP is effectively accomplishing its objective of reducing recidivism.” REVIEW OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS RELEASE PREPARATION PROGRAM (09/04/16), Jeremy Gordon Newsletter (info@topfederallawyer.com) Visit www.facebook.com/gordondefense.

The BOP first must want to decrease recidivism. Remember the Backwards on Purpose agency, whose “[a]ctions speak so loud I can’t hear a word of what [they] say.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The new halfway house policy lead to one man here, a recidivist who served 12-years, to receive 12-DAYS in an RRC. Another man served 14-years and received 28-DAYS. Considering that Congress extended the permissible RRC placement period from 6-to-12 months to decrease recidivism, shortening that period will increase recidivism.

THE STORM RAGES ON.
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Wayne T. Dowdy writes at http://www.straightfromthepen.com & https://waynedowdy.weebly.com.

Support his writing by purchasing his paperbacks and eBooks.  Paperbacks available from Amazon.com and your favorite eStores.  Visit his Smashwords Author’s Page at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy for eBooks, some of which are free.

HALF A PROBLEM

By Wayne T. Dowdy

backwards-arrowDon’t get it twisted; I am glad to have this half of a problem but it is a problem much greater than what confronts me.  The Bureau of Prisons (BOP), or “Backwards On Purpose” agency of the United States Department of Justice, is denying me of something I feel I have earned and need before reentering society.

But more than that, the situation that affects me affects the lives of many others, including thousands of federal prisoners and the unsuspecting public who has a right to know what goes on behind the walls, bars and fences of the federal prison system.

In my blog, “Life Inside” (11/20/17), I wrote about 16-halfway house closures, or rather, the BOP agency’s decision not to renew contracts, that may affect my leaving here on April 25, 2018.  It proved true!

Halfway House, Community Corrections Center, and Residential Reentry Center (RRC) are synonymous.

civil war imageBATTLE LINES:  Many of my peers do not know how to fight for their rights, and the unsuspecting public does not know how the recently appointed BOP Director, Mark S. Inch, is putting them at risk of becoming the victim of a recidivist.

I acknowledge that the retired, two-star General, walked onto a battlefield of a different kind than those where he probably sent or helped send many men and women to die in battle.  Though his actions created my dilemma, I chose not to view him or anyone as an enemy, as we are all comrades in life.  Nor do I mean to come across in a disrespectful manner towards him, because I do respect him and his accomplishments in life.

In addition, I do not want to believe that he had ill intent when he implemented processes (not renewing halfway house contracts; removing cognitive behavior programming requirements).  Those actions lead to increased recidivism rates (more men and women reverting to old behaviors that led back to prison or worse).

However, I cannot help but believe that his actions are driven, in part, by the influence of private prison officials.

Me and Director Inch are at opposite ends of a spectrum, where my vast experience provides a view he may not see due to the political BS thrown in his eyes by Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, who appointed Mr. Inch as BOP Director.

ISN’T IT IRONIC:  My publisher liked my Happy New Year and Happy New Life message that I sent out to those on my Corrlinks contact list.  She decided to post it as a blog on January 2, 2018.  Ironically, I learned on that same day that the requested halfway house date of April 25, 2018, had been reduced to December 26, 2018 (leaving me with only 119-days in prerelease status at an RRC or on home confinement).

My first line of irrational thoughts were to tell “them” where to stick those 119-days, and then refuse to go to the halfway house upon release.  In my situation, though, the staff here on my Unit Team is on my side and wanted me to receive more time to help me successfully reintegrate; it is not anyone here who angered me with such a stupid proposition as sending a man to a halfway house for 119-days, who has served 30-years in the insane world of incarceration.

The irony is what I had written in the last paragraph of the now titled blog, Happy New Life:   “Whether that day comes on April 25, 2018, or April 24, 2019, I will succeed at living the rest of my days doing something worthwhile and beneficial to this thing we call life.”

GRATITUDE/RESENTMENT:  I resent the Backwards On Purpose agency not giving me the requested 364-days.  But, hey, I do have a release date; it’s not the date I expected or feel I’ve earned, but I am grateful to have a date.

Staff and inmates alike were shocked to hear I only received 119-days, after having served 30-years, and after having maintained clear conduct since March 1993 (almost 25-years).  My only incidents of misbehavior were drug-related; no convictions for committing acts of violence or otherwise harming others.  I help others, maybe that’s why the powers who be want to keep me around?

REVERSE DISCRIMINATION:  Perhaps I am a victim of reverse discrimination.  A close friend who left here on December 20, 2017, en route to the same halfway house I’m going to (Dismas Charities, Atlanta, GA).  He has a lot of resources (home, land, large bank account, supporting family), and received eleven and a half months RRC placement.

He’s African-American, near my age, served 23-years for armed bank robbery and a firearm charge, whereas I’ve served almost 30-years for armed bank robbery and associated charges, but I did not have a firearm.  He and I have a Criminal History Category of VI (several prior convictions).  He had disciplinary (incident) reports for acts of violence.  I haven’t.

I’m a European-American (white), born and raised in Georgia.  I do not have financial resources and will be starting over at the age of sixty-one.

Other African-Americans have received shorter terms of RRC placement, who haven’t served as long.

One white friend going to the same halfway house, who has been in prison less than a year, received 60-days: I’ve served 29-more and received 58-days more, thanks to the absurd Backwards on Purpose agency.

MY LAST CHRISTMAS?  In “Santa, Stars, Sex & Politics” (12/18/17), I wrote, “For me, this Christmas will be my last behind bars so life is good.”  Whoever set the date of my departure from here as the day after Christmas, must have chuckled as he or she thought to get the message across that they were making sure I wouldn’t be home for Christmas.  It is not over, though.

IT’S ON:  Battle lines have been drawn.  Battle drums rattle my brain.  The war is on.  I am fighting for myself and will fight for those whom I will leave behind.

My plan is to elicit the help of the United States Congress to halt the plans of General Inch, who was under fire during the Federal Prison Oversight Hearing on 12/13/2017, about his actions in regard to Residential Reentry Centers.

No doubt, his actions put the American public in harms way.  Personally, I believe he may have mislead Congress about his intent behind his actions that results in men and women spending more time in prison and less time in RRC placement.

If he does not renew RRC contracts, he creates a shortage of bed space that justifies keeping people in prison longer, at a higher cost to taxpayers.  Congress enacted THE SECOND CHANCE ACT OF 2007 to provide prisoners with longer RRC placement periods.   Read on for more.

According to attorney Brandon Sample, “Director Inch was asked by several members of the Committee about BOP’s decision to cut back halfway house placements.  In response, Director Inch told the Committee that the agency is ‘absolutely not’ cutting back on its commitment to re-entry.”

The BOP shut down its Reentry Hotline which says it all.

In the modified words of a famous poet whose name I don’t recall (Henry David Thoreau (?)), Director Mark Inch’s “[a]ctions speak so loud I can’t hear a word of what [he] says.”

HALF A PROBLEM:  My problem isn’t much of a problem on one level, and is one thousands of other prisoners would love to have:  I have a release date and am near getting out of prison.

THOUSANDS of my peers do not have a release date; others have release dates decades away, just as I did when I began this sentence on August 18, 1988.  My problem does not compare to theirs but it is a problem because 119-days does not provide me with what the United States Congress said the Director of the Bureau of Prisons should provide its prisoners (a “sufficient duration [of RRC placement] to provide the greatest likelihood of successful reintegration into the community.”)  18 U.S.C., Section 3624(c)(6).

When I first began this sentence, my Unit Team at U.S.P. Leavenworth, suggested I not do anything to lose any Good Conduct Time (time earned off a sentence for good behavior).  I said, “By the time I do thirty-years, do you really think I’ll care about doing five more?”

SURVIVOR SYNDROME:  I now care about doing those extra five-years; at least, on one level I do, but on another, I really don’t, to a certain extent.  Prison life is what I know best.  I’ve been incarcerated most of my life and have survived being in two prisons rated the most violent prisons in the U.S. while I was in them (GA State Prison, Reidsville (1981-85), and U.S.P. Atlanta, GA (1993-96)).

I survived those experiences and will survive the outcome of this sentence and whatever I encounter upon my release; however, I do feel I need more time to re-acclimate to the society I left 30-years ago.

FLAWED THINKING:  In the Georgia prison system, the State Board of Pardons & Paroles notified me that I had a tentative parole date:  It shocked me.  I was also told of being considered for halfway house placement.

I wrote and said, “Give that spot to someone who needs it.  I don’t need to go because I have a job lined up, a family, and a good support system.  Some guys don’t have anything.”

When I got to the halfway house, I realized how much I needed it.  I stayed 4 1/2 months after serving 7-years, not thirty.  I failed to successfully reintegrate.

BACKWARDS ON PURPOSE AGENCY:  When statistics indicate what the results will likely be and an agency enacted with a specific purpose in mind to avoid those results by taking actions, and then does the opposite, their actions or inactions prove their intent.

“SECOND CHANCE ACT OF 2007:  Community Safety Through Recidivism Reduction.”  Congress entered provisions for the Second Chance Act in Title 18 of the United States Code (U.S.C.), Section 3624(c), Prerelease Custody.

Congress enacted those provisions to make communities safer by helping ex-offenders successfully reintegrate into the community, not to put ex-offenders at a higher risk of committing crimes to survive.  Section 3624(c) increased the maximum term of RRC placement from 6-months to 12-months.

“Section 3624(c)(1) provides:

“The Director of the Bureau of Prisons shall, to the extent practicable, ensure that a prisoner serving a term of imprisonment spends a portion of the final months of that term (not to exceed 12 months), under conditions that will afford that prisoner a reasonable opportunity to adjust to and prepare for the reentry of that prisoner into the community.  Such conditions may include a community correctional facility.”  Brandon Sample Newsletter, email:  news@brandonsample.com

Congress directed the BOP Director to ensure that RRC placements are “(A) conducted in a manner consistent with section 3621(b) of this title [18 U.S.C.]; (B) determined on an individual basis; and (C) of sufficient duration to provide the greatest likelihood of successful reintegration into the community.”  18 U.S.C., section 3624(c)(6).

How does reducing the term of RRC placement fulfill congressional intent?  It doesn’t.

Halfway House or Residential Reentry Centers, are what Congress gave the Bureau of Prisons to use for providing its prisoners with a “reasonable opportunity to adjust to and prepare for reentry … into the community.”  The purpose of the Second Chance Act is to reduce recidivism.

January 5, 2018:  I completed Step One in the administrative remedy process by completing what is known in the federal Bureau of Prisons as a BP-8, Informal Resolution Form.  For illustrative purposes, I use my situation to show that Dir. Inch may be putting society in harms way with his new halfway house policy that will increase the risk of recidivism, contrary to Congressional directives for him to do the opposite.

Perhaps Dir. Inch mislead Congress on 12/13/2017, during a two and a half hour hearing, when he claimed to be keeping the Bureau of Prisons’ commitment to provide inmates with reentry needs.  I thought American Generals fought to protect its citizens.

His new policy led to the 119-days that does not only affect my life: his policy will ultimately affect the lives of others who leave the federal prison system, all of the victims of recidivist, and all of the lives of loved ones incarcerated in the “BOP” agency.

TO BE CONTINUED

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Wayne T. Dowdy writes at StraightFromthePen.com

residential reentry centers, RRC, halfway house; Brandon Sample, Esq.; Congress, Second Chance Act, reentry, federal prison system, Bureau of Prisons, B.O.P., Director, Mark Inch; U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions; U.S. Department of Justice

LIFE INSIDE

by Wayne T. Dowdy

silhouette of a man in window
Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

Recent events that concern federal prisoners may affect whether I leave for a halfway house on April 25, 2018.  Other events affect my serenity when I allow something eternal to govern my feelings, as is common for us living, breathing, human beings.  Feelings, negative or positive, remind me I am alive.  Powerlessness sucks!

MASS SHOOTINGS:  Life inside can be challenging, as it can be on the outside; typically, though, challenges on the inside are of a lesser degree.  On the inside, we don’t have to worry about some idiot running us down with a vehicle.  Nor do we have to worry about cowards using guns to massacre us, as happened on October 1, 2017 at a concert in Las Vegas, Nevada, and then again on November 5, 2017, at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Mental illness played a role in the murders.  I sympathize with the victims and survivors of those and all other senseless acts of violence.

In “Love and Evil Are Color-Blind” (June 25, 2015), I wrote about a church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine people were murdered.  In that blog, I referenced to the December 10, 2007, church murders in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Jeanne Assam, a volunteer, armed-security-guard, saved the masses by challenging and shooting the predator.  He killed himself after she shot him.  The predator in Sutherland Springs, Texas also killed himself, after being shot by an armed citizen.

Without an armed citizen on the scene at the Colorado Springs church, many others would have died.  President Trump said the same thing about the Texas Church Massacre.

Two church shootings occurred in towns with names ending in “Springs.”

HALFWAY HOUSES:  Sixteen halfway houses will not be providing federal prisoners with a place to transition into society.  Several prisoners who had halfway house dates and were expecting to leave, later learned the dates had been extended.

A man in Yazoo City, MS, learned the day before his departure date that his date was moved back seven months.  He had already mailed out his personal property in preparation of leaving.

One man at this institution was not told about the cancellation of his date.  His family drove a few hundred miles to pick him up.  They sat in the parking lot on the morning of his scheduled release date while waiting to carry him to the halfway house.

He didn’t get to see his family; prison authorities had turned them away.  He learned his date had been cancelled and that he couldn’t leave.

I’ve received information from several sources.  Ms. Sue Kastensen, owner/CEO of Fairshake.net, a reentry service, provided a list of halfway houses closing, via the website for Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM).

The owners of these halfway houses chose not to renew their B.O.P. contracts and have closed, or will close soon:  Ft. Collins, CO; Marquette, MI; Akron, OH; Dayton, OH; Ashland, KY; Beaumont, TX, and Butte, MT.

The B.O.P. chose not to renew these halfway house contracts: Colorado Springs, CO (remember the Church shooting there); Madison, WI; Mitchell, SD; Wheeling, WV; Columbia, MO; Binghamton, NY; Durham, NC; Duluth, MN, and Champagne, IL.

MY TAKE:  The Department of Justice is making room for larger halfway houses operated by private prison companies; e.g., Core Civic and GEO Group.  Core Civic announced its plan to get into the halfway house business several months ago.

GEO Group holds its annual conference at a resort owned by President Trump.  The stock of both companies soared within a week of the election (Core Civic was then Correctional Corporation of America; its stock rose a staggering 43%, and GEO Group’s jumped 26%).

In the November 10th Fair Shake newsletter, a prisoner shared his negative experience with a halfway house in Florida (no resources or help for finding employment, rude & disrespectful staff).  His experience coincided with my friend who was at the halfway house I should go to one day.

My friend said that if I didn’t receive the full-year at the halfway house, not to worry too much, because if he had known all the BS that went on in halfway houses, he’d stayed at U.S.P. Coleman in Florida, the prison he left to go to Dismas Charities in Atlanta, GA.

Other people reported favorably about the halfway house experience at Dismas Charities in Atlanta.  Experiences vary.  I’ll be okay either way, whether I go for a few months, or for the requested full-year that I need to secure a job at the earliest date possible to restart my life as a law-abiding citizen, after having served thirty consecutive years in prison.

(Check out www.fairshake.net for reentry needs.  Contact info:  Fair Shake, P.O. Box 63, Westby, WI 54667.  Sign up for the free reentry newsletter by email:  outreach@fairshake.net).

MORE ON HALFWAY HOUSES:  Attorney Brandon Sample sent several newsletters on halfway house closures.  In one article he explained the statutory process created by Congress for halfway house placement; if interested, read it at https://sentencing.net/prison-conditions/federal-halfway-house.

Contact info:  Brandon Sample, Esq., P.O. Box 250, Rutland, VT 05702 (email: info@brandonsample.com)

Sign up for a free newsletter by email:  news@brandonsample.com.

Brandon played a large role in finding prisoners affected by halfway house closures and thus contributed to an article on Splinter News.  See “How Prisoners on the Verge of Freedom Are Getting Screwed by the Feds” by Molly Osberg (https://splinternews.com/how-prisoners-on-the-verge-of-freedom-are-getting-screw-1820192725).

SOCIETY & PRISONERS:  Why should society be concerned about prison-related issues?  Because most prisoners return to society, and if not treated, return in worse shape than when arrested.  Halfway houses help prisoners transition into society, and play an intricate part in whether the released prisoner returns to his or her life of crime (recidivism), or successfully reintegrates into society.

Recidivist affect the lives of others by collecting victims and costing taxpayers millions of dollars.  Most likely, no one who sat in the Sutherland, Texas church service expected a mentally ill person, who was a recidivist, to come in shooting people.

Had the shooter received the needed help while serving time in jail for abusing his wife and child, those people may not have lost their lives.  The system failed him and cost lives.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:  What can we do to help those suffering from mental illness and or drug and alcohol problems, who go to prison and are not provided treatment for their condition?

Push for legislation, with sanctions for noncompliance against prison officials who fail to provide treatment programs and after care services, for those with substance use and mental health issues.

What can we do to help change the lives of others?  Provide opportunities to facilitate change may be a start.

Why do many prison authorities resist providing prisoners with resources to facilitate changing?  Ask your legislatures.

MAIL ABUSE:  I’ll conclude this with a memorandum from the warden.  I do not fault her or any prison administrator, but I do not agree with the resolution: it appears to me that mailroom staff do what they are paid to do (detect the introduction of contraband).

After a change in the mail-restrictive-process outlined in “The Memorandum,” what if the institution’s drug problem with the introduction of suboxone strips (a drug not allowed in the B.O.P. that medical professionals use to treat opiate addiction); or with some other drug, and then the Specialist in Security team discovers corrupt staff members introduced the contraband, or that drugs came through visitation or other means, will that result in restricting staff from entering the institution without extreme measures implemented to detect drugs, or in the cancellation of all visitation privileges?  Would the mail-restrictive policy be reversed?  No, to each question.

(I use staff and visitation examples for illustrative purposes only, not to suggest or imply anything improper.)

A few years ago, a prison guard and U.S. Marshal died in a shootout at the federal institution in Tallahassee, Florida, when  federal marshals came to arrest the guard for bringing in drugs and having sex with inmates, I seem to recall.  After that, tighter security measures were introduced to detect weapons, but did nothing to detect other forms of “hard contraband.”

WHO’S TO BLAME:  I fault my peers who violate mail privileges.

I fault the prison administration for not taking a proactive approach by providing meaningful treatment for addicts and mentally ill prisoners, which may not prevent the introduction of contraband, but it would help to reduce some of the demand.

From a different perspective, numerous requests were made for administrative assistance in providing Twelve Step meetings on a consistent basis, but such requests fell on deaf ears, even though the B.O.P.’s Mission Statement proclaims to “[p]rovide work and other self-improvement opportunities to assist offenders in becoming law-abiding citizens.”

Prison unemployment rates are high and most available self-improvement programs lack in substance.

A man I know who struggled with a suboxone addiction and went to the Segregated Housing Unit for drug-related issues, asked an executive staff member to help provide regularly scheduled Narcotics Anonymous meetings that he said helped.  Nothing changed.

Twelve Step members at this institution are fortunate to have the meetings that are held, but the Bureau of Prisons falls short when it comes to providing addicts and alcoholics with help needed to recover from addiction problems.  The issue gets magnified when it comes to helping addicts and alcoholics with an underlying mental disorder.

(Read “No Sympathy” for a personal example and more on the Bureau of Prison’s failure to treat those with co-occurring disorders (https://straightfromthepen.com) or purchase ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN*).

This is a reproduction of the Memorandum for the world to see, should a random reader decide to send me or someone else a Christmas card or letter or any form of written communication affected by the absurd policy.

The Memorandum:  October 30, 2017

“Subject:  Incoming Inmate Correspondence

“Due to the escalation of hard contraband detected in incoming mail, which interferes with the orderly running of the institution and facilitates criminal activity, the following procedures will become effective December 1, 2017.  It is your responsibility to inform those you correspond with of these changes.

“All incoming greeting cards, envelopes and contents must be made with plain paper (no recycled paper, card stock, cotton paper, poster board, napkins, construction paper, etc.).    Store purchased greeting cards must be single layer and allow for examination without separating and altering its original state.

“If incoming inmate general correspondence envelopes are composed of unauthorized paper, the envelope will be stamped ‘return to sender, only envelopes made with plain paper authorized’.  Once the envelope is opened and the content is unauthorized, a rejection letter will be prepared for the sender and inmate.

“In addition, all postage stamps will be removed from incoming correspondence.  Correspondence containing glitter, glue, stickers, fragrance, and tape or adhesives, will be rejected and a rejection letter will be prepared.

“As a reminder, items that cannot be searched or examined without destruction or alteration (electronic greeting cards, padded cards, etc.), will be returned to the sender.”

How can manufacturers make cards without cardstock and glue for envelopes?  Maybe the fragrance of perfume on another sender’s correspondence won’t bleed on mine to get it rejected.  Prison policy makers don’t have to think well to make rules we must follow.  God Grant Me the Serenity to Accept What I Cannot Change.

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* $10.95 at Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/dp/1794396829 or your favorite booksellers.  For multiple purchases contact the author, Wayne T. Dowdy  (Email:  waynedowdy@straightfromthepen.com)

REENTERING REALITY

by Wayne T. Dowdy

Time Warp - Time Dilation. Quantum mechanics meets general relat
Time Warp – Time Dilation. Quantum mechanics meets general relativity.

The clock ticks away the seconds, minutes, hours, and months until my release. The realities I must face flood the senses as my day comes closer. The last three decades of my life will have been spent inside federal prisons. For most of this sentence, getting out seemed so far into the future that I never concerned myself with release preparations, other than general ideas about where I would live when that day arrives, and how to legally provide for myself; e.g., writing my way to riches, freelance technical writing, writing “how to” books; working as an internal auditor, or helping to prepare a company for ISO certification of their quality management system, maybe starting a company. Some of my peers want me to set up a paralegal service to help those still incarcerated. Whatever I do, I will succeed as a free citizen.

FREEDOM: In recent months, I have known a few to receive commutation of sentences: Alphonso Davis, Alonzo Mackins, and the most recent two J. F. Banks, and M. L. Sherrod, all of whom were doomed to die in federal prison until President Obama bestowed his mercy upon them and gave them another chance at life. All four men had sentences of life without parole for various drug-related crimes. (See LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE below.)

FREEDOM DENIED: I have known many, many, more men whose petitions were denied, including myself. My petition was denied on September 30, 2016. I am not alone. Thousands of applicants of all ethnic backgrounds have been denied.

Personally, I have not known anyone other than African-Americans whose petitions were granted. I know race plays a role in the decision on whether to grant or not grant a petition, since President Obama specifically mentioned sentencing disparities of “minorities.” It makes me happy to see anyone blessed with freedom.

The sad part is that all four of those men I know, who were serving life without parole, are only a micro-percentage of all the others I know who are in the same position and deserve another chance at life.

I do believe that what President Obama is doing is a good thing. I do not believe the color of a person’s skin should have been a decisive factor in sentencing or relief. I know the President began Clemency Project 2014 to release people of color who met specific requirements; a few others were also released. All of the people I know whom he granted relief deserved it and should not have been serving the rest of their lives in prison for their crimes.

RECIDIVISM: Statistically, many released prisoners will re-offend, whether white, black, yellow, or brown. Only a few will commit horrendous crimes and regardless of what percentage returns, the politicians should not use that to justify not passing laws to give others another chance at freedom. (Read my July 25, 2016, blog post, “Changing Public Image of Prisoners,” (UNRECOGNIZED SUCCESS STORIES), and “Reentry Programs Will Reduce Recidivism” for more on the issue.)

TOUGH-ON-CRIME BRIBES: Many donations will be given to politicians who vote against prison reform bills. On July 27, 2016, Presidential candidate Donald Trump received a $45,000 contribution from GEO Group, Inc., a private prison group with a vested interest in high incarceration rates. www. rollcall.com, “Private Immigrant Detention Firm Gave $45K to Trump Fundraising Group” by Dean DeChiaro.

My day will come and I will walk out the door a better man than when I walked in three decades before. Most of the years I have spent in prison were due in part to tough-on-crime bills driven by funding from private prison representatives.

In the “Truth About Incarceration, Part II” (https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com), I wrote on the influence on laws by contributions from private prison officials.

lifewithoutparoleLIFE WITHOUT PAROLE: Life without parole for drug crimes was once considered to be cruel and unusual punishment in some states until the United States Supreme Court decided it was cruel but not unusual, and then upheld a Michigan criminal statute that allowed men and women sentenced to life without parole for possessing “650 grams or more of any mixture containing certain controlled substance, including cocaine.” He a first-time offender. Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957 (1991).

“Times change. The law has changed. Our culture is changing its views about how long we should put people behind bars.” The Honorable J. Merritt, Circuit Judge, dissenting in United States v. Taylor, 815 F.3d 248 (6th Cir. 2016).

Americans are reevaluating punishment for what they think crimes should carry.

The time has come for Americans to take a stand about the mass incarceration that drains the economy and ruins the family structure of those affected by unjust incarceration.

BLOGS: I wrote blogs in tribute to Alphonso and Alonzo, both of whom were friends (“Freedom for a Friend” and “Freedom for Another Friend”). In those blogs, I praised President Obama for doing what he did. I wrote other blogs that relates to others reentering society and my views on programs to reduce recidivism (reverting to old behaviors, drug addiction or crime that leads men and women back to prison).

On a different note, President Obama was an attorney before he became a senator and then the President. As an attorney, he would have seen first-hand how Americans were cast into prison for life without parole, for crimes that did not warrant such severe punishment.

TRANSITIONS: Most everyone faces difficulties when reentering society; especially, with a criminal conviction to overcome when applying for jobs. Just trying to fit-it can be challenging upon return to a different society than when the ex-offender was last free. In “No Sympathy”* I wrote about such changes.

I forewarned Mr. Mackins about the changes to expect during his transition. He was a first-time offender who had spent eighteen years of his life in an unnatural environment: prison. Reentering society after decades in prison often makes a person feel like an alien.

My time is coming soon. Am I ready? Yes!

In 1988, I did not worry about what my life would be like in 2019, sixty-two years old; leaving prison, without a home, or a car, or a job, and without money to sustain my life in a foreign world: the free society. The world I left as a young man for sitting in a second-getaway vehicle during an armed bank robbery, down the road from the bank, unarmed, alone until confederates came to meet me for the great escape.

With it now being the end of 2016, and with knowing my case manager said he will put me in for more time in a halfway house than most people receive (due to amount of time served), I may go to that distant world as early as April 24, 2018. The reality of my upcoming release sets in.

My tentative release date is April 24, 2019. That is the date I am scheduled to begin serving my five years of supervised release. I will have served thirty-years and nine months inside.

For fourteen years I was rated as High security and Maximum custody. The custody rating determines the level of security and controls needed to house an inmate.

CHANGES: In the beginning, I realized a very real chance existed that I might die in prison; especially, since I was told I would stay maximum custody, because I had assaulted staff and escaped while serving time in the State of Georgia. I never accepted I could not get my custody/security lowered, even though the classification system did have me in a trap: I could never score enough points for a custody decrease, regardless of how well I behaved.

I did not give up, even with it looking as if I would never get my security lowered because of my past. My High Max classification was based more on my behavior as a twenty-four-year-young, knuckle head, than my behavior in the federal system.

Early on when I asked about having the maximum custody removed, the unit manager at U.S.P. Leavenworth said, “You will be maximum custody when you get out in 2020.” (My release date was in 2020.)

Years later, after not having been a disciplinary or management problem, I asked my case manager about removing the maximum custody that kept me in the penitentiaries. She said, “Two things the B.O.P. does not tolerate is escape and assault on staff and you have done both. I don’t see any warden signing off on you but we will talk about it at your next team.”

At the next team meeting I asked again. She put her hand on my extensive file, tapped it with a finger, and then said, “The person I see in here is not the same person I see sitting in front of me. You’ve changed haven’t you?”

“Yeah, I changed a little,” I said and laughed.

I have changed a lot over the years and am an honorable man and a good person. Many times I wondered if I would see the outside again, especially when I sat in some of the most dangerous federal prisons in the United States, with trouble brewing that I knew could lead to a full-scale riot and result in the deaths of many men.

I maintained my sanity by not thinking about a day I knew I may never see: the day I would walk out the prison doors as a free man.

REALITIES OF RELEASE: I recently thought about some of the challenges I will face upon release: needing a car for transportation to and from work, and needing the money to buy the car and insurance for the car that I cannot buy without a job. In the city of Atlanta, which is where I will be sent for the halfway house portion of my sentence, I will be able to use the MARTA transit system to get around while in the halfway house. In the suburbs of Atlanta where I plan to live, I am not sure if public transportation exists.

When I was last a free citizen, the price of gasoline at some Georgia gas stations was $0.78 to $0.82 cent per gallon. At high dollar stations like Shell and Exxon, it only cost around $1.15 to $1.38 per gallon. By the time I am released, I am sure the prices will be around $3.00 to $4.25 per gallon.

WANTS VERSUS NEEDS: I realized through my personal experience that the lack of money management skills put people in prison, as does drug and alcohol abuse. During the last twenty-one, “sober years” of this sentence, I learned to manage my money by living within my means, not borrowing to buy, and making decisions to purchase based on needs versus wants.

If the prison commissary stocks a new item (e.g., a different style of tennis shoes I like, a watch, radio, or MP-3 player), I have often wanted to purchase the item but have not because it was a “want,” not a need. I love music and can afford to purchase an MP-3 player. I really do “want” one, but if I buy one, then I’d be buying songs for $1.55 each. I resisted the impulse and applied my limited funds toward paying for time on Corrlinks to write these blogs and for sending emails to friends and loved ones, or printing documents at fifteen cents per page.

I keep time on the first Indiglo model Timex that I bought in March of 1995. I don’t need a different watch, I want one. My relic works fine. I must maintain that level of thinking upon release.

My primary objective will be to find an apartment or home to rent or buy when my finances permit it. When I do, then I have to buy insurance on the house (and personal insurance), and then furniture for the house or apartment.

Relationships will be another adventure. God will give me who I need to make me whole.

Materially, I do not need anything elaborate, nor do I need all the fancy gadgets, such as the latest Apple iPhone. I’ll need to buy clothes to dress for success, a decent cellphone, preferably a Smartphone (who wants a dumb phone?), a computer for my writing career, and maybe a spacecraft to begin my journey into a whole new world. 🙂

In my blog, “The Internet,” I wrote about a conversation I had with my first unit team members. Read it and you will understand what I mean about a spacecraft.

Whether I have a spaceship or not, I will be okay and will be successful as a free citizen.

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The publisher will advertise UNKNOWN INNOCENCE in their newsletter that goes to prisoners. To absorb the cost of shipping and handling, I asked that the price be lowered from $14.95 to $10.95. Purchase it now while the price is low.

* “No Sympathy” is in ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN by Wayne T. Dowdy. It is a good read for those who want to know the truth about life inside American prisons and the associated politics of survival inside the insane world of incarceration. The book is a deal at $8.95.