Category Archives: Recidivism

Help Returning Citizens


Question from a Concerned Citizen on Quora.com

[Modified Answer for Blog Post]

How can we support people just released from prison so they can get on track to a productive life instead of going back to crime?

https://www.quora.com/How-can-we-support-people-just-released-from-prison-so-they-can-get-on-track-to-a-productive-life-instead-of-going-back-to-crime/answer/Wayne-T-Dowdy

Great question! I feel it’s important for those who are released to know help is available. Websites such as Fair Shake | Reentry Resource Center and other reentry based websites have collected available resources (including companies who hire ex-offenders/returning citizens), organized by state, if applicable, to help provide hope for success, and to help returning citizens know help is available.  That means a lot, so, I feel it is important to support those types of services, and to then direct returning citizens to them and to any of the organizations mentioned in those sites that supplies suggestions for successful reintegration.

Family and friends may also visit those sites to learn more about what the returning citizen faces upon release. Researching for the returning citizen helps, and during the process, the family members and friends may learn ways to help supply support to returning citizens.

As I state in many of my answers, there are many variables concerning prison life and the thousands of individuals held within the walls of confinement, who are then released back into society—with society sometimes being a foreign environment—because of all the changes that occurred since the departure of the returning citizen.

All released prisoners do not have the same history (amount of time served and under what conditions, which means a lot in considering release-needs; the nature of their offense(s); substance abuse and or mental health issues; what all was lost during the period of incarceration; educational and vocational backgrounds, which may help determine employability; available resources from family and friends. etc.).

The answers to those factors help determine what others may do to help that person successfully reintegrate.

PERSONALLY:  For me, it was important knowing I had the support of my family and friends, emotional support as well as any financial-support I needed, within reason. Having loved ones who provided me with clothing, any needed funds, a place to live, and a cellphone and computer helped more than the words flying from these keys can accurately represent. 

I have been blessed and am fortunate to have walked out of prison, thirty-years and ten-days later, to still have family and friends who were still around and still loved and cared for me.  Most returning citizens are not so fortunate and need help finding a job to support themselves, if able to work; if not, may need help finding where to apply for any available aid, and help in applying for that aid. 

Forms and processes for obtaining available services can be aggravating and overwhelming to returning citizens without experience in technology. 

Transitioning isn’t easy after decades away.  Seeing the differences in prices have made me say on many occasions that, “They better be glad I changed my ways.”  I felt like I was being robbed and would have wanted to rob-back, had I not changed.

Because of the many difficulties I have faced as an elderly-returning citizen, if I had not focused on changing my life during the last twenty-three of the thirty-years I served, I’d likely have already returned to prison.  Because truthfully speaking, for many of us who have spent most of our lives inside the insane world of incarceration; in many respects, it is easier to survive life inside prison than on the outside. 

On the outside, I have to be more responsible (paying bills, getting insurance, dealing with health-services; (under normal circumstances, finding a place to live), finding transportation and paying for expenses), having to make more decisions (such as what to eat and where to get it), and to learn a whole new way of life.  Thus, comes the term often applied to the long-term aspect of prison life: “institutionalization.”  I am not!

I’m up for the challenge and will succeed, regardless of any factors I am faced with during my transition from walking out of the Dark Ages into the Modern World. [End Quora Post]

A New Chapter of Life Began When I Walked Out the Prison Doors

Excerpt from Reentry Programs Will Reduce Recidivism (July 21, 2016)

https://straightfromthepen.com/2016/07/21/reentry-programs-will-reduce-recidivism/

https://www.fairshake.net/

FAIRSHAKE REENTRY RESOURCE CENTER: One valuable Reentry Service that is doing its part to promote change by assisting ex-offenders, is the FairShake, Reentry Resource Center. Ms. Sue Kastensen, Founder and Director, created FairShake.net (www.fairshake.net), from her personal resources and commitment to make a difference. She deserves an award!

FairShake. net needs donations to continue to provide a place where people may go to find important information and links to organizations to facilitate the successful reentry of the formerly incarcerated.

Many of those released are like aliens entering a distant world, after having spent decades of their lives confined in cages: Those men and women need all available help to successfully reintegrate into society.

FairShake offers resource information for all to use for successful reentry.

The FairShake Reentry Packet contains useful information to improve the quality of life. Whether just beginning or near completion of his or her sentence, it is a publication worth reading for anyone interested in improving their mind, body and spirit.

Family and friends of the incarcerated may go to http://www.fairshake.net to download and print a free copy of the Reentry Packet to mail into a prison or jail for a loved one or friend. [Check prison or detention center mailroom policies before printing to mail.]

[I regret writing that the following is no longer possible due to a lack of donations to cover the $8.00 per-packet-cost, and because of new regulations in many prison mailrooms that prohibit certain types of paper due to the influx of K-2 (Spice) and Suboxone.]

The electronic Fairshake Newsletter is still available. Those incarcerated may write or email to request a free copy–include your name, Id. No. and address. Send request to this address:

Fair Shake
P.O. Box 63
Westby, WI 54667
If you have Corrlinks, email outreach@fairshake.net.

UNIQUE WEBSITE: Their unique website offers valuable tools to assist members in their transition from the insane world of incarceration into the free society.

The website contains free web pages for members (membership is free to all formerly incarcerated individuals). The website contains five categories of important data:

  • Reentry Resources (State and Local Reentry Guides);
  • Employment Support;
  • Building Computer Skills;
  • Educate Yourself; and
  • Finding Specific Pages.

The Reentry Packet illustrates how to navigate their system. Below a photo, under “Fair Shake Reentry Tool Kit,” is a list of options, including Resource Directory, Reentry Packet, Ownership Manual, Building Computer Skills, Preparing for Work, and Become a Member.

Visit http://www.fairshake.net to become part of the solution for reducing recidivism and changing lives: Save lives and taxpayer dollars!

Also available to Returning Citizens for locating valuable resources are these websites:

HelpForFelons.org. https://helpforfelons.org/reentry-programs-ex-offenders-state/

RZero.org to research a variety of data: http://rzero.org/resource-database-2

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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.

By creating a component of prison privatization to aid in the reentry process, opens the door for other profits to be gained by an organization.

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;

  • providing psychological services (counseling for mental health 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 the organization can charge much higher rates, since paying the increased rate saves taxpayers dollars by not having to pay to re-incarcerate returning prisoners.

Additional profits will flow from the organizaton charging a percentage for services provided to the prisoners.  If the established program is voluntary, where any prisoner exiting the system has a choice of whether he or she wishes to participate, any Risk versus Benefit analysis would increase demand for offered services, because such a program would become the Gold Standard and most desired by prisoners leaving the prison system and wanting to successfully reenter society.

BREAKING NEWS

trump and kim

I have good and bad Breaking News. First, I commend President Trump for commuting the life sentence of Alice M. Johnson, a 63-year old grandmother trapped in the federal prison system for 21-years. The lovely Kim Kardashian West interceded on her behalf to President Trump.

Ms. Johnson was not a small-time drug dealer, but … 21-years is enough time in prison for anyone to serve who did not commit mass murders or horrendous crimes.

Now, if President Trump wants to save American taxpayers millions of dollars, he’ll instruct the Attorney General to order the BOP to reinterpret 18 U.S.C., Section 3624 to give federal prisoners the 54-days Congress provided for in the statute (see “INCREDIBLE NUMBERS FOR SEVEN DAYS”).

Other good news is that I succeeded at obtaining WorkKeys Platinum Certification to increase my chance of finding gainful employment upon release: More on that in a moment.

The bad news is that a nine-year study on recidivism was released in May 2018 that showed 83% of released prisoners from 30-states were re-arrested at least once during the study period. I’ll write more on that one, too!

MORE OF THE GOOD NEWS: In “Uncivil Wars” (08/17/17) and in “A Job Affair” (10/03/17), I listed what my ACT WorkKeys Skill Report showed for each of the three ACT skill levels. I scored in the Platinum range for two of the three categories.  The Gold Certification I received was because of the Level 5 score in the Locating Information category (I needed one more correct answer to score as a Level 6), so that’s why I wanted to try again.

During the September 29, 2017, Mock Job Fair, the representative from the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department strongly suggested I retake the test because I was so close, and because only six percent of students receive the Platinum certification. I followed her advice.

CHANGES: Since I took the ACT tests in August 2017, WorkKeys changed their testing and scoring system. The Levels for Locating Information ranged from 3-to-6. When retested, I learned that Locating Information was replaced with Graphic Literacy.  Students may now score up to a Level-7 in Graphic Literacy, the same as with Applied Mathematics and Reading for Information (also changed). The change made sense and made the testing more consistent.

This is from my ACT WorkKeys Skill Report:

WorkKeys Graphic Literacy:

You scored at Level 6.  People who score at Level 6 have demonstrated all of the Levels 3, 4, and 5 skills. They also demonstrated, using graphics designed at the highly complex level, the following skills:

* Locate information in a graphic using information found in another graphic

* Compare two or more pieces of information

* Identify a trend/pattern/relationship

* Make an inference or decision

* Identify the graphic that accurately represents the data

Additionally, using graphics designed at the high-moderate level, they have demonstrated the following skills:

* Compare two or more trends/patterns/relationships

* Interpret a trend/pattern/relationship

* Make a reasonable inference or decision based on one graphic after finding information in another graphic

* Justify an inference or decision based on information

* Identify the most effective graphic given a defined purpose

* Justify the most effective graphic given a defined purpose

[End Quote] In Graphic Literacy and Applied Mathematics, my scale scores were 82. I did best at Reading for Information (Level 7, scale score of 87).

The above results show 1) I’m capable of interpreting data presented in recidivism studies that rely on graphs and complex data, and 2), I’m qualified to perform mathematical analysis to solve complex problems.

CONFESSION: I failed to perform to my fullest potential when writing “War & Reentry.”

A reader said I was unclear when writing about recidivism numbers and studies. Upon review, I saw I erred in comparison of recidivism numbers relied on by ex-director, Mark Inch. I wrote that he was wrong by stating federal prisoners recidivated at half the rate of state prisoners.

I was incorrect in one sense: If non-citizens were included into the federal study, the numbers would be much different; however, that is not the case. I used an incorrect formula to present the argument. The actual numbers were 67.8% for state prisoners, compared to 33.7% for federal prisoners rearrested within 3-years of release.

If 68-state prisoners and 34-federal prisoners were rearrested after their release during the same study period, the statement by Mark Inch would be true.

THE FACTS prove the statement untrue because the Feds released and deported thousands of illegal immigrants during the study period, many of whom illegally-returned to the United States and were rearrested (recidivated), but were not included in the “Recidivism Among Federal Offenders: A Comprehensive Overview.” Non-citizens were included in the comparison 5-year State study listed below.

Read more on the 2016 federal study in “Recidivism in America” (01/25/17), where I posted a link to the April 2014 comparison state study. Another associated article/blog is “An Inside View of Criminal Justice,” originally published by PrisonLawBlog.com (10/07/14). I show the influence of private prison companies on the BOP and failed policies that fuel mass incarceration.

INCREDIBLE NUMBERS FOR SEVEN DAYS: In “War & Reentry” I showed the millions of dollars American taxpayers will save if the BOP awards its prisoners 54-days per year, instead of the 47-days awarded since 11/01/1987, which resulted in prisoners serving longer prison sentences than intended by Congress.

The numbers listed were that 44,000 federal prisoners get released each year and that if released 7-days earlier, it would equate to an annual savings of thirty-million, six-hundred thirty-thousand, and six-hundred dollars.

Those numbers are correct: $30,630,600 saved by awarding federal prisoners the other 7-days lost in the BOP’s interpretation of federal law.

THE JUSTICES who dissented in Barber v. Thomas, 560 U.S. 474, 130 S.Ct. 2499, 177 L.Ed.2d 1, 13-16 (06/10/2010) cautioned that the majority opinion would add, “[t]ens of thousands of years of additional prison time on federal prisoners …. And if the only way to call attention to the human implications of this case is to speak in terms of economics, then it should be noted that the Court’s interpretation comes at a cost to the taxpayers of untold millions of dollars.”

The majority said the BOP’s interpretation was “reasonable” and that they must give it deference. The Justices did “[n]ot determine the extent to which Congress has granted the BOP authority to interpret the statute more broadly, or differently[;]” therefore, the agency may change their interpretation immediately to comply with the statute, clarified by the House of Representative in passing the FIRST STEP act with a vote of 360-59.

IF the BOP and Attorney General wants to save your taxpayer dollars, they will change their interpretation and give federal prisoners those other 7-days. The truth is, that if changed, the bureaucrats will probably give themselves large bonuses to consume funds saved.

COST OF INCARCERATION INCREASE: Between 2011 and 2017, the cost of incarcerating a federal prisoner rose from $79.16 to $99.45 per day or $28,893.40 to $36,299.25 per year. Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 52 (03/18/13), and Vol. 83, No. 83 (04/30/18). That will grow.

BE PROACTIVE FOR CHANGE: Demand a change! Contact your Senator and Congressional Representative and ask him or her to push prison reform and a change from draconian sentencing laws that lead to mass incarceration. Demand that BOP (Backwards on Purpose) officials be held accountable and follow the law to reduce recidivism.

BACK TO THE NUMBERS: I questioned the figures when I thought of 44,000 as the number of released federal prisoners, so I went to the source:  transcript of Ex-director, Mark Inch’s testimony before the “Oversight Hearing of the Bureau of Prisons” on April 17, 2018. Inch stated on page two, under subheading “OUR PROGRAMS – REENTRY BEGINS ON DAY ONE” as follows:

“Reentry programming is a critical component of public safety; inmates are much more likely to return to a life of crime and victimization if they leave prison without job training, treatment for mental illness and/or substance abuse, an education, and a general understanding of what it means to be a productive law abiding citizen. It is important that we in the Bureau help ensure the nearly 44,000 inmates who are released back into the communities each year do not repeat their past mistakes.” https://judiciary.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Inch-testimony.pdf.

EVIDENCE OF MORE RECIDIVISM:  Last month the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a new study (“2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism: A 9-Year Follow-up Period (2005-2014),” NCJ250975, May 2018), a follow-up to the 5-year study relied upon for comparison by the ex-director (“Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010,” NCJ244205, April 2014).

The 83% recidivism rate revealed in the 9-year follow-up study shows the seriousness of recidivism in America and the need for a magic elixir that does not exist. Until financial incentives end for politicians who continue making policies and laws that fuel mass incarceration, positive change will be slow: It is time to stop state and federal funding for private prisons.

In 2015, former presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, introduced a bill to bring back federal parole and to stop federal funding for private prisons. Apparently, none of Senator Sanders’ peers were interested in eliminating a source of income from private prison lobbyist, so the bill never made it to the vote stage of legislation.

FLAWED POLITICS: In passing laws and implementing policies and practices, the political trend for decades has been to restrict or prohibit violent felons from receiving time off their sentences for program participation. Criminal laws include increased penalties for career criminals and those who commit violent felonies.

To deny those offenders of program benefits increases the risk on society that those prisoners reoffend. Violent offenders need help, too.

Most violent offenders will be released from prison; therefore, those laws and policies are flawed and need restructured to include anyone who wants to participate and maybe change their lives, if the law-makers want to protect society and to reduce recidivism.

VIOLENT CRIME MISCONCEPTION: All categorically-listed crimes of violence do not contain violence. I addressed the issue in “Violent Crime Misconception” (02/24/16). I believe most people think of violent criminals as those who physically harm or threaten to harm their victims during the commission of crimes like rape, murder, and armed robbery.

Programs that current policy prohibits certain prisoners from receiving benefit from, are programs such as the Residential Drug Abuse Program. And in the event that the Senate approves the FIRST STEP act, any “Evidence-based Recidivism Reduction Program” or activity that reduces recidivism.

For instance, inmates with convictions for “certain” crimes of violence or sex crimes, will be prohibited from earning time off sentences by participating in evidence-based programs; e.g., Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) that reduces recidivism by 24%; taking educational or vocational classes. Restrictions also apply to those who participate in faith-based or social programs; mentoring or teaching any evidence-based program; participating in cognitive behavior treatment, “victim impact classes or other restorative justice programs.”

Those aspects of legislation needs changed and made retroactive to award prisoners for positive behavior exemplified under dire circumstances. Maybe Kim Kardashian will help get votes in the Senate to change the failed criminal justice policies. Go girl!

_________________________________________________

Wayne T. Dowdy writes at StraightFromthePen.com.

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 http://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 http://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.
______________________________________
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

mass shootings

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 http://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.wordpress.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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* $8.95 online & at Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616   Email: MEBooks1@yahoo.com (price does not include S & H charges)

SEEKING A REAL JOB

job application.jpgby Wayne T. Dowdy

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!

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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Wayne T. Dowdy writes StraightFromthePen.  Follow his blogs and purchase his writings at http://www.straightfromthepen.com or at Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616, Email: MEBooks1@yahoo.com

RECIDIVISM IN AMERICA by Wayne T. Dowdy

revolving-door(“Like” this blog and sign on at straightfromthepen.wordpress.com to receive future postings. Reprint rights granted.)

January 11, 2017: Three men sat at a corner table in the prison “Chow Hall”; each with a hamburger, a few strands of lettuce leafs, a thin slice of tomato, and “Smiley Faces” (fried, round pieces of oil-saturated, potatoes, with cut out smiley faces, capable of making men frown if not properly fried).

I was one of the three men who sat at the table. My last complete day spent in society was August 17, 1988. (Read “No Sympathy” by Wayne T. Dowdy for details of my arrest and conviction in federal court, by a jury unlike my peers.) I eagerly await the day I leave prison for a halfway house.

Johnny P. sat across from me, his last day free was also over twenty-years ago. He is a good man who made bad decisions in his youth. A youngster sat to his right at the table.

RECIDIVISM: The youngest at the table was released from here three months ago to go to a halfway house. He returned for violating the terms of his supervised release (similar to parole or probation where a man or woman must meet specified conditions to remain free). See below subtitle, “RECIDIVISM DEFINED” for definition.

Johnny grilled the youngster about his return.

The youngster said, “Because I was under Public Law, I could only get a four-hour pass each month. I got tired of seeing everybody else go on passes for the weekend, and me not being able to, so I left a couple weeks later and didn’t go back. They caught me after three weeks. I’ve been locked up ever since.”

Johnny turned his head and locked eyes with the youngster. “I have six life sentences. Do you know how bad I wish I could go home to be with my family for four hours a month?”

Johnny’s words ingrained an image in my mind that influenced me to write this blog.

The youngster acknowledged his mistake, but then rationalized that serving the additional 18-months would kill the remainder of his supervised release.

SUPERVISED RELEASE: Depending on when a person was sentenced, determines whether a sentence for a violation disposes of the remainder of supervised release, or restarts the supervised release term upon release from prison for the violation. I have three terms of supervised release (one for two years, another for three, consecutive to the two, and a concurrent five-year term), each of which is only good for one violation that I do not plan to utilize.

ANTI-CRIME BILLS: The United States Congress has passed several anti-crime bills, with various provisions for controlling offenders captured in the mass incarceration frenzy–created by politicians for the sake of a vote–that ruins lives and costs American citizens billions of dollars each year in taxes.

SENTENCING REFORM ACT OF 1984 (SRA): One such bill was the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. As part of the SRA, effective November 1, 1987, Congress created the United States Sentencing Commission (“The Commission”) as “an independent agency in the judicial branch of the government.”

More than 1.5 million people have been sentenced under the SRA. The alleged purpose of the SRA was to deter, incapacitate or rehabilitate criminals, and to protect society from future crimes by offenders.

The SRA abolished federal parole and requires federal prisoners to serve 85% of their sentences. Eligible prisoners may earn “up to 54 days” per year under Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 3624(b)(1), Release of Prisoners. The United States Federal Bureau of Prisons (B.O.P.) refuses to give any of their Cash Cows more than 47-days.

The B.O.P. began 2017 with 189,333 prisoners, which is substantially less than the 219,298 reported in 2013.

21,140 of those prisoners are contracted out to private prison companies. The reduction came from legal and legislative changes, not from B.O.P. initiatives. Lobbyists from private prison companies provide hefty campaign contributions to politicians to maintain mass incarceration policies. Read “The Truth About Incarceration, Part II” by Wayne T. Dowdy for more on the topic.

THE COMMISSION: The Commission’s primary purpose was to establish policies, practices, and guidelines for federal judges to use in sentencing federal offenders.

RECIDIVISM DEFINED: Between 2005 and 2013, 25,431 federal offenders were included in a study on Recidivism (“refers to a person’s relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime.”)

“The Commission studied offenders who was either released from federal prison after serving a sentence of imprisonment or placed on a term of probation in 2005.”

STUDY NUMBERS: Offense Types and recidivism rates were as follows: Drug Trafficking (41.7%), Fraud (13.6%), Firearms (12.8%), Robbery (4.3%), Larceny (3.9%), Immigration (3.5%), and ALL Other (20.3%).

DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS OF RECIDIVISM STUDY: The first numbers represent those in the study, whereas the second number represents offenders sentenced in 2014, after the eight-year study period ended: 81.7% – 81.2% were Male offenders. White offenders led at 43.7% – 38.1%, followed by Blacks at 33.9% – 32.7%, Hispanics at 17.8% – 23.4%, and other races at 4.6% – 5.8%.

EDUCATE TO REDUCE RECIDIVISM: Post-Secondary Education Reduces Recidivism! In the study, 34.3% did not graduate high school, compared to 36.6% who did; 21.4% had some college, and only 7.5% were college graduates.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Maybe President Trump will find a way to reduce prison populations and save billions of dollars by reducing recidivism rates. To help willing ex-offenders become productive members of society, who can help pay back their cost of incarceration by paying taxes, will help to make America great again, instead of shamefully being the Incarceration Capital of the World.

OTHER RESULTS OF RECIDIVISM STUDIES: 49.3 percent of those released were rearrested for a new crime or rearrested for a violation of supervised release (e.g., failing to pass a urine analysis, failure to report to the supervised release officer; leaving without permission from a halfway house, perimeter of home confinement area or the state; violating state or federal laws, etc.). “Recidivism Among Federal Offenders: A Comprehensive Overview,” United States Sentencing Commission, March 2016.

Another study showed recidivism rates for state prisoners were higher than federal counterparts: 76.6% of state prisoners were rearrested within five years. “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010” (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rprts05p0510.pdf).

In adjusting the federal study for a five-year comparison, the examiners removed federal offenders sentenced to probation or fines, which lowered the federal rearrest rate from 49.3% to 44.9%, compared to the 76.6% for state offenders. Comparing recidivism reconviction rates (convictions for new criminal charges), state offenders led at 55.4%, compared to 26.0% for federal offenders.

The difference in rearrest rates were possibly due to higher education levels for federal offenders and more available programs created to reduce recidivism. Locking people up inside overcrowded institutions, without providing opportunities that allow the imprisoned to learn how to improve their circumstances that led to prison, only feeds a system that robs men and women of dignity, integrity, and self-respect.

ANOTHER CHANCE: Providing I see the end of this 35-year sentence of imprisonment, which I anticipate doing, I will have another chance to succeed in society. I plan to be a productive member upon release by sharing my experience, strength and hope to help others learn from my mistakes and success.

I plan to use StraightFromthePen.org to provide a platform to (1) influence legal changes to absurd laws; (2) promote prison and sentencing reform; and (3), to help improve prison systems through legislation that forces prison authorities to provide inmates with resources to help them change their lives. To do so, I will communicate, directly or indirectly, with state and federal legislatures for those I will leave behind.

Of course, an old saying is that if you want to hear God laugh to tell Him your plans, so maybe He is laughing now. Maybe His plan for me entails something other than that, but since I am essentially an expert in the field of corrections by being inside most of my life, I figure my experience can benefit others inside who are heading down the path that led me “here.”

My hope is to help effect a change to allow Johnny and thousands of others who are serving absurd prison sentences, to one day have an opportunity to get out of prison, even if only for a furlough.

MASS INCARCERATION: All of us released from prison and then returned for a new sentence are equally responsible for mass incarceration.

As prisoners, we complain about our conditions and what we deal with as part of the prison experience, and yet, for those fortunate enough to get out, we return to make the Prison Machine grow bigger and stronger by feeding it with our lives. By returning to prison, we make sentencing reform initiatives more difficult to pass.

Many men and women released from prison are forced to return to the same area from which they came, without the benefit of going to halfway houses to prepare for successful reentry. Some revert to crime to survive, rather than seeking help from available social programs; the reason is most likely a lack of knowledge about available programs.

DRUG OFFENDERS: The majority of American prison populations are drug offenders, who are the worst to complain about having unjust sentences for “victimless crimes.” But if addicts die from drugs or commit crimes to buy them, are addicts and those victimized by the addicts to get the drugs, victims?

The same legislatures who passed laws to punish people who rob banks, or kill people, are the same ones who passed drug laws. Whether I agree or not, it is the law and if I don’t want to go to or stay in prison, I do not need to violate the law.

Plans to commit and get away with crimes ultimately fail, as proven by booming prison populations.

I do agree that many prisoners have unjust prison sentences, but not just for drug crimes. Those serving life without parole in cases that did not involve murders or other forms or violence are real unjust.

Life without parole may be spelled with letters or numbers (50, 75, 100 years imprisonment).

Numerous prosecutors and law enforcement officials plot with “cooperating codefendants” of the accused to exaggerate drug quantities or other facts needed to trigger more severe sentencing ranges. Codefendants fabricate drug quantities to receive a lesser sentence for providing “substantial assistance.”

Several foreign countries do not have large prison populations because they execute those who violate laws, including drug laws.

At the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, foreign nationals toured the prison. A psychologist told me a prisoner complained to a lady about the severe prison sentence he was serving for a drug offense. She replied, “Sir, why do you complain? In my country, they would execute you.”

Help make America great again by reducing recidivism through proven programs. Imprisoning citizens does not make America great; especially, when slowly executing them by laws that lead to decades or the rest of their lives in prison.

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Wayne T. Dowdy writes at StraightFromthePen.com. Purchase UNKNOWN INNOCENCE ($10.95) and ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN ($8.95), plus S & H charges, at Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616. Buy online at CreateSpace.com, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and other eStores. Visit his Author’s page at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy to purchase eBooks, or from most available eBook distributors, including the Apple iBookstore. At Smashwords, download your copy in the format that works best for you, including Html or pdf to read on your PC or Smartphone.

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.

REENTERING SOCIETY

by Wayne T. Dowdy

When my day comes in the near future, I will be approaching the free society like the Columbia Space Shuttle reentering the atmosphere without all of its protective tiles, or like a meteor heading straight for a collision course with the earth:  I will burn up because of the friction created in the atmosphere of society, caused by my reentry into a distant world of free citizens, unless I proceed with caution and the protection of knowledge, draped in a determination to succeed against the odds.

I must remain constantly aware of the transitional aspect of my journey and how I am affected by all that has changed since my departure three decades ago.  Upon my reentry into a time-warp-zone, I will fail to become a productive member of society if I do not take advantage of the available help now available to prisoners, which will help me ease into a normal life, whatever a normal life may be “out there.”

After my release, death will be inevitable but I will have a choice on whether it will come to me while I am a free man, or as a recidivist who returns to prison because of his thug lifestyle, or as a drug addict who dies because of his addiction and lifestyle, or as a man who fought to change and succeed at changing his life.  My choice is the latter.

COVER.inddIn “No Sympathy” I wrote about my transition into society after serving seven years in the State of Georgia’s prison system and my eventual return to prison (recidivism).  I use my experience to show others that it did not have to be that way:  I did not have to return to prison.  I made choices that led me to where I now write.  I use my story to promote change in a broken criminal justice system and am pleased to see that some of the issues I pushed for over the years have come into existence.

In May 2015, I had my publisher to send Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal, an email for me and an electronic copy of my blog (“Snake vs. Politics,” 03/13/15).  In my blog, in the section subtitled, “Political Promises & Incarceration,” I praised Governor Deal for what he had done and planned to do in the Georgia Criminal Justice system and its prison system.  I know his action will lead to favorable results; e.g., his creating re-entry programs for those released from prison and juvenile diversion programs to stop the flow of juveniles becoming career offenders.

In another essay I wrote and then posted on my blogs (The Truth About Incarceration, Part II); in a subtitled section, “Reentry & Recidivism,” I wrote about the Honorable Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General and President Obama for creating reentry initiatives to help ex-offenders find employment, treatment for drug, alcohol problems and mental health issues.

Those reentry initiatives are more of what I pushed for and know will have a positive impact on the lives of those released from prison, as well as for American society as a whole.  (We are all a part of “one,” whether we want to be or not.)  I cried out for all of that in “No Sympathy” when I revised it in June 2014 before I put it in my personal magazine (ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN) and posted it online as an eBook and then on my blog for everyone to read for free.

I have written other blogs that mention recidivism rates and my experiences over the years that will increase my chances of getting out and staying out when released.  Some blogs contain humorous parts but still draw attention to important issues.

In “Rain, Blogs, Frogs & Politics” (November 3, 2015), and in “Vacation in Prison” (April 8, 2015), I wrote about my position in the Federal Prison Industries (trade name UNICOR).  My experiences and skills learned in the organization will help me to secure employment upon release.  I have been fortunate to have obtained legal skills foreign to most prisoners.

Then in “Teaching Cons New Tricks–Creative Writing and Q.A. Apprenticeship Program” (April 15, 2015), I did the same (wrote about skills learned to help me reintegrate into society).

UNICOR is a non-profit organization set up by Congress in the mid-thirties to make various cotton duck cloth items, originally strictly for the military and other government agencies.  The business structure of UNICOR operates similar to the United States Postal Service by generating its own funding, rather than depending on Congressional budgets.

I show in my essays that UNICOR reduces recidivism by teaching inmates marketable job skills.  Even though in recent years, UNICOR seems to have lost focus of the fact that Congress created the organization as a work program for inmates; not as a conglomerate to become a good-ole-boys fraternity or undercover, profit-generating organization, where profits must disappear into staff bonuses and purchases of elaborate office furnishings or maybe into expense paid trips justified as business necessities.

By their Program Statement, UNICOR has an Inmate Scholarship Award where UNICOR contributes funds to assist inmate employees in paying for college courses; however, the budget for the Inmate Scholarship Awards disappeared, probably into some lavish furniture or extra large bonus for Washington Officials who stripped the funding from the program.  Imagine that, misuse of government funding:  Spend funding on unnecessary items rather than on maintaining a program known to reduce recidivism.

Programs that allow inmates to learn new skills, improve their education, and to learn a new way of life benefit inmates and society:  It is a cost-effective way to reduce recidivism and to help create more productive and constructive members of society.  In “Snake vs. Politics,” I challenged all politicians to read “No Sympathy” when deciding on what is needed to reduce recidivism rates in America.  Maybe some of them actually took me up on the offer.  I feel reasonably assured that Governor Nathan Deal accepted the challenge.  He continues to strive toward making prisons do what society needs done to shut the well-known “revolving door” of recidivist that plague the nation.

CONCLUSION

I will write a more technical blog on Reentry and Recidivism next time I have time to write.  Most of my time has been going toward legal work to help other prisoners file post-conviction relief motions, in an effort to help them obtain their freedom.  I won two out of the last five and hope to go five and O.  🙂  Now, due to a long-shot chance I have at obtaining my own freedom, I must rush to seek permission to file a motion to challenge my own conviction before the June 26, 2015, deadline.  Recent changes in law due to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (June 26, 2015) is what has changed.  As I wrote in “Violent Crime Misconception,” Johnson invalidated a provision of the Armed Career Criminal statute, known as the “Residual Clause.”  Some courts are rightfully applying it to other similar provisions in various statutes, such as Title 18, Section 924(c)(2)(B), which is where “crime of violence” is defined and contains similar language, as does the statute for immigration (18 U.S.C., Section 16(b)).  I have to show armed bank robbery is not “categorically” a crime of violence because a person can commit the crime without rising to the level of violence required to show it is a violent crime. A lot of legal jargon with lots of meaning for those fighting to live another day as free men and women.

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09012015002004Purchase “No Sympathy” as one of eleven essays in the collection, ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN by Wayne T. Dowdy, $8.95 USD, available from all major bookstores and eBook retailers.  Read No Sympathy for free online or by downloading the individual essay from Smashwords.com and other eBook retailers.

Due to technical issues, the release of UNKNOWN INNOCENCE was postponed.  The pagination was reduced and the book reformatted.  The tentative plan for release is June 15, 2016.  The listed price is $14.95, USD.  At 85,000-words, that is a deal:  Two books in one.  Those without Internet access may purchase it from Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616 (email:  MEBooks1@yahoo.com).  All others may buy it from their favorite bookstores or eBook retailers, including the AppleiBookstore.

Follow my blogs at straightfromthepen.wordpress.com and waynedowdy.weebly.com.  Send comments to waynedowdy@straightfromthepen.com.  I will respond when my publisher forwards them to me, when a response is permissible.