Yesterday I roamed the streets of Atlanta, Georgia, on a hot and sunny day. The sun, heavy backpack, and the day’s events wore me down. I was exhausted by the time I returned to my place of residence, emotionally and physically drained, parts of my body sore from toting a heavy load. My mind on overload from keeping rational thoughts in the driving seat of actions.
I did not have a
wonderful day, per se, as I was denied financial aid by the Finance department
at Grady Memorial Hospital, because I couldn’t honestly provide a Fulton County address. I could have lied and got
what I wanted but I must live by certain principles if I am going to stay out
Irrational thought process: I snapped at one point when things weren’t working according to Wayne: “That’s why so many people go back to prison. They get tired of dealing with all the BS when having to deal with these kinds of places.”
The lady politely reminded me that I hadn’t been doing what I was told to do to obtain the approval. True. I’m guilty.
This is a short video clip from part of my day, and if you notice the expression on my face, it does not show being thrilled and happy to be here.
Damn the Torpedoes!
I lived to fight another day and will be okay. The medical conditions that I sought financial help for their treatments are not life threatening, today, so life is good. I am a survivor and will survive.
If I believe that everything happens for a reason and that things work the way they are supposed to, which I do, then I must accept that just because the world doesn’t work according to Wayne, does not mean that it is BAD.
What is GOOD or BAD is a matter of perception. For Me To Still Be Alive and Kicking … is Great!
Storms ravage the United States: tornados, thunder storms, snow and ice storms, in April, along with the political and technological storms that drive the progression or digression of the nation. Storms fuel change: Cruise Missiles that bombed Syrian chemical weapon sites, were launched with the intent to create change, to deter a tyrant from using chemical weapons on Syrian citizens. Advancement in technology drove the Cruise Missiles.
A political storm drove the decision to attack another country. Maybe a different political storm, driven by humanitarian concerns, will form to attack policies that fuel mass incarceration in America.
CHANGES: During the early seventies, I loved listening to “Changes” by Black Sabbath (album title: “4”), and “I’d Love to Change the World” by Ten Years After. Throughout the decades of my life, I’ve witnessed numerous changes. Things once viewed as fantasy become reality. For instance, in the sixties cartoon, The Jetsons, phones used to communicate became cellphones of today, with technology that permitted users to see the person on the other end of the line, like Skype.
STORMS: Natural storm patterns changed, as have the nature of storms that fueled technological changes; advancements in medicine and technology used in the treatment of illnesses that extended life expectancy, created other storms: World population explosion, food shortages, soaring health care cost and big business profit increases that often thrive on the misery of others. Private Prison companies fall within the latter category.
One of the largest private prison companies is CoreCivic, formerly Correctional Corporation of America (CCA). Investors filed a lawsuit against the corporation because CCA had fraudulently claimed to provide a high level of quality services that assured satisfied customers, boasting about its contracts with the United States Department of Justice.
Former BOP Director Harley G. Lappin is named in the securities fraud lawsuit. Him and J. Michael Quinlan left the BOP under unfavorable circumstances to work for CCA. (Read “The Truth About Incarceration, Part II” for more on the issue.)
SALLY Q. YATES: And then came the “Yates Memorandum.” Ms. Yates is the former Assistant United States Attorney, who planned to phase out private prison contracts because of inferior services and numerous quality and safety issues. One CCA prison of concern, was Adams County Correctional Center, where a riot erupted over poor conditions that resulted in the death of a prison guard and several injuries to staff and inmates, and over one million dollars in damages.
The Investors filed suit and claimed to have lost $1.2 million when their “159,000” shares of CCA/CoreCivic stock dropped because of conduct covered in the lawsuit; however, since then, President Trump and Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, revived the stock value.
As I’ve previously written, CCA and GEO Group’s stock value SOARED within a week after the last Presidential Election. When AG Sessions rescinded the Yates Memorandum and agreed to maintain private prison contracts, including the one with Adams County Correctional Center, it was back to business as usual.
I wonder if that decision put money and CoreCivic stock into the pockets and portfolios of AG Sessions and President Trump?
PERSONAL STORMS: The calm storms of my life continue as I fight for freedom and refuse to give up until that day comes, or when my time expires in this thing called life. Whatever the case may be, I will not give up. If life exists after bodily functions expire, I’ll fight from the other side in my pursuit of justice.
I have not won the lottery, at least, not yet. On April 5th I received a March 29, 2018, denial of my Administrative Remedy Request (BP-10) in reference to my halfway house placement date. The author essentially stated that the Warden properly responded, and then noted that the halfway house budget led to placement terms being reduced to 120-days or less.
In my BP-11, I pointed out that the Regional Director failed to address my abuse of discretion claims against the Warden, Residential Reentry Manager, and BOP Director. I also shown that 300-days in a halfway house, at $72.00 per day, would cost $21,600, but if I failed to receive enough time in a halfway house to successfully reintegrate into society and became a recidivist, it would cost much more.
If I fail on supervised release and get the full 5-years revoked, with the cost of my incarceration soaring above $100,000 per year due to a medication I take for a lung condition, that’d cost over $500,000. If I committed another federal crime, that’d be real expensive; however, I did stress that that is not on my agenda. My plan involves becoming a positive success story upon release.
The day after the BP-10 Response was dated, President Trump issued a Presidential Proclamation.
PRESIDENTIAL PROCLAMATION OF SECOND CHANCES: On March 30, 2018, President Trump stated, in part, “I am committed to advancing reform efforts to prevent crime, improve reentry, and reduce recidivism. I expressed this commitment in my 2018 State of the Union Address and reinforced it by signing an Executive Order to reinvigorate the ‘Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry.’ In the spirit of these efforts, I call on Federal, State, and local prison systems to implement evidence-based programs that will provide prisoners with the skills and preparation they need to succeed in society. This includes programs focused on mentorship and treatment for drug addiction and mental health issues, in addition to job training.
“This month, we celebrate those who have exited the prison system and successfully reentered society. We encourage expanded opportunities for those who have worked to overcome bad decisions earlier in life and emphasize our belief in second chances for all who are willing to work hard to turn their lives around.
“NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2018 as Second Chance Month. I call on all Americans to commemorate this month with events and activities that raise public awareness about preventing crime and providing those who have completed their sentences with an opportunity for an honest second chance.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord, two thousand eighteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America, the two hundred and forty-second.
AFTER PRISON SUCCESS STORIES: Brandon Sample, Shon Hopwood, and Tara Simmons are three of many ex-offenders who became success stories after their release from prison. All three entered a field many people said could not be done: Brandon Sample became a practicing attorney; Shon Hopwood an attorney and then a Professor of Law at Georgetown Law University, and Tara Simmons took her fight to the Washington State Supreme Court to become an attorney.
Justice Mary Yu wrote in her opinion that “[S]immons began ‘meaningful treatment’ while in prison and ‘changed her life to a degree that can only be deemed remarkable, both in terms of the efforts she had put forth and the positive results she has achieved.'”
Justice Yu also gave props to Shon Hopwood, who represented Simmons. “‘Both Hopwood and Simmons are living examples of a person’s ability to change if he or she has the will and opportunity to do so.'”
Prison Law & Prison Education News Services, 04/13/18, (email: firstname.lastname@example.org), quoting from Seatletimes.com and Prison Legal News.
The Washington Supreme Court ruled that the Washington State Bar Association should allow her to take the bar exam, another victory for Mr. Hopwood and Real Justice in America.
I know of numerous others who were released and become success stories in their own right, especially my peers who are members of Twelve Step programs, as well as several former UNICOR employees who got out and became successful in the world of work.
UNICOR: In 1936, Congress created the Federal Prison Industries, Inc., trade name UNICOR (for UNIque CORporation), to teach inmates marketable job skills. UNICOR is supposed to be a Work Program for Inmates, not a conglomerate to increase earnings that allows executive staff to give themselves bonuses: Some current practices border on exploitation of prisoners.
(A 04/10/18, USA TODAY article, “Federal Prison Bonuses Stir Outrage,” included bonuses for an array of federal prison officials, including wardens who shave dollars from prison budgets at the expense of prisoners.)
Statistically, UNICOR does reduce recidivism, so it is a good program within the BOP that allows inmate employees to earn enough to buy essentials for survival in prison. But in recent years, inmate pay has dwindled to allow the organization to increase its profit margins. I made more money per day in the early ’90s ($10.80) than I do today ($10.51). So much for the show of gratitude by my employers for my dedicated years of service, huh?
Sometimes I feel like the old work horse in George Orwell’s, Animal Farm, who the Pigs hauled off to the glue factory after having served his purpose. (Well, maybe not that bad. They are keeping me around to mentor others and to pass on my accumulated knowledge before leaving.)
PROGRAMS: The BOP does have some beneficial programs taught by inmates and staff alike. Recidawareness is one such program, founded by a federal prisoner, Frank C., who devotes himself toward helping others through a curriculum that combines spiritual and practical principles. The program helps participants focus on interpersonal aspects of their lives and the improvement of decision-making skills to assist them in changing behavior to avoid becoming a recidivist.
The Psychology department also offers programs that, if practiced, assists participants at living their lives in a different manner by teaching them to make better decisions (e.g. Cognitive Thinking, Anger Management, Health & Wellness, Job Application & Resume Writing, Non-Residential Drug Treatment Program, Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program). However, even though Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous are suggested programs for graduates of the drug programs, and are listed in the Psychology Services Program Statement, to my knowledge, most institutions do not focus on making AA/NA meetings available to inmates.
CO-OCCURRING (DUAL ) DIAGNOSIS: In “No Sympathy” that you can read on this blogspot, I reference a 12/02/02, USA TODAY article, “Study: Treat Addicts Mental Illness.” Studies show that treating substance abuse and underlying mental disorders help people to not “reoffend,” and thus decrease recidivism rates.
BOP policy remains the same (ONE (1) institution offers treatment for those with dual disorders.)
FOCAL POINTS: The current focus in prison reform appears to be on reentry initiatives. Focusing on recidivism makes sense, since we fuel the system we claim to hate, when we get out and return to make the system grow bigger and stronger.
Now if Congress or the President will implement laws or policies to make prison administrators accountable for failure to comply with Congressional directives, things will change. Until then, corrupt politicians and prison officials will continue to accept bribes from private prison executives and continue to feed mass incarceration in America.
My opportunity to reenter society approaches faster than additional studies can be produced to predict the likelihood of success for released prisoners. I am prepared for successful reentry. Failure is not an option.
Without thinking of that particular day, I have worked toward it for almost three decades. Even when my release date seemed more distant than the stars that glittered in the night (too far away to see without a telescope), I moved forward on faith of better days.
Others have led the way that shows I can reach the stars by following their paths. One such person is Brandon Sample, Esq., whose inspiring story I will share before conclusion of this blog.
PREPARING TO REENTER: Part of my preparation process included getting help for addiction and associated mental health issues, back in the early to mid-Nineties.
I also worked for the Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR, a UNIque CORporation), since December 1, 1989. I learned lucrative job skills to increase my chance of gaining successful employment upon release; e.g., technical writing (writing and editing quality manuals, operating procedures, manufacturing and inspection instructions, training modules, designing & creating forms, etc.); internal auditing, ISO 9001: 2008, Quality Management System requirements; working with NSAI external auditors during the ISO certification processes, and many others.
This week (January 9, 2017), I begin a twelve-week, Non-Residential Drug Abuse Program, which I am taking more so to mentor others than for an interpersonal reasons (I stopped using drugs and alcohol in April of 1995).
BRANDON SAMPLE, ESQ.: Brandon ignored the naysayers and moved forward toward his future as an attorney.
As a troubled youth and young adult, he made decisions that led to a 168-month federal prison sentence in 2000, at the age of twenty. During his twelve-year stay in the federal prison system, he “fell in love with the law,” while fighting for his freedom. It was then that he decided to begin college to study law to become an attorney.
Brandon did not pay attention to those who said he could not be an attorney with felony convictions on his record. “When I look back now, that 14-year sentence saved my life. I very well could have ended up dead or caught up in the cycle of going in and out of prison had I not received that serious wake up call. I say that not to suggest that all sentences, no matter how long, are fair and just.
“But the key, for me at least, was that I decided to change. I wanted a new life, a new future with all my being. So many people along the way told me that my dreams were unrealistic. I never listened to any of them and just plowed ahead.”
While incarcerated he paid for correspondence college courses through Adams State University. Upon release in 2012, he walked out the prison doors with his Bachelor’s degree.
In August of 2013, he began classes at Vermont Law School, where he graduated in May of 2016, magna cum laude, and now holds a Juris Doctor degree.
He received his law license from the Vermont Supreme Court in October of 2016. Now he is licensed to practice in the State of Vermont, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Circuits.
Brandon may have lost the battles for his freedom in the courts. But he won the war when those battles led to him successfully becoming Of Counsel for the Law Firm of Jeremy Gordon, Esq., Mansfield, Texas (www.facebook.com/gordondefense).
Brandon’s story proves that prison does not have to be a negative experience. Miracles do happen. My hope is to become additional evidence of that important aspect of life, as many of my peers have proven true over the years; especially, those I met through Twelve-Step Programs. I will not fail!