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FeedBack on StraightfromthePen

On December 3, 2019, I read an article from The Marshall Project about racial disparities in the length of time served in prison by minorities compared to whites. I posted the following comment on Facebook and invited comments and offered to post a blog in response to any viable answers to create a positive change in Criminal Justice and Prison Reform. I received a comment posted on the Contact page for StraightfromthePen.com, which I will post after the following:

“In reading this article on the length of time spent in prison as being greater for African-Americans than white-defendants, with me being white and being caught in the same statistical-data sentencing-factors as ethnic minorities (criminal histories), I find the given reasons as being legitimate. The color of my skin didn’t get me a lesser sentence. Many people with different skin tones received and served a lot less time than I did, because of my criminal history and behavior characteristics. However, I am not saying that people of color do not get targeted and may be arrested and go to prison for crimes others may not: it happens.

“I have witnessed racial profiling so I know it happens, and it may be those types of events that lead to African-Americans spending more time in prison (being watched more and giving incident reports for minor issues whereas others may get a pass). For the most part, though, what happens after an arrest and going to prison depends on behavior. I learned to be responsible for mine, even when I felt I was targeted or suffered more severe consequences than other similarly-situated people did. The question is, what can be done to create a positive change in criminal justice and prison reform? Send me viable answers and I will consider posting a blog on StraightfromthePen (https://straightfromthepen.com).

“Thanks! THEMARSHALLPROJECT.ORG The Growing Racial Disparity in Prison Time A new study finds black people are staying longer in state prisons, even as they face fewer arrests and prison admissions overall.”

COMMENTS:

Holly, December 4, 2019

“In response to the question of what can be done differently in our criminal justice system. I saw a prison on a documentary that is in Norway I believe. They have an extremely low repeat offenders I believe it is due to the approach. They focus on having as much as a normal life without freedom to go off the grounds. They had individual apartments jobs and even a grocery store in there if the prisoner didn’t get up and go to work then they were locked in. The focus was changing the mind set of the prisoners teaching them self discipline and structure. Treating them with dignity the officers Shook their hands and was respectful. The documentary was on Netflix under world’s toughest prisons it was the last season last episode.”

Reply by Wayne T. Dowdy

“Thank you for your comment. You are correct. Norway treats its prisoners different and thus has the world’s lowest recidivism rate (people released from prison and returned after committing crimes or violation of parole terms, etc.). Germany also has a lower recidivism rate than the United States of America, as do many other countries. In “Experimental Prison Project” (July 16, 2019), I voiced my opinion on why America has such a high recidivism rate: money, people profiting from high incarceration rates, driven, in part, by the staggering number recidivists. Please read “Experimental Prison Project” and blogs referenced to therein, especially, “Prison Reform Progress” (April 5, 2019), where I write about a prison experiment in Connecticut that is modeled after a prison in Germany, and covered by Bill Whitaker on 60-Minutes. Thanks again for commenting.”

Feel free to voice your opinion on this issue and I will consider posting it if suitable for public viewing. wtd

Happy Holidays from Wayne T. Dowdy

Photo by Evelyn Chong on Pexels.com

The politically correct phrase these days is Happy Holidays, I reckon. That’s okay. If that makes one happy, then that’s fine, but being the rebel I am at heart, I refuse to conform and will continue to wish people Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, or whatever, unless I know that doing so offends that particular person, then I will say Happy Holidays or nothing at all.

I can do that! That’s my right that I take the privilege of applying when my feelings conflict with what may now be deemed socially unacceptable by a group of others who decide how everyone else should live, think, feel, and conduct their lives. I do not wish to offend anyone, but …. I stand my ground!

This morning I remembered where I had been and decided to send a message to those trapped inside the federal prison system who need to know they are not forgotten and that there are people who still love and care for them, even if they have fallen from grace. My hope it that the words I wrote will help someone “out here” to realize all that they have in their lives to be thankful for, even if things are not going the way they prefer. Life goes on and there is always hope for better days! May you find it today.

The following message is what I sent into the prison system through Corrlinks.com, an email system provided to federal and some state prisoners, for a fee. When on the Inside, I spent hundreds of dollars to type and communicate with others and to post the blogs before my release on August 28, 2018.

Happy Thanksgiving to each of you who celebrate. The main thing I always tried to remember was my favorite saying, “I complained of having no shoes until I met a man with no feet.”

Here’s a blog I wrote that some of you may have already read, but it is just as true today as it was when I wrote it, other than I no longer have to deal with having walls and bars to keep me away from society. Today I am free and hope that each of you will one day be able to say the same, even those of you serving excessive sentences. Miracles happen! Never lose hope.

STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN
Topics From Inside For Change

GRATITUDE AND MORE, December 19, 2016

Last year on December 23, 2015, I posted “Plot to Stop Santa by Mr. D.” to add a little humor to the holiday season (read it on straightfromthepen.wordpress.com or waynedowdy.weebly.com and check out Santa’s militarized sled). This year I am writing along personal lines and will share some previous messages I sent out to those on my Corrlinks contact list. My hope is to create a sense of gratitude.

12/25/2011: On Christmas Day, I sat in my cell reading my favorite magazine (THE SUN). “Chow time,” the guard shouted.

I rushed to the chow hall. Inside, I sat at a rectangular table of four with three of my peers. One person stood to leave. Each of us exchanged Christmas greetings, wishing him a Merry Christmas before a 27-year-old youngster sat down to take his place.

The one who sat to the right of the youngster had just complained how the Cornish game hen was small. I had previously tried to maintain the attitude of gratitude at the table by commenting how it was good, though, it was smaller than those we had had in the past. It was still tasty. I simply agreed with the other guy about it being smaller than usual. I labeled it as a “Cornish Game Chick.”

That’s when the youngster sat down. “There sure are a lot of complaining people at this prison,” he said.

His words filled me with guilt. He had once told me that both of his parents were still in state prison. I realized his parents were probably doing worse than all of us at the table.
The youngster’s comment helped redirect the nature of our conversations toward what we were grateful for.

I shared my favorite saying by an author whose name I do know to give him or her their credit due (“I complained of having no shoes until I met a man with no feet.”).

I continued to express gratitude for the well-prepared meal; knowing we were all fortunate to have what sat before us, as we compared our plight to others incarcerated in state and other federal prisons, who probably wished they could eat as good as we were.

This is what we had to complain about: a Cornish game hen, black-eyed peas, which were really good; collard greens, rolls or wheat bread (I chose wheat bread); an individually packaged cherry pie, chocolate cup cake, and some other stuff I probably forgot. I ate my fill.

Each of us walked away feeling more grateful for the meal we had been blessed with because we had stopped for a moment to remember the less fortunate in life. Not only do I have two feet and nice shoes, I have a fat belly filled with gratitude. I hope each of you have a wonderful Christmas meal and feel fortunate for the freedom you share in a less than perfect world.

Sincerely,
Wayne


Along the same theme as above, I wrote this on America’s Turkey Day:

THANKSGIVING DAY 2016: Happy Thanksgiving Day to each of you. If you feel like you don’t have much to be thankful for because of the hardships life has thrown at you this year, stop to think of all you have to be grateful for; perhaps you have food to eat; two feet, two arms, shoes on your feet, and clothes to warm your body, a place to stay and be safe. Feel fortunate.

When I find myself disgruntled for having to wait for an hour in the commissary to purchase a few items, I try to stop and remember those who wish they had my problems, financially able to shop for a few items needed to maintain a decent level of living inside this prison. That makes me feel grateful for the opportunity, rather than disgruntled and agitated for having to wait as I listen to loud mouths shouting to the man next to them, disturbing the peace, killing the sound of silence.

Upon remembrance of the less fortunate, I find myself grateful for the simple things in life I often take for granted. Be thankful for those you have in your life who love and care for you. Happy Thanksgiving!


For those of you who follow me through other means of social media, you may have read the message below that I wrote after losing one of my brothers, Larry. I once had a mother, father, three brothers and two sisters. I am now down to one brother and two sisters.

In 1978 I lost Stanley, my older brother. In 1982 I lost my father, and then in 2016 I lost my younger brother, Larry, after having lost my mother eight months before him.

The loss of two loved ones in the same year was why I wrote what I did about “the hardships life has thrown at you this year”; including myself in the equation. I write to show we still have things to be grateful for in light of the hardships we experience as the cost of our love for others.

Some people lost their whole family and suffered tragic loss of limbs and even more severe health issues. That makes me grateful to still have family members who remain in my life. I am also grateful for my less-than perfect health.

The families of some prisoners abandon them because they go to prison. My family has stood behind me, even though my actions were unacceptable to them; my actions that landed me in prison. I am fortunate!


September 18, 2016: One of my two younger brothers moved on to the next phase of existence around 3:00 PM today. Larry was the most gentle and innocent of the four sons birthed by our Mother. Not that he was innocent; he wasn’t, but he was not driven by hate or anger and he never intentionally harmed anyone that I know of. Him and Jeff, the youngest of us, were never the rowdy type, whereas me and Stanley were hell raisers.

Larry was a kind and all around good person. It hurts like hell to know he is gone, but I do rejoice in knowing he no longer suffers from his illnesses. He lives without pain in some other place we all must go one day. Maybe he fishes from a rainbow, catching a few rays, as he surfs the ocean in pursuit of eternal peace. I hope he catches an abundance of love and happiness during his journey. No doubt, many here on earth loved and will miss him.

Ironically, he passed away on my ex-wife’s birthday. Our Mother passed away on the birthday of our son, Jonathon. For those of you who believe in God, please keep the family in prayer as we go through a difficult time. Thanks! Wayne


December 18, 2016: Yesterday my remaining siblings came to visit me. We had a good visit. Though each of us are grateful to still have each other in our lives, I sensed the emptiness from the unspoken loss of our loved ones.

Loved ones fill a space in our hearts that no one else can replace. God made that spot just for them, whether our memories and feelings are good or bad, that space is theirs. I am grateful to have been blessed with the love given to me by those, whom that power greater than myself, put into my life.

I am also grateful for my eyes* and other physical features that I use to write and send my words beyond the walls and barbwire fences that surround me at this juncture of my life.

Prison only confines my body: I refuse to allow it to consume my sense of being, or to rob me of my dignity and integrity. I am a man first and a prisoner second.

My mind and spirit are freer today than when I roamed the streets in 1988 before my arrest. God gave me a life worth living.

Better days are on the horizon. When I walk out of these prison doors, Straight From the Pen will come alive, more like straight from the keyboard.

In an upcoming blog, I will share a former prisoner’s inspiring story. Brandon Sample is one who proves people can leave prison and succeed in life, by beginning to build the path toward a better life while inside doing their time.

Miracles happen. Have faith and never lose hope. Hope keeps the world going.

___________________________________________________

  • I have an essay titled “Eyes” that I wrote in gratitude of my eyesight that I am fortunate to still have. It is an inspirational story available in ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN.
  • Purchase UNKNOWN INNOCENCE ($10.95 USD) and ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN ($8.95 USD) while the prices are low. Available in paperback at Amazon.com and other eStores, and as eBooks at Smashwords.com, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.Kindle, and other eBook retailers. Visit my Smashwords authors page today https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy.

Thankfulness and Gratitude from Inside

I Could Be Sleeping in the Woods

Thanksgiving Day in America always reminds me to be thankful for all I have in life today, which often involves remembering the not-so-good times in my life. That makes me grateful for today.

Today I am okay, even if life is not the way I imagined it would be for me by this time, when I sat in prison thinking of the day I would walk out the prison doors and into my new life, doing all I could to build a better one, as I started life over at the age of sixty-one.

One part of life I chose not to forget is the decades I spent behind bars and how much I disliked the prison experience. Because of that, I choose not to forget those who are held inside jails and prisons and other forms of detainment, all across America and abroad, whose situation helps me remember where I’ve been and will not return because I live a different lifestyle than I did before I went to prison in 1988.

WORKING MAN

When I am at work and feel disgruntled about the pay I receive versus what I feel I should receive for the hard work I do, I stop to remember the days I helped dozens of other Georgia prisoners dig lakes/ponds by using shovels, picks, and wheelbarrows, while a Dragline excavator* (heavy duty equipment) sat on a hill, unoccupied, and not used until the Health Department was coming to perform an inspection.

Health Department officials and auditors always give Prison administrators an advance warning of upcoming inspections.

During the last several years of my incarceration, I wanted to improve my education by going to college, but Congress had suspended the PELL grant for prisoners, and I could not afford to pay for a college correspondence course, while paying for having my books published, website built, and blogs posted.

The other day, I received a message from a Corrlinks client that helped me to remember what it was like on the Inside and how important it had been for me to continue my interpersonal-development by staying focused on doing positive things, such as continuing to learn; paying for a professional writing course that an education supervisor claimed was not educational (really), and thus refused to sign off on a grant approved by all other approving officials in the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR).

I made sacrifices to pay for the writing course, with my inmate pay of $0.76-$1.45 per hour for doing various tasks; in later years, performing tasks a free citizen would earn six figures for doing. Anyways, ….

After reading his email, I wrote to request his permission to share it with the world. To me it is important for those on the “Outside” to know that many of those on the “Inside” seek programs to help increase their chance of success upon release from prison, so, here is one who does, Mr. Carter:

“On Friday, November 22, 2019, two days shy of the twenty-eighth-year anniversary of the day I was arrested and never saw freedom again, I got the second most exciting news of my life. I am beginning my journey through college for the first time. The Second Chance Pell Grant program being offered through UW-Milwaukee Area Technical College has accepted me as an eligible student to work toward a two-year associates degree in sciences or arts. For me, a man who has been locked up since he was 19 years old, this opportunity is next door to getting released. During my incarceration one thing is obvious to me; education is the foundation of change. People who know better, usually do better; usually. I have always wanted to better with myself since I was a little kid, but I never felt as though I had a real opportunity to do so. There were many opportunities when I was younger, I just never saw them through the storms in my life. Now that I have done everything possible to be a better person, better father, better son, better brother, better man, the storms in my life have subsided and I see life much clearer. I not only know who I am as a person, but what my passions are and what I want do with my life; higher learning is a key part to all that. This is an opportunity I will make the best of and enjoy doing. I just wanted to share this with all the important people in my life. Thank you all for being supportive, motivational, and inspirational. In one form or another you helped me get here. “

“Ivy Carter, @ Redgranite C.I.”

My best wishes for a bright future go out to Mr. Carter as he continues his pursuit of a better life and success upon release.

Throughout the years I learned that gratitude and happiness were an inside job. Today I keep that in mind and continue to be grateful for all things, even pain because the pain reminds me that I am alive. My faith helps me to believe that the pain will go away one day and that all will be well as I rejoice in the absence of pain as I drift into the next dimension.

Today I will relax and be thankful that I no longer have to dig in the dirt and mud while a shotgun boss stands guard waiting for someone with rabbit in their blood to take off into the woods and blast them.

Today, I do not have to sleep in the woods or try to outrun hound dogs in hot pursuit of me as I run for my life to escape the indignities of prison life, as I once did (I escaped from a Georgia prison in 1981, which I have written about **).

And so today, I am grateful that I don’t have to live like that anymore, and can enjoy life, even when the world isn’t working according to Wayne.

________________________________________________

* Dragline excavator

Description

“A dragline excavator is a piece of heavy equipment used in civil engineering and Surface mining. Draglines fall into two broad categories: those that are based on standard, lifting cranes, and the heavy units which have to be built on-site.”  Wikipedia

** Fence Rows and The Price of Change, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TG2WGFA https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/518476

“Fence Rows and The Price of Change” come from the writing collection, Essays & More Straight from the Pen, available in print and as an eBook. These essays captivate the readers attention to carry them through movie-worthy-events.

“Fence Rows” first appeared in the ICONOCLAST magazine, as did “Fences,” included as part of the essays in Essays & More Straight from the Pen.

Inside of “The Price of Change,” read about the event published by the ICONOCLAST, which concerns exciting scenes from a prison escape and other events behind the walls of prisons. Parts of this gripping essay may help the reader to see the devastation of addiction and yet give one hope of living to see a better day. The change came many years later at a heavy price.

Available ebook formats: epub mobi pdf rtf lrf pdb txt html

Purchase your copy today https://www.amazon.com/Essays-More-Straight-Wayne-Dowdy/dp/1502767503/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

The Phish Who Got Away

The veterans of today’s online wars don’t have to carry guns and ammo to protect us: they use keyboards and electronic equipment. I praise them, too.

The day after I posted “Happy Veterans Day” with a link to an article from Reader’s Digest about scammers/fraudsters, I received a Wells Fargo email instructing me to call a number if I hadn’t received my new debit card.

(Read the referenced articles inside the Reader’s Digest article to learn more about online scams: [Reader’s Digest published a great article that I read and shared on Facebook and Twitter because of all of the information contained about protecting online identity, by having links to other articles not included in the title, 13 Signs Amazon Seller Can’t Be Trusted. https://www.rd.com/advice/signs-amazon-seller-cant-be-trusted/?_cmp=readuprdus&_ebid=readuprdus10272019&_mid=309700&ehid=8fbcb9fd291744b840632983d832178c40787096 ])

I knew the card was just mailed that morning and suspected a scam. Being the investigative-type of person I am, I called the number to investigate: I was correct!

The speaker said they knew from the phone number what my bank account number was, so all they needed was the last four digits of my social security number.

I hung up, and immediately went online to my bank account that I use the two-step verification process on (my phone must be used in conjunction with the login information), and then turned off my card that was soon to expire (I was waiting for its replacement).

After knowing the card and account was safe, I called the bank number I knew was legit and reported the attempted phishing.

Well, this phish broke the line and got away to fight another day. I don’t reckon they liked my blogging about their scamming.

I stayed up late running various security scans and changing passwords to protect myself. Please read some of the articles in Reader’s Digest to enlighten yourself on how to identify the fraudsters who want to steal your money or identity. Don’t be lazy or so arrogant that you think you do not need to worry about some scandalous son of a bitch who wants to be you long enough to steal your funds and identity: it may happen to anyone.

The following excerpt came from one of the articles I sent out on Facebook and Twitter. It is 100% correct.

“MARVENT/SHUTTERSTOCK

“’If you receive a suspicious email from a friend’s email address, don’t reply, ‘Is it really you?’ because the fraudster will answer ‘Yes.’ If a suspicious email from your bank contains a phone number, don’t call it. Instead, look up the bank’s phone number in the Yellow Pages or Google it.’” —Mark Gazit, CEO of ThetaRay, a provider of big data analytics solutions.”

https://www.rd.com/advice/work-career/clear-signs-youre-about-to-be-hacked/

As I stated, I knew to call the bank phone number I knew wasn’t a scam.

Then I received my weekly updated email from Wordfence.com that told of a security issue with WordPress Email Subscribers & Newsletters.  Here are some excerpts. I posted the URL to the complete article for those who want to read the full report.

“Multiple Vulnerabilities Patched in Email Subscribers & Newsletters Plugin

This entry was posted in VulnerabilitiesWordPress Security on November 13, 2019 by Chloe Chamberland

“A few weeks ago, our Threat Intelligence team identified several vulnerabilities present in Email Subscribers & Newsletters, a WordPress plugin with approximately 100,000+ active installs. We disclosed this issue privately to the plugin’s development team who responded quickly, releasing interim patches just a few days after our initial disclosure. The plugin team also worked with us to implement additional security measures.

“Plugin versions of Email Subscribers & Newsletters up to 4.2.3 are vulnerable to attacks against all of the vulnerabilities described below, and versions up to 4.3.0 are vulnerable to the SQL injection vulnerability. All Email Subscribers & Newsletters users should update to version 4.3.1 immediately. Wordfence Premium customers received new firewall rules on October 14th to protect against exploits targeting these vulnerabilities. Free Wordfence users receive these rules on November 14th.

“Unauthenticated File Download w/ Information Disclosure

Description: Unauthenticated File Download w/ Information Disclosure
CVSS v3.0 Score: 5.8 (Medium)
CVSS Vector String: CVSS:3.0/AV:N/AC:L/PR:N/UI:N/S:C/C:L/I:N/A:N
Affected Plugin: Email Subscribers & Newsletters
Plugin Slug: email-subscribers
Affected Versions: <= 4.2.2
Patched Version: 4.2.3

“Email Subscribers & Newsletter provides site owners with the ability to create newsletter campaigns that site users can subscribe to. One feature of this plugin is the ability to export all of the site’s subscribers into a single CSV file containing first names, last names, email addresses, mailing lists the subscriber is on, and more. Unfortunately, there was a flaw in this plugin that allowed unauthenticated users to export subscriber lists and gain all of the information provided by subscribers.”

For the complete report go to https://www.wordfence.com/blog/2019/11/multiple-vulnerabilities-patched-in-email-subscribers-newsletters-plugin/?utm_campaign=Wordfence%20Blog%20Emails&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=79364920&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8BWZWGcayl7CmLA8_0ZOuqUMxFleAxNa1XzLNtcjmm_PWVISfoOeViJk0XBMmja4fUtyG9alUFRXA6PRL4cnymLjx62a0YXm_ZWbqwjxsINMHzwyE&_hsmi=79364920

In the words of a biblical writer, “Be Aware Lest Ye Fall.”

That time I got away by breaking the line before the hook set, and I have maintained heightened security measures since then, adding additional computer security programs to check for malware, spyware, viruses, and all sorts of various poisons used to attack and infect unsuspecting citizens.

Even with all of those measures in place, I know to remain aware, to keep updating computer program security features and processes, and to never get so relaxed that I think those hooks aren’t in the water waiting for some unsuspecting PHISH to come swimming by.

Happy Veterans Day

In America we dedicate this day to those who served and protected our country. I am grateful for those who have and those who do.

For more on Veterans Day click this: https://g.co/kgs/nYi9YG

Many of those who served now lay resting but are never forgotten. The man is the following image is one who was one of my heroes whom I wrote about in Labor Day and a Personal Memorial Day.

https://straightfromthepen.com/2019/09/02/labor-day-and-a-personal-memorial-day/ .

Today we have different wars and battles to fight, one being an invasion by online scammers who want to steal our identities and or resources.

I fight against those trying to invade my space on a regular basis through my websites and by phone calls. Because I need help, I pay and use free versions of antivirus computer programs on my PC and phone because I am constantly bombarded by scammers who want to be me. 🙂

Americans are prime targets of scammers but no one is safe from attack.

Well, maybe more like to want to see what they can steal from me.

Reader’s Digest published a great article that I read and shared on Facebook and Twitter because of all of the information contained about protecting online identity, by having links to other articles not included in the title, 13 Signs Amazon Seller Can’t Be Trusted.

Please read if you want to learn more on how to be safe in a world of scam artists.

The veterans of today’s online wars don’t have to carry guns and ammo to protect us: they use keyboards and electronic equipment. I praise them, too.

Informed Discourse Absent in Prisons by Michael Newman

The following is a complimentary post. StraightfromthePen.com expresses no view or opinion on the issue or comments made by the author, neither agrees or disagrees with content.

Breaking Free Poets

For more from Breaking Free Poets, visit https://breakingfreepoets.com/ and read About Breaking Free Poets by Michael Newman at https://straightfromthepen.com/writings-straight-from-the-pen-2/

Our society is in a collective moment of reckoning with the sins of our past- at least those of us willing to be honest are. Centuries of harm caused by colonialism, slavery, racial oppression and a western world dominated by the interest of white men have culminated into a barrage of modern-day resistance movements and widespread critical discourse on these themes.

One space where this discourse is distorted- if present at all- is within the walls of American prisons, especially male prisons. Here, the historical plagues of racism and misogyny are endemic; centuries of racial hostility manifest into extreme segregation, and a violently toxic masculinity poisons the seeds of any debate about women’s rights or roles in society.

It is predictable, even if ironic, that communities of people deemed expendable by society would exhibit the symptoms of the society’s most virulent illnesses. A vast majority of prisoners experienced adverse childhoods in poor, racially segregated pockets of America and many were also witnesses to, or victims of domestic violence. But like any guilty party, America attempts to bury the evidence of it’s most egregious sins, rather than confront them directly. But prisons aren’t burial grounds- not permanent ones, anyways. 19 out of 20 prisoners will eventually return to the society which deemed them unfit.
The lack of exposure to conversations about topics like racism and hyper-masculinity is just one more obstacle to add to the catalogue of stumbling blocks in the path to healthy reorientation and reentry to society.

Outdated and outright appalling narratives about women and ethnic groups are still dominant themes in prison culture. Over- incarceration and overcrowding in prisons has led to unsafe environments and the prioritization of security to the point of apathy towards educational pursuits, leaving little will to address issues like these, which derive from lack of exposure to informed discourse. From the correctional regime’s perspective however, information is the enemy- any force that would empower the population would also make them more of a risk.

If the system’s purpose is to administer “justice” on the behalf of the public, then they are doing a great disservice to the public by sheltering prisoners from intellectual growth with increasingly prohibitive measures. The lack of access to local resources like guest lecturers and volunteer educators leaves a prison population isolated from cultural debates and community engagement which could provide purpose for their lives. These are the types of discussions we need to have if we want to produce anything resembling “justice” within a prison, and build communities of formerly incarcerated people who are ready to make a better future for all of us.

Michael Newman,
co-founder, breakingfreepoets.com
mike@breakingfreepoets.com

Afraid of Hell by Wayne T. Dowdy

Afraid of Hell comes from ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN.

AFRAID OF HELL

Suicide seemed the solution to end the torment ravaging my soul when I was thirteen years old.

A quarrel between my mother and brother triggered the episode of depression that made me want to die. I don’t remember what the argument was about, only that it ended with my brother slamming the door after he and his wife stormed out of the house, vowing never to return. The incident pushed me over an already frazzled edge.

At the age of eleven, I had begun doing LSD (a hallucinogenic drug), and then started selling it and other drugs to stay high, including phencyclidine, commonly known as PCP. I had been doing a lot of it for a couple of weeks when the above incident occurred. The particular batch that I had been using and selling was extremely potent. As a drug addict; I took advantage of people without giving it much thought. It wasn’t anything personal, just what I had to do to stay high, which I did on a daily basis, whether from alcohol (the oldest drug known to man), or some other drug.

From shaving pills with a razor blade and storing it in a pill bottle, I had accumulated the equivalent of maybe fifty pills. I was in the living room when my brother and his wife left the house. As soon as they were gone, I began to cry and then ran to my bedroom where I kept my drugs and syringes hidden in a coat pocket. I prepared a large shot and injected it into my arm, and then ate the remainder of the PCP in the spoon and pill bottle. Numerous people had died from far less than what I had taken.

My parents had raised me as a Southern Baptist, so I had a concept of heaven and hell in my mind, and I did not want to go to hell for sure, which is where I was afraid that I was heading just as soon as I died.

Well, I went to school with a girl named Sherry, whose father was the pastor of the Riverdale Church of God. They lived three blocks down the road from my parent’s house.

As I recall, as soon as I had eaten the remainder of the PCP, I jogged down the road to their house. I jogged so that I could get there in a hurry, because I believed that I would die when all of the PCP that I had swallowed was absorbed into my system. Since I did not want to go to hell and was afraid that I was going to die quickly, I had to get there fast. I made it to their house and banged on their storm door. The preacher’s wife opened their heavy oak door and looked at me through the safety of the storm door.

“What do you want?” she asked. (I was the neighborhood hoodlum, and she probably thought that I was there to rob or steal something.)

“I want Brother Price to pray for me, because I have taken drugs to commit suicide, and I don’t want to go to hell,” I said. I believed that his prayer would stop me from going to hell, where I had been told that I would be going for the last few years.

“Bingham, someone’s here to see you,” she yelled.

All I remember after she called for him and he came to the door, was repeating what I had told her, and then him opening the door to invite me into his home. I lost consciousness when I walked across the threshold.

When I came back around, Sherry was sitting across from me at a foldout table with a Monopoly game between us. “Are you going to play?” she asked.

“No,” I said, and shook my head.

“Well, you said that you wanted to play,” she said. Then she asked if I wanted to go outside and sit in the swing, which is what we did. I remember telling her that I thought I had damaged my brain, because everything was moving so slow inside my head. Trying to formulate a sentence was difficult for me.

It took some time, but I eventually recovered and went right back to my insane ways for the next twenty-four years. In 1995, I finally stopped using drugs and alcohol by going through three years of therapy to address the personal issues that made me want to drink and use, and then by getting involved with twelve-step programs to learn the spiritual approach. Today, I do service work at the meetings and by sponsoring people. I remain willing to do God’s will in my life by helping others recover. I feel that I am blessed with each day that I wake up, and especially when I see the lives of others transformed through God’s love and power, as was mine.

I am grateful to have survived my suicidal tendencies. I hope and pray that if someone thinking of suicide reads this article, that they change their mind, because suicide is not the solution. Feelings come and go, good and bad ones alike, and if God was able to save me and give me a life worth living, then He will do it for them too.

I realize that it is only by the grace of God that I am still alive and
have a brain that works.

I am thankful that the prayers of Brother Price and his family were more powerful than the mega dose of PCP that I had done. Today, I am glad that I was afraid of hell because if I hadn’t been, I would have stayed in my bedroom and waited for the inevitable.

UNDER PRESSURE–MOTIVATIONAL VERSION by MR. D.

UNKNOWN INNOCENCE consumed my first novel, UNDER PRESSURE by Mr. D, and part of my second book published by Midnight Express Books (UNDER PRESSURE–MOTIVATIONAL VERSION). What separated the second novel from the first was the addition of “The Story Behind the Novel” and the addition of the first two chapters of UNKNOWN INNOCENCE.

After writing the sequel, I decided to give readers a better value by allowing the sequel to consume the original novel.

For this blog post, I’m providing a peek into the most important part of the Motivational Version (The Story Behind the Novel ), and one randomly selected chapter that shows one aspect of prison life in some of the more dangerous prison settings, Chapter #6, Let It Go.

Warning: Not Politically Correct! Contains Violence, Profanity

Let It Go

Months later, on a cool spring morning, Stan and Bobby returned from the yard and took their showers before being counted at 10 A.M. Shortly thereafter, they went to eat Spanish omelets, oatmeal, biscuits and gravy for brunch. That afternoon, Stan sat near the center of the TV room watching VH1. The TV room was on the walkway at the rear of the cellblock that joined the tiers. Terry, Jake, and three of Jake’s friends were huddled in the back corner. Two Jamaicans, who were acquaintances of Stan, sat closest to the only door, talking. Stan lowered the volume on his Walkman to hear Jake and Terry’s conversation. A few minutes later his suspicion was confirmed: Terry still planned to involve Wendy.

“She’s coming over the holiday weekend in July and I’ll talk her into bringing in the package,” Terry said.

Stan stood and turned to face all five in the corner. “Keep my sister’s name out of your mouth,” he said.

“Keep out of my business, boy,” Jake said. Him and his three friends stood. Terry stayed seated.

“Don’t try fucking with this boy!” Stan said.

Terry stood. “I won’t let anything happen to her, dude,” he said, his voice a high-pitched tone, almost a shrill.

Rastaman stepped out the door and cleared the corner of the tier to get Big Bobby. At the same moment, Bobby walked out of his cell to go get some hot water. Rastaman saw him and yelled in his Jamaican accent. “Yo, mon, Stan need you.” Bobby slung the cup in his cell.

One of Jake’s partners positioned himself near the door by the other Jamaican, who sat looking toward the television with a know-nothing stare on his face.

“You’re damn right you’re not because you’re not going to pull her into your shit,” Stan said. “Find another way to feed your habit.”

Jake’s other partners tried to position themselves behind Stan, who turned to put the wall behind him. Jake moved closer to him and said, “What’s up? You want to get this out of the way, right now?”

“Smash that punk!” the one by the door said.

Terry edged closer to the door. “Y’all cut this bullshit out, dudes,” he said. “We’ll all go to the hole.”

Jake moved within arm’s reach. Stan shoved him in the chest with both palms. “Get off me, punk,” he said.

Jake stumbled backward. He regained his balance and rushed back to get in Stan’s face. “Want some of this,” he said, and pushed him back.

“Don’t take that from that cunt,” another yelled. “Hit him!”

The one by the door pulled a shank from his waistband. “Let’s stick this bitch,” he said, his back a foot from the door.

Everything changed fast: Big Bobby barged into the room. The door smacked the doorman holding the shank, knocked him into Terry, who shot to the wall near Bobby.

“Hey,” the doorman shouted, as he turned to see who had hit him with the door. His face paled when he saw Bobby. He hurried beside Jake, faced Bobby.

Jake had moved to the corner when Bobby rushed into the room. “What’s up?” Bobby said, his voice coarse.

The two who had surrounded Stan moved with Jake. Terry stood against the wall with his arms crossed. Bobby moved within striking distance of the doorman.

“Let it go, man,” he said. Rastaman had followed him into the room. The other Jamaican stood and positioned himself beside his partner and Bobby.

Stan eyed the two who tried getting behind him, and then he moved near Bobby and the Jamaicans. He looked at the one with the shank. “Put that up before I stick it up your ass,” he said.

“You got the easy part done,” the doorman said.

“Cut the bullshit,” Terry said.

Still winded from rushing down the tier, Bobby said, “All of you need to put this on ice. Nothing good’s going to come from us going to war over whatever the hell y’all got going on in here.”

Jake took a step closer to them. “Tell your boy to keep out of my business, big guy.”

Bobby started to speak. Stan pointed at Terry. “I’ve done told that idiot I didn’t want him involving my sister in your business, buddy,” he said. “If you can’t respect that, we’ve got big problems.”

“You’ve got big problems with all that mouth,” the doorman said. Seconds earlier, he had slipped the blade of the shank in the front pocket of his pants and covered its handle with his hand.

“Look, man, my problem’s not with you but we can make it that way if you don’t back off,” Stan said. He moved closer to him. “I don’t give a damn about you having a shank.”

Bobby stepped between Stan, Jake, and the doorman. The Jamaicans stayed in the background, propped against the wall by the door where Terry stood. The doorman jerked out the shank. Before Bobby could stop him, Stan maneuvered around him and grabbed the doorman’s wrist holding the shank. In a continuous motion, he twisted it behind the man’s back and yanked it to the base of the neck, as he forced him against the rear wall. “What you want to do now, bitch?” Stan growled, keeping the pressure on the back of his prey.

Jake advanced toward Stan. Bobby grabbed him by the shoulders and slung him against the wall, and then turned his head to glance at the other two, making sure they weren’t getting involved. “Stay out of it!” he said.

The Jamaicans, who were much larger than either of the two they faced, had moved between them and Bobby. Both Jamaicans had their arms spread, angled toward the floor, palms opened, inviting war or peace. “We don’t want no trouble,” one of the other two said.

After he had failed to free himself from Stan’s hold, the doorman dropped the shank. It clanged as it struck the floor. “All right, man. You got it,” he said, his voice strained from stress.

Jake stayed still against the wall; fear written on his forehead: Bobby’s massive chest six inches from his nose.

Stan used his foot to slide the shank to the far side of the room. Then he released his hold and stepped away from the doorman. “Let’s all let this shit go and get the fuck out of here before the hacks come and slam us in the hole,” he said.

Everyone exited the television room; their eyes darting one from another, sweat dotting their foreheads. Stan waited until last to leave, motioning for the doorman to get his shank and go. He did so silently, his head held low.

Five minutes after leaving the TV room, Stan had told Bobby all that had gone down before he walked into the drama. They sat in Stan’s cell with their arms crossed, sodas sitting on the floor by each of their legs. Neither one uncrossed their arms except to take a sip from their sodas.

“What you think about it?” Stan said. “You think they’re going to let it go or what?”

Bobby cleared his throat and repositioned himself on the toilet bowl where he sat. “I’d like to think they’ll let it go and leave us alone, but you know how things go in these places. They may claim a truce only to gain an edge for an attack. I’m going to keep an eye on ‘em, for sure.”

“You know I’ll keep an eye on them. And if Terry and Jake don’t leave Wendy out of their plans, they’d better keep an eye on me,” Stan said, and then got up from the edge of his bed. “I’m telling you, man, if they don’t, it’s going to be bad. Wendy may become a widow before it’s over with if they don’t.”

“Well, … we’ll just have to play the cards dealt and play the game well. Let it go if you can,” Bobby said. Then he rose and patted Stan on the back. “Gotta go, Pal. Keep your eyes open. Yell if you need me, okay?”

“Okay, man. I’m sorry I got you into this bullshit.”

“Don’t sweat it. It’ll all work itself out however the hell it’s supposed to turn out.” Then he ducked to leave the cell. He stopped on the tier.

“See you later,” he said and threw up his hand before walking back to his cell.

The Story Behind the Novel

[Updated August 14, 2019: This novel was published while I was in prison and most content remains the same; however, on May 8, 2019, I was released from the custody and control of the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons. I removed some of the original content from “The Story Behind the Novel” because it became outdated.]

The story behind the novel may surprise you because I wrote it while serving a 420-month federal prison sentence. Mr. D.” is the pseudonym I used for my first book to avoid any confusion associated with my writings. I am a writer of many genres and am aware that some readers are “profanity-sensitive”; I don’t want anyone to be confused when purchasing my books, essays or short stories. Though not used frequently, profanity is often necessary to capture the personality of a character or to make a scene or setting more realistic; especially, when writing about prison life. A person allergic to profanity may safely read most of my personal essays (inspirational, political, creative nonfiction), but may break out into a rash or go into anaphylactic shock when reading what I write as “Mr. D,” a pseudonym I chose based upon the song, Dancing with Mr. D., by the Rolling Stones, and because my last name begins with “D” and some people call me Mr. D.

Why should the reader find motivation by reading this? It came from the confines of a prison. If I wrote this from inside, without an electronic data storage system, and without access to the Internet, someone “out there” with all of the available technology and resources can really work some magic. This is the story behind the novel:

I am a federal prisoner serving a lengthy prison sentence; to be precise, thirty-five-years, without parole, for armed bank robbery and associated charges. I started on August 18, 1988. I have never used the Internet or seen a cell phone, other than in magazines or on television. I’m somewhat prehistoric, a relic.

In prison, our movement and activities are limited. For instance, I only have until 7:45 pm, Monday through Thursday evenings, to type at the library, which does not begin until my living unit gets released for chow (usually by 6:00 pm). At the library, I use a dumbed-down, AlphaSmart, word processor to type with until the library closes [AlphaSmarts were removed from the library before my release and replaced with the worst typewriters available, with no memory recall capabilities].

Normally, a writer using an AlphaSmart would have an interface cord to connect to their PC to upload what they typed on the AlphaSmart, and would then make modifications to the text in their PC; e.g., change line spacing, font size or style, underline words or adjust margins. I don’t have a PC to upload what I have typed and cannot modify what I have written, other than typical editing functions, such as copying and pasting and using spellcheck to correct misspelled words (program does not check grammar or punctuation). Fortunately, the presets include double line spacing, one-inch top, left and right margins, and a 12-pt Times New Roman font. If I want to add an underline to a word or a case cite when doing legal work, I have to create a separate file, count spaces, and then use the underscore key to create an underline. Then I have to run the original document back through a low-quality printer to complete the process.

That gives you an idea of what limited capabilities are when writing and typing from inside a prison (and I am fortunate to be able to do what I do). Some prisons only have ancient typewriters, with no memory storage capabilities. (I authored Under Pressure on such a primitive device.) The only other day I have to work on my writing is on Saturday because the library does not open on Sunday or holidays. During the morning I skip going to eat to type from 7:30 am (or whenever the door opens) until 9:15 am. Then I have to return to the cellblock to be counted. Yes, all of us men must stand up and be counted at 10:00 am, 4:00 pm, and 10:00 pm on weekends and holidays. The 10:00 am Count is a special event: we don’t have one during the week. I often use the break for the count to proofread what I’ve written, or to prepare for what I will write.

Once the count clears and the prison staff begins feeding the noon meal, I often skip chow to go type some more. I am usually typing by 11:30 am until I have to turn in the AlphaSmart at 3:15 pm. Fridays and Sundays are my days of forced rest from typing at the library: the only place I can type personal projects.

Where am I during the week when not at the library? Working. I work as the document control clerk in a textile factory of the Federal Prison Industries, Inc., trade name UNICOR. My meager MONTHLY salary averages near $200.00. I used that income to pay for my enrollment in the Long Ridge Writers Group on January 8, 2007. The course is outlined for completion within two years. On July 7, 2008, I graduated. During the same time that I was taking their writing course, I wrote the short story, “Under Pressure.” I attempted its publication by submitting my 6,158-word manuscript (typed on the ancient typewriter mentioned earlier), to various magazines, college literary journals, and entered it in PEN’s Prison Writing Contest. It didn’t win. Then on January 1, 2012, my ambition was born to convert the short story into a novel, the hard way, almost five years from the date of when I enrolled in the Long Ridge Writers Group to learn how to write and market short stories and essays. One year after I decided to turn the short story into a novel, it was available worldwide.

My biggest problem in getting started with converting the short story into a novel came from not having any way to electronically store data. When I finished typing at the prison library to return to the cellblock, everything I had typed was deleted according to policy. I knew having memory storage would ease the pain of the revision process (some pages I retyped up to five times to correct a typo, verb tense, or to replace or to add “one” word). I solicited help from my family and friends to have my manuscript scanned and stored on a disk or CD as a word.doc format for the manipulation of data. One of my two sisters, who was not real computer savvy, did go to different places attempting to find what I needed, but the best she could find was someone to scan and save it as a pdf file, which I didn’t think would allow her to alter the text back then (now converters are available that allows a person to modify Portable Document Format files).

I began the conversion process in light of the troubled waters ahead before I learned about the publisher, Midnight Express Books (MEB). Approximately six months after I had surrendered the idea of finding an easier, softer way to write the novel, I discovered MEB through an ad in the Education Behind Bars Newsletter (EBBN). EBBN ran an ad in Prison Legal News and asked for submissions. I submitted an essay and began receiving complimentary copies of the newsletter. In the last issue I received, I noticed an ad for MEB, who works exclusively with prisoners seeking publication [the publisher retired].

At that point, I had decided to go the traditional publishing route, so I passed along the information to another aspiring writer. MEB sent him a brochure. He asked me to read it and asked that I give him my opinion. I was sold when I read about MEB’s optical character reader and computer program for scanning manuscripts, and then being able to digitally alter the text. I immediately added their contact information to the system provided for e-mailing and recording addresses (TRULINCS & http://www.corrlinks.com). Thus, began the correspondence that lead to MEB helping me publish my first novel.

On January 14, 2013, CreateSpace.com released UNDER PRESSURE for sale to the public as a print-on-demand book. [Note:  Amazon closed CreateSpace, which was a self-publishing division for paperback books. Now authors must use Kindle Direct Publishing and pay Amazon twice the amount of commission for books sales.]

The following day Amazon.com posted UNDER PRESSURE. Now it is available worldwide upon demand through the following sources:

Amazon Books

(http://www.amazon.com/Under-Pressure-Mr-D/dp/098576869X )

Amazon.com

(http://www.amazon.com/Under-Pressure-ebook/dp/B00B1ZI00K/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1366854587&sr=8-1&keywords=under+pressure+Mr.+d )

And as an eBook on Smashwords.com (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/275053)

Smashwords is an eBook distributor who distributes eBooks in various formats to eBook retailers for use on e-readers like the Barns & Noble Nook, and the various applications through Apple products and the Apple iBookstore. When I write other books, essays, or short stories, I will have them posted on my Smashwords’ Author’s page:

https://smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy

[THE POINT IS] If the product in your hands (or before your eyes) came from inside a federal prison, with the assistance of MEB, imagine what you can do “out there” with all of the available technology.

For example, Microsoft Word (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/word/cfq7ttc0k7c7?=&OCID=AID2000136_SEM_O2CceKEP&MarinID=sO2CceKEP%7c340719598991%7cmicrosoft+word%7ce%7cc%7c%7c64346372608%7caud-473968998633%3akwd-10582150&lnkd=Google_O365SMB_NI&gclid=Cj0KCQjwv8nqBRDGARIsAHfR9wAPF2bA3yAzCZsudqoAjxNPQjR62TD52dyGZH6AUYTJAhNWtpHglkgaAtpzEALw_wcB&activetab=pivot%3aoverviewtab); 

Word Perfect X9 (www.corel.com ); and some writers’ tools: Character Writer 4.0 (http://www.characterpro.com/characterwriter/index.html); writing tools from Master Writer (https://masterwriter.com/creative_writers/); for screenplays: Power Structure and Power Writer for writing novels and screenplays (https://www.powerstructure.com/).

Maybe one day I will find out. For you, though, if you are an aspiring writer or just a reader with ambitions, apply yourself to the task and reach for your dreams: they may be closer than you imagine.

Perseverance Pays!

Best regards,

Wayne T. Dowdy aka, “Mr. D.”

I welcome all comments and will respond to all questions as soon as possible, which may vary according to the number received, but I will respond.

Contact Info: E-mail: waynedowdy@straightfromthepen.com or wtdowdy57@gmail.com

Mailing Address: Wayne T. Dowdy, P.O. Box 2608, McDonough, Georgia 30253

Follow me on StaightfromthePen.com https://straightfromthepen.com

UNKNOWN INNOCENCE by Wayne T. Dowdy, $10.95 USD at Amazon.com

A.F.I.R.E. by Jason Glascock

Photo by Movidagrafica Barcelona on Pexels.com

Please help to spread this idea like a fire to generate support and encourage positive change for fixing the broken criminal justice system. Help Change Lives and Build a Healthier Society. Wayne T. Dowdy

COPYRIGHT © 2019 JASON R. GLASCOCK, All rights reserved. This work is protected under the spirit of the General Public License found at http://www.gnu.org.

You are granted permission to copy, print, and publish any part of this document, but you must give attribution to the author. You may alter this document, but you must denote the changes in some manner. You may not charge for any work where this document makes up the majority of the work’s text. Jason Glascock

A.F.I.R.E.

Adaptable Formula for Integrated Rehabilitation & Education

————————————————————————————————

    Statement of Purpose

A person’s education is an on-going process gained through all of life’s experiences. The environment in which a person is immersed is highly influential in the quality and breadth of education. It, therefore, behooves a society to create such an environment that encourages an individual’s self-development, and this development ought to enrich society with individuality’s ability to adapt.

 Basic Philosophy

The strength of a culture, society, community is based on the strengths of the individuals bring to it. Without the individual, there is no community. Therefore, the individual is a more important aspect that must be protected. The purpose of A.F.I.R.E. is to develop an environment whereby the individual can grow into a being that is solidly independent that can then choose to become interdependent within society.

The A.F.I.R.E. is a long-term project to create an environment that the person is immersed in. The environment is all-encompassing with a carefully and intentionally created effect that is unique to the individual. The person is given access to resources that allow them to guide their own development, with assistance available, in a context that is supportive of self-discovery for the individual to become a fully realized being. The environment offers the person to make the choice, without coercion or force. The environment is reinforcing of the ideas of individuality and the person as the creator of the community.

A.F.I.R.E. is to be instituted in a five-phased process with specific goals. These goals build on the goals of each previous phase. The phases are not set, but intended to be dynamic, adaptable and open to new solutions, but always with the overreaching goal to creating an environment that allows the individual to achieve the greatest benefit of self-empowerment.

Phase 1

Goal: develop a set of personality, aptitude, interest, and metrics that can be used to inform both the person and prison about how to create the most advantageous environment for that person, identify freedom potential factors already extant, and determine what to build upon.

Goal: develop a basic set of self-empowerment resources available in the main libraries.

Phase 2

Goal: develop computer lab resources for extended studies.

Goal: develop staff training programs that encourage healthful interpersonal relations.

Goal: develop prisoner training programs that encourage healthful interpersonal relations.

Phase 3

Goal: develop an industry-supported certification schema for education.

Goal: develop post-release support for reintegration, including:

   – employment

   – housing

   – financial assistance

   – continuing education

   – community support

   – transportation

Phase 4

Goal: develop whole-life skills programs, including:

   – hobbies

   – health

   – meditation

   – household maintenance

   – survival training

   – first aid

   – social development with people of shared interests, i.e. clubs

Goal: develop staff centric incentives program for positive relations

Goal: develop prison diversion programs that begin at arrest.

Phase 5

Goal: develop elementary through high school programs for all students which reduce risk by inspiring healthy psychological growth.

Goal: develop independence schools to encourage freedom potential factors.

A.F.I.R.E. goes much further than the STEM Initiative in creating an entire environment designed to encourage the pursuit of that which grows the individual into a healthy and complete being. STEM is a basic educational paradigm, but AFIRE is about how to live, how to think about living, and how to create the best situation for the person within a prison setting to grow in a positive manner.

Currently, prison is designed to be debilitating. The philosophies of the penological system are to handicap the prisoner and make him/her into an inmate subservient to their will, to take away the individuality and make them nothing but a body. Everything is a punishment from the beds, clothes, food and showers, to relationships with family and support groups. Every opportunity is carefully constructed to ensure failure, encourage strife, and negatively impact the psyche.

A.F.I.R.E. works to change the culture of prison into a healthful experience. Punishment is the separation and periodic denial of close relationships and the freedom of travel, not the denial of educational opportunities, health, and the pursuit of skills that can enrich society. We hurt ourselves when we harm others, and prison is a terrible harm to inflict on our community members. The prisoner is no less part of our community while in prison as they are in the Free World.

The Epstein Angle by Clifford Senter

The following is a complimentary post. StraightfromthePen.com expresses no view or opinion on the issue or comments made by the author, neither agrees nor disagrees with content.

The Republican party platform has always favored smaller government. Consistent with that platform and true to his business roots, Trump began cutting the fat his first year in office by eliminating nearly 2000 Bureau of Prisons Jobs. A move that was quickly followed up by a legislative push for prison reforms.

Ostensibly in support of that agenda, Attorney General William Barr accompanied BOP director Horowitz on a visit to the Federal Correctional Institution in Edgefield South Carolina. The prison received glowing praise from AG Barr and the state and Federal VIP’s who accompanied him, including Senator Lindsey Graham. AG Barr would go on to fire Director Horowitz and a Warden in the wake of the Epstein death. However, the prison he just visited with Director Horowitz and conferred his praise upon has the same conditions (but to a greater degree) which led to his removal of those officials.

A few short weeks after AG bar visited the Edgefield prison it had to be placed on a month-long lock-down (an unprecedented duration for that facility and exceptional for any similarly situated facility). The lock-down was actually the culmination of several lesser lock-downs (one occurring just two weeks prior) and other emergency security measures implemented this year alone. According to internal memorandum the month-long lock-down was necessary due to official’s inability to contain violence and disruptive activities associated with cell phones, drugs and other contraband. For years, the prison has been operating under some form or other of modified operations, according to official documents for this same reason. These modified operations have reduced access to educational/recreational and rehabilitative opportunities (already meager) at the prison. Entire portions of the institution have even had to be made inaccessible completely due to officials’ inability to control those areas; And according, once again, to officials long-sad refrain, for the same reasons cited above.

The prison, one of several in the Carolinas, houses inmates from as far away as New York and Chicago and has been called by some Bureau officials materially and geographically redundant. The prison is in a crisis state of disrepair, a fact concealed by gallons of paint, official sophistry and misdirection. Significant financial infusions have been required to keep critical systems functioning and to amend decades of graft, mismanagement and misappropriation. Decades of this misappropriation include funds being indirectly converted for personal aggrandizement and diverted from maintenance and up-keep. This fraudulent management is systemic, long-standing and has compromised the physical infrastructure and security of the facility. According to internal documents, the dilapidation has been exploited for years by violent criminal gangs for production, storage and dissemination of alcohol, drugs, weapons and other contraband. The recent month-long lock-down was extended, in part, to try to patch-up some of these breeches; However, officials’ efforts were mainly cosmetic and amount to nothing more than a band-aid.

Investigations of these conditions and the fraud and misappropriation occasioning them have been superficial and have not looked deeply enough or high enough. (Regional / Central office level complicity) These investigations are largely high-level cover-ups resulting in a warden or department head being scapegoated.

Speaking of Scapegoats, let’s get back to Director Horowitz and the Warden of MDC Manhattan….

We will give Attorney General Barr the benefit of the doubt and assume that the BOP mislead and deceived him when he visited its Edgefield facility; But the conditions which caused or permitted the death of Mr. Epstein, and led to the removal of these officials, were not unique to the facility where Mr. Epstein was being housed. They are standard operating procedures deliberately adopted by the BOP as a counter-strategy to the Presidents attempts to reduce the size of government (including the over-bloated, ineffective Bureaucratic monstrosity known as the Federal Bureau of Prisons.)

           [lockdowns are not a management tool; they are a crisis abatement tool; They represent the inability to manage

           the prison. institutions like Edgefield which lurch from crisis to crisis are management failures, these

           failures, combined with the violence, and recidivism record place the bureau in performance category

           that no business would tolerate]

This standard operating procedure has been implemented with similar consequence at BOP facilities across the country, including FCI Edgefield where AG Barr just visited and gave the thumbs up to.

Jeffery Epstein was an identified suicide threat but was not being housed under the heightened security/treatment protocols established for high-risk prisoners or those evidencing suicidal ideation. This situation is remarkable only due to the stature of the prisoner; Such decisions (non-adherence to policy, proven safety/security protocols and industry standards) have become standard operating procedure at prisons across the Bureau as local officials grapple with the ground-zero logistical conundrums created by Bureaucrats too far removed from their decision to understand their consequences; Or simply indifferent to them. As a routine matter, local officials have largely abandoned many of those safety-security protocols in order to complete the Bureau’s mission within the constraints imposed by a misalignment of human resources, an over-extended labor force, and tighter budgetary controls.

In 2016 The Trump Administration reduced the BOP’s labor force by about 2000 employees. A subsequent hiring freeze, combined with retirements and normal attrition (turn-over, terminations) have further reduced the labor force. These staffing changes have deliberately coincided with projected and actual reductions in the BOP’s prison population. (additional reductions are anticipated but are contingent upon the BOP’s implementation of Legislation and Administration policies intended to bring about those reductions) The natural and unavoidable consequence of these twin developments (reductions in staff and reductions in population) is a corresponding downsizing of structural and material commitments.

The temporary deactivation of some Bureau facilities and the consolidation of populations, staffing and resources at the remaining facilities is the only competent operational model that can meet existing and projected needs and policy objectives. However, instead of conforming its massive footprint to the shifting policy objectives, shifting political imperatives, shifting demographics, shifting operational pressures, and the smart-on-crime agenda of Congress, the President and the public, the BOP is instead trying to fight the paradigm shift and maintain scale. The BOP has committed to maintaining all of its properties and physical infrastructure in an active operational capacity. One of the ways it is accomplishing this is by spreading its staff as thinly as possible across as many facilities as possible and concentrating inmates within those institutions into as small a space as possible in order to allow fewer staff to supervise more inmates. And placing greater restraints on inmates, which has been shown to adversely impact reintegration into society.

This strategy is difficult to explain because the Bureau did an exhaustive and rigorous study in which it concluded that those staff-to-inmate ratios resulted in more violence, disruption and infraction of the rules; Exactly the type of problem that Edgefield has been experiencing and was recently on lock-down for. What is even more inexplicable however, is why is the Department of Justice Hiding money from the President?

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is the Department of Justice’s second largest and fastest growing budgetary expenditure. The White House recently ordered all agencies to conduct internal audits to identify areas where budgetary compromises could be made to re-purpose funds to meet the President’s national security goals on border-security. Funds for this purpose have been scrounged from some very controversial sources such as the military and FEMA. The DOJ, however, does not have to scavenge its budgets to locate the type of funding the President is looking for. Simple compliance by the BOP with the Presidents unrelated criminal justice/prison reform agenda would liberate enough funds to accomplish the Presidents border-security goals almost by itself. Why is the DOJ concealing this funding source from the President?

The answer, according to anecdotal reports is that the BOP is quietly engaged in an undeclared insurrection against the President and his reform agenda. Staff report subtle pressure from union officials to acquiesce to dangerous and exploitative labor practices  (See: Blog post at straightfromthepen.com) in order to outlast an administration, which it is convinced will not survive the 2020 election cycle; An outcome that it is quietly organizing and working in support of.

In a rare occasion of agreement, union officials and Bureau executive management have united behind the scenes in opposition to efforts by the Trump administration to reform and streamline the agency. The Bureau of Prisons, fed by the funding cornucopia ushered in by the Clinton administration and “big-government style policies, grew into a behemoth organization requiring more of the  DOJ’s budget that any other agency but the FBI (and it is fast on the FBI’s heels). However, despite its insatiable appetite for dollars and lives, the BOP under-performs its lesser-funded state counterparts on nearly every metric and has a dismal record on recidivism.

In addition to allowing the BOP’s mutiny on Criminal Justice/Prison Reform, the DOJ itself is quietly spending millions of dollars and resources in its own insurrection against the President’s policies. While the President is touting and being praised for his landmark legislative victory Mr. Barr’s attorney’s general are busy spending copious limited resources making sure as many prisoners as possible do not “actually ” benefit from those reforms. Almost without exception the Government has summarily opposed every motion submitted to the court seeking relief under those reforms; Even when the petitioner is clearly entitled to relief or where the opposition is based solely upon technicalities. The Government has, in some cases, spent thousands of dollars in time and resources fighting to deny relief as meager as a few months, and where the petitioners had already spent decades behind bars and would clearly have received a far shorter sentence had they been sentenced today.

So, what does any of this have to do with Jeffery Epstein? Everything!  The Department of Justice was once an unassailable bastion of public trust. The removal of the Director of the BOP in the fall-out of the Epstein death is the type of swift, decisive accountability which once made American institutions like the DOJ great. However, in the wake of the Attorney General’s actions questions swirl instead about his motivations. Was it political posturing? Deflection? Scapegoating? Or was the Head of the Department of Justice trying to make that American institution great again….  There are mixed messages coming from the DOJ which make it hard to tell. Across the nation the DOJ is spending millions of tax-dollars in a knee-jerk effort to uphold sentences that the people, the Congress and the President say are unjust, fiscally unsound, and which do not reflect who we are as a society. (perhaps the only such political consensus besides 9/11 in over one hundred years)

Perhaps the AG was duped by the BOP, but the prison (Edgefield FCI) he just visited and sang the praises of is ripe with the very same problems he just removed Acting Director Horowitz for. And despite those removals, nothing has been done to address the underlying issues.

If he is indeed trying to make the DOJ “Great Again”, he has a lot more work to do at the Departments second most costly, fastest growing, and least effective agency. But the bottom line is that our prisons are full of people whom the latest criminal justice research says don’t need to be there; That fiscal imperatives say we cannot afford to keep there; And that the Congress, the President and the public say that they don’t want there. The resources which the Department of Justice and Bureau of Prisons are expending on those people divert resources and leave wardens and their prisons overextended. It is predictable, inevitable, and all too common that people will fall thorough those gaps. The only thing unique about the Jeffery Epstein situation is his celebrity; Other than that, it is just business as usual for the BOP.

[For a previous article by the same author, go to https://straightfromthepen.com/2019/04/29/prisoner-requests-pro-bono-civil-litigation-assistance/ ]