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RECIDIVISM IN AMERICA by Wayne T. Dowdy

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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.

________________________
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.

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Freedom for a Friend

by Wayne T. Dowdy

balance

In the American Criminal Justice system that falls under the Executive branch of the Federal Government, the President of the United States is over the Department of Justice.  Political campaigns designed to get votes by former presidents declaring War on Drugs and War on Crime, lead to the mass incarceration in America.  The first wave of attacks against the citizens came under the guise of the Sentence Reform Act of 1984, where Congress abolished parole for federal offenders and required that prisoners serve eighty-five percent of their sentences, all of which lead to a boom in the incarceration industry.  Hundreds of politicians lined their pockets with cash as a result of the boom due to the influence of private prison corporations.  [1]

The Honorable Eric Holder, former United States Attorney General, and President Barack Obama implemented programs to reduce the federal prison population, reign in overzealous prosecutors, slow the prison growth rate, and other measures to reduce recidivism.  One plan was Clemency Project 2014.  In it President Obama planned to grant clemency to drug offenders serving unjust sentences.  One to benefit from the project was my friend:  Alphonso D.

obama granting clemencyOn December 17, 2015, President Barack Obama granted clemency to ninety-five federal prisoners and pardoned two; sixty-seven of whom are in prison serving lengthy prison sentences for conspiracy to commit drug offenses and other associated charges, thirty-eight of whom had life without parole.

The next day I stood speaking to a factory supervisor when I was blessed with a unique experience.  My friend strutted in flaunting a larger than normal smile.

“How are you doing?” I asked.

“Great now!  I was granted clemency,” Alphonso said.

A smile erupted on my face as tears of joy filled my eyes.  The news made me almost as happy as if President Obama had granted my petition for commutation of sentence.  I have a release date.  He did not.

Alphonso is a well-mannered, polite, soft-spoken, and respectful man in his mid-fifties.  On February 12, 1996, a judge sentenced him to life without parole for Conspiracy to Violate Narcotic Laws (crack), in the Western District of North Carolina.   (Crack is cocaine base people smoke, which is an alkaloid, and not a hydrochloride like powder cocaine that people snort or inject to get high on.)

No actual drugs existed in the conspiracy that lead him to prison to live out the remainder of his life, that is, until President Obama intervened and showed compassion by granting his petition for commutation of sentence.  He will be released on April 16, 2016.  The government convicted him under the conspiracy theory for “ghost dope.”  He deserved the President’s compassion.

CRIMINAL CONSPIRACIES:  Conspiracy is a law Congress first enacted in 1909 as the CONSPIRACY ACT (Offenses Against the U.S.), which prosecutors used to convict mobsters and other criminals without any physical or scientific evidence.  In 1948, Congress enacted Title 18 of the United States Code (U.S.C.), Section 371, “Conspiracy to Commit Offense or to Defraud the United States”; then in 1970, added Title 21 U.S.C., Section 846, “Attempt and Conspiracy” to their arsenal to prosecute drug offenses and allow prosecutors to seek the same sentence as provided for the primary offense; e.g., life without parole for certain drug offenses.  Prosecutors use Title 18, Section 2, “Principals,” and other statutes to achieve the same result in other offenses.

A criminal conspiracy may be based on little more than informants or witnesses claiming a defendant planned to or committed a crime.  Under Section 371, if the government convinces the judge or jurors of an overt act used to activate the plan to violate the law, the defendant gets convicted in most cases.

Prosecutors do not have to prove an overt act under Section 846.  Overt acts may be as simple as making a phone call, or instructing someone who to see or where to go to buy illicit drugs, weapons, or anything used to knowingly violate laws.

Under 18 U.S.C., Section 371, the stiffest penalty is five-years imprisonment and a fine.  Under the conspiracy theory, prosecutors may charge defendants for all crimes involved in the conspiracy; e.g., armed bank robbery, through Conspiracy to Commit Armed Bank Robbery.  (See PERSONALLY below.)

BAD DEALS:  When threatened with absurd prison sentences, some defendants plead guilty to crimes they did not commit because it comes as a package deal to help investigators clear the books, or to avoid an excessive sentence when the government refuses to believe their informant is lying.  Some prosecutors use perjured testimony to get convictions.  Numerous people in American prisons have been freed with DNA evidence that proved witnesses lied or made mistakes.  In some cases, prosecutors, and or law enforcement officials, concealed exculpatory evidence to get convictions (exculpatory evidence proves innocence).

In my opinion, conspiracy became the most abused law in American history.  Many unjust incarcerations resulted from prosecutors who abused the law and forced people into providing false testimony to convict another person; prosecutors also use the law to retaliate against those who won’t cooperate.  Law books are filled with incidents where defendants went to prison due to overzealous prosecutors.

INFORMATION FOR SALE:  On December 14, 2012, Brad Heath reported in USA TODAY about a ring of inmates at the United States Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, selling information to other inmates to use for sentence reductions.  Conspiracy plots were formed inside the prison to fabricate evidence against defendants to get sentence reductions.  Heath stated, “Snitching has become so commonplace that in the past five years at least 48,895 federal convicts, one of every eight, had their prison sentences reduced in exchange for helping government investigators, a USA TODAY examination of hundreds of thousands of court cases found.  The deals can chop off a decade or more off their sentences. …..”

MY CASE:  The government paid the witness against me with eight and a half years, in place of the threatened-life-sentence.  He went inside the bank with a gun.  I sat in a second getaway vehicle, without a gun, down the road from the bank and got sentenced to 420-months.  However, the result in my case does not compare to that of Sammy the Bull and former mob boss, John Gotti.  (Read “The Truth About Incarceration” for more on Gotti and the deal made with Sammy the Bull to testify on him.  [2])

In the Story Highlights, Heath wrote, “Inmates who operated the schemes have alleged that agents knew what they were up to [over] the past five years[.]”  Then he wrote, “Those schemes are generally illegal because the people who buy information usually lie to federal agents about where they got the information.  They also show how staggeringly valuable good information has become; prices ran into tens of thousands of dollars, or up to $250,000 in one case, court records show. …..  Prosecutors have said they were troubled that informants were paying for some of the secrets they passed on to federal agents.  Judges are outraged.  But the inmates who operated the schemes have repeatedly alleged that agents knew all along what they were up to, and sometimes even gave them the information they sold.”

MONEY TALKS:  At the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, I once read confidential reports (three depositions) obtained by Private Investigators in the case of an alleged, wealthy, Canadian Mob Boss (Allan R.), who is in prison for smuggling large shipments of cocaine into America.  Those documents, filed in court, showed where Spanish drug enforcement agents primed a witness with information to tell American authorities about the man the witness first stated he did not know.  After extradition to the State of Texas for a drug case, the informant made a second deposition and claimed to know A.R.

Texas authorities primed him with more information to carry to the State of Florida, where he made a third deposition and agreed to testify against A.R. in an alleged murder of a Florida State Patrol officer.  During the Discovery process, the prosecution only revealed the last deposition made in Florida.  Had A.R. not been a millionaire with International connections, he would have been convicted, but when he proved the government concealed the other two depositions, and proved the witness had lied, the court dismissed the case.

Allan R.’s case is one where justice prevailed, even if it was at the price he paid to hire the Spanish private investigator, and high-powered attorneys in America, needed to obtain information to win against the most powerful criminal justice system in the world.

MORE ON CONSPIRACY:  Reports of corruption in the judicial system by way of paid informants are not new.  Numerous television segments have reported similar incidents, where defendants admitted they lied to get additional time off their sentences, or to get rich.

In 2002, Congress amended one federal statute to put a $500,000 cap on the amount of payment a government informant could receive, without special approval from the Attorney General.  That was because of outrageous reports about “snitches” becoming millionaires by setting people up to get twenty-five percent of seized proceeds.  Prosecutors still used those snitches to get convictions, and more often than not, relied on the conspiracy theory/principles to obtain the conviction to take the defendant’s assets.

REAL CRIMES:  If an actual crime occurs, conspiracy principles apply to the extent that a defendant may be held accountable for all acts committed within the conspiracy, regardless of whether he or she had knowledge of the acts charged in the indictment.  Most criminal offenses require an “intentional” or “willful” act to be proven as an element of the offense, but many prosecutors twist facts to get a conviction by coercing witnesses into saying what is needed to convict the defendant.

A person does not have to voluntarily play a role in the commission of the crime(s).  Perhaps that sounds unbelievable but it is true.  I know hundreds of men in prison due to testimony of people they had not seen or did not know, who helped put them in prison for quantities of drugs that never existed.

PERSONALLY:  I am in prison based upon conspiracy principles, where the government convicted me for all acts because I was with the cohorts who committed crimes I did not agree to commit.  I was involved.  I am not saying otherwise; however, I learned more about the crimes during the jury trial than I knew before the trial began.  Under conspiracy laws, though, I am as guilty as the ones who went inside the bank with guns, even though I did not intend to commit the crimes of conviction when I joined another conspiracy with the cohorts.

(For a brief summary about my involvement,  read “No Sympathy” for free as an eBook or on my blogs [3].  In it I reference “The Price of Change,” which contains excerpts from my trial and past events that changed me.  I also wrote about going to trial with a lunatic.  I combined two essays to make a special eBook:  “Fence Rows & the Price of Change.”  No Sympathy and The Price of Change show my experience with criminal justice and the high cost of recidivism.)

CONCLUSION:  In June 2014, I filed a petition for commutation of sentence; if granted, I plan to help reduce recidivism.  As No Sympathy shows, I am a man with a mission.

___________________________________

[1] For more on prisons for profit, read “The Truth About Incarceration, Part II” (https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com/category/prison-politics/); and “An Inside View of the Criminal Justice System,” first published by PrisonLawBlog.com, Oct. 2014.

[2] “The Truth About Incarceration” (Part I), first published on PrisonLawBlog.com, Nov. 2014.

[3] (https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com/) (http://waynedowdy.weebly.com);

Visit http://www.straightfromthepen.com or https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy to purchase eBooks, essays, or to buy ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN, containing twelve essays, one short story and three poems; also available through Midnight Express Books or from your favorite online or offline bookstore.