Tag Archives: mass incarceration

Protests and Prison

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Ironically, the paperback edition of the tenth anniversary publication of THE NEW JIM CROW: MASS INCARCERATION IN THE AGE OF COLORBLINDNESS by Michelle Alexander, was released on January 7, 2020. Now you must wait to get a copy on Amazon, as I type because it is temporarily out of stock; however, the eBook is available. Click here to order.

Doubt does not reside in my mind about hundreds of people going to prison because of their involvement in the current protests going on in America. Not for the protesting, per se, but because of related activities going on around the protest, by the thug element that always finds its way into such events as an opportunity to “Come Up” by looting and committing other crimes under the false pretension of seeking justice, retribution for an act committed.

As I wrote in my most recent blog, Protests Gone Viral, quoting from The Wall Street Journal, President Trump said he would designate Antifa as a terrorist organization.

The United States Department of Justice will prosecute under Title 18 of the United States Code (18 U.S. Code CHAPTER 113B—TERRORISM) and rely on the definition stated below for Domestic Terrorism to prosecute those labeled as members or accomplices (conspirators) of Antifa:

(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended—

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States;”

[18 U.S.C. § 2331 (2)(5), Definitions]

The penalties are stated in 18 U.S. Code § 2332. Criminal penalties, and range from “not more than ten years” for some criminal acts included, and up to life for others, meaning until carried out in a box, since there is no parole in the federal system.

Many people who commit state crimes have no idea that the Feds may step in to use a multitude of laws to get jurisdiction to prosecute in federal court. Believe me, I met several who were in federal prison for crimes of that nature, especially drug cases and violent crimes that involved guns or money that crossed state lines.

The thousands of laws on the books in the States and Federal systems are the ammunition used to create Mass Incarceration in America, where thousands of others profit from the incarceration industry (read The Truth About Incarceration, Part II for more information related to that topic).

Even though an alarming number of those who find their way into jail cells are people of color, as Michelle Alexander wrote about in her book, prison systems across the United States mainly consist of poor people who cannot afford to fight their cases or who are given bad advice to enter a plea of guilty, and then live to regret it when that plea leads to more time in a jail cell than ever imagined.

Many protestors will fall into that category, not because of what they do, but because of what those around them do that erodes the effect of a worthy cause.

The False Narrative – Islam is to Blame by Abdul-Jalil Rashid Al-Imarah

This blog post contains religious content. Paid content is as submitted, other than minor editorial changes. Straight from the Pen does not express any opinion on the subject matter or content or the validity of any statement or claim made, as the posted content is expressly that of the author.

by Abdul-Jalil Rashid Al-Imarah

The false narrative that exists which is circulated by the Zionist, Western, establishment and Anti-Islamic media is that Islam is an intolerant misogynistic religion that allows no debates and stifles the free exchange of ideas. In furtherance of continuing their perpetuation of this falsehood they allege that Islam does not allow the challenge to its doctrines or practices and cannot operate in an open honest playing field. This isn’t true. For the self-containing vices, they embody forces their want to blemish and launch their own characteristics as attacks on Islam. the West is the one feeling challenged and is suffering an identity crisis. Any Islamist would be willing to honestly debate their secular counterpart but such is never allowed by the ‘freedom-loving people’ because they view this as giving an opportunity to ‘spread hate’ or rather ‘infect’ others.

Yet it is the West that demonizes Islam, spends billions of dollars to misportray it or show it in an alternative light suitable to their objectives[1] and motives, have called for re-interpretation of its scriptures and practices and promoting or rather creating fake dissidents whom they could promote. If there was any television network that allowed any dialogue to be aired about political Islam, it would censor parts of such and only portray segments that fit a certain narrative. Islamists fully quote and refute opposing intellectuals, policymakers, and others and directly challenge the premise which they stand on while the other side manufactures stereotypes to combat and engage with, omitting facts and statements, promoting outright fabrications and never quoting from any Islamist themselves or Islamic texts.

Thus, we are hen only left with the claim that either Islam is an evil religion or a faith that has been ‘hi-jacked’ or ‘misinterpreted’ by ‘extremists’ and ‘fundamentalists.’ Yet they bring forth no proof to their claims. Islamists quote from Islamic scriptures and classical ‘orthodox’ scholars while the opposition (western critics of Islam) is ignorant and unwilling to do such. They do not present viable arguments or opinions from the texts all Muslims agree on, rather they bring their deviant, secularized, ‘modern’ scholars who themselves do not quote from what was mentioned. So, we are left with the ‘they hate our freedoms’ nonsense or ‘they simply want to kill all infidels’.

The clash of civilization is not so. One side is actually engaging its adversary directly while the other is fighting and engaging phantoms and figments of its own imagination. So where are the two civilizations clashing? The truth is that Islam wishes to be heard without censorship and give the listener an opportunity to make an informed choice. As there is ‘no compulsion in religion'(Qur’an 2:256). So, for this reason, Islam takes it upon itself to combat those hindering the free propagation of its faith or erecting obstacles in its path. Islam sees itself as freeing mankind from the servitude of others to that of God, Allah, the Divine. Islam stands for the upholding of justice and the removal of all types of tyranny and oppression. And it views the greatest oppression as shirk (polytheism; worshipping inanimate or animate creation; judging by or the creation of manmade legislation without due right).

Islam wishes the ability to uphold the sanctity of Muslims ‘ rights and honor and to defend them. The propagation of Islam is not like the violent exportation or imposition of ‘Democracy’. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) called to Islam for a period of 13 years in Makkah patiently, while his call was slandered, belied, and demonized. He and the Muslims then proceeded to migrate to Madinah which accepted the call of Islam.

And here lies the beginning of the origin of enmity and hatred shown by idolaters, secularists, and satanic forces against Islam. The Qur’an tells us that ‘they wish to extinguish Allah’s light with their mouths but Allah wills only perfect His light [Islam; Monotheism] however much the deniers of truth abhor it’.[9:32]. the polytheists of Makkah hated the idea of a Muslim state living in accordance with the principles of Islam. The fact that there existed people who had the audacity to willfully, consciously, and voluntarily forsake the ‘freedoms’ of immorality and promiscuity for chastity, who forsake the ‘freedoms’ of intoxicants for sobriety, who forsake interest-based capitalism for a non-usurious one, who forsake the ‘freedom’ to legislate or enact laws in accordance with the whims of the masses for Divine rule according to their religious scripture, this enraged them.

They felt that possibly others would also be ‘radicalized’, ‘brain-washed’, or ‘infected’. So to ‘protect’ the world from such, the forces of polytheism and idolatry descended upon Madinah the city lit by the divine light and it resulted in the decisive battle of Badr at which point the Muslims were victorious. They ignored the promise of Allah that stated that Islam would ‘prevail [ideologically, militarily, legislatively, and all other ways] over every other religion however much the idolaters hate this’. [9:33].

From Madinah, the Muslims continued calling to and propagating their faith at which point multitudes flocked to it. When emissaries or preachers of this faith were harmed or killed then the Muslim State of Madinah retaliated on their behalf and for the faith. When the Romans mobilized and began inching forward to destroy this call and new polity then Islam also mobilized its men to push back the possible coming onslaught. As time went by the Muslims continued to send emissaries and preachers to distant lands inviting to the faith. Those countries or tyrant rulers that blocked humanity from the opportunity to respond to this call or deliberately kept the people ignorant from it were fought.

Armies were mobilized to make sure this call was protected, to give strength to it, and pave the way for it, but never to impose it. It was for the freedom to deliver the message, the freedom to respond to this message, and freedom to live in accordance with this message that these battles were fought and every opposer and hinderer was hit in the head with the sword and left as garbage to be abhorred in the pages of history. For there were countries of shirk such as Roman territory and lands of Christendom that allowed this preaching to go on while even speaking against it or launching intellectual challenges due to their difference of religious inclinations yet history shows that they were not fought, instead there were peace treaties between them and the Muslims. Muslims even had tax-paying Christians within their own lands who preferred to live under the justice and Islamic system of government. They did not deny Islam its voice even if they made their ruckus, shouts, and another cacophony of sounds.

Now think about the situation that we are all faced today concerning the violent exportation of democracy. No one is ignorant of democracy today for the cold war seen to that. Yet despite all of the incitement, funding, and incentives promised by the US government and Western countries there are those who willingly reject democracy. So, in Egypt today you find traditionalists, Islamists, Marxists, and those calling for democracy. The same in turkey, Pakistan, and others. even in China! Yet it is not to safeguard democracy and to provide it voice[that they fight or go out for], for it is the loudest voice of all the many different types of political systems. Know that it is western hegemony and imperialism that is the true motive behind the false call of democracy.

They topple governments solely for being ‘undemocratic’ yet they have not taken on Communist China, Autocratic Russia, Monarchist Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Morocco. Why is that? Islam didn’t differentiate as to who it confronted in pursuit of its message. So the weak clans and polytheistic tribes of Arabia were fought with the same vehemence as the paganistic Roman empire, which Islam caused to weaken and collapse, and the Persian empire which is caused to be totally wiped from existence along with others, for its claim was sincerely held. So at the dawn of the Islamic Revival when the Soviets were defeated and IsraHell remained as the occupier and the West, after destroying the Islamic Caliphate(de facto; Ottoman not de jure), was demonizing Islam and interfering with Muslims attempt to abide by Islam in Algeria, Tunisia, and others seeking it by the mirage of democratic elections[what did they expect?].

And after the atrocities Muslims endured in Chechnya, Bosnia, Palestine, and others, doesn’t it make sense that the conclusion the Muslims would come to is that the West is enemy? Wouldn’t the logical conclusion be to go after the West for its defiling the sanctity of Muslims’ honor and blood and hindering Islam? So, what is the clash of civilizations that they speak of? Is it the US invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan? Or is it after Bush and Cheney said, ‘with us or against’ and then proceeded to label it a crusade? Is it their support of the Zionist entity? Or is it their ‘War on Terror’? Or is it recently begin when an Islamic state rose with Raqqah declared as its capital?

I’m an Islamist if that is the term I must be labeled. I consider myself a muwahid (which means a monotheist) and an orthodox Muslim yet if the term Salafi Jihadist fits better then that is what I am. As such, I oppose honor killings and say that it has no basis in Islam and is a deviant cultural practice that occurs at the hands of people in Muslim lands who are not firmly granted with a proper understanding of Islam. There are penal or capital punishments in Islam that must follow the procedures of Islamic law and executed by officials of an Islamic government. No father, brother, husband, or son has the exclusive right alone to kill their mother, daughter, sister, or wife.

I believe in stoning since it is a divinely legislated Islamic punishment and has been practice as a divinely related ordinance by all the previous Abrahamic prophets, and I have no qualms about it nor am I apologetic about it. Yet Islam grants each person due process in accordance with the statement of the prophet that ‘the burden of proof is upon the claimant and the swearing of an oath for the one who denies[the claim]’ and the Quranic injunction of 4 witnesses in cases of adultery/fornication. With that being the case I believe that the majority, if not all of the sensationalistic Western media frenzy on claims of stoning taking place in rural parts of Muslim lands whether Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iraq, that these took place in opposition and not in conformity with Islamic law so they are thus not Islamic. Many are due to ignorant tribesmen or tribeswomen engaged in un-Islamic behavior that leads to vigilante like justice which Islam condemns. I also believe that some are outright fabrications and simply designed to shock the mind like any other tabloid type news and that the only modern-day proper stoning that ever took place within this century has occurred in the territory controlled by the Islamic State.

I am not misogynistic if the word is to mean that a man has full absolute rights over a woman or that he owns her in the matter of possession of the property and no Islamist I’ve met is a misogynist according to that meaning. Islam says that husbands and wives have rights over each other.

Another stereotype is that Islam or Islamists oppose female education. Every Islamist falls outside of that so-called norm, fully accepting the prophetic narration that ‘seeking knowledge is an obligation on each and every single Muslim male and female’ especially if this Islamist reads ‘Wahhabi’ books which cite this tradition of the Prophet(Peace be upon him) allot. Another claim is Islam enforces or imposes forced marriages. Such is far from the truth since the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has clearly stated that marriage is not valid without a bride’s consent, meaning it will be akin to rape, slavery, or trafficking, in other words, contrary to Islam. There is a verse in the Qur’an which explicitly states that a man cannot take a woman by force or inherit her against her will since the pre-Islamic Arabs upon the death of their fathers would also inherit the widows and such is also a Jewish practice mentioned in the Talmud.

Yet such lies and others are perpetrated by establishment elitist feminists who are demagogues or mouthpieces of Western Imperialism. They feign concern for Muslim women, yet what have they actually done to actually lift her plight besides denigrating and disparaging her prophet and noble religion of Islam?

Muslims do bad things that it not hard to admit. Some treat their children and wives in a horrible fashion, yet such is not reflective of the noble principles of Islam. That is reflective of those individual cultural values and lack of personal ethics.

In a sense, every Islamist is a feminist in the truest sense of the word since an Islamist is against using women as commodities, and against the visual imaginative depiction of a woman in the so-called art of pornography which is none other than a form of passive rape. [They are] against using them as commodities in the fashion industry which demeans the appearance of women and imposes a conformist culture which causes some women to starve themselves to fit a particular mold. [They are] against anti-female capitalism which exploits women for the purpose of using women to market products, lifestyles, and popular culture through music videos, magazines, and others. [They are] against the idea that a woman’s value is solely in her attractiveness and not her intellect or contributions she can make to society and the world at large.

So, what is this clash about? Is it one side defending the chastity and honor of women with the opposing side giving itself the right to enslave them or barter them as pawns for corporate interests? Is it one side advising her to preserve her virginity and chastity for a lifelong intimate relationship with one person who would, honor, love, and respect her while the other side is fighting to impose a ‘freedom’ that incites her to debase herself to catcalls, shattered reputations, broken hearts, manias, and the cycle of men she would succumb to? Is it not that one side wants a ‘market’ of ‘available’ women to date, fornicate with, and for her to be plastered on screens and magazines as an ornament or trinket?

 A clash of civilizations. If that is what the clash is about then surely the hedonistic side will surely implode on its own and would not ever be able to withstand a confrontation on an equal footing. Of course, that is not it for the talking points are obfuscated by one side that refuses to engage with the other. What sort of clash is it that is limited to one participant? For the West alone is the aggressor and the sleeping Muslims are only now awaking to realize and become aware of what is going on. So let it be known that the West is clashing with itself and while being held hostage within it as a casualty of this ‘clash’, I’m the victim of the ‘clash’ and for such views, I have been branded terrorist. Such is the false narrative the courts wish to present to the jurors in their cases against ‘terrorists’ and on the international scene to the global audience in support of its ‘War on Terror’. Such is the false narrative. But then again, I am a Muslim. No wonder they say, ‘Islam is to blame’.

1. Rand Corp has their suggestion of an American or reformed version of Islam which is called ‘Civil Democratic Islam’ which advises the government to promote one type of Islamic tradition over another and to use one sect against another and to give incentives to individuals that they vet. Rand Corp is an American think tank affiliated with the US government focusing on international affairs, counter-terrorism, and US policy and conducts analysis based on such.

By Abdul-Jalil Rashid Al-Imarah, written on the 2nd of December of in the year corresponding to 2018 C.E from the depths of the taghuti prison known as the US criminal justice system and pejoratively as LEVIATHAN.

LEVIATHAN – Giving Name to the Prison Industrial Complex

By Abdul-Jalil Rashid Al-Imarah (S. Baptiste)

Paid content is as submitted, other than minor editorial changes. Straight from the Pen does not express any opinion on the subject matter or content or the validity of any statement or claim made.

“The American Prison System has grown into a leviathan unmatched in human history. The financial costs entailed are staggering, and extent of human suffering endured boggles the mind.” [1]

We live in a complicated world. We are bombarded with questions as well as skepticism regarding our various stances on multiple issues. The world today as we know it is tremendously different than yesterday. It is the age of global activism and advocacy. Where international crisis constantly buzz across our news feed. Atrocities, mayhem, and scandals. A time of global unrest sparked by economic inequality, lack of social justice, climate change, imperial military interventions under the guise of humanitarian intent, terrorism, and civil wars. The new issues we are forced to address by way of them becoming prominent in the media such as #MeToo movement, LGBQT, immigration, genocide, Islamophobia and everything else in the motley menagerie of issues that the talking heads of punditry and demagoguery tells us are important, have multiplied.

Well I’m going to tackle two issues that are significant yet overlooked: Mass incarceration and immigration, sometimes focusing on one more than the other. Mass incarceration has a great and radical impact upon the immigration experience. In a way it even defines and shapes the narrative of such. Especially in a time when the head of the US executive branch is publicly branding the majority of immigrants from Latin American countries as ‘rapists, crooks, thieves, gang members, and murderers,’ and increasing the number of deportations, restrictions on visa criteria, and banning many Africans, Arabs, and South East Asians from Muslim majority nations from entering the US, it becomes of greater importance.

From those detained at the border, sweeps conducted by ICE, all the way to those facing deportation following their arrest, its impact is felt in many ways. The shambles and disarray which we call the ‘American Justice System’ continues to baffle people around the world.[2] Mass incarceration is a monster. A beast. It is more than a system or network of interconnecting policies and agencies. To avoid being overbroad and too general as well as not being too specific enough, we will personify ‘Mass Incarceration’ as simply one entity that we shall term ‘Leviathan’.

 How pervasive is all of this and how far do its tentacles reach? We shall start off by way of introduction to this matter by quoting one reform advocate, “The US has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prison populations. Congress creates 50 crimes every year. That’s 500 things that were legal a decade ago that are now felonies. It’s no wonder the prisons are full.” [3]

People hailing from countries with progressive policies governing their criminal justice system such as Sweden, Norway, the U.K, Germany and others are appalled by the length and conditions of sentences that prisoners in America are subjected to. [4] Even countries from the so-called third world scratch their heads at things which the US government criminalizes. As one reform advocate noted ‘… The rest of the world looks at us and shakes its collective head, especially our European allies.” [5] 

Many people have begun to grow vocal about prison reform and the plight of prisoners. This is from judges, lawyers, social scientists, legislators, law students, civil liberty groups, all the way up to the president. So, what equips me or makes me fit to discuss this complex and great issue? Firsthand experience. As a first-generation child of immigrants from Haiti, an Islamist activist, political prisoner, a victim and one of the living casualty of Leviathan. Though I am relying on basically the same data used and available to others who speak on this matter, I am bringing to the equation and table a fact which sets me apart; the passion and zeal that only a prisoner can bring.

Crime is basically a violation of enacted laws. Yet manmade laws are fluid and so they constantly change. [6] Laws are what make criminals; the criminalization of acts or activities thus becomes the origin of all criminals. This may seem like circular logic but bear with me and keep reading to see the basis for this claim and others. An example of this is how the FDA treats some controlled substances. Some medicines used in other countries are banned and considered harmful and illegal as controlled substances.[7] Criminal cases stemming from this are not uncommon. Things like counter the narrative of the ‘American Dream’. 

People come to this country for opportunities, yet they have no idea that the monster Leviathan exists until confronted. Individuals are deported for mere traffic violations. Since police are the enforcers of law and have arrest powers, whenever they act within their wide latitude of their discretion into what we know as racial profiling, this has a negative impact on those minority immigrant populations. When a wave of unrest is fomented by arcane laws and incomprehensible legal technicalities you will have law abiding aliens panic about the possibility of their status being revoked or being caught up in a sweep. Many immigrants know of a person who has been deported or ordered removed. Or they have heard of a family or individual within their own ethnic group who have been affected by such.[8]

ICE agents are conducting sweeps and raids like Nazi Germany or Soviet Gestapo’s herding off people to concentration camps. And we shouldn’t be naive and think that that there are not similarities between then and now regardless of the obvious difference in the age we live in from those previous time periods. We’ve learned nothing at all from the war detention of Japanese Americans. During World War II Asians in general and specifically Japanese who were living their lives as law abiding citizens were rounded up and taken to internment camps. Executive order no. 9066 gave the authority that was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court that ‘Japs’ couldn’t be trusted and had to be ‘dealt with’ [9- German/media]

That is an irremovable stain from US history. Since that particular episode, the US government has classified and further detained more American citizens as ‘enemy combatants’ in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba via its executive branch. In illegal maneuvering, it has conducted extra judicial killings of American citizens overseas by way of armed militarized drones in the way and manner dealt to American citizen and popular Muslim cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki in Yemen and countless other Americans in Syria. The psyche of the nation or at least the mentality of its leaders and policy makers has not shifted nor pivoted away from such.

For following the attack on Pearl Harbor, many Japanese Americans were locked up without due process. In the same, more than half a century later Arab Americans, Middle Easterners, Muslims, and Southeast Asians were rounded up after September 11th (9/11). [10] A country that prides itself on being open and free has twice initiated Nazi Gestapo tactics as if it were dispatching SS squads to round up those whom it finds disagreeable in an ideological and racist manner.

“…there are millions of lives being destroyed or distorted because we haven’t fully thought through our process”- Obama [11]

“We already know that the massive waste of life in our prisons is morally troubling’- Kwame Anthony Appiah [12]

The incarcerated (or victims of Leviathan as I prefer) are left broken, chained, and tethered to their fate, which is captivity and detention. Yet in such circumstances there are those who are resilient and use whatever means at their disposal to undermine the titan by which they have been ensnared. From advocacy and raising awareness of discriminatory and repressive policies and laws, highlighting, and spreading word about the reality of incarceration as well as the conditions of prison. These are examples of ways in which the incarcerated resist the system that holds them in captivity. And by way of the same is the intent of this essay. Taking advantage of the impotent reprieve known as the grievance procedure or otherwise ‘Administrative remedies’, along with others, the most constant form of resistance is never giving up or accepting their condition with a sense of resignation or fatalism.

The incarcerated have joined the national dialogue termed ‘prison reformation’ as the most committed advocates. Yet the fact that they have become participants does not mean that they will be effective nor are they guaranteed an audience, as censorship is rife behind the steel heavy bars and concrete wall. Christopher Zoukis and Imam Jamal AL Amin are among whose voices have been heard above the dull crescendo, and they have become prominent yet still remain as constant victims of censorship.

A liberated world would first and foremost mean the complete and final eradication of Leviathan, at least ideally. It would not be some fantastic utopia nor anarchy and chaos. Rather a balance between the two is sought. Human beings will continue to behave recklessly, and some will always seek to trample the rights of others through some sort of transgression. So, there must always exist means to combat these tendencies and behaviors. Whenever crime exists in society there must always be sufficient and just deterrence and punishment. [13]

Alternatives to prisons should seriously be considered for most non-violent offenses and even violent offenses if committed by those suffering from mental illnesses and juveniles who are not yet adults. Within the 94 federal judicial districts there are only 22 alternatives to incarceration programs. [14] Funding should be diverted from other ineffective government programs to fund and create more of these programs. An increase of funding and reform of in-place re-entry program is needed. Pell grants should be restored to prisoners so they can overcome the ignorance of their criminality and open more avenues that will not include a path to crime by being qualified for better jobs and/or careers. Incentives to prosecutors that reward conviction rates and the length of sentences they seek as well as the incentives to judges who are rewarded for the lengthy sentences imposed in the climate of ‘tough on crime’ politics should be eliminated.

I could see a world where applicants for a job would be free to discuss their criminal history during the job interview without fear of automatic disqualification. A world where people will not be in jail for the sole reason of poverty. [15] A world where correctional departments do not shackle pregnant women. A world where after paying their debt to society a prisoner can easily tread up and down the pathway to success. But we are a long way from there. Unfortunately, there are many obstacles. Lack of training, along with the wrong incentives, make probation departments a tool for recidivism and not for re-integration into society. Ex-prisoners are confronted with the reality of their second-class citizen status each and every time that they fill out a job application that immediately places them into one of two categories, those with a prison history and those without,  [16] before they are even considered for the job. A study published by the Prison Policy Initiative has noted that the ex-prisoner rate of unemployment is “higher than the total US unemployment rate during any historical period, including the Great Depression”. [17] The study agrees with the findings that I’ve previously mentioned that ‘formerly incarcerated people want to work, but face structural barriers to securing employment.” “This perpetual labor market punishment creates a counter-productive system of release and poverty, hurting everyone involved: employers, the taxpayers, and certainly formerly incarcerated people looking to break the cycle.” [18]

A proper ‘Justice’ system would truly have a semblance of justice and enable a smooth transition for prisoners into society. This does not mean that Leviathan remains an unchallenged dragon that no valiant knights have confronted. Nay, there many pioneers from private citizens to organizations who attempt to tackle or ease the harmful effects of mass incarceration, but unless this beast is slayed or methodically euthanized it will only continue to spell trouble for millions of people who are victims. 

There exists a parasitic trickle-down pyramid scheme erected for a minority composed of  indifferent legislators, police unions, bail bondsmen, bounty hunters, lawyers (prosecutors and some defense attorneys), judges, probation officers, correctional guards and their unions – who benefit at the expense of the lives of prisoners, their families, and society at large. I don’t doubt that some may be skeptics and doubt just how bad the current makeup of the justice system is, so I will break down some statistics.

Citing one expert familiar with the data: ‘America’s sentences of imprisonment on average are five to ten times longer than those of France, and much longer than those of Germany…. [I]imprisonment has become the moral mode of dealing with crime in America”. [19] The following statistics were selected from public records of California:

*Nearly 70% of female inmates are non-violent offenders

*2/3 are convicted for property or drug related offenses.

*Over 1/2 of males convicted for violent offenses while only 30% of women convicted for the same.

*4/10 [female] inmates were physically or sexually abused before 18

* Approximately 67% of incarcerated women [there] are mothers, most are single parents and primary caregivers.

* [CA] has about 10,000 female inmates – more than other state

* Incarceration rate for female offenders has doubled over last 20 years.

I’ve chosen to highlight data coming out of California for the following reason: 1) It is one of the top 3 states with the largest prison population and highest incarceration rate [20];  2) People often assume that only conservative states or those run by Republicans are the main perpetrators of mass incarceration, 3) Data regarding female offenders was more easily available.

Now take a hard look at the above. Contemplate and ponder how this is perpetuated on a larger level when it comes to the whole prison population including state and federal. How many women (and parents in general) are taken from their children? How many children are themselves led to criminal behavior due to the trauma exacted upon them from having their parent taken away? How many of these children of prisoners are forced into foster homes, while being placed in one increases the likelihood that a person will turn to crime later in life? Americans need to rethink their institutions. The public have been told that there is an ‘Opioid Crisis’ in America.  The so-called ‘War on drugs’ continues despite findings from researchers and independent reporters and mainstream media such as NPR that the people most affected by it are drug users, children, and other relatives. Yet we still see mass incarceration being perpetuated and continue. 

Is Leviathan a beast that is never satisfied and its jaws like an abyss from which there is no way out? Has it become so powerful that there is a real fear of speaking against it? In the textbooks of schools and even university courses focusing on criminal justice, there is no serious thought given to combating mass incarceration. The data is out, yet we talk only about the effects and not the causes. Foolish would be a field of medicine where the doctors discuss only the symptoms of disease, and not its treatment or cure. Suffice to mention its effect on immigrants and minority population is to know that over 60% of prisoners are black or Hispanic (due to census categories this include foreigners from other countries with no slot listed to check). The DOJ has publicly stated that BOP is 38% over-crowded. So there exists not only mass incarceration but over-incarceration as well.

Things are simply messed up and to fix it we must first realize this. As Helen Keller said: “I had once believed that we were all masters of our fate- that we could mold our lives into any form we pleased… and I supposed that everyone could come out victorious if he threw himself valiantly into life’s struggle. But as I went more about the country, I learned that I had spoken with assurance on a subject I knew little about. I learned that the power to rise in the world is not within the reach of everyone.”[21]

Footnotes: 1.Glenn C. Loury & Bruce Western ‘The Challenge of Mass Incarceration in America’ in Daedalus: Journal of the academy of Arts and Science (Summer 2010) 2.-‘ The rest of the world looks at us and shakes its collective head especially our European allies.” John Kirakou 3.- John Kiriakou 4. For the same crimes American are incarcerated 2x long as English prisoners, 3x as long as Canadians, 4x as Dutch, 10x as French and 5x as Swedish prisoners. 5. Quote by John Kiriakou. ‘China is an authoritarian nation with 3x the population of the US yet the U.S still incarcerate more than it. The national incarceration rate of the US is 737 per 100,000 is more than Russia’s 581 per 100,000[and] much higher than those of peer nations with democratic, market-based economies such countries incarcerate between 36 and 196 per 100,000.”- Nicola Lacey ‘American Imprisonment in Comparative Perspective’ in Daedalus Sumer 2010 6. In the era of Prohibition alcohol was banned in the US and declared illegal yet before that period of ‘Prohibition’ and afterwards it was considered licit. This is similar to what is going on with the new pressing issue today to determine if Marijuana (Cannabis) should be a licit drug or not. This is the utter confusion and inconsistency which these laws and system leave the civilian while also baffling its enactors. 7. There was an incident with a man from the Republic of Georgia who came to the US (specifically Miami, FL) for vacation. As he was in Customs, his luggage was being inspected, he was then arrested for possession and ‘trafficking’ of controlled substances. His thyroid medication wasn’t FDA approved and with the quantity he had with him he was charged and arrested for trafficking. 8. ” If the banishment of an alien from a country in which he has been invited, as the asylum most auspicious to his happiness- a country where he may have formed the most tender connexons, where he may have vested his entire property, and acquired property of the real and permanent, as well as the movable and temporary kind; where he enjoys  under the laws a greater share of the blessings of personal security and personal liberty than he can elsewhere hope for [;]… if a banishment of this sort be not a punishment, and among the severest of punishments, it will be difficult to imagine a term to which that name can be applied.’ -James Madison inveighing against Aliens and Sedition Acts.  In ‘Letters and other writings of James Madison’ (Cornell University 2009). The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1778 curtailed many rights that people enjoyed. Woodrow Wilson and Congress something similar in 1918 called the Sedition Act and it has been described as the most serious attack on American civil liberties since 1178 Act which was short lived.  9. Whenever America is at war it demonizes its enemies along with those who look or resemble them in appearance thought, religion, or philosophy. This was done with Native Americans, Japanese Americans, German Americans, Communist, and Muslims. From both World wars, the Cold War until Post 9/11 which we are now in. This is done through their policies implemented at airports, immigration, policing, and the media. Woodrow Wilson and the DOJ allowed what was called the Creel Committee on Public information to publish ads or wanted posters for ‘German spies’. Its perpetuated mass suspicion and employed citizens to report on the activities of their neighbors. Public distrust was at an all-time high. In 1920 President Wilson vetoed a bill that would have abolished the Espionage Act of June 1917 and the 1918 Seditions Act. 10. Policy guides and direct everything that contributes to mass incarceration. As we can see today under the Trump administration where his anti-where policies have caused the arrest of legal and undocumented immigrants to skyrocket. After Bush enacted the PATRIOT ACT the same happened; there was an increase of Muslims and Middle Easterners who were arrested and/or had immigration removal proceeding initiated against them. 11. Michael Scherer Dec 19, 2012 Times 2012 person of the year. 12. The Washington Post, ‘What will future generations condemn us for?’ Sep. 26, 2010 13. Before the American Revolution, colonial courts fashioned sentences with three basic purposes in mind: to punish the offender for his crime, thereby satisfying society’s desire for retribution to deter others from committing the same crime by demonstrating its disadvantageous consequences; and to incapacitate the wrongdoer, so as to protect society from further criminal activity. -United States v. Scroggins 880 F.2d L204, 1206 (11th Cir. 1989). In the 1800’s, penological experts became “dissatisfied with the failure of prisons to rehabilitate inmates,” and rehabilitation became a fourth basis of sentencing. yet America’s system has failed at that objective in a very drastic way. See also Arthur W. Campbell, ‘The Law of Sentencing (2009) 14. Many counties, and states have begun to see the benefit of alternative to prison programs, sadly though the ‘benefits’ they consider is only in regard to taxpayers’ money. Earlier in 2018 the Brennan Center released a criminal justice agenda which offers option for reforming local prosecutors’ incentives. Jan. 2017 Ohio launched T-CAP (Targeted Community Alternative to Prison), under it the state/county pays penalty for every person sent to prison for certain low class felonies and it forces them to reprioritize whom they lock up. Illinois implemented ARI (Adult Redeploy Illinois) in 2009 which works though grants to counties so that they can develop alternatives to incarceration, problem solving courts, enhanced probation, and other alternatives. Such a program on a larger scale can only hope to succeed and a reformed criminal justice system would prioritize programs like this over incarceration. 15. “Liberty is precious to Americans and any deprivation must be scrutinized. To protect public safety and ensure that those accused of a crime will appear at trial, persons charged with breaking the law may be detained before their guilt or innocence can be adjudicated, but that detention must not extend beyond its justifications. Many who are arrested cannot afford a bail bond and remain in jail awaiting a hearing. Though presumed innocent, they lose their jobs and families, and are more likely to re-offend. And if all of this weren’t bad enough, taxpayers must shoulder the cost-a staggering, $1 billion per year.” – The Honorable Nathan L. Hecht, Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, remarks delivered to the 85th Texas legislature, Feb. 1, 2017. There is a joint lawsuit against Harris County by former inmates alleging that it deprived them, and others similarly situated, of due process and detaining them because of their inability to pay a secured money bond. A 22-year-old single parent was arrested for driving without a valid license.  She had a $2,500 bond which she was not able to pay. She struggled to meet the basic necessities of life and was a recipient the federal welfare program WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) to feed her daughter and lived with a friend because she couldn’t afford housing. She was working a stable job that she held for 7 days at the time. She was released after 3 days due to assistance by a generous individual who heard of her situation. Another 22-year-old pregnant and single woman in worst circumstances who had a child with Down’s syndrome spent 4 days due to her inability to pay a bond. This is the reason that many advocates are demanding a removal of cash bond which the state of California has become one of the first to do so. The aforementioned case is Maranda Lynn O’Donnell V. Harris County (Texas) April 28, 2017. Hostages of Leviathan who are held for ransom, basically. 16. One with a criminal history and one without. Human Rights Defense Center has said that incarceration status should be on list of protected classes when it comes to discrimination such as Race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, and disability. 17. PPI Study released July 2018 title ‘Out of prison & out of work’, which finds that ‘27% of an estimated 5 million ex-offenders are unemployed or around 1,350,000 compared to national unemployment rate of 4%. 18.Ibid 19. Joshua Kleinfeild, The Concept of Evil in German and American Criminal Punishment http//ssrn.com/author+151440 19. (Working paper Sep.9,2010) 20. They included Florida, Texas, and California. Largest incarceration rate and prison population. 21. Helen Keller [Midstream: My Later Life (New York; Greenwood, 1968 (1929) p.156]

Author Bio: My name is Abdul-Jalil Rashid Al-Imarah (S. Baptiste) and I am a political prisoner unjustly being held in an American prison due to political and religious views. I am an Islamist, Poet, and writer. I also enjoy engaging discussions about social justice, Shari’ah, and political science. I’m an avid reader and can be reached at: Samuel Baptiste #09681-104, FDC Miami, PO BOX 019120,  Miami, FL 33101

No Sympathy 2020

About the Author: Wayne T. Dowdy

Wayne T. Dowdy writes with a unique voice.  He writes to entertain his many readers. a writer of many genres, including technical, legal, fiction and non-fiction, but regardless of what he writes, writes with the hope that readers find meaningful content. He writes to make people think, feel and dream. Thanks for reading his writings, many of which have appeared in literary journals and magazines as diverse as THE SUN, THE ICONOCLAST, CONFRONTATION and the SAVAGE KICK.

Updated June 21, 2020: I wrote this essay to show why state and federal governments should focus on providing prisoners with resources needed for treating conditions that lead to prison-the root cause behind their imprisonment. I use my past to show the cost of not doing so: The cost of recidivism is greater than a dollar value, but people understand finances/money. I prove where I’ve cost taxpayers over a million dollars. I’m just one man: One man who hopes to be a catalyst for change.

Wayne T. Dowdy Catches the Biggest Fish

No Sympathy

I don’t look for sympathy. I made the choices that put me in federal prison for thirty-five years, without parole. I’m sure most people couldn’t care less about the life of any prisoner until they become the victim of one who escapes or gets out. To reduce crime rates and the national deficit, some would prefer to behead those who ran afoul of the law, rather than to pay the cost of incarceration. Punish the bastard! Feed ‘em to the lions! they chant. Sadly, such people as those haven’t considered that most prisoners were once normal citizens who made poor choices. Many prisoners are people with addiction problems, and according to a 2002 study, many have an underlying mental disorder. Punishing them hasn’t yielded favorable results. Perhaps treating conditions leading to prison would reduce recidivism by returning the prisoner to society as a productive member. However, if prison growth rates declined, those depending on prisons for financial security would feel threatened. Prisons are cash cows to many: investors in private prison industries, companies providing goods and services to them, prison employees and their powerful unions. My concern is the cost to humans by not reducing recidivism: recidivism often has terrifying results.

I’m a recidivist in prison for driving a second getaway vehicle in an armed bank robbery; never accused of wielding a gun, or of kidnapping anyone. My conviction is based on conspiracy laws. I’m responsible because another recidivist (co-conspirator) took a car from a woman at a cemetery, which wasn’t something planned, and is something I wish hadn’t happened. During trial, I learned he had led her into the woods and fondled her. He would’ve probably raped her had I not blown the horn and threatened to leave with another recidivist. He left her taped to a tree. He was supposed to have his girlfriend contact the cops and say where he left her. He didn’t. Fortunately, she freed herself and found help.

If someone did to a family member of mine, what he did to her, I am not so sure that I wouldn’t seek vigilante justice, shoot ‘em going to court or even in the courtroom. It would be difficult for me to step to the side and let Lady Justice have her way, because she may be kinder than what I would feel such a malevolent person deserved. Maybe I could withstand the temptation of playing Judge, Jury, and God, but I honestly don’t know. I would like to think that I could avoid behaving that way, because acting so bizarre would make me just as evil as the person I would want to execute for harming my loved one. Anyway, I hope the lady has since been able to forgive us, but not for our sake, for hers. Why? Because someone once wrote that harboring resentment is the same as drinking a poison and expecting it to kill the other person. I don’t want her suffering like that: she never did anything wrong to me. Many times, I have wanted to contact her to make amends but was advised by a psychologist that it probably wasn’t a good idea: I would be opening an old wound. Even though I did not physically harm her, and in a sense, protected her from further harm, that does not relieve me of responsibility for what happened to her. What happened to her was very wrong. I regret not stopping it from happening, or to have at least made sure the authorities were notified to free her from where she was falsely imprisoned.

This is the first time I have ever written about that aspect of the crime.

In another published essay, The Price of Change, I wrote about the hate and rage I felt toward Codefendant Two for testifying against me; my defiant demeanor during trial and sentencing; previous legal issues indicating my insanity, though no court has ever found me to be insane or incompetent to stand trial; but not about any of the victims. And, it wasn’t because I didn’t think about the criminal behavior and its effect on the victims. I did. I am ashamed of what happened. Emotionally I dealt with those feeling many years ago. It is the event that led to those feelings that is a chapter of my life I wish to close. Only a few know the truth about that day in 1988.

Codefendant One wanted to put bullets in Codefendant Two’s brain after the robbery so he couldn’t tell on us. I convinced him not to do it by saying, “He’s not going to say anything because he knows I will kill him or have him killed if I can’t get to him.”  (Both ended up telling.) Seven years after our conviction, I had a partner in the same prison with Codefendant Two. My partner sent word through the grapevine asking what I wanted done. I responded, “Tell him to send me an affidavit admitting he lied for the government.” Later, Codefendant Two contacted someone to let me know he would say what I wanted. I thought about it and aborted the mission, because I figured if he lied for them one time, he’d do it again. Before my friend contacted me, I had started seeing a psychologist. This is the reason I asked for help.

For several years I had devoted most of my energy toward getting high. I was on the edge of insanity; a dangerous place; a place I hated. Massive shots of cocaine stopped working; all it did was put me near cardiac arrest without the desired euphoria, and yet, I kept doing it. The Bureau of Prisons has a Special Investigative Security team (S.I.S.), who had searched my cell while I was at work.

In the chow hall, Joe blurted out from a neighboring table, “I heard you saw S.I.S.”

I stood and snapped at him. “I will kill you, mother fucker, if you ever say something like that again.”

Then I grabbed my half-eaten-tray of baked chicken, put it in the Tray Room window, and stormed out of the chow hall. I thought he had insinuated that I was a rat. With me serving 35-years because I wouldn’t cooperate that is something, I find offensive. To me, it’s nothing to joke about, even amongst friends, because, though we may be joking, a bystander overhearing the conversation may not know that. In the prisons I’ve been in, if someone calls you a rat, child molester, or fagot, others assume it’s true if you don’t defend yourself, which can lead to big trouble.

Shortly thereafter, I sat on the extended table of the sewing machine I worked on, replaying the event and feeling something wasn’t quite right about the way I had reacted. Me and Joe had been friends for years. He had never said anything out of the way to me; always treated me with respect, kindness. Three minutes later, he walked toward me with his hand out. “Wayne, I’m sorry, man. I didn’t mean to offend you. Billy had just told me that S.I.S. had been in yours and Billy’s cell all morning,” he said.

“I know. I’m sorry, Joe. I came back and thought it over and know I took it wrong,” I said. We talked a little more and when he went to his area, I went to ask my supervisor to call the Psychology department to get me an appointment to see someone, because I felt I needed to be put back on medication. Throughout the years I had taken various psychotropic medications for brief periods, especially after landing in jail for some crime spree. My mind and central nervous system would be so sizzled that I had to have something to help me get sleep and regain control of my thought process. I was terrible about pointing pistols at people because I thought they intended to rob me. Fortunately, on this rare occasion, I was able to recognize that I was “out there” and sought help before doing something stupid. Historically, I screwed up first, and then sought help.

Today I feel fortunate and grateful that I reached out and received help beginning in 1993. Very few prisoners receive the much-needed psychiatric care because of the small number or psychiatrist and mental health professionals employed or utilized by prison administrations. At the time I was at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, which had an internship program for aspiring psychologist. For over a year I saw a psychologist but continued getting high on drugs and alcohol, even though I had often tried to quit. I finally succeeded on April 5, 1995. Thus far, that was my last day of using a mind-altering substance; something else I am grateful about. Now I will have a chance to succeed in life when released in 2019.

After being in prison over thirty-years by then, providing I out-live this sentence and walk out the door, rather than be carried out on a gurney, I’ll experience “Culture Shock” (feel like an alien for a while, out of place).1/  

I’ll need help with acclimation. I’ve been in prison so long that the Internet and cell phones are foreign to me. I looked in a magazine at a Droid cellphone and tried to figure out how one would use it to call anyone, since all I saw was a keyboard and display screen. Many things about modern day society I don’t understand. Intellectually I do, but that’s different from experiencing a missed call because the cell phone lost its signal. I envision such a crafty device as a phone you tote as working anytime you decide to use it. (Removal from society has weird effects on intellect.)

From a different perspective, with a phone on you at all times, one can’t escape the pestering ring without turning it off or leaving it behind. I understand agitation. Being unable to reach my son after repeated attempts lead me to envision, a “Cell Phone Zapper.” The one calling could fry the circuits of the other person’s phone with a zap to teach them a lesson about not answering the tenth call of the last hour. Oh, what a cruel and insensitive thought. Something tells me I’m not alone in thinking about devious devices during moments of extreme frustration. Then again, some people probably don’t want to miss a call. Not even during sex, which I somewhat understand, since I am guilty of surrendering to the aggravating sound to eliminate it and return to action.

This is one way my last prison sentence affected me. I was released from the Georgia prison system to a halfway house in the Spring of 1985. For seven years I’d worn loose-fitting, white button-down shirts with a centered blue stripe, and white baggy trousers with a blue stripe down the outside of each leg. My sister brought me some clothes. After putting on straight-legged blue jeans and a pullover shirt, I stood sweating as I looked at myself in a full-length mirror. I asked a roommate, “Is this how people look out here now?”

“You look fine to me,” he said. “Like anyone else out here running the streets.”

That is partly what I mean by Culture Shock. The style of pants people wore before prison in 1978, were bell bottoms and flare legs. The shirt I put on was red with horizontal thin white stripes and snug-fitting sleeves. The Levi’s were like any other pair of blues jeans. The difference was in having clothes that were colored and that fit tightly. I realized at that point how much things in Atlanta had changed while I had been in prison. Change in prison is slow and gradual, whereas, in society, everything changes at the speed of the latest computer chip. Stepping out of prison after having served a long sentence is the same as if you step into the rapids of a river and try to stand still. The current pulls you under as you wonder what is going on. The current is the change.

Other things had changed, too, including women. When I toured the city, I noticed that some buildings had been replaced; some street names had changed, other streets rerouted. Before prison, MARTA had just begun cutting paths through the city for the Rapid Rail System. After prison, trains were running across the city. The physical structure of Atlanta was not all that had changed. So had the attitudes of many women. I used to have to be the one to make an advance to get laid or to initiate a relationship. After prison, several women made advances toward me; some successfully seduced me, some scared me.

While in prison I had heard about the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), spread through sexual contact and intravenous drug use, both putting me in the high-risk category because I had been a whore and a dope fiend for years. I didn’t want to increase my chance of acquiring AIDS with sexually promiscuous behavior, so, I was selective about who I jumped in bed with. Quitting drugs was out of the question. When a woman approached me, I irrationally wondered if she acted the same with everyone, thus increasing the risk of exposure to it. Of course, I would give in and take chances occasionally, scared or not. My desire to have sex overpowered my fear of AIDS. As it turned out, most women I wanted didn’t want me, and vice versa. Perhaps the ones who rejected me did so for the same reason I rejected others. The old cliché rang true again: What goes around comes around. Maybe I wouldn’t be so picky if released this time, since I am later in years and would not be considered the prize catch, I was back when I was a young stud.

You may wonder what lead to my criminal behaviors. I don’t know. I have my suspicions, but that’s all I have. I have wondered about that one for most of my life. I can’t blame it on anything. Not that I didn’t deserve them, but I did receive numerous beatings from my mother when I was a child, and know I felt deprived, like life owed me, but realistically, I was deviant and disobedient from the start. I rebelled against parental authority and anyone telling me what to do; grudgingly doing what I could not avoid, intentionally screwing up whatever I was made to do. My mother said when I was a tot, if she put something on my highchair tray, I didn’t want, that I would throw it or push it over the edge. The older I became the more defiant I became.

When I was fourteen-years-old, I was 5’ 10” and weighed 146 lbs., and on this occasion, in juvenile for a drug charge, I believe (that was years ago). We were supposed to get up every morning and make our beds. One morning I laid in bed until the guard came in yelling.

“Get up and make that bed,” he said.

I laid still.

“I said get up and make that bed.

I laid there and heard him stomping across the floor. My heart pounded with fear, but my defiant demeanor would not allow me to give in and follow his order.

“I said to get up,” he grabbed my ass, “out of that bed.”

“You’d better get your goddamn hand off my ass,” I snarled.

He let go of my cheek and growled once again for me to get up and make my bed. Clayton County Juvenile only had four cells for boys (two eight-kid-cells, and two four-kid-cells). I slept in a four-kid-cell, which had two steel bunk beds. Me and a friend were the only two in there, but I slept on the top bunk anyway. I jumped down from the bed and walked to the Day Room where we watched television or played pool. During the day we had to be in the Day Room after cleaning our cells and making our beds. I sat on the pool table, another prohibited act, with arms crossed, stewing hate and rage.

He screamed his order again. “I told you to make that bed. Get off that pool table and go do it, now.”

He was one known to physically abuse the children in there; just a mean and nasty, hog-jawed, gray-haired, old man with a stooped walk and a bad disposition. I never liked or respected him. I was an ill tempered, blonde-haired, blue-eyed-devil with a bad disposition.

I slid off the pool table and walked into the first eight-kid-cell. He followed behind, screaming. I stopped and turned to face him.

“I said for you to get back there and make up that bed,” he said as he reached for my long hair.

I socked him in the face at about the same time he grabbed my hair, trying to force my head down. I grabbed him by the legs, lifted him off the ground and slammed his back against a bunk bed, and started pounding him wherever I could connect until my friend pulled me off. The guard looked as if he were about to have a heart attack. Other than the loss of some hair and some bruised knuckles, I had fared well. Afterward, my face was probably redder than a ripened beet; my eyes shooting sparks sharpened by rage, but I was okay. I had taught him a lesson about messing with me, the crazy white kid with a bad attitude.

My punishment: solitary confinement in the four-kid-cell for a month; no smoking (we could smoke with parental permission, which I had), and a restricted diet (half rations). None of it mattered to me. The other staff did not even enforce most sanctions: some brought me extra cigarettes and food when the one I assaulted wasn’t there to snitch. Because he mistreated us, the other staff didn’t care for him; most did like me because I treated them with respect. I enjoyed working and volunteered to sweep, mop, and empty trash cans, so I could sneak cigarettes and cigarette butts back to the cell. On visitation day people would leave cigarettes hidden in places for me to pick up.

The other children respected me for defying authority. My friend looked out for me by doing things like sliding books or matches under the door. I would have been put in isolation if my parents hadn’t caused trouble when I had spent two weeks in it for beating up another kid, and if I had been put there, no other kids could have gotten near me.

The isolation cell was on the opposite end of the building. It was the equivalent of a refrigerated mop closet with a steel slat for a bed, speckled with drilled drainage holes; no mattress, sink, toilet; nothing other than the steel slat and a noisy speaker in the ceiling that disturbed me with its static. I fixed it. The fight had happened near noon. When fed something like meat loaf, potatoes and gravy that evening, I used my stainless-steel spoon (an item from days gone by) to take out the speaker cover screws. I promptly poked holes in the speaker, disconnected its wires, and reattached the cover. No more bothersome static when trying to sleep inside a refrigerator.

As I mentioned, there was no toilet in the modified mop closet. I kicked and beat on the door; screamed and yelled for someone to come let me out to urinate. No one came. I could hear them banging pots and pans in the kitchen area, so I knew they had to have heard me. The more I kicked and screamed the angrier I became. I hate being ignored. The door had a lower section with thick steel slats, which I peed through, since no one came to let me out to do it in a toilet. Sometime thereafter, the guard came by whom I wrote about assaulting. He wasn’t happy with the golden puddle on the floor.

The following morning, I was fed five-saltine crackers with a cup of hot water.

When my parents learned about the mistreatment, my mother filed a complaint and testified before the grand jury on my behalf. The Grand Jury ordered that the Juvenile officials not put any child in there for more than four hours and only then if they were a harm to themselves or others, which explains why I didn’t go there for more abuse after assaulting the prick who thought it was funny to feed me saltine crackers and hot water. I thought it was funny when I returned bigger and stronger and kicked his ass. He stayed away from me after that. Like most predators, he prayed on those he viewed as weaker.

Maybe it was those types of incidents that lead me to becoming as violent as I became. Not that I ever became a psychopath who tortured and mutilated people, because I didn’t, but I wasn’t nice when I demanded something that wasn’t given to me. I never hesitated about resorting to violence to get what I couldn’t get with charm. Sex was a different matter. I didn’t have to resort to taking it, though, I probably am guilty of using coercion. I usually just dealt with the rejection when told NO by someone I was interested in, although dealing with it did make me want to get high to forget about it, which still isn’t rational behavior. I used to blame my actions on drug and alcohol abuse, until I realized I was screwed up before I started getting high. Drug and alcohol abuse did exacerbate my condition, whatever the condition may have been, but, the drugs and alcohol were not the issue; only a symptom of more in-depth problems.

Perhaps the mystery condition formed because I grew up across the street from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, enraged by the constant noise generated by jets flying so low that their thrust made tall oak trees bow. Perhaps I had deep-rooted psychological issues and needed professional help my family couldn’t afford. My parents did carry me to the Clayton County Mental Health Center when I was eight-years-old because of my unusual behaviors (stealing, isolating myself by hiding, being destructive, fighting with my brothers, etc.). The psychiatrist said I suffered from sibling rivalry: that must be something really bad, since I have been locked up for most of my life, and, keeping me locked up has cost near a million dollars with the cost of incarceration estimated between $20,000-$32,000 per year. No wonder the United States is broke! Perhaps the psychiatrist misdiagnosed me. (In 2004 I angered a psychiatrist who then diagnosed me as having an anti-social, personality disorder.)

In December of 2002, USA TODAY published an article “Study: treat addicts’ mental illness,” by Marilyn Elias, 12/02/02, USA TODAY newspaper. According to Charles Curie of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about one third of drug and alcohol abusers have an underlying mental disorder. In a Pennsylvania state prison study around the same time, researchers determined that 85% of Pennsylvania prisoners had addiction problems, with half of them (42.5%) having an underlying mental disorder. Mr. Curie stated in the same article, “That’s typical of prison systems nationally. And we know if these inmates recover from the disorders, they’re unlikely to repeat crimes.” Think about that statement: “inmates …, unlikely to repeat crimes.”

Those were high numbers to ignore for those wanting to reduce recidivism, considering that reducing it would decrease state and federal deficits. Of what should be of greater significance to policy makers is helping other human beings to become productive members of society. With it being 2019, over a decade and a half has passed since those numbers were released: extraordinarily little is done to treat federal prisoners with co-occurring (dual) disorders. And given the difference between state and federal finances, I doubt if states have done much, either (some progress has been made since I wrote that). The Federal Bureau of Prisons still only has one facility for treating those with dual disorders, located in Lexington, Kentucky. As I’ve written, I am one of the fortunate ones who received treatment for both disorders while in prison, long before the authors released the study.

My success verifies the study findings. I have been a model prisoner for several years, who behaves in a constructive manner. I help others learn how to succeed as law-abiding citizens upon release by practicing Twelve Step principles in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. If released, I would be a productive member of society by applying what I have learned in prison. Usually the opposite occurs: applying what we learn in prison causes us to return by listening to novel ways to commit new crimes and trying them out upon release. Gullible prisoners fail to realize that someone in prison who was caught for committing crimes doesn’t have impressive credentials. Another factor that increases recidivism is learning to live by prison codes to survive in prison, and then attempting to live by those same codes in society, which does not work because many such codes encourage illegal behaviors.

Recidivism: a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; repeated relapse into criminal or delinquent habits.

Studies on recidivism shown in 1997, that 67.5 percent of prisoners released three years earlier were re-arrested, amounting in a five percent increase from those released in 1983. The re-arrest rate for drug offenders rose from 50.4 percent in 1993 to 66.7 percent in 1994, and now those numbers have grown to 76.9 percent.

In April 2014, the United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Statistics, released another study: NCJ244205. “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010,” by Matthew R. Durose, Alexia D. Cooper, Ph.D., and Howard N. Snyder, PhD, BJS Statisticians. 2/

The study expanded to include statistics for a five-year period, compared to the typical three-year studies. The five-year study showed that 67.8 percent of prisoners released had been arrested for a “new crime” within three years of release, and 76.6 percent within five years.

Due to all the political drama concerning new plans designed to reduce prison populations, which excludes violent offenders, what I find astonishing is not the staggering numbers on recidivism, but that the highest percentage of those arrested again were not violent offenders. The statistics do not support the violent offender exclusions. These are the latest numbers:

82.1 percent were property offenders (burglary (81.8%), larceny/motor vehicle theft (84.1%), fraud/forgery (77.0%), other (83.6%));

76.9 percent were drug offenders (possession (78.3%), trafficking (75.4%), other (78.1%)).

73.6% were public order offenders (weapons (79.5%), driving under the influence (59.9%), other (77.9%)).

Ironically, violent crimes made up a terribly high-low of 71.3% for re-offenders (homicide (51.2%), murder (47.9%), non-negligent manslaughter (55.7%), negligent manslaughter (53.0%), rape/sexual assault (60.1%), robbery (77.0%), assault (77.1%), other (70.4%)).

Not so favorable for me, statistically, is that the second highest recidivism rates for violent crime types, were for robbery (the category armed bank robbery would fall within). Favorable for me, is that the lowest recidivism rates for those released in the age-related category, were “40 and older,” of which I will be when released. However, those numbers do not concern me because I know I fall within the minority category of prisoners who received treatment for the underlying cause of what lead to prison: drug addiction and mental illness. Had all of those released prisoners who had dual disorders been treated for such issues (an estimated 42.5% of well over 2,000,000 prisoners), those numbers would not be so staggering.

Let us assume that what Mr. Curie said is true (“[W]e know if these inmates recover from the disorders, they’re unlikely to repeat crimes”). Hypothetically, if ten percent of those released inmates had received treatment for dual disorders, which resulted in them not committing more crimes, then the money saved by the criminal justice system would amount to lots of dollars. Those savings could be applied to cover the cost of revamping correctional systems with additional psychiatrists, psychologists, and addiction specialists needed to help solve part of a major problem in this nation: Mass Incarceration.

Ponder that concept! People going to prison and being helped to become productive members of society when released, due to treatment received for the problems that lead them to prison, rather than them becoming another tax liability when they commit more crimes and ultimately return to prison or die.

In considering the number of prisoners in the United States, using 2,000,000 as a base figure, and $25,000.00 as the cost of incarceration to accommodate for the lower cost of housing healthier prisoners in state and privately owned prisons, if 85% of the 2,000,000 prisoners have an addiction problem, that is 1.7 million prisoners. If 42.5% of that 1.7 million have an underlying mental disorder, then that would be 722,500 prisoners who suffer from an addiction problem and an underlying mental disorder. If twenty percent of that 722,500 asked for and received treatment, that would be 144,500 people who were treated and would be “unlikely to repeat crimes.” If Mr. Curie is correct, and I believe he is, the following numbers that I use would be much higher and would amount to more savings for taxpayers (additional funds to apply toward associated cost for providing treatment).

Again, using a modest $25,000.00 as the annual cost of incarceration, if ONLY ten percent (72,500) of the 722,500 of prisoners with dual disorders were treated, released, and did not commit other crimes; taxpayers would save $1,806,250,000.00, each year. And that doesn’t include all the money saved from not having to pay for re-arrest, jail time, and prosecution of recidivists, or any other hidden costs of incarceration. The money saved would pay for thousands of psychiatrists, psychologists, and drug treatment specialists. As a bonus, hiring treatment personnel would reduce unemployment figures. Nor do the numbers put a dollar value on citizens spared the expense of becoming a victim of the recidivists.

If ten percent (14,450) of the twenty percent (144,500) suffering from dual disorders, completed treatment and stayed out of prison, that would be $361,250,000.00 saved annually. If that same twenty percent (144,500) stayed clean after release, that would be $3,612,250,000.00 saved. That does not factor in prisoners, without an underlying mental disorder, who would seek help if more help was available. State and federal deficits would decline quickly. More importantly, thousands of citizens would not fall victim to those released from prison in worse shape than when they arrived; another recidivist or death statistic in the making. Nor do those figures factor in the decreased need of hiring more law enforcement personnel; not having to pay for more buildings and equipment and resources, including not having to build more prisons to warehouse the prisoners. As another added benefit to those who do not invest in the prison growth rate and deter legislatures from passing laws to reduce it, such as the private prison industries, crime rates would drastically fall in proportion to the decrease in recidivism, since most recidivist commit multiple crimes before being arrested again.

I am just one of the vast numbers of people in U.S. prisons. In 2014, I think the count is now close to 2.2 million prisoners in the United States; as of June 2014, almost 217,000 of those are federal prisoners. That number exceeded 219,000 last year, counting those sentenced and held in jails, halfway houses, etc. The Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced earlier this year that the average cost of incarceration is almost $30,000.00 per year. The ill and aging prison population cost much more than that.

Residual Cost of Crime: On this one crime spree and resulting conviction, the State of Georgia, local law enforcement, and the federal government, spent far more than a million dollars on me when you consider related-factors (cost of law enforcement solving crimes, manhunts leading to arrest of me and my codefendants; judicial cost for jury trial, appellate process, post­ conviction relief efforts, cost of incarceration).

It didn’t have to be that way. Not to mention the harm my actions caused the victims; effects that cannot be priced or measured, there would not have been any victims in 1988 if I had been accurately diagnosed and treated as a juvenile and young adult. (The fields of Psychiatry and Psychology were not as advanced then as they are now, so I do not fault the system for failing to discover my embedded issues; especially, since I was unable to open up and be intimate with professionals to allow them to help me, before I got on the road to recovery at U.S.P. Atlanta).

As my penance to society, I plan to fight to change the beast from within, “Straight from the Pen.” In 2005, I reached out through social media outlets and sought assistance to start a website with changing the system as the objective, but no one accepted the challenge (and still hasn’t to this day, June 21, 2020). I have not given up on the idea.

1/ I was released from prison on August 18, 2018. I am fighting now for Criminal Justice and Prison Reform.
2/ A 9-Year Follow-up Study showed recidivism rates were over 83% between 2005-14. The federal cost of incarceration is over $36,225 per year.

VIOLENT CRIME MISCONCEPTION

by Wayne T. Dowdy

 

“Prisoners for profit, human lives a commodity?  Imagine that. ….. A lot of people profit from the Incarceration Industry in America.  Thousands of men and women serve longer prison sentences because of the Corporate greed and the desire to increase the bottom line at the expense of other humans.”

 

THE TRUTH:  The above excerpts come from “The Truth About Incarceration, Part II” (straightfromthepen.wordpress.com, and waynedowdy.weebly.com).  In the essay I listed creditable sources to show political corruption associated with the mass incarceration in America.  Hefty campaign contributions to politicians made by officials from private prison corporations, influence votes and practices that keep incarceration rates high and business booming for corporations like the Correctional Corporation of America (CCA).  Recent political trends make me feel those same capitalistic-driven forces are behind actions by politicians such as Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who may have an ulterior motive in trying to influence other congressional members to abort the sentencing reform initiatives that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2015.

 

BAD EXAMPLE:  One event used to drive opposition to initiatives to reduce the prison population and correct excessive sentencing issues, is an idiot (Wendell Callahan) who received a sentence reduction and then got out of prison and murdered his girlfriend and two of her children in Columbus, Ohio, a terrible crime.  In a blog written by Seung Min Kim for POLITICO, the author reported that Cotton said, “‘As a Republican Party, we’re going to have to have a conversation about it, … But I think, ultimately, a majority of Republicans, like a majority of Americans, don’t want to let “violent felons” out of prison.'” (emphasis added)

 

I am in prison and considered a violent felon, and even I do not want people let out who will get out and harm other people; furthermore, people with no criminal histories also commit horrendous crimes.  Why attack the disadvantaged ex-cons?

 

Callahan does not represent the thousands of prisoners released.  He’s a minority.  Most ex-cons have not committed horrific crimes.  As I wrote in “The Truth About Incarceration, Part I,” people like him become Poster-Children for politicians who act tough-on-crime for votes.  To be specific, in reference to prisoners who do positive things, I wrote, “The press never hears about those prisoners because the press goes to prisoners who cause trouble or who get out and commit horrendous crimes, and thus become poster-children for the politicians who push ‘Tough-on-Crime’ bills.  Those bills are often written by members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose contributors include officials from the private prison industries that profit from high incarceration rates.”  (The Truth About Incarceration, first published by PrisonLawBlog.com, November 2014).

 

POLITICO:  “[L]ast week … Cotton (R-Ark.), the outspoken Senate freshman, lobbied his colleagues heavily against the legislation[.] ….  ‘It would be very dangerous and unwise to proceed with the Senate Judiciary bill, which would lead to the release of thousands of violent felons,’ Cotton said later in an interview with POLITICO.  ‘I think it’s no surprise that Republicans are divided on this question [but] I don’t think any Republicans want legislation that is going to let out violent felons, which this bill would do.’ …..  Conservatives opposing the legislation are coalescing around Cotton’s view, despite strong pushback from bill supporters, that the measure could lead to the early release of people convicted and imprisoned for violent crimes.  Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), once a supporter of easing mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenders, has also made this argument.  And there’s stiff resistance in pockets of the Republican Party to do anything that might erode its tough-on-crime reputation.”  Seung Min Kim, POLITICO, January 2016.

 

POLITICS:  I suspect that presidential candidate Ted Cruz changed his stance on the bills because of political fears associated with presidential candidate Donald Trump using it against him as being soft on crime.

 

I understand not wanting “violent criminals” released.  I also understand and know all too well the “violent crime” misconception presented by politicians and others with political agendas.  Some courageous politicians are speaking out against the lies during debates.

 

Some politicians oppose the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act and other sentencing reform bills, which may hinder Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell’s plan to send the bills to the floor for a full vote.  Senate Majority Whip, John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Senate Judiciary Chairman, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), the White House, American Civil Liberties Union, Koch Industries, and hundreds of others, all support the bill.  Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and David Purdue (R-Georgia) oppose it, as do others, some democrats, some republicans.  Could ties to private prison companies or companies associated with the Incarceration Industry be behind the opponents?

 

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she will refuse campaign contributions from private prison lobbyists.  Has Cotton, Purdue, and Risch did the same?  Probably not!

 

DECEPTION:  Political lies filled prisons with laws like the California Penal Code, Section 667 (b)-(i), commonly known as the Three Strikes Law, which puts people in prison for twenty-five years to life, sometimes for petty crimes, not violent.  According to news segments I heard and articles I read over the years, California politicians mislead voters by convincing them that a vote for the Three Strikes Law would get violent criminals off the streets.  Some of the voters stated on television that when they voted for the law, they did not know it would put people in prison for twenty-five years to life for crimes like shoplifting or stealing pizza.  The state and federal legislatures who defined violent crime in statutes mislead voters, and their constituents who often do not read the bills they approve, by including a provision that increases criminal penalties.  In federal law, that clause became known as the “residual clause.”  (See “RESIDUAL CLAUSE” below.)

 

VIOLENT CRIME:  The majority of prisoners serving time for legally classified violent crimes are not violent people.  I know.  I live with them.  All violent crimes are not created equal.   When people think of violent crimes, most think of murderers, robbers, rapist, or those who commit horrendous crimes against people before prison or after going to prison, like Wendell Callahan did.  An overwhelming majority of prisoners did not commit “acts of violence” in the sense that the “violent crime” phase conjures an image of when used by someone.

 

Politicians, like Cotton, deceive the People with the “violent crime,” “violent felons,” and “violent criminal” terminology.  Perhaps it is done out of ignorance about what the terminology means, legally.  The phrases are deceptive.

 

What politicians did not do for the public when making statements about violent crime and violent criminals, is to define for them what constituted violent crimes according to state and federal law.

 

The United States Sentencing Guidelines (Sentencing Guidelines) for federal defendants, illustrate the deceptive terminology (violent crime) used to intimidate the public into supporting absurd legislation, often written by those with a vested interest in mass incarceration rates.

 

The Sentencing Guidelines state what the terminology means in section 4B1.2: “Definitions of Terms Used in Section 4B1.1

(a) The term ‘crime of violence’ means any offense under federal or state law, punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, that —

(b) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another, or

(c) is burglary of a dwelling, arson, or extortion, involves the use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.”

 

RESIDUAL CLAUSE:  The last part of section (c) is known as the “residual clause” (“or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another”); a catchall clause used by judges and prosecutors to create fanciful scenarios of crimes that “might” lead to violence, in order to justify enhancing criminal penalties for previous criminal convictions.   The residual clause is now defunct, thanks to the United States Supreme Court getting tired of tangling with its interpretation as used in the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA):  which crimes qualify as predicate convictions and which ones do not (hypothetical theories of what might have happened, not what a defendant did).

 

Personally, I believe many of the politicians who support such policies do so because of the financial incentives provided by the hundreds of special interest groups that benefit from high incarceration rates; e.g., companies providing goods and services to prison complexes, prison guard unions; stockholders in private prison industries; companies providing resources, employment, weapons, clothing, electronic gadgets, food, etc., to prison populations and prison construction, and many other less obvious groups.

 

Read “The Truth About Incarceration, Part II” for more on Prisoners for Profit and the influence of private prison companies on ALEC-written-bills, introduced to increase criminal penalties or to defeat legislation to reduce prison populations (and increase the bottom line of those who profit from high incarceration rates).

 

A lot of politicians introduce legislation that is designed to get votes at the cost of human lives.  Ironically, less than a year after posting that blog, I read that CCA officials supported sentencing reform initiates; months later I read that CCA planned to invest in building halfway houses.  CCA’s plan to support sentencing reform made sense when I read about the halfway house plans and that the billionaire Koch brothers of Koch Industries supported the legislation.  Halfway Houses are where most released prisoners go before reentering society–translation:  prison-for-profit executives saw an opportunity to profit from prisoners leaving prison.  The downside is that those companies reduce expenditures at the risk of security and by cutting programs needed to decrease the chance of a released prisoner from becoming a recidivist (someone who reverts to old behaviors).

 

POLITICS & PRIVATE PRISONS:  In 2015, Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), introduced a bill to reinstate federal parole and to prohibit federal funding for private prisons.  The bill has not progressed and will die waiting for sponsors.  Too many politicians depend on campaign contributions from private prison lobbyists to endorse a bill that bites the hand that feeds their greed and drives their political agenda.

 

Purchase ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN by Wayne T. Dowdy ($8.95 at Amazon.com, StraightFromthePen.com, and all major book retailers), for captivating essays that give readers a unique outlook.

 

A more appropriate label for Tough-on-Crime policies is Tough-on-Taxpayers policies.

 

The late, great, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia, clarified provisions of laws used to justify excessive prison sentences for a variety of crimes, falsely categorized as “violent felonies.”  He wrote the opinions in two cases, both titled Johnson v. United States; one in 2010 that defined the term “physical force”; the other in 2015, where the justices held the ACCA’s residual clause to be unconstitutionally vague by depriving citizens of adequate notice, and thus violating due process.  As stated above, the residual clause was a catchall clause used to convert some crimes into “violent felonies” or “crimes of violence,” by applying an absurd list of possibilities that “might” lead to violence.  The Sentencing Guidelines contained the same clause, which the Sentencing Commission removed after the 2015 Johnson decision.

 

CONCLUSION:  Maybe the Justice appointed to fill the vacancy left by the Honorable Justice Scalia will lead the way to remove absurd definitions for violent crimes, so that individuals categorize as violent felons will be those who commit violent crimes that physically harm others, not those improperly classified as violent criminals because of the misconception of what constitutes a violent crime.

 

Note:  please do not misinterpret the above:  I do not endorse any crimes committed against people.