Tag Archives: mass incarceration

No Sympathy 2019

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 2, 2019: 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 in 2019). I have not given up on the idea. When I succeed, I will not have sympathy for those who lost money on their investments in prison systems.

1/ I was released from prison on August 18, 2018. I am fighting now for Criminal Justice and Prison Reform. Please help contribute to the cause by donating at https://straightfromthepen.com.  All donations are processed through PayPal.  Each page contains a section for donations.  Thank you!
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.