One year ago today (March 8th), I walked out the doors of Dismas Charities in Atlanta, Georgia, as a man freed from the custody of the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons. I wrote Electronic Chain about that experience. https://straightfromthepen.com/electronic-chain
Life hasn’t gone according to the World of Wayne since my release, other than that I have remained a free man and have continued my pursuit of a better life.
Life is good. My plan remains to make it Great!
In many respects my life is great. I have remained clean and sober and chose not to return to the life of crime as thousands of formerly-released men and women have done since August 28, 2018, when I walked out the doors of a Federal Correctional Institution, thirty-years and ten days after my arrest on federal and state charges.
Throughout the years, I wrote a lot about recidivism, of which may be viewed by searching “Recidivism” or by using the dropdown menu to select the Recidivism category on this site. The May 2018 study numbers are the latest released (83% of state prisoners returned within the nine-year study referenced to below):
“2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism: A 9-Year Follow-up Period (2005-2014),” NCJ250975, May 2018, a follow-up to the 5-year study relied upon for comparison by the ex-director (“Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010,” NCJ244205, April 2014).
“The 83% recidivism rate revealed in the 9-year follow-up study shows the seriousness of recidivism in America and the need for a magic elixir that does not exist. Until financial incentives end for politicians who continue making policies and laws that fuel mass incarceration, positive change will be slow: It is time to stop state and federal funding for private prisons.”Breaking News, June 18, 2018
I refuse to become one of those who return to the system so many vow to hate but continue to return to make it grow bigger and stronger!
On a Personal Level
Since my release, I found a job, even though it took me eleven months of actively seeking one to succeed in that endeavor. On that job with Goodwill of North Georgia, I made Employee of the Month in October 2019, and was then selected for the Employee Spotlight in the following month.
Then on March 2, 2020, I began a different position in Goodwill of North Georgia and increased my salary by over thirty percent. More will follow!
I have a nice vehicle that gets me where I need to go, which a loving person blessed me with after she bought herself a new SUV.
For other aspects of the reentry process, is finding a new place to live and maybe even getting in a meaningful relationship if a special lady comes along.
Before my release, I joked with my peers that I was going to get a fat butt girl with a pecan tan and a Mercedes Benz, but maybe I need to revise that, because that’s being too picky. What I would like is that special lady who loves me the way I will love her and then perhaps I will perceive my life as great.
What was I thinking? I am free and alive and well! Life is great!
In conclusion, what I didn’t know during the time of the photo posted above when I was about three-years-young, with me with my hands on those toy guns, is that I would make bad decisions in life that would lead me to putting my hands on real guns to commit crimes and to spend most of my life in prison.
I wrote a lot about my life in Essays & More Straight from the Pen to show the power of change, and that, just because I was a recidivist, does not mean I have to be one now. I chose freedom. Thank you!
Please help to spread this idea like a fire to generate support and encourage positive change for fixing the broken criminal justice system. Help Change Lives and Build a Healthier Society. Wayne T. Dowdy
You are granted permission to copy, print, and publish any part of this document, but you must give attribution to the author. You may alter this document, but you must denote the changes in some manner. You may not charge for any work where this document makes up the majority of the work’s text. Jason Glascock
Formula for Integrated Rehabilitation & Education
Statement of Purpose
A person’s education is an on-going process gained through all of life’s experiences. The environment in which a person is immersed is highly influential in the quality and breadth of education. It, therefore, behooves a society to create such an environment that encourages an individual’s self-development, and this development ought to enrich society with individuality’s ability to adapt.
The strength of a culture, society, community is based on the strengths of the individuals bring to it. Without the individual, there is no community. Therefore, the individual is a more important aspect that must be protected. The purpose of A.F.I.R.E. is to develop an environment whereby the individual can grow into a being that is solidly independent that can then choose to become interdependent within society.
The A.F.I.R.E. is a long-term project to create an environment that the person is immersed in. The environment is all-encompassing with a carefully and intentionally created effect that is unique to the individual. The person is given access to resources that allow them to guide their own development, with assistance available, in a context that is supportive of self-discovery for the individual to become a fully realized being. The environment offers the person to make the choice, without coercion or force. The environment is reinforcing of the ideas of individuality and the person as the creator of the community.
is to be instituted in a five-phased process with specific goals. These goals
build on the goals of each previous phase. The phases are not set, but intended
to be dynamic, adaptable and open to new solutions, but always with the
overreaching goal to creating an environment that allows the individual to
achieve the greatest benefit of self-empowerment.
develop a set of personality, aptitude, interest, and metrics that can be used
to inform both the person and prison about how to create the most advantageous
environment for that person, identify freedom potential factors already extant,
and determine what to build upon.
develop a basic set of self-empowerment resources available in the main
develop computer lab resources for extended studies.
develop staff training programs that encourage healthful interpersonal
develop prisoner training programs that encourage healthful interpersonal
Goal: develop an industry-supported certification schema for education.
Goal: develop post-release support for reintegration, including:
– social development with people of shared
interests, i.e. clubs
develop staff centric incentives program for positive relations
develop prison diversion programs that begin at arrest.
develop elementary through high school programs for all students which reduce
risk by inspiring healthy psychological growth.
develop independence schools to encourage freedom potential factors.
goes much further than the STEM Initiative in creating an entire environment
designed to encourage the pursuit of that which grows the individual into a
healthy and complete being. STEM is a basic educational paradigm, but AFIRE is
about how to live, how to think about living, and how to create the best
situation for the person within a prison setting to grow in a positive manner.
Currently, prison is designed to be debilitating. The philosophies of the penological system are to handicap the prisoner and make him/her into an inmate subservient to their will, to take away the individuality and make them nothing but a body. Everything is a punishment from the beds, clothes, food and showers, to relationships with family and support groups. Every opportunity is carefully constructed to ensure failure, encourage strife, and negatively impact the psyche.
A.F.I.R.E. works to change the culture of prison into a healthful experience. Punishment is the separation and periodic denial of close relationships and the freedom of travel, not the denial of educational opportunities, health, and the pursuit of skills that can enrich society. We hurt ourselves when we harm others, and prison is a terrible harm to inflict on our community members. The prisoner is no less part of our community while in prison as they are in the Free World.
Based upon showing a positive difference in my behavior due to more humane living conditions in the Federal prison system, compared to my behavior in the Georgia Department of Corrections, a reader commented on the viability of each state creating a pilot program of prisons to mimic the more humane conditions in the federal system, to see how that affected recidivism. Well, maybe not in those exact words, but the gist of the suggestion is the same.
Thanks for the
comment and feedback. In my opinion, yes, if the powers that be wanted to, it
would be simple to do as you suggest, to create experimental/study group prison
projects to study recidivism reduction, through Prison Reform/Improvement.
That’s what it’s all about: Money. The mighty dollar! The penal systems in America make a lot of politicians and investors in private prison companies, and in the goods and services provided to the prison machine, a lot of money.
Proven prison systems exist to reduce recidivism by treating people differently during their incarceration, and providing necessary resources/tools to help them transition into a new life.
To prove a point that change in the American Criminal Justice system is possible, I refer to an experimental program in America that is designed after a particular prison in Germany, where prisoners are treated more humanely and are less likely to return to prison after release. Prison Reform Progress
In Prison Privatization and Recidivism, I show how the interest of private prison companies and society may join to reduce recidivism while the investors continue to profit through prison privatization.
My concerns and interests are in returning citizens coming out of prison in better shape than when they went in, and being able to function in society upon release, so that each person may experience a better quality of life and hopefully will pass it on by helping others.
Change is up to each individual. Living under more humane conditions helps to encourage positive changes; opposite of the status quo in most prisons, which explains why more than eighty percent of released citizens return to prison with a new charge within nine years.
An Excerpt from Breaking News
“EVIDENCE OF MORE RECIDIVISM: Last month the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a new study (“2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism: A 9-Year Follow-up Period (2005-2014),” NCJ250975, May 2018), a follow-up to the 5-year study relied upon for comparison by the ex-director (“Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010,” NCJ244205, April 2014).
“The 83% recidivism rate revealed in the 9-year follow-up study shows the seriousness of recidivism in America and the need for a magic elixir that does not exist. Until financial incentives end for politicians who continue making policies and laws that fuel mass incarceration, positive change will be slow: It is time to stop state and federal funding for private prisons.”
Google Search Result Deemed Delay in Posting Blog and Justified Revision
Before I posted this blog, I checked to see where the photo image might show up, since I had used it a few years ago in a profile, and on the waynedowdy.weebly.com website, as well as on Facebook.
I never knew me and Bond, James Bond, looked similar, but Google Search apparently thinks we do. 🙂 You Go, Google!
Ironically, during the period of this photo, I thought of becoming a model and went to an interveiw with the PIZZAZZ Modelling Agency, who was advertising its search for models.
The agent gave me a contract to review, sign, and return with my portfolio. I chose to do cocaine instead of signing the contract to pursue a career in acting, modelling for catalogs, and commercials, by rationalizing that, “They just want to get in my pants, anyway.” Sick!
Who’s that dude wearing my three-piece suit? He looks like he thinks he’s on top of the world, standing up there at that podium with the pretty lady beside him, giving his speech before 500-plus at the Hilton Hotel in the Big City of Atlanta, Georgia. A Big Shot!
The World of Work program trained him and the other participants to be entrepreneurs, how to succeed in the business world, and how to perform during job interviews.
Though he was a convicted felon, he landed his first job at one of the Top 100 Atlanta companies; within two-years, he received seven promotions, and increased his salary by fifty-percent.
During that infamous speech at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Atlanta, he was the last of the graduates to give a presentation.
He spoke a few moments to express gratitude for being allowed to take part in the World of Work program, then concluded by saying,
“Nine out of ten released prisoners go back to prison.”
The audience stilled. His words captured their attention.
He paused and then said, “I am the one who won’t!”
The audience erupted with cheers and a standing ovation. Pride engulfed his demeanor and spirit, as he returned to his seat on the stage for the closing of the graduation ceremony.
He lied! Not knowingly at the time he made the statement, but he did because he became one of the nine instead of the one to not become a recidivist.
Recidivism: a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; repeated relapse into criminal or delinquent habits. Recidivism: a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; repeated relapse into criminal or delinquent habits.
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.
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.
Can Prison Reform Initiatives Work Without Abolishing Private Prisons?
I wrote this post as a creative solution for prison reform. Money controls business decisions, and with most politicians in the pockets of private prison executives, policies remain the same. Prison reform needs allies, not enemies. This plan joins forces.
Yes, I feel it is possible. Private prison companies can aid in the transformation of the criminal justice system by putting more resources into effective programs to help reduce recidivism.
Evidence of decreased recidivism rates will increase profit margins by allowing higher contract prices. Privatization of prisons requires making a profit off those who go to prison. A large component of incarceration is “Reentry” into society upon release, as CoreCivic (previously Corrections Corporation of America), and GEO Group realized and began investing in Residential Reentry Centers.
Creating a component of prison privatization to aid reentry processes, opens the door for other profits to be gained by a companies.
Market doors open when private prison companies invest in supplying associated services to returning citizens. For instance,
building or investing in treatment centers or other services to treat drug and alcohol problems;
supplying psychological services (counseling/treatment for mental health and emotional issues);
suitable housing projects;
job training classes, vocational skills programs, employment opportunities (e.g., temporary job services, employment agencies, creating divisions for other companies to employ returning citizens).
If a three-year recidivism study shows a substantial reduction in recidivism, then private prison executives can charge much higher rates, since paying the increased rate saves taxpayers dollars by not having to pay to re-incarcerate returning citizens.
Profits margins increase by charging an added percentage for services provided to the former prisoners/returning citizens.
Providing the established program is voluntary, where prisoners exiting the system have a choice of whether he or she wishes to participate, any Risk versus Benefit analysis would increase demand of offered services, because upgraded-programs would become the Gold Standard and most-desired by prisoners exiting the prison system and wanting to successfully reenter society.
Great question! I feel it’s important for those who are released to know help is available. Websites such as Fair Shake | Reentry Resource Center and other reentry based websites have collected available resources (including companies who hire ex-offenders/returning citizens), organized by state, if applicable, to help provide hope for success, and to help returning citizens know help is available. That means a lot, so, I feel it is important to support those types of services, and to then direct returning citizens to them and to any of the organizations mentioned in those sites that supplies suggestions for successful reintegration.
Family and friends may also visit those sites to learn more about what the
returning citizen faces upon release. Researching for the returning citizen
helps, and during the process, the family members and friends may learn ways to
help supply support to returning citizens.
As I state in many of my answers, there are many variables concerning prison
life and the thousands of individuals held within the walls of confinement, who
are then released back into society—with society sometimes being a
foreign environment—because of all the changes that occurred since the
departure of the returning citizen.
All released prisoners do not have the same history (amount of time served
and under what conditions, which means a lot in considering release-needs; the
nature of their offense(s); substance abuse and or mental health issues; what
all was lost during the period of incarceration; educational and vocational
backgrounds, which may help determine employability; available resources from
family and friends. etc.).
The answers to those factors help determine what others may do to help that
person successfully reintegrate.
PERSONALLY: For me, it was important knowing I had the support of my family and friends, emotional support as well as any financial-support I needed, within reason. Having loved ones who provided me with clothing, any needed funds, a place to live, and a cellphone and computer helped more than the words flying from these keys can accurately represent.
I have been blessed and am fortunate to have walked out of prison,
thirty-years and ten-days later, to still have family and friends who were
still around and still loved and cared for me. Most returning citizens are not so fortunate
and need help finding a job to support themselves, if able to work; if not, may
need help finding where to apply for any available aid, and help in applying
for that aid.
Forms and processes for obtaining available services can be aggravating and overwhelming to returning citizens without experience in technology.
Transitioning isn’t easy after decades away. Seeing the differences in prices have made me say on many occasions that, “They better be glad I changed my ways.” I felt like I was being robbed and would have wanted to rob-back, had I not changed.
Because of the many difficulties I have faced as an elderly-returning citizen,
if I had not focused on changing my life during the last twenty-three of the
thirty-years I served, I’d likely have already returned to prison. Because truthfully speaking, for many of us
who have spent most of our lives inside the insane world of incarceration; in
many respects, it is easier to survive life inside prison than on the outside.
On the outside, I have to be more
responsible (paying bills, getting insurance, dealing with health-services;
(under normal circumstances, finding a place to live), finding transportation
and paying for expenses), having to make more decisions (such as what to eat and
where to get it), and to learn a whole new way of life. Thus, comes the term often applied to the
long-term aspect of prison life: “institutionalization.” I am not!
I’m up for the challenge and will succeed, regardless of any factors I am faced with during my transition from walking out of the Dark Ages into the Modern World. [End Quora Post]
Excerpt from Reentry Programs Will Reduce Recidivism (July 21, 2016)
FAIRSHAKE REENTRY RESOURCE CENTER: One valuable Reentry Service that is doing its part to promote change by assisting ex-offenders, is the FairShake, Reentry Resource Center. Ms. Sue Kastensen, Founder and Director, created FairShake.net (www.fairshake.net), from her personal resources and commitment to make a difference. She deserves an award!
FairShake. net needs donations to continue to provide a place where people may go to find important information and links to organizations to facilitate the successful reentry of the formerly incarcerated.
Many of those released are like aliens entering a distant world, after having spent decades of their lives confined in cages: Those men and women need all available help to successfully reintegrate into society.
FairShake offers resource information for all to use for successful reentry.
The FairShake Reentry Packet contains useful information to improve the quality of life. Whether just beginning or near completion of his or her sentence, it is a publication worth reading for anyone interested in improving their mind, body and spirit.
Family and friends of the incarcerated may go to http://www.fairshake.net to download and print a free copy of the Reentry Packet to mail into a prison or jail for a loved one or friend. [Check prison or detention center mailroom policies before printing to mail.]
[I regret writing that the following is no longer possible due to a lack of donations to cover the $8.00 per-packet-cost, and because of new regulations in many prison mailrooms that prohibit certain types of paper due to the influx of K-2 (Spice) and Suboxone.]
The electronic Fairshake Newsletter is still available.Those incarcerated may write or email to request a free copy–include your name, Id. No. and address. Send request to this address:
P.O. Box 63
Westby, WI 54667
If you have Corrlinks, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
UNIQUE WEBSITE: Their unique website offers valuable tools to assist members in their transition from the insane world of incarceration into the free society.
The website contains free web pages for members (membership is free to all formerly incarcerated individuals). The website contains five categories of important data:
Reentry Resources (State and Local Reentry Guides);
Building Computer Skills;
Educate Yourself; and
Finding Specific Pages.
The Reentry Packet illustrates how to navigate their system. Below a photo, under “Fair Shake Reentry Tool Kit,” is a list of options, including Resource Directory, Reentry Packet, Ownership Manual, Building Computer Skills, Preparing for Work, and Become a Member.
Visit http://www.fairshake.net to become part of the solution for reducing recidivism and changing lives: Save lives and taxpayer dollars!
Also available to Returning Citizens for locating valuable resources are these websites:
I have good and bad Breaking News. First, I commend President Trump for commuting the life sentence of Alice M. Johnson, a 63-year old grandmother trapped in the federal prison system for 21-years. The lovely Kim Kardashian West interceded on her behalf to President Trump.
Ms. Johnson was not a small-time drug dealer, but … 21-years is enough time in prison for anyone to serve who did not commit mass murders or horrendous crimes.
Now, if President Trump wants to save American taxpayers millions of dollars, he’ll instruct the Attorney General to order the BOP to reinterpret 18 U.S.C., Section 3624 to give federal prisoners the 54-days Congress provided for in the statute (see “INCREDIBLE NUMBERS FOR SEVEN DAYS”).
Other good news is that I succeeded at obtaining WorkKeys Platinum Certification to increase my chance of finding gainful employment upon release: More on that in a moment.
The bad news is that a nine-year study on recidivism was released in May 2018 that showed 83% of released prisoners from 30-states were re-arrested at least once during the study period. I’ll write more on that one, too!
MORE OF THE GOOD NEWS: In “Uncivil Wars” (08/17/17) and in “A Job Affair” (10/03/17), I listed what my ACT WorkKeys Skill Report showed for each of the three ACT skill levels. I scored in the Platinum range for two of the three categories. The Gold Certification I received was because of the Level 5 score in the Locating Information category (I needed one more correct answer to score as a Level 6), so that’s why I wanted to try again.
During the September 29, 2017, Mock Job Fair, the representative from the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department strongly suggested I retake the test because I was so close, and because only six percent of students receive the Platinum certification. I followed her advice.
CHANGES: Since I took the ACT tests in August 2017, WorkKeys changed their testing and scoring system. The Levels for Locating Information ranged from 3-to-6. When retested, I learned that Locating Information was replaced with Graphic Literacy. Students may now score up to a Level-7 in Graphic Literacy, the same as with Applied Mathematics and Reading for Information (also changed). The change made sense and made the testing more consistent.
This is from my ACT WorkKeys Skill Report:
WorkKeys Graphic Literacy:
You scored at Level 6. People who score at Level 6 have demonstrated all of the Levels 3, 4, and 5 skills. They also demonstrated, using graphics designed at the highly complex level, the following skills:
* Locate information in a graphic using information found in another graphic
* Compare two or more pieces of information
* Identify a trend/pattern/relationship
* Make an inference or decision
* Identify the graphic that accurately represents the data
Additionally, using graphics designed at the high-moderate level, they have demonstrated the following skills:
* Compare two or more trends/patterns/relationships
* Interpret a trend/pattern/relationship
* Make a reasonable inference or decision based on one graphic after finding information in another graphic
* Justify an inference or decision based on information
* Identify the most effective graphic given a defined purpose
* Justify the most effective graphic given a defined purpose
[End Quote] In Graphic Literacy and Applied Mathematics, my scale scores were 82. I did best at Reading for Information (Level 7, scale score of 87).
The above results show 1) I’m capable of interpreting data presented in recidivism studies that rely on graphs and complex data, and 2), I’m qualified to perform mathematical analysis to solve complex problems.
CONFESSION: I failed to perform to my fullest potential when writing “War & Reentry.”
A reader said I was unclear when writing about recidivism numbers and studies. Upon review, I saw I erred in comparison of recidivism numbers relied on by ex-director, Mark Inch. I wrote that he was wrong by stating federal prisoners recidivated at half the rate of state prisoners.
I was incorrect in one sense: If non-citizens were included into the federal study, the numbers would be much different; however, that is not the case. I used an incorrect formula to present the argument. The actual numbers were 67.8% for state prisoners, compared to 33.7% for federal prisoners rearrested within 3-years of release.
If 68-state prisoners and 34-federal prisoners were rearrested after their release during the same study period, the statement by Mark Inch would be true.
THE FACTS prove the statement untrue because the Feds released and deported thousands of illegal immigrants during the study period, many of whom illegally-returned to the United States and were rearrested (recidivated), but were not included in the “Recidivism Among Federal Offenders: A Comprehensive Overview.” Non-citizens were included in the comparison 5-year State study listed below.
Read more on the 2016 federal study in “Recidivism in America” (01/25/17), where I posted a link to the April 2014 comparison state study. Another associated article/blog is “An Inside View of Criminal Justice,” originally published by PrisonLawBlog.com (10/07/14). I show the influence of private prison companies on the BOP and failed policies that fuel mass incarceration.
INCREDIBLE NUMBERS FOR SEVEN DAYS: In “War & Reentry” I showed the millions of dollars American taxpayers will save if the BOP awards its prisoners 54-days per year, instead of the 47-days awarded since 11/01/1987, which resulted in prisoners serving longer prison sentences than intended by Congress.
The numbers listed were that 44,000 federal prisoners get released each year and that if released 7-days earlier, it would equate to an annual savings of thirty-million, six-hundred thirty-thousand, and six-hundred dollars.
Those numbers are correct: $30,630,600 saved by awarding federal prisoners the other 7-days lost in the BOP’s interpretation of federal law.
THE JUSTICES who dissented in Barber v. Thomas, 560 U.S. 474, 130 S.Ct. 2499, 177 L.Ed.2d 1, 13-16 (06/10/2010) cautioned that the majority opinion would add, “[t]ens of thousands of years of additional prison time on federal prisoners …. And if the only way to call attention to the human implications of this case is to speak in terms of economics, then it should be noted that the Court’s interpretation comes at a cost to the taxpayers of untold millions of dollars.”
The majority said the BOP’s interpretation was “reasonable” and that they must give it deference. The Justices did “[n]ot determine the extent to which Congress has granted the BOP authority to interpret the statute more broadly, or differently[;]” therefore, the agency may change their interpretation immediately to comply with the statute, clarified by the House of Representative in passing the FIRST STEP act with a vote of 360-59.
IF the BOP and Attorney General wants to save your taxpayer dollars, they will change their interpretation and give federal prisoners those other 7-days. The truth is, that if changed, the bureaucrats will probably give themselves large bonuses to consume funds saved.
COST OF INCARCERATION INCREASE: Between 2011 and 2017, the cost of incarcerating a federal prisoner rose from $79.16 to $99.45 per day or $28,893.40 to $36,299.25 per year. Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 52 (03/18/13), and Vol. 83, No. 83 (04/30/18). That will grow.
BE PROACTIVE FOR CHANGE: Demand a change! Contact your Senator and Congressional Representative and ask him or her to push prison reform and a change from draconian sentencing laws that lead to mass incarceration. Demand that BOP (Backwards on Purpose) officials be held accountable and follow the law to reduce recidivism.
BACK TO THE NUMBERS: I questioned the figures when I thought of 44,000 as the number of released federal prisoners, so I went to the source: transcript of Ex-director, Mark Inch’s testimony before the “Oversight Hearing of the Bureau of Prisons” on April 17, 2018. Inch stated on page two, under subheading “OUR PROGRAMS – REENTRY BEGINS ON DAY ONE” as follows:
“Reentry programming is a critical component of public safety; inmates are much more likely to return to a life of crime and victimization if they leave prison without job training, treatment for mental illness and/or substance abuse, an education, and a general understanding of what it means to be a productive law abiding citizen. It is important that we in the Bureau help ensure the nearly 44,000 inmates who are released back into the communities each year do not repeat their past mistakes.” https://judiciary.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Inch-testimony.pdf.
EVIDENCE OF MORE RECIDIVISM: Last month the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a new study (“2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism: A 9-Year Follow-up Period (2005-2014),” NCJ250975, May 2018), a follow-up to the 5-year study relied upon for comparison by the ex-director (“Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010,” NCJ244205, April 2014).
The 83% recidivism rate revealed in the 9-year follow-up study shows the seriousness of recidivism in America and the need for a magic elixir that does not exist. Until financial incentives end for politicians who continue making policies and laws that fuel mass incarceration, positive change will be slow: It is time to stop state and federal funding for private prisons.
In 2015, former presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, introduced a bill to bring back federal parole and to stop federal funding for private prisons. Apparently, none of Senator Sanders’ peers were interested in eliminating a source of income from private prison lobbyist, so the bill never made it to the vote stage of legislation.
FLAWED POLITICS: In passing laws and implementing policies and practices, the political trend for decades has been to restrict or prohibit violent felons from receiving time off their sentences for program participation. Criminal laws include increased penalties for career criminals and those who commit violent felonies.
To deny those offenders of program benefits increases the risk on society that those prisoners reoffend. Violent offenders need help, too.
Most violent offenders will be released from prison; therefore, those laws and policies are flawed and need restructured to include anyone who wants to participate and maybe change their lives, if the law-makers want to protect society and to reduce recidivism.
VIOLENT CRIME MISCONCEPTION: All categorically-listed crimes of violence do not contain violence. I addressed the issue in “Violent Crime Misconception” (02/24/16). I believe most people think of violent criminals as those who physically harm or threaten to harm their victims during the commission of crimes like rape, murder, and armed robbery.
Programs that current policy prohibits certain prisoners from receiving benefit from, are programs such as the Residential Drug Abuse Program. And in the event that the Senate approves the FIRST STEP act, any “Evidence-based Recidivism Reduction Program” or activity that reduces recidivism.
For instance, inmates with convictions for “certain” crimes of violence or sex crimes, will be prohibited from earning time off sentences by participating in evidence-based programs; e.g., Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) that reduces recidivism by 24%; taking educational or vocational classes. Restrictions also apply to those who participate in faith-based or social programs; mentoring or teaching any evidence-based program; participating in cognitive behavior treatment, “victim impact classes or other restorative justice programs.”
Those aspects of legislation needs changed and made retroactive to award prisoners for positive behavior exemplified under dire circumstances. Maybe Kim Kardashian will help get votes in the Senate to change the failed criminal justice policies. Go girl!
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January 11, 2017: Three men sat at a corner table in the prison “Chow Hall”; each with a hamburger, a few strands of lettuce leafs, a thin slice of tomato, and “Smiley Faces” (fried, round pieces of oil-saturated, potatoes, with cut out smiley faces, capable of making men frown if not properly fried).
I was one of the three men who sat at the table. My last complete day spent in society was August 17, 1988. (Read “No Sympathy” by Wayne T. Dowdy for details of my arrest and conviction in federal court, by a jury unlike my peers.) I eagerly await the day I leave prison for a halfway house.
Johnny P. sat across from me, his last day free was also over twenty-years ago. He is a good man who made bad decisions in his youth. A youngster sat to his right at the table.
RECIDIVISM: The youngest at the table was released from here three months ago to go to a halfway house. He returned for violating the terms of his supervised release (similar to parole or probation where a man or woman must meet specified conditions to remain free). See below subtitle, “RECIDIVISM DEFINED” for definition.
Johnny grilled the youngster about his return.
The youngster said, “Because I was under Public Law, I could only get a four-hour pass each month. I got tired of seeing everybody else go on passes for the weekend, and me not being able to, so I left a couple weeks later and didn’t go back. They caught me after three weeks. I’ve been locked up ever since.”
Johnny turned his head and locked eyes with the youngster. “I have six life sentences. Do you know how bad I wish I could go home to be with my family for four hours a month?”
Johnny’s words ingrained an image in my mind that influenced me to write this blog.
The youngster acknowledged his mistake, but then rationalized that serving the additional 18-months would kill the remainder of his supervised release.
SUPERVISED RELEASE: Depending on when a person was sentenced, determines whether a sentence for a violation disposes of the remainder of supervised release, or restarts the supervised release term upon release from prison for the violation. I have three terms of supervised release (one for two years, another for three, consecutive to the two, and a concurrent five-year term), each of which is only good for one violation that I do not plan to utilize.
ANTI-CRIME BILLS: The United States Congress has passed several anti-crime bills, with various provisions for controlling offenders captured in the mass incarceration frenzy–created by politicians for the sake of a vote–that ruins lives and costs American citizens billions of dollars each year in taxes.
SENTENCING REFORM ACT OF 1984 (SRA): One such bill was the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. As part of the SRA, effective November 1, 1987, Congress created the United States Sentencing Commission (“The Commission”) as “an independent agency in the judicial branch of the government.”
More than 1.5 million people have been sentenced under the SRA. The alleged purpose of the SRA was to deter, incapacitate or rehabilitate criminals, and to protect society from future crimes by offenders.
The SRA abolished federal parole and requires federal prisoners to serve 85% of their sentences. Eligible prisoners may earn “up to 54 days” per year under Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 3624(b)(1), Release of Prisoners. The United States Federal Bureau of Prisons (B.O.P.) refuses to give any of their Cash Cows more than 47-days.
The B.O.P. began 2017 with 189,333 prisoners, which is substantially less than the 219,298 reported in 2013.
21,140 of those prisoners are contracted out to private prison companies. The reduction came from legal and legislative changes, not from B.O.P. initiatives. Lobbyists from private prison companies provide hefty campaign contributions to politicians to maintain mass incarceration policies. Read “The Truth About Incarceration, Part II” by Wayne T. Dowdy for more on the topic.
THE COMMISSION: The Commission’s primary purpose was to establish policies, practices, and guidelines for federal judges to use in sentencing federal offenders.
RECIDIVISM DEFINED: Between 2005 and 2013, 25,431 federal offenders were included in a study on Recidivism (“refers to a person’s relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime.”)
“The Commission studied offenders who was either released from federal prison after serving a sentence of imprisonment or placed on a term of probation in 2005.”
STUDY NUMBERS: Offense Types and recidivism rates were as follows: Drug Trafficking (41.7%), Fraud (13.6%), Firearms (12.8%), Robbery (4.3%), Larceny (3.9%), Immigration (3.5%), and ALL Other (20.3%).
DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS OF RECIDIVISM STUDY: The first numbers represent those in the study, whereas the second number represents offenders sentenced in 2014, after the eight-year study period ended: 81.7% – 81.2% were Male offenders. White offenders led at 43.7% – 38.1%, followed by Blacks at 33.9% – 32.7%, Hispanics at 17.8% – 23.4%, and other races at 4.6% – 5.8%.
EDUCATE TO REDUCE RECIDIVISM: Post-Secondary Education Reduces Recidivism! In the study, 34.3% did not graduate high school, compared to 36.6% who did; 21.4% had some college, and only 7.5% were college graduates.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Maybe President Trump will find a way to reduce prison populations and save billions of dollars by reducing recidivism rates. To help willing ex-offenders become productive members of society, who can help pay back their cost of incarceration by paying taxes, will help to make America great again, instead of shamefully being the Incarceration Capital of the World.
OTHER RESULTS OF RECIDIVISM STUDIES: 49.3 percent of those released were rearrested for a new crime or rearrested for a violation of supervised release (e.g., failing to pass a urine analysis, failure to report to the supervised release officer; leaving without permission from a halfway house, perimeter of home confinement area or the state; violating state or federal laws, etc.). “Recidivism Among Federal Offenders: A Comprehensive Overview,” United States Sentencing Commission, March 2016.
Another study showed recidivism rates for state prisoners were higher than federal counterparts: 76.6% of state prisoners were rearrested within five years. “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010” (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rprts05p0510.pdf).
In adjusting the federal study for a five-year comparison, the examiners removed federal offenders sentenced to probation or fines, which lowered the federal rearrest rate from 49.3% to 44.9%, compared to the 76.6% for state offenders. Comparing recidivism reconviction rates (convictions for new criminal charges), state offenders led at 55.4%, compared to 26.0% for federal offenders.
The difference in rearrest rates were possibly due to higher education levels for federal offenders and more available programs created to reduce recidivism. Locking people up inside overcrowded institutions, without providing opportunities that allow the imprisoned to learn how to improve their circumstances that led to prison, only feeds a system that robs men and women of dignity, integrity, and self-respect.
ANOTHER CHANCE: Providing I see the end of this 35-year sentence of imprisonment, which I anticipate doing, I will have another chance to succeed in society. I plan to be a productive member upon release by sharing my experience, strength and hope to help others learn from my mistakes and success.
I plan to use StraightFromthePen.org to provide a platform to (1) influence legal changes to absurd laws; (2) promote prison and sentencing reform; and (3), to help improve prison systems through legislation that forces prison authorities to provide inmates with resources to help them change their lives. To do so, I will communicate, directly or indirectly, with state and federal legislatures for those I will leave behind.
Of course, an old saying is that if you want to hear God laugh to tell Him your plans, so maybe He is laughing now. Maybe His plan for me entails something other than that, but since I am essentially an expert in the field of corrections by being inside most of my life, I figure my experience can benefit others inside who are heading down the path that led me “here.”
My hope is to help effect a change to allow Johnny and thousands of others who are serving absurd prison sentences, to one day have an opportunity to get out of prison, even if only for a furlough.
MASS INCARCERATION: All of us released from prison and then returned for a new sentence are equally responsible for mass incarceration.
As prisoners, we complain about our conditions and what we deal with as part of the prison experience, and yet, for those fortunate enough to get out, we return to make the Prison Machine grow bigger and stronger by feeding it with our lives. By returning to prison, we make sentencing reform initiatives more difficult to pass.
Many men and women released from prison are forced to return to the same area from which they came, without the benefit of going to halfway houses to prepare for successful reentry. Some revert to crime to survive, rather than seeking help from available social programs; the reason is most likely a lack of knowledge about available programs.
DRUG OFFENDERS: The majority of American prison populations are drug offenders, who are the worst to complain about having unjust sentences for “victimless crimes.” But if addicts die from drugs or commit crimes to buy them, are addicts and those victimized by the addicts to get the drugs, victims?
The same legislatures who passed laws to punish people who rob banks, or kill people, are the same ones who passed drug laws. Whether I agree or not, it is the law and if I don’t want to go to or stay in prison, I do not need to violate the law.
Plans to commit and get away with crimes ultimately fail, as proven by booming prison populations.
I do agree that many prisoners have unjust prison sentences, but not just for drug crimes. Those serving life without parole in cases that did not involve murders or other forms or violence are real unjust.
Life without parole may be spelled with letters or numbers (50, 75, 100 years imprisonment).
Numerous prosecutors and law enforcement officials plot with “cooperating codefendants” of the accused to exaggerate drug quantities or other facts needed to trigger more severe sentencing ranges. Codefendants fabricate drug quantities to receive a lesser sentence for providing “substantial assistance.”
Several foreign countries do not have large prison populations because they execute those who violate laws, including drug laws.
At the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, foreign nationals toured the prison. A psychologist told me a prisoner complained to a lady about the severe prison sentence he was serving for a drug offense. She replied, “Sir, why do you complain? In my country, they would execute you.”
Help make America great again by reducing recidivism through proven programs. Imprisoning citizens does not make America great; especially, when slowly executing them by laws that lead to decades or the rest of their lives in prison.
Wayne T. Dowdy writes at StraightFromthePen.com. Purchase UNKNOWN INNOCENCE ($10.95) and ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN ($8.95), plus S & H charges, at Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616. Buy online at CreateSpace.com, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and other eStores. Visit his Author’s page at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy to purchase eBooks, or from most available eBook distributors, including the Apple iBookstore. At Smashwords, download your copy in the format that works best for you, including Html or pdf to read on your PC or Smartphone.
When my day comes in the near future, I will be approaching the free society like the Columbia Space Shuttle reentering the atmosphere without all of its protective tiles, or like a meteor heading straight for a collision course with the earth: I will burn up because of the friction created in the atmosphere of society, caused by my reentry into a distant world of free citizens, unless I proceed with caution and the protection of knowledge, draped in a determination to succeed against the odds.
I must remain constantly aware of the transitional aspect of my journey and how I am affected by all that has changed since my departure three decades ago. Upon my reentry into a time-warp-zone, I will fail to become a productive member of society if I do not take advantage of the available help now available to prisoners, which will help me ease into a normal life, whatever a normal life may be “out there.”
After my release, death will be inevitable but I will have a choice on whether it will come to me while I am a free man, or as a recidivist who returns to prison because of his thug lifestyle, or as a drug addict who dies because of his addiction and lifestyle, or as a man who fought to change and succeed at changing his life. My choice is the latter.
In “No Sympathy” I wrote about my transition into society after serving seven years in the State of Georgia’s prison system and my eventual return to prison (recidivism). I use my experience to show others that it did not have to be that way: I did not have to return to prison. I made choices that led me to where I now write. I use my story to promote change in a broken criminal justice system and am pleased to see that some of the issues I pushed for over the years have come into existence.
In May 2015, I had my publisher to send Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal, an email for me and an electronic copy of my blog (“Snake vs. Politics,” 03/13/15). In my blog, in the section subtitled, “Political Promises & Incarceration,” I praised Governor Deal for what he had done and planned to do in the Georgia Criminal Justice system and its prison system. I know his action will lead to favorable results; e.g., his creating re-entry programs for those released from prison and juvenile diversion programs to stop the flow of juveniles becoming career offenders.
In another essay I wrote and then posted on my blogs (The Truth About Incarceration, Part II); in a subtitled section, “Reentry & Recidivism,” I wrote about the Honorable Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General and President Obama for creating reentry initiatives to help ex-offenders find employment, treatment for drug, alcohol problems and mental health issues.
Those reentry initiatives are more of what I pushed for and know will have a positive impact on the lives of those released from prison, as well as for American society as a whole. (We are all a part of “one,” whether we want to be or not.) I cried out for all of that in “No Sympathy” when I revised it in June 2014 before I put it in my personal magazine (ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN) and posted it online as an eBook and then on my blog for everyone to read for free.
I have written other blogs that mention recidivism rates and my experiences over the years that will increase my chances of getting out and staying out when released. Some blogs contain humorous parts but still draw attention to important issues.
In “Rain, Blogs, Frogs & Politics” (November 3, 2015), and in “Vacation in Prison” (April 8, 2015), I wrote about my position in the Federal Prison Industries (trade name UNICOR). My experiences and skills learned in the organization will help me to secure employment upon release. I have been fortunate to have obtained legal skills foreign to most prisoners.
Then in “Teaching Cons New Tricks–Creative Writing and Q.A. Apprenticeship Program” (April 15, 2015), I did the same (wrote about skills learned to help me reintegrate into society).
UNICOR is a non-profit organization set up by Congress in the mid-thirties to make various cotton duck cloth items, originally strictly for the military and other government agencies. The business structure of UNICOR operates similar to the United States Postal Service by generating its own funding, rather than depending on Congressional budgets.
I show in my essays that UNICOR reduces recidivism by teaching inmates marketable job skills. Even though in recent years, UNICOR seems to have lost focus of the fact that Congress created the organization as a work program for inmates; not as a conglomerate to become a good-ole-boys fraternity or undercover, profit-generating organization, where profits must disappear into staff bonuses and purchases of elaborate office furnishings or maybe into expense paid trips justified as business necessities.
By their Program Statement, UNICOR has an Inmate Scholarship Award where UNICOR contributes funds to assist inmate employees in paying for college courses; however, the budget for the Inmate Scholarship Awards disappeared, probably into some lavish furniture or extra large bonus for Washington Officials who stripped the funding from the program. Imagine that, misuse of government funding: Spend funding on unnecessary items rather than on maintaining a program known to reduce recidivism.
Programs that allow inmates to learn new skills, improve their education, and to learn a new way of life benefit inmates and society: It is a cost-effective way to reduce recidivism and to help create more productive and constructive members of society. In “Snake vs. Politics,” I challenged all politicians to read “No Sympathy” when deciding on what is needed to reduce recidivism rates in America. Maybe some of them actually took me up on the offer. I feel reasonably assured that Governor Nathan Deal accepted the challenge. He continues to strive toward making prisons do what society needs done to shut the well-known “revolving door” of recidivist that plague the nation.
I will write a more technical blog on Reentry and Recidivism next time I have time to write. Most of my time has been going toward legal work to help other prisoners file post-conviction relief motions, in an effort to help them obtain their freedom. I won two out of the last five and hope to go five and O. 🙂 Now, due to a long-shot chance I have at obtaining my own freedom, I must rush to seek permission to file a motion to challenge my own conviction before the June 26, 2015, deadline. Recent changes in law due to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (June 26, 2015) is what has changed. As I wrote in “Violent Crime Misconception,” Johnson invalidated a provision of the Armed Career Criminal statute, known as the “Residual Clause.” Some courts are rightfully applying it to other similar provisions in various statutes, such as Title 18, Section 924(c)(2)(B), which is where “crime of violence” is defined and contains similar language, as does the statute for immigration (18 U.S.C., Section 16(b)). I have to show armed bank robbery is not “categorically” a crime of violence because a person can commit the crime without rising to the level of violence required to show it is a violent crime. A lot of legal jargon with lots of meaning for those fighting to live another day as free men and women.
Purchase “No Sympathy” as one of eleven essays in the collection, ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN by Wayne T. Dowdy, $8.95 USD, available from all major bookstores and eBook retailers. Read No Sympathy for free online or by downloading the individual essay from Smashwords.com and other eBook retailers.
Due to technical issues, the release of UNKNOWN INNOCENCE was postponed. The pagination was reduced and the book reformatted. The tentative plan for release is June 15, 2016. The listed price is $14.95, USD. At 85,000-words, that is a deal: Two books in one. Those without Internet access may purchase it from Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616 (email: MEBooks1@yahoo.com). All others may buy it from their favorite bookstores or eBook retailers, including the AppleiBookstore.