[Update: June 10, 2022: I checked a link to the former BOP director’s testimony before Congress and learned it had been moved, so I corrected the URL, and want to suggest that readers also check out a blog I wrote after my release from the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons, where I added copies of letters to the honorable Mark S. Inch, x-BOP Director, and the Honorable Trey Gowdy, former Congress person. Fight for Change.
I also want to note that achieving Platinum Certification in WorkKeys did not help me get a job. Several job recruiters showed a lot of interest in my impressive credentials until asking when I was born or when did I receive my GED or High School Diploma. Several hung up the phone after I answered. My age knocked me out of more job opportunities than did my criminal history.]
[June 18, 2018] 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.” Inch-Testimony.pdf (house.gov)
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!
Wayne T. Dowdy writes at StraightFromthePen.com.