Tag Archives: Unicor

Successfully Reentering Society by Wayne T. Dowdy

My opportunity to reenter society approaches faster than additional studies can be produced to predict the likelihood of success for released prisoners. I am prepared for successful reentry. Failure is not an option.

Without thinking of that particular day, I have worked toward it for almost three decades. Even when my release date seemed more distant than the stars that glittered in the night (too far away to see without a telescope), I moved forward on faith of better days.

Others have led the way that shows I can reach the stars by following their paths. One such person is Brandon Sample, Esq., whose inspiring story I will share before conclusion of this blog.

PREPARING TO REENTER: Part of my preparation process included getting help for addiction and associated mental health issues, back in the early to mid-Nineties.

I also worked for the Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR, a UNIque CORporation), since December 1, 1989. I learned lucrative job skills to increase my chance of gaining successful employment upon release; e.g., technical writing (writing and editing quality manuals, operating procedures, manufacturing and inspection instructions, training modules, designing & creating forms, etc.); internal auditing, ISO 9001: 2008, Quality Management System requirements; working with NSAI external auditors during the ISO certification processes, and many others.

This week (January 9, 2017), I begin a twelve-week, Non-Residential Drug Abuse Program, which I am taking more so to mentor others than for an interpersonal reasons (I stopped using drugs and alcohol in April of 1995).

POST-RELEASE PLANS: Once I am released, I know to take advantage of all available programs. Websites such as http://www.FairShake.net and http://www.HelpForFelons.org will keep me up to date on resources out there for me to capitalize on. Today, more companies are willing to hire ex-offenders. I list several in my blog, “Reentry Programs Will Reduce Recidivism” (https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com).

Both FairShake.net and HelpForFelons.org have beneficial links. I am particularly interested in http://www.helpforfelons.org/online-jobs-felons, and am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to surf the Deep Blue Web for the first time.

BRANDON SAMPLE, ESQ.: Brandon ignored the naysayers and moved forward toward his future as an attorney.

As a troubled youth and young adult, he made decisions that led to a 168-month federal prison sentence in 2000, at the age of twenty. During his twelve-year stay in the federal prison system, he “fell in love with the law,” while fighting for his freedom. It was then that he decided to begin college to study law to become an attorney.

Brandon did not pay attention to those who said he could not be an attorney with felony convictions on his record. “When I look back now, that 14-year sentence saved my life. I very well could have ended up dead or caught up in the cycle of going in and out of prison had I not received that serious wake up call. I say that not to suggest that all sentences, no matter how long, are fair and just.

“But the key, for me at least, was that I decided to change. I wanted a new life, a new future with all my being. So many people along the way told me that my dreams were unrealistic. I never listened to any of them and just plowed ahead.”

While incarcerated he paid for correspondence college courses through Adams State University. Upon release in 2012, he walked out the prison doors with his Bachelor’s degree.

In August of 2013, he began classes at Vermont Law School, where he graduated in May of 2016, magna cum laude, and now holds a Juris Doctor degree.

He received his law license from the Vermont Supreme Court in October of 2016. Now he is licensed to practice in the State of Vermont, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Circuits.

Brandon may have lost the battles for his freedom in the courts. But he won the war when those battles led to him successfully becoming Of Counsel for the Law Firm of Jeremy Gordon, Esq., Mansfield, Texas (www.facebook.com/gordondefense).

Brandon’s story proves that prison does not have to be a negative experience. Miracles do happen. My hope is to become additional evidence of that important aspect of life, as many of my peers have proven true over the years; especially, those I met through Twelve-Step Programs. I will not fail!

_________________________
Wayne T. Dowdy writes Straight From the Pen. Visit his website at http://www.straightfromthepen.com and his author’s page at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy.

REENTERING SOCIETY

by Wayne T. Dowdy

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.

COVER.inddIn “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.

CONCLUSION

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.

_________________________

09012015002004Purchase “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.

Follow my blogs at straightfromthepen.wordpress.com and waynedowdy.weebly.com.  Send comments to waynedowdy@straightfromthepen.com.  I will respond when my publisher forwards them to me, when a response is permissible.

 

 

Teaching Cons New Tricks–Creative Writing & Q.A. Apprenticeship Program

(Reprint Permission Granted by the Author)

Teaching Cons New Tricks–Creative Writing & Q.A. Apprenticeship Program

THE ART OF CREATIVE WRITING CLASS:  When a person is searching for a theme for an article, short story or novel, some writing professionals suggest that writers take a real life situation and ask “What If?” For instance, what would the U.S. economy be like now if President Obama had been white and his Congress had approved the same economic plan to rebuild the economy, as that of President Roosevelt’s, whose plan Congress endorsed to bring the Nation out of the Great Depression?  What if an impoverished person sat in a creative writing class, inside of a prison classroom, and then wrote a million seller, and never returned to prison after release? Miracles happen!

What if that person simply learned to do something constructive that changed the direction of his or her life? That would be priceless! That is my hope for the students who participate in the Art of Creative Writing class, held for two hours, one night per week, in the education department at the Federal Correctional Institution, in Edgefield, South Carolina. This is the same education department I wrote about in my essay, “Fighting for Rights to Write”; published by PrisonEducation.com in Feb. 2014; posted on straightfromthepen.wordpress.com in March 2015. I was poised and ready to battle in federal Court to defend my First and Fifth Amendment rights to occupy my time constructively by using an AlphaSmart word processor to type my manuscripts for publication, and other forms of writings for reasons other than sending documents to a court, as other federal institutions permit. (Another battle may be looming in a similar fight to write.)

A fellow writer and friend, Jeffery P. Frye (aka Professor Frye), initiated the class by working with the Supervisor of Education. Once the class had been approved, then he invited me and another friend and budding author, S.G. Garwood, to sit in and offer assistance to the aspiring writers. Garwood is nearing completion of a historical fiction novel, The Last Confederate Coin, which is already receiving praise from Civil War buffs (view his writing samples and his magnificently designed webpage at http://www.thelastcharlestonconfederate.weebly.com).

The results of this adventure are yet to be seen, but I feel confident that everyone in the classroom will benefit, including me. As a fellow prisoner and someone who is concerned about the insane recidivism rates in the United States, my hope for everyone involved in the class is for them to be blessed with freedom and success, whether that success be as an author, or through some other method where the discipline learned through becoming a writer assists them in their quest to live a better life and not return to prison.

To succeed as an author requires discipline, something most of us lacked before coming to prison, and may lack now. Maybe writing will become more than just putting words on paper. Personally, I wrote my way into learning how to live a new life by journaling on a daily basis, so I know from experience that reading and writing has the power to change lives. Words pack a punch, whether written or spoken, words have the power to change or destroy lives. I choose my words carefully and hope the ones I select affect a positive change.

Professor Frye blogs about the Art of Creative Writing class on bankblogger.weebly.com and murderslim.com/BankRobbersBlog. He labels me and S.G. Garwood as Adjunct Professors, and wrote in his #creativeconvicts (blog), “Wayne (aka Adjunct Professor Dowdy) was challenged on the proper use of an adjective in relation to a plural verb. Wayne claimed he was right, while the other guy claimed he was wrong. Things got a little tense there for a few minutes, and as they had a spirited debate, I wondered if Adjunct Professors carried shanks. Wayne finally went to the library and found a GED textbook to prove his point, and to show that he was right. He was. That’s why he’s my adjunct.”

Professor Frye is a gifted writer who tells a great story and is one who usually makes me laugh anytime I read what he writes, especially his blogs. He also types faster than a woodpecker pecking on a tree, which pays off when paying five-cents per minute to use the Corrlinks computer system we use to email these blogs to someone to post on our behalf. I type slower than he does, but still love to write, and have my own style of writing: I’m a more serious, in-your-face type of writer, who often writes on topics to inform, inspire, motivate or educate, more so than to make readers laugh or cry, even though I sometimes do that too. In the classroom setting, as well as in my personal endeavors, I “seek” to find the truth, and usually succeed, whether that truth concerns a historical fact; the proper use of a word; discussing a verb that becomes a present participle after adding “ing” (e.g., “break” versus “breaking”); so that the ex-verb then functions as a noun, not-so-commonly known as a gerund.

Either way, I always want to know the correct answer and will sometimes go to extremes to find it; whether I do or don’t, I still want to find the answer and will continue my quest to do so, long after the thrill of debate has gone. I am also known for calling it as I see it, politically correct or not. I am not. That’s just not me, even though I do try to be considerate of another person’s feelings, I am not one who sprinkles sugar on a pile of poop to claim it is ice cream.

Please pardon my frankness, and my bizarre metaphor, but this is Straight From the Pen, not the Pentagon, and my use of that metaphor certainly paints a picture to stick on a wall, not soon to be forgotten. Perhaps the students in the Art of Creative Writing class will be more selective and less aggressive with words; however, since we are in prison … some may be more vicious with words than an overzealous prosecutor in a murder case. We’ll see.

QUALITY ASSURANCE APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM:  As I wrote in my “Vacation In Prison” blog on April 10, 2015, I work for the Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR). I am a tutor in their Quality Assurance Apprenticeship Program, and have been since its inception in 2006. None of the graduates released back into society have become recidivists. That deserves recognition by all standards. I mainly teach Grammar & Writing Skills and other education-related fields of study, as well as helping the students to learn certain aspects about the Quality Management System, which meets the required standards for certification under the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), 9001: 2008 Requirements.

The Quality Assurance Manager realized its importance for the students to learn. He put an emphasis on teaching these students more about ISO principles than the previous students had to learn before becoming certified Quality Assurance Inspectors, who may be able to get out of prison and obtain a position as a Q.A. Manager by going to college to take a few more associated courses. One inmate who learned ISO in prison got out and got a job as a Project Manager for a reputable company. Dreams do come true.

The Apprenticeship program recently expanded to having six students enrolled. I create tests that all of them hate but learn more about the subject by the time they complete their assignments. As in Kindergarten, the only grade I give anyone is an “S” or “U” for satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Basically, the students are given course material and then turned loose to learn all they can. If someone fails to earn an “S” … I take the time to help him learn what he is missing or failing to understand about the procedure or process being taught.

Essentially, one has to refuse to do the assigned task to receive a “U,” which is then up to the Q.A. Manager to decide on where to go from there. Most apply themselves to learn what is being taught. This is a voluntary program, and the only one with anything to loose is the student, so each of them usually does what is required, even though some do complain about the level of difficulty in my tests. I give them tough love because I care enough to challenge their intellectual capacity to get them used to using their head for more than plotting crimes against humanity or for storing effects from illicit substances.

If the person doesn’t want to learn, I tell them not to waste my time. For the eager ones who really want the prize, I offer to teach them “Advanced Grammar & Writing Skills.” In that part of the program I teach the apprentice technical writing so that he will be qualified to write instructional documents; e.g., manufacturing & inspection instructions, quality manuals, policies and procedures. In other words, something more than simply inspecting a product. Technical writing is a very lucrative craft, which I have years of experience at doing in UNICOR. In 1997 I began writing job procedures for constructing missile cables, remote area lighting systems, power distribution boxes, army tank wiring harnesses, and other military products. I literally earn pennies in comparison to what I would earn doing so as a freelance technical writer in society, but at least I have obtained enough knowledge at doing it to share the wealth with others who may one day get to use those skills for the betterment of society.

A FIGHT TO REDUCE RECIDIVISM:  Education is a proven method of reducing recidivism, as  shown in my essay, “Education, the Prisoner, and Recidivism”; published by PrisonEducation.com in May of 2013; posted March 2015 on straightfromthepen.wordpress.com. For both subjects above, writing is an instrumental process, and is one that allows participants to occupy their time in a constructive manner, instead of running around creating drama by plotting on how to get out to commit more crimes and continue to feed the American Mass Incarceration Machine.

Shouldn’t prison administrators want their inmates to be learning something to prepare them for successful reentry into society? Don’t the designated keepers owe it to the public to provide prisoners with needed tools for preparation of release back into society; especially, those who want to learn something so that they can increase their chance of success upon release? Who wants prisoners to reenter society and collect new victims? Don’t we owe it to each other to help the disadvantaged transcend to another level? I feel we do. I do my part, and am sad to say that I often struggle to get support from the staff to do what needs to be done to help my peers get out and not return. That includes having something as simple as regularly held Twelve-Step meetings, or having ample time to use educational tools or equipment needed to help prepare the prisoner for the challenges that lie ahead. Read “No Sympathy” posted on straightfromthepen.wordpress.com for some staggering statistics on recidivism to grasp the seriousness of the situation. I am sure it will leave you wondering why a prisoner must struggle to help others avoid becoming a recidivist.

The looming battle concerns the possibility of the education department not allowing writers and inmates to use the AlphaSmarts for creative and other forms of writing, other than preparing documents to mail to the courts. The use of such a device that has the potential of preventing some prisoners from becoming a recidivist seems worthwhile. If possible, many of us prisoners would buy or rent AlphaSmarts or other similar products to constructively occupy our time and attempt to learn a skill to rehabilitate ourselves. I suggested the same but it fell on deaf ears. Imagine that!

The cost of an AlphaSmart word processor and the associated costs of supplies, cannot compare to the cost of a recidivist. On March 9th, 2015, the B.O.P. Director reported in the Federal Register that the FY 2014 Annual Determination of Average Cost of Incarceration was $30,619.85 per year/$83.89 per day. Based on those numbers, the cost of providing educational tools and equipment is a cost effective measure–money well-spent–an investment far less expensive than re-incarcerating a person for multiple years or possibly for the rest of their lives. The cost of recidivism is human lives.

Follow me on Twitter: @DowdyFromThePen

[Update:  AlphaSmarts were removed for the general population two-years later after the Supervisor of Education changed.  This section modified and address removed due to release from prison on August 28, 2018]

Email:  waynedowdy@straightfromthepen.com.

Purchase my books & essays from my book page on https://www.straightfromthepen.com or https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy or from your favorite bookseller.