The Truth About Incarceration, Part II

Prisoners for profit, human lives a commodity? Imagine that. My life of crime made lots of politicians and investors very rich:  it robbed me of life with my loved ones, including a wife and two children, not to mention the financial ruins caused by my actions. When I am released in 2019, I have to start all over at the age of sixty-two. My living quarters consists of a cell designed for one, housing two. Essentially, I live in a bathroom with another man. That is not exactly the way I planned for life to be, but it is what it is. I put myself in this situation by making bad choices. It didn’t have to be this way. According to a psychologist, who had reviewed results from a battery of aptitude and psychological test that I had taken for Georgia prison officials to determine my intellectual capacity, I could have been a doctor or lawyer. Maybe I could have been a politician capitalizing on prisons being built and by voting to be tough on crime. A lot of people profit from the Incarceration Industry in America. Thousands of men and women serve longer prison sentences because of the Corporate greed and the desire to increase the bottom line at the expense of other humans.

NO SYMPATHY: I am fifty-seven years old as I write and have spent most of those fifty-seven years in prison. On August 18, 1988, I began serving this 35-year federal sentence for driving a second getaway vehicle in an armed bank robbery and associated charges, one being “Abduction of a Person to Facilitate Commission of an Offense.” In a personal essay titled, “No Sympathy,” I wrote about certain aspects of the crime; however, that essay serves a greater purpose. I want the public to see where billions of their tax dollars go. I use my story to show the effect of incarceration and recidivism. ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN is my essay collection that contains several essays about various topics and experiences, but when I wrote No Sympathy, I wrote it with the hope of helping to somehow change the failed criminal justice system.  Due to its purpose, I asked the publisher to make it and a few other ones into separate eBooks for $0.99 each. (Purchase it from my author’s page athttps://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy.) The essay shows data and parts of my history to prove you are reading writings from a man who the government has invested well over one-million dollars in.  If you are an American taxpayer, you help pay for my incarceration. Maybe some of the politicians who have lined their pockets with cash by investing in prisoner commodities will reimburse you. I would if I could, but I am broke so suing me won’t do any good either. Sorry!

RECIDIVISM:  From August 28, 1978, until August 1, 1985, I served state time for robbing three drug stores at gunpoint and stealing a car. While in, I picked up additional charges for escape and mutiny in a penal institution. I wrote about those events in “The Price of Change,” also in the essay collection.  Four of those years were spent at the Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, GA. The feds said it was the most violent prison in the United States in 1982 while I was there. I witnessed prison staff creating racial trouble in an attempt to win a lawsuit (Guthrie v. Evans).  Prisoners died as a result of their games.  Guthrie had filed the lawsuit because of the racism, brutality, and unconstitutional living conditions at the prison before I arrived. The guards created the racial issues in an attempt to convince the courts that we were animals and that they needed their guns and batons to control us. I know because I was privilege to legal documents due to my status as a representative in the lawsuit. I have also seen staff use the same plots in the federal prison system while I was at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta (also deemed to be the most violent prison in the United States while I was there) and U.S.P. Pollock in Louisiana. The point being that prisoners are no more than pawns in their games. I made it over three-years before I was arrested in 1988–to be exact, three-years and seventeen days after my release from a halfway house in Atlanta, Georgia. By staying out over three-years, I dodged being one of the typical prisoners caught in the more common 3-year recidivism studies. A different study came out in April 2014 that covered a five-year span: it revealed staggering statistics on recidivism from 2005-2010. [1]  An alarming rate of 82.1% of property offenders, 76.9% of drug offenders, and 73.6% of public order offenders returned with new charges within the five-year study period. The numbers make clear that previous (and current) methods of punishment and practices have not yielded favorable results, that is, except for those who profit from high-incarceration rates: things couldn’t have been or be better for them. Because of the explosive prison population caused by draconian sentencing policies and increased punishments for crimes, pushed by those with an ulterior motive, the situation got out of control.

RE-ENTRY & RECIDIVISM: Former Attorney General Eric Holder began taking action to reduce the prison growth rate and population: 1) he changed prosecution policies that slowed the flow of federal offenders into prison, and 2), he pushed the agenda for re-entry initiatives to relieve the financial impact of incarceration through a reduction in recidivism. Focusing on providing prisoners with re-entry services should reduce recidivism by helping ex-offenders find employment, and by helping them receive treatment for drug, alcohol, and or, mental health issues. From my observations, very few prisoners receive help for such issues while in prison and that alone increases recidivism. I have not seen many prison administrations truly concerned about providing prisoners with opportunities that increases their likelihood of success upon release.

DETAINMENT FOR PROFITS:  Sadly, for-profit-prison lobbyists spread millions on state and federal legislatures to keep prison populations high, or to otherwise defeat bills introduced to lower the mass incarceration rates in America. “Detainment is a lucrative trade.” [3] The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) members and for-profit prison representatives write bills for politicians to introduce that increases prison sentences through techniques such as changing sentencing guidelines, increasing criminal penalties, or creating new laws. Those actions counter any initiatives introduced to decrease prison populations by giving prisoners more time off for good behavior; re-instating federal parole, or any other bills that, if implemented, would reduce the profits of those with a vested interest in high incarceration rates.  ALEC members sometimes provide alternative bills for their supporters. “Whether the issue is guns, tort reform, immigration, sentencing guidelines, or private prisons, ALEC provides a legislator with a committee-ready one-size-fits-all bill and a playbook to pass it.” [2]

GUIDELINE CHANGES: Other measures taken to undo the effect of previous political actions came from amendments to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines to reduce sentences for drug offenders; especially, crack cocaine related offenses. The Sentencing Commission is a bipartisan committee whose recommendations stand unless Congress stops them.

POLITICAL INFLUENCE: The funding for the cost of incarceration comes from the taxpayers so why should politicians be concerned about its cost?   Especially when their votes for “Tough on Crime” bills gets them re-elected and fills their pockets with cash. And, not just their pocket, the pockets and purses of those who invest in the Prison Industry (companies who build prisons; those who provide goods and services for their operation, construction, maintenance; those manufacturing or selling security items; e.g., fences, electronic gadgets, weapons, riot gear, and other tactical equipment pushed for security to protect the public from approximately 2.3 million prisoners held in the United States, alone).  Private prison companies grew by convincing those in power that it was more cost effective to house prisoners in privately ran prisons than it was to house them in public prisons. The data did not always support their claims. [6]  In order for private prisons to profit, corporate owners reduce the number of staff, the amount of staff training hours, and pay lesser wages and benefits to their employees. In 2011, compared to state correctional officers, Correctional Corporation of America (CCA), required an average of 240 less training-hours. The less-trained staff salaries were 50% less than those of typical state correctional officers. [3] The lack of staff and inadequate training sometimes resulted in deaths of prisoners and guards, which the 2014 Office of Inspector General report noted in reference to the privately managed Federal Bureau of Prisons (B.O.P.) contract facilities. From other things I have read, only a minimal amount of conditions were required for those private companies to gain lucrative contracts. Since the latest finding by the O.I.G., B.O.P. Director, Charles Samuels, Jr., who is changing things, approved a program statement to govern such facilities. [4] Personally, though, I cannot believe that political connections have not influenced the number of contract beds the B.O.P. uses to house its prisoners. That seem apparent by the fact that in 1980, 12-years before former B.O.P. Director, Michael Quinlan (see next para.) went to CCA, only 2% of the B.O.P. prisoner population was kept in contract facilities. Now with two B.O.P. directors into private prisons, two-percent grew into nineteen and a half percent.

CORPORATE INFLUENCE: “ALEC is a corporate-funded corporate bill mill cross-dressing as an association of state legislatures.” [2] In 2011, ALEC claimed 250 corporations and special interest groups as private sector members. “According to ALEC promotional material, each year member lawmakers introduce an average of 1,000 … pieces of legislation nationwide, 17% of which are enacted.” [5] One member corporation being CCA–the nation’s largest for-profit private prison company (GEO Group is the second largest for-profit prison and is also an ALEC member). [8] Two former B.O.P. Directors went to work for CCA after leaving the B.O.P. under unfavorable circumstances. Harley Lappin “retired” from the B.O.P. after his arrest on a Driving Under the Influence charge in May 2011. He is CCA’s executive vice president and the company’s Chief Corrections Officer. J. Michael Quinlan “retired” in 1992 after a male B.O.P. employee filed a lawsuit and claimed Quinlan had sexual assaulted and sexually harassed him in a motel room during a business trip. He settled the lawsuit out of court. He works as CCA’s senior vice president who oversees CCA’s quality assurance program. Other government officials have equally migrated to private sector companies and carried insider-information with them. [7]  I’m sure that “insider-information” and political connections helped such companies flourish at the expense of the millions of Americans confined in jails and prisons.

Some people have profited from laws and policies that increased prison sentences, many others like me have stayed in prison longer than we would have without those governing factors, which were based on the “bottom lines.” In the meantime, though, I still hope to one day have a healthy relationship with my children, but the miles of highways and barbwire fences that separates us makes it difficult. Things will change. Look for another article on “The Truth About Incarceration.”

                                                                                     BIBLIOGRAPHY

[1] Durose, Matthew, R., Cooper, Alexia D., and Snyder, Howard N.  NCJ 244205, Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States: Patterns from 2005-2010. U.S. Dep’t. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Statistics, April 2014.

[2] Dubose, Lou. How to Pass Bills and Influence Legislators. The Washington Spectator, May 15, 2011.

[3] Handley, Joel. Divesting From Private Prisons. IN THESE TIMES, August 2011.

[4] Program Statement 7740.02, Oversight of Private Secure Correctional Facilities. November 21, 2014.

[5] Hodia, Beau. Publiscopy Exposed. IN THESE TIMES, August 2011.

[6] Austin, James and Coventry, Garry.  NCJ 181249, Emerging Issues of Privatized Prisons, Bureau of Justice, Feb. 2011.

[7] Anti-Private Prison Group Rips Revolving Door for Federal Employees After CCA Hires Former BOP Director, Prison Legal News, July 2011.

[8] Hodia, Beau. Corporate Con Game. IN THESE TIMES, June 21, 2010.

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