HALF A PROBLEM

By Wayne T. Dowdy

backwards-arrowDon’t get it twisted; I am glad to have this half of a problem but it is a problem much greater than what confronts me.  The Bureau of Prisons (BOP), or “Backwards On Purpose” agency of the United States Department of Justice, is denying me of something I feel I have earned and need before reentering society.

But more than that, the situation that affects me affects the lives of many others, including thousands of federal prisoners and the unsuspecting public who has a right to know what goes on behind the walls, bars and fences of the federal prison system.

In my blog, “Life Inside” (11/20/17), I wrote about 16-halfway house closures, or rather, the BOP agency’s decision not to renew contracts, that may affect my leaving here on April 25, 2018.  It proved true!

Halfway House, Community Corrections Center, and Residential Reentry Center (RRC) are synonymous.

civil war imageBATTLE LINES:  Many of my peers do not know how to fight for their rights, and the unsuspecting public does not know how the recently appointed BOP Director, Mark S. Inch, is putting them at risk of becoming the victim of a recidivist.

I acknowledge that the retired, two-star General, walked onto a battlefield of a different kind than those where he probably sent or helped send many men and women to die in battle.  Though his actions created my dilemma, I chose not to view him or anyone as an enemy, as we are all comrades in life.  Nor do I mean to come across in a disrespectful manner towards him, because I do respect him and his accomplishments in life.

In addition, I do not want to believe that he had ill intent when he implemented processes (not renewing halfway house contracts; removing cognitive behavior programming requirements).  Those actions lead to increased recidivism rates (more men and women reverting to old behaviors that led back to prison or worse).

However, I cannot help but believe that his actions are driven, in part, by the influence of private prison officials.

Me and Director Inch are at opposite ends of a spectrum, where my vast experience provides a view he may not see due to the political BS thrown in his eyes by Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, who appointed Mr. Inch as BOP Director.

ISN’T IT IRONIC:  My publisher liked my Happy New Year and Happy New Life message that I sent out to those on my Corrlinks contact list.  She decided to post it as a blog on January 2, 2018.  Ironically, I learned on that same day that the requested halfway house date of April 25, 2018, had been reduced to December 26, 2018 (leaving me with only 119-days in prerelease status at an RRC or on home confinement).

My first line of irrational thoughts were to tell “them” where to stick those 119-days, and then refuse to go to the halfway house upon release.  In my situation, though, the staff here on my Unit Team is on my side and wanted me to receive more time to help me successfully reintegrate; it is not anyone here who angered me with such a stupid proposition as sending a man to a halfway house for 119-days, who has served 30-years in the insane world of incarceration.

The irony is what I had written in the last paragraph of the now titled blog, Happy New Life:   “Whether that day comes on April 25, 2018, or April 24, 2019, I will succeed at living the rest of my days doing something worthwhile and beneficial to this thing we call life.”

GRATITUDE/RESENTMENT:  I resent the Backwards On Purpose agency not giving me the requested 364-days.  But, hey, I do have a release date; it’s not the date I expected or feel I’ve earned, but I am grateful to have a date.

Staff and inmates alike were shocked to hear I only received 119-days, after having served 30-years, and after having maintained clear conduct since March 1993 (almost 25-years).  My only incidents of misbehavior were drug-related; no convictions for committing acts of violence or otherwise harming others.  I help others, maybe that’s why the powers who be want to keep me around?

REVERSE DISCRIMINATION:  Perhaps I am a victim of reverse discrimination.  A close friend who left here on December 20, 2017, en route to the same halfway house I’m going to (Dismas Charities, Atlanta, GA).  He has a lot of resources (home, land, large bank account, supporting family), and received eleven and a half months RRC placement.

He’s African-American, near my age, served 23-years for armed bank robbery and a firearm charge, whereas I’ve served almost 30-years for armed bank robbery and associated charges, but I did not have a firearm.  He and I have a Criminal History Category of VI (several prior convictions).  He had disciplinary (incident) reports for acts of violence.  I haven’t.

I’m a European-American (white), born and raised in Georgia.  I do not have financial resources and will be starting over at the age of sixty-one.

Other African-Americans have received shorter terms of RRC placement, who haven’t served as long.

One white friend going to the same halfway house, who has been in prison less than a year, received 60-days: I’ve served 29-more and received 58-days more, thanks to the absurd Backwards on Purpose agency.

MY LAST CHRISTMAS?  In “Santa, Stars, Sex & Politics” (12/18/17), I wrote, “For me, this Christmas will be my last behind bars so life is good.”  Whoever set the date of my departure from here as the day after Christmas, must have chuckled as he or she thought to get the message across that they were making sure I wouldn’t be home for Christmas.  It is not over, though.

IT’S ON:  Battle lines have been drawn.  Battle drums rattle my brain.  The war is on.  I am fighting for myself and will fight for those whom I will leave behind.

My plan is to elicit the help of the United States Congress to halt the plans of General Inch, who was under fire during the Federal Prison Oversight Hearing on 12/13/2017, about his actions in regard to Residential Reentry Centers.

No doubt, his actions put the American public in harms way.  Personally, I believe he may have mislead Congress about his intent behind his actions that results in men and women spending more time in prison and less time in RRC placement.

If he does not renew RRC contracts, he creates a shortage of bed space that justifies keeping people in prison longer, at a higher cost to taxpayers.  Congress enacted THE SECOND CHANCE ACT OF 2007 to provide prisoners with longer RRC placement periods.   Read on for more.

According to attorney Brandon Sample, “Director Inch was asked by several members of the Committee about BOP’s decision to cut back halfway house placements.  In response, Director Inch told the Committee that the agency is ‘absolutely not’ cutting back on its commitment to re-entry.”

The BOP shut down its Reentry Hotline which says it all.

In the modified words of a famous poet whose name I don’t recall (Henry David Thoreau (?)), Director Mark Inch’s “[a]ctions speak so loud I can’t hear a word of what [he] says.”

HALF A PROBLEM:  My problem isn’t much of a problem on one level, and is one thousands of other prisoners would love to have:  I have a release date and am near getting out of prison.

THOUSANDS of my peers do not have a release date; others have release dates decades away, just as I did when I began this sentence on August 18, 1988.  My problem does not compare to theirs but it is a problem because 119-days does not provide me with what the United States Congress said the Director of the Bureau of Prisons should provide its prisoners (a “sufficient duration [of RRC placement] to provide the greatest likelihood of successful reintegration into the community.”)  18 U.S.C., Section 3624(c)(6).

When I first began this sentence, my Unit Team at U.S.P. Leavenworth, suggested I not do anything to lose any Good Conduct Time (time earned off a sentence for good behavior).  I said, “By the time I do thirty-years, do you really think I’ll care about doing five more?”

SURVIVOR SYNDROME:  I now care about doing those extra five-years; at least, on one level I do, but on another, I really don’t, to a certain extent.  Prison life is what I know best.  I’ve been incarcerated most of my life and have survived being in two prisons rated the most violent prisons in the U.S. while I was in them (GA State Prison, Reidsville (1981-85), and U.S.P. Atlanta, GA (1993-96)).

I survived those experiences and will survive the outcome of this sentence and whatever I encounter upon my release; however, I do feel I need more time to re-acclimate to the society I left 30-years ago.

FLAWED THINKING:  In the Georgia prison system, the State Board of Pardons & Paroles notified me that I had a tentative parole date:  It shocked me.  I was also told of being considered for halfway house placement.

I wrote and said, “Give that spot to someone who needs it.  I don’t need to go because I have a job lined up, a family, and a good support system.  Some guys don’t have anything.”

When I got to the halfway house, I realized how much I needed it.  I stayed 4 1/2 months after serving 7-years, not thirty.  I failed to successfully reintegrate.

BACKWARDS ON PURPOSE AGENCY:  When statistics indicate what the results will likely be and an agency enacted with a specific purpose in mind to avoid those results by taking actions, and then does the opposite, their actions or inactions prove their intent.

“SECOND CHANCE ACT OF 2007:  Community Safety Through Recidivism Reduction.”  Congress entered provisions for the Second Chance Act in Title 18 of the United States Code (U.S.C.), Section 3624(c), Prerelease Custody.

Congress enacted those provisions to make communities safer by helping ex-offenders successfully reintegrate into the community, not to put ex-offenders at a higher risk of committing crimes to survive.  Section 3624(c) increased the maximum term of RRC placement from 6-months to 12-months.

“Section 3624(c)(1) provides:

“The Director of the Bureau of Prisons shall, to the extent practicable, ensure that a prisoner serving a term of imprisonment spends a portion of the final months of that term (not to exceed 12 months), under conditions that will afford that prisoner a reasonable opportunity to adjust to and prepare for the reentry of that prisoner into the community.  Such conditions may include a community correctional facility.”  Brandon Sample Newsletter, email:  news@brandonsample.com

Congress directed the BOP Director to ensure that RRC placements are “(A) conducted in a manner consistent with section 3621(b) of this title [18 U.S.C.]; (B) determined on an individual basis; and (C) of sufficient duration to provide the greatest likelihood of successful reintegration into the community.”  18 U.S.C., section 3624(c)(6).

How does reducing the term of RRC placement fulfill congressional intent?  It doesn’t.

Halfway House or Residential Reentry Centers, are what Congress gave the Bureau of Prisons to use for providing its prisoners with a “reasonable opportunity to adjust to and prepare for reentry … into the community.”  The purpose of the Second Chance Act is to reduce recidivism.

January 5, 2018:  I completed Step One in the administrative remedy process by completing what is known in the federal Bureau of Prisons as a BP-8, Informal Resolution Form.  For illustrative purposes, I use my situation to show that Dir. Inch may be putting society in harms way with his new halfway house policy that will increase the risk of recidivism, contrary to Congressional directives for him to do the opposite.

Perhaps Dir. Inch mislead Congress on 12/13/2017, during a two and a half hour hearing, when he claimed to be keeping the Bureau of Prisons’ commitment to provide inmates with reentry needs.  I thought American Generals fought to protect its citizens.

His new policy led to the 119-days that does not only affect my life: his policy will ultimately affect the lives of others who leave the federal prison system, all of the victims of recidivist, and all of the lives of loved ones incarcerated in the “BOP” agency.

TO BE CONTINUED

______________________________________

Wayne T. Dowdy writes at StraightFromthePen.com

residential reentry centers, RRC, halfway house; Brandon Sample, Esq.; Congress, Second Chance Act, reentry, federal prison system, Bureau of Prisons, B.O.P., Director, Mark Inch; U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions; U.S. Department of Justice

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