Category Archives: Prison politics

ONE MORE FROM THE ROAD

one more from the roadMy favorite version of Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd, is on ONE MORE FROM THE ROAD, recorded at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA, one block from my birthplace.  This Freebird en route to Atlanta got one more lockdown in for the road.  More will be revealed.

 

The 35-year sentence that I began on August 18, 1988, has finally reached its end.  Well, at least, close to its end.  When I leave August 28th, as it now stands, I have 192-days in the halfway house and 5-years on supervised release, following satisfaction of the 420-month term of imprisonment imposed by the court.

 

This blog contains mixed topics; some written from a positive perspective, others from a not-so-positive perspective.  I’ll tell some of what my last month has been like living in an institution ran by the most absurd federal prison administration I’ve ever lived under for the last thirty-years.

 

DEPARTING:  I’m leaving behind many friends, a lot of good men, and a lot more defeated by an over-abundance of suboxene and bug poison (K-2/Spice) that flooded this compound within 6-months of this warden taking command.  Based upon statements made by inmates at the last institution she ran, the same thing happened there:  she reduced alcohol consumption that resulted in an increase in demand and availability of K-2 and suboxene.

 

Concerning wardens that Washington officials began referring to as Chief Executive Officers (CEO), because of, in my opinion, the federal prison system becoming a business-venture, more so than a place to help its men and women become law-abiding citizens.

 

The Congressional budgeting system allows wardens and executive staff to take home hefty bonuses by cutting operating cost, often at the expense of the safety and health of staff and inmates alike.

 

Throughout the years, I’ve met many good men and women who worked for the BOP, a few of whom helped save the lives of myself and others by offering their time to provide needed services to help prisoners learn life-skills; especially, for those in programs designed to help addicts and alcoholics learn to live life without the use of drugs and alcohol.

 

JOURNALING INTO A NEW LIFE:  This time 23-years ago, I was writing in journals about my newfound way of life (living without using drugs and alcohol, and working on becoming a better man who lived by different spiritual principles).  Here’s two excerpts I hope will inspire others:

 

August 23, 1995:  “This new lifestyle is a lot more simple and easier to live by in this environment, because I don’t have to worry about getting a U.A. [urine-analysis], going to the hole for being stupid, or having to try so hard to get by.  I used to have to hustle to support my dope habit, but not anymore.  I never had food in my locker, but kept the lockers of dope men well-stocked.  Now I have food to eat, good shoes to wear, and can afford to send money to my family as gifts or to buy other things I want or need.  I have time for Wayne and I care about Wayne.  Wayne deserves to be cared for, because he’s a worthy human being, and really is not a bad guy, so I’m no longer trying to destroy him.  I’m trying to ‘set him free.’  He deserves that!”

 

September 13, 1995:  “I have began my pursuit of freedom, which could end up being a fruitless search from me on the legal angle, but if God wants to see me free, I will be free.  If not legally, in spirit, which is most important.  I would like to be legally free, because I know I can make it out there now, and know I have a lot of valuable experience, wisdom, and knowledge to offer certain segments of society.  For that reason, I deserve another chance.”

 

LEGALLY SPEAKING:  The legal pursuit of my freedom proved fruitless and a waste of time, energy, and thousands of dollars, but it did keep me occupied and I learned a lot.  If you consider the success I had getting my halfway house date changed and the knowledge gained, it was beneficial.  I also helped free others.

 

During the legal Pursuit of Freedom process, I damn sure learned that what the law says doesn’t matter:  If the courts want to follow the law, they do.  If not, they use their power and ignore the law.  After I build straightfromthepen.net, I will post court documents from my case and others to prove what I just wrote.

 

ALONG SPIRITUAL LINES:  I know everything worked out the way it was supposed to, and that if the courts had followed the laws passed by Congress, and the court decisions I relied upon during my direct appeal process, I would not be alive today.  I had a bad drug problem and ill intent for several years after my conviction.  Today I don’t have either and will live the rest of my days in peace, clean & sober, and, for the most part, healthier than when I arrived in 1988.

 

LIFE NOT ACCORDING TO WAYNE:  Most of these last few days of my life in prison have not went according to my plan.  I planned to attend the last few A.A. and N.A. meetings; to quit my job on August 17th, and then spend some time outside on the recreation yard to exercise and tone up my body, and to work on my suntan in preparation for all the fat-butt-girls waiting to chase me.  😉

 

The warden closed the recreation yard over three weeks ago and spoiled my Suntan Plan.

 

RECENT EVENT:  The warden’s closure of the recreation yard indirectly resulted in a clash between two ethnic groups in the Chow Hall on Sunday, August 12, 2018.  When tension builds amongst an inmate population, and one ethnic group gets punished and suffers because of an action by another group, a tender box is born; complements of the warden, captain, or other prison official, who implemented unnecessary punitive actions in response to an issue, such as is the case at hand.

 

(Read “Politics & Prison” (11/07/16) where I wrote in response to this warden’s use of group-punishment techniques, and show how it creates conflicts in a prison population and is thus not a rational correctional-management tool for all situations:

 

“MORE ON BLANKET PARTIES:  If certain prisoners are given a blanket party or ‘sanctioned’ by their peers for failure to comply with rules or regulations, it may lead to extreme violence; therefore, the ideological control mechanism for military men and women does not work on prisoners, or otherwise has adverse effects; that is, unless the prison administrators really want prisoners to clash.  Many administrators have ulterior motives.”)

 

THE CHOW HALL FIASCO lead to 5-prisoners suffering injuries severe enough to justify a trip to the local hospital for treatment.  I was inside the chow hall during the fiasco.

 

NO OUTSIDE RECREATION:  The reason for closing the recreation yard was because staff found homemade wine buried beside an area known as the “Boom Boom Room.”  Prison staff have known about the problem for years, including the whole period of this warden’s stay (about 2-years).

 

Staff have probably dug as much as 50-75 gallons of wine out of the same spot, and yet, instead of being intelligent enough to use available technology (posting surveillance cameras in the area as most competent prison administrators do in problem areas), the warden/prison administration, chose to close the recreation yard to tear down the Boom Boom Room.

 

The recreation yard is a place where men go to exercise or relax, to relieve anger, stress, and tension associated with prison life or just to stay healthy.

 

TINDER BOX:  The closure of the recreation yard created a Tinder Box because a few members of one ethnic group is responsible for its closure, as is the warden.  That put targets on the backs of everyone of that nationality.

 

THE CATALYST:  A inmate who worked the a.m. Food Service shift, stole fruit and hid it in a Dish/Tray Room, where prisoners use a dishwasher to wash food trays, utensils, etc.  When he returned during the next shift and learned his stolen-stash was stolen, he attacked a member of the other ethnic group, known to bury wine.

 

Several members of the latter group attacked and beat down the aggressor and that lead to retaliation by members of the aggressor’s ethnic group.

 

FIASCO RESPONSE:  The staff who responded got medical attention for the aggressor who received minor injuries, and then escorted him and four of his attackers down the walkway toward the medical department and segregated housing unit.

 

I sat at a table near where the ethnic group of the four attackers often sat.  After the incident in the Tray Room, I went to the opposite side of the chow hall and saw those escorted out the rear door of the Tray Room.  I returned to the other side and let my peers know of the events racial nature.  Then myself and most other non-participants moved out of the area to get out of the way of what was sure to follow.

 

Upon leaving with the offenders, staff locked the chow hall doors with approximately 150-200 inmates left alone inside with one food service staff member.  After 5-to-8 minutes of the racial situation brewing, the aggressor’s ethnic group attacked anyone who looked like they may have been of the other ethnic group, thus creating a racial riot inside the chow hall.

 

For approximately 3-4 minutes, food trays soared across the chow hall, injuring those hit; weapons of various types were used to batter opponents; fists and feet used where possible.

 

The food service staff member ran and locked himself in an office inside the chow hall.  I suspect he radioed for assistance, but I never saw him come out of his hiding spot into the Battle Zone, evidence of being a true coward.

 

According to what an associate who stayed in the Battle Zone, one staff member came in through the rear door of the Tray Room, ran in and began spraying all aggressors with Pepper Spray.

 

Two staff members made the wrong turn and came to the non-participant side.  One pointed a camera at us and said, “Get on the ground.”  And then later, “Turn and face the wall.”

 

I knelt down on one knee but did not turn to face the wall.  An injured Hispanic participant had came from the Battle Zone with blood running down his head from different angles and dripped blood on the floor in front of me.  The violence was still in progress twenty-five feet away: I knew not to expose myself to flying trays by turning around when the two dummies did not even notice that those of us standing against the wall were docile.

 

The other staff member who made the wrong turn, used profanity directed toward one man and threatened to spray him with pepper spray.  During this time, you could hear inmates attempting to rip pipes from their fixtures to use as weapons in the Battle Zone, while those two knuckleheads wasted time messing with us.

 

Finally, one of the guys standing against the wall shouted out, “We aren’t the one’s fighting.”

 

The camera man turned and then moved to where the action was going.  The dummy with the pepper spray turned and followed him.  Another staff member came in and said, “Y’all just get down on one knee.  I’m trying to look for injuries.”

 

He pointed to the injured Hispanic and said, “You, get over there.”  Then he said, “Is anyone else injured?”

 

Maybe ten minutes later, the crowd dispersed toward a door and began to exit on the opposite end of the chow hall.  I followed.  We returned to the living units and was locked in our cells for about a week.

 

GOD’S WILL VERSUS MINE:  I also planned to mail out some of my property on Thursday at R&D Open House.  We can only mail outgoing packages, after approval by unit staff, and then during Open House on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

 

A sign on the door showed “No Open House Today,” but if you were to ask the Warden or one of her officials, you’d be told that Open House is opened during all schedules periods; a lie I have been told before.

 

Well, that’s where God’s will versus mine comes to play.  I believe that whenever I’m faced with such obstacles that there’s a reason for it and that it’ll work to my good.  In the past it always has and this time is no different.  The delay gave me more time to sort through my ton of property to lighten my load as I set out to travel the Road to Happy Destiny.  🙂

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More to come from this author at https://straightfromthepen.com  Email:  info@straightfromthepen.com

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POLITICS & PRISONS

election-dayby Wayne T. Dowdy

The United States Presidential election will be over by the time this blog gets posted. Half of the cellblocks at this institution cannot watch television coverage of the elections because some prisoners had the nerve to violate the rules by having contraband in their cells. Imagine that, prisoners who break the rules!

PRISONS: most prison administrators use an “old” military technique of punishing groups of men (and women now), because of the actions of one or a few.

I was never in the military: my criminal record kept me out. I wanted to join the Air Force to become a jet fighter pilot, instead, I become a fighter in prison.

I learned to fly high without leaving the ground and that landed me in prison. In prison, I fight for rights (read my blog, “Fighting for Rights to Write,” originally published by PrisonEducation.com).

NO BLANKET PARTY: Based on what an ex-military, staff member told me, the ideology behind mass-disciplinary techniques was derived from military tactics: if a soldier failed to make up his bed or left his area un-kept during inspection, the whole barrack was punished. As an unofficial sanction, the offender’s fellow soldiers gave him a blanket party by throwing a blanket over his head and beating the stuffing out of him to teach him a lesson.

In prison, violence is prohibited, so prisoners cannot give blanket parties or punish those who cause everyone else to be punished for their actions, which defeats any common-sense-application of mass-disciplinary techniques. Most prisoners that I have known would not give a peer a blanket party or sanction them for violating a rule, even if allowed: Some will report offenders who violate rules and would help the guards arrest and shackle them if allowed.

Federal Institutions now have a Crime Stopper Hotline, which I find amusing. Time has changed things. Maybe for better, maybe not. If the changes reduce recidivism and help to improve the lives of others, then it is all good.

MORE ON BLANKET PARTIES: If certain prisoners were given a blanket party or “sanctioned” by their peers for failure to comply with rules or regulations, it may lead to extreme violence; therefore, the ideological control mechanism for military men and women does not work on prisoners, or otherwise has adverse effects; that is, unless the prison administrators really want prisoners to clash. Many administrators do have ulterior motives.

DOMINANCE & SUBMISSION: Perhaps what drives mass-disciplinary techniques is a stroke of the executioners’ ego, more so than to produce the desired or intended effect. Then again, maybe such techniques are utilized just as a display of power to show who is in control of the masses? The politics of prison are all about dominance and submission.

Break out the whips and chains and sweat boxes to teach the scoundrels a lesson! Maybe the cat-o-nine tails to go along with the whips to really get the point across, their backs that is.

People do not go to prison for being nice men and women. Most who do go to prison come out worse than when they arrive, damaged and scarred by the prison experience.

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: My view on politics is that the Democrats represent the lawyers trying to sue the big businesses represented by the Republicans. Politicians deceive voters when they run on a platform and promise to vote a certain way on an issue, but then vote otherwise when elected because of their party line agenda.

Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump: I would vote for Mrs. Clinton for the simple reason that she has Bill Clinton’s experience behind her.

I cannot believe that Americans want to vote for Donald Trump to run the most powerful and wealthiest country in the world, after he deceived the investors in his business adventures by convincing them to trust him, only to file bankruptcy, not once, four times! Trump is a recidivist.

I wanted Bernie Sanders to win but he wanted to uproot the good-ole-boy regimes and didn’t have a chance. So much for American politics, straight from the pen. Later. waynedowdy@straightfromthepen.com.

REENTERING REALITY

by Wayne T. Dowdy

Time Warp - Time Dilation. Quantum mechanics meets general relat
Time Warp – Time Dilation. Quantum mechanics meets general relativity.

The clock ticks away the seconds, minutes, hours, and months until my release. The realities I must face flood the senses as my day comes closer. The last three decades of my life will have been spent inside federal prisons. For most of this sentence, getting out seemed so far into the future that I never concerned myself with release preparations, other than general ideas about where I would live when that day arrives, and how to legally provide for myself; e.g., writing my way to riches, freelance technical writing, writing “how to” books; working as an internal auditor, or helping to prepare a company for ISO certification of their quality management system, maybe starting a company. Some of my peers want me to set up a paralegal service to help those still incarcerated. Whatever I do, I will succeed as a free citizen.

FREEDOM: In recent months, I have known a few to receive commutation of sentences: Alphonso Davis, Alonzo Mackins, and the most recent two J. F. Banks, and M. L. Sherrod, all of whom were doomed to die in federal prison until President Obama bestowed his mercy upon them and gave them another chance at life. All four men had sentences of life without parole for various drug-related crimes. (See LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE below.)

FREEDOM DENIED: I have known many, many, more men whose petitions were denied, including myself. My petition was denied on September 30, 2016. I am not alone. Thousands of applicants of all ethnic backgrounds have been denied.

Personally, I have not known anyone other than African-Americans whose petitions were granted. I know race plays a role in the decision on whether to grant or not grant a petition, since President Obama specifically mentioned sentencing disparities of “minorities.” It makes me happy to see anyone blessed with freedom.

The sad part is that all four of those men I know, who were serving life without parole, are only a micro-percentage of all the others I know who are in the same position and deserve another chance at life.

I do believe that what President Obama is doing is a good thing. I do not believe the color of a person’s skin should have been a decisive factor in sentencing or relief. I know the President began Clemency Project 2014 to release people of color who met specific requirements; a few others were also released. All of the people I know whom he granted relief deserved it and should not have been serving the rest of their lives in prison for their crimes.

RECIDIVISM: Statistically, many released prisoners will re-offend, whether white, black, yellow, or brown. Only a few will commit horrendous crimes and regardless of what percentage returns, the politicians should not use that to justify not passing laws to give others another chance at freedom. (Read my July 25, 2016, blog post, “Changing Public Image of Prisoners,” (UNRECOGNIZED SUCCESS STORIES), and “Reentry Programs Will Reduce Recidivism” for more on the issue.)

TOUGH-ON-CRIME BRIBES: Many donations will be given to politicians who vote against prison reform bills. On July 27, 2016, Presidential candidate Donald Trump received a $45,000 contribution from GEO Group, Inc., a private prison group with a vested interest in high incarceration rates. www. rollcall.com, “Private Immigrant Detention Firm Gave $45K to Trump Fundraising Group” by Dean DeChiaro.

My day will come and I will walk out the door a better man than when I walked in three decades before. Most of the years I have spent in prison were due in part to tough-on-crime bills driven by funding from private prison representatives.

In the “Truth About Incarceration, Part II” (https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com), I wrote on the influence on laws by contributions from private prison officials.

lifewithoutparoleLIFE WITHOUT PAROLE: Life without parole for drug crimes was once considered to be cruel and unusual punishment in some states until the United States Supreme Court decided it was cruel but not unusual, and then upheld a Michigan criminal statute that allowed men and women sentenced to life without parole for possessing “650 grams or more of any mixture containing certain controlled substance, including cocaine.” He a first-time offender. Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957 (1991).

“Times change. The law has changed. Our culture is changing its views about how long we should put people behind bars.” The Honorable J. Merritt, Circuit Judge, dissenting in United States v. Taylor, 815 F.3d 248 (6th Cir. 2016).

Americans are reevaluating punishment for what they think crimes should carry.

The time has come for Americans to take a stand about the mass incarceration that drains the economy and ruins the family structure of those affected by unjust incarceration.

BLOGS: I wrote blogs in tribute to Alphonso and Alonzo, both of whom were friends (“Freedom for a Friend” and “Freedom for Another Friend”). In those blogs, I praised President Obama for doing what he did. I wrote other blogs that relates to others reentering society and my views on programs to reduce recidivism (reverting to old behaviors, drug addiction or crime that leads men and women back to prison).

On a different note, President Obama was an attorney before he became a senator and then the President. As an attorney, he would have seen first-hand how Americans were cast into prison for life without parole, for crimes that did not warrant such severe punishment.

TRANSITIONS: Most everyone faces difficulties when reentering society; especially, with a criminal conviction to overcome when applying for jobs. Just trying to fit-it can be challenging upon return to a different society than when the ex-offender was last free. In “No Sympathy”* I wrote about such changes.

I forewarned Mr. Mackins about the changes to expect during his transition. He was a first-time offender who had spent eighteen years of his life in an unnatural environment: prison. Reentering society after decades in prison often makes a person feel like an alien.

My time is coming soon. Am I ready? Yes!

In 1988, I did not worry about what my life would be like in 2019, sixty-two years old; leaving prison, without a home, or a car, or a job, and without money to sustain my life in a foreign world: the free society. The world I left as a young man for sitting in a second-getaway vehicle during an armed bank robbery, down the road from the bank, unarmed, alone until confederates came to meet me for the great escape.

With it now being the end of 2016, and with knowing my case manager said he will put me in for more time in a halfway house than most people receive (due to amount of time served), I may go to that distant world as early as April 24, 2018. The reality of my upcoming release sets in.

My tentative release date is April 24, 2019. That is the date I am scheduled to begin serving my five years of supervised release. I will have served thirty-years and nine months inside.

For fourteen years I was rated as High security and Maximum custody. The custody rating determines the level of security and controls needed to house an inmate.

CHANGES: In the beginning, I realized a very real chance existed that I might die in prison; especially, since I was told I would stay maximum custody, because I had assaulted staff and escaped while serving time in the State of Georgia. I never accepted I could not get my custody/security lowered, even though the classification system did have me in a trap: I could never score enough points for a custody decrease, regardless of how well I behaved.

I did not give up, even with it looking as if I would never get my security lowered because of my past. My High Max classification was based more on my behavior as a twenty-four-year-young, knuckle head, than my behavior in the federal system.

Early on when I asked about having the maximum custody removed, the unit manager at U.S.P. Leavenworth said, “You will be maximum custody when you get out in 2020.” (My release date was in 2020.)

Years later, after not having been a disciplinary or management problem, I asked my case manager about removing the maximum custody that kept me in the penitentiaries. She said, “Two things the B.O.P. does not tolerate is escape and assault on staff and you have done both. I don’t see any warden signing off on you but we will talk about it at your next team.”

At the next team meeting I asked again. She put her hand on my extensive file, tapped it with a finger, and then said, “The person I see in here is not the same person I see sitting in front of me. You’ve changed haven’t you?”

“Yeah, I changed a little,” I said and laughed.

I have changed a lot over the years and am an honorable man and a good person. Many times I wondered if I would see the outside again, especially when I sat in some of the most dangerous federal prisons in the United States, with trouble brewing that I knew could lead to a full-scale riot and result in the deaths of many men.

I maintained my sanity by not thinking about a day I knew I may never see: the day I would walk out the prison doors as a free man.

REALITIES OF RELEASE: I recently thought about some of the challenges I will face upon release: needing a car for transportation to and from work, and needing the money to buy the car and insurance for the car that I cannot buy without a job. In the city of Atlanta, which is where I will be sent for the halfway house portion of my sentence, I will be able to use the MARTA transit system to get around while in the halfway house. In the suburbs of Atlanta where I plan to live, I am not sure if public transportation exists.

When I was last a free citizen, the price of gasoline at some Georgia gas stations was $0.78 to $0.82 cent per gallon. At high dollar stations like Shell and Exxon, it only cost around $1.15 to $1.38 per gallon. By the time I am released, I am sure the prices will be around $3.00 to $4.25 per gallon.

WANTS VERSUS NEEDS: I realized through my personal experience that the lack of money management skills put people in prison, as does drug and alcohol abuse. During the last twenty-one, “sober years” of this sentence, I learned to manage my money by living within my means, not borrowing to buy, and making decisions to purchase based on needs versus wants.

If the prison commissary stocks a new item (e.g., a different style of tennis shoes I like, a watch, radio, or MP-3 player), I have often wanted to purchase the item but have not because it was a “want,” not a need. I love music and can afford to purchase an MP-3 player. I really do “want” one, but if I buy one, then I’d be buying songs for $1.55 each. I resisted the impulse and applied my limited funds toward paying for time on Corrlinks to write these blogs and for sending emails to friends and loved ones, or printing documents at fifteen cents per page.

I keep time on the first Indiglo model Timex that I bought in March of 1995. I don’t need a different watch, I want one. My relic works fine. I must maintain that level of thinking upon release.

My primary objective will be to find an apartment or home to rent or buy when my finances permit it. When I do, then I have to buy insurance on the house (and personal insurance), and then furniture for the house or apartment.

Relationships will be another adventure. God will give me who I need to make me whole.

Materially, I do not need anything elaborate, nor do I need all the fancy gadgets, such as the latest Apple iPhone. I’ll need to buy clothes to dress for success, a decent cellphone, preferably a Smartphone (who wants a dumb phone?), a computer for my writing career, and maybe a spacecraft to begin my journey into a whole new world. 🙂

In my blog, “The Internet,” I wrote about a conversation I had with my first unit team members. Read it and you will understand what I mean about a spacecraft.

Whether I have a spaceship or not, I will be okay and will be successful as a free citizen.

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The publisher will advertise UNKNOWN INNOCENCE in their newsletter that goes to prisoners. To absorb the cost of shipping and handling, I asked that the price be lowered from $14.95 to $10.95. Purchase it now while the price is low.

* “No Sympathy” is in ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN by Wayne T. Dowdy. It is a good read for those who want to know the truth about life inside American prisons and the associated politics of survival inside the insane world of incarceration. The book is a deal at $8.95.

Freedom for Another Friend

by Wayne T. Dowdy

obama clemencyOn January 5, 2016, I wrote about Alphonso D. in “Freedom for a Friend,” whom President Obama had freed from an unjust sentence of life-without-parole.  The President granted Alphonso’s petition for commutation of sentence and gave him another chance at life in the free society.

ANOTHER FRIEND FREED:  I am grateful to write that President Obama granted 214-more commutation of sentences on August 3, 2016.  One of the men was another friend of mine:  Alonzo M., a tall, light-skinned, well-mannered, African-American male.

Before August 3, 2016, Alonzo was eighteen years into serving life without parole for a drug conspiracy case, with a concurrent 240-month sentence for a bogus money laundering charge.  He was fed to the lions by criminals who wanted time off their sentences.

DANGEROUS CRIMINAL:  Alonzo was a late bloomer who indulged in mind-altering substances for his enjoyment, not for business purposes.  He occasionally bought small quantities of marijuana, until at the age of 47, after hospitalization for a serious injury, he began using cocaine and heroin to ease the pain of his injuries.  (See SENTENCING ENHANCEMENT FACTORS below for why he received so much time.)

prisoners leaving jailFREEING JAIL BIRDS:  Alonzo ran a family-owned bonding service, passed on to him by his father.  He employed two brothers.  Mackins Bonding Service helped get men and women out of jail who paid the required fee, or otherwise put up something of value to cover the cost of the bond.  Many of his customers were drug dealers.  He came when called to bond them out of jail.  If he knew them and they had been good about paying debts, he’d work with them on the financial aspect to get them out.

UNDER PRESSURE:  Prosecutors and law enforcement officers use jail cells and the poor living conditions to pressure defendants into pleading guilty, and into cooperating with investigations by helping to put other people in jail.  That is especially true in cases based on the most abused law in history:  CONSPIRACY.  That is so even when the government witnesses are known liars who fabricate evidence to get a plea deal.

WARNING:  One agent from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) cautioned Alonzo, “You are interfering with our investigations by getting them out of jail before we can interrogate them properly.”

“I am a bondsman.  I get people out of jail who pay me.  That’s what I do for a living.”

Another DEA agent came to him in 1997 and attempted to get him to cooperate by providing information against some of his clients.  The DEA agent said, “I know you have a drug problem and that you buy drugs from some of them, but we don’t want you.  You aren’t the problem, but if you don’t become part of the solution, we will see you as part of the problem.”

Alonzo didn’t cooperate and become targeted as the problem.  When he continued to do his job, federal prosecutors put the word out in prisons and jails that they wanted the Mackins and offered reduced sentences to those who provided information.

JAIL BIRDS LIE:  For sentence reductions, the conspirators mostly made false claims against Alonzo and his brother, Willie.  The lies told were payment for the Mackins’ getting people out of jail who law enforcement officials did not want out.

Read “Freedom for a Friend,” subtitle “INFORMATION FOR SALE” (USA TODAY reporter reveals scam in federal prison where inmates sell fabricated information to put other people in prison so the purchaser gets time off sentence); and for more information on conspiracy laws and unreliable information used by prosecutors to put people in prison, sometimes for life without parole in letters, or life without parole in numbers (75-years or more, without parole) straightfromthepen.wordpress.com and waynedowdy.weebly.com.

MONEY:  Alonzo broke both legs in an auto accident and was out of the bonding business for eight months.  During that time, Ron S., a pretrial detainee, whose girlfriend was the daughter of a long-time customer, gave her father $100,000 to deliver to Willie to hold for his bond, until his attorney took care of other pending charges.

BAD DECISION:  Ron S. was in jail for selling drugs.  His bond was one million dollars.  He had a detainer in another jurisdiction that he needed removed to make bond.  (A detainer is a hold placed on a prisoner by law enforcement authorities that prohibits release of the prisoner without notifying the agency who placed the detainer.)

Ron S. agreed to pay  $12,000 to the attorney to have the detainers removed so he could make bond, and asked Willie to pay the attorney for him out of the $100,000.  He did.  Months later, Ron S. asked Willie to give money to the daughter of the man who delivered the $100,000.  He did that, too.

NO BOND:  Willie attempted to make the bond for Ron S. but the jailers would not release him because of the detainer.  That’s when Ron S. instructed Willie to give some money to the girl.

When Alonzo returned to work and received a phone call from Ron S. wanting a refund of his money, Alonzo did not know what he was talking about.  He checked the log and did not find any entry for Ron S., so he asked, “Which bondsman took your money?”

“Willie Mackins,” he said.

“Give me time to investigate,” Alonzo said.  “Call me back later.”

After a meeting with his fellow bondsmen and of learning that Ron S. could not make bond, he told his brother to return the money.  He explained it was short because of him having given the money to the attorney and the girl.  Alonzo knew something wasn’t right.  When Ron S. returned the call, he attempted to set-up Alonzo, who said his money would be refunded, but he first had to sell some rental properties to get the remainder of the balance.

“You can give me the rest in something else,” he said, suggesting drugs.

To paraphrase, Alonzo told him, I don’t know where you got that idea.  I don’t do business like that and neither does anyone else here.  I resent your implications, and I wouldn’t be talking with you right now if my company wasn’t involved.  You will get your money, he said, and hung up the phone.

Ron S. lied in court and claimed the financial transaction involved drugs.  The above conversation never played out in court.  Ron S. received a sentence reduction for telling his lies, as did most others who testified.

GOOD DEEDS MADE BAD:  The fabricated money laundering charge began in the late eighties.  He is uncertain of exactly when, but suspects the theory began when he innocently loaned $11,000 to a woman against her nephew’s Mercedes-Benz, for $2,000 interest on a six-month loan.

Lola claimed they needed the money to put a relative in a nursing home.  No one ever mentioned drugs during any conversation he had with her.

She came to him later with various sad stories and persuaded him into helping her rent vehicles because she needed them to move or transport her relatives or children, and because she didn’t have a credit card to use to rent a vehicle.  Since she had repaid the $13,000 in a little over six-months, and she had brought him and his father a lot of bonding business over the years, he helped her.  Each time he rented her a vehicle, she gave him $50.00.

One of the times that she came asking him to help her get a vehicle, she had tears in her eyes and said a relative had died and she needed help.  He always gave her a helping hand but never knew of any drug transaction or inappropriate use of the vehicles.

In Court, the government claimed he rented Lola the vehicles to transport drugs for her nephew.  She had died by the time he was hauled into court, so she could not tell the truth about their relationship.  He was never involved with her nephew or other family members, other than bonding them out of jail, if Lola stood good for them.

His good deeds got him life without parole when people lied on him in court to get time off their sentences.

SENTENCING ENHANCEMENT FACTORS:  Alonzo went to trial and was found guilty based upon the conspiracy theories.  At sentencing, the prosecutor pushed the judge to give him a life sentence because of 1) their claim that he was a leader and organizer; 2) the alleged drug conspiracy quantities, never proved to a jury, but found by the judge, and 3), his prior conviction for possession of .02 grams of cocaine that a female passenger had dropped between his car seats.

In reference to the incident behind his notorious prior conviction, he said, “I saw her drop it.  I looked everywhere for it and even vacuumed the car.  I still didn’t find it, but when that cop searched the car, he found it.”

I looked at him and smiled before I said, “You are such a dangerous criminal, I don’t know how I have lived around you for so long.”

The judge enhanced his current sentence because he possessed a gun that was found during his arrest for the match head of powder cocaine.  He legally owned and possessed the firearm.  Bondsmen carry guns.

WORKING MAN:  Alonzo works in the cubicle beside me in the business office of the Federal Prison Industries, Inc.  Since news of his commutation circulated the prison network news (Inmate.com), several people came by to congratulate him.  Most everyone said the same thing:  “No one deserved it more than you,” or “It couldn’t have happened to a better man.”

I agree.  He is one of the most humble, respectful, polite and kind people that I know.  When I grow up, I want to be like him.

Three years ago, Alphonso and Alonzo worked within ten feet of each other as Quality Assurance Inspectors on a production line, inspecting small components before installation on military trousers.  I got to know both men by issuing and reviewing their inspection instructions, inspection stamps, and other documents as part of my position as the document control clerk and as an internal auditor.  Both men took pride in their work and were known by staff and inmates as the most reliable Q.A. Inspectors.

GRATITUDE:  Alphonso D. and Alonzo M. deserved the President’s compassion and have expressed their gratitude for him giving them another chance at life.  I am confident that neither one will betray his trust.

I am grateful to President Obama for blessing them with freedom.  Neither man should have been serving a life sentence in federal prison, where they were doomed to die before the President commuted their sentences.  I hope other Presidents will have as much courage as President Obama displayed by standing up for what is right, in light of the controversy his actions have caused with his critics.

JUSTICE ?:  Thousands of others remain in federal and state prisons serving life sentences, many of whom were convicted for Ghost Dope Conspiracies and other similar crimes, where no actual drugs or evidence existed, other than that provided by testifying codefendants or informants, who provided testimony to avoid prison or to shorten their stay.

May justice one day be served by Congress clarifying the law or passing others to prohibit prosecutors from using tainted testimony, paid for by giving witnesses “something of value for their testimony in court,” in violation of Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 201(c)(2), the Anti-bribery statute.

As a three-judge panel in the UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT concluded in Singleton v. United States (1998), a person’s freedom is something of value.  An en banc decision (reviewed by all judges on the Tenth Circuit) overturned the original decision, after political pressure consumed the news about the three-judge panel’s decision.  The en banc panel essentially concluded that governments have been giving deals for centuries, so it must be okay.  If asked, I’d said, the Romans fed Christians to the lions and thought that it was okay, too.  Civilization proved otherwise.

Paying a man or woman with freedom, who may be condemned if they do not perform as the prosecutor demands, taints the judicial process and has made a mockery out of the American criminal justice system by allowing dangerous criminals to go free or to be released early from prison for providing unreliable information used to put people in prison.

Paying people for testimony leads to unreliable convictions, as happened in the cases of Alphonso and Alonzo, and thousands of other American citizens.  Most criminal defendants will not hesitate to tell a lie to the tune of a prosecutor, to avoid being fed to
the lions.

Roman Coliseum with lions

_______________________________

Wayne T. Dowdy writes Straight from the Pen.  Purchase his most recent novel today, UNKNOWN INNOCENCE ($14.95) from Midnight Express Books or your favorite bookstore.

WORD USE & PRISON LIFE

by Wayne T. Dowdy

prison mail“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.” Teaching Cons New Tricks–Creative Writing & Q.A. Apprenticeship Program. (April 15, 2015) straightfromthepen.wordpress.com.

In my March 8, 2016, blog post (“Manuscripts Worth Stealing”), I wrote about two of my manuscripts that I suspect a corrupt federal employee stole or destroyed. Readers who know me commented on my unusual display of anger in what I wrote. One friend in particular, Jeff B., commented about my statements concerning what I felt the culprit deserved if caught; how I started off in an aggressive tone and went on and on, and that it made him feel like I wanted to do to the culprit what I said he or she deserved, going by what he read.

I clarified that I did not say I would do those things. I let him reread my statement in the third paragraph:

“I do feel sorry for the idiot who gets caught for doing it. Risking five-years in prison for stealing a manuscript in the mail takes a real devious person, or someone who is just downright ignorant or stupid. However, if the person does get caught and goes to prison, I would not weep if he or she experiences extreme levels of physical and sexual abuse by prisoner predators. Tampering with someone’s mail is a killing offense for some of those confined inside American prisons. For a person convicted of committing such a crime, to be raped and brutalized would be letting them off easy. I do not approve or endorse predatory behaviors, but in this case, Karma seems to demand an exception.”

PRISON LIFE: The above quote was only a comment. I know that many in society think of prison life completely different than its reality. When discussing what to blog about to get more followers, a staff member shared how her friends thought it necessary for her to have armed guards sitting in a classroom to protect her as she taught prisoners. She laughed in telling me that, because such thoughts are so common, and yet indicate something so far away from the truth about prison life that it is comical for those who live or work inside and know the truth.

Given that line of thinking, a common misconception about prisoners and prison life is the caliber of people inside. (Read “The Truth About Incarceration, Part I” for a realistic view of what prison life is really like for MOST prisoners.) Everyone in prison is not violent and we do not typically run around raping and robbing each other, or battling over food in the chow hall. In the more violent prisons, some prisoners may rob, rape, or take food or commissary items from weaker prisoners, but those things do not happen on a regular basis.

NOT ME: Back to the missing manuscript and my word choice. I do like to entertain my readers, but this blog is not the place to read about wild adventures. My censors would disconnect me from the outside world if I got carried away with content. Maybe later, once I am released, I will post more on the wilder side of prison life, but just for the record, I am not into raping and brutalizing men, women or animals. Sorry, that’s just not me.

NON-VIOLENT: I avoid committing violent acts and would only do so to protect myself from physical harm. I used to view myself as a violent person living a non-violent lifestyle, until I shared my feeling in a twelve-step meeting. One of my sponsees said, “I don’t see you that way. I see you as a gentle, kind, and compassionate person who is capable of being violent.”

His words changed my self-image. He spoke the truth.

Even offenses against my delicate ego do not warrant violent reactions or responses to something as trivial as someone stealing or destroying a manuscript in the mail; however, I do understand and know what some of my peers would do to someone for doing similar things. That is why I wrote what I did, not because it was what I would do if given the opportunity. If I did anything violent in response to their action, the most it would be is a bitch slap to get their attention. Years ago I would have done that and more without hesitation before I decided to change my evil, wicked ways.

WORD POWER: As for what I wrote, okay, I confess, empathy and compassion escaped me. My words did not suggest sympathetic feelings or forgiveness for the villain. I used coarse statements and calloused words for literary and personal reasons. I hoped the perpetrator would read what I wrote and think about the severity of his or her actions.

One of my sisters agreed and commented that my blog may change the life of the person who stole the manuscript by making him more aware of the potential consequences of what he did.

I hope so. That would turn a negative into a positive. I like doing that; especially, if I can do it with words alone.

In “Manuscripts Worth Stealing,” my powerful words painted graphic images to deter the offensive behavior of mail theft; however, I did not indicate, suggest, or imply that I would commit those acts if given the opportunity to execute revenge against the one(s) who took my manuscript(s), providing what I suspect did happen. I am convinced by the facts that it did. I put it in the hands of the United States Postmaster General to determine what happened.

FIGHTING FOR MY PEERS: I did not want to file a complaint with the Postmaster General, but I had to think about the risks to my peers if someone lacking morals is left in charge of their mail. Those who put legal documents in the mail to fight for their freedom deserve protection.*

One of my friends mailed his post-conviction relief motion on Friday, March 18, 2016. Mailroom officials weighed his package and told him the amount of postage needed.

He paid over $9.00 to send it by certified mail. A family member checked on Monday and the post office said it could not be tracked by the tracking number. The receiving stamp provided by local post office was not legible.

On March 24, 2016, he went to the mailroom and discovered that it was returned for $0.84 postage. A staff member who works in the mailroom, had went to the local post office to enquire about his missing mail. The local post office had it laying around. It took six days to learn something that he should have known by Monday (03/21/16). The incident shows the level of incompetence of those who work in the mailing system that we deal with in prison. Sometimes the problem occurs at the institutional level; other times at the United States Postal Service.

RESENTMENT: The manuscript issue is not one for me to waste away my time dwelling on ways to retaliate for wrongs done to me by anyone. I am not a religious person, per se. I do believe in spirituality, which to me, is accepting that every human is flawed and that it is okay; not putting everyone in a box that requires them to think and believe the same. In the book I mention below, as I recall, it essentially said that spirituality is more open-ended, rather than compartmentalized (to be one of us, you must believe, think and act as we do). Spirituality allows us to accept each other in light of our differences.

With that established, when I am angered or struggling with an issue, I let go and turn the matter over to my higher power, whom I choose to call God.

I refuse to harbor resentment. I express my anger, take appropriate action or do not do anything, and then move on with my life. I always had to pay for my dirty deeds and I know everyone else will have to do the same. I am not God’s executioner and cannot control other people. The world’s best selling books says, “We reap what we sow,” and to “judge not lest we be judged by the same token.”

With my history, I need all the leniency I can get, so I try to avoid using a magnifying glass to examine the wrongs of others in hope of one not being used to examine me. I focus on my actions, not theirs, because it is what I do that creates my problems or rewards.

I pray to forgive. I do not have the power to forgive anyone. That is not my department. All I can do is let go and get out of the way to let nature take its course.

Spiritual principles work like math formulas. Add three plus four and you get seven; add four plus three and you still get seven. Subtract three from seven and you get four, or subtract four from seven and you get three. No matter how it is added or subtracted, we get the same result: It works out according to the principles and formulas applied. I receive what I put out.

POWERFUL STORY: In 2004 I read a powerful story in THE SPIRITUALITY OF IMPERFECTION by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketchum about resentment and forgiveness that went something like this:
Two former Nazi prisoners sat around talking.
One asks the other, “Do you ever think about the Nazis?”
“Yes, I think about them every day of my life,” he said.
“Then they still have you in prison.”

Let it go. Stop dwelling on past transgressions. The same book described a resentment as pain wrapped in anger.

For me to heal, I deal with the pain and get to the anger to let it go.

Do not be a prisoner of those who offend you or do you wrong. With forgiveness comes freedom from the past and the pain of resentment.

LOVE NOT WAR: Karma takes care of those who commit acts that deserve retribution. Personally, I prefer love not war. My fantasy is a fat butt girl with a pecan tan and a Mercedes Benz, to love, hug and hold, not someone to take out aggressive feelings on.

A lot of what I wrote in that sentence is just word play to paint a picture with words. I do not set requirements on finding love. Wealth, fame, economic status, ethnicity or a person’s skin tone does not concern me, if love thrives within our hearts. But I do not need a woman who needs abuse to make her feel wanted. I’m not into that either. I want to cuddle and love, not wrestle and fight.

HONEST JUDGE: In my last blog (“Agape Love”), where I wrote about love, I lost two followers after my publisher posted it. I reckon there are those who want to read hate or anger driven blogs instead of those about love. That is not the first time something negative happened after I did something positive.

In 1986, a friend of the family asked me to be a judge in a Beauty Pageant. I agreed. No one mentioned that I was there to rig the votes. One of the sponsors did point out who their relative was in the toddler division. I voted according to my version of truth about who was the best. My vote cost the relative’s toddler to come in second place.

I never got invited to judge again.

So much for moral rewards when displaying good work ethics and honesty. I’d do the same thing again. Fire me for doing the right thing? All right. That is okay with me. So much is life.

CONCLUSION: My hope is that my words written above will affect a positive change in the life of someone who reads them. The power of words is undeniable.
_______________________
* I wrote about a similar issue in “Fighting for Rights to Write,” posted on March 03, 2015, on my blogs at straightfromthepen.wordpress.com and waynedowdy.weebly.com (first published by PrisonEducation.com in February 2014). By the way, I won that battle and others where our right to write was concerned.

Wayne T. Dowdy writes Straight From the Pen. Purchase his writings from your favorite book or eBook retailers, or from straightfromthepen.com or Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616. Look for UNKNOWN INNOCENCE within weeks. The release was delayed due to the stolen draft copy of the manuscript written about in “Manuscripts Worth Stealing.”

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.

The Truth about Incarceration, Part I

Prison can be rough: It can also be a positive experience for those who seek and receive help for the issues that lead to prison, which does not occur often. A cast of personalities comprise the abyss of prison. From some spring enlightenment, displays of moral fortitude, exemplary characteristics; others demoralization, sexual perversion, denigration, solicitude, debauchery, the darker side of humanity. The truth is that many aspects of prison are degrading and humiliating to those who have maintained their dignity and self-respect; however, prison is not always as portrayed in books and movies. A “snap shot” will not reveal the whole picture. Even documentaries on prisons leave a false impression about the whole of prison life or the prison experience. I know. I have lived most of my life behind steel bars, concrete walls, and fences layered and lined with row upon row of razor wire to separate me and my peers from the civilized society. I write this to assure the youth that there is nothing glamorous about incarceration, since I have read and heard how some juveniles and young adults give props to those who have been to jail, prison or “juvvy,” for having survived the experience.

In some segments of society those returning form prison are given a favorable street-status: a reputation of being a “tough” person, a Gangster who may have had to fight daily to make it out alive; someone solid who rode hard, did not “rat” and did his or her time without taking down the neighborhood. Some may have did similar things and been all of that, but for the most part, very few have that experience. But, with the State of Georgia prison system having thirty-two prisoners and one guard murdered since 2010, it proves that prisons can be a dangerous place. Statistically, though, and in actuality, the vast majority of people who go to prison never have a physical altercation. In relation to “riding hard” and not taking out the neighborhood, an over-whelming number of criminal defendants plead guilty to shorten their sentences; only a small percentage of which do not assist the government by implicating others in crimes in order to get the reduced sentence. (See note below for clarification about guilty pleas.)  Some who testify and make deals are worse than Judas in the Bible who betrayed Jesus Christ and got him executed, because they lie to get a deal. Numerous criminal defendants fabricate higher drug quantities and exaggerate other committed criminal acts so that the prosecution recommends a larger sentence reduction for providing “substantial government assistance.” Personally, I do not see that as honorable, or something that is worthy of praise or favorable recognition.

I have seen several televised documentaries over the years about “Jail House Rats” conspiring and fabricating evidence against people for time reductions. The unscrupulous conspirators do so by collecting information through conversations with the quarry/prey and others to “create” drug or criminal conspiracy cases. In conspiracies, the testimony of others is enough to send someone off to prison for decades or the remainder of their life. In drug cases, it is called “Ghost Dope” because no actual drugs exist, only the testimony or conversations between parties that ultimately lead to the conviction. Even with prosecutors knowing defendants lie and fabricate stories to get more time off, the prosecutors still do not hesitate to use the testimony (and may even encourage the fabrication of evidence to help them have more ammunition to get a plea from their target). A small number of prisoners exist who lure potential victims into conversations about past criminal activities to collect information to send to prosecutors in an attempt to get a sentence reduction. Many will lie or exaggerate to make the information seem more important. I personally know of one person who provided information to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police about the murders of an elderly couple whom the murderer bragged about killing while he was in a U.S. prison. The murderer later received two life sentences in Canada; the prison informant complained to a mutual friend that he only received a two-year sentence reduction. He had expected to be released for providing the information that lead to the Canadian’s conviction.

Most prisoners are not so scandalous as to create crimes to get deals. Though many may make deals with the devil to get time off, only a few are so morally deficient that they create crimes to get the deals. To cooperate with the prosecution is one thing, and maybe it is what is needed to protect society–telling lies against another person for a lesser sentence is an entirely different matter.

Cases like the one against former mob boss, John Gotti, seem to violate ethical codes, when the prosecution uses testimony from a serial murderer like “Sammy the Bull,” who confessed to almost twenty murders for a five-year plea deal to testify against John Gotti, who received a life sentence and later died in prison.

NOTE: Not all who plead guilty make a deal to testify on others: some just do it because of the evidence stacked against them and the unlikelihood of winning if going to trial.  Either way, though, the prosecution makes a deal for a shorter sentence to avoid spending the time, money, and resources necessary for taking a defendant to trial. That fact proves something a lot of criminals in prison hate to admit–pleading guilty is helping the state or government. Ninety-six percent of federal defendants plead guilty: state court plea bargain averages are probably the same. Unfortunately, many of those who plead guilty actually take a plea on charges they are not guilty of committing because it was part of the deal with the prosecuting authorities to “clear the books.” Throughout the years I have met a few who pled guilty to multiple crimes as a package deal for a reduced sentence.

PRISON POLITICS:  As reported on a televised documentary, even though John Gotti was a powerful figure on the streets of New York, prison predators zoomed in to make him pay for protection. No one is guaranteed amnesty from prosecution by those enforcing silent prison codes written by unknown authors: Not even a mob boss when left to fend for himself.

Someone sent to prison for murdering someone may actually be a coward and be victimized while in prison. It is easier to stand fifteen feet away and blast someone with a gun than it is to go toe-to-toe in a knife fight or other forms of hand-to-hand combat. It does not take a lot of courage to gun down defenseless or unsuspecting people. It takes a lot of courage to deal with a combatant on equal terms. Please do not misunderstand what I wrote. That is not applicable to everyone in prison for such crimes. Some prisoners are notorious and extremely dangerous; however, most of those find themselves locked in a cage twenty-three hours per day, often after assaulting or killing another prisoner or prison guard. Nevertheless, very few prisoners have to physically defend themselves while serving time in the vast majority of American prisons. The point is, everyone does not have to be skilled in hand-to-hand combat to survive in prison. If such skills were required for survival, only a few would make it out alive. In general, survival in prison depends more upon the personality of the person and the nature of their crimes that lead to prison, more so than it does upon their size or combat skills. A petite person with a strong personality, who the more dominant prisoners respect, may get out of prison unscathed, while a larger, ostracized person with a weak personality, becomes prey to the predators. Truthfully, a larger person is more apt to be physically challenged than someone not so large. Prisons are filled with staff and inmates suffering from a “Napoleon’s Complex” (an inferiority complex rooted in insecurities and the lack of physical stature, which leads to the afflicted going to extremes to prove that he or she is “tough,” and do so at the expense of others).

As shown with Mr. Gotti, powerful people may be preyed upon by the unknowns of society. On the other hand, an unknown may become recognized or powerful inside prison for a variety of reasons: being a “Stand Up” person (not informing on others, standing their ground in physical altercations, fighting for what is right, standing behind their word); being ruthless, yet honorable, reliable; maybe even for changing their lives, helping others, and ironically, by staying out of the mix. To become powerful in prison requires getting involved in the mix (running drug and or gambling operations, participating in prison politics (determining who can stay in general population, who has to go, who gets “hit” (piped or stabbed or both), or by organizing prison disturbances (food or work strikes, violent protest against prison administrations, etc.), behaviors which carry major consequences). But, in my opinion, no matter who they are, what they have done or claim to have done, every prisoner deals with degradation and humiliation. It is the nature of the beast. All prisoners have to get strip-searched (must remove all clothes at the command of a guard who inspects and views private areas to look for hidden items); get told when to go to the chow hall, when to stand for security counts, who can visit or who they can call on the phone and for how long they can speak. Many prisoners are stripped of far more than their clothes (pride, dignity, integrity, self-respect ….).

A prisoner may be recognized in society and prison by writing a book, or by doing something constructive, such as creating or teaching programs to help others, or by learning and teaching life skills to help others become better people. The press never hears about those prisoners because the press goes to prisoners who cause trouble or who get out and commit horrendous crimes, and thus become poster-children for the politicians who push “Tough-on-Crime” bills. Those bills are often written by members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose contributors include officials from the private prison industries that profit from high incarceration rates.

In Part II I will write about the influence of the private prison industry on prisoners and the politicians who vote to push the agenda that assures high incarceration rates in America.

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For a limited time, download ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN for 75% off of the $9.95 list price of my eBook. I write about various topics, including personal experiences in the insane world of incarceration, as well as about parts of my life as a free citizen. The eBook is available at all major eBook distributors; however, the discount is only available through Smashwords.com by using Coupon Code SP43N at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy or athttps://www.smashwords.com/books/view/483307. In November of 2014, the paperback will be available at Amazon.com and other online and offline book sellers, Midnight Express Books, $17.95.