I cannot say for certain that a lawyer would settle for a guilty plea if he or she knows their client is innocent, because I haven’t experienced it, but I do know that people will take a plea to protect loved ones from prosecution. That happens often! At least, many legal cases exist where people try to withdraw from a guilty plea because of such claims.
I have also known a few men who pled guilty for that reason: Most regretted it after living in prison for a while and then wanted out. Legal Beagles (inmate lawyers) sell pipe dreams to convince them to challenge what most often proves to be a hopeless case.
The law is complex and complicated. A person may read a statute or procedural rule that shows the defendant has available relief or at least an avenue for his or her case to be heard. Things are not as it appears.
The law has many standards and procedural rules that are hidden in thousands of cases and places a novice knows not where to look, and thus misleads another person into believing a claim exists that the courts dismiss.
Legal versus Factual Innocence: In my unprofessional opinion, as I am not an attorney, legal and factual innocence are not the same. In federal court, one may be legally innocent but still not be able to satisfy the legal standard needed to succeed if they file a Writ of Habeas Corpus; Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence, or the most difficult, a Second or Successive Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence. All three have narrow pathways to prison gates.
The difference in legal and actual innocence is that a person may be legally innocent if the government did not have enough evidence to prove every element of an offense. But if the person pled guilty during the plea stage, he or she admitted to guilt during what is known as the plea colloquy, which is where a judge asks the defendant a barrage of questions to determine if the plea is entered intelligently and voluntarily, before accepting the plea.
The plea may be entered based upon a lack of knowledge, and or, the lack of proper advisement by the lawyer, but that doesn’t always matter. Thus, comes many claims of ineffective assistance of counsel that fail when brought before the court. Some do succeed but most will fail because of what transpired during the plea colloquy. At least, so I have found to be true from thousands of hours spent researching the law.
Actual innocence means the person did not commit the crime, regardless of technicalities, and that no reasonable trier of fact would have found the defendant guilty.
Then after landing in prison that person who pled guilty regrets taking the plea; sometimes after finding themselves living in a concentrated environment of dangerous or psychotic men or women and wanting out.
When wanting to withdraw the plea and get back into court, he or she finds a jailhouse lawyer (legal beagle) who claims freedom is knocking on the door. A door that most often will not open until after the person has served the sentence imposed by the court, unless sentenced to life without parole as thousands of men and are, because withdrawing from a guilty plea is difficult, even when claiming innocence.
Another opinion I’ve heard about charging officials who charge someone with a crime they did not commit, is that the charging official believes the criminal committed other crimes anyways, so it doesn’t matter how they got them off the streets. That happened to me.
INNOCENT BUT CHARGED: I was charged with possession of marijuana found in my mother’s house when I didn’t live there. My older brother (now deceased) did live there and did own the marijuana but was not charged.
Stanley had gone to school with the lead detective who conducted the drug raid of my Mother’s House!
The detective said to Stanley, “I know that doesn’t belong to Wayne but he’s a psychopath and needs to be taken off the streets.” (No factual basis existed to support his belief that I was a psychopath: I just wasn’t known to cooperate with law enforcement and to be a Rebel.)
NO DEAL: I didn’t plead guilty. The prosecutor offered three plea deals. After the third attempt, I told my lawyer, “Tell him I said to Kiss my Ass. I am not pleading guilty to a crime I didn’t commit.”
The case was dismissed, after I had set in jail for months without compensation. That’s the way things work because defendants are guilty until proven innocent. Otherwise, why are they punished with a jail cell until they go to court?
Even if able to post bail, that’s still punishment, because non-refundable fees come out of the defendant’s pocket, unless allowed to post a property bond that has its own legal complexities and is not always an option. Besides that, posting bail is not always a choice, so the person sits in jail until disposition. I am not bondable because I’ve escaped.
I have known men who claimed to have plead guilty because they got tired of sitting in jail, and because of being told they couldn’t win their case, guilty or not. Many claimed to be innocent of the crime and told their lawyers who still said they’d be convicted and suggested they take the plea.
That’s how many of the legal versus actual innocence claims get brought into legal arena. Sitting in prison often makes one regret volunteering to be put there without a struggle.
I apologize for the inaccuracy reported in Burning Bridges, April 2017. Wayne T. Dowdy. The misinformation was that, “Sherman spared the mansion because of the hospitality shown to him and his soldiers by Mr. Peters.”
Please visit the original post of this blog at https://www.quora.com/profile/Wayne-Dowdy-2?share=1
Response to Quora.com question, “What are some lesser-known sights to see when visiting Atlanta, GA?”
One lesser known historical site is the Edward C. Peters House (Peters’ Mansion), located at 179 Ponce DeLeon Avenue, Atlanta, GA.
The house takes up a whole city block, other than a small corner on Myrtle Street and Ponce DeLeon.
A false tale once told claimed General Sherman showed mercy and spared the mansion from his torch because Mr. Peters showed Sherman and his soldiers some Southern hospitality. The problem with the tale is that the house did not get built until 1883, eighteen-years after the American Civil War ended. The mansion did escape the Great Atlanta Fire of 1917. Edward C. Peters House – Wikipedia
A lesser known fact is that that house was once where staff and residents of Chrysalis lived for a brief period. Chrysalis was an adolescent drug treatment program. Between 1972–73, I lived in the Mansion as one of the first five Chrysalis residents, who moved in and helped to restore the magnificent building. That took some work!
Then Dante’ (the owner of Down the Hatch in Underground Atlanta at the time), bought the house for 1.5 million dollars, I believe, and Chrysalis had to move its location.
Before the deadline for Chrysalis residents to move, I had walked out of the six-month program, two months before completion, a behavior that lead me to have a history with the historical site that follows this photo:
Edward C. Peter’s House
Others may want to see the United States Federal Penitentiary on McDonough Boulevard, where many infamous criminals lived and died. Why? Well, why do people watch historical presentations about old prisons? Curiosity, maybe?
United States Federal Bureau of Prisons, Atlanta, Georgia
Many men died behind those walls. I learned to live while there between June 1, 1993 and October 31, 1996. On April 5, 1995, I changed my evil wicked ways and stopped using drugs and alcohol, which gave me a life worth living and made it possible for me to complete my 420-months sentence. And for that I am grateful.
An incarcerated person asked these questions for Wayne T. Dowdy. Because of privacy concerns, the name of the incarcerated person will remain anonymous. Straightfromthepen.com gives special thanks and will provide a complimentary copy of Essays and More Straight From the Pen.
Q: Since you have started using this blog, has the sales increased on your books? A: I haven’t noticed much of an increase in sales since I began writing the blogs. But since my release from prison, I have increased the number of views on the blogs, and the circulation of eBooks on Smashwords.com by making certain eBooks free.
Q: Since you began using this blog, have you talked about your books? A: Yes, during the first two years I did (I paid to get a website and blog created in 2015), but I haven’t written promotional content in several months.
I got involved with the prison reform movement in 2016, and then later began writing blogs relating to prison reform, but also to help fight my way out of prison. I became an outspoken critic of the former BOP Director (Mark S. Inch), who changed halfway house policies (reducing available placement period from up to one-year to “up to four months”).
On prison reform, I wanted to do my part in creating positive change, so I put my personal writing and sales promotions on the side until I could get out of prison and put things in action. Now I am back. Look out!
Q: How many books have you written? A: I’ve written four books but only have two I’m marketing. I had a special purpose for UNDER PRESSURE-MOTIVATIONAL VERSION by Mr. D (I added sections to the original UNDER PRESSURE to inspire the aspiring writers). To make it a better value for my readers, I combined the original novel with the sequel and produced UNKNOWN INNOCENCE by Wayne T. Dowdy ($12.95 plus S&H), with the help of Midnight Express Books.
The other book is technically a personal magazine because it combines genres. ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN has 11-essays, 1-short story, and 3-poems, which I’ve discounted the price of at $8.95.
My case manager read it and commented, “Parts of it make you want to laugh, others make you want to cry. There’s a lot of wisdom in it.”
Q: Have you written any fictional books? A: UNKNOWN INNOCENCE and UNDER PRESSURE are fiction.
Q: When did you start writing? A: I wrote for decades in personal journals. At the age of twenty-five, while serving a state sentence, I wrote drafts for a series of pornographic literature. I gave my collection to a married woman I was having an affair with and asked her to keep them for me until I got out.
She was jealous. Everything I wrote did not include her. When I got out and wanted my writings, she said they got lost or her husband threw them away, either way, my perverted writings conveniently disappeared.
Maybe I’ll return to that genre if sales don’t improve on what I’m writing now. 🙂 With the success of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, there’s a large market for that type of writing.
Q: Did you go to college to learn to write? A: Yes, and No. In 1981 I did take Creative Writing in college. In 2006-2008, I took a professional writing course through the Long Ridge Writers Group to learn how to write essays and short stories for magazine publication.
Q: Were you published in any magazines? A: Yes, but I was published before taking the course. In 2003 I was first published in the A.A. Grapevine under a pseudonym. I’ve been published several times since then; however, none of the publications satisfy my ego, which always wants more.
These are my magazine writing credits: The Sun (Chapel Hill, NC); The Iconoclast; Confrontation magazine, the literary journal of Long Island University; Savage Kick magazine;
and many others under a pseudonym related to recovery from drugs and alcohol.
Q: How has writing changed your life? A: Writing, in general, has not changed my life except on an interpersonal level. But writing does help me to formulate ideas and allows me to express myself without interruption. That means a lot to me when I feel the issue is important and needs addressed, whether it’s what people want to hear or not.
One day I hope to answer that question by saying my writing changed the quality of life by making me rich and famous, but in the meantime, I must say it keeps me constructively occupied and that I take pride in knowing my writing impacts the lives of others, as many have said to me throughout the years.
Q: Are you writing another book now? A: No, but I do have ideas for one coming soon and I am plotting on writing query letters and articles I want to see in print, something my ego loves (seeing my name in print).
Get it uncut, uncensored, and in true form: This comes straight from the pen, literally and figuratively; many words that escaped the thick walls, bars and fences lined with rows of sharp and shiny razor wire, designed to slice and dig deep into the flesh of anyone who dares to cross the guard line to venture into the real world, beyond the horizon but difficult to reach.
The words contained inside this wave of the Deep Blue Web, provides readers with a peek into a part of life where millions of men and women found themselves chained and bound to a past, they wished to forget; other words give hope of better days, a better life.
And then there are those inside who drool upon remembrance of dirty deeds done that demanded payment with their lives. That is not me. I dream of one day living a respectable life as a free citizen, of one day being a productive member of society in penance of the damage I caused living the thug life. Prison experiences vary from prisoner to prisoner.
Welcome to life inside the American federal prison system. I express views from an open, honest, and straightforward perspective, with words flowing straight from the pen on diverse topics and issues that concerns the human experience.
In corrections, I am an inside expert and plan to effect a positive change in the criminal justice system. I began serving a thirty-five-year federal sentence of imprisonment on August 18, 1988, for Conspiracy to Commit Armed Bank Robbery, Armed Bank Robbery, Abduction of a Person to Facilitate Commission of an Offense and Use of a Firearm During the Commission of a Crime of Violence.
I survived prison life to fight another day as a free man in a free society, America, home of the brave, land of the free.
On August 28, 2018, I walked out of the prison doors for the first time in thirty-years and ten days, without having cuffs on my wrists and shackles on my legs. Another chapter in life began when the doors opened, as I entered the arms of my loved ones who cared enough to come escort me from the prison to the halfway house in Atlanta, Georgia.
Though my body is free, a part of my mind remains chained to the life I left behind, after spending three decades of my life inside the insane world of incarceration. Love, patience, and tolerance will snap the chains binding me to the past.
How did you feel when you found out you were going to prison?
On August 18, 1988, after my arrest, I knew I was going to prison and planned to avoid that by escaping, and if that didn’t work and I was killed during the attempt, then suicide by cop would be okay. I felt miserable and hated life. I felt an exaggerated sense of hopelessness, despair, disappointment, all associated with the intense hate and anger that scorched my soul.
Today, I’m glad things didn’t work according to my plans and that I changed my thinking and my life.
At thirty-one years old, I didn’t have hope of ever seeing another day as a free man. Months later, I sat inside a jail cell with a man facing the death penalty (I was disruptive and creating havoc in the jail, so the jailers put me in the cell block with the killers).
Once inside that jail cell, I continued to look for an opportunity to escape. To get away I would have done whatever it took. The thought of spending the rest of my days inside a box made me want to get it over with, to spare myself the agony of a miserable existence.
Suicide seemed the solution: For a Samurai Warrior, wasn’t that the honorable way out, death before dishonor?
That’s how I felt, alone, angry, desperate, disappointed, and in fear on spending the rest of my life in prison, with no hope of getting out, unless I escaped.
I changed my mind about committing suicide because I didn’t want to put my family through having to deal with me dying that way.
Today, as a man who walked out the prison doors, even though it was thirty-years later, I am glad I changed my mind about suicide, escape, and all other aspects of my self-destructive mindset and associated behaviors.
In recent weeks Wayne T. Dowdy focused on building a fan base on QUORA.com.
[Updated: January 15, 2019] The following post comes in response to the QUORA question, “How does serving time in federal prison compare to state prison?” which has received almost 15,000 views since its posting on December 26, 2018:
When I first began my sentence, an old-timer said, “The states control you physically he following and the feds do it psychologically.”
I found that true. The feds use incentive-mechanisms to control its prisoners (gives prisoners something to lose, recreation privileges, more freedom of movement, better living conditions; something authorities take or restrict access to for misbehavior).
The typical prisoner mentality in the federal system is milder, less violent than many state prisoners. Again, an old-timer gave me a few words of wisdom:
“The federal system lulls people to sleep because it’s more laid-back, and there’s not as much violence every day, so guys forget where they’re at because they get away with so much. And then when one of them does something stupid to the wrong person, he gets stabbed or killed.”
I behaved better in the federal system than when I served time in the State of Georgia, where violence dominates every day activities.
My published writings show the difference between the young knucklehead I was while serving time in Georgia where I didn’t have much to lose, in comparison to the responsible man I become, due in part to the aging process and having programs available to help me change. Read The Price of Change by Wayne T. Dowdy, Midnight Express Books, for an example of the differences in my behaviors in the State versus the Federal system.
Being paid for working in the Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) made a significant difference because it allowed me to take care of myself, rather than to burden my family for support, and that made me feel better as a human being.
The difference in my behavior illustrates the effectiveness of incentive programs, as well as the difference in the life of a prisoner serving time in a federal or state system; however, prisoner experiences vary.
[I am re-posting this blog for 2019. Valentine’s Day of 2018 did turn out to be my last one spent inside the dungeons of the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons.
And as it stands as I type, I do not have a Special Someone to call my sweetheart, and that’s okay. I remained celibate for decades and still am, by choice and circumstances, but … this will be my first Valentine’s Day spent on the outside since 1987 and that alone makes it a spectacular day for me. 🙂 Life is Wonderful!]
My last blog contained a Happy Valentine’s Day message but I want to make sure each of you know it was meant for you, too, and was not just a part of the blog. 🙂
I do hope each of you get to spend some quality time with the one you love or with someone special, whether that special person is a lover, friend, family member, or pet. 🙂
Providing I live to fight another day, which I highly suspect I will, theoretically, this year will be my last Valentine’s Day spent inside. Maybe I’ll have a special someone for the next Valentine’s Day, maybe not. The main thing is that I will be out of prison to enjoy it as a free man, alone, or with others. Being the stud I am, I’ll probably have someone to call my Sweetheart by then, but who knows? 😉
Enjoy the special day celebrating life as a living, breathing, human being. No matter how screwed up things may seem, know that there are millions of others who’d love to trade places and have your problems. That is something I have to remind myself of when disgruntled because the world isn’t working according to Wayne.
Have a spectacular day and hug the ones you love and tell them how important they are in your life, and know that you, too, are special!
[Update: I am re-posting this one for 2019 to wish each of you a Happy Valentine’s Day from the outside this year.
I did not win the administrative remedy on the issue stated below in the original post, but I did win an issue concerning a miscalculation of my Good Conduct Time, which changed my out-date to March 8, 2019. I left the prison for Dismas Charities in Atlanta, Georgia on August 28, 2018; however, my fight to successfully reintegrate into society continues. I am unemployed but am not homeless and do have a loving, caring family and some great friends, so life is wonderful!]
The storm still rages within as I continue my fight for successful reintegration into society at an earlier date than approved. Time will tell if I win an administrative remedy process where I present my argument that 119-days in a Residential Reentry Center (RRC) is not “of sufficient duration to provide the greatest likelihood of successful reintegration into the community.”
As stated in my previous blog (“Half a Problem”), to support my position I rely on Congressional authority stated in 18 U.S.C., Section 3624(c), commonly known as THE SECOND CHANCE ACT OF 2007: COMMUNITY SAFETY THROUGH RECIDIVISM REDUCTION (SCA).
The problem lies is Congress giving discretionary authority to the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons, the “Backwards on Purpose” agency (BOP), who has a vested interest in robust prison populations. I will return to this topic later.
Because some of you may not be interested in the halfway house issue, I will share a slightly modified version of a former writing posted on Facebook and published in February 2014 by the Mission Possible, Words of Hope Ministries newsletter, Charlotte, NC. If you like, find other blogs of interest to read on my blogspot.
If new to this site, use the Search feature to experience a variety of writings: “Women Rule the World”; “Burning Bridges”; “Life Beyond the Obvious”; “Despicable Characters”; “Freedom for Another Friend”; “From Where Do Writers Root”; “Social Media for Writers”; “Love & Evil Are Color-Blind”; “Southern Pride – Waving a Confederate Flag”; “A Job Affair”; “Seeking a Real Job” and many others.
WINTER STORM & A VALENTINE’S DAY WISH
A Winter Storm struck the south this morning in Edgefield, South Carolina (02/12/14). I woke to the patter of frozen rain on my window. The air system went off sometime before then and it had gotten real quiet, a rare event in prison.
The power grids in some areas have failed and resulted in power outages but we still have ours; even the air system power has been restored.
For the last few hours, we have gotten light snow mixed with freezing rain. I have stayed inside the living unit. Most of my peers went to go eat breakfast around 8:00 AM, which I rarely go to anyway, so I wasn’t about to go battle the falling, tiny-pieces of ice to trudge across more than five-hundred yards of concrete sidewalks, already frozen and ice-covered, to go eat a breakfast I wouldn’t have went to, even with a cool breeze blowing and a beautiful Red Morning rising sun.
Nature won! 🙂 I wimped out and stayed inside to funnel instant coffee; however, I did man-up to go out and battle the slush for lunch. At any rate, wherever you are at when reading this, I sincerely hope you are safe and warm. I know the storm began for some of you many days ago, while others are enjoying beautiful weather, others needing food and water, but whatever your circumstances are, I do hope you are able to enjoy life and take pleasure in what you have, rather than being discontent because of what is missing in your life that you wished you had but do not.
For those of you fortunate enough to have a special someone in your life, I do hope you have a Happy Valentine’s Day and are able to cuddle up to the one you love in some meaningful way.
For those who don’t have anyone special in your life, know that you are loved by many whom you may not have met, yet. Maybe the winter storm in your life will pass soon and you will find the beauty in life as spring rolls in to replace the cold and troublesome weather. Don’t give up! There is always hope. 🙂 Take care-Wayne
EARTHQUAKE: The winter storm continued for days. Two days after I wrote the above, a 4.1 Earthquake hit Edgefield, SC on Valentine’s Day. I told a friend, “Someone must not have gotten a Valentine’s card.”
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA: I overheard staff members discussing what was said during an August 2017, Union meeting in Las Vegas. A BOP spokesperson stated, “We are running out of prisoners because of changes made in the law and policies implemented by President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.”
Some of those policies implemented by the former Attorney General that decreased the prison population, focused on reentry initiatives, and ordering prosecutors to cease the practice of beefing-up criminal charges on defendants to get guilty pleas, as well as to respect state rights by not prosecuting those who grow marijuana in states where it is legal.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is working on solving “that problem” with new policies he has implemented (reversing pot policy), and with assistance from Director Inch, changing BOP halfway house/RRC placement practices, which will increase recidivism.
RECIDIVISM: Read “Recidivism in America” (01/25/17) for more on recidivism and the BOP’s population decline, due, in part, to those policies implemented by the former President and Attorney General (“The B.O.P. began 2017 with 189,333 prisoners, which is substantially less than the 219,298 reported in 2013.”)
On February 8, 2018, the BOP population was 183,447, with 7,149 prisoners in halfway houses, and 2,180 more on home confinement. To show the effect of policy changes by Director Inch, on June 15, 2017, the month before he took control, the halfway house population was 8,848, with 3,559 on home confinement.
HALF A CHANCE: BOP DIRECTOR MARK INCH DISREGARDS PROVISIONS OF THE SECOND CHANCE ACT.
The Honorable Henry R. Wilhoit, Jr., U.S. District Judge, wrote the following about the Second Chance Act in Glenn, Jr. v. Holland, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127740 (E.D., Ky. 11/03/11):
“The ‘Second Chance Act of 2007’
“The Second Chance Act amends 18 U.S.C. Sections 3621(a) and 3624(c) and requires the BOP staff to review inmates for halfway house placement 17-19 months before their projected release dates.
“The purpose of the Second Chance Act are, in part, to break the cycle of criminal recidivism; to rebuild ties between offenders and their families; to encourage the development and support of programs that enhance public safety and reduce recidivism, such as substance abuse treatment, alternatives to incarceration and comprehensive reentry services; to protect the public and promote law-abiding conduct; to assist offenders reentering the community from incarceration; and to provide offenders in prison … with educational, literacy, vocational, and job placement services to facilitate reentry into the community. See Act, 112 Stat 657. The Second Chance Act requires the BOP to ‘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.’ 18 U.S.C. Section 3624(c).”
Maybe Director Inch hasn’t read the statute, which puts the responsibility on him to accomplish the above. The SCA (18 U.S.C. Section 3624(c), Prerelease Custody) begins with, “The Director of the Bureau of Prisons shall, ….” After I receive the response to my Administrative Appeal (BP-9), I will mail him a copy, which includes a copy of a newsletter by attorney Brandon Sample, who explains the legislative process (NEWS@BRANDONSAMPLE.COM).
BOP MISSION STATEMENT: “The Federal Bureau of Prisons protects society by confining offenders in the controlled environment of prisons and community-based facilities that are safe, humane, and appropriately secure, and which provides work and other self-improvement opportunities to assist offenders in becoming law-abiding citizens.”
The mission statement must have excluded the federal prison administrators that I’ve lived under for almost thirty-years, since I’ve not seen many programs that provide self-improvement opportunities, and since I have struggled with the ones at this institution to have regularly scheduled, self-improvement programs that reduce recidivism; i.e., Twelve Step meetings. And the situation here for 12-Step programs is better than what others report who come from other federal institutions.
Perhaps the BOP mission statement was written before private prison company executives corrupted the criminal justice system with their bribes (contributions) to increase their bottom lines and ensure a robust prison population.
Perhaps one can file under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act to see if the Honorable United States Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, and the Honorable Mark S. Inch, BOP Director, received “contributions” from private prison company executives (e.g., Core Civic and GEO Group), whose influences have lead to laws and policies that increased recidivism at taxpayers’ expense, the same as what is happening with the changed halfway house practices.
Read “Half a Problem” for more on the halfway house issue, and “The Truth About Incarceration, Part II” for more on the corrupt influence of private prison executives on prison authorities and politicians.
“The OIG found that, contrary to policy, guidance, and relevant research, BOP is ‘placing the great majority of eligible inmates into RRCs regardless of inmate risk for recidivism or need for transitional services, unless the inmate is deemed not suitable for such placement because the inmate poses a significant threat to the community. As a result, low-risk, low-need inmates are more likely to be placed in RRCs than high-risk, high-need inmates.’
“The numbers tell the story. During the study period, 90% of minimum security and 75% of low security inmates received RRC/home confinement placement. But only 58% of high security level inmates got such placement, while the remaining 42% were released into the community directly from a BOP institution. While the OIG Report conceded that this ‘may be a result of the fact that many of the high security inmates were considered a public safety risk,’ still the Report suggested that because, on average, the high-security inmates were within four months of release anyway, there didn’t seem to be much justification for not sending them to a halfway house, where they (and the community) might benefit from receiving reentry programming.” BOP HALFWAY HOUSE PROGRAM FOUND TO BE DEFICIENT (11/20/16), Legal Information Services Associates newsletter (for free Corrlinks newsletter, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org). Visit http://www.lisa-legalinfo.com.
Many of the high-security prisoners released straight into the community, will commit crimes against citizens and return to prison. Providing a reasonable opportunity to prepare for reentry would reduce the numbers of those who do.
In an OIG Report on the BOP Release Preparation Program (RPP), the OIG stated, “Finally, we found that the BOP does not currently collect comprehensive re-arrest data on its former inmates, has no performance metrics to gauge the RPP’s impact on recidivism, and does not currently make any attempt to link RPP efforts to recidivism. We also found that the BOP has not yet completed a recidivism analysis required by the Second Chance Act of 2007. Such analyses would help the BOP know whether the RPP is effectively accomplishing its objective of reducing recidivism.” REVIEW OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS RELEASE PREPARATION PROGRAM (09/04/16), Jeremy Gordon Newsletter (email@example.com) Visit http://www.facebook.com/gordondefense.
The BOP first must want to decrease recidivism. Remember the Backwards on Purpose agency, whose “[a]ctions speak so loud I can’t hear a word of what [they] say.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The new halfway house policy lead to one man here, a recidivist who served 12-years, to receive 12-DAYS in an RRC. Another man served 14-years and received 28-DAYS. Considering that Congress extended the permissible RRC placement period from 6-to-12 months to decrease recidivism, shortening that period will increase recidivism.
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.
LIFE 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.
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.
Every major news network feeds the public negative reports about those who commit crimes. Understandably, the negative press induces abhorrence, antipathy and fear towards those who commit crimes and go to prison.
Some of those who receive the negative press are ex-offenders who returned to old behaviors upon release (recidivist), and whose actions do not generate sympathy or concern for those who have fallen short of the glory of society.
PRESS EFFECT: To counteract the negative effect of the press, create a source for providing positive information about prisoners and ex-offenders.
As reported in “Reentry Programs Will Reduce Recidivism,” over 70-million Americans have criminal records. That translates into a vital statistic: millions of prisoners and ex-offenders do not commit, and have not committed violent, aggressive crimes.
All incarcerated individuals are not violent criminals. Read the February 24, 2016, blog post, “Violent Crime Misconception” (straightfromthepen.wordpress.com and waynedowdy.weebly.com), for a factual view on “violent crime” labels and terminology misused by politicians.
Factually, the percentage of released prisoners who commit violent, horrendous crimes, is far less than 1% of the 70-million Americans with criminal records, and yet, typically, society stereotypes millions of inmates and ex-offenders based upon the actions of a few (1% for writing purposes).
UNRECOGNIZED SUCCESS STORIES: Millions of ex-offenders get out and become model, productive citizens. Thousands of men and women inside prisons do wonderful things to help change lives and to make the world a better place; e.g., mentoring other prisoners, creating or conducting programs proven to have positive effects on the lives of participants.
Society does not hear about those inside who do good things. The ones who deserve press coverage do not receive it and do not get recognized for what they do; not even the exceptional things get recognized: We have the power to change that.
99% VERSUS 1%: News coverage goes to the 1% whose actions do not represent the majority of the incarcerated or ex-offenders, any more than actions of the Wealthy One-Percenters in America represent average American citizens.
CREATE A PLATFORM FOR CHANGE: These are suggestions for steps to take to promote change in society’s negative perception of prisoners and ex-felons:
1) create a non-profit organization with (a) staff to create and monitor websites to push program agenda; and (b), hire staff or find volunteers committed to change who will provide help at researching prisoners and ex-offenders who do or have done things beneficial for society;
2) run ads in newspapers, magazines, and online, to seek names of candidates (ex-offenders & prisoners) for 1(b), who are willing to tell or to have their stories posted or used in media coverage (signed privacy release needed);
3) post stories on YouTube, Facebook, and other social media networks–invite sharing;
4) use statistics to illustrate the minute percentage of ex-offenders who commit violent, aggressive crimes that cause physical pain and injury, like rapes (especially brutal rapes), malicious murders, robberies containing violent, physical force used to injure victims;
5) invite testimonials for release on media outlets, from those released from prison who have successfully reintegrated into society (set up groups based upon length of time since release from prison);
6) invite testimonials on effects of prison life on prisoners and those affected by lives of prisoners;
7) in the media coverage, address the dehumanization of people through labeling (racial monikers, etc.);
8) offer opportunities for change to the incarcerated and to released offenders through methods outlined in “Reentry Programs Will Reduce Recidivism” (“Providing incarcerated individuals with job and life skills, education programming, and mental health and addiction treatment …”)(“For reentry initiatives to achieve optimal success, it will take funding for the proven programs to reduce recidivism rates in America (mental health care, substance abuse counseling/treatment, educational and employment opportunities, temporary housing assistance, ….”);
9) promote change by informing society with accumulated data;
10) open dialogue between ex-offenders and victims of crime (similar to Victim Impact principles), using anonymous identities to protect each party. Let their voices be heard to facilitate healing and recovery.
CHANGE COMES FROM WITHIN: Each of us must make the decision to change. Statistically, most prisoners probably have a lack of self-esteem; especially, those with substance abuse and mental health issues (read “No Sympathy”* for the overwhelming statistics on the correlation of mental illness, substance issues, and American prisoners).
Providing the Criminal Justice System does evolve into offering treatment for co-occurring disorders, to help those with dual disorders, more prisoners will be able to change and become productive members of society and live normal lives.
For those with or without such issues, who enroll in and complete reentry and other programs, and then become successful upon release, their success becomes testimonials to those on the inside, who may elect to follow in their paths. To be an effective mechanism of change, other prisoners must become aware of their success.
PUBLICATION TO REPORT SUCCESS OF PARTICIPANTS: To transmit the word of success, create a publication approved by prison administrators for circulation inside their prisons. Elect specific volunteers or workers in the organization created to change society’s perception of prisoners, to investigate all legal issues by contacting attorneys (or researching the issue online, if qualified).
PUSH FOR CHANGE: Form a committee to contact legislatures and other politicians about providing funding to prisons for the creation of programs inside the prisons such as those mentioned above. President Obama and the United States Department of Justice has charged the Bureau of Prisons with implementing the five proven programs to reduce recidivism (see #8 in itemized lists).
Push legislatures to continue funding and to pass laws that provide prisoners with incentives for participating in Reentry and other proven programs to reduce recidivism rates in America.
For instance, mandate and specify that B.O.P. or state agencies increase halfway house time to one-year (remove discretion by prison authorities); and offer additional days off prison sentence for successful completion of programs.
Solicit companies to agree to give priority to employment applications from program graduates.
Share the results with others through the publication and online through social media outlets.
The process will take years before measurable results are available, but change will come. When society sees men and women coming out of prison and becoming productive members of society, then their perception of prisoners will change.
* Read “No Sympathy” at https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com, or at waynedowdy.weebly.com. The essay is included in ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN ($8.95 USD) in paperback.