Tag Archives: Politics

DAMAGE & PRISON

solitudeby Wayne T. Dowdy

Prison damages people.  Those who spend decades in prison are damaged in many ways, all of which I will not go into.  For instance, exposure to violence or physical abuse that people deal with, or repressing natural tendencies to fight when having to comply with irrational demands; e.g., like ones I wrote about in “The Truth About Incarceration, Part I,” and “A Prisoner’s Story,” https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com and http://www.straightfromthepen.com.

DON’T GET PERSONAL:  A less than obvious example of damage, occurs for someone like me–a southern gentleman by nature who likes to assist people I see carrying a heavy load or otherwise look to need help; especially, women, who represses the natural desire to help.  To engage in a personal conversation may also create difficulties.

At times, I resist the desire to offer help due to fear of causing a conflict for the damsel in distress.  I still offer to help in certain situations.  Because of prison regulations and the warped, unwritten code of prison ethics, I may avoid speaking openly about an issue I would normally speak about to a person I feel I can help by offering a suggestion.

The person may or may not accept a helping hand.  In such a situation, an inmate may decline assistance at the fear of being seen as weak or vulnerable.  A staff member may decline due to fear of another staff member suspecting improprieties between him or her and the compassionate prisoner.  Personal conversations and any type of transaction between staff and inmates are viewed as inappropriate by many prisoners and staff alike.  Humanity prohibited!

INSTINCTS DENIED:  My instinct is to help others.  Sometimes I don’t because of the risk I may put the other person in by doing what comes natural.  Knowing that my act of kindness may harm the other person, makes me reluctant to offer the assistance my ethics and natural instincts tells me to do, as a decent human being.

Upon release, I will have to undo decades of damage done by the prison experience:  suppressing healthy emotions and needs.  I must learn to be a normal.

I sent out the following message to a friend who posted it on social media for me.  A lot of people liked it so I will share it.

“03/05/17:  To all my Faithful Friends:  I hope March brings each of you lots of love and success or whatever your hearts desire.  For me, I’d be happy to be able to walk through a park or to sit on a lake to listen and observe the beauty of nature; to give someone a hug, kiss someone special, or to just be able to sit and watch animals; or to pet a dog, cat, rabbit, or a chicken.  🙂  Hell, I’d be happy to watch some fish swim around in an aquarium.  I am looking forward to going to the Georgia Aquarium to see some really big fish!  So much in life people take for granted until it’s gone.  One day soon I will be reentering the human race.  Then I will be able to interact with each of you like a normal person.  Have a great day!  Wayne”

The above indicates the desensitization of prisoners.  For over 28-1/2 years, my physical contact with other humans and mammals has been severely restricted.  That is definitely true on an intimate level about lovers and sexual intercourse!  During this sentence, I have resisted romantic-relationships.  I’ve only been involved in three since 1988, and only one of those included physical contact (hugs and kisses on a visit).

I had one female visitor I got to hug and kiss, and some mice to pet while at U.S.P. Atlanta.  🙂

In Lompoc, California, I got to take care of a friend’s pet house sparrow, and to go outside to feed the seagulls, crows, other birds, and ground squirrels.  I fed the ground squirrels until the administration poisoned them.  😦

In a relationship, I love to hug and touch, to put my arm around my mate’s waist or shoulder, to sleep with my arm around her to maintain contact.  I guess I am by nature, a “touchy-feely” kind of guy.  In prison, I sleep alone and touch myself.

SEXUAL REPRESSION:  In 1980-81, when I took psychology in college, I seem to recall that a prominent psychologist or psychiatrist wrote about the damaging effect of suppressing sexual feelings and desires.  If that is true, I must be more damaged than I realize.  Perhaps I need a therapist, now!

In my opinion, sexual repression is one of the leading causes of mental illness in America.

Around 1997, a Nevada, Holier-than-Thou politician, pushed a bill through Congress that prohibited federal prisoners from receiving magazines or books containing nudity.

CENSORSHIP & COMPLEX REASONING:  Several years ago, the prison mail room staff rejected an issue of Smithsonian I subscribed to because it contained nudity.  I appealed.

The program statement makes an exception for educational or anthropological content, as one may see in National Geographic; however, understanding an “exception clause” requires cognitive thinking; an ability to comprehend the subject matter and its relation to the provision; to then analyze the situation and decide whether the matter before one’s eye, does in fact, contain what constitutes a permissible exception, a far too complicated process for someone who may not have a GED, I reckon.

The Smithsonian Board of Directors has Supreme Court justices and politicians.  If I was wrong in my assertions, the justices and politicians on the Board of Directors support publishing and distributing pornography.

I appealed the decision to reject my Smithsonian.  I took it to the highest level in Washington, DC.  No one involved comprehended the “exception clause” and upheld the denial of my magazine.  Censorship won because I didn’t want to spend $500.00 to litigate the matter in federal court, where someone with the required intelligence could understand the educational/anthropological, “exception clause.”

PERVERSION & THE POLITICIAN:  Since that policy took effect, I saw a dramatic increase of inmates put in the hole (confined to a cell 23 hours per day, restricted from purchasing most commissary items, using the phone, email system, etc.) for “gunning down” female staff members (masturbating or exposing genitalia while watching the woman).  That may qualify as abnormal behavior.

The politician who sponsored the censorship bill, later came under fire for getting caught cheating on his wife.  Throughout the years, many of the politicians who come up with such bills did what prisoners in the Georgia prison system called “Shifting the Heat,” which is to say or to do things to put the focus on other people to keep it away from themselves.

CELIBATE BY CHOICE:  In prison, I remain celibate because I choose not to participate in homosexual activities, my only other option since I do not have or attempt to have sexual affairs with staff members.  Even if involved in a heterosexual relationship with someone, I still couldn’t engage in sexual activities, even if someone visited me.  While visiting, prison rules limit physical contact to hugs and kisses when greeting and leaving.  Therefore, I remain celibate and will do so until I reenter that part of humanity upon release from prison.

LOMPOC CA:  In 1999, while I was at the United States Penitentiary in Lompoc, California, a tall and pretty, female staff member worked in M-Unit, along with a male staff member known to create drama with staff and inmates alike.

M-Unit is where those of us with high profiles were kept.  I lived in it because I was a maximum custody prisoner.  The administration scored me as Maximum custody due to violence and an escape in 1981, when I was a 24-year-old knucklehead in the Georgia prison system.  Today I am a model prisoner.

PRETTY WOMAN:  That tall and pretty woman was a mother of three.  The male guard wanted her to sit in a booth where the correctional officers, who worked in the unit, had a phone, small desk, drawers, and a cabinet to store their personal and work-related items.

She rebelled.  Instead, she chose to speak with me, within his view.  We stood talking on a tier, in an open area, where others could hear our conversation.  To learn how she might help raise her children, she asked about my childhood and history, and wanted to know what I thought lead to me spending my life in prison.  Our conversation was wholesome, no improprieties of any sort.

The next time I saw her, she asked if I’d be willing to give her an affidavit about our conversation, if she needed it.

“Sure,” I said.

The male guard wrote a complaint against her for fraternizing with an inmate.

Because of that experience, I sometimes avoided conversations with female staff members, who may have only wanted to engage in conversation to ease their tension from working in a male prison.

When sexually attracted, I must resist the impulse to flirt or to make an advance.  A rejection might result in a trip to the hole and a damaged ego, the damaged ego being the worst casualty of rejection.

As damaged as I may be from the prison experience, I will blend into society when I am released.  With a little help from my friends, and maybe a therapist or two, I will be okay and become a success story.

________________________________________

Purchase books by Wayne T. Dowdy from StraightFromthePen.com, or his eBooks from Smashwords.com  (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy).

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.

VIOLENT CRIME MISCONCEPTION

by Wayne T. Dowdy

 

“Prisoners for profit, human lives a commodity?  Imagine that. ….. 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.”

 

THE TRUTH:  The above excerpts come from “The Truth About Incarceration, Part II” (straightfromthepen.wordpress.com, and waynedowdy.weebly.com).  In the essay I listed creditable sources to show political corruption associated with the mass incarceration in America.  Hefty campaign contributions to politicians made by officials from private prison corporations, influence votes and practices that keep incarceration rates high and business booming for corporations like the Correctional Corporation of America (CCA).  Recent political trends make me feel those same capitalistic-driven forces are behind actions by politicians such as Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who may have an ulterior motive in trying to influence other congressional members to abort the sentencing reform initiatives that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2015.

 

BAD EXAMPLE:  One event used to drive opposition to initiatives to reduce the prison population and correct excessive sentencing issues, is an idiot (Wendell Callahan) who received a sentence reduction and then got out of prison and murdered his girlfriend and two of her children in Columbus, Ohio, a terrible crime.  In a blog written by Seung Min Kim for POLITICO, the author reported that Cotton said, “‘As a Republican Party, we’re going to have to have a conversation about it, … But I think, ultimately, a majority of Republicans, like a majority of Americans, don’t want to let “violent felons” out of prison.'” (emphasis added)

 

I am in prison and considered a violent felon, and even I do not want people let out who will get out and harm other people; furthermore, people with no criminal histories also commit horrendous crimes.  Why attack the disadvantaged ex-cons?

 

Callahan does not represent the thousands of prisoners released.  He’s a minority.  Most ex-cons have not committed horrific crimes.  As I wrote in “The Truth About Incarceration, Part I,” people like him become Poster-Children for politicians who act tough-on-crime for votes.  To be specific, in reference to prisoners who do positive things, I wrote, “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.”  (The Truth About Incarceration, first published by PrisonLawBlog.com, November 2014).

 

POLITICO:  “[L]ast week … Cotton (R-Ark.), the outspoken Senate freshman, lobbied his colleagues heavily against the legislation[.] ….  ‘It would be very dangerous and unwise to proceed with the Senate Judiciary bill, which would lead to the release of thousands of violent felons,’ Cotton said later in an interview with POLITICO.  ‘I think it’s no surprise that Republicans are divided on this question [but] I don’t think any Republicans want legislation that is going to let out violent felons, which this bill would do.’ …..  Conservatives opposing the legislation are coalescing around Cotton’s view, despite strong pushback from bill supporters, that the measure could lead to the early release of people convicted and imprisoned for violent crimes.  Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), once a supporter of easing mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenders, has also made this argument.  And there’s stiff resistance in pockets of the Republican Party to do anything that might erode its tough-on-crime reputation.”  Seung Min Kim, POLITICO, January 2016.

 

POLITICS:  I suspect that presidential candidate Ted Cruz changed his stance on the bills because of political fears associated with presidential candidate Donald Trump using it against him as being soft on crime.

 

I understand not wanting “violent criminals” released.  I also understand and know all too well the “violent crime” misconception presented by politicians and others with political agendas.  Some courageous politicians are speaking out against the lies during debates.

 

Some politicians oppose the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act and other sentencing reform bills, which may hinder Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell’s plan to send the bills to the floor for a full vote.  Senate Majority Whip, John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Senate Judiciary Chairman, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), the White House, American Civil Liberties Union, Koch Industries, and hundreds of others, all support the bill.  Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and David Purdue (R-Georgia) oppose it, as do others, some democrats, some republicans.  Could ties to private prison companies or companies associated with the Incarceration Industry be behind the opponents?

 

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she will refuse campaign contributions from private prison lobbyists.  Has Cotton, Purdue, and Risch did the same?  Probably not!

 

DECEPTION:  Political lies filled prisons with laws like the California Penal Code, Section 667 (b)-(i), commonly known as the Three Strikes Law, which puts people in prison for twenty-five years to life, sometimes for petty crimes, not violent.  According to news segments I heard and articles I read over the years, California politicians mislead voters by convincing them that a vote for the Three Strikes Law would get violent criminals off the streets.  Some of the voters stated on television that when they voted for the law, they did not know it would put people in prison for twenty-five years to life for crimes like shoplifting or stealing pizza.  The state and federal legislatures who defined violent crime in statutes mislead voters, and their constituents who often do not read the bills they approve, by including a provision that increases criminal penalties.  In federal law, that clause became known as the “residual clause.”  (See “RESIDUAL CLAUSE” below.)

 

VIOLENT CRIME:  The majority of prisoners serving time for legally classified violent crimes are not violent people.  I know.  I live with them.  All violent crimes are not created equal.   When people think of violent crimes, most think of murderers, robbers, rapist, or those who commit horrendous crimes against people before prison or after going to prison, like Wendell Callahan did.  An overwhelming majority of prisoners did not commit “acts of violence” in the sense that the “violent crime” phase conjures an image of when used by someone.

 

Politicians, like Cotton, deceive the People with the “violent crime,” “violent felons,” and “violent criminal” terminology.  Perhaps it is done out of ignorance about what the terminology means, legally.  The phrases are deceptive.

 

What politicians did not do for the public when making statements about violent crime and violent criminals, is to define for them what constituted violent crimes according to state and federal law.

 

The United States Sentencing Guidelines (Sentencing Guidelines) for federal defendants, illustrate the deceptive terminology (violent crime) used to intimidate the public into supporting absurd legislation, often written by those with a vested interest in mass incarceration rates.

 

The Sentencing Guidelines state what the terminology means in section 4B1.2: “Definitions of Terms Used in Section 4B1.1

(a) The term ‘crime of violence’ means any offense under federal or state law, punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, that —

(b) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another, or

(c) is burglary of a dwelling, arson, or extortion, involves the use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.”

 

RESIDUAL CLAUSE:  The last part of section (c) is known as the “residual clause” (“or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another”); a catchall clause used by judges and prosecutors to create fanciful scenarios of crimes that “might” lead to violence, in order to justify enhancing criminal penalties for previous criminal convictions.   The residual clause is now defunct, thanks to the United States Supreme Court getting tired of tangling with its interpretation as used in the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA):  which crimes qualify as predicate convictions and which ones do not (hypothetical theories of what might have happened, not what a defendant did).

 

Personally, I believe many of the politicians who support such policies do so because of the financial incentives provided by the hundreds of special interest groups that benefit from high incarceration rates; e.g., companies providing goods and services to prison complexes, prison guard unions; stockholders in private prison industries; companies providing resources, employment, weapons, clothing, electronic gadgets, food, etc., to prison populations and prison construction, and many other less obvious groups.

 

Read “The Truth About Incarceration, Part II” for more on Prisoners for Profit and the influence of private prison companies on ALEC-written-bills, introduced to increase criminal penalties or to defeat legislation to reduce prison populations (and increase the bottom line of those who profit from high incarceration rates).

 

A lot of politicians introduce legislation that is designed to get votes at the cost of human lives.  Ironically, less than a year after posting that blog, I read that CCA officials supported sentencing reform initiates; months later I read that CCA planned to invest in building halfway houses.  CCA’s plan to support sentencing reform made sense when I read about the halfway house plans and that the billionaire Koch brothers of Koch Industries supported the legislation.  Halfway Houses are where most released prisoners go before reentering society–translation:  prison-for-profit executives saw an opportunity to profit from prisoners leaving prison.  The downside is that those companies reduce expenditures at the risk of security and by cutting programs needed to decrease the chance of a released prisoner from becoming a recidivist (someone who reverts to old behaviors).

 

POLITICS & PRIVATE PRISONS:  In 2015, Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), introduced a bill to reinstate federal parole and to prohibit federal funding for private prisons.  The bill has not progressed and will die waiting for sponsors.  Too many politicians depend on campaign contributions from private prison lobbyists to endorse a bill that bites the hand that feeds their greed and drives their political agenda.

 

Purchase ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN by Wayne T. Dowdy ($8.95 at Amazon.com, StraightFromthePen.com, and all major book retailers), for captivating essays that give readers a unique outlook.

 

A more appropriate label for Tough-on-Crime policies is Tough-on-Taxpayers policies.

 

The late, great, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia, clarified provisions of laws used to justify excessive prison sentences for a variety of crimes, falsely categorized as “violent felonies.”  He wrote the opinions in two cases, both titled Johnson v. United States; one in 2010 that defined the term “physical force”; the other in 2015, where the justices held the ACCA’s residual clause to be unconstitutionally vague by depriving citizens of adequate notice, and thus violating due process.  As stated above, the residual clause was a catchall clause used to convert some crimes into “violent felonies” or “crimes of violence,” by applying an absurd list of possibilities that “might” lead to violence.  The Sentencing Guidelines contained the same clause, which the Sentencing Commission removed after the 2015 Johnson decision.

 

CONCLUSION:  Maybe the Justice appointed to fill the vacancy left by the Honorable Justice Scalia will lead the way to remove absurd definitions for violent crimes, so that individuals categorize as violent felons will be those who commit violent crimes that physically harm others, not those improperly classified as violent criminals because of the misconception of what constitutes a violent crime.

 

Note:  please do not misinterpret the above:  I do not endorse any crimes committed against people.