Tag Archives: Recidivism

BREAKING NEWS

trump and kim

I have good and bad Breaking News. First, I commend President Trump for commuting the life sentence of Alice M. Johnson, a 63-year old grandmother trapped in the federal prison system for 21-years. The lovely Kim Kardashian West interceded on her behalf to President Trump.

Ms. Johnson was not a small-time drug dealer, but … 21-years is enough time in prison for anyone to serve who did not commit mass murders or horrendous crimes.

Now, if President Trump wants to save American taxpayers millions of dollars, he’ll instruct the Attorney General to order the BOP to reinterpret 18 U.S.C., Section 3624 to give federal prisoners the 54-days Congress provided for in the statute (see “INCREDIBLE NUMBERS FOR SEVEN DAYS”).

Other good news is that I succeeded at obtaining WorkKeys Platinum Certification to increase my chance of finding gainful employment upon release: More on that in a moment.

The bad news is that a nine-year study on recidivism was released in May 2018 that showed 83% of released prisoners from 30-states were re-arrested at least once during the study period. I’ll write more on that one, too!

MORE OF THE GOOD NEWS: In “Uncivil Wars” (08/17/17) and in “A Job Affair” (10/03/17), I listed what my ACT WorkKeys Skill Report showed for each of the three ACT skill levels. I scored in the Platinum range for two of the three categories.  The Gold Certification I received was because of the Level 5 score in the Locating Information category (I needed one more correct answer to score as a Level 6), so that’s why I wanted to try again.

During the September 29, 2017, Mock Job Fair, the representative from the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department strongly suggested I retake the test because I was so close, and because only six percent of students receive the Platinum certification. I followed her advice.

CHANGES: Since I took the ACT tests in August 2017, WorkKeys changed their testing and scoring system. The Levels for Locating Information ranged from 3-to-6. When retested, I learned that Locating Information was replaced with Graphic Literacy.  Students may now score up to a Level-7 in Graphic Literacy, the same as with Applied Mathematics and Reading for Information (also changed). The change made sense and made the testing more consistent.

This is from my ACT WorkKeys Skill Report:

WorkKeys Graphic Literacy:

You scored at Level 6.  People who score at Level 6 have demonstrated all of the Levels 3, 4, and 5 skills. They also demonstrated, using graphics designed at the highly complex level, the following skills:

* Locate information in a graphic using information found in another graphic

* Compare two or more pieces of information

* Identify a trend/pattern/relationship

* Make an inference or decision

* Identify the graphic that accurately represents the data

Additionally, using graphics designed at the high-moderate level, they have demonstrated the following skills:

* Compare two or more trends/patterns/relationships

* Interpret a trend/pattern/relationship

* Make a reasonable inference or decision based on one graphic after finding information in another graphic

* Justify an inference or decision based on information

* Identify the most effective graphic given a defined purpose

* Justify the most effective graphic given a defined purpose

[End Quote] In Graphic Literacy and Applied Mathematics, my scale scores were 82. I did best at Reading for Information (Level 7, scale score of 87).

The above results show 1) I’m capable of interpreting data presented in recidivism studies that rely on graphs and complex data, and 2), I’m qualified to perform mathematical analysis to solve complex problems.

CONFESSION: I failed to perform to my fullest potential when writing “War & Reentry.”

A reader said I was unclear when writing about recidivism numbers and studies. Upon review, I saw I erred in comparison of recidivism numbers relied on by ex-director, Mark Inch. I wrote that he was wrong by stating federal prisoners recidivated at half the rate of state prisoners.

I was incorrect in one sense: If non-citizens were included into the federal study, the numbers would be much different; however, that is not the case. I used an incorrect formula to present the argument. The actual numbers were 67.8% for state prisoners, compared to 33.7% for federal prisoners rearrested within 3-years of release.

If 68-state prisoners and 34-federal prisoners were rearrested after their release during the same study period, the statement by Mark Inch would be true.

THE FACTS prove the statement untrue because the Feds released and deported thousands of illegal immigrants during the study period, many of whom illegally-returned to the United States and were rearrested (recidivated), but were not included in the “Recidivism Among Federal Offenders: A Comprehensive Overview.” Non-citizens were included in the comparison 5-year State study listed below.

Read more on the 2016 federal study in “Recidivism in America” (01/25/17), where I posted a link to the April 2014 comparison state study. Another associated article/blog is “An Inside View of Criminal Justice,” originally published by PrisonLawBlog.com (10/07/14). I show the influence of private prison companies on the BOP and failed policies that fuel mass incarceration.

INCREDIBLE NUMBERS FOR SEVEN DAYS: In “War & Reentry” I showed the millions of dollars American taxpayers will save if the BOP awards its prisoners 54-days per year, instead of the 47-days awarded since 11/01/1987, which resulted in prisoners serving longer prison sentences than intended by Congress.

The numbers listed were that 44,000 federal prisoners get released each year and that if released 7-days earlier, it would equate to an annual savings of thirty-million, six-hundred thirty-thousand, and six-hundred dollars.

Those numbers are correct: $30,630,600 saved by awarding federal prisoners the other 7-days lost in the BOP’s interpretation of federal law.

THE JUSTICES who dissented in Barber v. Thomas, 560 U.S. 474, 130 S.Ct. 2499, 177 L.Ed.2d 1, 13-16 (06/10/2010) cautioned that the majority opinion would add, “[t]ens of thousands of years of additional prison time on federal prisoners …. And if the only way to call attention to the human implications of this case is to speak in terms of economics, then it should be noted that the Court’s interpretation comes at a cost to the taxpayers of untold millions of dollars.”

The majority said the BOP’s interpretation was “reasonable” and that they must give it deference. The Justices did “[n]ot determine the extent to which Congress has granted the BOP authority to interpret the statute more broadly, or differently[;]” therefore, the agency may change their interpretation immediately to comply with the statute, clarified by the House of Representative in passing the FIRST STEP act with a vote of 360-59.

IF the BOP and Attorney General wants to save your taxpayer dollars, they will change their interpretation and give federal prisoners those other 7-days. The truth is, that if changed, the bureaucrats will probably give themselves large bonuses to consume funds saved.

COST OF INCARCERATION INCREASE: Between 2011 and 2017, the cost of incarcerating a federal prisoner rose from $79.16 to $99.45 per day or $28,893.40 to $36,299.25 per year. Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 52 (03/18/13), and Vol. 83, No. 83 (04/30/18). That will grow.

BE PROACTIVE FOR CHANGE: Demand a change! Contact your Senator and Congressional Representative and ask him or her to push prison reform and a change from draconian sentencing laws that lead to mass incarceration. Demand that BOP (Backwards on Purpose) officials be held accountable and follow the law to reduce recidivism.

BACK TO THE NUMBERS: I questioned the figures when I thought of 44,000 as the number of released federal prisoners, so I went to the source:  transcript of Ex-director, Mark Inch’s testimony before the “Oversight Hearing of the Bureau of Prisons” on April 17, 2018. Inch stated on page two, under subheading “OUR PROGRAMS – REENTRY BEGINS ON DAY ONE” as follows:

“Reentry programming is a critical component of public safety; inmates are much more likely to return to a life of crime and victimization if they leave prison without job training, treatment for mental illness and/or substance abuse, an education, and a general understanding of what it means to be a productive law abiding citizen. It is important that we in the Bureau help ensure the nearly 44,000 inmates who are released back into the communities each year do not repeat their past mistakes.” https://judiciary.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Inch-testimony.pdf.

EVIDENCE OF MORE RECIDIVISM:  Last month the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a new study (“2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism: A 9-Year Follow-up Period (2005-2014),” NCJ250975, May 2018), a follow-up to the 5-year study relied upon for comparison by the ex-director (“Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010,” NCJ244205, April 2014).

The 83% recidivism rate revealed in the 9-year follow-up study shows the seriousness of recidivism in America and the need for a magic elixir that does not exist. Until financial incentives end for politicians who continue making policies and laws that fuel mass incarceration, positive change will be slow: It is time to stop state and federal funding for private prisons.

In 2015, former presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, introduced a bill to bring back federal parole and to stop federal funding for private prisons. Apparently, none of Senator Sanders’ peers were interested in eliminating a source of income from private prison lobbyist, so the bill never made it to the vote stage of legislation.

FLAWED POLITICS: In passing laws and implementing policies and practices, the political trend for decades has been to restrict or prohibit violent felons from receiving time off their sentences for program participation. Criminal laws include increased penalties for career criminals and those who commit violent felonies.

To deny those offenders of program benefits increases the risk on society that those prisoners reoffend. Violent offenders need help, too.

Most violent offenders will be released from prison; therefore, those laws and policies are flawed and need restructured to include anyone who wants to participate and maybe change their lives, if the law-makers want to protect society and to reduce recidivism.

VIOLENT CRIME MISCONCEPTION: All categorically-listed crimes of violence do not contain violence. I addressed the issue in “Violent Crime Misconception” (02/24/16). I believe most people think of violent criminals as those who physically harm or threaten to harm their victims during the commission of crimes like rape, murder, and armed robbery.

Programs that current policy prohibits certain prisoners from receiving benefit from, are programs such as the Residential Drug Abuse Program. And in the event that the Senate approves the FIRST STEP act, any “Evidence-based Recidivism Reduction Program” or activity that reduces recidivism.

For instance, inmates with convictions for “certain” crimes of violence or sex crimes, will be prohibited from earning time off sentences by participating in evidence-based programs; e.g., Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) that reduces recidivism by 24%; taking educational or vocational classes. Restrictions also apply to those who participate in faith-based or social programs; mentoring or teaching any evidence-based program; participating in cognitive behavior treatment, “victim impact classes or other restorative justice programs.”

Those aspects of legislation needs changed and made retroactive to award prisoners for positive behavior exemplified under dire circumstances. Maybe Kim Kardashian will help get votes in the Senate to change the failed criminal justice policies. Go girl!

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Wayne T. Dowdy writes at StraightFromthePen.com.

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RECIDIVISM IN AMERICA by Wayne T. Dowdy

revolving-door(“Like” this blog and sign on at straightfromthepen.wordpress.com to receive future postings. Reprint rights granted.)

January 11, 2017: Three men sat at a corner table in the prison “Chow Hall”; each with a hamburger, a few strands of lettuce leafs, a thin slice of tomato, and “Smiley Faces” (fried, round pieces of oil-saturated, potatoes, with cut out smiley faces, capable of making men frown if not properly fried).

I was one of the three men who sat at the table. My last complete day spent in society was August 17, 1988. (Read “No Sympathy” by Wayne T. Dowdy for details of my arrest and conviction in federal court, by a jury unlike my peers.) I eagerly await the day I leave prison for a halfway house.

Johnny P. sat across from me, his last day free was also over twenty-years ago. He is a good man who made bad decisions in his youth. A youngster sat to his right at the table.

RECIDIVISM: The youngest at the table was released from here three months ago to go to a halfway house. He returned for violating the terms of his supervised release (similar to parole or probation where a man or woman must meet specified conditions to remain free). See below subtitle, “RECIDIVISM DEFINED” for definition.

Johnny grilled the youngster about his return.

The youngster said, “Because I was under Public Law, I could only get a four-hour pass each month. I got tired of seeing everybody else go on passes for the weekend, and me not being able to, so I left a couple weeks later and didn’t go back. They caught me after three weeks. I’ve been locked up ever since.”

Johnny turned his head and locked eyes with the youngster. “I have six life sentences. Do you know how bad I wish I could go home to be with my family for four hours a month?”

Johnny’s words ingrained an image in my mind that influenced me to write this blog.

The youngster acknowledged his mistake, but then rationalized that serving the additional 18-months would kill the remainder of his supervised release.

SUPERVISED RELEASE: Depending on when a person was sentenced, determines whether a sentence for a violation disposes of the remainder of supervised release, or restarts the supervised release term upon release from prison for the violation. I have three terms of supervised release (one for two years, another for three, consecutive to the two, and a concurrent five-year term), each of which is only good for one violation that I do not plan to utilize.

ANTI-CRIME BILLS: The United States Congress has passed several anti-crime bills, with various provisions for controlling offenders captured in the mass incarceration frenzy–created by politicians for the sake of a vote–that ruins lives and costs American citizens billions of dollars each year in taxes.

SENTENCING REFORM ACT OF 1984 (SRA): One such bill was the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. As part of the SRA, effective November 1, 1987, Congress created the United States Sentencing Commission (“The Commission”) as “an independent agency in the judicial branch of the government.”

More than 1.5 million people have been sentenced under the SRA. The alleged purpose of the SRA was to deter, incapacitate or rehabilitate criminals, and to protect society from future crimes by offenders.

The SRA abolished federal parole and requires federal prisoners to serve 85% of their sentences. Eligible prisoners may earn “up to 54 days” per year under Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 3624(b)(1), Release of Prisoners. The United States Federal Bureau of Prisons (B.O.P.) refuses to give any of their Cash Cows more than 47-days.

The B.O.P. began 2017 with 189,333 prisoners, which is substantially less than the 219,298 reported in 2013.

21,140 of those prisoners are contracted out to private prison companies. The reduction came from legal and legislative changes, not from B.O.P. initiatives. Lobbyists from private prison companies provide hefty campaign contributions to politicians to maintain mass incarceration policies. Read “The Truth About Incarceration, Part II” by Wayne T. Dowdy for more on the topic.

THE COMMISSION: The Commission’s primary purpose was to establish policies, practices, and guidelines for federal judges to use in sentencing federal offenders.

RECIDIVISM DEFINED: Between 2005 and 2013, 25,431 federal offenders were included in a study on Recidivism (“refers to a person’s relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime.”)

“The Commission studied offenders who was either released from federal prison after serving a sentence of imprisonment or placed on a term of probation in 2005.”

STUDY NUMBERS: Offense Types and recidivism rates were as follows: Drug Trafficking (41.7%), Fraud (13.6%), Firearms (12.8%), Robbery (4.3%), Larceny (3.9%), Immigration (3.5%), and ALL Other (20.3%).

DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS OF RECIDIVISM STUDY: The first numbers represent those in the study, whereas the second number represents offenders sentenced in 2014, after the eight-year study period ended: 81.7% – 81.2% were Male offenders. White offenders led at 43.7% – 38.1%, followed by Blacks at 33.9% – 32.7%, Hispanics at 17.8% – 23.4%, and other races at 4.6% – 5.8%.

EDUCATE TO REDUCE RECIDIVISM: Post-Secondary Education Reduces Recidivism! In the study, 34.3% did not graduate high school, compared to 36.6% who did; 21.4% had some college, and only 7.5% were college graduates.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Maybe President Trump will find a way to reduce prison populations and save billions of dollars by reducing recidivism rates. To help willing ex-offenders become productive members of society, who can help pay back their cost of incarceration by paying taxes, will help to make America great again, instead of shamefully being the Incarceration Capital of the World.

OTHER RESULTS OF RECIDIVISM STUDIES: 49.3 percent of those released were rearrested for a new crime or rearrested for a violation of supervised release (e.g., failing to pass a urine analysis, failure to report to the supervised release officer; leaving without permission from a halfway house, perimeter of home confinement area or the state; violating state or federal laws, etc.). “Recidivism Among Federal Offenders: A Comprehensive Overview,” United States Sentencing Commission, March 2016.

Another study showed recidivism rates for state prisoners were higher than federal counterparts: 76.6% of state prisoners were rearrested within five years. “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010” (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rprts05p0510.pdf).

In adjusting the federal study for a five-year comparison, the examiners removed federal offenders sentenced to probation or fines, which lowered the federal rearrest rate from 49.3% to 44.9%, compared to the 76.6% for state offenders. Comparing recidivism reconviction rates (convictions for new criminal charges), state offenders led at 55.4%, compared to 26.0% for federal offenders.

The difference in rearrest rates were possibly due to higher education levels for federal offenders and more available programs created to reduce recidivism. Locking people up inside overcrowded institutions, without providing opportunities that allow the imprisoned to learn how to improve their circumstances that led to prison, only feeds a system that robs men and women of dignity, integrity, and self-respect.

ANOTHER CHANCE: Providing I see the end of this 35-year sentence of imprisonment, which I anticipate doing, I will have another chance to succeed in society. I plan to be a productive member upon release by sharing my experience, strength and hope to help others learn from my mistakes and success.

I plan to use StraightFromthePen.org to provide a platform to (1) influence legal changes to absurd laws; (2) promote prison and sentencing reform; and (3), to help improve prison systems through legislation that forces prison authorities to provide inmates with resources to help them change their lives. To do so, I will communicate, directly or indirectly, with state and federal legislatures for those I will leave behind.

Of course, an old saying is that if you want to hear God laugh to tell Him your plans, so maybe He is laughing now. Maybe His plan for me entails something other than that, but since I am essentially an expert in the field of corrections by being inside most of my life, I figure my experience can benefit others inside who are heading down the path that led me “here.”

My hope is to help effect a change to allow Johnny and thousands of others who are serving absurd prison sentences, to one day have an opportunity to get out of prison, even if only for a furlough.

MASS INCARCERATION: All of us released from prison and then returned for a new sentence are equally responsible for mass incarceration.

As prisoners, we complain about our conditions and what we deal with as part of the prison experience, and yet, for those fortunate enough to get out, we return to make the Prison Machine grow bigger and stronger by feeding it with our lives. By returning to prison, we make sentencing reform initiatives more difficult to pass.

Many men and women released from prison are forced to return to the same area from which they came, without the benefit of going to halfway houses to prepare for successful reentry. Some revert to crime to survive, rather than seeking help from available social programs; the reason is most likely a lack of knowledge about available programs.

DRUG OFFENDERS: The majority of American prison populations are drug offenders, who are the worst to complain about having unjust sentences for “victimless crimes.” But if addicts die from drugs or commit crimes to buy them, are addicts and those victimized by the addicts to get the drugs, victims?

The same legislatures who passed laws to punish people who rob banks, or kill people, are the same ones who passed drug laws. Whether I agree or not, it is the law and if I don’t want to go to or stay in prison, I do not need to violate the law.

Plans to commit and get away with crimes ultimately fail, as proven by booming prison populations.

I do agree that many prisoners have unjust prison sentences, but not just for drug crimes. Those serving life without parole in cases that did not involve murders or other forms or violence are real unjust.

Life without parole may be spelled with letters or numbers (50, 75, 100 years imprisonment).

Numerous prosecutors and law enforcement officials plot with “cooperating codefendants” of the accused to exaggerate drug quantities or other facts needed to trigger more severe sentencing ranges. Codefendants fabricate drug quantities to receive a lesser sentence for providing “substantial assistance.”

Several foreign countries do not have large prison populations because they execute those who violate laws, including drug laws.

At the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, foreign nationals toured the prison. A psychologist told me a prisoner complained to a lady about the severe prison sentence he was serving for a drug offense. She replied, “Sir, why do you complain? In my country, they would execute you.”

Help make America great again by reducing recidivism through proven programs. Imprisoning citizens does not make America great; especially, when slowly executing them by laws that lead to decades or the rest of their lives in prison.

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Wayne T. Dowdy writes at StraightFromthePen.com. Purchase UNKNOWN INNOCENCE ($10.95) and ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN ($8.95), plus S & H charges, at Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616. Buy online at CreateSpace.com, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and other eStores. Visit his Author’s page at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy to purchase eBooks, or from most available eBook distributors, including the Apple iBookstore. At Smashwords, download your copy in the format that works best for you, including Html or pdf to read on your PC or Smartphone.

REENTERING SOCIETY

by Wayne T. Dowdy

When my day comes in the near future, I will be approaching the free society like the Columbia Space Shuttle reentering the atmosphere without all of its protective tiles, or like a meteor heading straight for a collision course with the earth:  I will burn up because of the friction created in the atmosphere of society, caused by my reentry into a distant world of free citizens, unless I proceed with caution and the protection of knowledge, draped in a determination to succeed against the odds.

I must remain constantly aware of the transitional aspect of my journey and how I am affected by all that has changed since my departure three decades ago.  Upon my reentry into a time-warp-zone, I will fail to become a productive member of society if I do not take advantage of the available help now available to prisoners, which will help me ease into a normal life, whatever a normal life may be “out there.”

After my release, death will be inevitable but I will have a choice on whether it will come to me while I am a free man, or as a recidivist who returns to prison because of his thug lifestyle, or as a drug addict who dies because of his addiction and lifestyle, or as a man who fought to change and succeed at changing his life.  My choice is the latter.

COVER.inddIn “No Sympathy” I wrote about my transition into society after serving seven years in the State of Georgia’s prison system and my eventual return to prison (recidivism).  I use my experience to show others that it did not have to be that way:  I did not have to return to prison.  I made choices that led me to where I now write.  I use my story to promote change in a broken criminal justice system and am pleased to see that some of the issues I pushed for over the years have come into existence.

In May 2015, I had my publisher to send Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal, an email for me and an electronic copy of my blog (“Snake vs. Politics,” 03/13/15).  In my blog, in the section subtitled, “Political Promises & Incarceration,” I praised Governor Deal for what he had done and planned to do in the Georgia Criminal Justice system and its prison system.  I know his action will lead to favorable results; e.g., his creating re-entry programs for those released from prison and juvenile diversion programs to stop the flow of juveniles becoming career offenders.

In another essay I wrote and then posted on my blogs (The Truth About Incarceration, Part II); in a subtitled section, “Reentry & Recidivism,” I wrote about the Honorable Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General and President Obama for creating reentry initiatives to help ex-offenders find employment, treatment for drug, alcohol problems and mental health issues.

Those reentry initiatives are more of what I pushed for and know will have a positive impact on the lives of those released from prison, as well as for American society as a whole.  (We are all a part of “one,” whether we want to be or not.)  I cried out for all of that in “No Sympathy” when I revised it in June 2014 before I put it in my personal magazine (ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN) and posted it online as an eBook and then on my blog for everyone to read for free.

I have written other blogs that mention recidivism rates and my experiences over the years that will increase my chances of getting out and staying out when released.  Some blogs contain humorous parts but still draw attention to important issues.

In “Rain, Blogs, Frogs & Politics” (November 3, 2015), and in “Vacation in Prison” (April 8, 2015), I wrote about my position in the Federal Prison Industries (trade name UNICOR).  My experiences and skills learned in the organization will help me to secure employment upon release.  I have been fortunate to have obtained legal skills foreign to most prisoners.

Then in “Teaching Cons New Tricks–Creative Writing and Q.A. Apprenticeship Program” (April 15, 2015), I did the same (wrote about skills learned to help me reintegrate into society).

UNICOR is a non-profit organization set up by Congress in the mid-thirties to make various cotton duck cloth items, originally strictly for the military and other government agencies.  The business structure of UNICOR operates similar to the United States Postal Service by generating its own funding, rather than depending on Congressional budgets.

I show in my essays that UNICOR reduces recidivism by teaching inmates marketable job skills.  Even though in recent years, UNICOR seems to have lost focus of the fact that Congress created the organization as a work program for inmates; not as a conglomerate to become a good-ole-boys fraternity or undercover, profit-generating organization, where profits must disappear into staff bonuses and purchases of elaborate office furnishings or maybe into expense paid trips justified as business necessities.

By their Program Statement, UNICOR has an Inmate Scholarship Award where UNICOR contributes funds to assist inmate employees in paying for college courses; however, the budget for the Inmate Scholarship Awards disappeared, probably into some lavish furniture or extra large bonus for Washington Officials who stripped the funding from the program.  Imagine that, misuse of government funding:  Spend funding on unnecessary items rather than on maintaining a program known to reduce recidivism.

Programs that allow inmates to learn new skills, improve their education, and to learn a new way of life benefit inmates and society:  It is a cost-effective way to reduce recidivism and to help create more productive and constructive members of society.  In “Snake vs. Politics,” I challenged all politicians to read “No Sympathy” when deciding on what is needed to reduce recidivism rates in America.  Maybe some of them actually took me up on the offer.  I feel reasonably assured that Governor Nathan Deal accepted the challenge.  He continues to strive toward making prisons do what society needs done to shut the well-known “revolving door” of recidivist that plague the nation.

CONCLUSION

I will write a more technical blog on Reentry and Recidivism next time I have time to write.  Most of my time has been going toward legal work to help other prisoners file post-conviction relief motions, in an effort to help them obtain their freedom.  I won two out of the last five and hope to go five and O.  🙂  Now, due to a long-shot chance I have at obtaining my own freedom, I must rush to seek permission to file a motion to challenge my own conviction before the June 26, 2015, deadline.  Recent changes in law due to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (June 26, 2015) is what has changed.  As I wrote in “Violent Crime Misconception,” Johnson invalidated a provision of the Armed Career Criminal statute, known as the “Residual Clause.”  Some courts are rightfully applying it to other similar provisions in various statutes, such as Title 18, Section 924(c)(2)(B), which is where “crime of violence” is defined and contains similar language, as does the statute for immigration (18 U.S.C., Section 16(b)).  I have to show armed bank robbery is not “categorically” a crime of violence because a person can commit the crime without rising to the level of violence required to show it is a violent crime. A lot of legal jargon with lots of meaning for those fighting to live another day as free men and women.

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09012015002004Purchase “No Sympathy” as one of eleven essays in the collection, ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN by Wayne T. Dowdy, $8.95 USD, available from all major bookstores and eBook retailers.  Read No Sympathy for free online or by downloading the individual essay from Smashwords.com and other eBook retailers.

Due to technical issues, the release of UNKNOWN INNOCENCE was postponed.  The pagination was reduced and the book reformatted.  The tentative plan for release is June 15, 2016.  The listed price is $14.95, USD.  At 85,000-words, that is a deal:  Two books in one.  Those without Internet access may purchase it from Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616 (email:  MEBooks1@yahoo.com).  All others may buy it from their favorite bookstores or eBook retailers, including the AppleiBookstore.

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Legends Never Die by Wayne T. Dowdy

Merl HaggardMerle Haggard, Chyna, and Prince, all engrained memories in the minds of their fans and foes. Regardless of any flaw painted in history by the news media about either of their lives, each of them accomplished more in life than most of us ever will before the lights are dimmed and we exit the stage, with far less glory than the contestants did on American Idol who left without the prize.

AN INSPIRING EX-CON: Country Legend, Merle Ronald Haggard [April 6, 1937-April 6, 2016], knew the “Working Man’s Blues.” He began his life as a troubled youth. His “Mama Tried” to steer him right, but he still “turned twenty-one in prison [not] doing life without parole.”

In 1958 his troubles lead to him serving time at the historic San Quentin prison in California, after his convictions for burglary and an attempted escape from the county jail. He was twenty-years-young when he walked into San Quentin, a prison known for its danger and violence.

While there, he played in a prison band, and then in 1959, sat in the audience as the legendary Johnny Cash performed his legendary performance inside San Quentin. After Merle Haggard’s release and climb into the music industry, he appeared on the Johnny Cash Show and confessed his tainted past to the world. People continued to love him and his music; especially, songs like the controversial “Okie from Muskogee.” Some of my favorites were “Mama Tried” (and mine did), “Working Man Blues”; “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive”; “Branded Man,” and many others.

In 1960, two and a half-years after he began his prison sentence, he strolled through the prison gates and began working toward an amazing future. He signed his first music contract in 1962 and never slowed down enough to look back.

He blazed the trails over the next few decades, all the way to the annals of history, by becoming a truly great entertainer and songwriter. He produced thirty-eight number one hits, and performed almost 600-songs, including 250 that he wrote.

By 1977 he was elected to the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. In 1994 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In 1972, former President of the United States and Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, granted Merle Haggard a pardon.

For a person who goes to prison, becoming a success after release is an incredible feat: the things he accomplished were an incredible feat for anyone. Merle Haggard inspired musicians and others all around the world and became the idol of many lost souls who dreamed of following his lead.

Merle Haggard set a positive example for people in many ways; especially, those who go to prison and get released. The stigma attached to a prison record that trails an ex-con was much worse when he got out of prison, than it is today, and yet, he proved a person can get out of prison and go on to become a success story.

Each person who gets out and does not return is a success story, regardless of fame and fortune.* The success of Merle Haggard was phenomenal and he deserved a lot more praise than he received.

His last appearance was on April 6, 2016, on his seventy-ninth birthday. His music may fade away as the younger country musicians roll out the hits, but the songs he wrote will forever be preserved in digital heaven.

AmericanIdolAN IDOL DIED: On April the Seventh, the day of my birth, the show that birthed numerous talented musicians, aired its last show. American Idol gave birth to such talented entertainers as Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkston, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Chris Daughtery, Jordin Sparks, Kelly Pickler, and many others.

American Idol was one of the few television shows I watched with any consistency, and now it has moved on into the vaults of digital files. For years to come, millions of loyal fans will not forget the pleasure of watching the show: the experience deeply engrained in the memories of those who enjoyed watching the birth of stars and entertainers.

On the day American Idol died, an extraordinary entertainer, musical genius and legend, performed his last show in Atlanta, Georgia, the place of my birth.

PrinceAN AMERICAN PRINCE: Prince Roger Nelson [June 7, 1958-April 21, 2016], played his final chord and flew away on the lyrics of his last song, two weeks after his last live performance (April 7, 2016, Atlanta, Georgia).

The flamboyant Price dazzled his fans and audiences with spectacular performances that included his mastery of musical instruments and the lyrics he wrote.

He wrote his first song at the age of seven and went on to become a magnificent entertainer, multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, record producer, actor, film director, and an all around influential person who inspired countless others.

He wrote a lot of songs for other artists. To avoid conflicts with the oppressive Warner Brothers, who did not allow him to use his own name, he changed his name several times and wrote “Slave” on his face. I believe he stated on television that he did that because of him not owning rights to his own songs. He rushed to fulfill his contractual obligations to produce a specified number of albums. I heard him say on CNN that when he told children he couldn’t use his own name that his Mother had given him, that they couldn’t believe it. At least, he said something along those lines. He also used various other names for the same reason.

Prince sold over 100-million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling artist of all time, and it is not over yet. His unreleased music lives on with the released hits fans have rushed to buy since his death, taking him to the top once again. Even after his death, innumerable hits will escape their resting place from inside a secret vault, hidden behind a steel door, deep inside his Paisley Park recording studio and home in Chanhassen, Minnesota.

I did not know Prince stood at five-foot-two and wore six-inch heals to make himself taller. His physical stature may have been under average, but he was an above average individual, who inspired and helped numerous others reach the stars.

Prince kept an entourage of lovely women around who often performed in his band. Three of the absolutely captivating Beauties known to be with him, were Vanity, Sheila E, and Carmen Electra. It was he who came up with the stage name for the doll who became “Carmen Electra.”

I fought tears on April 22nd as I watched an interview of CNN with Stevie Wonder, as he struggled to tell about their relationship and the influence Prince had had on his life and the lives of others. The music of Stevie Wonder and Prince, both penetrated racial boundaries and had the power to change lives.

Prince was scheduled to play at the Half-time Show for Superbowl 2007. When the rain began to fall, I believe it was a radio host who called and asked if he knew it was raining because he was wondering if he’d still perform.

“Yes, it is raining,” Prince said. “Can you make it rain harder?”

Most entertainers would have probably cancelled. Prince thrived in Purple Rain.

On April 24, 2016, Renee Montgomery of the Minnesota Linx, shared her story about Prince inviting her and the rest of her team to a party at his mansion after their win. He gave her and numerous others an experience never to be forgotten. He will never be forgotten.

He performed from 1976 until two weeks before his death. The legend of the American Prince will forever live on in the hearts of his millions fans.

Prince was born in the year Merle Haggard went to prison, both musical legends passed on to the next phase of existence within weeks of each other. Several other entertainers gave praise to both men for being an inspiration or helping them become better musicians and entertainers. Both men deserved lots of praise for accomplishing what they did during their lives. Their legacy lives on in the songs they wrote, preserved forever in history on reels of a tape, discs, or some form of electronic media.

ChynaWRESTLER, TEACHER, ENTERTAINER, ACTRESS: Joan Marie Laurer, best known as the female wrestling star, Chyna, who once held the title as the Women’s Champion of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), fought her final round in the battle of addiction and tapped out on April 20, 2016. She was forty-five.

Originally from Rochester, New York, she moved to Florida and continued her educational pursuits. In her later years, she moved to Japan and taught English.

After her move to Florida, she graduated from the University of Tampa before she entered the World of Wrestling and became a famous person, who accomplished many things in her life.

With a muscular physique and exceptional strength, she was a force to contend with in the ring and never hesitated to challenge a competitor.

Chyna declared herself to be the “9th Wonder of the World.” Her predecessor, Andre the Giant, had already claimed to be the “8th Wonder of the World,” so she respectfully took the next spot, rather than to challenge his claim to greatness.

Chyna left the WWE in 2001 and posed for Playboy, appeared in adult and mainstream films, and reality TV shows like “The Surreal Life,” and “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.”

Read more about this amazing woman’s life in her autobiography, “If They Only Knew,” which made it to the New York Times best-sellers list in 2001.

Chyna was a special woman and too young to leave life to chase whatever title waits upon the other side. She no longer has to fight the demons of her addiction. I hope she left the demons behind and now rests peacefully in a safe place.

* Read my next blog about recidivism and re-entry initiatives to reduce the absurd recidivism rate in the American Criminal Justice system. Fairshake Reentry Resource Center is one program created to help ease the transition back into society for those released from prison. Visit their website at http://www.fairshake.net. For those incarcerated, contact them and request their well-written Reentry Package. Fairshake Reentry Resource Center, P.O. Box 63, Westby, WI 54667. For those with Corrlinks, send them an email to request the reentry information: outreach@fairshake.net.

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Wayne T. Dowdy writes straight from the pen. Purchase his books and essays at StraightFromthePen.com or from your favorite online and offline booksellers. Look for UNKNOWN INNOCENCE in May 2016 ($14.95); over 400-pages of intense scenes, suspense, drama, and excitement. Warning: for Mature Audiences only, contains sex and violence. Available in paperback and eBook formats.

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