Prison Talk

We firmly believe that even though a prisoner's body is locked up, their mind can always be free to travel the world and learn about anything they are interested through the magic or books.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lack of Treatment In Lock-up Proves Costly to All

Getting locked up can make it difficult to seek treatment for an addiction, and that lack of help can prove costly for us all.

Lack of Treatment In Lock-up Proves Costly to All

Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) recently released a comprehensive report on the cost and consequences of untreated substance abuse disorders in the nation’s correctional system and the findings are disturbing. The 144-page report, Behind Bars II: Substance Abuse and America’s Prison Population, shows that 65 percent of inmates behind bars today in the U.S. meet the medical criteria for a substance use disorder, but only 11 percent get treatment while incarcerated.

The same study also found that 1.5 million of the nation’s 2.3 million inmates meet the DSM-IV criteria for substance abuse or addiction, and an additional 458,000 prisoners either have histories of substance abuse or their crimes were related to drug or alcohol use. Combined, those two groups represent a whopping 85 percent of the U.S. prison population, and before you write this off as not your problem, read on.

Those stats also represent individuals in need of treatment. They also represent cold, hard cash it will cost our country in the future. That’s why is adamant that the cost of treatment is far less than the cost of forgoing programs to help inmates struggling with addiction. “A large study done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse showed that the return on investing in treatment for this population may be more than $12 for every dollar spent on treatment,” the organization reported.

Another study showed that $74 billion dollars is spent every year in our criminal justice system coping with the consequences of our failure to prevent and treat addiction. That doesn’t even factor in the hidden long-term costs that include children who lose their parents to prison and the risk it puts those children at for future substance abuse issues.

“We just want to underscore the fact that addiction is a disease, that risky substance use is a public health problem, addiction is a treatable medical problem, and we know that these things can be treated effectively in the context of the justice system,” CASA said of the report.

Addiction Treatment at La Paloma

If you or someone you love is battling an addiction, call La Paloma at the toll-free number. Someone is there to take your call 24 hours a day and answer any questions you have about treatment, financing or insurance.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Maurice Clarett looking for move to correctional facility

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Former Ohio State football player Maurice Clarett is in county jail and awaiting a judge's decision on Wednesday that would release him to a community-based correction facility after spending 3½ years in prison.

Clarett, 26, was convicted on charges of aggravated robbery and carrying a concealed weapon.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday that Clarett, who led the Buckeyes to the national championship in 2002, was moved from a Toledo prison to the county jail in Columbus on Monday and would meet on Wednesday afternoon with Judge David Fais, who handled his original case.

O'Brien said he expected the judge to allow the former tailback to be transferred to a secure facility in Columbus where he would be evaluated for possible release within six months. O'Brien described the facility as one which has barbed-wire and is residential, but is not a lock-down institution.

Clarett pleaded guilty in September 2006 to having a gun hidden in his SUV and holding up two people outside a Columbus bar in a separate case. He was sentenced to 7½ years in prison with possible release in 3½ years.

Messages seeking comment from Clarett's attorney, Michael Hoague, were not immediately returned after business hours Tuesday.

A star as a freshman at Ohio State, Clarett, a standout running back from Warren, Ohio, was declared ineligible after one season for receiving extra benefits that were brought to light after he filed a false theft report about a car break-in. He never played another college game after scoring the winning touchdown in Ohio State's 31-24 double-overtime win over Miami in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, the Buckeyes' first national title since 1968.

After he was ruled ineligible, Clarett sued the NFL in September 2003 to be permitted to enter the league's draft. At issue was the NFL's rule denying anyone to be drafted who has not been out of high school for three years. After an initial court victory, Clarett lost on appeal.

He eventually was drafted in the third round of the 2005 draft by the Denver Broncos, but was cut before the season started.

On Jan. 1, 2006, Clarett was charged with aggravated robbery after police said he flashed a gun at people outside a bar and robbed them of a cell phone. Then, on Aug. 9, Clarett was arrested after a chase when police said that they tried to stop him for a traffic violation.

O'Brien said he had no doubt that Judge Fais would release Clarett to the community-based facility because of the conditions of Clarett's guilty plea and his good behavior at Toledo Correctional Institution the past 3½ years. O'Brien also said he would not oppose Clarett's move.

A typical assessment at the facility takes a maximum of six months, and at that time if Clarett had met employment, housing and other requirements he would most likely be released into the general public, O'Brien said.

Clarett has been taking college-credit courses in the Toledo prison, where he was confined to a single cell but was not isolated from other inmates. He was able to exercise and eat with other inmates.

At the time of his plea, Hoague said of his client, "He was up here," raising his arm to eye level. "He got down here," he said, lowering his arm to his waist. "And he's going to be back up here again."

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

How to Email Someone in Prison

Prisons in every state have a different policy. The policies in every prison vary. The person you are trying to reach will need to have the information you are looking for or you will need to request it from the office. This is one of many ways of locating whether or not you can contact a person by an email.


1. Step 1

Go to the prison and request for the email address of the inmate. Most inmates will have identification numbers that may be required. Make sure you have all required information that will allow you to receive the email. Some prisons require you to be on the friend list for information, significant partner, and immediate family. It is always good to speak to the inmate first for information regarding his/her rights for you to request their email if they are allowed to have one. Ask your inmate to ask his/her lawyer to receive this information if you are unable to get the clerk to cooperate. You can go on to a search engine and find office phone numbers, emails and addresses for the front desk for assistance.

2. Step 2

Speak to the front desk clerk allow them time to give you their policies on what you can write or cannot write in submission of your written correspondences. It is good to have them copy your rights as an inmate visitor who is writing the inmate. Of course, the clerk may forget to give you detail information on what is allowed, so ask questions, extensively like can you send photos, what kind of photos, how many emails can you send, is there a limit. After speaking with the clerk if you are satisfied, proceed from there, and use the email address accordingly. Otherwise, seek legal counsel or check with other offices for direction.

3. Step 3

Go to a prison locator's on the Internet if all fails. After trying to speak with clerks, inmate and lawyer, and you feel that information is not given according to policy or would like a change of policy speak to your legislature. Seek an organization that will assist you in contacting your inmate via email or mail. Keep contacting people requesting email information until you run out of options then resort to mailing your inmate. Some prisons are still behind times, so they may not honestly have that capability. The inmate would enjoy a letter regardless of the delivery, so go ahead and follow whatever procedures they require even if that excludes emailing.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Black men in jail than college

THE U.S. would rather fill a jail than a school. That was the conclusion of a study released last month by the Washington-based research and advocacy group Justice Policy Institute (JPI). By the end of last year, one out of every 32 adults in the U.S.--or 6.6 million people--was behind bars, on probation or on parole.

The JPI report compared two decades of data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics--and found that while states had plenty to spend on prisons, they had much less to devote to education.

Between 1985 and 2005, the increase in state spending on corrections was nearly double the increase for higher education. "This report underlines the sad reality that the nation's colleges and universities have lost budget battles to the growing prison system," said Vincent Schiraldi, JPI's president and co-author of the study.

Meanwhile, states have shifted the financial burden onto students. Between 1980 and 1998, the cost of paying for tuition at a four-year college rose from 13 percent of a poor family's income to 25 percent.

These statistics are grim, but for Black men, they get even grimmer. African American men are more likely to go to jail than go to college, according to the JPI study. From 1980 to 2008, the number of African American men in jail or prison grew three times as fast as the number in colleges and universities.

Lamont and Lawrence Garrison are two examples. The twins, who are Black, were just a month away from finishing college at Howard University when they were arrested on drug charges in April 1998. They were found guilty based on the unsubstantiated testimony of a confessed drug dealer who was hoping to lower his sentence. Lamont was sentenced to 19 years; Lawrence got 15 years.

This is the price being paid for two decades of the politicians' tough-on-crime policies that have filled prisons, even as violent crime arrests have dropped.

And George W. Bush's law-and-order home state of Texas is the worst. Texas had more adults under correctional supervision than any other state--755,100--last year. From 1986 to 2008, the amount that Texas spent on higher education grew by 47 percent--while its corrections budget jumped by 346 percent!

Both mainstream political parties are to blame for this travesty. Bill Clinton matched the Republicans in punitive crime policies, with truth-in-sentencing and minimum-sentencing laws. "This is because policies that are 'tough on crime' are politically risk free," said Todd Clear, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. "They're made by politicians seeking election on the basis of what sounds good at the time, and paid for by people not yet voting. Their effects on the prison population don't come into play until 10 or 15 years down the line."

In some states, the obvious failure of tough sentencing laws has led some legislatures to propose laws to end mandatory minimum sentencing, reform the nation's drug laws and de-fund new prison construction and expansion.

But it's time to look at the whole criminal justice system. There's something wrong with a system that would rather lock away young people than teach them. Education, not incarceration!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Robert King: 'I'll fight until the day I die'

Robert King spent decades battling for his release from the 'hell-hole' of America's notorious Angola Prison. Now free, he's still crusading for its inmates.

Working conditions at Angola Prison in Louisiana were so harsh that, in 1952, three dozen inmates hacked through their own Achilles tendons with razor blades in protest.

They became known as the Heel String Gang. By the time Robert King first arrived at the former slave plantation, 10 years later, armed convicts were working as guards. Incoming prisoners, or "fresh fish", were being sold as sex slaves. Some were raped so violently they died of their injuries. But these horrors formed only part of King's nightmare. For every day of the 29 years he spent in solitary confinement, inside a prison described as the "bloodiest in America", he knew he was innocent.

"It's hard to get dipped in shit and not come out stinking," says King, who walked free in 2001. "But I don't have time to be angry." Two men, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace, who were sent down for murder at the same time, still languish in Angola Prison, properly known as the Louisiana State Penitentiary, after 37 years in solitary confinement, the longest period in US history. King, who is now 67, will not rest until they are released: "Will I fight till the day I die? Perhaps I will."

For decades, the men known as the Angola Three have protested their innocence. Their supporters say the case represents one of the greatest miscarriages of justice of our times – one that still shames America. When they fought for the rights of black inmates at the height of the civil rights movement, they were framed for murder, thrown in cells smaller than most bathrooms, and forgotten.

The plight of King and his comrades is the subject of In the Land of the Free, a documentary narrated by Samuel L Jackson and out in cinemas on Friday. King hopes the film, which premieres in London tomorrow, will help his fight for justice. "You throw pebbles in a pond and you get ripples," he says. "I see this as a huge rock."

King has devoted his life to throwing pebbles. He spends two weeks of every month travelling the world, meeting activists, world leaders – anyone who will listen. I first meet him in London in 2008 at an exhibition put on by an artist and supporter. It includes a whitewashed, wooden replica of King's cell. Standing behind its bars, he is taken back to a space from which he never expected to emerge. "I had life and 43 years, and in Angola life is life," he says. "I had hope, but I had to reserve my feelings because I knew I would probably die in prison."

King wears a pair of khakis, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Kangol flat cap turned backwards. A crude, faded tattoo of a spider peers out from under his right sleeve. It's a souvenir from King's first stint in prison, while he was still in his teens. His route to Angola started in Algiers, a poor ward of New Orleans. Raised by his grandmother (his parents were "off the set"), King's upbringing was marked by poverty and discrimination. "There were laws in place that upgraded some citizens and downgraded others," he says. "I happened to be on the down side – as was my father, and his father before him."

Drawn on to an escalator of petty crime, King was soon doing time in juvenile facilities for robberies he says he wasn't involved in. "Back then, police said, well, you might not be guilty but you was probably there, so ... " Between sentences, a young King found work digging graves and collecting litter to recycle for cash. In 1970, while serving a sentence for another robbery of which he claims innocence, King cracked. He escaped from the Orleans Parish Prison in a bust involving 25 inmates. It did not endear him to the authorities, who recaptured him after two weeks, and threw him into solitary. "I decided I couldn't have any more obligations to a system that had dealt me like that," he says. "I had hoped that the system would be fair but I lost that hope."

Meanwhile, at Angola, Wallace and Woodfox were serving sentences for unconnected robberies. The world's largest maximum security prison, and a working farm to this day, Angola was built in the late 19th century on the site of a plantation, and named after the African country from which many of its slaves were shipped. Guards who worked there in the Seventies have admitted that the trade in sex slaves was allowed to flourish. Between 1972 and 1975, the practice of arming inmates as guards resulted in the deaths of 40 prisoners. Partly reformed today, Angola has 5,000 inmates, more than three-quarters of whom are black. Eight out of 10 of its convicts die behind bars.

Sickened by racial hatred in and out of Angola, Wallace and Woodfox formed a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party, the revolutionary group that rocked America in the Sixties and Seventies. It made them public enemies. When no inmates spoke up after the 1972 murder of a 23-year-old prison guard called Brent Miller, authorities terrorised Angola's black population, and singled out Black Panthers. A prisoner who at first said he had not seen the murder emerged suddenly as a key witness. He fingered Wallace and Woodfox, who were found guilty by an all-white jury and sent to solitary, where they remain. Prints collected at the scene, which belong to neither man, were never tested. Even Miller's widow, Leontine Verrett, is said to be convinced of the pair's innocence.

King, who by now had also joined the Panthers, was moved to Angola soon after Miller's murder. He could expect an earlier release but later learned he was under investigation for the slaying, despite not having been there. The authorities found a better reason to keep him locked up in 1973, when King was charged for the murder of August Kelly, a prisoner who was stabbed to death. King stood trial alongside Kelly's assailant, who claimed sole responsibility for the murder. But witnesses, who would later admit to having given false testimony, put King at the scene. He was found guilty, only to be re-tried in 1975 after it emerged his mouth had been taped shut during the first trial. Despite a mountain of evidence in King's favour, he was found guilty by an all-white jury drawn from the prison community. And so began three decades in solitary.

"You can't get used to anything like that but you have to think about it as part of the territory if you're gonna survive," says King, who shared Angola's Closed Cell Restricted area with Woodfox and Wallace. Talking was forbidden and rule-breakers were thrown in "the dungeon". "They didn't even have a mattress in there or no blankets," King recalls. "Food you got was sometimes just two slices of bread, and you wouldn't get a shower for days. You could get 10 days in there, sometimes 20, sometimes 30, but we were willing to sacrifice a bit just to talk."

Like his comrades, King became schooled in the law and found "escape in sleep", but a sweeter diversion came from an unlikely source. By stacking empty drinks cans to create a stove fired by burning tissues, King used butter packs and sugar sachets, as well as smuggled pecans, to make pralines. Risking stints in the dungeon, he sold his candy to other inmates and made donations to the men on death row. He says: "It was something I could do, and something different I could give people who might never see daylight again – myself included."

King says it required a "change in psychology" to stay sane: "I began to see America as one big prison – that I was in maximum security and that the people outside were in minimum custody." As years turned into decades, the Angola Three risked being forgotten in the hellhole that was the prison. But as word of their plight spread, the scales of justice started to creak. After a complex process of plea bargaining, during which King says the state went to great lengths to avoid a costly and embarrassing lawsuit, he reluctantly accepted a charge of conspiracy to commit murder. On 8 February 2001 he walked free. "I was elated – never scared," he recalls, "but it felt so strange and surreal."

King returned to New Orleans, where he continued to make his pralines (he rebranded them "King's Freelines" and still sells them to raise money for the campaign). Driven out by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he moved to Austin, Texas, where he still lives with his dog, Kenya.

All possible legal strings within reach have been pulled to ensure that Woodfox and Wallace remain no closer to freedom. When King isn't campaigning or "you know, coolin' out, dilly-dallyin' around", he reflects on what the case of the Angola Three says about race relations in modern America.

At our first meeting, Obama's inauguration was still six months away and King doubted even a black president could bring change. "The politics are too entrenched," he said. "Kennedy tried to change them and was assassinated. Malcolm X was assassinated. If Obama gets elected and isn't assassinated, he might give people the idea America has changed but it won't be true."

And now? King thinks for a moment. "I believe Obama has become a catalyst for change," he says. "The election showed the ideology and mindset of the young people in this country has made a big leap. We saw it in Katrina and we're beginning to see it elsewhere. They're saying, you're not gonna do this in our name no more. We gonna go on our own. Whether or not that will impact Herman and Albert immediately, I don't know. Until it does, the struggle goes on. I may be free of Angola. But Angola will never be free of me."

Prison guard to do time

Published March 27, 2010 05:49 pm - Sentencing has been set for Gary L. Sheesley, the senior corrections officer at the Federal Penitentiary at Lewisburg who, with his loaded .45-caliber Derringer last July, mistook a convenience store along Route 45 for the O.K. Corral.


Sentencing has been set for Gary L. Sheesley, the senior corrections officer at the Federal Penitentiary at Lewisburg who, with his loaded .45-caliber Derringer last July, mistook a convenience store along Route 45 for the O.K. Corral.

Sheesley, police said, was drunk when he smacked a passing car with his hand in downtown Lewisburg, and invited the driver to a fight. They met at a convenience store in East Buffalo Township and engaged in a tussle. Sheesley, 49, of Mifflinburg, drew the gun on Jerry Zimmerman, of Sunbury, who knocked it out of Sheesley’s hand.

The two-shot pistol skidded across the parking lot. Zimmerman grabbed it, went inside the convenience store and asked the clerk to call police.

Sheesley has pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering another person, and to his third driving under the influence, with a high blood-alcohol level. His blood-alcohol content was 0.125 percent. The legal limit for drivers in Pennsylvania is 0.08 percent.

Six charges were dropped against Sheesley: Driving under the influence while generally impaired, his third offense; making terroristic threats; a second count of recklessly endangering another person; two counts of simple assault; and disorderly conduct by engaging in fighting.

Sheesley was suspended from his job at the prison. His current employment status is unknown.

East Buffalo Township Detective Darryl Fisher arrested Sheesley at the convenience store after the 7 p.m. incident July 25. Fisher reported that Sheesley and Zimmerman both had signs of injury to their faces. Zimmerman stayed inside the store and Sheesley waited for police to arrive outside, seated on his motorcycle. Fisher reported that Sheesley’s eyes were glassy and he had an odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath.

Sentencing is scheduled for early June in Union County Court with Judge Harold F. Woelfel Jr. presiding.

Friday, March 26, 2010

T.I. Completes Prison Sentence But Still Has Curfew

Rapper will reportedly be placed under 23 days of supervised release.

T.I. is officially a free man. Mostly. On Friday (March 26), the rapper completed his prison sentence, stemming from a 2007 arrest for attempting to illegally purchase firearms.

Originally given 366 days in prison, T.I. was released to a halfway house in December and earlier this month, he was allowed to return home to finish the remainder of his sentence, which ended today, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons records.

But T.I. isn't exactly out of the woods just yet. While his home confinement may have ended, his lawyer reportedly told TMZ that T.I. will now be placed under 23 days of "supervised release," meaning he'll have to be home by 11 p.m. unless he's performing, in which case his curfew is extended until 1 a.m.

The Web site also reported that the rapper still needs to complete some 400 hours of community service and will remain on probation for three years. Before his prison stint began, T.I. made an arrangement with prosecutors, in which he would complete 1,500 hours of community service, 1,000 of which needed to be completed before he would be formally sentenced. In exchange, he was given the 366-day jail sentence, which allowed him the opportunity for early release. T.I. officially began serving his time in May, meaning he ended up doing 10 months of the year-and-a-day bid.

Since being moved to the halfway house in December, T.I. has been recording the follow-up to his 2008 album, Paper Trail, and earlier this month, he announced plans for a brand-new single, "I'm Back."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nicki Minaj Calls Lil Wayne's Jail Time 'An Emotional Roller Coaster'

We wouldn't wish it on any crew in the game,' she says at mtvU Spring Break.

It's been a trying time for the Young Money camp since Lil Wayne began his yearlong prison bid. The rapper's sentencing and subsequent jail stint were delayed numerous times before he finally entered New York's Rikers Island. Nicki Minaj called the experience "confusing."

"His actual time to go in had been changing, up and down," she said during mtvU Spring Break. "So it's been an emotional roller coaster for all of us involved because we never knew when the last text message or that last hug was the actual last text message or hug. It was very, very strange. We wouldn't wish it on any crew in the game."

Lil Wayne took advantage of the additional time he was afforded to shoot more videos — he shot nearly 20 clips leading up to his imprisonment — and to make a guest appearance during Young Jeezy's set on Jay-Z's Blueprint 3 Tour stop in New York. While Wayne is away, his team has pledged to keep the YM torch scorching hot.

Drake vowed to take the lead in Wayne's absence. "I'm gonna do everything I told him I would do, what I said in the song ['Over']: keep us afloat till he gets back," he told MTV News. "You won't even notice he's gone. Promise."

Minaj described the unusual circumstances that led to her, Drake and the rest of the Young Money crew appearing at mtvU Spring Break without Lil Wayne. Last year, Wayne was a part of the festivities, which also included performances by Jim Jones, Asher Roth and Kid Cudi. He brought Drake and Nicki along as guests during his set.

Now, it's their turn to apply the lessons Wayne taught them, Nicki said. "We remember last year being at MTV Spring Break, and Wayne was obviously the headliner," she recalled. "He's so much more than a headliner, he's a person that I look at, and I can't believe this guy is still going, after 20 to 30 minutes in the hot sun. To not have him here, it's like a life lesson for all of us — always work as if we have no one else to depend on — and that's what he teaches us. He did, like, 1,000 videos before he went in, knowing that he had to go to jail. A lot of us wouldn't do that. A lot of us would be curled up on a ball like, 'Oh my God, my life is about to be over.' So shout-out to Lil Wayne. We're honored that he chose each and every one of us, handpicked us. And we love him."