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, December 19, 2011

Ex-convict says his prison ministry is keeping inmates from becoming repeat offenders

Tim Terry looks for information on a JumpStart Inside program participant. JumpStart Ministries is a group that provides in-prison classes for prisoners, transitional housing for people who have been recently released from prison, and employment opportunities for ex-offenders. Tim Terry, executive director of the group, said one of the goals of the prison ministry is to seek to reduce recidivism rates in South Carolina.

Meet Timothy Lee Terry: age 47, a father, a Christian, a leader of a local, faith-based prison ministry program, and an ex-convict guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

Sentenced to 30 years in 1987, Terry said his life changed when he found God in prison.

"For the first time in my life, I felt the weight lift off of my shoulders," he said of his experience in McCormick Correctional Institution. "I knew I was saved."

He was released on parole in 2002. Now he directs JumpStart Ministries, a prison ministries program for reforming inmates through God.

Terry thinks the problem is that the state's correctional system too often fails to correct behavior. There are 22,666 incarcerated men and women in South Carolina's prison system; one in three of these inmates would end up back in prison within three years if current trends continue.

"I have seen people come through the system that I've dealt with before, and obviously I'm not happy when I see them," said Barry Barnette, Seventh Circuit solicitor.

Taxpayers pay for them to return to prison again and again, at the cost of $16,000 a year.

Locally, Greenville and Spartanburg counties commit more people to prison than other counties in the state.

But Terry says almost no one who goes through his program goes back to prison.

When Terry talks about the night he killed his wife and his eventual journey to God, he tells prisoners that he was "tore up from the floor up."

"I tell people I used to be a dope dealer, now I'm a hope dealer," he says.

His story always addresses his youth. He often says that 99 percent of inmates are behind bars because of unresolved childhood issues.

For Terry, his problems began when he was a 14-year-old boy enrolled in a Christian school.

"I had a mama who loved God," he said. "And all of the sudden, out of the blue, this woman, she took my little .22 pistol and stuck it to her chest."

After his mother's suicide, he said he shook his fist at God and sought comfort in alcohol and drugs.

"That sent my life into a tailspin," he said. "It went from smoking marijuana to drinking liquor to doing an ounce of cocaine a night because of that raging monster inside of me."

Terry hears similar stories through JumpStart's 40-week in-prison program.

At the chapel inside Livesay Correctional Institute in Spartanburg in November, Terry's class was in its 39th week. Dozens of inmates listened to stories of bad childhoods and mistakes. Grown men broke down in tears, sang songs, read poetry.

After they told their stories and their reasons for being behind bars — most for stealing and dealing drugs — the room grew quiet when Terry revealed his voluntary manslaughter conviction.

Terry told the crowd that, following his mother's death, he dropped out of school, got married to his high school sweetheart and had a daughter and a son. Through it all, he said he kept using and selling cocaine and marijuana.
But his marriage soured, and he killed his wife one night in anger. He tried to overdose immediately after. His 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son were in a nearby bedroom.

"I didn't want to live anymore," he said.

He ended up with a 30-year sentence at McCormick Correctional.

In prison, he found lucrative ways to keep dealing marijuana.

Then he met Paul Gray.

Gray arrived at McCormick via Kairos Ministries — a national prison ministry — and took Terry to the prison library, where Terry collapsed in tears and reconciled with God.

"That event in the library took a 29-year-old man trapped in a 14-year-old's body and set him free," he said.

He got rid of the marijuana and cleaned up.

"At (the) expense of people calling me names, I said, ‘Listen, y'all, I've done this stuff for 29 years, and the best it's gotten me is 30 years in this penitentiary. I'm going to try things another way,' " he said.

From living in prison to living in Spartanburg

In 2002, Terry walked free, having served 15 years of a 30-year sentence.

In his 15 years, he'd seen inmates leave prison only to repeatedly return. He set out to change that through programs that help ex-offenders make a successful transition back to society.

Terry uses pastor Rick Warren's "Purpose-Driven Life" as his lesson plan for the 40-week course for inmates who are up for parole or release within two years.

The duration helps "whittle out the riffraff," he said.

Tommy E. Timms Jr., 37, stuck with Terry's program and is now awaiting release next March. This is his third stint in prison. All of his charges are drug-related.

He says he's ready to make a change this time. He's now a team leader in Terry's in-prison program at Livesay Correctional Institution in Spartanburg.

"My real test is coming in just a few months," he said to the class. "So I ask that you all keep me in your prayers."

He's asked Terry to help him find a good church and a room in JumpStart's transitional housing, a strategy that prison officials support.

"It's very beneficial to have someone on the outside who is willing to mentor them and keep them accountable," said Lloyd Roberts, chief chaplain with the S.C. Department of Corrections.

JumpStart manages seven units of transitional housing in Spartanburg County and several other parts of the Upstate. After inmates serve their time, Terry shepherds them into JumpStart's housing, where they must abide by strict curfews and visitation limits.

Levonne Jamison, 34, served seven years for a lewd act on a minor and was released Sept. 30. He's living in one of the JumpStart houses in Spartanburg County and has recently found full-time employment.

Jamison said he grew up in the Midlands but chose to stay in Spartanburg because he knew he had to stay away from his childhood neighborhood.

"You have to leave the old behind," he said.

In prison, he said he saw people from his neighborhood get out and quickly return to prison.

"It's a revolving door," Jamison said. "They go right back to the same thing they did before. … They go and come back and get more time."

State corrections officials say Terry's program helps break that cycle.

"The product that Tim is putting out on the table is a very good product because what they do is very much needed," said Gary Boyd, director of inmate services for the corrections department.

Boyd said the state doesn't track the percentage of JumpStart's clients who end up back in prison, but he said that rate is very low for a similar program called Changing the Way.

Breaking the cycle

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Prison guards shoot two inmates during Folsom riot

California prison guards Wednesday shot at least two inmates at a maximum-security facility near Sacramento as officers tried to quell a riot involving some 50 prisoners, officials said.

In all, at least nine inmates were taken to Sacramento-area hospitals for treatment of stab wounds, gunshot wounds and blunt-force trauma after the melee erupted at 12:30 p.m. at California State Prison-Sacramento in Folsom, about 20 miles east of the Capitol.

The condition of the injured inmates and the cause of the disturbance were not immediately known, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The cause of the disturbance is "under investigation," Thornton said.

Sgt. Lavance Quinn, another prison spokesperson, said the incident occurred at Folsom's main maximum-security exercise yard. It was quickly contained by guards using pepper spray, rubber projectiles and Mini-14 rifles, Thornton said.

Quinn said a couple of prison guards who responded to the incident suffered minor injuries. But "none of the injuries were as a result of an inmate-on-officer assault," he said.
Thornton said officers are allowed to use deadly force when it is required to prevent themselves or others from being physically harmed, but the shootings will be investigated to make sure they were justified.

The prison has been placed on a "modified program," which means that inmates have limited movement and are essentially confined to their cells, officials said.

The facility opened in 1986 and is primarily used to house about 2,800 maximum-security inmates serving long sentences and those who have proved to be difficult to manage at other institutions, officials said.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pa. prison visitor busted for drug possession

MERCER, Pa. - A western Pennsylvania man is charged with possessing marijuana and a pipe to smoke it...when he entered a state prison to visit his son.
State troopers from the Mercer barracks say 44-year-old David Fritz of Natrona Heights was charged Saturday morning while visiting his 27-year-old son at the State Correctional Institution-Mercer. Court records show the son is serving up to seven years in a sex abuse case there.

Police say a prison guard was searching visitors for contraband when a drug-sniffing dog alerted him that Fritz was carrying a pipe and a small amount of pot.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Treatment of mentally ill prisoners needs to be addressed

Recently there was an audit from Robert C. Lewis, director, Division of Prisons, describing horrific and abusive conditions at Central Prison Inpatient Mental Health Facility in Raleigh. The report gives details about inadequate staffing for nurses and clinicians (Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Social Workers); poor quality of medical records about distribution of psychotropic medications; concerns about patient safety, health, welfare, and dignity; lack of proper infection control; and concerns about safety of staff and inmates.

Reading the audit leaves one with the conclusion that there is a lack of effective management concern, at all levels, about the care of prisoners with a mental illness at Central Prison. It also raises questions about the treatment of people with mental illness throughout the jails and prisons in North Carolina. This combined with the failure of mental health reform implies that North Carolina government does not care about people who suffer from a brain disorder.

Individuals with a mental illness are vastly overrepresented in the prison population — in the U.S. approximately 24 percent of the prison population lives with a serious mental illness, while in the juvenile system that is up to about 70 percent. The statistics tell us there is a problem — we are arresting people sometimes for exhibiting symptoms of their illness, then they go downhill while in prison since they cannot follow the rules, don’t get necessary medication, or treatments, and are generally incapable of conforming due to their illness. So no, we don’t agree with comments made by various public figures that these are all criminals. Rather, there is a problem with our system not recognizing early on that some of these people in fact have a medical problem.

Recently the Commission on Mental Health passed rules to improve conditions in the prisons for those living with mental illness things like minimally adequate treatment, proper screening and identification, medication protocols, limits on seclusion and restraint, and most importantly lots of tightening up of discharge planning that may reduce the very high recidivism rate we have for those with mental illness coming out of the prisons. Yet these very rules have been languishing for eight months, awaiting the required fiscal note.

Let’s get our General Assembly and governor to move these rules along. Let’s fix this problem, now.

Love notes could land Dry Hill prison inmates in trouble

Two state inmates serving time in the Watertown Correctional Facility just wanted to let their sweethearts know they were thinking of them. Instead, they caused a hazardous-materials investigation at the Dry Hill prison Friday morning.

But the two inmates — Jafar Torkpour, formerly of Broome County, and Desmond McNeil, formerly of Queens — may have landed themselves in hot water with corrections officials after sending love notes to their significant others, said Peter K. Cutler, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

To emphasize their feelings, the inmates put material inside the envelopes that turned out to be sugar and lemonade mix, but caused state police and fire and rescue units to respond about 7:40 a.m. Friday to the correctional facility, at 23147 Swan Road in the town of Watertown.

Mr. Torkpour, in prison on a conviction of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, placed sugar inside an envelope with a letter telling his lady he is still “sweet on” her, Mr. Cutler said. He said Mr. McNeil, in prison for third-degree robbery, put lemonade powder in his envelope with a letter telling the intended recipient he is “still sweet enough” on her.

The substances in the envelopes were later tested, Mr. Cutler said, adding the inmates could be disciplined.

The incident began when prison officials found the suspicious materials seeping out of the envelopes and called state police to investigate, a state police sergeant said.

Because the envelopes’ contents were not known, state police followed “protocol” for investigating potential Homeland Security threats, the sergeant said. She said she did not know whether such an incident had ever happened before at the prison.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Maryland prison reorganization designed to better help inmates transition into society

Maryland's prison chief said this week that a reorganization of the state prison system will reduce recidivism and improve the way inmates re-enter society upon their release. Gary D. Maynard, secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said Wednesday that part of the reorganization involves incarcerating prisoners in the same region where they committed their crimes.

"Offenders that come into the system stay in that region, and when they re-enter they stay in that region," Maynard said in a telephone interview. "At least 80, 85, 90 percent will be arrested in the region, sentenced in the region, incarcerated in the region and released in the region."

He said the only exceptions would be for death-row inmates and inmates who committed egregious crimes. Those prisoners will be incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison near Cumberland that houses the state's most serious offenders.

The reorganization emerged after officials from all state prison agencies met during four brainstorming retreats this year to come up with ideas that would improve public safety efforts across the department.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Florida prison inmates still can't smoke, but now correctional officers can

TALLAHASSEE — Inmates can't smoke in Florida prisons anymore, but employees still can.

Facing resistance from the union representing correctional officers, Corrections Secretary Ken Tucker has lifted the order from his predecessor that required all prisons in Florida to be smoke-free by Oct. 1.

Tucker's new policy allows officers, employees and visitors to smoke or chew tobacco on prison grounds "within a secure perimeter," and such areas "should not be in plain view of inmates."

"Wardens, as my designees, are authorized to designate outdoor areas where employees, contractors, volunteers and official visitors may use tobacco products," Tucker said in an Oct. 4 memo.

Smokers "are limited to possession of no more than one pack, can, pouch or other single factory container of tobacco."

Former prisons chief Ed Buss, who was forced out by Gov. Rick Scott in August, decreed in April that prisons be smoke-free to reduce skyrocketing health care costs and the hazards caused by second-hand smoke.

All other state buildings and offices are smoke-free.

Buss came to Florida from Indiana, which banned smoking in prisons two decades ago, and he quickly launched a six-month cessation program to help inmates kick the habit, including selling them $35 nicotine patches.

Under Buss' decree, corrections officers could smoke if they stepped outside the prison gates, a long walk at some of the state's biggest lockups. When Buss left town, the officers' union formally resisted the move.

Union attorney Hal Johnson of the Florida Police Benevolent Association said he told Tucker that a revised smoking policy changes workplace conditions and must be negotiated as part of a union contract.

"We sent an e-mail saying, 'You need to talk to us,' " Johnson said. "I think this is a fair solution for everybody."

Not according to the families of some inmates, who have sent letters of complaint to Tucker, citing what they call a double standard.

"It doesn't seem to be real fair," said Jill Doerr of St. Augustine, whose brother is at a prison at Lake Butler, near Gainesville.

Doerr said she doesn't think inmates should smoke, but she added: "If they're going to make it a law, then it all should be off the grounds."

Madelyn Chiarelli of Coral Springs also lodged protests with prison officials. She said a friend of hers who is serving time at a prison in Live Oak told her officers chew tobacco and smoke in front of inmates struggling to become nonsmokers.

"It's a problem," Chiarelli said. "I know the officers are supposed to smoke in designated places, but what I'm hearing is that they are chewing tobacco and smoking in front of the inmates. That taunts them."

Warden Chris Landrum at Suwannee Correctional in Live Oak said in an Oct. 10 memo to his staff: "I continue to receive calls and complaints … alleging that we have numerous staff continuing to smoke … in the presence of our inmate population."

Corrections officials say the reason for designating smoking areas at each prison is to prevent that from happening.

"None of the recent decisions that the department has made in reference to tobacco use have been made to frustrate or discourage the inmate population," wrote Alan McManus, chief of policy management in the Department of Corrections, in a letter to Chiarelli.

It is not an advantage to anyone to set policies that would disrupt effective and safe correctional practices."

Tucker's liberalized smoking policy comes as legislators are considering requiring state employees to join smoking cessation programs as part of obtaining state group health insurance.

Georgia last year became the 26th state to completely ban smoking on prison grounds. Most other states have partial smoking bans.

Friday, October 7, 2011

From prison to jail

California has embarked on a reform that might keep more people out of prison

MIRED in fiscal crisis and usually deemed dysfunctional, California under Governor Jerry Brown has nonetheless surprised itself this year with one big reform. Starting this month, it has begun to send people newly convicted of crimes that are non-violent, non-sexual and non-serious, or “non3” in the jargon, to jails, which are run by county sheriffs (and are normally used as pre-sentencing holding pens), instead of prisons, run by the state.

This is part of what Mr Brown calls “realignment”, a devolution from centralised to local power. But it goes further: these reforms amount to a rethinking of California’s, and America’s, disastrous three-decade run of “tough-on-crime” fallacies.

That legacy of locking up ever more people for more reasons and more time led to a prison-building boom in the 1980s (California now has 33, not counting “camps”), an explosion of inmate numbers in the 1990s and a corresponding increase in cost to taxpayers. Prison spending went from about 4% of the state budget in the mid-1980s to about 10% now; it exceeds university funding.

Inside the prisons, this means inhumane overcrowding. A federal ruling, upheld by the Supreme Court in May, has found the conditions “cruel and unusual”, and requires California to release roughly 30,000 inmates in the next two years.

The realignment reforms could, at least in part, address all of these problems. That is because they do not merely shift the same number of inmates with the same problems and costs from one level of government to another. Rather, the new system assumes that counties will do differently and better what the state does badly.

This starts with recidivism. About two in three of the people California releases from prison end up right back in it. Usually, this is because they miss an appointment with their parole officer, fail a drug test or do something else that is stupid but trivial.

Then they get readmitted to prison—in remote locations and at ruinous cost, with dental, medical and psychological exams each time—for another stay. And so the revolving door keeps spinning.

In future, most inmates who get out of prison will no longer be on “parole” but on “probation”, which means they report to their county, not the state. After all, the counties also run drug-rehabilitation, housing and job-placement programmes that the probationers need to build new and cleaner lives. And this is the objective of a system that claims to be for “corrections and rehabilitation”.

If a probationer still gets into trouble, the county can now punish him in ways short of returning him to prison. This might mean more drug treatment or parenting classes, or home detention with a GPS monitor strapped around the ankle, or “flash incarceration” in jail for a few days.

The idea, based on research and recent experience in states such as Texas and Hawaii, is that people change behaviour in response to swift and certain consequences, not necessarily severe ones.

Proponents believe crime, already relatively low, could decrease, as offenders who are not dangerous are kept out of prison, where they would be brutalised, and remain integrated in their communities. But opponents, mainly prosecutors and police chiefs, worry that the opposite is more likely.

If offenders serve less time inside, whether in prison or jail, it must mean they spend more time on the streets. Crime could increase.

Besides, they fret, why assume that county jails will be any better than state prisons? They are hardly islands of harmony. The jail in Los Angeles County, America’s largest, is under federal investigation for brutality and venality by deputies and guards. Now jails will get more crowded to boot.

And it is unclear whether the state will give counties enough money to do their new job properly.

As Dean Misczynski at the Public Policy Institute of California puts it, California is “on the verge of a vast experiment”. Will crime go up or down? What changes human behaviour? The other 49 states will be paying close attention.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Inside The Box: A Prisoner Tells His Tale

Matthew Hattley is an inmate at the Eastern Correctional Facility in Napanoch, NY. He is serving a term of 25 years to life for murder, a tragedy that he admits to and fully regrets. He is a member of a community that exists within our midst the prison community that few outside of it know.

The community exists behind the walls and razor wire of New York State's vast network of prisons, within the homes of the Correction Officers who work there, and the motels, bus stops and low-rent housing that many families of inmates frequent. But to most us this community is invisible, even though its influences and effects are everywhere.

He lives in a place few get to see, and even fewer understand. We have asked him to write about what life is like in a maximum security prison what happens day to day, what inmates eat, what inmates do, how they organize themselves, what they hope for, and what they can expect. Not much different than what our reporters do in the more recognizable communities of the Hudson Valley.

We understand that giving a voice to someone who has committed a heinous crime is unsettling, and may even anger some readers. Nonetheless, he lives among us, walled off, for sure, but he is there, as are thousands like him. Does he deserve to be heard? We think that depends on what he says, not just on who he is, which is why we chose to print his writings. We expect his reports to be a regular feature in the newspaper below is Mr. Hattley's third contribution.

Alex Shiffer

Welcome back to the world inside the walls. Today we're examining another aspect of the prison experience. First and foremost, I need you to understand that "Programs" are classified as follows: School, Therapeutic/Treatment, Vocational and Work. You also need to know that each day consists of three modules: AM, PM, and Eve.

So, where were we? Just finishing up breakfast, maybe taking a shower or getting some exercise.

Now, the majority of the prison population will report to their AM program; the remainder will either go out to the yard or return to their cell. Everyone, with limited number of medical exceptions, is assigned to two modules. Roughly 85 percent have AM/PM programs, which they report to 5 days a week. Some choose to have two different programs, one module each.

Eastern Correctional Facility (Napanoch) is considered a "program facility", which means they have something to offer for everyone. Your ability to advance in any specific area is determined on your having a GED or high school diploma. We have the potential to earn between ten cents and sixty-five cents an hour. The average prisoner earns twenty cents an hour. However, without at least a GED, you will not advance beyond seventeen and a half cents an hour.

Just so you have a better idea of exactly what we do in here, I will give you a brief summary of several available programs.

Barber Shop: Licensed barbers (prisoners) cut the general population's hair approximately once ever two weeks. Your day to receive a haircut is determined by the last number on your prison ID. They are supervised by a corrections officer.

Commissary: These workers are responsible for unloading items from the delivery trucks, stocking and organizing shelves with all available products, chips, candy, cereal, cold-cuts, cups and bowls, cosmetics, etc. They also gather the items specifically selected by each prisoner to be purchased. The general population is scheduled to shop once every other week, according to their "buy letter" (i.e. A. B. C.....) They are supervised by both civilians, who actually perform the transactions, and correction officers.

Education: We currently have Pre-GED, GED and Bard College (privately funded) classes. These classes are conducted by civilian instructors in separate classrooms in the school building. Upon completion there is usually a graduation ceremony in the facility auditorium.

Facility Painter: These workers are responsible for keeping the interior of the facility presentable at all times. They basically do "touch up" work on a daily basis, Monday to Friday. There are also block painters (one per block) who are responsible for painting the cells and galleries of their respective housing units.

General Library: These workers are responsible for stocking shelves with books; assisting the general population in obtaining books (4 books and/or audio cassettes at any one time). The library offers a wide selection of materials including newspapers and magazines. Books may also be ordered from an outside library. The workers are supervised by a civilian librarian.

Hospital: Workers are responsible for responding to emergencies within the facilities, cleaning up feces and blood spills as well as keeping the hospital area sanitized. Those who work in the actual ward tend to the patients as well. They are all unofficial nurse's aides.

Industry: Set in an isolated area, there is a mattress, metal and sign shop, plus a warehouse. Workers make products which are sold to other state agencies. They are the highest paid workers in the facility at up to .65 cents an hour and their shifts run from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The entire operation is supervised by civilian instructors and corrections officers.

Laundry: Workers are responsible for washing and drying the prison population's clothes. Each housing unit is scheduled for one day per week. They clean and distribute all state issued linen (2 sheets and 1 pillowcase) every Saturday morning. They also clean all the facility mop-heads. This operation is supervised by a civilian.

Maintenance: This area contains several shops: Carpentry, Electric, General Mechanic, Mason & Plumbing. There is also a Fire & Safety area. The workers in each shop are responsible for the repair and upkeep of the facility. Everything from changing lights bulbs, unclogging sinks and toilets, to repairing damaged concrete is their responsibility. They are supervised by civilian instructors.

Mess Hall: Workers are responsible for preparation and serving of the food for the population. They keep the mess hall and kitchen areas clean. They are the second highest paid workers in the facility, earning up to 45 cents an hour.

Porters: Responsible for cleaning the entire prison, by sweeping and mopping, etc. Each group is assigned to a specific area in the facility.

State Shop: These workers stock and distribute all the state issued clothing � pants, shirts, sweaters, underwear, winter coats, sneakers and boots. They do repairs and alterations to the same, via the tailors. A request must be filled out for clothing prior to receiving any, repairs are scheduled as needed.

Storehouse: Workers unload delivery trucks, stock all frozen and dry foods and distribute same as needed. They also deliver office supplies and specifically-ordered items throughout the facility. The daily operation is supervised by a civilian.

Yard Gang: Workers are responsible for mowing the grass and snow removal throughout the facility. They are supervised by a correctional officer.

As you can see, we have access to a variety of skills and trades. For those who are willing to apply themselves, they can actually return to society with something to offer a potential employer (anything beats a blank!). This can be the difference between becoming a productive citizen or returning to a life of crime. Most people require some positive guidance to grow and recognize their true abilities. This is another reason why there should be more certifiable programs implemented in the state prison system, to assist prisoners in finding employment upon their release. Eastern Correctional Facility would be an ideal facility for a re-entry program, something the state government should seriously consider.

Look for a different aspect of the prison experience soon.

Burress Is Still Finding His Way

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Plaxico Burress spent two hours each day he served in prison running 300-yard sprints and catching passes from inmates who regarded themselves as some of the N.F.L.’s legendary quarterbacks.

“We had a couple of guys who thought they were Sammy Baugh, scrambling Fran Tarkenton, John Elway, Dan Marino,” Burress said. “I played with them all.”

Now Burress is back to playing with a real, live N.F.L. quarterback and working to become integrated into his new offense.

Burress, who signed with the Jets this summer after serving 20 months on a gun charge at Oneida Correctional Facility in Rome, N.Y., had a strong debut and contributed to the offense in ways that transcend statistics, like drawing coverage away from his teammates. But the transition has at times been uncomfortable for the Jets, and Burress and Mark Sanchez are still in the process of developing chemistry in their connection.

“He knows we’re Week 2 of a marathon,” Sanchez said. “He’s in it for the long haul. He has a really good feel for this and the longevity of the season, so he’s not fazed about it at all.”

In the Jets’ 27-24 win over the Dallas Cowboys in their season opener, Burress had four receptions for 72 yards, all of them in the second half. He caught a 26-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter that started the Jets’ 17-point comeback.

Last Sunday, Burress did not have a reception in the Jets’ 32-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the first time since January 2006 that he did not have a catch. That was because of the Jaguars’ bracketing him with cornerback-safety coverage, a show of respect that opened the field for tight end Dustin Keller, who had six catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.

Burress played only about two-thirds of the Jets’ offensive snaps, while Santonio Holmes played about three-quarters of the team’s plays. The Jets often deploy multiple tight end packages that force Burress to the sideline. But Burress, who led the Giants with 12 touchdown catches (and the one that sealed a Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots) in the 2007 season, has acknowledged that his reduced role with the Jets has been an adjustment.

“I’ve always been a guy that’s been on the field all the time,” said Burress, who is especially dangerous in the red zone. “I just take it as I’m just not in a certain package or whatever it may be. Maybe I don’t fit the scheme of whatever they’re trying to do at that particular point.”

Indeed, the Jets’ coaches appear to still be learning how to use Burress. At times, Coach Rex Ryan has tried to force him the ball. One sequence that crystallized that notion came early in the fourth quarter Sunday, when the Jets had a 29-3 lead.

Sanchez threw twice to Burress while near the Jaguars’ end zone. After overthrowing an open Burress on first down, Sanchez tried to connect with a well-covered Burress in the corner of the end zone on third-and-goal from the 5.

“We were in the red zone, and he’s obviously a red-zone target for us,” the offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said of that play. “We were still working on some things.”

The Jets may have an opportunity to get Burress more involved this weekend in Oakland because of some mismatches he presents with the Raiders’ secondary.

For years in Oakland, man-to-man coverage with a safety deep in the middle of the field has been the standard look of the defense. That means the Raiders may be relying on the 6-foot-1 cornerbacks Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson to cover the 6-5 Burress.

“If you’re a wide receiver, these are the kind of games you love to play in,” Burress said.

Sunday will be the latest step in Burress’s return to the N.F.L., and it could provide a telling indication about where he fits in the Jets’ offense. He said learning the verbiage of the playbook had been the most difficult on-field aspect of his comeback.

He has also had to build a rapport with Sanchez, the latest quarterback he has worked with over the past two years. Except the stakes, and the setting, are much different now.


Rex Ryan indicated that center Nick Mangold, who has a sprained right ankle, was unlikely to play on Sunday. Mangold did not practice for a second straight day. Colin Baxter would start if Mangold, who has started 82 straight games, cannot play. ... The Jets’ punters and kickers went to the Newark Bears’ baseball stadium to practice kicking on infield dirt. The Raiders’ Coliseum also serves as the home to the Athletics, who played the Texas Rangers on Thursday in their last game there this season.

Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office

DEDHAM — Fall is the time of year when many people shift their focus back to education. Elementary school teachers traditionally emphasize the basics: the three R’s, reading, writing and arithmetic.

In the field of corrections, when it comes to the basics, we’re concerned year-round with our own three R’s: Responsibility, Reentry and Recidivism.

At the Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office, we believe that teaching responsibility through our varied reentry programs is the key to reducing recidivism, the fancy term for inmates continuing to commit crimes after finishing their jail sentence.

We believe the philosophy of inmate reentry – a series of programs designed to challenge inmates to address their anti-social behavior and other deficiencies in order to reduce their likelihood of reoffending – is the best way to reduce crime.
At the Norfolk County Correctional Center, reentry starts the day an inmate walks in the door. Using an objective assessment tool, we immediately determine his risk of reoffending.

Next, we gather background data -- including criminal record, education and employment history, alcohol/drug problems, companions, family status and attitudes. We enter that data into a second assessment tool to find out which problems the inmate needs to confront and tackle.

Through a variety of educational programs, we emphasize that it’s time for the inmate to take responsibility for his criminal actions. If the inmate does not change his thinking, he’s not going to change his life. If he doesn’t address his behavior issues, he’s bound to return to jail.

Approximately 85 percent of our inmates come to us with drug and alcohol problems. Our substance abuse education gives them the opportunity to effectively deal with those problems. Anger management and domestic violence education points out how their failure to control their emotions leads to their criminal actions.

Courses on compulsive behavior, such as excessive gambling or reckless driving, are designed to make them understand why they act the way they do and how to change their anti-social behavior.

We also carry the more traditional educational programs such as vocational training in culinary arts, HVAC and landscaping, and fundamental classroom courses in adult basic education and GED (high school equivalency diploma) study courses.

This tends to eliminate employment barriers and inmate excuses about not being able to find work because they don’t have a high school diploma or job skills.

We believe the traditional classes are complements to our behavior education programs when it comes to stemming the tide of criminal conduct. The U.S. Department of Justice feels we’re on the right track, and made us one of 13 correctional agencies throughout the nation to receive a Second Chance Act grant to fund these behavior education classes.

In addition, we have entered into an agreement with Northeastern University to help us measure which programs work best and which need to be adjusted.

Even with a new curriculum centered around inmate behavior issues, the key to success will always be making inmates understand and accept responsibility for their actions. Otherwise, the choices are bleak: More crime. More prisons. More taxpayer dollars wasted.

Instead, just as they do in elementary school, we need to focus on the three R’s. It’s the only way we in the corrections field can reach the head of the class.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Youth and punishment: The ‘hypercriminalization’ of black and brown boys

It’s been another travel day, which means more good airplane reading.

The book that’s kept me company while in flight today is Victor M. Rios’ fascinating “Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys.” Rios is a UC Santa Barbara sociologist with unique perspective on this topic.

A former gang member from Oakland, California, he learned firsthand in his mid-teens what a small break from police and educators can mean for a kid on his way to prison.

Rios made it out of gang life through the support of interested teachers, and a lucky break from a cop who gave him a last chance. His friends weren’t so fortunate. In the book, he describes how nearly ten years ago, he took stock of what had become of his former homies, 68 boys whose names were still scrawled in marker on a dilapidated refrigerator in one old friend’s garage.

Seven had been murdered, including his best friend. Six had permanent injuries from gunshot wounds. A dozen were addicted to drugs.

Only two had finished high school, and only he’d made it to college. He also learned that 28 of his former fellow gang members were doing time. The remaining 40 had all been locked up at one point or another, including Rios, a onetime car thief with several stints in juvenile hall.

What had driven them down this road? All had been subject to the same hardscrabble life in the Oakland flatlands, but there was more to it than poverty and poor role models. Seeking an answer, Rios spent three years studying the lives of 40 black and Latino teenage boys in the Oakland area.

He concluded that in communities like the ones he and they grew up in, a general culture of punishment trickles down from schools, law enforcement, community and other institutions that deeply affects these young men’s perceptions of themselves and their world long before they get involved in crime, and ultimately helps push many of them toward it.

Rios, who describes this phenomenon as a “youth control complex,” writes:

Young people, who become pinballs within this youth control complex, experience what I refer to as hypercriminalization, the process by which an individual’s everyday behaviors and styles become ubiquitously treated as deviant, risky, threatening or criminal, across social contexts.

This hypercriminalization, in turn, has a profound impact on young people’s perceptions, worldviews, and life outcomes. The youth control complex creates an overarching system of regulating the lives of marginalized young people, what I refer to as punitive social control.

Hypercriminalization involves constant punishment. Punishment, in this study, is understood as the process by which individuals come to feel stigmatized, outcast, shamed, defeated, or hopeless as a result of negative interactions and sanctions imposed by individuals who represent institutions of social control.

Rios also gets into the U.S. black and Latino incarceration rate (Latinos now make up the majority of people being sentenced to federal prison), citing familiar but still unsettling statistics: Among men ages 20 to 34, one of every nine black men is incarcerated, one of every 25 Latino men is incarcerated, and one of every 56 white men is incarcerated.

The incarceration of male adults directly affects the boys who follow them, as Rios describes:

When the forty boys in the main group were asked to write down the names of close friends and family members who were currently incarcerated, all of them knew at least six people.

One of them, Spider, knew thirty-two. He wrote down their name and age and rated, from 1 to 5, how close he felt to them. When the boys were asked to respond to the question, “From 1 to 5, 5 being the highest and 1 being the lowest, how likely do you think you are to get incarcerated in the next few months?” all of them responded with at least a 4, meaning that they all felt that their chances of being incarcerated were high or extremely high.

He continues: The young men in this study discussed prison as a familiar place. Since many of the adults they looked up to were convicts, as opposed to college graduates, and police and school personnel often treated them like prisoners, the youths became familiar with the culture and rules of prison life and even attached a sense of glamour and admiration to it, before ever serving a day in an adult jail or prison.

Rios calls for improving non-punitive support systems for young people who are at risk, arguing that the zero-tolerance policies embraced by schools and law enforcement that are aimed at deterring juveniles from crime may in fact be having the opposite effect.

The book was published this year by New York University Press. You can purchase book @

Saturday, August 6, 2011

California needs more time to fix prison overcrowding

Bunks are placed in open areas at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, Calif. The state is under court order to reduce the prison population by 34,000 in two years. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Reporting from Sacramento -- California is unlikely to meet a federal court mandate to reduce its prison population by 34,000 inmates within two years, so state officials should ask for more time, the Legislature's top advisor said Friday.

Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor also challenged Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to reduce the number of inmates sent to out-of-state contract prisons, saying California instead should consider exporting more felons.

"The administration's push to reduce the number of these out-of-state beds while at the same time reducing overcrowding in the prisons makes little sense at the present time in our view," said the report by the Legislative Analyst's Office.

Brown has not decided whether to seek an extension of the court-imposed deadline, but believes the report "confirms that California is on the right track" with its plan to send some state inmates to county jails, said spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford.

Taylor's report agreed that shifting thousands of low-level offenders to serve their sentences in county jails would move the state closer to complying with the court order. But the analysis "indicates that the realignment plan alone is unlikely to reduce overcrowding sufficiently within the two-year deadline."

Sending some offenders to jails and local parole programs could reduce the prison population by 32,000 inmates, the report said, but that won't be accomplished in two years and it would still leave the state "several thousand" inmates short of the court's requirement.

California currently has more than 143,000 inmates in 33 prisons. In May, the U.S Supreme Court upheld a ruling by a federal three-judge panel requiring the state to reduce overcrowding, although the justices urged some flexibility on the deadline.

Compliance could be harder to achieve if the state follows through on plans to reduce the number of inmates sent to contract prisons, the report warned. The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has contracts to hold 10,000 California inmates in out-of-state prisons and about 4,000 in contract prisons in the state.

Taylor recommended that the Legislature continue, "and possibly expand," the out-of-state program "at least until such time as [the Corrections Department] is able to comply with the … inmate population reduction targets."

As California reduces its prison population and frees up beds, it would make sense "to start to bring inmates back," said department spokesman Oscar Hidalgo. "But there are no immediate plans, and we will not do that" if it risks being in noncompliance, he said.

Taylor's office also recommended that new contracts for prison-construction projects be put on hold until a review can determine whether they will be needed when the inmate-reduction mandates are met.

Ashford said the Brown administration was working with the Legislature "to guarantee that new facilities will only be constructed if absolutely necessary."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs is a War on Minorities and the Poor

Dr. Boyce Watkins cites some troubling statistics on the War on Drugs over at The Huffington Post:

African-Americans are 62 percent of drug offenders sent to state prisons, yet they represent only 12 percent of the U. S. population.
Black men are sent to state prisons on drug charges at 13 times the rate of White men.

Drug transactions among Blacks are easier for police to target because they more often happen in public than do drug transactions between Whites.

The disparities are particularly tragic in individual states where Black men are sent to federal prison on drug charges at a rate 57 times greater than White men, according to Human Rights Watch.

More than 25.4 million Americans have been arrested on drug charges since 1980; about one third of them were Black.

The Black populations in state prisons are majorly disproportionate:

In Georgia, the Black population is 29 percent, the Black prison population is 54 percent; Arkansas 16 percent -52 percent; Louisiana 33 percent-76 percent; Mississippi 36 percent-75 percent; Alabama 26 percent -65 percent; Tennessee 16 percent -63 percent; Kentucky 7 percent-36 percent; South Carolina 30 percent-69 percent; North Carolina 22 percent-64 percent; and Virginia 20 percent-68 percent.

According to the Global Commission on Drug Policy arresting and incarcerating people fills prisons and destroys lives but does not reduce the availability of illicit drugs or the power of criminal organizations.

The average daily cost per state prison inmate per day in the U.S. is $67.55.

State prisons held 253,300 inmates for drug offenses in 2007. That means states spent approximately $17 million per day to imprison drug offenders, or more than $6.2 billion per year.

This war disproportionately targets blacks and other minorities and the poor across all racial demographics.

But massive incarceration, a depressed economy, and the widespread violence is something that should give all of us pause, even those of us who have never been the target of a midnight no knock raid or a life shattered by drug violence, police abuse, or the myriad other tragedies this war has brought upon our society.

Dr. Watkins calls it apartheid, and in many ways he’s correct. But it’s more than that, too. The impact of the drug war is global, and the global poor pay the highest price.

Thank goodness the tide appears to be turning:

“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world,” a recent report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy concludes. “Political leaders and public figures should have the courage to articulate publicly what many of them acknowledge privately that the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that repressive strategies will not solve the drug problem, and that the war on drugs has not, and cannot, be won.

” Each year that we fail to face this reality, the report says, “billions of dollars are wasted on ineffective programs,” “millions of citizens are sent to prison unnecessarily,” and “hundreds of thousands of people die from preventable overdoses and diseases.”

Visit for books to inmates

Monday, June 27, 2011

Facebook closes account for SC inmate

Michael Jason Maxwell maintained two pages and appeared to have made his posts from his mobile phone.
By PrisonTalk2k Staff

BISHOPVILLE, S.C. — Facebook officials closed down the account of an inmate in a maximum security prision in South Carolina on Wednesday. The man had been maintaining not one but two Facebook profiles that boasted hundreds of friends, including a Playboy pinup.

Michael Jason Maxwell appeared to have made his posts from his mobile phone. He even included photos of his cell in some of his postings.

In one post, he asked a friend about his new gun, and on another he wrote he needed money "ASAP" according to The Post and Courier.

The social media site pulled down Maxwell's page Wednesday after the paper alerted them to his activities. The victims family was the first to find out about Maxwell's online presence.

He in incarcerated at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, S.C.

Clark Newsom, the communications director for the state Department of Corrections said prison officials searched Maxwell's cell, but the mobile phone still hasn't been found.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Inmate's Need Education Programs

The U.S. has 2.2 million inmates behind bars more than any other country. While our population is only 5 percent of the world, we have 25 percent of world's total incarceration -- and the situation is very complicated.

Half of all state and federal prisons are more than 100 percent full. At the Ohio state prison at Lebanon, 30 percent of the inmates are killers, rapists and juvenile sex offenders. They live in 6-foot-by-10-foot cells originally designed for one, but now holding two using bunk beds, a stainless steel toilet, a small writing desk and an equally small personal cabinet. They are allowed a small TV, provided they have the cash to buy one; most do not.

The former head of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections recently said, "We don't rehabilitate anybody; we just create the conditions where prisoners can rehabilitate themselves." Most don't.

Nationwide, 700,000 prisoners are released every year about one third of the prison population. Of those, two thirds will be back in three years. One third of drug addicts will be back in less than one year, and 70 percent of those returning are felons.

The California Prison system is at more than 200 percent of capacity. The California Salinas Valley Prison has 220 inmates sleeping in triple-decker bunks on the floor of a basketball court. No bars, no steel doors, no nothing. It is called "warehousing."

In prisons that warehouse inmates, inmates are likely to be worse off when they leave than when they entered. They will have lived out their sentences with violent criminals. When they leave, they have no money, no job prospects, no plans and very little hope.

This groupie method always leads to gang formation, and there are frequently three gangs blacks, whites and Latino. Since the blacks outnumber the others, most of the violence is between the whites and Latinos. At the Ironwood State Prison in California's Mojave Desert, there were 35,000 inmate attacks in the past year. Homicides have increased more than 50 percent in the past five years.

Drugs are everywhere inside the prison walls heroin, marijuana, ecstasy and crystal meth. Almost all the gang killings are drug-related. Drug addiction claims 35 percent of the inmates. It is a bone-fide business grossing $300 million per year and a growth market. The profits are huge because the prices are extreme. One gram of heroin has a street price of $100. In a prison, it's $1,000 the same for a half-ounce of crystal meth.

Guards are virtually unable to control the outbreak of violence until dozens of guards are assembled, which takes enough time for some to kill others. At Ironwood, the ratio of inmates to guards is 100:1.

After a gang war, hundreds of inmates are put into total segregation, known as solitary confinement. It is being utilized much more often 80,000 now are being held that way. While only 4 percent of the total might seem like a small number, the effects of solitary almost always are devastating. Solitary one hour each day of physical exercise, by themselves, heavily guarded and 23 hours per day alone. No TV, no speaking, even to guards, no nothing! The majority of those held in solitary for extended periods come out crazed paranoid, schizophrenic or manic-depressive. Those that were crazed when they went in, come out even more so.

Those who are placed in solitary find that the single event they can control is injuring themselves this will get them some personal attention, perhaps a stay in a bed in a prison hospital ward. Those in solitary for three or more years have a 70 percent suicide rate.

The basic problems in our prison system have existed for decades. These have been studied by prison officials, social scientists, politicians and inmates. A few experiments proved successful, but most of the problems continue and are exacerbated by overcrowding.

As a result, after arguments before a California Federal District Court, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court, there was a definitive ruling on May 23.

The state of California has been ordered to reduce inmates to a level of 135.7 percent of design capacity. This requires the release of lease 37,000 prisoners. It was another damnable 5-4 decision, which might be changed after a new president or two.

In the meantime, California and likely several more states in the next year or two must figure out what to do with thousands of felons.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why I care about prisoner rights

A friend recently asked:

“Why do you care and write so much about prisoner rights?

After all, they’re convicted criminals.” The question came after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling this week in Brown v. Plata that dealt with overcrowded prisons and terrible medical and mental care in California prisons.

I’ve fielded similar queries in the past. The questions reflect a mentality shared by many: Why care about the rights of those who didn’t care about the rights of their victims?

The question deserves a response.

First, prisoners file an inordinate amount of litigation alleging deprivation of their constitutional rights. Some studies have shown that prisoner litigation makes up more than 20% of the federal court docket. It would be negligent not to report on at least some of these pleadings — even if many prisoner complaints leave much to be desired in terms of form and validity.

Second, much deprivation of constitutional rights occurs in prisons. One attorney described prisons to me years ago as “constitutional black holes.” Think about it. Prisoners are under the control of government officials 24/7 — there are bound to be many rights violations.

Third, principles from prisoner free-expression cases often seep out and affect other areas of First Amendment law. The classic example occurred with two U.S. Supreme Court cases that arose out of Missouri. In Turner v. Safley (1987), the Court rejected inmate Leonard Safley’s claim that he had a First Amendment right to send letters to his girlfriend — later his wife — who was an inmate at another prison (though the Court did uphold his right to marry her). The Court created a standard for prisoner constitutional claims — that prison officials do not violate inmates’ constitutional rights if their actions are “reasonably related to legitimate penological concerns.”

Just a year later, the Supreme Court rejected the First Amendment claims of three young female student journalists in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. In that decision, the Court ruled that school officials could censor student speech if their actions were “reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.” The Court simply substituted the word “pedagogical” for “penological.” When I lecture on this substitution to student groups, there normally is a collective gasp.

Fourth, prisoners — whatever they have done — are still human beings worthy of some level of respect. I’ve quoted many times the words of Justice Thurgood Marshall from his concurring opinion in Procunier v. Martinez (1974):

“When the prison gates slam behind an inmate, he does not lose his human quality; his mind does not become closed to ideas; his intellect does not cease to feed on a free and open interchange of opinions; his yearning for self-respect does not end; nor is his quest for self-realization concluded.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy said it even more succinctly in Brown v. Plata: “Prisoners retain the essence of human dignity inherent in all persons.”

Finally, we all know the First Amendment and its free-exercise clause protects our right to religious belief and some religiously motivated conduct. As a Christian, I believe strongly in the Bible verse Hebrews 13:3 “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them.”

David L. Hudson Jr.
First Amendment Scholar

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fed Wrist-slap for Wachovia Bank Makes a Farce of the Drug War

The U.S. government won convictions against 23,506 drug traffickers nationwide during 2010, sending 96 percent of the offenders to prison, according to U.S. Sentencing Commission statistics.

Yet one of the biggest entities busted by the feds for involvement in drug trafficking last year received just a wrist-slap deal from federal prosecutors with nobody getting prison time.

During 2010, the U.S. government also won convictions against 806 persons involved in smaller-time drug-related money laundering, sending nearly 77 percent of those offenders to prison.

Yet when it came to a case involving billions of dollars in illegal drug profits, the federal government gave the same unusual wrist-slap to the same entity caught giving greed-blinded assistance to Mexican drug cartels by laundering billions of dollars in illegal profits for them.

So, what is this entity that federal prosecutors found worthy of big breaks for its laundering of billions of dollars, and for its blatant facilitating or tons of smuggled cocaine?

Meet Wachovia – once the nation’s sixth largest bank by assets and now a part of Wells Fargo Bank… a too-big-to-fail bank that for the feds is apparently too-big-to jail.

Wachovia recently completed what amounted to a year-long probation arising from a March 2010 settlement deal with federal prosecutors who were pursuing criminal proceedings against Wachovia for its facilitating of illegal money transfers from Mexico totaling $378-billion…a staggering sum greater than half of the Pentagon's annual budget, which included billions of dollars traced directly to violent Mexican drug cartels.

The record $160-million fine slapped on Wachovia under terms of that settlement deal included a $50-million assessment for failing to monitor cash used to ship into the US 22 tons of cocaine. (That fine amounted to less than two percent of Wachovia's profits during the prior year.)

Wells Fargo now owns Wachovia. Wells Fargo, federal prosecutors stress, was not involvement in the misdeeds that landed Wachovia in court, where it received a deferred prosecution deal.

Wells Fargo purchased Wachovia in early 2009 for $12.7-billion, shortly after Wells Fargo had received $25-billion in federal bail-out funds from the TARP program. That purchase helped make Wells Fargo America’s second-largest bank.

Many condemn the federal government settlement with Wachovia as a farce.

Criticism has come from persons in law enforcement frustrated by big-bank involvement in laundering drug money and from those who claim federal drug enforcement practices provide bigger breaks to drug kingpins than to low-level operators.

“All the law enforcement people wanted to see this come to trial. But no one goes to jail,” said Martin Woods, an English expert on anti-money laundering, whose work while with Wachovia’s London office helped unravel the drug connections. Woods says Wachovia officials bashed him for his investigative diligence and whistle-blowing as an employee.

“It’s simple: it you don’t see the correlation between the money laundering by banks and people killed in Mexico, you’re missing the point,” Woods said in an April 3, 2011 article published in The Observer, a British newspaper published on Sundays.

Wachovia’s involvement in big-time money laundering paralleled the period of a murderous escalation in violence in Mexico’s Drug War that has claimed the lives of over 40,000 Mexicans since 2006 alone, with the dead including politicians, prosecutors, police, soldiers, drug gang members and innocent bystanders.

During the same month last year when federal prosecutors gave Wachovia a break, finding no need to imprison any bank personnel for their involvement in massive drug-tainted money laundering, other federal prosecutors were pounding domestic drug dealers with long prison sentences.

For example, an Anchorage, Alaska man received a ten-year term for selling four ounces of crack cocaine, while an East St. Louis, Ill. businessman received a life sentence plus a $2.25-million fine for distributing three thousand pounds of cocaine between 2004 and his arrest in April 2008.

The amount of cocaine trafficking that sent the Illinois man to prison for life – one and a half tons - was much smaller than that single 22 ton cocaine shipment referenced in the Wachovia settlement document.

The settlement agreement Wachovia officials signed with federal prosecutors in Miami last year clearly stated that the bank knew that many of the transactions with Mexican financial institutions from 2004 to 2007 carried the stench of drugs.

That settlement agreement stated in part that as early as “2005 Wachovia was aware that other large US banks were exiting the [Mexican] business based on [anti-money laundering] concerns…Despite these warnings, Wachovia remained in business” according to news media reports.

One reason Wachovia stayed in the business as others pulled out is that the bank reaped hefty fees from that money-laundering "business," in which billions of dollars in wire transfers, traveler’s checks and bulk cash shipments went into Wachovia accounts from Mexican exchange facilities called casa de cambios (CDCs).

Jeffery Solman, the federal prosecutor who handled the Wachovia case, stated last year that “Wachovia’s blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations.”

Last year Bloomberg News, in an article on the Wachovia money laundering scandal, reported how the federal government cited other mega-financial institutions in the U.S. like American Express Bank International and Bank of America for their complicity in laundering drug money.

Making a farce out of the nation's supposed War on Drugs, none of the mega-financial institutions identified by federal authorities as having been involved with laundering drug money and none of the well-paid individuals at those institutions which were facilitating that laundering has faced go-to-jail federal criminal prosecutions like those targeting small fry in the drug trade.

Days after Wachovia received its wrist-slap deal for laundering billions of dollars in drug money, federal prosecutors secured a five-year sentence for a 26-year-old Johnstown, Pa. man involved with a drug ring it claimed was responsible for $10,000 in drug sales per month.

Imprisoning that Johnstown street dealer for five years will cost taxpayers $113,115, based on the average cost of $22,623 annually to house a federal prisoner. He was one of six people netted during a drug crackdown in that small former steel town located in the mountains 66 miles east of Pittsburgh.

Alarming evidence of the Drug War farce – the prosecutorial pounding of small fry while major players get a pass – is evident in statistics from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the federal agency that advises Congress on criminal sentencing matters.

During 2009, in the Southern Florida district where Miami is located, 96.1 percent of the 669 persons convicted in federal courts for drug trafficking received prison time. Twenty-percent of the persons convicted in Southern Florida federal courts for simply possessing drugs received prison time.

Of the 67 persons convicted of money laundering during 2009 in those same Southern Florida courts, 77.6% went to prison, according to U.S. Sentencing Commission statistics.

As noted in that April 2011 article in The Observer, the conclusion of the Wachovia case “was only the tip of an iceberg, demonstrating the role of the “legal” banking sector in swilling hundreds of billions of dollars – the blood money from the murderous drug trade in Mexico and other places in the world – around their global operations, now bailed out by the taxpayer.”

That Observer article included observations made in 2008 by the then head of the United Nations office on drugs and crime providing evidence suggesting that drug/crime money was “the only liquid investment capital” available to banks on the brink of collapse.

“Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drug trade,” the Observer article quoted the U.N. official as stating. “There were signs that some banks were rescued that way.”

The June 2010 Bloomberg News article provided an ominous observation about the wrist-slap protection large banks receive from criminal indictments due to a variant of the too-big-to-fail theory:

“Indicting a big bank could trigger a mad dash by investors to dump shares and cause panic in financial markets," says Jack Blum, a U.S. Senate investigator for 14 years and a consultant to international banks and brokerage firms on money laundering. The theory is like a get-out-of-jail free card for big banks, Blum says.

Another anti-money laundering expert disappointed with the federal government’s settlement with Wachovia is Robert Mazur, identified in the Observer article as one of the world’s “foremost figures” in providing anti-money laundering training and the point-man for US law enforcement during prosecutions against Columbian drug cartels two decades ago.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Prisoners denied access to Facebook

BATON ROUGE The Senate voted 31-1 on Tuesday to prohibit state prison inmates from accessing computer based social networking sites or setting up email accounts and web pages.

Senate Bill 182 by Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, now goes to a House committee that has approved legislation prohibiting sex offenders who are on probation or parole from using sites like Facebook and MySpace.

The lone vote against Thompson's bill came from Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, who argued that the bill isn't needed.

She said prison officials have complained that they need the measure to help them police contraband like cell phones or other electronic devices that might be smuggled into prison.

"Do your jobs," Peterson said of prison officials. "This is ridiculous. Why are we spending all this money on prisons if they can't keep drugs and cell phones out of prison? ... We continue to give these people (prison officials) passes."

Thompson said the bill is designed as a "victims' right bill" to keep inmates from harassing witnesses who testified against them or their victims.

"It is a security issue," he said.

The bill says inmates convicted of having access to an illegal social networking site could face up to 30 additional days in prison, a maximum $500 fine or both.

Earlier, the House voted 90-0 for House Bill 12 by Rep. Ricky Templet, R-Gretna, that would outlaw so-called "bath salts" that are used as drugs.

Templet's bill flew out of the House and now goes to a Senate committee for a hearing.

Besides banning the sale, manufacture or possession of the substances with exotic names like "White Dove" or "White Lady," Templet said his bill also rewrites a law passed last year that bans the sale of synthetic marijuana.

Templet said after lawmakers adjourned last year thinking they had outlawed the chemically laced herbs that provide a marijuana like effect, manufacturers of the substances came up with a different formulation for the synthetic ingredients to avoid prosecution.

Templet said his bill this year is designed to criminalize "entire groups" of chemicals that could be used to make the pseudo-marijuana and the bath salts.

Templet said the penalties for making, possessing or selling the bath salts would be the same as making, possessing or selling cocaine and other dangerous drugs.

Those penalties vary based on the amount involved and the number of previous convictions the person has.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

T.I. to be released from prison in September

T.I. will likely be released from prison in September, according to Billboard. The rapper, who is currently serving an 11-month sentence in federal prison, is projected for release on September 29th.
The news emerged due to a post on the Federal Bureau of Prisons, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, which lists 30-year-old Clifford J Harris Jr. (aka T.I.) as having an “actual or projected” release date of September 29th. T.I. was arrested last September in Los Angeles on suspected drug possession.

He was previously on probation after serving a 10-month sentence in the same prison — the Arkansas Federal Correctional Institution — for weapons charges. He returned to prison last November on a probation violation even though the drug charges were dropped.
T.I.’s most recent album, No Mercy, was released while the rapper was in prison. Despite that, the disc has sold 502,000 copies. It’s unclear on whether T.I. has plans for a subsequent release following his exit from prison.
Before entering prison last year, T.I. released a statement that said, “This experience is truly a pain I have never felt before and that’s saying a lot for a n*gga who’s been down locked up as many times as I have. I see this as a real a** whoopin’.

The kind you don’t just go back outside to play afterwards. You take ya a** to bed and don’t come out of your room until it’s time to go to school.” He added, “I don’t know what effect this will have on my life moving forward but I’m certainly sick and motherf*cking tired of going to jail, juve, trison, the pen, correctional facilities or whatever else you want to call it.”
We hope that means he plans to honor his probation this time around.