Archive for the ‘Prison’ Category

Trump to Produce Prison TV?

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

YOU'RE ISOLATED_Where Excuses Go to DieC’mon, don’t tell me
Trump couldn’t sell
“Naked and Afraid: Lockdown”
or
“Teardrops ‘n Tuckjobs.”

The first of Donald Trump’s programs this convicted felon would DVR is the inevitable cell house chef show, which would feature some of my personal favorites like Brodo Libero Linguine with Cilantro and Walnut Sweepings (a.k.a. Top Ramen drained of its powdery broth-water and sprinkled with “green,” plus a bag of Corn Nuts). Ooh, then there’s Dill-infused Retired Sashimi and Chocolat Petits Fours (canned tuna on toothpicks with yesterday’s pickle slices, and the other half of that 3 Musketeers bar). Many inmates pride themselves on concocting this fine “corridor cuisine,” especially long-termer foodies who use bunk-side braising and contraband meats to keep themselves from making a suicide dash for the electric fence.

Iron Chef: Shackles & Shortbread. Trump could make millions exploiting this untapped goldmine.

And who better? Riding a widening blast radius from publicly acknowledging the existence of a few good Mexicans among the Satanic death horde of sodomites and cartel assassins, Donald Trump has again demonstrated just how disconnected he is from the current national dialogue on criminal justice reform. Explaining to the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board what he’d do about that city’s street crime, he led off with, “You’re not going to stop it by being nice.” Hence The Donald’s strategy of praising lockdown absolutism and shortsightedness despite the successful passage of sentencing reform in 35 states.

Because prison reform appeals to fiscal conservatives as much as social cause lefties, alternatives to “more prison” are on the table everywhere front-line custody personnel collect a paycheck. Across the country, Americans are finding value in redirecting criminal offenders rather than recycling them. (more…)

Upselling Prison Pt. 3

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

JPAY_Appropriating Copyrights_Where Excuses Go to DieA former inmate sizes up detention products, #3 in a casual series.

Upselling Prison: accessories, upgrades, add-ons, telecoms, and salespersons of the detention supply industry.

Prison Monetization Solutions_Where Excuses Go to DieAccording to the Pew Public Safety Performance Project and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1 in 35 adult residents of the US are currently either incarcerated or under correctional supervision (parole or probation). In 1990, that number was 1 in 77. Nationally, America spends billions on corrections, and the money being made by detention profiteers is astronomical. One particularly golden calf has been inmate telecommunications, especially now that the corrections industry is undergoing a “technological renaissance.”
(Prison Voice Biometrics anyone?)

This is a Rehabilitation Measurement Device_Where Excuses Go to DieMuch has been written about the contempt the prison telecom industry routinely demonstrates for families of the incarcerated by charging crushingly inflated rates for collect calls home. Still, in California, for example, the Public Utilities Commission lacks oversight of jail and prison phone contracts and nationwide the FCC is only now taking notice of high rates charged for calls originating in state and federal facilities. According to Prison Phone Justice.org, inmate phone contracts in all but 9 states are still based on a “commission” model where the service provider pays a portion of its profits to the contracting facility as a kickback for accepting their bid (this chart shows some of the worst offenders). I don’t even want to think about private and corporate-owned detention centers, where the profits extracted from those in need of human contact is obscene. (more…)

“Rape, Riots, and Rotten Food”

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Inmate Cardboard Standup_Where-Excuses-Go-to-DieRape, Riots, and Rotten Food – Relearning Life Behind Bars

The sooner the public learns that it’s been chumped by the media into thinking it knows what offenders look like, the sooner the heart and humanity that also exist behind bars can be tapped in an effort to redirect –not recycle– offenders. And whether it’s the people themselves that matter to you or the countless billions of taxpayer dollars we can save by fixing this problem, it’s about time we get started.

And what do I propose? As a former inmate of the California Department of Corrections myself, my mission is to help change the public’s misperception that all inmates are illiterate, tattooed, Nazi-worshiping, meth-mouthed man-rapists. This is what Where Excuses Go to Die is all about, defying the caricatures and stereotypes that make it easier for us to believe that incarcerating our way out of crime is viable. (more…)

Upselling Prison Pt. 2

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Upselling Prison Part 2_Where Excuses Go to DieA former inmate sizes up detention products, #2 in a casual series.

Upselling Prison:  accessories, upgrades, add-ons, and salespersons of the detention supply industry.

Norix Inc. claims it doesn’t just make prison mattresses: it makes “Comfort Shield® Remedy Mattresses.” And if cost equalled quality, Comfort Shields would clearly be a cut above. But ask anyone on the inside, and a prison mattress is a prison mattress is a prison mattress. They’re subject to the worst an infected wound has to offer; and they get clutched, twisted, and chewed on like nobody’s business. For something that has more prayers Prison inmates wouldn't have looked at Jesus' mattress twice_Where Excuses Go to Diewhispered into it than Israel’s Western Wall and all of Islam’s worry beads, nothing has less to show for it than a prison mattress.

It’s kind of tough to wrap your head around trading a pair of shoes (or several meals) to obtain a less “raped” one, but it’s what you do. Otherwise, as we once heard an intake sergeant say to a complainer, “it’s mind over mattress.”

Fortunately, distinguishing bloodstains from even less pleasant discolorations gets easier after, say, month three. But the marks inmates leave behind aren’t limited to bodily fluids or semi-solids: prisoners love writing gang names, anti-Semitic messages, zip codes, and their sweetheart’s initials on the very bedding into which your tears will be absorbed.

Naturally, these handwritten hieroglyphics can be more indelibly printed onto older cotton mattress covers than the newfangled, vinyl laminate “wipe ‘n cleans,” so these days one needs to make sure his ink has dried before drifting off to dreamland. While most ink dries quickly, sweat can often reactivate it, and entering a chow hall wearing gang signs on your face that are only decipherable by the fellas planning a hit on “those fools” after breakfast is really something to avoid. And trust me, you’ll want to take the time to check for swastikas drawn in magic marker by the guy before you. The rule is: read your mattress first and watch where you put your face.

For the record, endlessly violated (and absorbent) cotton mattress covers are actually preferable to the newer sealed plastic pads – unless you enjoy marinating in your own sweat at 3:30 in the morning. Besides, wipe ‘n cleans get weird blisters that make you wonder how your body heat could have caused mystery chemicals to churn and gurgle beneath the vinyl.

(more…)

Crass Incarceration

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Eligibility for a second chance begins with being taken seriously.

Crass
• adjective: lacking in discrimination and sensibility, blundering, asinine

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?__Where Excuses Go to DieOkay, here it is: the mentally ill in California prisons are far more likely to be subjected to harsher treatment and longer sentencing than other inmates. That’s a criminal lack of discrimination and sensibility. Of all the inmates who occupy facilities up and down the state, roughly 30% are mentally ill, making the California Department of Corrections a de facto mental health treatment provider. Now there’s your blundering and asinine.

According to the Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project, “The average sentence imposed on defendants suffering from mental illness is longer than the average sentence imposed on defendants who do not have mental health diagnosis but who committed the same crime.”

Shane Bauer of Mother Jones claims there are ten times more mentally ill people behind bars than in state hospitals, and many of those inmates have severe illnesses like schizophrenia. Furthermore, solitary confinement can make it harder or even impossible for the untreated mentally ill to re-enter society. Amy Fettig, senior staff counsel for the ACLU National Prison Project says “it’s a risk that can’t be condoned. They come out such ruined human beings. It has essentially harmed them in such a substantial way they can’t ever return to the community or society.”

The Coldest Iron_Where Excuses Go to DieThe passage of California’s Prop 47 was important to me personally because of the smiley Nicaraguan we called “Hey,” to whom my book, Where Excuses Go to Die, is dedicated. Hey’s chapter is one I read a lot at book signings and other events, because even without shocking statistics it powerfully demonstrates how narrowly the public has been trained to recognize what prison and prisoners look like. Where Excuses Go to Die exists to defy that recognition. (more…)

WHO THE HELL ROBS BOOKSTORES?

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

10/20 Where Excuses Go to Die at Univ. San Diego: Warren Auditorium

FREE WHERE EXCUSES GO TO DIE AUTHOR TALK WITH Q&A:

Many thanks to Gina DeLapa of Stuff You Already Know fame and the Department of School, Family and Mental Health Professions at the University of San Diego.

10-20-14_WHO THE HELL ROBS BOOKSTORES__Where Excuses Go to Die

.John Espinosa Nelson_Where Excuses Go to Die_Photo by Katie Ferguson

What, CCPOA, no opposition?

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

California prison guard union’s silence on Prop 47 smells funky…

Apocalypse Hoosegow 9_CCPOA EDITION_Where Excuses Go to DieIn 2011, the CCPOA claimed it had “played a decisive role” in electing Governor Jerry Brown after dropping $2 million on his campaign alone. The characteristic boast came in the form of a video called “The Winners,” griped about at the time by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez.

That year, the union endorsed candidates it favored to the tune of $7 million and received plenty in exchange. Of 107 candidates it backed in California, 104 were elected.

It’s no secret that the CCPOA is one of the most influential unions in American history: it’s been building that power in earnest since the ‘80s, when CCPOA-sponsored legislation began to be successful about 80% of the time. Not surprisingly, this period includes some of California’s most intractable laws, such as 1984’s infamous Three Strikes legislation. “The formula is simple,” writes Joan Petersilia in Volume 37 of Crime and Justice: A Review of Research. “More prisoners lead to more prisons; more prisons require more guards; more guards means more dues-paying members and fund-raising capability; and fund-raising, of course, translates into political influence.” Naturally, the CCPOA has a vested interest in keeping incarceration and recidivism rates high. (more…)

Prison Visitor Hardball

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

As if California’s prison visitors didn’t have it demanding enough.

Process in and process out is what seeing daddy is all aboutIt goes without saying that, for family members, prison visits are psychologically and emotionally demanding. Just keeping up with background check requirements, approved visiting days, bureaucratic obstacles, and the distinct operational eccentricities of the facilities in which your loved one may be housed is an education in itself – a part-time job. And none of it applies to the wild-card of lockdowns or the myriad other things that can affect visitations, like visits being cut short due to overcrowding.

The experience itself is more akin to driving for four hours only to stand in line to deal with a speeding ticket for which you’d previously failed to appear. You get a strong sense that you’re only being grudgingly tolerated by authorities, who’ve lumped you in with the rest, with “those people.” And in fact you are literally penned in with other visitors awaiting approval and entry.

Such areas are always some variation of “Visitor Intake” or “Processing,” and they’re never short on militaristic signage and ALL CAPS ANXIOUSNESS. Depending on the facility and its administrator’s interpretation of departmental policy, waiting areas may be lined with hard wooden benches (the kind you could easily be handcuffed to), tattered airport seating, or flimsy plastic stackables. (more…)

Upselling Prison

Friday, September 5th, 2014

No matter what your prisonware supplier tells you - these do NOT age wellA former inmate sizes up detention products, #1 in a casual series.

It’s a dubious distinction, I know, but I’ve been among the first 75 inmates to enter a brand new prison. The place hadn’t been “officially” opened yet, and it wasn’t even entirely complete. In fact, it took months before the technological marvel it was said to be actually began to function as designed. My memoir, Where Excuses Go to Die, can tell you more about that story; today we’re simply going to look at some of the design elements and corrections products that represent modern incarceration in America.

Big phone companies rip off inmate familiesI bring up my own experience because, in the absence of a boisterous and threatening prison population, I actually had the luxury of appreciating the punitive design genius behind shelving, inmate phones, door hinges, mattresses, linens, flooring, high pressure laminate table tops, mirrors, hooks and hardware, and so forth – almost as if they’d been displayed in an art gallery. It was spooky and (relatively) wonderful.

Imagine an essentially empty prison, almost entirely free of brutality, toothless Yard apes, and the white power hoo ha they blabber on about. It didn’t last, of course, but I treasured it while it did. Throughout the following year, inmates and staffers recognizing each other from that quieter time enjoyed something of a secret handshake, as if we were a step above unappreciative newcomers. It made eye contact and common goals a bit easier for us both to reach.

At any rate, whether you take your first custody turd in a prison cell, a county jail, or a police substation, sitting on your first steel pot will make you wonder what sadist invented such an uncomfortable throne. (more…)

New Prison Reality

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

WELCOME_TO COMCAST_NBC_UNIVERSAL_PRISONHeart and humanity must now evolve into the new prison reality….

Just yesterday, a stranger told me he’d heard the words “prison rehabilitation” more times in the last two months than ever before in his life. My first reaction was that sentiments like his will only become more common as Americans adapt to new representations of incarceration and the incarcerated, and as the dialogue on prison reform becomes an increasingly pressing topic in Washington, at the state level, and in so many of our social and cultural realms.

At the same time, the implication that criminal offenders are (usually) people too causes friction as it rubs up against the manner in which we’ve been trained to recognize prison — narrowly, dismissively, and neglectfully.

I began this blog in 2010, when Where Excuses Go to Die was still a manuscript. I intended to blog about excuses made daily by celebrities, politicians, and whoever else was unlucky enough to publicly display poor coping skills. I’ve had a lot of fun with the sarcasm, not to mention with challenging people’s comfort zones and entitlements. (more…)