May 4th, 2017

Smart Prerelease Instruction: Inmates Helping Inmates

The double-edged-sword of getting out of prison.

For those of us who follow incarceration and reentry issues, the inmate-created, inmate-run, prerelease program in Cumberland, Maryland, that was just approved by the Federal Bureau of Prisons will be something to keep an eye on.

Ideally, Young Men Incorporated (YMI), as the program is known, will prove that switching from curriculum enforcement to the much more coercive power of wisdom and teachable moments is the right way to reinvent prisoner reentry methodology.

Hitting your release date and getting out is a trip. Individual results may vary, but when it comes to civilian employees, frontline custody personnel, and prison administrators, soon-to-parole inmates often face disparagement and placating attitudes. The way some Badges see it, you’re still a criminal, soon to be protected by rights that weren’t there a couple of weeks ago. More than a few are just waitin’ for you to act special, by which I mean individual. Read the rest of this entry »

April 29th, 2017

LA Riots as Seen from Maximum Security Prison

You’d think someone would have covered what it was like to experience the LA riots behind bars in the past 25 years. Something. Anything. But nope.

Then again, with Netflix’s Orange is the New Black ranking just below LA LA Land in grounded reality, such coverage probably would have been twisted into the taffy of a Broadway musical anyway.

So while a mention would’ve been interesting, I have my own view…

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March 16th, 2017

Brass Tacky

This week, former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca was convicted of obstructing an FBI corruption investigation of the jails he oversaw. But despite having once been a part of his fundraising machine, all I can think about is the Department’s new belt buckles.

I can go two ways here: ask what the hell these guys are thinking spending $300,000 on new belt buckles to give their uniforms more shock and awe, or write off new-guy Jim McDonnell as meddling and distracted.

Isn’t this the controlling, big spender schtick that the newly formed, McDonnell-supported Civilian Oversight Commission is supposed to question?  Read the rest of this entry »

March 8th, 2017

FULFILLMENT BEFORE FURY!

There’s no excuse for getting all angst ridden over the day’s headlines before first accomplishing something meaningful. 

And there’s no excuse for partaking in America’s new national pastime –scratching the outrage itch– without first empowering yourself through personal performance. Fulfillment before fury!

Why? Because we live in a world that encourages us to agree with ourselves every chance we get. Because the strength we get from knowing that we put ourselves first has the power to declutter our thinking and make us feel as though we’ve earned something.

Examine the back end of any hard, successful day and track how much your sense of completion downgraded your anxiety. By comparison, how does a morning of social media feel, or reading articles from your preferred news outlets? Read the rest of this entry »

January 11th, 2017

There’re Many Excuses for Eating McDonald’s – These Are Mine

I don’t have to chew as much.
Because what’s chewing when I can chimney-slide it down? From the second my McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder is unsheathed to when I squish ‘n toss the wrapper, I barely have to work my jaw. It’s a true metaphor for American cultural identity: less chewing/more swallowing. And whoever thought up printing “nutritional” information on something with such a limited hand-to-mouth life is a genius!

Don’t look at me; I’m hideous.
Even as I decry such privileged attributes as lazy eating, I’m occasionally swayed by food-matter that requires neither fork nor self-respect. Never mind that I’m hunched in my car, windshield angled at a hedge to hide my private shame. Kookiest part is, the way I wipe my mouth, use my napkin, or react when a chunk falls from my fingers or face is very different than what I exhibit at my own dinner table or in an actual restaurant. It’s the Jekyll and Hyde of posture and manners: as if it would feel right somehow to take off my shirt to eat a Big Mac.

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December 16th, 2016

2016 EXCUSE OF THE YEAR

2016_excuse-of-the-year_where-excuses-go-to-dieAnd the 2016 Golden Excuse is:

“He just calls it like he sees it.”

“He says what we’re thinking.”

“He tells it like it is.”

Three versions of the same excuse-to-pulverize, now a political allegory, courtesy of the charisma of crude. 

If “blunt” is a merit by which sincerity, mental acuity, and humor can be measured, it’s also an appraisal of manners. Because for those of grace, wit, or old age, plain speaking can be charming.

But… 

. Read the rest of this entry »

December 4th, 2016

Time to Stop Making Excuses

unfortunate-person-comics_where-excuses-go-to-dieOh, there are plenty of reasons to be frustrated with the world around us. And I do care who you voted for: I’m just not making excuses for letting it live on my shoulder and whisper in my ear.

I’m tired of tolerating increasingly thin justifications from friends and family to be – and remain – outraged. Never mind that I, too, am offended, righteously indignant, morally and socially insulted and feeling betrayed (I mean, Bad Santa 2? Really?). Why contribute to the stream of bitterness that’s become a raging river?

Yes, rationalizing has gotten hyper-stupid. After this year, our cop-outs have developed an overlapping quality where contexts mingle because we offer so many. It’s as though we need Venn diagrams or flow charts to see them clearly.

How many excuses do I make in a day? Well shit, I’m afraid to ask, for fear of being shown self-awarded behavior exemptions I don’t even know I’m making. But whether on a community level, a national level, or by ourselves in line at the grocery store, too many people seem to think they’re entitled to comfort zones in which their irritation reflexes and rude or hurtful antics can’t be called out for the warm-fart coping skills they are.  Read the rest of this entry »

October 16th, 2016

“It’s Just Words, Folks…”

notes-from-a-non-parent-11I called my mom a “bitch” once. She spun and dropped as if to shoulder my head against the stove.

“Don’t ever call a woman that,” she warned, her finger in my face. “It means you hate women. Only idiots use that word.”

I panicked and thought Wait, I don’t hate women!

Her signature door-slammer, “idiot,” was always effective too. As in, “If you stick a needle in your arm – you’re an idiot.”

And my mom’s lesson had legs: I soon learned it also applied to the other words boys around me were using to describe women and their parts. 
Read the rest of this entry »

September 7th, 2016

To Stand or Not To Stand

to-stand-or-not-stand_where-excuses-go-to-dieIn high school I stitched an American flag to the seat of my pants and marched onto campus. Just before 3rd period a friend said, “You’ve gotta get out of here: the whole football team’s looking for you!”

I was beaming as I headed down the hallway, but the Vice Principal caught me on my way out. He calmly escorted me to his office, then locked the door, shoved me against his desk, and threatened my life. The pain and anger in his eyes as he described guys my age who’d died in his arms in Vietnam showed me far better than any lecture that I’d bitten off more than I could chew.

That began a lifelong need to understand the American flag. All these years later I can’t say I have any real answers, but I do have a relationship with the Stars & Stripes that’s filled with regrets, worry, and growth. The last one is what I’m most proud of. 
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May 30th, 2016

The “Terror” of Gender-Neutral Toilets

All Gender Splendor_Where Excuses Go to Die

Not since the Satanic Panic of the 1980s have we seen as much moral alarmism and fear mongering as we’re now enduring, with today’s terror over gender-neutral toilets.

Texas and 10 other states filed suit last week challenging the U.S. Justice and Education Departments’ issuance of an Obama directive instructing public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.

Supporters of the lawsuit, filed in a Texas federal court, say the move is designed to protect women and children (presumably from “unemployed homosexuals, deviants, rapists, transgenders, and other sodomites from every state”). Though the actual threat from these jobless homo-nazis is practically nonexistent, according to the Justice Department and others, Texas says it will forfeit $10 billion in federal funding for education rather than carry out the so-called “bathroom law.” BTW, asked if he knows of any instances in which a child’s safety has been threatened by transgender bathroom rights, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has replied, “there’s not a lot of research.”

But foot-stomping is so much more fun (and vote-garnering!) than adaptive social functioning, isn’t it?
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