Posts Tagged ‘inmate’

De-institutionalization (and your Tax Dollars)

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

Mizuo Shinonome_Where Excuses Go to DieSome see de-institutionalization as prison reform’s black hole. We neither think about nor understand it much, until we see how much it can swallow.

Yet redirecting, rather than just recycling, offenders begins and ends with the most common form of second chance behavioral therapy of all: showing individuals the potential in themselves they can’t yet see. I’m certainly a product of it, and there are countless other second chance cases even more deserving of the right mentor than I was.

In such an inexcusably crowded prison system as California’s, wringing Yard life from offenders can devour solar systems of resources, and profoundly institutionalized individuals are difficult people to be around on a good day. So for both plucky and grizzled corrections professionals working with offenders and parolees, resolve and past re-entry successes are crucial. So, too, are faith and funding – or at least the delivery of funds previously promised. (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…)

Is Pre-trial Labor Slavery?

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Lawsuit over solitary vs. work detail stirs a 13th Amendment debate

Hard day at the office_WHere Excuses Go to DieIs pre-trial labor slavery?

Not every detention facility relies on the same frontline custody policies, but the fact is, most pre-trial prisoners are allowed to choose between a daily work assignment and remaining confined to their dorm units or cells.

Before we dive in, let’s take a look at what, for some, is merely semantics. For others, though, the distinction couldn’t be more important. See, you’re a “prisoner” until you’ve been sent to a genuine penal facility, at which point you’re given an “inmate” number. Once you’re on a full blown prison yard, you strive to graduate to “convict” and leave the inmate label behind.

Likewise, “jail” and “prison” are not the same. Jail custody is similar to an airplane circling a runway ’til it’s permitted to land. Jail is where one goes to await trial, pause between court appearances, get convicted and sentenced in the first place, then finally transferred to state or federal custody — i.e., prison.

Jail life, though, is often more harsh, because prisoners are transitory and often mistake jail for the big house themselves. Prisoners fear that not making a name for themselves right away is a dangerous mistake, so guys get beaten up a lot in jail. What many prisoners don’t realize is that they’ll have to reestablish their reputations as soon as a new busload replaces those they “taught” to respect them.

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Excuses, Dishonesty, and Tragedy

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

A daughter’s collect call from jail interrupts Thanksgiving dinner

Jail is the New GroundedTo look at Everett and Ella, you’d never know they’re the parents of a troubled, incarcerated daughter. They’re both successful in careers they love and they both espouse the family values with which they were raised, albeit modernized ones. Their home, where my wife and I were guests for Thanksgiving dinner, sits on a nice street in a neighborhood just about any set of young parents could happily work with.

When the phone rang the air at the table thickened slightly, as if a fly had entered the airspace. If the fly knows what’s good for it, it had better not land. A second ring offered a perspective on what it’s like to be the fly, buzzing in during dinner, which for Everett and Ella is a consistently early evening affair.

It was their old-school land-line ringing, and because, like a lot of us, they live and work by their iPhones, that meant that whoever was being ignored was family. Who else, besides mom and dad, first dials a land line these days? Regardless, ring number three provided satisfaction in the parental example they were setting for their four-year-old boy: no matter who’s buzzing around, during dinner, nobody touches the phone or the television. (more…)