Posts Tagged ‘recidivism’

Life in a Prison Classroom

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Pre-Release Classrooms are the Future of Prison Reform_Where Excuses Go to DieI know life in a prison classroom, and the learning environment you may or may not find once you’ve taken a seat.

A brief click-through of “5 Projects to Watch in 2016” from Correctional News leaves me wondering how much prison officials really know about the obstacles inmates face just getting through a detention facility’s classroom door. What does it matter, you ask? Well, in an era where words like “reform,” “rehabilitation,” and “recidivism” are on everyone’s lips, it’s important to know when a component as critical as education is simply being given lip service.

Correctional News covers prison operations, design, and construction. It celebrates grand openings and groundbreakings because imminent completion dates tend to matter to rubber mattress merchants, vendors of detection products, and shower flooring suppliers.

Currently showcased are the East County Detention Center near Palm Springs, for example, which is set to open in 2017, the Kern County justice facility in Bakersfield, and the new Utah State Prison, among others. California being where I paid my debt to society, I tend to monitor its prison system more closely than I do others. But all of these entries have something in common, and that’s my point: they feature anemic descriptions of the education facilities also under construction. Rehabilitation-as-footnote here, will eventually make corrections administrators and state officials look as though they’re simply hanging wreaths of rehabilitation on freshly painted classroom doors and leaving it at that. (more…)

Prisoner Re-Entry Schools

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Photo by Nick VedrosThe time is right for Prisoner Re-Entry Schools.

Offenders must be redirected, not simply recycled, ideally through public-private partnerships. People who have earned a second chance need places to go where stock phrases like “new beginnings” aren’t made into nonsense through endless repetition.

In Boston, Massachusetts, inmates will soon have the option of applying for enrollment in a new prisoner re-entry school inside the 45-year old Boston Pre-Release Center. In addition to a long list of programs that began in 1972, the new Re-entry School will help connect parolees with individual and community leaders confirmed to support them and, ultimately, to help reduce recidivism and crime. (more…)

RELEARNING REENTRY ISSUES

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

STAR IN YOUR OWN NETFLIX SERIES_Where Excuses Go to DieLearning prisoner reentry issues means relearning prison.

If we don’t resist the manner in which we’ve been trained to recognize incarceration and the incarcerated, offenders will only continue to be recycled through the system rather than redirected.

Black has always been the New Orange_Where Excuses Go to DieAmericans need to unlearn prison and relearn life behind bars, but not because prison reform is a growing national dialogue: bandwagons produce hot exhaust already. We need to be reeducated because our understanding of the poor coping skills, pressure, and PTSD faced by those emerging from detention has been the stuff of movie jokes for as long as any of us can remember. Mutated by Hollywood and put off by unpleasantness, most Americans can’t get past convict caricatures to see key subtleties that must become part of our awareness. And I do mean ours: taxpayers, you, me, and Law-abiding Larry — not just the social workers we usually leave to resolve issues of recycling vs. redirecting.

Following my own successful parole, I never expected to become a prison commentator or a conveyor belt of questions about confinement, but I can never seem to escape the little strings in life that lead back to my experiences behind bars. Each one returns me to lessons learned “inside” that now take civilian form on a daily basis. In fact, those lessons accompany me so doggedly, I’m constantly comparing in-custody versions to civilian values and principles. Witnessing inmates upholding the same rules they utterly failed to live by “outside” was and remains fascinating. At the same time, it makes sense that a closed culture like the one behind bars would enforce a rapid and uncompromising assimilation process. (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…)

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…)

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…)

Restore Voting Rights and Re-Enfranchise!

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Restore Voting Rights - Re-Enfranchise_Where Excuses Go to DieMy restored voting rights remind me I’ve paid my debt to society.

It shouldn’t matter that my right to vote was taken away because I was sent to prison. What should matter –and what matters to me– is that I earned it back. I’m proud of that.

My right to vote does a lot for me, too, starting with being a happy reminder that the state of California and I have settled our differences amicably. I tend to think less of slackers who come up with excuses not to vote, which can be a dialogue-friendly counterbalance to feeling “less than” because of the criminal record stigma I’ll always have.

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Time Off for Book Behavior

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Four days less for every book Brazil’s inmates read, says their Governo Federal. Inmates earn up to 48 days off each year for reading 12 classics or 12 works of philosophy, science, even humor. It’s an effective, creative approach that need not produce voter-ready results to be successful. And why not? ‘Cause we already know that reading is the most basic of human skills, and just being able to understand those seven words could have a Butterfly Effect. 

A Butterfly Effect is where a small change at one place in a complex system can have a large effect elsewhere. Though it also happens to work, teaching prison inmates to read is a truly humanitarian gesture requiring no quantifiable numbers or lowered crime stats as a proof that it does: the very act of spreading literacy is like giving sight to the blind. Unfortunately, here in the U.S. our lawmakers can’t sell each other on the promise of a good deed anymore than you or I can poop gold. But so what? That’s no excuse for not helping someone help themselves, or for not helping ’em reach through the razor wire to interpret the world anew.

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