Posts Tagged ‘reform’

Capitalizing on Inmate Firefighters

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

Image_washingtonpostThere’s no excuse for inmate firefighters becoming pawns of prison reform.

Inmate firefighters: it’s an odd term, isn’t it? “Firefighter” is a badge of honor, while “inmate” is a brand. Yet these particular convicted criminals are routinely sent on 16-mile marches to square off with raging wildfires for 24 hours at a time, carrying the mark of offenders while performing duties as honorable as they come. For about $2 an hour.

These men (and women) are typically housed in a more congenial, campus-like setting. They eat better than their counterparts who are still behind prison walls, and they’re addressed more cordially by both frontline custody personnel and the civilian training staffers who oversee their participation in California’s esteemed Conservation Camp program.

Most of these folks were convicted of non-violent crimes. But violent offenders have also swung picks and wielded shovels for the California Department of Forest and Fire Protection (CalFire) for decades, and a proposal to expand their participation was recently submitted by California corrections officials. Good thing it was withdrawn almost as soon as it was made public, as the plan could have been a disaster.

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Apocalypse Hoosegow 9

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

Apocalypse-Hoosegow__9__Where-Excuses-Go-to-DieA newly-appointed federal monitor will now oversee the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail and the wider LA jail system. Finally, movie nights –and maybe even civil rights– are back.

Changes are afoot, and prisoners housed at 441 Bauchet St., LA’s notorious Men’s Central Jail, may soon be eligible for social skill-strengthening activities and other privileges that have been forbidden since…who knows? 1965? The year after the facility opened? Well, decades, at least.

And that makes me wonder:

  • Might newly elected Sheriff Jim McDonnell do away with the Fight Club free-for-all day rooms, with their non-running water, MCJ 3000 Floor Day Room_Where Excuses Go to Diebacked up toilets, and rodent infestations?
  • Will rampant abuse and neglect in this, the nation’s “largest care-taking facility” for the mentally ill, finally start to slow?
  • Will the Sheriff’s Deputies and civilian jailers stop tossing decks of cards through the bars as a substitute for rehabilitation?
  • Or will those same individuals continue to celebrate excessive force and use it with enthusiastic prejudice?
  • Will the screams of men being sexually assaulted at MCJ no longer stomp bootprints of bad memories into the heads of those fortunate enough to only be plugging their ears?
  • Will Badges finally start assigning chores or handing out mops and brooms to inmates other than those willing do “torpedo runs” and other scheming favors?
  • Will visitors to the facility at last see an end to beat downs while handcuffed to a bench?

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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…)

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…)