Posts Tagged ‘drugs’

Another example of the prison system’s inability to stand up for what is right involves sterile needles used for tattoos.

Prisoners use all manner of tools to do tattoos, none of them sterile. The result of this was infection with hepatitis and/or other diseases. The prison staff knew that in the long run sterile needles would lead to big savings of money and lives. So they allowed the men to set up sort of a tattoo parlor in the basement of Matsqui prison. The needles used were sterile and nobody got sick.

Someone in the community got the word that those convicts were getting free tattoos in the basement of Matsqui prison.

As they always seem to do, the prison staff caved in. The tattoo parlor was closed. Apparently it didn’t matter if men got Hepatitis A, B, or C. What was important was the image of the prison.

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People in our society often talk about a positive self-image. They say this is most important for mental health. In prison, however, everything militates against a positive self-identity, and I mean everything. Twice a year I dedicated a portion of every class to read  this essay out loud. Sadly, I’m no longer allowed in prison to do that. The essay:

You are Somebody

Let’s get something straight: You are somebody.

Everything in your present life militates against you believing that you are somebody. From the moment of your arrest to the moment of your final release, the system tells you that you are less than a human being.

You hands are cuffed and you are put in a cage to ride to the police station. You will overhear officers referring to you as ‘scum bag,’ ‘ass hole’ and worse. Your possessions and your clothes will be taken from you and you will be given a number. From now on the passive voice will be used to refer to you. You will no longer initiate action on your own. “He was arrested, he was sentenced, he was moved, he was given prison clothes.”

You are given an institutional personage and clothing to match. You are told the rules. You must comply. You must fit in. You must become an institutional man. Your daily schedule will be determined by the authorities, when you eat, when you sleep, even when you piss.

Slowly you lose your identity, the things that make you an individual. You become a case, someone to be treated by prison social workers and shrinks. You will be defined as a sociopath. You’re sick. You will be told to be caring in an institution that doesn’t care for you. You will be taught alternatives to violence by people who have used high levels of violence to keep you there. You will learn a new rule, that your keepers are always right and you are always wrong. You will be expected to bottle up all your normal sexual desires. Most likely your wife will divorce you and your kids will disown you. The quicker you lose your identity and become a slave of the state, the sooner you will get out of prison.

Whenever I go into prison to teach my class, I hear the public address system call for Inmate Jones to go to the infirmary, or Inmate Smith to report to the social worker. In what other institution are people referred to like that? Do we say Student Jones or Patient Jones?

You read the report the caseworker does on you. You don’t even recognize the person on the paper. He’s some evil dude. He’s not you. But the report stays there and the same old tired things keep being said about you, as if there were no hope for change.

Study the walls around you. Put your hand on them. What do they tell you about who you are? You are an animal that must be caged.

No doubt you will be raped. Many inmates are. You will lose this last bit of control over your body.

Study your function in society. You exist so I will feel better about me. Let’s say I have a real nothing of a job. My boss yells at me, my wife and my kids don’t respect me, but one thing I can say – I’m better than those bums in prison.

And you are entertainment. We get to hear the racy details of your crime every night on the TV and then we see you pleading with the judge and then – what a show – you are dragged off to prison. We feel safe knowing that you’re locked up. Alleluia. Evil is in jail.

Television programs like Oz contribute to the negative image of prisoners. You are portrayed as animals who have no morals. These programs like to say ‘they tell it like it is.’ But that’s exactly what they don’t do. They show only the evil side of people and seldom the good.

Prison, which is supposed to make you into a new and better person, has destroyed you. Perhaps Oscar Wilde says it best:

The vilest deeds like poison weeds

Bloom well in prison air:

It is only what is good in man

That wastes and withers there[1]

I call for a revolution and this revolution starts in the human heart. Make no mistake, all change starts in the human heart. Don’t say, “They should do this or they should do that to reform the system.” Don’t say, “It’s the system or the warden or the guards.” It’s you. You have to re-educate yourself.

You are somebody, to quote Jesse Jackson. Let’s look at it from several angles. Who are you? It sounds corny, but maybe you should sit down and write one affirming sentence about yourself every day, e.g. I am somebody.

From an evolutionary point of view, you are another example of the greatest thing going. You are a human being. You are the results of thousands of years of evolution. You have a fantastically complex brain. Given half a chance, you can master complex sciences or paint a new Mona Lisa or write a great novel.

Say it to yourself: I am somebody. Write it on a piece of paper: I am somebody.

People love you. You are an object of love. People care what happens to you. You ARE lovable. You have certain characteristics that are great, things we all strive for. Make a list of those characteristics. Really. Sit down and write out your good points. Your list should have at least 25 items on it. While some may laugh at this technique as self-help inanity, I believe it is necessary, because the prison system has so thoroughly brainwashed convicts the other way.

I am able to think my way through problems

I have a good sense of humor. People laugh at my jokes.

I have loved a woman. Love is always a good thing.

I am interested in …. Being interested in something is great.

And so forth

Read the universal declaration of human rights from the UN. Read each article carefully and then rewrite the article putting your own name in the article. Here are a few of the articles:

Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Write: I am a human being. I was born free. I am equal to all others in dignity and rights. I have been endowed with reason and conscience. I should act towards others in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Write: I have the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Write: I should not be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Article 20.

Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

Write: I have a right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

Every organized system of belief teaches that you are special. Christianity says that God sent his only son to save you, you the filthy criminal that people said should rot in hell. Jesus said that what people did to the least of the brethren, they did to him. In the view of our society there is nobody more least than you.

Protestants, Catholics and Jews believe that human beings are children of God. God is our loving father/mother. All people are brothers and sisters. My own discipline, the Catholic Church, says that insults to human dignity “… poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury.”[2]

Respect for human dignity is at the core of Christianity. Read the Gospel and the Epistles of John.

You were made in the image and likeness of God. Stand up and stand up tall. Did you get that? The image and likeness of God? You, prisoner number 108392.

Of course our society doesn’t believe this. If we did, we wouldn’t treat prisoners the way we do. But as they say, Christianity is a great religion, except that it’s never really been tried.

Islam says that Allah created all that is on Earth and in the Heavens for man. Man sits high above all. For his sake Allah sent prophets and messengers, preachers, carriers of glad tidings to lead people to the truth. Allah says: “Indeed, We have honored the children of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors, above a great part of Our Creation.” (Al-Isra’ 17:70)

Eastern religions talk about the spark of divinity in all of us. Do you really believe that there is a spark of divinity in you? Call God the Great Spirit or Yahweh or Allah or God, there is a spark of him/her in each of us.

Those who construct systems of philosophy all respect human dignity, from Aristotle to Teilhard de Chardin. Just one example would be Wilhelm von Humboldt who had the deepest respect for human nature and who believed that freedom was the proper environment for this human dignity.

Michel Foucault, the French social critic, has interesting observations on the nature of those in prison. He begins his ideas on prison by wondering why prisons are still around, since they are clearly so unsuccessful at preventing crime. “But perhaps one should reverse the problem and ask oneself what is served by the failure of the prison.”[3]

Foucault claims that the ruling class uses criminality as a way of preventing revolution. His theory is that the dynamic groups of the lower social class are the ones who commit crimes. The establishment fears these people – they are willing to break the rules. The power elites then brand these people and continue to brand them even after they have finished their sentences. The law-breakers become outcasts and therefore powerless. “..prison has succeeded extremely well…in producing delinquents, in an apparently marginal, but in fact centrally supervised milieu. (Prison has succeeded extremely well)… in producing the delinquent as a pathologized subject.[4]

Up close a particular prisoner might seem to be anything but a dynamic member of society, but stepping back, one sees the point of Foucault’s observations.

Victim talk must cease. You are not a victim. You are a proud man, competent, together. You’re in control of your life. You can do things. In the past things beyond your control may have happened to you, but that’s all over. You’re in charge now.

When you realize that you are somebody, that your life is important, that you have work to do while you are in prison, then drugs become less of a problem. Drugs are a way to pass time in prison. Drugs are a response to a terrible existence. Yes, addiction is one hell of a thing to get over, but you can do it. You are somebody.

With the realization that you are somebody, comes the responsibility of being somebody. Prison officials talk about responsibility only in terms of what you have done in the past. Yes, we are all responsible for our past and we have to do what we can to make amends. But often we are very limited in what we can actually do.

It seems to me that the big responsibility is to yourself and to those around you. As to yourself, use your time in prison to develop yourself, your education, your artistic ability, your ability to earn a living. (Here prisons fail you miserably. They won’t pay for good education for you and they train you for jobs that are already out of date.)

We are all responsible for those around us. No one exists in a vacuum. We influence the men around us and they influence us. You are responsible, like it or not, for men you may consider scum-bags. And even harder news is that you are responsible for the guards and the administration. Like it or not, you are where you are and you are part of the system you are in. Make no mistake – you will be no different when you are free. You don’t give a damn now about those around you – you won’t in the future either. So don’t get mad when the report on you uses the word, anti-social.

Prison is a horror movie. Zombies walk from morning work to count and then to lunch and from lunch to afternoon work and then to count. A human being walks the cement corridors. His head is down, his back bent, his spirit lifeless. He moves not with purpose, but to fill time. He’s doing time. He’s being stored in a human-being warehouse. No, it’s worse than that, his soul is being ripped out of him. He’s in dystopia, the opposite of utopia. He’s a modern day Frankenstein, awaiting the jolting message that he is someone.

You are someone. You are someone. You are someone.

[1] Oscar Wilde, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, pt 5, st 5

[2] Vatican II, The Church and the Modern World, #27

[3] Discipline and Punish, The Birth of the Prison, Foucault, Michel, New York: Random House, 1979, page 272.

[4] Ibid, page 277

Two important notes for today

  1. Inmate Mike Oulton and I wrote a book about prison, called Dystopia. This coming week it will be priced at 99 cents from July 21 to July 25.

The dictionary says that ‘dystopia’is a society of human misery, squalor, disease, terror and overcrowding. It is the opposite of Utopia.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Dystopia-Ed-Griffin-ebook/dp/B005LE97E0/

 

The book trailer is here: http://youtu.be/crDx4v7jJEU

 

2 Arrest records and Mary Bentley have brought us this information: http://blog.arrestrecords.com/15-surprising-ex-convicts-who-made-it-big/.

15 Surprising Ex-Convicts (Who Made it Big)

This list of former convicts proves that no matter the circumstances, anyone can overcome hurdles to change their lives around and become a success and an influence.

1. Daniel Manville

http://www.legalnews.com/detroit/1283324

Daniel Manville served three years and four months in jail for manslaughter. While he was in jail he studied the legal profession, earning two college degrees. After he got out he went to law school. He passed the bar, representing both prison guards and inmates in civil court cases. He currently teaches law at Michigan State University.

2. Uchendi Nwani

http://www.scoop.it/t/itsyourbiz/p/4007976123/2013/09/20/the-millionaire-ex-convict-uchendi-nwani-on-sunday-show Uchendi Nwani served six and a half months of labor at a federal boot camp for drug dealing, interrupting his college studies. After his stint, he lived in a halfway house and cut hair at the university salon where he resumed studies. He opened his own barber shop and later school after graduation. He shares his success by traveling nationwide, motivating others to follow their dreams even in the midst of adversity.

3. Eugene Brown

http://educationtownhall.org/2014/01/13/chess-and-life/

Eugene Brown served time in a New Jersey prison after a robbery attempt. During his prison stay he met his future mentor, a man named Massey, who taught him how to play chess. Brown realized that chess was a metaphor for life, and later established a chess club that also taught life lessons. Brown became a successful businessman, and in 2014 Cuba Gooding, Jr. will play the starring role in a movie based on his life.

4. Jeff Henderson

http://www.foodnetwork.com/chefs/jeff-henderson.html

Jeff Henderson served ten years for dealing and manufacturing cocaine as a youth. During his time in prison he discovered he liked to cook and spent his days honing this talent. Released for good behavior, he worked as a chef in LA before moving to Las Vegas. He is currently working at Caesar’s Palace, earning top recognition and rewards.

5. Mark “Chopper” Read

http://www.news.com.au/national/what-happened-during-mark-8216chopper8217-read8217s-early-years/story-fncynjr2-1226736503189

Australian Mark Read robbed drug dealers during his earlier years, and was recognizable by his many tattoos and cut-off ears. He served multiple stints in jail for crimes such as attempted abduction of a judge and armed robbery. During his time behind bars he wrote several best-selling crime novels. Eric Bana starred in a movie about his life in 2000.

6. Robert Downey, Jr

http://marvel-movies.wikia.com/wiki/Robert_Downey_Jr.

Robert Downey, Jr has served jail time for multiple drug-related charges (involving heroin, marijuana and cocaine). He also attempted multiple rehabilitation and drug treatment programs. Although he has been candid about his battle with addiction, he has since enjoyed a comeback and starred in several blockbuster films.

7. Tim Allen

http://hollywood.improv.com/event.cfm?id=303620

Before Tim Allen became a famous celebrity, he served two years and four months in the Federal Correctional Institution in Sandstone, Minnesota for cocaine possession and drug trafficking. After his stint in prison he turned his life around and became a famous Hollywood actor.

8. Christian Slater

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000225/

Actor Christian Slater suffered some setbacks when he served 59 days in jail after assault on his girlfriend and a police officer. He had been arrested prior to that for drunk driving, boarding a plane with a gun and another episode of assault. After jail and rehab, he was able to successfully turn his career around and enjoy a comeback.

9. 50 Cent

http://thatsenuff.com/index.php/2014/03/50-cent-deads-all-rumors-of-a-realtionship-with-vixen-sally-ferreria-calling-her-a-thirsty-video-b-details/

Before he became a famous rapper, Curtis Jackson III (aka 50 Cent) served a six-month boot camp sentence (instead of his original three-to-nine years) for drug-related charges. While in prison, he earned his GED and was determined to make it as a rapper. His first album was a hit, and he continues to make music along with other business aspirations.

10. Danny Trejo

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001803/

Danny Trejo was in and out of prisons for charges relating to both robbery and drugs. He finally turned his life around and broke free of his addictions. He now plays the tough guy onscreen in many television shows and action films.

11. Frank William Abagnale

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Abagnale

When Frank William Abagnale was only 16 years old he began his career as a conman (pretending to be a doctor, college professor, lawyer and airline pilot), eventually writing $2.5 million in fradulent checks. He went to prison for five years. Since his release, he has cooperated with the government and runs a consulting firm that helps agencies debunk fraud. A movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks was made based on his life story.

12. Junior Johnson

http://espn.go.com/racing/blog/_/name/hinton_ed/id/4913741/daytona-500-grand-marshal-junior-johnson-discovered-draft-accident

Junior Johnson served jail time for smuggling illegal alcohol in North Carolina, back before he became a NASCAR driver. He credits his early transports as training for his later career, where he has won 50 races. A highway in his hometown bears his name.

13. Malcolm X

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_X

And remember: Dystopia is on sale for 99 cents July 21 until July 25

http://www.amazon.com/Dystopia-Ed-Griffin-ebook/dp/B005LE97E0/

The current state of the prison system is dismal at best. There are currently more than 2.3 million individuals incarcerated in the United States, and of these, nearly 85% either have a drug problem serious enough to meet the DSM-IV medical criteria for substance abuse or addiction, or are a part of the penal system as a result of a drug-related offense.

Obviously, this is a problem that desperately needs to be addressed. Whatever correlation you wish to draw from the data, there is obviously a connection between chemical abuse and being in prison. For this reason, it is important to consider how instituting strong drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs are essential to prison reform.

These numbers need to come down.

Obviously, the overall number of prisoners in this country needs to be reduced, but the statistics above need to faced. We are not currently running a crime-prevention system, we are running a holding and breeding house for the country’s worst drug addicts. Nothing good can come from that.

The need to get high is a good reason to commit crime.

That should, of course, be taken in context. Many of the people in prison are there because of drug-related crimes, or because they needed money to get high. If you aren’t dealing with the drug addiction, you’re not dealing with the heart of the problem.

For many people, prison isn’t a great deterrent to what they are doing, because all they are thinking about is the next opportunity to use. Deal with that problem; let less junkies back out on the street, and watch your recidivism rate drop.

You have a captive audience.

For better or worse, these people are prisoners and wards of the state. Though you obviously can’t force them to change their behaviors, you have already embarked on a commitment to help them change their lives. Why not make a practical use of that time; requiring these inmates to face the issues of their addictions?

While already within the confines of our prison system, it only makes sense to show prisoners better options for conducting their lives. That means extending rehabilitative services on all fronts, rather than just dealing with the daily doldrums of being locked up, and the ongoing tension of prison life.

The system is there to rehabilitate these captive members of our community, and that means not only giving them time to think about the crimes they’ve committed, but mechanisms to understand the reasons they committed them, as well.  Helping prisoners understand what led them down the wrong path is the first step toward avoiding it in the future.

Many inmates are ready for a change.

On the other hand, for many addicts, landing in prison is their taste of hitting the bottom – hard. They are well aware they have problems, and desperately would like to get out of the rut that put them in prison – if only they were given a serious opportunity for a second chance.

It’s a better option.

Ultimately, whether you want to believe it or not, being behind bars doesn’t mean you can’t get high. Certainly, there’s more trouble and risk involved, but if you’ve reached this level, it’s hardly a concern. Depending on whom you are and who you know, many of the obstacles of using drugs when you’re behind bars can fall away. And regardless of your access inside, there is plenty of availability once you are out on the streets.

Rehabilitation efforts change prisoners’ perspectives, furnishing hope for better lives outside incarceration. Filling inmates’ time with positive intervention opens their eyes to the greater possibilities both on the inside and outside. Rehabilitation reminds inmates there is a path to salvation, enabling them to break free from their own limiting addictions.

Daphne Holmes is a writer from ArrestRecords.com and you can reach her at daphneholmes9@gmail.com.

What is your opinion? Which came first, the prison or the addict?

ideaSome readers of this blog have submitted interesting ideas for your consideration. The first is about drug reform.

Drug Reform Stalls on California Governor’s Veto

Longstanding debate swirls around the nation’s drug policies, especially those related to simple possession.  Under current sentencing laws, certain drug charges classified as felonies carry sentences that don’t seem to match the crimes.  As a result, there has been a steady push to reclassify certain drug crimes as misdemeanors.

In the fall, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have done exactly that in the State, correcting disparities between offenses and punishments, once and for all.

Greater Flexibility for Prosecutors and Judges

Essentially, the California initiative would have given judges and prosecutors more leeway interpreting charges, allowing them to classify certain offenses as misdemeanors, which carry felony charges today.  Instead of lengthy prison sentences, offenders convicted under the new guidelines would be sent to treatment facilities to address drug dependency issues.  Probation and community service would also be applied to sentences in some cases, adding punitive elements as well as rehabilitation requirements.

The law was seen by some as an appropriate measure to alleviate the prison overcrowding problem in California.  Under current statutes, certain recreational drugs like LSD and Meth fall in an intermediate legal area, which may be charged as felonies or misdemeanors.  Drugs like heroin and cocaine, on the other hand, are always subject to felony charges.  The proposed law extended the flexibility to charge these drugs in the same way others are handled, giving judges and prosecutors discretion to issue misdemeanor charges when warranted.

Compelling Arguments from Both Sides

Opponents of the measure pointed to public safety concerns stemming from relaxed drug penalties, leaning on the long held position that prison is an effective deterrent for drug users.  On the other hand, supporters see two major benefits from relaxed sentencing guidelines for simple drug possession.

Felony charges stay with offenders, blocking access to jobs, housing and education required to get them back on their feet.  Supporters of Bill 649 saw less chance for convicts to return to jail if felony records were not imposed for drug offenses.  Instead, misdemeanor charges could be addressed without creating criminal records preventing personal advancement among those charged.

According to proponents, saving valuable resources and directing law enforcement efforts to more pressing areas are additional benefits of relaxing drug possession sentencing standards.

While federal sentencing trends are themselves moving toward greater flexibility for drug possession charges, Brown defended his veto, stating broader reform was on the way for California’s penal system anyway, so changing this single aspect of the system independently does not make sense at this time.

Author Byline:

This guest post is contributed by Rebecca Gray, who writes for Backgroundchecks.org. She welcomes your comments at her email id: GrayRebecca14@gmail.com.

 

Krista Coleman sends along an interesting infographic, “What Makes a Killer?” Here’s the link: http://www.top-criminal-justice-schools.net/guns .

 

In Canada people are meeting the need for those who have a loved one in the criminal justice system. Based on first nations healing ideas, people share their experiences and find strength and hope in the process. See http://toddcanada.org/

And you?  How about a blog from you? Nameless if you want. (No names of inmates or prison names may be used without written permission.)

Image courtesy of:

I had a real pleasure this morning. Jack (name changed) called me at 9:30 this morning.

“Hey, Buddy, you home?”

I heard excitement in his voice.

“Yeah, what’s happening?”

I’ve known Jack for eight years. I first met him in PreTrial. The first week he came down to writing class, he asked me for one copybook – the kind that we had in school to keep notes. The next week he asked for two books and every week thereafter. He let me read his writing. He wrote how he missed his girlfriend, how he worried that he hadn’t heard from his mother and how angry he was at a man who had mistreated her. He wrote about how he first got into crime and how he ended up with a reputation for stealing a thousand cars.

His sister called him. “Mom is missing. She hasn’t been in her apartment in over a week.”

The local paper ran a story, “Car thief’s mother missing.” Jack wrote an angry letter to the paper. The point was that a woman was missing, not who her son was.

When his trial came, he pleaded guilty to car theft and was sentenced to federal prison.car thief

A few months later he showed up in my prison writing class with more for me to read. His style was simple, but there was a poetry and drama to it. He wrote about his childhood, about his father leaving the family, about his mom’s drinking and his own trouble with the law in his teen years.

Then one day the news came – his mother’s body had been found. He swore that day that drugs or alcohol would never take another member of his family, a promise he’s kept despite the ready availability of drugs in prison.

changing diapers  When Jack finished his sentence, he was not allowed to drive or own a car for three years. He had a baby girl with a woman, who decided to leave him with the baby. He got a job as a painter so he had to get up at 5 AM, prepare the baby and take her by bus to the day care. Then the bus to work and the reverse at night. I will never forget the sight of this one thousand-car thief changing the baby’s diaper.

He often gave talks to young people about drugs and car theft

And so back to this morning. Jack drove to my house to show me his car, which he’d purchased with his own money. He got out and jumped up and down and then slapped me on the back. “I’m driving, old man, I’m driving again. And it’s all legal.”

I enjoy his playful “old man.” (Anyway, it’s true.)

I played a small part in his success. I don’t know if he’ll ever publish his life story, but I know writing it has taught him who he is.

Success story. I felt good all day.

Images courtesy of:

  • caradvice.com.au
  • thyaga.wordpress.com