Posts Tagged ‘parole conditions’

The theory is that prison will teach a man (or woman) how to live in society. It doesn’t work. It’s the farthest thing from what actually happens.

The man gets up at a certain time, marches to the mess hall, and sits with the same three fellows he’s sat with for years. Never does a staff member ask if he could join them. This is an Us and Them world.

The day goes on, the man can only move from one place to another at specified times. He used to have freedom of movement during a good portion of the day, but no more. The staff discovered that it’s easier on them if they put in a military type regime.

This is training to live on the outside?

Then there are programs to take, Cog Skills, Anger Management etc. It doesn’t matter so much whether a man needs a program, the important thing is to keep the classes full. The man has no say in what programs he would like to take. This, of course, guarantees that poor teachers can retain their jobs.

Programs are made conditions of parole. I had a learning experience in this area. I had worked with an inmate for seven years. I knew him thoroughly – he was ready for freedom or at least for a halfway house. I was asked to be interviewed about this man and I agreed. The interviewer was a private individual who prepared reports on inmates. He and I had good conversations, but as we talked, I began to realize that no matter what I said this man was going to report that the inmate wasn’t ready yet. I further suspected that this is what the man always said – this is why the prison system kept him around – he kept filling the prisons, guaranteeing further work for the staff.

“There should be no jails. They do not accomplish what they pretend to accomplish. If you would wipe them out and there would be no more criminals than now. They are a blot upon any civilization.”

Clarence Darrow, 1857-1938

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/

A convict faces several critical times, arrest, first time in jail, sentencing, first time in a penitentiary, parole hearings and release. I think this last is the worst. When I worked at Surrey PreTrial, I had the men and women write out what they were going to do on their first day out of jail. I asked them to be as specific as possible, i.e. who was going to pick them up from jail, which bus were they going to take to where, and what were they going to eat on their first meal out and with whom.

I think release back into the community is the hardest time of all. The man has no money and several good ways of getting some money occur to him. I worked with two very creative men in prison. When he got out, Mike decided he was finished with the crime game. However, several enticing, money-raising opportunities came to him. He turned them down and faced poverty. The other man, call him Roger, was used to the good life before his sentence. When he got out, he couldn’t see himself living below the poverty line. He went back into the drug game, not using drugs, but selling them.

One sad night in Vancouver, a rival gang discovered that he was throwing a big party to honor his engagement. Somebody reported the location to the rival gang and they showed up at the party, guns blazing. Roger died that night. What if someone had put him on the right path? I tried, but failed. What if the prison system sent him out the door, with a promise of money if he fulfilled certain conditions?

The parole system makes a convict visit their parole officer at least once a week. My experience of trying to work with parole officers was pretty negative. One felt that only he could help the inmate, so he shared no information with me. The other threatened Mike that he would be sent back to prison the first time he did anything wrong. This parole officer assumed everything Mike did was about selling drugs.

The John Howard Society (http://www.johnhoward.ca/about/) tries to help men at this critical point.

They called him Doctor, not because he was a medical man, not because he had a Ph.D, but because he was so smart and such a great orator. We’ll simply call him Doctor X.

If the prison system needed an inmate to stand up and speak for all inmates, they called on Doctor X. He knew how to walk the middle, keeping the guys happy and the system happy. In my writing class, he stood out, producing poems and essays that won him awards.

While he was in my class, he got a new trial, calling up the many details that had led to his previous conviction.

I followed the case closely. He and another man met each other in Seattle, and they decided to visit some women in Vancouver. They hired a taxi in downtown Vancouver which took them to the girl’s address. Outside the apartment, the police later discovered the taxi driver murdered, shot in the head.

The justice system wanted the other man to come to Canada for the retrial. He refused. As the trial went on, it became clear to me that it was the other man who had killed the taxi-driver. He was a much bigger man than Doctor X, and had all the characteristics of those who commit murder. While Doctor X had gone on with his studies and his efforts to help his fellow inmates, the other man ran into constant trouble with the law. His very refusal to come to the retrial indicated to me his guilt. This was the old story of not telling on another man, even if it meant your own imprisonment.

No matter who did it, the taxi drivers in our city wanted a conviction, so once again, Doctor X was found guilty.

After his release, he married a local woman, and they had three wonderful children. They worked hard to raise them as good citizens. When Doctor X finished his sentence and parole, he was shipped back to the United States. Without telling his employer of his past, he got an excellent job back East, which he held for almost ten years. He proved his ability in a very responsible job but then, as always seems to happen, somebody found out about his past and told his superiors. They fired him immediately. Many of his friends objected to this, but I knew it was inevitable. It’s a real problem for an ex-con: tell the truth and not get a good job, or don’t tell the truth and get caught years later.

I haven’t heard yet how Doctor X is supporting his family now.

An inmate should not protect another person, even if he fears for his life from that person. Being accused unjustly of murder seems to me to be a living death.

Another point is to tell the truth when you get a job. There are people who will hire you, if you show that you are stronger than what’s been said about you. Yes, many people will automatically refuse you, but it’s much worse to devote ten years of your life to a company and then be fired in one day.

How do we help ex-cons get a job? Many of them want to prove themselves. They want out of the life of crime. I’ve often thought of a company called EX-CONS, a bonded company, construction, cleaning, what have you. Any ideas?

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:

get out of jailIn my opinion, the most critical time for a man or a woman are the months right after they get out of prison. Many have little money and, of course, they know many easy ways to get money.

These people, who are used to a very regimented life, wake up one morning and no one is telling them what to do. Many spend their first months in a halfway house, which in some cases is good and in some cases is a disaster. As one inmate told me, if you want drugs, go to such and such a halfway house.

How about the parole officer who follows an inmate on the outside? Many of them have way too many cases. In theory, a parole officer on parole officerthe outside is a good idea – someone to care about an inmate, to advise, to be a mentor. What it comes down to, however, is the inmate going to an office, chatting with (or lying to) the parole officer for a few minutes and then leaving.

I had the opportunity to sit in with an inmate and his parole officer on their first interview after the man got out of prison. It was horrible. The man had a lot of things going for him, great self-confidence and an intelligent mind. For an hour the parole officer told him what a scumbag he was, how she was going to send him back to prison, how she knew he was going to screw up, how she knew he was going to go back into crime, on and on for an hour.

I stayed with the case for many months and twice she tried to send the inmate back, but her supervisor overruled her. I suspected she had some kind of personal problem, which she was taking out on the inmate. Sadly, that happens a lot in our prison system.

mentor

Mentor

These months are important. Can’t something be done? Take some staff who have little to do in the prison, retrain them, and retrain them again with some psychology and again with how to help people change.

When someone is on parole, they are already standing behind us in the supermarket. We in the community have to help those who have just been released. I’ve helped many citizens go into prison and help the men in there, but I have failed to get people involved with those who have been released.

Many men and women are afraid of the world that confronts them. They understand prison and know how to live there. Their friends are there. We have to help them live on the outside.

Images courtesy of:

  • collegesurfing.com
  • articles.businessinsider.com
  • samdick.org

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