Former inmate #12345-678 received a sentence of 37 months to be served in federal prison, followed by a transition period in a federal halfway house, and 3 years supervised probation.

The following is his account of serving time in a federal prison camp. The tale is his and he’s told it with hopes that it will help with your fiction and with your understanding of prison life at the federal camp level. Like others with real-life experiences, he sees mistakes in books that feature scenarios in which he has first-hand knowledge. Mistakes that could be easily avoided by simply conducting a bit of research.

The writing below is a combination of his and mine. I apologize for any errors I may have made during the process of trimming the story to fit. Please do examine the details because even the smallest could breathe life into what could be a boring scene. More importantly, though, this information could help with accuracy.

Off we go, to Anytown, FPC, the federal prison camp in Anytown USA.

My name is ***** ************ and I served a little less than three years of a 37-month prison sentence. The judge who sentenced me was a no-nonsense guy who handed out maximum terms like someone who rubber-stamps envelopes for a living. But I did what I did and into the system I went, leaving behind two children and a stay-at-home-mom wife who had no source of income at the time. I’ll always stand by the notion that my sentence was far lighter than hers. But that’s a different story. I was asked me to talk about my time at “the camp” so that’s what I’ll do, saving the rest for another day. By the way, it’s sort of like therapy talking about this stuff, so thanks for listening and thanks for understanding that I’m not making my name public, for obvious reasons.

If you believe what you see on TV and in the movies—the rock breaking and planning the next escape—you’ll be a little disappointed at life in a federal prison camp, especially the one where I was assigned. It was a privately-run facility out in the middle of nowhere and the staff was, at best, extremely slack.

I will say this about prison life in a higher custody level institution—a minimum security federal prison, one that’s a step above a camp and the kind where I first started serving my time—the person who wrote the TV show Orange is the New Black definitely did their homework because they hit many points spot on. Maybe I’ll be back to talk about the time I did there behind the razor-wire-topped double fences. They also had helicopter wire strung over the outside areas to prevent a chopper from landing during an escape.

In the camp where I served time, there were no fences. No razor wire. No dogs patrolling the perimeter. No towers. And oftentimes, only three or four guards working some shifts, supervising 1,000 inmates. Fortunately for them, there was never any real trouble and that’s because the men serving time there are within ten years of release—short-timers—so they tend to behave so they won’t be returned to prisons with much harsher conditions. It’s a real privilege to be at a place where supervision and custody is more relaxed..

Every inmate is required to have a job, such as painting, carpentry, electricians, landscaping, gardening, auto mechanics, factory work, sewing, and more. Each facility is like a small city nearly all the jobs you’d find there are also needed within prisons. During my first year in I worked in the prison kitchen wiping tables and keeping the little chrome napkin holders full.

I worked the evening shift which also meant I mopped the floor after dinner was complete. The rest of the day I spent taking classes, reading (I read over 500 books during my time in prison), or out on the recreation yard playing Bocce whenever I could get in a game.

The Italian guys monopolized the Bocce courts. Oh, that’s one thing about prison—the place is strongly divided into ethnic groups. Italians hang out together, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, etc. Even the TV rooms are segregated and the wrong person better not wander into the wrong room.

Speaking of bocce and the Italian guys, a mob boss was housed at our camp and when he and his entourage of lieutenants wanted to play everyone else stepped aside. That guy was rarely seen anywhere without “his guys” around. Believe me, he lived like a king, with people doing his laundry, shining his shoes, cooking his meals, and handing over items they’d purchased at the commissary. There’s a limit on how much money you’re allowed to have on the books so people on the outside would send cash to the mobster’s fellow inmates and they, in turn, would spend it as he wished.

The food at our camp was so-so. We served typical prison food—your basic frozen pseudo-meat patties as entrees. We did make a decent spaghetti sauce; however, the meat we used was that pink slime stuff that looked like a slimy paste when thawed. Special meals were prepared on various holidays, such as Mexican food on Cinco De Mayo. Some Fridays were special for everyone because we served real bone-in chicken quarters. That was a thing at the other prison too. Guys lined up early outside the dining hall on chicken day. Rarely did someone skip this particular meal.

Cutting line was something that was taboo. It was an a**-kicking/shank-sticking infraction of unwritten inmate rules. But, members of various ethnic groups allowed other members of those same groups to cut line. Just no “outsiders.”

I didn’t get out of the kitchen until around 7 p.m. so I missed a lot of action on the yard—football, basketball, and soccer games. But I did get a chance to hear some of the music played by the various prison bands. They’d set up the music equipment on the yard and play for the guys. This special treat occurred mostly on holidays. Some of the bands were really quite good. Even the bands were all ethnic based, though, which was to be expected, I suppose. Although, one white guy was super good on the guitar and he played with several groups.

I was a bit of a loner, preferring to spend my yard time alone, walking laps around the track while listening to my radio through earbuds. The only way we were allowed to use our radios, by the way, was to listen through earbuds. Even the TV’s were programmed to send wireless signals that could be picked up on a certain radio frequency. That’s how we listened to TV programs and movies, through those ear things. Otherwise, the combined noises of several TV’s playing at once would be awful. Not to mention adding the sounds of a couple-hundred men, or more, talking, playing cards, laughing, etc.

While walking laps around the track I’d see all the action since the oval circled around the entire recreation yard. The track at the camp was a dirt surface. The one at the low security prison where I started out was a nice rubber-like material that was designed to be better for the back, hips, and knees. That place was super nice as far as prisons go.

There were no fences at the camp, by the way, so there was nothing between us and the city except miles of flat land and a few bushes and trees. At night, seeing the city lights twinkle at the horizon was a lonely feeling, knowing that people were going about their lives without someone dictating their every move.

Out of Bounds signs were planted all along the outside edge of the track, meaning we were not allowed past those points. An infraction would be considered as an escape attempt and we’d be punished accordingly. I think an escape attempt could result in an additional five years added to a sentence. Some inmates, however, saw the open fields as a means of bringing in contraband. They’d have a friend drive up a nearby road and drop off duffle bags filled with food, liquor, drugs, and other niceties from the outside. Then, at night, they’d walk a few laps and then, when the time was right, run over to scoop up the bags and bring them back inside the prison grounds.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. We were each issued a windbreaker-type jacket. On one cool night, I was walking my usual laps around the track and I saw five guys walking along slowly, only one of those guys was a woman! She’d walked over from a nearby road and then her “boyfriends” gave her a prison jacket to wear to help conceal her identity. Every few laps she and one of the men would disappear into the shadows. A couple of laps would pass and she’d return and then disappear with a different inmate. I kept walking, not wanting any parts of that deal. Who knows how much it cost to arrange that liaison.

An alarm sounded at 9:30 p.m. each night, signaling the end of recreation time. Guards cleared the yard to make certain we were back inside our dorms for 10 p.m. count. They were very strict about the count rules. We had to stand perfectly still by our bunks—no talking—while two guards came by to count us. Any violation meant a trip to the hole (the hole is a no frills/no privileges jail hellhole inside the prison). After count was cleared, a loud and extremely annoying buzzer sounded and we were free to watch TV, play cards, do laundry, cook food, visit guys in other cubes, etc. We just couldn’t go back outside. Lights-out was at eleven.

Nighttime was also the time when guys got tattoos, drank alcohol, did drugs, cooked meals using the microwaves, washed and dried and ironed their clothing, polished shoes, etc. It was also the time to steer clear of the showers unless you wanted to participate in the goings-on in there. The showers were place to go to dole out punishment. Groups of prisoners would grab an offender (someone who had disrespected them), drag the guy into a shower stall, and then beat the daylights out of him. And if he told what happened he got it worse the next time.

Of course other things I won’t mention happened in there, too. Needless to say, I showered in the morning and in the early evening, during the safe times. It also didn’t hurt that my bunkie was the size of a small bulldozer. People generally left him alone. I was shown professional courtesy—you didn’t mess with the bunkie of guys who could rip off your head with one hand.

I was usually in bed reading by ten. I had to wear earplugs (the commissary sold them) to sleep because of the noise. Lots of talking at night. And the snoring! Imagine trying to sleep in one large room full of men snoring like roaring lions. It was tough.

After I’d been in a while I heard about inmates being granted furloughs—weekend trips to their homes to spend time with their family. The purpose of the furlough is supposed to help prisoners gradually become accustomed to outside life with their families. Well, I applied for one and it was approved. I went home for three days during the Christmas holidays and it was wonderful.

My wife picked me up in the prison parking lot and we spent those three glorious days together, at home, before I had to return to the camp. I was walking on air when I got back.

I’d also gone on short day trips, like to trim roses in the town parks, or to the warden’s Ruritan Club to spruce up the grounds. They were nice outings to break up your time and to see some real people, but they were nothing like my time with my family, at home. Still, seeing people and cars and trees and flowers and freedom … well, any time outside the camp grounds was like a dream.

Nighttimes, when things grew quiet and still were the worst times for most of us. That’s when we had time to think about where we were, why were there, and about our families and about life on the outside.

I’d shed more than one tear during those times, and I’d seen others do the same, including some of the biggest and baddest men I’d ever encountered.

Prison can bring the strongest of the strongest to their knees.

 

 

I got my start in law enforcement as a corrections officer working in a prison designed to house the inmates who’d been classified as “the worst of the worst.” Other institutions couldn’t or didn’t want to deal them, so they sent those little darlings to us. In other words, they were the system’s problem children. Fortunately for the citizens who lived nearby, our place was like Colonel Klink’s Stalag 13 … we’d never had a successful escape. Some tried, but none succeeded.

Not far away, within sight, was another prison. It, too, housed some pretty tough customers, but it also had a substantial population of medium to lower custody inmates. Unfortunately, their escape record was marred by a few blemishes and this was a concern to the locals. After all, a couple of the prisoners there had once beaten a corrections officer to death. Another had violently raped a female officer. Not to mention the inmates who’d killed or maimed other inmates. So yeah, escapes were always on the minds of everyone, including the inmates who had freedom on their minds.

As officers, escapes meant something entirely different to us than the heart-pounding fear experienced by private citizens. Sure, the safety of our neighbors and fellow staff were a concern, but it was the other stuff that went along with total chaos that followed the discovery of a missing inmate that really bugged us.

For example:

The Day the Alarm Sounded … ESCAPE!!

1. Count time and the final tally came up one man short. So officers counted again and again and again and again and again until someone “upstairs” was finally able to comprehend and embarrassingly admit that a prisoner was not where he was supposed to be. This process could and did last up to 30-40 minutes, or so.

2. The way it worked was when a count came up short, inmates, if not already there, were sent to their cells and locked inside. Those at work were generally ordered to assemble in a central and secure spot and were to remain there until further instructions were provided, which usually meant an escorted trip back to their assigned cells. A top-to-bottom search of the buildings and grounds was then initiated.

The place was a madhouse, with employees frantically turning every stone, bush, mattress, clothing pile, and garbage can. Inmates shouted and cheered for their missing compadre, even if they’d never seen the guy before in their entire lives. They banged and shook their cell doors, tossed things out into the corridors and dayroom areas. Some flooded their cells to add to the confusion, hopefully to provide enough distraction to aid in the escape attempt.

3. During an actual escape attempt, an hour of internal searching could easily pass before the brass swallowed their pride and made THE call to the regional office.

4. The order is given to sound the siren—a shrill, even more piercing than a fire siren noise that reached for miles—alerting everyone, including neighbors and other nearby prisons that an inmate has indeed escaped. And this is where the real pucker-factor for lower level officers sets in because …

5. Officers are at their assigned posts, guarding the remaining prisoners (watching them play cards and dominoes while yelling and cheering for their new hero) when they see a handful of White-shirts approaching (superior officers are called White-shirts at our state prisons because they wear—wait for it—white shirts). The bosses point at various officers as they pass by. First one then another, like selecting the top canines in a dog show.

6. The pointed-at officers are now part of the search team. These selections were based on absolutely nothing more than an eenie-meenie-miney-mo type system. Time on the job, marksmanship, alertness … they meant nothing. Warm bodies were what’s needed at the time. And they grabbed officers from nearby prisons as well. It’s all hands on deck time. The stuff had hit the fan.

7. So off they go to the armory, those unfortunate “hand-picked” officers, where they’re issued a sidearm and sometimes a shotgun, depending upon how many were on hand and how many were in decent working condition.

8. The recently-armed officers are loaded into smelly vans and buses, packed in like the sardinish inmates who’d ridden in those very vehicles just hours before. Keep in mind, corrections officers do not carry firearms while working inside the prison walls/fences; therefore their shooting skills could be woefully inadequate.

Meanwhile, back at the prison, all time off and other leave is cancelled for all officers. And, no one is allowed to leave their posts until further notice. No one goes home. In fact, more officers are called in to assist.

9. The vans and buses head out to the roads surrounding the prison and the wooded areas between. The vehicles stop at regular intervals to drop off an officer who is to stand there until someone returns to retrieve him/her. Might be hours. Could be a day or more. I’ve been posted on street corners in the pouring rain during the wintertime, and I’ve stood in a wooded area all night long, without a flashlight.

10. Speaking of nighttime manhunts … when the sun falls during a southern summer, mosquitoes the size of small buzzards come out to dine on a guard’s exposed flesh.

11. The officer, including me during the night I was posted in that dark wooded spot, really wishes that supervisors would be kind enough to hand out a flashlight or two. This is especially so in the spots where it seemed likely that Count Dracula or some Hulk-like creature who’d spent the past twenty years beefing up on the rec yard, hoping to get a chance to crush a guard’s skull like an overripe melon, would leap from behind a bush at any moment.

Oh, and something to eat and drink at some point would be a nice touch. A portable radio to scream for help, if needed, would also be welcome.

12. Midnight approaches, as does something from dark bowels of the wooded area. Calm down Telltale Heart, it’s only a deer.

13. A prison van finally drives up at 1 a.m. The driver, a White-shirt who’s enjoying an air-conditioned ride, rolls down his window to ask the officer if he’s seen anything. He’s holding a bottle of Diet Coke and promises someone will be by soon to relieve him. Doesn’t offer even a swallow of the beverage. The scent of some sort of warm food wafts to the officer from the open window. Mr. White-shirt drives away as you watch the van’s headlights fade to black as the vehicle rounds a curve.

14. An hour later another van pulls up and the driver tells the officer to get inside. The officer is told the search area has been expanded and they’re moving him to an area 20 miles away. Still no food or drink.

15. Twenty-four hours later the officer is standing in front of a house in a residential neighborhood, twenty-six miles from the prison. It’s raining very hard. No rain gear. Thankfully, the homeowner brings hot soup, a ham and cheese sandwich, and a thermos filled with black coffee.

16. Now thirty hours have passed since the escape siren sounded. A prison van rolls to a stop in front of the exhausted officer and the driver tells him to get inside.

17. The prisoner was located 250 miles away, traveling in a vehicle owned by a prison kitchen employee. She was driving the car at the time it was stopped by state police.

18. The officer, wet, tired, and still hungry, learned that officials suspected the kitchen worker all along and had alerted police to locate her.

19. The officer also learned that his bosses had stationed him and his co-workers throughout the countryside as merely a precaution in case the other “thing” didn’t pan out.

20. And that is why we hated escapes. Well, that and the fact that psycho-killer was roaming the streets.

And the mosquitos … and the Hulk, and Dracula, and that scary deer.

*Remember, it was a long, long time ago when I worked as a corrections officer. I’m sure times and things have changed a bit since then. However, I’d be willing to bet a dollar to a cop’s doughnut that forced overtime and poor treatment by administration still occurs and is something that’s despised by many of today’s corrections officers.

Mr. X is a former business professional who committed a crime that landed him in federal prison. He’s out now and has agreed to share the story of his arrest with the readers of The Graveyard Shift. You might find this tale a bit interesting.

GYS: Thanks for taking the time to share what must have been a difficult time for you and your family. I’ll dive right in. What were the circumstances that ultimately led to your arrest?

X: It’s embarrassing to have to tell it. I’ll start by saying I was ill at the time. A mental problem, I guess you’d call it. My doctor gave me all sorts of drugs that were supposed to help me, but didn’t. They just screwed up my wiring—my thought processes. Anyway, to this day I still say I would have never done anything wrong had it not been for the assortment of antidepressants and pain pills. Still, I did what I did and I accept the responsibility for it. I wish I could change it, but I can’t.

GYS: What was the crime that ultimately led to your arrest?

X: I bought some cocaine to sell. I didn’t use the stuff, I just needed money. You see, with my mind so scrambled I couldn’t hold down a job and my wife was struggling to make ends meet. The medicine and depression simply wouldn’t let me think properly. Either I’d get fired or I’d quit for some crazy, unjustified reason. All I had on my mind was the feeling those little pills offered, especially the pain pills. At the time, I think I’d have married a bottle of Hydrocodone. I loved and craved it that much. Still do, actually, and I haven’t touched the stuff in many years. But I think about it nearly every day.

GYS: How long did your life of crime last?

X: I didn’t make a very good criminal. My entire crime spree lasted about a week. I bought the cocaine to sell, but chickened out. I couldn’t sell it. But someone who was involved in the transaction was already in trouble with the police and told them about me to help themselves out of their own jam.

GYS: Tell us about the arrest.

X: As it turns out, the person who told on me was an informant for a federal task force so, needless to say, I was surprised when my house was raided by a team of FBI agents along with state and local police. There must have been fifteen or twenty officers involved in the raid of my home. All for a little over $100 worth of cocaine. Although, I’m sure if I’d sold it it would have netted more. The prosecutor leading this investigation was a man named James Comey. You may have heard of him.

GYS: Seriously, that’s all you had?

X: Yes, sir. $120 worth, or so. A heaping tablespoon full, maybe.

GYS: What were your charges?

X: Possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) with the intent to distribute, and obstruction of justice. The obstruction charge was later dropped. I think the feds automatically add that one to make you confess.

GYS: Why do you say that about the obstruction charge?

X: They threatened to arrest everyone in my family—my wife, kids, and mother—if I didn’t confess. And if I didn’t admit to the crime they’d let the obstruction charge stand, and that’s a minimum of a ten-year sentence. I had no choice. None whatsoever. Plus, they applied this pressure prior to my talking to an attorney, which I understand is perfectly legal. But let me again stress that I was indeed guilty. I’ve never denied it.

GYS: So what happened next?

X: Gosh, it’s all a blur. Let’s see. I was handcuffed, placed in the back of a police car, driven to a remote jail hours away from my home, fingerprinted, strip searched, de-loused, and placed in a jail cell. The cell was a single cell (only one inmate) with a plastic-covered mattress atop a steel plate hanging from the wall.

A former occupant had smeared feces on the block wall in several places. The toilet didn’t flush, and the door—a solid steel door—had a family of roaches living inside the hinges and other tiny crevices. They came out to explore at various times throughout the day and night. By the way, it was difficult to distinguish between night and day because there was no window and the overhead light remained on 24/7. It was a real shock to me. I’d never even had a traffic ticket.

Oh, my family had no idea where I was, or what had happened. They were away when the raid took place—at work and in school.

This, shortly after my arrest, was when I learned that I was a drug addict. Withdrawal symptoms set in not long after I was in the jail cell. The next several days were pure hell, for many reasons. I begged for someone to help with the sickness, but my pleas went unanswered.

My only contact with humans was through a small slot in the middle of a steel door. As I said, I’d begged for help but that door wasn’t opened again for three days. I did see a couple of hands twice a day when they shoved a food tray through the slot. But the person wasn’t allowed to talk to me.

A federal agent finally came to get me on the third day. He took me to a courthouse for a bond hearing. My family was there but I wasn’t allowed to speak to them. I was denied bond. Why not, I don’t know. This was a first offense, and a $100 dollar offense on top of that. So I was hauled back to the jail cell.

On the ride back to the jail, shackled like Charles Manson—handcuffs, waist and leg chains—I realized just how lovely trees, flowers, and the sky really are, even though I was seeing them through a steel screen. I also realized how important my family was. I’d taken a lot of things for granted in my miserable life.

So I wound up back at the jail, which I learned also doubled as a holding facility for federal prisoners. I was there for two more weeks until my wife scraped together enough money—$25,000 (she borrowed against the house)—to retain an attorney to represent me. Still, he obtained a lien on the house in case his fee went above the $25,000. Federal court is really expensive.

The lawyer managed to get another bond hearing and I was released on my own PR, but I wasn’t allowed to go home with my family. I had to stay with a relative in another city because the prosecutor said I was a threat to my community. For $100 worth of drugs that I never took or sold!

Anyway, I remained there until I went to court where I was found guilty (a pre-arranged plea agreement) and sentenced to serve nearly three years in federal prison.

In the beginning, an FBI agent told me Mr. Comey wanted them to question me to see if knew of public corruption. I couldn’t believe it. Somehow he was under the impression I knew something of importance, but I didn’t. Nothing. When I think back, I think he may have a little embarrassed that he’d initiated this huge raid that involved dozens of law enforcement officials, several prosecutors, and lots and lots of money, all for that tiny amount of cocaine (illegal, I know).

So he pushed hard. I also believe that’s why I was denied bond and was held at that way out of the way jail in another part of the state, and that I wasn’t allowed to return home.

The arrest occurred on a Friday, which meant they were guaranteed that I’d remain locked away at least until Monday when the courts were open. Slick move. All to prevent me from telling the story. Prosecutor Comey kept me in seclusion until they could begin the threats of “forever in prison and locking up my family.” It was no longer about the cocaine. This was to save face.

But this is my educated guess and a story for another day.

A recent news story about the abuse of inmates in some U.S. jails and prisons reminded me of a conversation I once had with a former federal prisoner, a person we refer to as Mr. X.

Mr. X is a former business professional who committed a sort of minor nonviolent crime that landed him in federal prison for just over three years. He’s out now and has shared a few of his prison experiences with the readers of The Graveyard Shift. I contacted Mr. X to see if he’d seen or experienced abuse of any kind at the hand of corrections officers. Here’s what he had to say.

Mr X: I have heard many horror stories of COs beating and torturing inmates, but I’ve never seen it. Of course I was locked up in low security facilities my entire time in the system. Things march to a different tune at the higher levels.

But abuse and abusers come in many forms. What devastates one person may be like water on a duck’s back to another. I say this because I’m about to describe some things that happened to me and I’m sure they’ll seem trivial to you, but to me the events were humiliating. Yes, I considered this as abuse. Abuse with no way to stop it.

My abuser was a female CO with jet black hair, a face full of acne scars, and a torso like a tree trunk, with thick arms and legs as limbs. She wore shiny black combat boots and the sleeves of her gray uniform shirts rolled up to mid muscular forearm. A crude tattoo of a giant scorpion sat halfway between the elbow and wrist of her right arm.

Living quarters in the  camp was set up dormitory style. My dorm housed just over 200 men, all in one big room with six-foot-high cinder block walls dividing our two-man cubicles. We all used a common restroom and showers. Both the shower and toilet stalls had individual doors (this was odd because I’d heard that most prisons don’t install doors in restrooms to help prevent hidden activity).

This particular officer, the abuser, made it a point to be in the restroom at the end of the work day when most of the guys were showering. She watched as we removed our clothing or towels. Then she’d walk to each shower door and just stand there gawking. When we turned our backs to the doors she’d order us to face her. She threatened to send us to the hole for not obeying her direct orders.

It wasn’t long before she seemed to zero in on me, and that included when I was in a toilet stall. She’d order me to unlatch the door and then she’d hold it open and stand there looking at me until I was done. She was not one bit shy. I am.

I vividly recall staring at her boots. They were only two or three feet away from my feet. The toes were incredibly shiny, and slick. I remember thinking about how much time and energy she must have put into getting them that shiny. I thought she must have a military background.

I complained about her to sergeants and her other superiors but they said she was doing her job, watching inmate activity at all times. Funny thing about this was that not one male officer ever, not ever, did either of the things she did. They’d make their rounds, of course. And they’d look to see that all was well and as it should be. But they wouldn’t walk up to your stall and stand there staring at your privates. This woman was downright creepy. I once saw her enter a seldom used hallway and seconds later another female entered the same space. Curiosity got the the best of me so I walked over and took a peek. The pair were involved in long, deep, toe-curling kiss. Contrarily, their hands were as active as hyper children on a playground.

One day, an older prisoner who everyone knew had heart trouble, collapsed on his way to the dining hall. Several inmates ran over to help (there were a couple of medical doctors incarcerated in the camp) but Officer Creepy walked up and ordered the inmates to move away. The she poked the old guy a couple of times with the toe of one of those spit-shined boots. She announced, “He’s faking so he can get out of work. He can lay there all day for all I care.” And she left him there after one last hard jab to the poor guy’s ribs.

An inmate finally ran to the medical department to see if a nurse would help. She did not. A sergeant walked up and Officer Creepy repeated the “faking it” story. He walked on. Eventually an ambulance crew showed up (well over an hour later) and took the man away. He never returned. We later heard that he was DOA when the ambulance crew arrived at the camp to pick him up.

One night I woke up with an excruciating toothache. I spoke to the CO working our building, but he said I’d have to fill out a sick slip to request an appointment to see the dentist, who only visited the camp one day per week. When my appointment finally rolled around, I was sitting in the chair with my mouth wide open, overhead light shining inside, and with the dentist preparing to dig in, when in walks Officer Creepy. She was assigned to guard the medical offices that day. So she comes chair-side and begins to talk to the dentist about how degrading it must be to work on the teeth of a piece-of-s*** prisoner.

The dentist, a retiree and an extremely nice man who treated everyone as people, not animals, told her that he loved his job and he enjoyed helping others who really aren’t in a position to help themselves. For some reason that really set her off. She told him I was faking. He contradicted her saying his exam proved otherwise. She then ordered me to open my mouth really wide. And then, and I couldn’t believe it, she jammed her bare, who-knows-where-it’s-been index finger into my mouth and started forcefully jabbing at my teeth, saying, “Does that hurt? Does it? Well, does it?”

The doctor protested meekly, but she continued her tirade. Clearly she intimidated the frail dentist, and he did nothing to stop her.

When she finished poking around she placed her hand on the side of my face and pushed my head to the side. She ordered me back to the dorm. The dentist pleaded my case to her and she finally consented to let him finish the filling.

One night the officer working our dorm told me to mop and buff the hallway floors in the administrative section of the building. It’s the part of the building where the counselors’ and ranking CO’s office’s are located. There’s no one back there at night. I grabbed the tools and supplies and the CO let me inside. He told me to knock when I was ready to come out. Each of the office areas were securely locked and there was nowhere else to go so it was not unusual for them to lock us inside the hallway to work.

As I was getting ready to begin, an office door opened around the corner. I turned just in time to see Officer Creepy and another female guard—not the same one mentioned earlier—come out. Both were adjusting their uniforms and securing buttons. Creepy kissed the other officer on the cheek and turned to head back to the dorm. That’s when she saw me and I prepared myself for a trip to “the hole.” I was certain that she would come up with something that would land me in solitary for a long, long time, just to save her own skin.

However, she surprised me by walking past without saying a word. Nothing. Not even eye contact.

The night passed and nothing happened. I didn’t see her again for at least a week. Then nothing. I never saw her at the camp again. I don’t know if she quit, or what. All I know is that it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. No more “visits” from her.

Like I said, to some these incidents probably seem minor. As far as I’m concerned, though, Officer Creepy was a bully and a sex offender. Sadly, the system supports her type of behavior.

#MeToo

Inmate J.L. Bird

Inmate J.L. Bird had never heard of the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS), let alone be a part of their mobile inventory. And, after experiencing it first-hand, well, he didn’t care if he never heard of it again … not ever.

He’d been traveling with JPATS for three days and already he was sick of it. He was also pretty darn sick of the U.S. Marshals who watched his every move, including during bathroom breaks. He was weary of flying a zig-zagged pattern across the U.S., landing to either drop off or pick up inmates at what seemed like every remote airfield in the country.

Then came the never-ending end of the day van rides to county jails, the holdover facilities located in hick towns that were surely too small and too backward to be considered for the filming of Deliverance. In fact, Bird was quite sure that most of their holdover locations were in towns with names recognized only by loyal viewers of Hee Haw—places like Bumpass and Doodlum, Va., and Talking Rock, Ga., the little honey hole in Pickens County nestled between Ellijay and Jasper. Yeah, those fine metropolises.

Bird did learn that in exchange for housing federal prisoners, the U.S. government pays county sheriffs $70, or so, per day per federal inmate held. That’s a pretty sweet deal for merely furnishing a blanket on a concrete floor, a couple of boiled eggs, and maybe a dry sandwich made from stale bread and greenish-tan bologna.

He also learned that deputy sheriff’s didn’t give a rat’s patootie about federal prisoners, and that they pretty-much ignored him and the others. In fact, many of the star-wearing deputies mistreated the federal prisoners, forcing them to sleep on the floor in dirty, unused cells. Bird and his crew were the last to be fed, receiving leftovers, and they were the last to see soap and water. Therefore, they often went several days without bathing, deodorant, or brushing their teeth. And that really made for a sweet-smelling ride in the back of hot vans, and airplanes that recycle cabin air.

But, after several unpleasant layovers in county jails, the JPATS jet finally touched down at Will Rogers airport in Oklahoma City. A real airport with real people scurrying about, tending to whatever duties are assigned to airport workers. Bird was ecstatic. He was overjoyed at the thought of seeing honest-to-God people other than the unwashed pack he’d been traveling with for the past several days.

FTC Oklahoma. The jetway is pictured at the top of the image.

The JPATS jet taxied to the far west corner of the airport, though, bypassing the regular terminals, and pulled alongside a private jetway leading to a brick building that stood alone on the airport property. This was the Federal Transport Center.

The FTC Oklahoma City is the hub for JPATS air transport. It’s the facility where many federal inmates are housed until they’re assigned to a permanent prison. It’s also where prisoners are housed while in transit to new prisons, court, etc. Bird finally learned he was on his way to a hearing at the federal court in Richmond, Va.

“Absolutely no talking!” shouted the marshal who’d stepped inside from the jetway. He rubbed his stubby fingers across his buzz-cut. “Not a sound unless one of us asks you a question. You’ll stand perfectly still until a marshal or other officer gives you a command. Do not, and I repeat, do not let your ankle chains mar the floors in the hallway. Okay, let’s go. Single file. In the jetway, now!”

Unfortunately, for Bird, he’d see not a single civilian. The jetway led directly into the prison facility. However, he was pleasantly surprised at how clean and fresh it was inside. The floors were highly polished and there wasn’t a single blemish on the stark white walls. Overheard fluorescent fixtures lit the long hallway like a night game in Fenway Park.

Bird and his fellow travelers made their way along the wall (following a red line painted on the floor) until they reached three BOP officers who were busy removing handcuffs, waist chains, and leg irons. Bird was elated when the hardware was removed from his ankles. Wearing the steel cuffs daily for a week had rubbed the thin skin there until it was raw and extremely sore.

To him, it was all overkill, especially since his arrest and conviction was for possessing a small amount of cocaine—$100 worth. A first offense. No violence. No weapons. And no resisting arrest. He’d even confessed and claimed ownership of the drug and admitted his guilt. He was certain, as was his attorney, that he’d receive no more than probation and fines. However, the federal judge saw fit to sentence Bird to just over three years in federal prison…for a first offense of possessing an amount of cocaine that would barely overfill a tablespoon.

After the chain removal came a brief orientation, a chat with a psychologist, a quick consult with a counselor, and then to their assigned housing units. Bird met his unit officer who assigned him to a cell. Again, Bird was pleased. His cell was a spotlessly clean room complete with a soft mattress, soft pillow, a large window, and a real door. No bars!

Bird was also ecstatic when he heard he could shower whenever he liked and as many times as he liked. The facility even provided the inmates with soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and more. And, within minutes of his arrival, kitchen workers delivered a hot meal to the unit for those who’d been traveling all day. The food was absolutely delicious. Real bone-in chicken. The fare was quite unlike the unidentifiable ground goopy glop he’d been used to eating back at the prison. Not to mention the maggot-gagging cuisine served at some of the county jails he’d visited along the trip.

The unit was quiet. The inmates seemed pleasant (he’d discovered that he’d been assigned to a low security unit). And the guard was a guy who addressed the inmates either by their last names or by calling them “sir.” As in, “Thank you, Sir.” “Sir, when you get a minute would you please stop by my desk.” The prisoners did the same in return. There was no shortage of respect.

It was late in the day when the JPATS jet touched down in Oklahoma, so it wasn’t long before the sun set. Bird noticed that as soon as it was dark outside, all the cells/rooms on his side of the unit also went dark. Not a single light on in either of them. The cells across the day-room, opposite his, were all brightly lit. He also noticed that most of the inmates had suddenly disappeared into the darkened cells, and it was not yet time for lockdown. Curious, he asked one of the few remaining prisoners, a slack-jawed, flamboyantly gay guy who’d somehow managed to paint his fingernails fire engine red, about the strange occurrence.

“It’s showtime,” he said. “Not my cup of tea, though … if you know what I mean.” He winked at Bird, but Bird didn’t have a clue what he meant, and his confused expression prompted the prison sweetie to say, “Go have a look. You’ll see.”

So Bird opened the door to his cell and found a gaggle of prisoners gathered at the narrow window, looking across to an adjacent wing. Bird quickly saw the attraction. The next unit over, with windows perfectly aligned with those in Bird’s unit, was the unit that housed female prisoners. Bird also noticed that while the lights were off on his side of the unit, the rooms across the way were brightly lit. Bird’s fellow inmates pushed and shoved and practically fought for the best view possible, because standing, sitting, dancing, jiggling, wiggling, and/or gyrating (among other things) in each window, was a totally nude female prisoner who was hard at work entertaining the male population of the transfer center.

 

It was indeed showtime in Oklahoma, a long-standing tradition, and each cell had its own private, live peep show that lasted until lights out at 10 p.m.

Bird slept better that night than he had in a long, long time. And he went to sleep feeling a little dirty, even though he’d showered three times in as many hours.

*Inmate J.L. Bird is an imaginary prisoner, however, his journey is one of thousands that take place each and every work day of every week. JPATS is indeed a very busy operation. Oh, the Oklahoma City peep shows are also very real …


In 2017, Pulaski County, Indiana sheriff Jeff Richwine said the feds pay his office $51 a day per inmate housed in the county jail. In addition, the federal government mandates that, under their contract with the sheriff, two jailers accompany each inmate who’s transported (court, medical appointments, another jail or federal prison, etc.). To do so, the sheriff’s office receives $18 an hour for each deputy. Also, they pay $.17 cents per mile traveled.

Under the plan, the Pulaski County jail expected to receive $1.5 million in extra revenue over the next three years. Keep in mind, this is only one jail out of the thousands throughout the U.S.

It’s often been said that the jails and prisons in the U.S. operate on a revolving door system, with many of the same prisoners returning to incarceration time after time after time. Sadly, that’s a mostly true statement.

With nearly 2.5 million people crammed into U.S. prison and jail facilities, or on probation or parole—3,789,800 on probation and 870,500 on parole (2015 stats), well, that equals to approximately 1 out of every 37 people in the U.S. is currently under some sort of supervised correctional status.

Yes, America can proudly boast (note the sarcasm) that we hold 25% of the world’s prison population. That’s a pretty staggering number considering the U.S. accounts for only 5% of the world’s population. Those numbers don’t mean much, you say? Well, let’s approach from another angle … our wallets. Each year the U.S. spends between 74 and 80 billion dollars on incarceration. That’s BILLION dollars.

Sure, most citizens don’t want to be bothered with felons and other law-breakers. You know, out of sight/out of mind. But it’s not quite that simple. You see, Isaac Newton had the right idea when he mused, “What goes up must come down,” because the same applies to prisons, jails, and inmates—what goes in must come out. That’s right, the majority of people sentenced to jail or prison must be released at some point, and those former prisoners are generally released back into their former communities.

What happens to former prisoners when they do finally make it back to their old neighborhoods? That’s a question most people don’t consider because the ex-con’s troubles don’t pertain to “most people.” Unfortunately, though, an inmate’s troubles affects everyone. Remember the 80 billion dollars it costs to incarcerate and supervise those millions of prisoners? Well, U.S. taxpayers are responsible for paying that whopping bill.

Doesn’t it makes sense that we should try to address the problem instead of throwing good money on top of bad? Obviously, incarceration isn’t always the correct answer to every case, because many offenders just keep coming back after they’ve “paid” their debt to society.

Let’s address recidivism …

… and why I think it occurs so often. First of all, I have many years of experience working in both corrections and in law enforcement, which means I’ve seen the system in action, from all sides. I’ve also owned a business where I employed a few former inmates, men who’d received prison sentences resulting from my investigations. Ironic, huh? Yes, I honestly believe in second chances.

What do former prisoners face upon their release? (these may vary depending on location)

1. They must, on a regular basis, check in with a probation or parole officer.

2. They must have an established residence.

3. Many drug and sex offenders must register with the local police, advising officials where they’ll be residing and working.

4. They must maintain employment (in some areas this is a discretionary requirement imposed by the court).

5. They’re required to complete a monthly report detailing their earnings, address changes, if any, employers name (probation officer will visit the job site and home), drug offenders must submit to urine testing, all must submit vehicle information, record of purchases (many probationers may not possess credit or debit cards), and they’re encouraged to further their education (This is a bit of a catch-22 for some since drug offenders may not receive grants to attend college. Murderers, yes, but drug offenders, no).

Some companies refuse to hire people who’ve been convicted of felonies … any felonies.

A vast number of employers absolutely will not hire felons and, as I stated above, drug offenders are not eligible for student loans. In fact, many felons are legally banned from working in certain professions, such as:

  • airport security screener
  • armored car crew member
  • bank teller
  • child care provider
  • delivery driver
  • health care positions with direct patient contact
  • public safety officer
  • residential installers
  • apartment or condo maintenance
  • jobs that require handling money
  • Realtor
  • Some volunteer programs refuse to accept felons (any felon)—nature programs, animal shelters, libraries, etc.

Even when a felon finds a job he is subject to a list of restrictions, including (this is only a partial list, and it may vary from area to area):

  • Agents /officers must be allowed to visit worksite and/or speak with a supervisor to discuss client’s performance, progress, and accountability
  • Cannot work in a position that serves alcohol
  • Cannot work with minors
  • Cannot work with vulnerable adults
  • Employment must be within or close to a supervision district so that agents may visit the worksite
  • Not allowed to use or have contact with devices that host a computer modem (i.e. any device that can access the Internet)
  • Cannot travel outside area or state (affects delivery drivers)

A few professions do hire convicted felons, but the list is short. And, this is still entirely up to the company. Some do not employ those who’ve been convicted of crimes.

Professions often available to convicted felons:

  • Warehouse work
  • Maintenance and janitorial positions
  • Food service (no alcohol)
  • Production and manufacturing
  • Assembly
  • Construction
  • Landscaping

In addition, many convicted felons are banned from living in publicly assisted housing (section 8), or worse.

So, you see, without a job, or with the limited occupations to choose from, and without housing and educational opportunities, it’s darn tough for a former prisoner to make it on the outside.

To top it all off, the convicted felons never actually “pay their debts to society.” The stigma of being a “convicted felon” hangs over their heads for life. This is especially true for those who were convicted of federal offenses. Some states allow convicted felons to vote in elections (others do not).

Still, felons, even one-time first offenders convicted of minor, non-violent felonies lose their right to own firearms and other weapons, their right to vote, student loans, housing, etc. And these restrictions are for life.

Second Chances!!

Wouldn’t it make sense to give the non-violent offenders a second chance, by removing the “convicted felon” status after, say, 10 years of living a productive, crime-free life. At least then they’d have the opportunity to return to school, live in better neighborhoods (away from criminal activity), find a decent job that would help support their families and take better care of their children, who, by the way, also suffer by being forced to live in poor conditions.

Having a second chance and goals to work toward could be part of the solution to the “prison problem” in this country. Now, I’m not talking about hardcore career criminals and repeat offenders. Nor am I including violent offenders. Most of those thugs need to remain behind bars for as long as we can keep them there. And I certainly don’t believe that every inmate would take advantage of the opportunity if presented to them. But there would be many who would work hard to achieve the goal and finally be able to put the mistake behind them for good.

If this helped keep just a small portion of the recidivists out of prison, the results could be huge. Families could remain together, children would grow up with two parents in the home, employers might find top-notch employees, the former inmates could become better educated and productive members of society, and taxpayers would save approximately $30,000 per year per inmate. Not to mention that instead of costing taxpayers, the non-recidivist would become a taxPAYER.

New York City is set to begin a program that offers guaranteed employment to each of their 8,500 inmates as they leave jail. These jobs are to be short-term, low skill level employment—cooks, restaurant bussers, or construction flaggers, etc.

The $10 million program will apply to inmates no matter what crime they’ve committed, even if they’re on the sex offender registry. Everyone gets a job. Everyone, including murderers, rapists, robbers, and …

I’m not sure the New York City plan is the best idea in the world, but they’re making an effort to address the issue. While not the most well-thought-out plan, it could still give former prisoners a much-needed boost of confidence, self-worth, and desire to do better. It could also go a long ways toward reducing the intense shame many feel after their release.

Anyway, that’s my two cents on the matter. What do you think? A second chance for some, or lock ’em up and forget about them? Remember, though, most of those who go in must come out at some point.

looking-out.jpg

Of course, there is the issue of private prisons that have contracts with the government … contracts that promise a minimum number of inmates will be sent their way. We must also remember that the private prisons are a big, money-making industry with stockholders.

And then there’s the food industry that makes a bundle off the prisons. And the construction companies, the jobs for officers, stock brokers medical staff, administration, the vehicle contracts, the weapons contracts, dog food (canines), condiment sales (I once sat next to a woman on a plane who was on her way to a huge nationwide prison food convention. She was in charge of condiment sales to prisons and jails—packets of mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise, along with napkins, and sporks—a multi-million-dollar industry)

Inmate phone calls are EXPENSIVE!

Let’s not forget the prison phone systems, where a collect call can go for fees as high as nearly $300 for just one hour of conversation. Think about it for a second. A call for a kid’s birthday, a mother’s sick, etc. $300 for an hour of family time is a tough expense for most families.

A portion of that whopping phone bill goes back to the prison in exchange for a contract with the provider. Again, it is the family who shoulders this burden since inmates don’t earn anywhere near enough money to cover the expense, yet, officials encourage strong and regular family contact.

Anyway, you get the idea.

A very happy prisoner. I asked why the big smile. Her reply was, “Things could be worse. At least I’m alive and healthy.” Notice the blue phone and its cord at the right side of the photo. Collect calls only.

Private Prison Profits Big Time!

CoreCivic stock at the time of the original posting of this article (now revised), stood at $34.70 per share. Today (May 21, 2018), shares were at $20.65. Still, the “people business” is certainly booming when others are failing miserably.

To read more about CoreCivic, visit their website by clicking here.

  • CoreCivic, one of the largest private prison companies in the world, is the company formerly known as Corrections Corporations of America.
  • CCA houses approximately 90,000 prisoners in over 65 facilities.
  • CCA has been the center of controversy over the years. Most of their troubles, but definitely not all, were related to cost-saving practices that included inadequate staff, extensive lobbying, and lack of proper cooperation with legal entities. CCA swapped amid the ongoing scrutiny of the private prison industry. Many believe the name change of private prisons is due to their rising unpopularity among the public, and to avoid a connection to past bad and illegal behavior.

Another for-profit “private prison company,” Wackenhut Corrections Corporation (WCC), now a subsidiary of G4S Secure Solutions changed its name to the GEO Group, Inc. It, too, houses thousands of prisoners around the world.

The Geo Group alone reported GEO reported total revenues for the fourth quarter 2017 of $569.0 million. This figure up a bit up from $566.6 million for the fourth quarter 2016. 2017 revenues include $2.8 million in construction costs associated with the development of the  Ravenhall Correctional Centre in Australia.

Yes, private prisons are a big business.

#prisonreform

#secondchances


Life on the inside

Above and below – inside a small county jail where conditions were truly deplorable.

Showers drained into the corridors.

 

Jailer entering corridor.

Jail Pods

132-jail-module-interior.jpg

Above – Inside a shipping container “pod” that was converted into a dormitory-style jail cell. This pod is located inside a parking garage outside an overcrowded county jail.

Below – Space between two modules serves as the recreation yard. Absolutely no sunlight to be found, anywhere. Nothing but concrete, sewer pipes, exhaust fumes, and prisoners.

pod-recreation-area.jpg

Below – In this county jail, prisoners are brought to these small rooms where they “visit” with family members seated on the opposite side of the window. The family’s room is a mirror image of the inmate’s visiting room. The view below is from the inmate’s side of the glass.

visiting-room.jpg

Overcrowding is a big issue within some prisons and jails. As an answer to their growing space problem, this county jail (below) installed steel beds in the hallways, outside the already packed jail cells.

hall-in-shadows.jpg

 

Looking out from inside the trustee cells.

 

Hallways and corridors were narrow, making for dangerous conditions for the jailers. The jail was heated by steam (boilers) and radiators were there, but scarce. There was no heat inside the cells. And, there was no air conditioning whatsoever. The only airflow came from  small widows. Here, you can see one of those windows (top left corner), open and tilted in toward the cells. The electrical cord is connected to a portable TV sitting on the wonky shelf, also at top left next to the window.

Narrow corridors are dangerous!

 

Makeshift antenna controls were fashioned from string or wires. Not allowed, but prisoners will be prisoners …

Wires to rotate rabbit-ear antennas from side to side to help receive a better picture. No cable!

 

Below is an image of an isolation cell (“the hole”) where unruly, violent prisoners in this jail are housed. No bed, no sink, no toilet. Merely a drain in the floor to use for, well, you know.

The tin cup pictured above is an actual drinking vessel that was originally part of the fabulous dining experience for prisoners inside a county jail. The lockup itself was every bit as fabulous as the cup. Both were well past their expiration dates when the county finally gave in and demolished the old place.

As they say, “if those walls could’ve talked.” If so, we’d have heard tales of jailhouse coffee potent enough to dissolve steel beams. A cook who somehow transformed  liver and onions into a dish that even the pickiest of inmate diners enjoyed. We’d also have heard about the graveyard shift jailers who discovered whole baked turkeys in the refrigerator and consumed them during the course of their shift. The turkeys were for the prisoner’s Christmas dinner. The prisoners were still there on New Years Day. The jailers were not, courtesy of a very angry sheriff who, at the last minute, had to hire a caterer to prepare additional turkeys for the prisoners.

The old red brick jail building, if it were able to speak before its demise, might’ve told us about the prisoner who managed to smuggle a gun inside and dared officers to “come and get it.” Certainly we’d have heard about the roaches and mice and the general funky stench of a place with little ventilation (no air movement at all in some corners of the facility).

The jailhouse could’ve gone into detail about how prisoners were allowed recreation once or twice each month and that was only to step outside onto a square of concrete for a game of basketball, if the ball was inflated and that was a rarity.

It might also speak of the dangers facing deputies (they were called jailers at this department). Blind corners and stairwells. Hallways too narrow, forcing officers to walk next to bars. No cameras “in the back” Therefore, when jailers opened the door to enter the lockup area they had no idea what waited for them on the other side. Had inmates escaped their cells, and that had happened a couple of times, deputies were sitting ducks for an ambush.

Anyway, let’s go inside for the only peek available inside this small facility. Believe it or not, this place was located in a county within the U.S., not in some third world country. And, it was in use not so awful long ago.

Follow me, but don’t touch anything, including those top two strands of wire. They’re electrified. A human bug zapper!

As we pass through the front gate, after being “buzzed” inside, please look to your right and you’ll see the recreation yard, a simple square of concrete. Inmates were allowed outside once or twice per month. Since there are no day rooms inside, it was a rare treat to see and do anything that wasn’t inside a 6×9 concrete cell.

Rec yard

Upon entering this jail, we first set foot inside this tiny lobby that also served as the visiting room. Visitors stood facing one of two small windows that were equipped with sound holes so that inmates and visitors could hear the other speak. No phones and no contact. FYI – should officers arrest and deliver a suspect to the jail they brought them through this lobby area. Therefore, visitors would be made to move to a secure office or other area until the prisoner and officer passed through. Super safe, right?

Visitation and lobby area.

On visitation day (Sunday afternoon only), inmates were brought two at a time to this small cell where they were locked inside. The two small windows are the reverse sides of the ones in the previous image. Until visitations, a piece of cardboard was positioned over the windows to prevent prisoners, the trustees who cleaned the jail and were allowed to roam about freely, from seeing out into the office area/lobby.

Inmate visitation cell.

Stepping through the doorway leading to the cellblock area we first pass the trustee cells. The door to these cells remained unlocked during daylight hours to allow those prisoners to complete their chores—cleaning, mopping, delivering meals, etc. They were locked in at night.

Looking out from inside the trustee cells.

Hallways and corridors were narrow, making for dangerous conditions for the jailers. The jail was heated by steam (boilers) and radiators were there, but scarce. There was no heat inside the cells. And, there was no air conditioning whatsoever. The only airflow came from  small widows. Here, you can see one of those windows (top left corner), open and tilted in toward the cells. The electrical cord is connected to a portable TV sitting on the wonky shelf, also at top left next to the window.

Narrow corridors are dangerous!

Makeshift antenna controls were fashioned from string or wires. Not allowed, but prisoners will be prisoners …

Wires to rotate rabbit-ear antennas from side to side to help receive a better picture. No cable!

To show just how dangerous this place was for deputies, notice how close this jailer was to the bars. He had no choice due to the swing direction of the door.

Jailer enters corridor. Danger!

There were no light fixtures inside the cells. Instead, each block of four cells was illuminated by floodlights mounted to the corridor ceilings. The fixture below hangs above one of the few windows in the block.

Floodlights gave the impression of peering in at zoo animals on display.

Prisoners received their meals through horizontal slotted openings in the bars. Trustees delivered the meals.

Tray slot

Meals were prepared in the jail kitchen. Trustees received meal trays from the cooks through a pass-through window leading from the kitchen to the jail corridor. Coffee was always available for deputies, 24 hours a day. Inmates were given coffee with their breakfast. One of the perks of being a trustee was to have coffee whenever they wanted, during daylight hours. Deputies and prisoners drank coffee from the same pot, the one pictured on the countertop below.

Jail kitchen

There were no showers inside the cell blocks. Instead, deputies escorted prisoners to showers located in another area … once each week, if they were lucky. Showers had no floor drains, therefore water spilled out in the corridors

Showers drained into the corridors.

To open cell doors deputies/jailers used a Folger-Adams key to release a lock on a cabinet housing the door controls. The same key locked and unlocked all interior jail doors

Folger-Adams key

With the cabinet door unlocked, the jailer opened and closed cell doors using levers and a large wheel. Each lever controlled the lock to one cell door. The jailer pulled the desired lever down to lock a door(s) and then turned the wheel to “roll” the barred doors either open or closed. This was all performed manually. No electronic controls. Should a door not close completely, its corresponding light (below the levers) illuminated with a bright red glow.

The door to the jailer’s right (below) was the entrance to a block of four cells and a very small small day room. When the jailer opened the cell doors, it released each of those four prisoners into the day room. He’d then roll the doors shut until night. Prisoners were not permitted to remain in their cells during daytime hours.

If a prisoner refused to come out, the others were returned to their cells (for safety) and deputies would then go inside to remove the misbehaving inmate, who would then serve a few days in the hole for not following instructions and jail rules.

Wheel of Misfortune

And that, my friends, was your look inside a place not many have seen. Those who have wish they hadn’t, I’m sure.

Cheers …

 

FMC DEVENS: An administrative security federal medical center with an adjacent minimum security satellite camp. In spite of being classified as a medical facility, FMC Devens is still a federal prison, nonetheless. However, unlike one of its predecessors—Alcatraz, pictured above—Devens is a bit more modern with a few more comforts than the bare bones conditions found at “The Rock.”

Anthony Weiner, the former politician turned convicted felon is now an inmate at the Federal Medical Center Devens in Ayer, Massachusetts. He was allowed to self-surrender, meaning family and/or friends drove him to the prison and then said their goodbyes before Weiner was likely led to an area to begin intake/processing.

Weiner’s proposed release date is May 15, 2019. With good behavior (no write-ups or other disciplinary troubles) he’ll serve only 85% of his sentence. That’s the rule in the fed system. Be a good boy and you’ll be out sooner than the sentence handed down by the court. Act out and you’ll serve every day of it.

FMC Devens

FMC Devens is situated adjacent to Mirror Lake, just a short drive down the road from Red Tail Golf Club. A hike through the woods to the rear of the place and you’ll cross Sheridan Road and then the George W. Stanton Highway. On the opposite side of the Stanton is the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge. A right on the Stanton takes you to a state prison, past the Great Wolf Lodge, and Stoneville and then Farley. A left and you’d soon be in Cambridge, near Harvard.

The total inmate population at FMC Devens is 1134. Of those prisoners, 129 are serving their time at the adjacent/satellite camp. Inmates at the camp are those with short sentences and have proven their trustworthiness (they’re not apt to cause trouble or to escape). “Campers” are responsible for a lot of the maintenance work around the prison(s). They mow lawns, repair plumbing, electrical, etc. Paint, repair vehicles, and more.

The main prison, the FMC is a medical center with professionals and equipment needed for the treatment of injury, disease, and illness (physical and mental). Upon arrival and settling in, each inmate must attend orientation to learn the rules and regulations. They undergo full physical exams and evaluations.

Inmates must be counted at various times throughout the day and night (Can’t have one go missing) – Official counts are conducted at 12:05 AM, 3:00 AM, 5:00 AM, 4:00 PM and 10:00 PM. (4:00 PM and 10:00 PM will be a standing count, meaning each prisoner must stand beside their bunks. Absolutely NO talking or movement.) On holidays and weekends,  an additional “stand up” count takes place at 10:00 AM. An emergency count (suspected escape, etc.) may take place at any time deemed necessary. All emergency counts are standing counts.

Other rules include (From the BOP—FMC Devens—website):

  • Official counts will be conducted at 12:05 AM, 3:00 AM, 5:00 AM, 4:00 PM and 10:00 PM. (4:00 PM and 10:00 PM will be a standing Count.) On holidays and weekends, there is an additional “stand up” count held at 10:00 AM.
  • Pass System: At this institution, a fifteen minute period has been determined to be an adequate amount of time to move to any area in this facility. Inmates traveling from one destination to another during any time other than open movement (work call, meals and recall) require a pass. There are four types of passes here:

1. Institution Pass – issued when an inmate goes from one point to another.
2. Recreation / Library Pass – issued when an inmate must go to the recreation yard, inmate activity center, legal and leisure libraries.
3. Facilities Pass – issued to inmates working in the Facilities Department who are on required job sites throughout the institution.
4. Medical Pass – issued to inmates during a sick-call appointment allowing the inmate to report back to Medical Staff at a designated time.

Passes will be issued by the sending staff member and will be retained by the inmate until the movement is completed. Inmates should have the pass visible when traveling from one area to another. All inmates are required to be in possession of a pass when not traveling during open movement and must present the pass to any staff member when instructed to do so. Once the inmate’s scheduled travel is completed, the pass must be returned to the issuing staff member.

  • Out-of-Boundary-Areas: Certain areas are “Out of Bounds” unless inmates are assigned to work there or have been called by staff. If an inmate is called to one of these areas, he is to report immediately to the staff on duty. Inmates should not linger following completion of their business. These areas include but are not limited to:

1. Administration Building (except to go to Correctional Systems and to R&D). 2. Any housing unit, other than the one in which the inmate is assigned.
3. Grass areas (except where authorized on the Recreation Yard).
4. Rear gate area.

  • Urine/Alcohol Surveillance: Inmates may be asked to give a urine or Breathalyzer sample at any time. When an inmate is called to give a urine sample, he has two (2) hours to provide the sample or an Incident Report will be written. Inmates must remain under direct staff observation during those two (2) hours. Failure to submit to a urine sample or Breathalyzer will be treated as a refusal and will result in disciplinary action. Water or other fluid may be taken only upon permission of the Operations Lieutenant or the Captain. A Breathalyzer test must be completed when called for testing. There is no allowed delay.
  • Barber Shop – Haircuts and hair care services are authorized in the barber shop only. Hours of operation will be posted in each of the housing units and the barber shop.

 

INMATE DRESS REGULATIONS

Authorized Uniform

A. The authorized uniform consists of khaki trousers and shirt at the FMC and green trousers and shirt at the FPC. The uniform will be worn on all work assignments, except Food Service workers who wear the white trousers and shirt.

B. The authorized uniform will be worn during all visits and during normal working hours defined as 6:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding Federal holidays. The shirt will be tucked neatly into the trousers and buttoned, except the top button may be unbuttoned. The sleeves may be rolled neatly to the elbow, or worn all the way down and buttoned. Trousers will not be rolled up, sagging, or bloused inside the inmate’s socks or shoes.

C. Shower shoes are not to be worn outside the housing units.

D. Sweatshirts may be worn, but will be worn under the authorized shirt.

E. Underwear, including thermal underwear, will not be worn as outer garments except in the individual’s room. Thermal underwear will not be worn with shorts, T-shirts, or tank tops.

F. All sleeves, trouser, and shorts will be hemmed; cutoffs and other altered clothing are not permitted.

G. The regular authorized dress uniform is required for educational classes and during normal working hours at religious services. Food Service workers are permitted to wear the white shirt and pants to Education classes. After hours and on weekends, leisure wear is permitted in religious services.

H. Inmates must wear clothing at all times, except when bathing, including leisure activities and in the living areas.

Work Details

A. Institution issued white T-shirts with the ID tag attached may be worn on outside details in lieu of the khaki or green shirt during the summer (e.g., June – August). The T-shirt must be clean, neatly tucked in, and in good condition.

B. Safety (steel-toed) shoes are to be worn on all work details. 3. After Hours:

A. For evenings, weekends, and holidays, inmates must be properly dressed to include shirt (with sleeves), pants or shorts, and socks. If wearing the khaki uniform, shirts must be tucked in.

Recreation

A. Approved athletic shorts, pants, and sweatshirts may be worn while participating in indoor and outdoor recreational activities. Shirts are to be worn at all times by inmates participating in recreational activities and must be tucked in while on the compound. Tank tops may be worn during recreational activities in the outdoor or inside recreation areas. Tank tops may not be worn on the compound or in the Food Service area. Sunglasses will not be worn inside buildings unless prescribed by medical staff.

B. When participating in inside athletics, all participants will be required to wear athletic shoes. On the track, any authorized shoe with the exception of shower shoes is permissible.

Food Service

A. Inmates are required to wear their authorized uniforms for the breakfast and lunch meals on weekdays.
B. Inmates may wear athletic wear as described above, after hours, during weekends, and on Federal holidays in Food Service. C. Inmates will not be allowed in the dining room with torn, soiled, odorous, or wet apparel.

Head Wear

A. No caps will be worn inside any building except for Food Service workers, who are working in Food Service.
B. Religious head wear is allowed in the dining room and must be approved by the Chaplain.
C. Doo rags will not be worn outside the living areas.

Visiting Room

A. Inmates are required to wear the authorized uniform in the visiting room.

B. Foot wear is limited to the black boot and boots purchased from Commissary unless the inmate has a medical slip indicating they are required to wear one of the medical shoes issued by the Medical Department.


Alcatraz Island – by boat, as seen by inmates upon arrival.

 

 

 

We’ve all seen the reports of innocent men and women who’ve been released from prison—exonerated—due to faulty evidence, cleared by DNA evidence, etc. But what was it about the evidence that robbed people of years of their lives by forcing them sit in a prison cell while completely innocent of the crimes they were accused of committing?

Let’s take a quick peek at the human hair. For many years, law enforcement collected hairs found at crime scenes and then delivered those hairs to their laboratories for examination and comparison (does the hair found match that of a suspect?).

If the examiner took a look under a microscope and then decided the hairs were indeed a solid match then his/her word was good enough for the courts. The suspect must be guilty because the scientist said that positively and without a single doubt the hair placed the defendant at the scene of the crime. Therefore, a jury or judge had all they needed to convict and send a bewildered person to prison.

Well, in 2015 the Justice Department revealed that FBI agents weren’t so sure that hair analysis was the most exact science in the world. In fact, they basically admitted that hair analysis, at best, is inconclusive. They no longer use it as a sole means to build a case against someone.

Santae Tribble was convicted of murder based on the analysis of a hair found at the crime scene. He spent more than 27 years in prison before DNA analysis of the hair proved his innocence. He was awarded  $13.2 million in his wrongful conviction lawsuit. A little something for his “minor” inconvenience.

Next comes bite-mark evidence. Not so long ago, within the past couple of years, the Presidents  Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) announced that forensic bite-mark evidence is not scientifically valid, nor is it likely to ever be validated. In other words, more junk science (skin may move after death during decomposition, skin and flesh are not stable material—may not hold a precise pattern, etc.).

Then there are tool marks, tire impressions, footwear impressions, and fingerprints. Yes, there are flaws within the testing of those items as well. Even the golden goose of all evidence—DNA—is not a perfect science.

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 2155 people have been exonerated of crimes they didn’t commit. To put that in perspective … innocent people spent 18,750 years in prison due to someone’s error—flawed evidence examination, prosecutor or law enforcement mistake, evidence contamination, flawed procedures, flaws in the law, etc. 18,750 years, gone. Lives wasted.

A great example of how a flawed bite-mark examination sent an innocent man to death row is the story of our friend Ray Krone. Ray was … well, I think I’ll sit back and post Ray’s tale as he told it to me a while back.

Ray Krone Spent 10 Years on Death Row for a Crime He Didn’t Commit

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend Cheryl read a novel by Polly Iyer about a man who had been wrongfully convicted of murder, released, and then framed for a series of murders. As with all good fiction, there were elements of fact in this story. Polly’s description of the impact of wrongful convictions struck a chord with Cheryl, and she sent Polly an email saying so. That email started an exchange that led to me posting on this blog today.

My story isn’t much of a mystery, but it has twists and turns that wouldn’t make it past a fiction editor’s red pencil. Lee thought that it might be of interest to you, so here goes. I’m not a professional writer but I hope that I’ll be able to provide some useful insights into the ripples that result from sloppy police work, ineffective defense counsel, and overzealous prosecutors.

I won’t go into details about my life prior to my arrest and wrongful conviction. It was unremarkable as most lives are, except to the people who live them. I sang in the church choir, was a Boy Scout, and played team sports throughout my school years. I was never in any trouble, never even had detention in school. I grew up in a small town, joined the Air Force, and following my Honorable Discharge remained in Phoenix, AZ, my last duty station. I got a job with the United States Postal Service as a letter carrier.

Ray before his arrest for a crime he didn’t commit

At 35, I was single and living the good life. My salary allowed me to buy my own home and have lots of big boy toys—sand rail, Corvette, swimming pool. I had a loving family back in PA, and loyal friends all over the country. Little did I know that I was about to find out just how important those people were.

I’d always enjoyed team sports, and still do. A bar in my neighborhood sponsored volleyball and dart teams, and I played on both. On December 29, 1991, the owner found his night manager, Kim Ancona, on the men’s room floor. She’d been sexually assaulted and stabbed to death. A co-worker told police detectives Kim had said someone named Ray was going to help her close up that night. I had a casual acquaintance with this woman, and knew her only as a bartender and occasional dart player. She was living with a man and as far as I was concerned, that was as good as married and made her off-limits.

Detectives found my name and phone number in her address book and came to see me. It’s important to note at this point that my name and phone number were not in my handwriting or in Kim’s. How they got there remains a mystery to this day. I was questioned by the Phoenix Police, and cooperated—until I realized they were trying to pin this murder on me.  The legal wrangling is public record—you can Google my name and read countless stories about my case.

Being the one hundredth person to be wrongfully convicted and sentenced to die, only to be found factually innocent after spending years on Death Row and in prison, put me on the radar of a society that was beginning to question the value of capital punishment. My conviction was based solely on bite mark evidence. Because I refused to show remorse for a crime I didn’t commit, I was sentenced to death. After almost three years on Death Row, I was granted a new trial. I was again convicted, and sentenced to 23 years for the kidnapping, and 25 years to life for the murder. Only a random series of events would free me.  Court-ordered DNA would finally free me and identify the real killer. I spent a total of ten years, three months and eight days in prison for something I didn’t do. I was 35 when arrested and 45 when I was exonerated.

Ray as an inmate at Arizona State Prison in Yuma

The life events that other people take for granted were stolen from me, and no amount of money, sympathy or accolades will ever give me a chance to experience them. They are gone forever. Am I bitter? I try not to be—the family and friends who stood by me have helped me adjust and appreciate what I do have. I try not to focus on what I’ve been denied in this life, but what I’ve been given. I’ve learned the hardest way possible the true meaning of “you find out who your friends are.” Despite the love and support of friends and family, I still have moments when I feel rage at what happened to me, even after more than ten years of freedom.

Billboard on I-83 in Harrisburg, Pa.

There have been millions of words written and hundreds of television shows about the impact on men and women who were sentenced to die for a crime they didn’t commit. There are well-documented studies about innocent men and women who were executed in the name of justice. There are other victims of a legal system that penalizes the poor and rewards prosecutors for conviction rates without examining the accuracy of those convictions.  Not just the families of the wrongfully convicted, who often lose what little they have in the defense of their loved ones, but the families of the original victim, the new victims created by the guilty party who remains free, their families, the jurors who are denied access to all of the evidence in a case. The list goes on and on—I misspoke when I called it a ripple—it’s a tsunami, wreaking havoc and destruction, and in many cases, is preventable.

I’m part of a nationally-known group called Witness to Innocence. We have only one membership requirement, but it’s a tough one. You must have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to die for a crime which you did not commit. Although many of us are unable to speak publicly about what happened to us, many others find it therapeutic to do so. We have spoken in front of groups ranging from high school students to Congress to the United Nations. We share our experiences at law schools, forensics conventions and gatherings of legal professionals—anywhere that telling our stories will help provide insight, and hopefully inspiration.

The Witness to Innocence photo above is of only some of the members. Left to right: Ray Krone, Albert Burrell, Kirk Bloodsworth, Gary Drinkard, Randy Steidl, Ron Keine, Delbert Tibbs and Derek Jamison. Each of these men (and our one female member, Sabrina Porter) have stories that defy belief, as do all of the members.

I’m honored to have been invited to address the readers of this blog. For more information about Witness to Innocence, stories of exoneration or speaker’s schedules, please visit www.witnesstoinnocence.org


According to the Innocence Project, since 1989, 353 people have been exonerated of their crimes based on DNA. Twenty of those people served time on death row.

Recently, a group of governors, faith-based leaders, and other experts were assembled to find ways of helping the nation’s inmate population turn their lives around, get a second chance, and successfully re-enter society. The idea behind the move is to make our communities safer and to provide opportunities for those men and women as they return to life outside of prison walls.

Since approximately two-thirds of the more than 650,000 ex-offenders released from prison every year are rearrested within three years after their release, the committee’s task will not be easy.

It’s often been said that the jails and prisons in the U.S. operate on a revolving door system, with many of the same prisoners returning to incarceration time after time after time. Sadly, that’s a mostly true statement.

With nearly 2.5 million people crammed into U.S. prison and jail facilities, or on probation or parole—3,789,800 on probation and 870,500 on parole (2015 stats), well, that equals to approximately 1 out of every 37 people in the U.S. is currently under some sort of supervised correctional status.

Yes, America can proudly boast (note the sarcasm) that we hold 25% of the world’s prison population. That’s a pretty staggering number considering the U.S. accounts for only 5% of the world’s population. Those numbers don’t mean much, you say? Well, let’s approach from another angle … our wallets. Each year the U.S. spends between 74 and 80 billion dollars on incarceration. That’s BILLION dollars.

Sure, most citizens don’t want to be bothered with felons and other law-breakers. You know, out of sight/out of mind. But it’s not quite that simple. You see, Isaac Newton had the right idea when he mused, “What goes up must come down,” because the same applies to prisons, jails, and inmates—what goes in must come out. That’s right, most people sentenced to jail or prison must be released at some point, and those former prisoners are generally released back into their former communities.

What happens to former prisoners when they do finally make it back to their old neighborhoods? That’s a question most people don’t consider because the ex-con’s troubles don’t pertain to “most people.” Unfortunately, though, an inmate’s troubles affects everyone. Remember the 80 billion dollars it costs to incarcerate and supervise those millions of prisoners? Well, U.S. taxpayers are responsible for paying that whopping bill.

Doesn’t it make sense that we should try to address the problem instead of throwing good money on top of bad? Obviously, incarceration isn’t always the correct answer to every case, because many offenders just keep coming back after they’ve “paid” their debt to society.

Let’s address recidivism and why I think it occurs so often. First, I have many years of experience working in both corrections and in law enforcement, which means I’ve seen the system in action, from all sides. I’ve also owned a business where I employed a few former inmates, men who’d received prison sentences resulting from my investigations. Ironic, huh? Yes, I honestly believe in second chances.

What do former prisoners face upon their release? (these may vary depending on location)

  1. 1. They must, on a regular basis, check in with a probation or parole officer.
  2. 2. They must have an established residence.
  3. 3. Drug and sex offenders must register with the local police, advising officials where they’ll be residing and working.
  4. 4. They must maintain employment (in some areas this is a discretionary requirement imposed by the court).
  5. They’re required to complete a monthly report detailing their earnings, address changes, if any, employers name (probation officer will visit the job site and home), drug offenders must submit to urine testing, all must submit vehicle information, record of purchases (many probationers may not possess credit or debit cards), and they’re encouraged to further their education.

The above sounds reasonable until you consider the vast majority of employers absolutely will not hire felons, and, in most instances, drug offenders are not eligible for student loans or other such perks we all enjoy. In fact, many felons are legally banned from working in certain professions, such as:

  • airport security screener
  • armored car crew member
  • bank teller
  • child care provider
  • delivery driver
  • health care positions with direct patient contact
  • public safety officer
  • residential installers
  • apartment or condo maintenance
  • jobs that require handling money
  • barber
  • Realtor
  • First responder
  • Teacher
  • Psychologist
  • Attorney
  • Some felons are not eligible to obtain business licenses
  • liquor store clerks
  • restaurants that serve alcohol
  • health care – nurses, dental assistants, etc.
  • nursing homes

*Keep in mind that rules and laws may vary from one area to another.

Even when a felon finds a job he is subject to a list of restrictions, including (this is only a partial list, and it may vary from area to area):

  • Agents /officers must be allowed to visit worksite and/or speak with a supervisor to discuss client’s performance, progress, and accountability
  • Cannot work in a position that serves alcohol
  • Cannot work with minors
  • Cannot work with vulnerable adults
  • Employment must be within or close to a supervision district so that agents may visit the worksite
  • Not allowed to use or have contact with devices that host a computer modem (i.e. any device that can access the Internet)
  • Cannot travel outside area or state (affects delivery drivers)

A few professions do hire convicted felons, but the list is short. And, this is still entirely up to the company. Some do not employ those who’ve been convicted of crimes.

Professions often available to convicted felons:

  • Warehouse work
  • Maintenance and janitorial positions
  • Food service (no alcohol)
  • Production and manufacturing
  • Assembly
  • Construction
  • Landscaping

In addition, many convicted felons are banned from living in publicly assisted housing (section 8).

So, you see, without a job, or with the limited occupations to choose from, and without housing and educational opportunities, it’s darn tough for a former prisoner to make it on the outside.

To top it all off, the convicted felons never actually “pay their debts to society.” The stigma of being a “convicted felon” hangs over their heads for life. This is especially true for those who were convicted of federal offenses. Some states allow convicted felons to vote in elections (others do not). Still, felons, even one-time first offenders convicted of minor, non-violent felonies lose their right to own firearms and other weapons, their right to vote, student loans, housing, etc. And these restrictions are for life.

Wouldn’t it make sense to give the non-violent offenders a second chance, by removing the “convicted felon” status after, say, 10 years of living a productive, crime-free life. At least then they’d could return to school, live in better neighborhoods (away from criminal activity), find a decent job that would help support their families and take better care of their children, who, by the way, also suffer by being forced to live in poor conditions.

Having a second chance and goals to work toward could be part of the solution to the “prison problem” in this country. Now, I’m not talking about hardcore career criminals and repeat offenders. Nor am I including violent offenders. Most of those thugs need to remain behind bars for as long as we can keep them there. And I certainly don’t believe that every inmate would take advantage of the opportunity if presented to them. But there would be many who would work hard to achieve the goal and finally be able to put the mistake behind them for good.

If this helped keep just a small portion of the recidivists out of prison, the results could be huge. Families could remain together, children would grow up with two parents in the home, employers might find top-notch employees, the former inmates could become better educated and productive members of society, and taxpayers would save approximately $30,000 per year per inmate. Not to mention that instead of costing taxpayers, the non-recidivist would become a taxPAYER.

Anyway, that’s my two cents on the matter. What do you think? A second chance for some, or lock ’em up and forget about them? Remember, though, most of those who go in must come out at some point.

Of course, there is the issue of private prisons that maintain contracts with the government … contracts that promise a minimum number of inmates will be sent their way. We must also remember that the private prisons are a big, money-making industry with stockholders.

And then there’s the food industry that makes a bundle off the prisons. And the construction companies, the jobs for officers, stock brokers medical staff, administration, the vehicle contracts, the weapons contracts, dog food (canines), condiment sales

(I once sat next to a woman on a plane who was on her way to a huge nationwide prison food convention. She oversaw condiment sales to prisons and jails—packets of mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise, along with napkins, and sporks—a multi-million-dollar industry).

Let’s not forget the prison phone systems, where a collect call can go for fees as high as nearly $300 for just one hour of conversation. Think about it for a second. A call for a kid’s birthday, a mother is sick, etc. $300 for an hour of family time is a tough expense for most families.

A portion of that whopping phone bill goes back to the prison in exchange for a contract with the provider. Again, it is the family who shoulders this burden since inmates don’t earn anywhere near enough money to cover the expense, yet, officials encourage strong and regular family contact.

Anyway, you get the idea.

By the way, Corrections Corporations of America stock was, at the time of this post, at $22.74 per share, down from $34.70 back in April 2017. Still, the “people business” is certainly booming.

It is my wish/hope that the newly formed committee would put their heads together and realize that second chances could indeed have worthwhile effects. It’s worth a try to offer an opportunity at once again becoming a productive citizen instead of someone who has little or no likelihood of making it. No job, no housing, no attainable goals, and no self-worth do not offer the needed building blocks of a solid future outside of prison.