You Won’t Believe This…But It Is Absolutely TRUE.

I blogged earlier about the unimaginable power the Nevada Department of Corrections has to increase prison time, to punish inmates beyond a judge’s sentence, and I wanted to give a bit more detail.

First, let me start by saying that I never thought I would be in the position to be writing such a blog, or about any such subject matter – because I simply had no idea that things like this went on.  All three of my siblings have been incarcerated at one time or another, mainly for drug-related crimes, but I had no idea how serious and severe the miscarriage of justice is – and it is ongoing.

Tonight, I talked to my sweetheart.  He has been under an extreme amount of stress lately because of a turn of events at the prison.  If you’ll recall from my earlier blog, he and several other inmates are being punished for having graduated high school; inmates cannot attend Vocational Education if they have a high school diploma.  Therefore, those who were enrolled in the program (including my man) and who had already earned meritorious credit for such, which would have decreased their time in prison – but only if they complete the program, have LOST that time.

To exacerbate this problem is the additional bombshell for my babe that if he does not get a job IMMEDIATELY, he will be dropped to Level 2.  That is a tremendous punishment, in that it means being locked in his cell for more than half the day, having extremely limited phone time, and time ADDED to his sentence.  Yes, that’s what they will do.

Now, if this next bit wasn’t so horrific, it would be funny: my man cannot have a job (he has repeatedly tried and been denied) because he has a leg injury – WHICH THE PRISON WILL NOT TREAT HIM FOR, as well as high blood pressure – WHICH THE PRISON WITHHELD HIS PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION FOR UNTIL I CALLED THE NDOC AND COMPLAINED.  That same evening, after 7 weeks of going without it, he was finally given his medication – but only part of it; he needs two prescriptions, but was given only one.

This is the same bullshit that the Parole Board did to him when he went before them  in June.  He was punished for not having attended any “programming,” yet “programming” is not offered to him because he is in Medium Security.  He asked for an in-cell study program, but was refused.  He asked for a “classification reduction” but was again refused.  He challenged his classification but was told by his caseworker that he cannot challenge unless his sentence gets reduced, or some other bullshit.

On top of all of this, the PSI report (Pre-Sentence Investigation report) that was used when he was sentenced is INCORRECT; this is not something you, dear reader, will be unfamiliar with, if you have spent any time reading blogs regarding PSI reports.  They are notoriously full of errors, yet prisoners are essentially powerless to do anything about them or to have them changed.  Even getting your hands on a copy of one seems to be an insurmountable obstacle.

What causes so much grief for me about this whole situation, aside from the obvious, is that people know this stuff is going on.  The Governer knows, the ACLU knows, the media have published reports and articles about it – there are huge groups of people who are fully aware of the serious and ongoing human rights violations, Constitutional violations, etc., yet nothing changes.  NOTHING.  How can so many people know and be able to do nothing?  Meanwhile, so many people are suffering intensely behind bars in Nevada.  What can I do?  What can anyone do?

I cannot fathom the grotesque carnival of horror that the man I love is being subjected to on a daily basis.  Not only the emotional and mental strain of it, but the physical pain, too: he is not ablet to sleep because of the pain in his injured knee, and he cannot eat because the “food” makes him sick and is notoriously “not fit for human consumption.”  And now the prison has the power to add time to his sentence to force him to stay there even longer, simply because he cannot get a job – because they will not allow him to have one?  It’s a Catch-22 of the worst and most horrific magnitude.

There is so much more to this story, and I will write more later.  For now, I need to try to un-kink my brain and try to wrap it around this nightmare so I can figure out what to do next to effect some sort of change – something far greater people than I have tried and failed to do so far.  But that doesn’t mean that I am going to give up.  Because I’m not.  I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I AM going to do this.  I hope you’ll help me; there’s power in numbers…

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You Won’t Believe This…But It Is Absolutely TRUE.

Keeping Hope Alive

I don’t think anyone could truly know how incredibly difficult it is, nor how painful, to try to buoy the spirit, heart and mind of someone who is locked up in a cage and who feels hopeless unless that person has also tried to do the same for someone they love.

Every day seems to be a rollercoaster; some days, we’re up, and we’re happy.  Other days, like today, everything seems to just fall to shit.  Doubts take center stage, the future looks not only out of reach and impossibly far away but also without any prospects for normalcy; just survival.  I’m not even talking about joy or prosperity, but just survival.

To worry about not being able to find a job, not having any way to support yourself and no matter where you turn, after your years of incarceration, no one will hire you – so the punishment effectively never ends.  Family and friends turn on you, no one has the time or inclination to stand by your side and give you that hope.  And if those people won’t, who will?

Loving a man who is incarcerated, and listening to him express his fear, apprehension, doubt, anxiety and all of those other feelings that go along with the uncertainty of his future and NOT to be able to reassure him is tantamount to torture.  When he speaks about the things he is going to have to face, and then about the necessary rebuilding of his life once he is free, he speaks in terms of “I” and “me,” not “us” and “we,” and that is painful.  I want to rebuild with him, and I want to be there to support him, keep him strong, be by his side and help him get through the struggles and challenges.  But I don’t hear myself in his description of the picture of what he knows he has to deal with.  And the sad thing is that I know I am there, but his focus has to be 100% on himself; that is what rebuilding his life is going to be all about for him.  It won’t matter how much I want to do, or how much I love him, or how much I show him that I am on his side – all that will really matter is, well, I can’t write any more now.

Prison is punishment for not only the person who is convicted of the crime, but probably even more so for the people who love the prisoner.  I cannot put my arms around him, I can’t text him stupid silly jokes or dumb things I see on facebook, and I can’t call him when I’m sad or unsure or just need to hear his voice.  We can’t just decide to go see a movie, or run out and grab something for dinner on the fly; everything is strictly regimented, and the rules have nothing to do with me or my schedule, or my needs.

I need him to come home, and I need him to be whole.  I need him to know that I will always be here, but there is no way I can effectively communicate those things to him on the other end of the telephone.  I also have to keep my emotions in check and know that the ebb and flow of emotion through this experience is something I have ridden through before, and I will get through it this time, too.  It’s so painful.  Even though I am getting better at self-soothing, it would be much easier to be able to work through it with him by being able to talk when we need to talk or better yet, to not have to go through it at all.

But that is the choice I made: I chose him, ergo I chose this.  So, I will cling to my life preserver and tread water in this huge expanse of ocean – the ocean of our tears, and hope that I don’t drown before I make my way back to shore to find him there waiting for me, just like in that song, “Beyond the Sea.”

I love him, and I even though I feel so exhausted, I will stay strong so that he can be strong.  I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I am going to do it.

Keeping Hope Alive

Over-criminalization and Excessive Punishment

From Attorney Kristina Wildeveld’s facebook page:

http://www.salon.com/2015/04/16/americas_over_criminalization_epidemic_how_the_prosecution_of_atlanta_teachers_exposes_a_broken_system/

Over-criminalization and Excessive Punishment

For-Profit Prisons

From the Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/04/28/how-for-profit-prisons-have-become-the-biggest-lobby-no-one-is-talking-about/?postshare=7181430409422916

For-Profit Prisons

How to Lock Up Fewer People

This was posted on Kristina Wildeveld’s facebook page on May 25, 2015:

How to Lock Up Fewer People

EIKO OJALA
93
By MARC MAUER and DAVID COLE

MAY 23, 2015

WHEN Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ted Cruz, Eric H. Holder Jr., Jeb Bush, George Soros, Marco Rubio and Charles G. Koch all agree that we must end mass incarceration, it is clear that times have changed. Not long ago, most politicians believed the only tenable stance on crime was to be tougher than the next guy.

Today, nearly everyone acknowledges that our criminal justice system needs fixing, and politicians across the spectrum call for reducing prison sentences for low-level drug crimes and other nonviolent offenses. But this consensus glosses over the real challenges to ending mass incarceration. Even if we released everyone imprisoned for drugs tomorrow, the United States would still have 1.7 million people behind bars, and an incarceration rate four times that of many Western European nations.

Mass incarceration can be ended. But that won’t happen unless we confront the true scale of the problem.

A hard-nosed skeptic would tell you that fully half the people in state prisons are serving time for violent offenses. And most drug offenders behind bars are not kids caught smoking a joint, but dealers, many with multiple prior convictions. We already have about 3,000 drug courts diverting those who need it to treatment rather than prison. Recidivism remains astonishingly high for those we release from prison, so releasing more poses real risks. And criminal law is primarily enforced by the states, not the federal government, so this is not a problem the next president can solve.

To move beyond symbolic sound bites to real progress, we need to address each of these objections in turn.

It’s true that half the people in state prisons are there for a violent crime, but not all individuals convicted of violent crimes are alike. They range from serial killers to minor players in a robbery and battered spouses who struck back at their abusers. If we are going to end mass incarceration, we need to recognize that the excessively long sentences we impose for most violent crimes are not necessary, cost-effective or just.

We could cut sentences for violent crimes by half in most instances without significantly undermining deterrence or increasing the threat of repeat offending. Studies have found that longer sentences do not have appreciably greater deterrent effects; many serious crimes are committed by people under the influence of alcohol or drugs, who are not necessarily thinking of the consequences of their actions, and certainly are not affected by the difference between a 15-year and a 30-year sentence.

For the same conduct, we impose sentences on average twice as long as those the British impose, four times longer than the Dutch, and five to 10 times longer than the French. One of every nine people in prison in the United States is serving a life sentence. And some states have also radically restricted parole at the back end. As a result, many inmates are held long past the time they might pose any threat to public safety.

Offenders “age out” of crime — so the 25-year-old who commits an armed robbery generally poses much less risk to public safety by the age of 35 or 40. Yet nearly 250,000 inmates today are over 50. Every year we keep older offenders in prison produces diminishing returns for public safety. For years, states have been radically restricting parole; we need to make it more readily available. And by eliminating unnecessary parole conditions for low-risk offenders, we can conserve resources to provide appropriate community-based programming and supervision to higher-risk parolees.

It’s true that most individuals incarcerated for a drug offense were sellers, not just users. But as a result of mandatory sentencing laws, judges often cannot make reasonable distinctions between drug kingpins and street-corner pawns. We ought to empower judges to recognize the difference, and to reduce punishment for run-of-the-mill offenders, who are often pursuing one of the few economic opportunities available to them in destitute communities. The single most important thing we can do is provide meaningful work opportunities to the most disadvantaged.

There are already drug courts in many American communities, and studies show they can reduce substance abuse without incarceration. But the criteria for diversion are often unduly narrow, and they screen out substantial numbers of drug users who could benefit from treatment. Equally important, we should not limit our response to those who have been arrested. Part of winding down the “war on drugs” will require making treatment options more widely available, before individuals enter the criminal justice system.

Recidivism is also a serious obstacle to reform. Two-thirds of released prisoners are rearrested within three years, and half are reincarcerated. But many of the returns to prison are for conduct that violates technical parole requirements, but does not harm others. And much of the problem is that the scale and cost of prison construction have left limited resources for rehabilitation, making it difficult for offenders to find the employment that is necessary to staying straight. So we need to lock up fewer people on the front end as well as enhance reintegration and reduce collateral consequences that impede rehabilitation on the back end.

Criminal justice is administered largely at the state level; 90 percent of those incarcerated are in state and local facilities. This means mass incarceration needs to be dismantled one state at a time. Some states are already making substantial progress. New Jersey, California and New York have all reduced their prison populations by about 25 percent in recent years, with no increase in crime. That should be good news for other states, which would reap substantial savings — in budgetary and human terms — if they followed suit. While the federal government cannot solve this problem alone, it can lead both by example and by providing financial incentives that encourage reform.

Ending mass incarceration will not be easy. Opposition will come from rural community leaders who see prisons as economic development, legislators who still respond emotionally to the “crime of the week” and prosecutors who measure success by convictions and incarcerations, rather than by resolving conflict. But the recent tragic police shootings of young black men have, for the moment, focused our attention on the imperative for reform. And state budgetary crises have led many to question the vast resources we devote to holding too many people under lock and key.

Today, at long last, a consensus for reform is emerging. The facts that no other Western European nation even comes close to our incarceration rates, and that all have lower homicide rates, show that there are better ways to address crime. The marked disparities in whom we choose to lock up pose one of the nation’s most urgent civil rights challenges. But we will not begin to make real progress until we face up to the full dimensions of the task.”

Marc Mauer is executive director of the Sentencing Project. David Cole is a professor of law and public policy at Georgetown University.

How to Lock Up Fewer People