Dear Hillary and Bernie: The “F” Word & The Mass Incarceration Crisis Visitor Information & Inmate Locator- Prison Inmate Search

Dear Hillary and Bernie: The "F" Word & The Mass Incarceration Crisis - Prison Inmate Search

Dear Hillary and Bernie: The “F” Word & The Mass Incarceration Crisis

Dear Bernie and Hillary,

Eliminating private federal prisons and their lust for profit (at the expense of inmates and correctional officers) is one small step toward ending our mass incarceration crisis. As presidential candidates, your platform should consist o;reforming our harsh sentencing laws for nonviolent offenders, stop the imprisonment of the mentally ill, provide drug programs in the local communities, implement real rehabilitation programs in our prisons, and provide effective re-entry assistance to our returning citizens.

Our re-entry programs are failing. Nationally, about 66% of released inmates are locked up within 3 years of their release. A major cause of our high recidivism rate is the lack of employment for our returning citizens. The  “F” word is part of this problem. It is not the “F” word that you are thinking, but rather it is the “F” word – Felon. The constant use of this F word, felon, to describe a former incarcerated individual has reduced his or her chance for a successful re-entry into society. An inmate has completed successfully his prison sentence without any violations,but to society, he is branded forever a felon. The collateral damage from a felony conviction is overwhelming. I looked at ads for house rentals and some ads indicated no smokers, no pet owners, and no felons. Ex-offenders are now the untouchables of American society. Our American untouchables, felons, not only have difficulty obtaining safe housing, but face overwhelming obstacles finding employment.

Anyone with a criminal record has known the anguish and frustration of trying to find a job upon release from imprisonment. Once the former inmate has checked the box in the application for prior convictions,  the interviewer’s mind has closed to any thought of hiring, despite the applicant’s qualifications and his eagerness to work. The term “Returning Citizen,” is a positive way of describing an individual released from prison. Labels such as felon has created a negative and discriminating environment. Amazingly Americans are astonished at the high recidivism without considering its connection to the high unemployment rate for our returning citizens. Numerous studies have shown that employed returning citizens are far less likely to become a recidivism statistic.

The United States has 25% of the world’s inmates and only 5% of the world’s population. Whoever becomes our next president should make a priority of reducing our shameful recidivism rate.One important step–eliminate the discriminatory use of the “F” word to describe returning citizens.

By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com

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10 Responses to Dear Hillary and Bernie: The “F” Word & The Mass Incarceration Crisis

  1. PrisonPath February 3, 2016 at 8:21 pm #

    William Daly The government’s expectations for the criminal justice system can be said to change with the public’s “impatience” with its current state, or when superficial solutions do not produce immediate results they seek. Sadly, we can make all these changes, release thousands of inmates, mandate changes to segregation all in the name of improving the correctional system but violence and disorder will persist. Criminal Justice policies have and will always be forged by particular social movements, interest groups or prevailing winds which move politicians to their greater cause with nothing more than Band-Aid approaches and solutions, if that. Cynical outlook, maybe. Example, California Governor Gerry Brown. Brown’s version uno, he wanted determinant sentencing as opposed to indeterminate. Results, longer sentences, more inmates, more costs. Governor Brown second time around, forced to release inmates, now wants indeterminate back, kind of, by using good behavior.

  2. PrisonPath February 4, 2016 at 2:31 pm #

    Ed–http://justusdepartment.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2015-10-08T14:11:00-07:00&max-results=7 I agree. The politicians are out of touch with the people. The people want less crime. Politicians want less incarceration. The two are not the same. Prison overcrowding is a political football. In 1978 the Bureau of Prisons ha less than 30k inmates. They now have more than 196k. In 1978 I remember setting up bunks in the gym of the USP McNeil Island because of overcrowding. So even if population levels were to go back to what they were in 1978, some people would declare a corrections “crisis” due to overcrowding just as back then. These people ignore the important issues.

  3. PrisonPath February 23, 2016 at 2:34 pm #

    Ed– No one mentions the fact that more than 80%, in some states, of the corrections population is in alternatives to incarceration (community supervision) rather than locked up. This shows that incarceration in our country is an alternative sentence.

    Second: “We have too many low-level, non-violent drug offenders locked up.” What exactly does that mean? As with the Al Capone example, stats only tell us what a person’s”instant offense” is. They tell us nothing about criminal histories or circumstances of the crime or plea bargaining. Also–should we only incarcerate murderers and rapists? What about burglars, car thieves, swindlers and other “non-violent” offenders? Should we never incarcerate them?

    Ed–Third: Our prisons don’t rehabilitate anyone. This mission was foisted on corrections by a group of religious zealots trying to redeem drunkards and other social misfits through penance and solitary confinement. The experiment was a failure by the mission nonetheless remained. Churches are not held responsible for turning sinners into saints. Hospitals are not held responsible for failing to cure pancreatic and other cancers or sever body trauma. But prisons are held responsible for failing to turn criminals into responsible citizens.

    It seems we ask too much of prisons. We ask them to succeed where other social institutions have failed. We ask them to make people accept social norms they’ve rejected and ridiculed.

    Fourth: Recidivism is a flawed success measure. Did a person not return to prison/crime because he was reformed or not caught? We all know that a person can continue to terrorize while avoiding capture and or conviction through witness intimidation, etc.

    Ed– Third: Our prisons don’t rehabilitate anyone. This mission was foisted on corrections by a group of religious zealots trying to redeem drunkards and other social misfits through penance and solitary confinement. The experiment was a failure by the mission nonetheless remained. Churches are not held responsible for turning sinners into saints. Hospitals are not held responsible for failing to cure pancreatic and other cancers or sever body trauma. But prisons are held responsible for failing to turn criminals into responsible citizens.

    It seems we ask too much of prisons. We ask them to succeed where other social institutions have failed. We ask them to make people accept social norms they’ve rejected and ridiculed.

    Fourth: Recidivism is a flawed success measure. Did a person not return to prison/crime because he was reformed or not caught? We all know that a person can continue to terrorize while avoiding capture and or conviction through witness intimidation, etc.

  4. PrisonPath February 23, 2016 at 2:36 pm #

    Ed, you have some valid points. However, most of us do not confuse the phrase ‘mass incarceration crisis” with the gestapo. There is a tendency to minimize a another’s position by trying to make a comparison with the Nazis. Our crisis—simply,we have too many nonviolent offenders locked up. Many are there because of mental illnesses and/or addictions.

    Most are not “Al Capones.” You are correct re: that quite a number are there for theft. However, the theft arose from trying to satisfy their addictions.

    There are inmates who wish to rehabilitate. I know, you are surprised, but it’s true. Unfortunately, many of our prisons do not have effective programs.

    If we really tried to resolve the care of the mentally ill before the use of prison and actually help more with our addiction crisis, the prison and jail population would be greatly reduced.

    By–Brad

  5. PrisonPath February 24, 2016 at 2:11 pm #

    Ed–Bradley. I do understand where your coming from. You want to end and to alleviate suffering. You see injustice and inequities and you want to correct them. I want the same thing. In college, I was taught the same things you write about and I believed them.

    This is not an attack on you. It’s a criticism of the movement you represent. The term “mass incarceration” is a loaded term meant to illicit support from a public that seems uncaring to the plight of inmates. There’s limited space for a thorough response so, other than the points I’ve already made, I’ll say that I believe the system doesn’t need anymore reform. It needs to TRANSFORM.

    The good news is that the system has been transforming itself, for 20+ years.

  6. PrisonPath February 24, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

    Ed– I worked for 27 years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons from a Correctional Officer in a Federal Penitentiary to a case manager in 2 other federal prisons. In the system I worked in, an inmate could enter as a functional illiterate and leave with a college degree or with skills in things from plumbing to computers.

    I worked to transition inmates from confinement to freedom. The BOP’s philosophy was that release preparation begins upon the inmates admission into the system. I also worked in community corrections for 5+ years where I was in charge of community programs for inmates being released through halfway houses. Our policy mandated that we inform employers or potential employers that the person they’d hired or were considering hiring was a convict or ex-con. In all my years working in this position, I don’t know of a single case where an inmate was fired for this reason. I’m not saying it never happened, I’m saying I never heard of a ca

    The “no one will hire an ex-con” is nonetheless the number one excuse for inmate failure. I’d venture to say that the recidivism rate of the BOP was no better or much better than agencies that provide fewer programing.

    I’m not against rehabilitation. On the contrary, I think corrections MUST provide programs for positive change. But you can lead a horse to water…

    If you want a sense of what I advocate please watch the following:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIyn-XFEAHE

    My book goes into much further detail:

    http://forums.onlinebookclub.org/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=31191

  7. PrisonPath February 24, 2016 at 2:13 pm #

    Ed, it is not personal. As I said, you make some very valid points, but I disagree with some of your conclusions. However, this is why in the end, we have a great country, We all can speak our minds and listen to the other side.

    By–Brad

  8. PrisonPath March 22, 2016 at 12:28 pm #

    Ed– Bradley. You’re right. One of the things I keep repeating is that our biggest problem isn’t our lack of agreement. It’s our lack of mutual understanding. Lack of agreement leads to compromise. Lack of understanding leads to war.

    In all current debates there are 2 and only 2 sides. So if you don’t agree with me, you must be “one of those people.” In the CJS reform debate, people like me who disagree with the notion of reform based on reducing our prison population due to “mass incarceration.” must be one of those people who want to “lock everybody up and throw away the key”, believe only in punishment, etc.

  9. PrisonPath March 22, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

    Ed– I’ve been on the other side of the debate in my younger years as an idealistic correctional officer so I understand that those on the “let’s end mass incarceration” side have good intentions and are intelligent people.

    My concern is not in winning or losing the debate. I want to end it. If you look at the link on the Red Hook Community Justice Center, you find an “all of the above” approach to justice. Most importantly, the people who initiated this effort didn’t start by asking how many more or fewer people should we put in prison or should we punish or rehabilitate. The question was how can we make our community safer, more just, and secure

  10. PrisonPath March 22, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

    Ed, I can only agree with “safe and more just.”

    By–Brad

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