Describing Herlong Prison Camp

Are you on your way to federal prison camp? This video will help. I explain detail what you will find when you go to Herlong  Prison Camp.

At the camp, you’ll have most of your basic needs.  You’ll have a living area in a large dorm similar to the military. You’ll have a locker, a chair, and a bed.  The quarters are very tight with little privacy. It took me about six months to get used to it all.

Within the dorm, you’ll have access to your email, laundry,  televisions, a bookshelf, and a ton of tables to play games or write on.  You’ll also have microwaves for cooking food.

Outside the dorm, you’ll see the food service area.  The food service area is where inmates get breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Attached to the food service area are the barbershop, leisure library, commissary, exercise and equipment room, and prison laundry. If inmates walk when the building, they will find a craft room, two classrooms, and a multi-purpose room.

The last thing inmates will find in this building are the administration offices, the nurses and dentist rooms, and the visiting room.

Behind the dorm, there is a soccer field, which doubles as a small track, a baseball diamond, and part of a larger running track that circles the camp. Between the dorm and the food service area, are a set of basketball courts and a handball wall.

Surrounding the camp borders are out of bound signs, crossing these lines would give an inmate a shot.  The parking lots for CO’s and visitors are right outside the “out of bound” area.

There isn’t much at the prison.  However, most inmates make it work. I recommend you have a steady amount of books coming to you. Resources at this camp can be low at times.

Best Credit Builder Loans

It is so difficult to come home and have to worry about rebuild your life and build for the future. I’ve learned that you need credit to do to make these things happen, which adds additional frustration.  However, Andrew Rombach of https://lendedu.com wrote an excellent article on  credit builder loans. These loans are a great way to start building and repairing credit. With permission, I’ve reposted several of the key points he discusses.  For Andrew’s full article please click here.

What Are Credit Builder Loans?

A credit builder loan helps you to build or restore your credit via a personal loan. These types of loans are sometimes offered by online lenders, or large banks, but are more likely to be found through credit unions and small community banks. There are a few different types of credit builder loans, but the most common allows you to apply for and take out a relatively small loan of typically between $100 and $1,000 which you repay over a period of six months to a year. The catch is that, to protect the credit union or lender from risk, you don’t get access to the money they’re lending to you until you fully pay off the loan. Because the risk is lessened, the interest rates that you are likely to pay on a credit builder loan are much less than you would pay on a normal unsecured personal loan.

How Credit Builder Loans Build Credit

Credit builder loans help you build your credit because, as you pay them off, you establish a credit history of on-time payments. For those who don’t have a credit history at all, it takes six months of credit activity in order to get a FICO score so a credit builder loan can help you get a score. If you have bad credit, a credit building loan can help you improve your score. Some studies show that your credit score could go out as much as 35 points over a six-month period with a credit builder loan.

If your credit is on the cusp of fair or good, then a credit builder loan can help move you into a different credit tier and that could mean that you will qualify for better interest rates, larger borrowing amounts, and the ability to borrow from better lenders on more attractive terms.

Want to know which are the best credit builder loans? Please click here to read the full article.

How Your Mind Can Affect Your Body

Whenever the idea of a mind and body connection is discussed in relation to our health, people often think about more alternative types of practices. Often classified as a complementary and alternative medicine, activities like yoga or meditation are the most common ways for individuals to tap into this mind-body element.

While many types of practices can help us to tune into our physical well being, scientists have found that our thoughts can impact our health from a more direct standpoint. Not only does our mental health play a role in our overall level of health, but the way we think about our own physical activity can actually shape our outcomes.

The Mind Body Connection

While it’s not entirely surprising, the aspect of mental health and its link to physical health isn’t as widely discussed as you might think. However, according to the Merriam-Webster definition of the word “health,” elements of mind, body, and spirit are all encompassed within this one word. Examining your own mental health can often shine a light on how your emotional state is affecting your body.

Mental illness is becoming an increasingly common condition, as nearly 44 million people are affected by a mental health concern in any given year. These diagnoses can range from mild depression to paranoia or schizophrenia, and the ways in which symptoms manifest themselves can vary dramatically. The common thread, however, is that whatever may be affecting us mentally also shows up in our bodies.

Let’s examine depression, a well-known issue that plagues many people around the world. Physical symptoms of this condition can include insomnia, chronic fatigue, and even aches and pains throughout your body. On a wider scale, those with mental health concerns can be subject to obesity, asthma, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Beyond Just Mental Health 

This connection between how we think and how we feel is even further proven with the study of psychosomatic pain, a condition where the body and mind are intimately linked to a particular set of emotions and symptoms. Many who struggle with this disorder are often sent from doctor to doctor, as it’s difficult for Western medical practitioners to diagnose and treat it. However, as more research develops, it’s becoming clear that a true mind-body link can be attributed to these conditions.

Chronic pain has been linked to psychosomatic causes, as the mind can produce or exacerbate physical symptoms. John Sarno, a leading expert in psychosomatic medicine, developed a theory that many symptoms are an unconscious distraction to aid in repression of deep emotional issues. In layman terms, people start to feel physical pain rather than experience emotional pain. There have been hundreds of cases of different health issues, ranging from temporary blindness, muscle pain, inability to walk, etc, that have been tied back to psychosomatic reasons.

Case Study About Exercise

While the mind-body link is fascinating, you may be wondering how it relates to your specific health challenges. Perhaps you are conscious of your mental health and take measures to create balance in your life. You might even exercise a few times per week but find that losing weight or lowering your blood pressure seems to be out of reach. Once again, how you think about your health may actually be contributing to the effects you’re seeing.

Scientists at Stanford University embarked upon a 21-year project which examined 61,000 adults and their patterns of thought around exercise. The data collected included how often the participants engaged in physical activity as well as how they felt about their own efforts compared to their peers.

Some of the individuals died during the study from a wide range of health issues, but the overall trend that was discovered is quite surprising. Those who thought they were not engaging in as much activity as their peers actually died younger than others, despite implementing the exact same amount of exercise as others.

What caused this pattern to emerge? Researchers attribute it to a number of possible factors, all of which continue to support the strong notion of the mind-body connection:

  • Comparing ourselves to others may encourage a demotivation, where if we believe we are less fit than our friends and family, we may not even bother trying to exercise in the first place.
  • Placing strict expectations on ourselves can create undue stress and may lead to negative health conditions. This outcome is also supported by the data examining how our mental health and emotions can dictate our physical health.
  • The final reason for early death in those who thought they were less active might be attributed to what is being called the “nocebo effect.” The simple act of a negative thought can be enough to lessen the amount of benefit, so if you believe you aren’t exercising enough, then your body will not reap the same amount of benefit compared to those who have a positive outlook.

When it comes to your mindset around physical activity and your overall health, it’s important to remember that you get to determine what elements encompass an active lifestyle. Working with your primary care physician to develop a diet and exercise plan that meets your needs is your best bet to seeing results, as long as you keep your thought process positive!

by Courtney Elder
Reposted with permission. Original article: https://www.singlecare.com/blog/how-your-mind-can-affect-your-body/

How to Raise Money for Self-Employment After Your Release

The statistics on post-incarceration employment are nothing short of devastating. One study estimates that “almost half of ex-prisoners have no reported earnings in the first several years after leaving prison.” For those who do end up finding work, half of these individuals earn less than $10,090 per year. In addition to the emotional, psychological, and social challenges faced by those who have just been released from prison, financial hardship is almost certain. Because many employers will not hire individuals with a criminal record, it can be next to impossible to secure a job through traditional channels.

One way to overcome financial and post-incarceration employment challenges is by creating a self-employment opportunity. An individual can be self-employed despite his or her past record, and can make far more money than any other available job opportunity. If you or someone you know is facing financial obstacles after being released,
explore three ways to raise money for self-employment.

Sell any unneeded possessions

Start overcoming your financial challenges by selling any unwanted possessions online (or to local stores that buy used items). Even if you don’t have much, there are creative ways to earn a decent amount of money to put toward your new business. In addition to selling your own possessions, you can offer to sell unneeded items for friends and family who are willing to provide items. Although it likely won’t make you a fortune, selling online and to used item stores is a great way to start your savings.

Start an online fundraiser

If you have a strong social circle that has offered to help provide support during this time in your life, consider the use of an online fundraiser website. In your fundraiser description, you can provide the details of your journey, as well as your efforts to become self-employed. A well-written, meaningful fundraiser description will help give people a specific reason to contribute to your fundraiser, since they know exactly what you plan to use the money for.

Use the resources currently available to you

Many self-employment opportunities require little to no cash to begin. Want to start freelancing as an artist? Begin working with the supplies that you already have, or that you can reasonably afford. Want to start landscaping? Ask around to see if you can rent tools and supplies until you have earned enough to buy your own.

Finding employment and financial stability post-incarceration is no easy task. That’s why self-employment can be an excellent way to get back into working, and earning a decent paycheck. Selling items online or to used item stores, starting an online fundraiser, and leveraging the resources currently available to you is a great way to begin raising money for this new chapter in your life.

-Cassie Stelle
cassie.steele@hickorymail.net

How Prison Can Destroy Your Credit Score and What To Do About It

Your credit score is clearly important when it comes to turning your life around after prison. However, how do you deal with your finances while after being in prison?  My friends at Selflender wrote this article to give inmates and formerly incarcerated some ideas and options on how to fix and maintain your credit score.


Staying On Top Of Your Finances After Incarceration

The level of stigmatization that exists in the job market towards those who have previously been incarcerated is still a significant problem. Those who have a criminal record are far less likely to be scheduled for a callback than those who don’t, as revealed by The Council of State Governments Justice Center. The research also found that those who lived on welfare were less likely to make the cut, which amplifies the need for equipping the formerly incarcerated a little better.

Stay On Top Of Court Imposed Fines And Fees

One of the first arrangements to make is that of repaying their court-imposed fines and fees as soon as possible. This is to ensure that they don’t end up landing in hot water again as summonses are issued for these funds. Those who struggle with the repayments should request the most lenient terms available and resolve this before taking on any other financial responsibilities.

Finding A Job That Pays Well

Some practical financial advice is not to wait for the perfect job to roll around. Sometimes the lower jobs form a stepping stone onto something bigger and better. This is because one of the things potential employers look at is whether the applicant has done a lot of job hopping. One of the best ways to find gainful employment after incarceration is by joining job training groups and initiatives. These not only provide the necessary training to pursue a new career but may also provide helpful insight into potential job leads.

Manage Or Restore Credit History

Thankfully, a prison record is not linked to a credit history, therefore, if the payments are maintained the credit history will still be intact. This will not only make it easier to secure a loan, but also to rent an apartment or take out a phone contract. If these payments weren’t maintained, there are several ways to rebuild the credit score. One of the fastest ways to get this done is by using the services of a legitimate credit repair company. There are also specialized credit facilities designed to help people build their credit scores again.

While finances are at the heart of rehabilitation, it shouldn’t be a stumbling block for those that want to rebuild their lives.

Dealing With The Struggle Of Returning From Prison

There’s nothing a person can’t handle if they have the confidence, support and persistence. I truly believe that, although when returning from prison after a 17-month sentence, I found it to be extremely difficult. Despite earning my Bachelor’s degree in English in 2008, it was still hard to find a job after federal prison. During my two year pre-trial, I knew that obtaining a job afterwards would be tough. It’s so tempting to give up, but how would an ex-felon or anyone else for that matter, keep from quitting?

I remember having the desire to return to prison camp because of the hardship. At least in camp I wouldn’t have to deal with rent, bills, or demanding employers. I tried everything I could think of. I even wrote and published a book called Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp. Although I value my accomplishment, I was disappointed because I thought it would bring me freedom and happiness. Needless to say, it didn’t. Finally, I realized that I had more freedom outside of prison than I did inside of prison. My challenge was finding a way to diminish my depression and frustration of returning to society. I needed to keep a level head and find a solution to alleviate the hardship of returning home. If you’re like me and need a couple of methods to survive, then here is a list of coping mechanisms.  

Developing a Great Diet

At Herlong Prison Camp, I was able to eat as many as four meals a day, but that’s not always possible in the real world. Whether or not you eat once a day or four times a day a targeted diet is need. For better focus and mental clarity, try a diet high in fiber and protein. Also, to minimize depression and anxiety, I recently discovered that a diet high in potassium can calm over-stressed nerves.

Finding Employment

Looking for employment is more than just putting in job applications and hoping to get the right job. What you really need is a game plan. For example, If you’re applying for a low waged job and are overqualified, avoid putting in high levels of education on your resume. It’s typical for someone coming home from prison to jump at the first job that is offered in order to satisfy their PO’s. This is understandable as well as sensible, but it isn’t a long-term financial solution.

I believe that newly released inmates should set time aside every day to explore their options such as self-employment or higher paying jobs. Even if you already have a job, it doesn’t hurt to apply for a higher paying job. Yes, looking for a quality job with a felony record may be hell, but if you believe a higher salary is needed, then stay confident and persistent in your quest. Part of your game plan should be researching sites like Indeed.com, using their search bar and entering in “jobs that pay $35,000” or more. Another tip is when searching on Indeed or similar sites, be sure to narrow down the search results. My normal search might look like “English major, $35,000, -sales, -management.” By putting “-sales” this eliminates any positions that have the keyword or phrase “sales,” which usually prevents me from seeing jobs with sales involved. Lastly, having someone review and/or write your resume and/or cover letter will help you to stand out from the crowd.

Building and Maintaining Relationship

Transitioning is easier when you have the support of a community. A community provides a felon job leads, counseling and the motivation needed to keep moving forward. Although some relationship will be lost throughout time, it’s essential for an ex-felon to focus on forging and maintaining relationships. This would also be the time to eliminate and avoid destructive or fruitless relationships with toxic people. Those types of people add nothing to your life except unnecessary stress.

Move to a Bigger City

The amount of opportunities for ex-felons depends on their residential area. I’ve learned the hard way that jobs in a city like Sacramento are just hard to find. Obtaining a quality job was difficult because of my criminal record and restaurant history, but when I moved to Los Angeles, things changed. I was able to reduce my time spent working in restaurants and begin working as a production assistant for films. I also worked as a background actor. Yes, these are low paying jobs, but my goal is become a Hollywood screenwriter. The experience I receive just by being on set is phenomenal!

Dealing With Depression and Frustration

There’s no magic pill or solution to dealing with the depression and frustration that a ex-felon will experience when they return home. The trick for ex-felons is to understand that they have done everything in their power, legally, to put themselves in the best possible position. Everything will work itself out in time. I truly understand the frustration of waiting for everything to work itself out. However, I constantly remind myself that if there was a better idea, I would do it.  This is why a game plan is highly valuable to newly released inmate. When you have exhausted all of your options, you must believe that what you’ve done is sufficient and that the results will manifest in time.

 

I hope this helps someone.  At the time of this post, I’m still struggling to have the life that I want. However, I see things coming together. If nothing in this article works for you, then the only advice I have left is to keep your head up and never quit.

Working a Dead-End Job and Taking Care of Yourself

dead-end job

Anyone knows that working a dead-end job is physically and emotionally taxing. I know because I’ve been doing it for many years now. Since I have to work this type of job, I had to learn how to take better care of myself.

Recently, a doctor told me that the disks in my neck and back are degenerating. This produces a pain, tingling, or numbness due to the irritation of the nerve roots that lead to the sciatic nerve.

In one of my videos, I advise previous felons to be sure to take care of themselves. It’s very likely we will be working job that will cause these types of problems. It’s also unlikely that we will have a job that is worth our time and talents. We might have to work several of these jobs just to put food on the table. In order to survive and not become partially crippled trying to make ends meet, here are my suggestions for self-care.

Suggestions

  • Baths
    I suggest that we take baths to soak sore muscles and joints. Use Epsom salt if necessary.
  • Heating
    I use heating pads after working a long shift or sitting down for too long. I usually put it on for twenty minutes at a time. If I don’t have a heating pad, I’ll take a warm, damp towel and put it in the microwave for about one minute. Make sure it isn’t too hot before you put it on your skin.
  • Anti-inflammatory
    Take any anti-inflammatory medicine during and after work. I suggest the Vitamin Shoppe Ginger Root 550 MG Capsules. I take a pill during my job and in the car when I’m finished with a job. However, any over the counter or herb remedy will work. This medicine will help to prevent you from swelling (which causes more pain) when you have overworked yourself.
  • Take a Day Off
    I’ve learned that resting is the best medicine sometimes. Although I may have taken ginger root and applied ice or heat to my back, I find I still need several days of rest. This is usually because I’ve worked several days straight.

Please remember that when people work at a low waged, dead-end job, managers and bosses are often not thinking about the employee’s future or well-being. I often felt they were trying to run their employees into the ground because they were expendable and plentiful. It made me realize that the only person who was going to take care of me was me.

Why is Men’s Mental Health Ignored By The Formerly Incarcerated?

There are many reasons why men’s mental health is ignored in regards to recidivism. According to many members of society, men’s mental health in association with crime has little bearing on their decisions. It is often considered an act of desperation for an individual to plead insanity in their case. If one is considered to have been aware and understood that their crime was wrong, the insanity plea won’t hold in court. However, mental health disorders are more complex than what most members in society think.

Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, phobias, and many other disorders develop while men are incarcerated. However, upon their release, they are sent out into the world still carrying the stigmas as former criminals. Therefore, society focuses on their past, rather than the fact that those crimes were paid for in full; as a result, making any mental disorders and traumas virtually impossible for society to accept as legitimate problems.

Money is another reason that mental illness is ignored. No matter the rhyme or reason, society often fails to have any sympathy for former criminals. The inability to solve the mental health problem is due to the high expense and leaves the criminal justice system unable to intervene in the area. It is reported that psychiatric help is more than twice as expensive as incarcerating a single prisoner annually. Therefore, it remains unlikely that the system will take the step to consider mental health issues as a real problem that results in recidivism. Ignoring the problem leads to forgetting its existence.

It seems that society is unable to imagine themselves in the shoes of former inmates. Many never realize that there are nonviolent crimes that label men for the rest of their lives. Even men convicted on nonviolent charges are changed forever; often experiencing severe emotional trauma that prevents them from interacting with society in a positive way. Their illness is often ignored because they are considered to have “made their choice”. Society feels that they’ve made the decision to commit the crime, and they should suffer the consequences, whatever that may be.

It seems the main reason mental illness is ignored is only because it’s easier to do so. It’s easier to think of these men in one light and never give them a chance to make it right or to put their lives on a better track. For this reason alone, mental illness in former convicts will likely never be treated properly to prevent recidivism in their futures.

How Mental Health Disorders Affect Success and Productiveness Within Men

By Pyerse Dandridge
Author: Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp

Mental health disorders often result from extended time in incarceration. After release, men are sent back into society with not only criminal convictions, but gaps in employment, negative stigmas, alternate mentalities, and an extreme amount of work necessary to shed the skin society now sees. Simply reentering society can cause high anxiety and the consistent rejection can cause depression in terms of job searching.

It is clear that mental health issues are present in criminals during incarceration, but post-release, these anxieties have increased and other mental health disorders make recidivism highly likely in over 50 percent of men. Mental health issues can inhibit much of daily life including finding a good job. Successfully finding a good job is difficult because former inmates are usually subjected to obtaining low income jobs like janitorial work or fast food employment. Their past mistakes are used as ammunition in such a way that it is difficult to maintain motivation to keep up a positive path towards success. Most people have experienced the stress of job searching, however, think of the increased amount of stress when the odds are stacked extremely high against you.

Mental health issues can take a real toll on life. Success could almost be said to be completely out of reach due to the fact that underlying conditions prevent the ability to conduct oneself properly in society. Anger, paranoia, abrasiveness, high anxiety, mood swings, and other characteristics that are created during incarceration can cause major problems for many trying to create positive relationships with employers and co-workers.

It is clear that success post-release depends highly on the help these men receive to rejoin society with positive hope for something beyond a life of crime. Recidivism is twice as likely to occur in those who are released from prison with untreated mental health issues. If mental health issues were treated properly, these men could have a chance at a productive life.

Many don’t realize that male inmates must live a life completely isolated from civilized society, procure a heightened masculine mask fit for incarceration (in order to survive), and then are kicked back out into society. Often they are back in society with a completely different mentality than before their incarceration and are now without any genuine direction on how to survive outside prison walls. Considering all they’ve gone through just to pay their debt to society, these men have very little chance at success.

How Does Mental Health Affect Masculinity?

By Pyerse Dandridge
Author: Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp

The identity of men can be seriously influenced by incarceration in correctional facilities. This can often have an effect on their mental health. Prisoners are forced to submit themselves to authority. They often have no control over what they do and must contain their natural emotions. They also have to let go of their inherent need for power. When core characteristics of masculinity are taken away, mental health issues often result.

While behind prison walls, men often feel an incessant need to present a hyper-masculine identity that isn’t necessary for the outside society. The general norm for American men is to present an identity that includes restraining emotions, exerting dominance, displaying independence, exhibiting competitiveness, and ultimately winning. The need to present this identity, especially behind bars surrounded by only men, makes the need for masculinity even more necessary to posture. This ongoing feeling to ensure that one does not appear weak, gay, or emotional in any way can lead to increased anxiety when one is constantly over exerting themselves to appear a certain way to the inside society.

It is a constant struggle for some men who are incarcerated to deal with who they are and how they view masculinity versus what they believe others feel are masculine qualities and norms. It is reported that incarcerated men who conform to the notions of others against their will often experience higher anxiety and depression disorders, as well as other poor health conditions. However, it is hypothesized that outside support has a positive influence on the adverse effects of posturing a hyper-masculine exterior. Support allows for real interaction, despite any traditional or implicated ideas on masculinity and is facilitated by those who truly care and have a love for these men. It is also reported that this type of interaction can aid in positive outcomes for mental health and allow these men to have a sense of the world beyond the society they are locked in.

While incarcerated, men are forced to strip much of who they are to conform to the rules and authority. Anyone who must conform to a completely different new way of life will face some form of anxiety. They will also have some emotion that will alter who they are even if only slightly. Is it fair to say that these men deserve whatever negative repercussions occur as a result of their crime, even down to the core of their masculinity, or should society accept that they’ve paid for their crimes and give them the ongoing treatment and rehabilitation they deserve post-release?

What Are The Warning Signs of Mental Illness?

By Pyerse Dandridge
Author: Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp

Did you know that mental health issues are extremely common in the criminal population? Over 10% of inmates have been reported to have some form of mental illness. Studies have shown that even after receiving psychiatric help, some former criminals still present psychiatric symptoms after discharge. The most common disorders are substance abuse and personality disorders. Unfortunately,  some of the individuals with mental illness are unable to afford proper care and because of this, they return to committing crimes both violent and nonviolent in nature.

Many who experience mental illness often find no relief and perpetually find themselves incarcerated or detained in some fashion. If mental illness symptoms go untreated, these individuals are likely to hurt themselves or someone else. We must take the time to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness so we can help multiple lives. Please familiarize yourself with the signs below.

Signs of such mental illnesses include:

  • Significant mood swings
  • Prolonged depression periods
  • Constant fatigue
  • Extreme weight gain or loss
  • Lack of sleep
  • Violent outbursts
  • Extreme behavioral changes
  • Consistent self-criticism
  • Suicide attempts

There are many ways to find solutions for individuals who struggle with mental illness. Psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities are the best fit in the hopes of assisting someone with these problems. Studies have shown that assistance facilities and programs help individuals with mental illness by establishing a consistency in day to day living habits. It allows them to remove themselves from poor and dangerous environments that can lead to homelessness. The problem lies with financing. For those that have no income or very limited funds, those types of facilities and programs are unrealistic and their symptoms are left untreated.

Another solution are employment programs. There are work programs designed for people with mental illnesses and evidence proves that having a job significantly enhances overall self-esteem. There is also proof that employment aids individuals with mental illnesses in other ways. Additionally, Some programs help individuals with basic needs such as finding food, shelter or around-the-clock assistance. However, some cities do not include this type of assistance due to low population of available volunteers or charity organizations.

Mental illness is very real and very serious, and many individuals are locked away in correctional facilities (where they do not belong) rather than receiving help finding the mental care they need. Substance abuse is a major illness that affects the entire character of an individual. Rehabilitation centers are often the best place to detox from these types of illnesses but, again, these places are not accessible to everyone. However, without help, these individuals often worsen and have no hope for a better future.

Why Mental Health & Ongoing Support For Men Is So Important

By Pyerse Dandridge
Author: Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp

It is reported that over half of male inmates have at least one mental disorder. This means that mental health issues are present before incarceration takes place. Without treatment or with inadequate treatment, it is highly likely that men with mental health issues will re-offend and contribute to recidivism rates.

Mental health issues are often the reason inmates initially commit a crime. However, winning a trial with the plea of insanity is difficult to do. Studies show that less than 1% of those who plead insanity are actually acquitted and sentenced to psychiatric care. Of those who receive help, it is reported that over half are less likely to re-offend after their admittance to psychiatric care. However, of those who show signs of mental illness and are sentenced to prison time, their likelihood to recidivate increases exponentially.

Although there are programs to help former inmates, ongoing support after being released from incarceration is expensive. The cost for psychiatric care seemingly is outweighing the cost per inmate in correctional institutions. However, if recidivism is truly a problem the criminal system wishes to avoid, ongoing support and care after release should remain a priority. Institutionalization provides a steady way of life for men inside, however, when they are released, those with mental disorders are re-triggered when their placed back into society. The community expects former inmates to be completely rehabilitated, but in actuality they were always unable to function in a society that has extremely high expectations for them.

it is clear that psychiatric care could provide real hope for those who have very little opportunity to walk a more righteous path post-release. In psychiatric facilities, men are treated as patients, and the medical professionals conduct their care as patients rather than prisoners. Studies have shown that this form of rehabilitation has proven to prevent recidivism and allow proper diagnosis and resolutions, rather than pushing individuals back out into an environment where they have no other options.

Institutionalization provides an ongoing, supportive and stable environment. Though the cost may be financially high, how can it compare to the suffering of the individual and their unfortunate victims? There may be losses in certain areas, but if the criminal justice system would take into consideration the decreased rates in recidivism after receiving ongoing support for mental health disorders, the results would be highly favorable when looking at the bigger picture.

Could Positive Reinforcement Help End Recidivism?

By Pyerse Dandridge
Author: Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp

Positive reinforcement is an important part of encouraging a constructive work ethic. Millions of people work hard at their everyday jobs, however, when there’s a lack of constructive criticism, many begin to feel like their work is unappreciated. Instead of increasing morale, an increase of mistakes are pointed out. This often leads to a change in attitude, work ethic, and dedication to the job.

This same principle can be applied to men with the potential to recidivate. Many men, after release, feel a variety of attitudes toward who they are as a person based on their criminal past. Stereotypes, profiling, exclusion, negative assumptions, and other similar attitudes are the automatic “go to” treatment of former criminals. This causes many former criminals become repeat criminals. It seems that no matter what they do, it will never be good enough.

Thus, positive reinforcement is clearly an approach to consider concerning recidivism. For these men, even the most minute form of constructive feedback can mean the difference between a life of repeated crime, and paving the way to a brighter future. Positive reinforcement could be shown by talking with the individual and showing excitement and approval for their positive actions. Those actions may be finding a job (no matter how small), volunteer work, consistency, charity work, positive attitudes, staying out of trouble, taking care of family members, etc.

When one has lost their belief in a positive life for themselves, and they feel that others have as well, it is easy to feel incapable of making changes. There are many parts of life where one can become stagnant. For example, many people have higher hopes for themselves in life. An individual may have a fairly good job in a medical office, but their real dream is to be a writer, lawyer, or even a doctor. However, with a steady paycheck available, job security, and little time to search for a new job, people often put their dreams on the backburner, and continue to live the life that’s easy. With motivation and positive words, we all can go after our dreams, rather than remain in a stagnant spot with our feet planted.

This is true for these former inmates too. What has been drilled into their heads for the duration of their incarceration, as well as their life prior to that, is what forces them to stick with what’s comfortable or with what they know. Without positive reinforcement, it’s so much easier to go back to those stagnant ways of living. By implementing positive reinforcement, these men can feel that even the small steps toward change are worth it and can brighten their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

How Does Intervention Prevent Recidivism And Does It Work To Prevent Inmates From Going Back To Prison

By Pyerse Dandridge
Author: Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp

Intervention should be a staple in the lives of those reentering society after serving a sentence. Predictions on the likelihood of recidivism based on various methods of study can definitely show positive results. However, should intervention only focus on those in immediate need? The effort towards intervention to prevent recidivism tends to focus on those at higher risk, but should intervention wait until it’s too late and past the opportune time to intervene for those seemingly at low risk to recidivate? I don’t believe it should. Intervention could be more successful in terms of prevention if men were seen in terms of their individual characteristics, rather than in groups based on blanket expectations or assumptions.

Those who have graduated high school, have friends who avoid trouble,or work hard to gain legitimate employment are at a lower risk of recidivating. In contrast, those who do not seek gainful employment, have a minimum education, bad tempers and impulses, or fail to change their choices post-release, are at higher risk for recidivism. Using high risk determining factors make sense in terms of who to target for achieving recidivism prevention, however former inmates who are considered low-risk are left with little influence towards maintaining a positive future.

Interventions are focused on current behaviors and principles rather than past actions.  For example, it may be beneficial to counsel a former criminal in regards to their past tendencies. Combating behaviors like anti-socialism, anger issues and grief, which are characteristics that ultimately led them to prison, would be beneficial in overcoming recidivism. The best way to target these behaviors is by talking about their current emotions and behaviors instead of focusing on their past mistakes.

Other intervention tactics include action plans instead of counseling. Action based interventions such as learning social skills to replace anti-social behavior, anger, aggression and distrust are often used. Other learning programs target new attitudes, perceptions, beliefs, and include family members in making these new changes. Then there are programs that include drug and alcohol education, lectures, self-help, reading, and other self-improvement techniques to increase self-worth and self-efficacy.

These intervention tactics are of no use to those who have a lower risk of recidivating. Programs with counseling are better choices for those that are at a lower risk because it gives them a chance to mentally walk through their behavior and psychologically/ create a plan to stay on the right path. Intervention tactics that focus solely on the idea that those who are “more likely” to recidivate are of higher priority and concern should be reevaluated. With the high probability of recidivism amongst men after their release, one would think that there would be more outlets targeted to all the varying individuals at risk, rather than just those “more likely” to be at risk. After all, shouldn’t all men have the same opportunity to receive help to provide a better future for themselves?

The Financial Troubles That Recidivism Doesn’t Solve: The Problems of the Formerly Incarcerated

By Pyerse Dandridge
Author: Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp

Imagine a man stealing from the grocery store to feed his children. He is caught, serves his time and is later released from prison. In his attempt to follow the correct path, he discovers that no one is willing to give him help or guidance. He now feels forced to steal again to feed his family and handle his responsibilities. Should we still fault him? Should we still group him with other men based on standard comparable criteria such as race and gender, or would it be fairer to factor in his individual circumstances?

Recidivism programs are meant to help former inmates become successful in their communities and prevent them from ever going back to prison. However, upon release from incarceration, many are faced with serious troubles, regardless of their good intentions. Their primary concern is always how to make money, especially if they have a wife, children, or a family who was financially hurt by their time away. All of these factors contribute to their incessant need for provisions. It is often difficult to find legitimate ways to obtain financial means to cover their expenses. To prevent depression, the former inmate could be pressured into committing another crime in order to fulfill his responsibilities.

Programs that are targeted towards recidivism are often designed based on socioeconomic criteria, but every individual is different. Criteria such as race, gender, ethnicity and education are also used. While it may be true that these factors play a large role in a man’s likelihood to be a repeat offender, each individual’s reason for their actions are all subjective.  When these men are studied on an objective basis, there is little room to study the wide variety of individual circumstances that make up for their choices. The system rarely has time to take into account every detail of a person’s personal life so, these men are often grouped in with others “of the like.” Because of this, men often feel that they have no choice but to provide for themselves and others the only way they know how.

Considering this, what is the purpose of incarceration? Essentially, an individual must pay for their crimes based on the order of a court judge. However, after that individual has served the allotted time to “pay” for their crimes, when are they able to reconvene with their lives and leave it behind them? Of course, there are crimes in which one may require more severe repercussions and monitoring, but to what extent must they continuously pay? Even after they have served their time hiring businesses continue to shun those with criminal records.

Without comprehending the motivation behind recidivism, it is difficult to pinpoint the best way to resolve it. The standard physical characteristics and background of a person are only a fraction of who they are and why they do what they do. By relying solely on standard criteria, it is difficult to foresee a significant improvement in the likelihood of recidivism.

Recidivism Efforts Are UnSuccessful

By Pyerse Dandridge
Author: Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp

The study and analysis of the risk of recidivism for men still requires an ongoing investigation. Clinical trials are a primary option for determining explanations for repeat offenders and while studying the subject statistically, analysts can look at the matter from a socioeconomic standpoint. It is suggested that those from a similar background would experience comparable risks for repeat offenses. From my experience, recidivism occurs more frequently to those that don’t have a healthy support system, quality employment options, or a positive living conditions.

Many analysts have attempted to find the proper criteria for predicting recidivism. For example, men who did not finish high school are compared to other groups using the same characteristics based on gender, race, socioeconomic status, and other similar prediction factors. However, the fact remains that though the data predicts an outcome, resolutions for the prevention have yet to make a significant mark in life after incarceration.

Within three years of release, the average percentage for repeat offenders that return to prison is over fifty percent. Statistics, tests, and studies often show several different answers and opinions on why past offenders repeat the same crime or commit new crimes. However, the commonality amongst most socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic lines remains that these men are often unable to reenter society without crashing into the same situations they were under before. Men are often released and reconnected with their past troubles such as family problems, mental health issues, drug and alcohol dependencies, etc. An individual’s community, employment options, and housing play a large role in the likelihood to re-offend. Without substantial guidance and fair opportunities, it is very difficult to rebuild without proper tools.

Many men who have committed crimes are unable to gain legitimate employment due to large gaps in employment history, lack of education, and stigmas based on their past indiscretions. When I returned home, I was discouraged while looking for quality housing and employment. It’s true that I could have found a minimum wage job any day of the week, but they often are poor work environments that wouldn’t cover living expenses or pay me what I’m worth. To make enough money to get by, I would have to work long hours and possible cut back on entertainment and investing in future. Frustrated with my search, I found myself tempted to return to prison because I found it easier to be there than to figure out how to survive the civilian world as an ex-felon.

Armed with the idea of being an entrepreneur, I worked hard to become self-employed as a writer since I had an English degree. However, when I tried to bid for jobs, I found that I didn’t qualify because of my lack of people skills, previous occupational experience, and lack of recommending connections. It was a massive career change since I had only worked in restaurants and was competing against those that had more experience in writing. Even when I did have a great recommendation, my criminal background disqualified me from employment. I decided to live as cheaply as possible and with my parents until my self-employment could cover my living expenses.

Before moving in with my parents, I had issues finding a decent place to live. I spent my childhood in the suburbs, but couldn’t afford that type of upscale living after prison. My first apartment after incarceration was in studio in Oak Park, a poverty stricken and crime riddled area of Sacramento. The place was cheap and the landlord didn’t mind me having a prior felony. Although I didn’t experience any issues, this part of town was very new to me. I tried my best to get out of the area, but because of my record and lack of quality employment, I didn’t have a chance. Several former inmates find themselves in Oak Park or similar places. Without a deep belief in their abilities or themselves, they could be stuck in the same conditions, unable to obtain education to transition into better opportunities.

The criminal justice system seems to be more focused on apprehending criminals rather than attempting to offer assistance in the aftermath of the arrest. As I mentioned in my book, Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp, prison does nothing to help the inmates re-adjust to society. Thus, the rising amount of recidivism in this country has yet to be solved. Overcrowding and poor living conditions often leave inmates with little choice than to do what is necessary to survive. Sometimes those choices that caused them to see the inside walls of correctional facilities follow them when they reenter society and the cycle continues.

Analysts continue to attempt to predict the risk of recidivism, but the goal should be differentiating between high and low-risk offenders in order to parallel sentencing, prevent overcrowding, and save longer and necessary sentences for extremely dangerous offenders. The risk remains, however, that returning to society often leaves offenders unable to make a living, eat, or provide for themselves or their families without running into frequent roadblocks. It is safe to say recidivism possibly exists because although these men have served their time, it never quite feels, to them, as though they have.

The Importance of Making Your Loved-Ones Active in Post-Prison Recovery

As detailed in my book, Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp, prison is very difficult for the individual who’s going to prison. Yet, what’s not often talked about is how an inmate’s loved ones suffer because of it. Prison is meant to punish those that break the law, but it actually ends up punishing those connected to the inmate.

In my experience, my family wished there was something they could have done to prevent my incarceration. I told them that I don’t know why it happened to me, but there was nothing they could’ve done to prevent it, it’s just the system. My mom felt as if she had to do something to make my prison camp stay easier and my return a successful one. I was trying to avoid getting her in my mess until I learned that by helping me, it was also helping and healing her. Other family members also wished they could do more to make my return from prison easier.

In 2009, during the housing crisis, I purchased five homes with faulty subprime loans and was indicted for bank fraud. I was eventually released on my own recognizance (O.R). In 2011, I was sentenced to seventeen months in Herlong’s Federal Prison Camp. Federal prison camps are the second lowest prison security level in which inmates can serve their sentences. These prisons, sometimes called Camp Fed, are usually non-violent institutions full of non-violent inmates such as white collar criminals, who have transferred from higher institutions. I attended a satellite prison camp which is adjacent to the main facility. It also assists the main facility in operating efficiently.  In my case, Herlong Prison Camp helped and served the Federal Correctional Institution, Herlong, which was a medium security prison.

While on O.R., I was awaiting my trial and sentencing and was extremely stressed and full of anxiety. I worried about exaggerated possibilities of financial ruin and despair. My family told me about how they knew people who got great jobs working as truck drivers and laborers after prison and that their transitions seemed pretty seamless. They stayed with family or girlfriends, got the best job they could find, and supported the girlfriend or moved into their own place. I heard stories that their transition took less than a few months. Of course, they had the necessary licenses and certificates they needed. If they didn’t have them, they simply went to school while in prison or when they returned home. I didn’t want those types of jobs because I worked in the restaurant industry too long and felt it was already emotionally and physically draining. I also felt that it was no way to support a future family, should I have one. I think my family was concerned I was being stubborn. Maybe I was, but I saw prison as a way to reset my life, so I didn’t want to be stuck at a job I was going to hate.

During the two years that I was on pretrial release, my parents helped me save money for my prison and post-prison life. I needed a way to support myself. They also gave me emotional support and encouragement. Daily my parents reminded me to hang in there and to focus on what I wanted to do in my life. However, when I was younger, I often remember they would tell me things like, “You’ve been through worse,” meaning I have previously dealt with more difficult challenges and if I can remember how I overcame those challenges, then I can overcome this one too. I also remembered my parents telling me when I was younger to avoid getting angry or depressed because the anger would blind me and prevent me from focusing on improving my situation. These things really helped me minimize my depression and helped me stay focused. They also assured me that I would have a place to come home to once I returned from prison and they kept my car while I was away. That help and this assurance not only helped me relax, but it was helped my parents because it was a clear and concrete solution to a problem.

Once I was in prison camp, my parents became active partners in my post-prison strategy. Now, they were not an emotional quarterback sitting on the sidelines, they were in the game and controlling the outcome. They sent me books to help me learn a trade so that I could find a better job. They also sent me magazines and newspapers so that I could stay current on events at home. Not only did that help me stay up to date with everything going on in my city of Sacramento, but it gave me business ideas that I was able to work on while in prison. When I told my family how I was putting ideas together because of those magazines and journals, their minds were at ease.

My mother helped me type my novel that I had handwritten in prison camp. The pages she typed helped reduce the amount of time I spent typing the final draft. In fact, when I got home, I worked on the novel until my hard drive crashed. I lost the entire novel except for what she had saved on her computer. I am so thankful to her, not only for this but for all her support along the way. She even helped me with my driver’s license. She mailed me a form that wiped out my entire financial penalty because I was in prison. I didn’t know that was possible. However, she was the one who did the research online to find it. Also, she was online researching several ideas for me and downloading articles that supported or were in conflict with my ideas.

One of my ideas was to create a blog about random topics and articles I wrote while in prison. That idea is now my blog at www.pyersedandridge.com where I talk about my past and my post prison journey. Another idea I was working on were fundraisers to help an organization, which I cannot name, that I have been a part of for several years. I also worked out an idea to sell books online, which I’m doing now. When my mom visited me, I explained in detail how she was helping me and how she was giving me so much optimism. I didn’t like discussing my prison life while she was visiting, but I could see that once she saw me in good health and saw my positive spirit, she was more comfortable. She would have visited more, but she felt she didn’t need to keep seeing me because she hated the drive to Herlong.

Visits are so good to have, but they are very draining and take the better part of the day (usually like 8:00 am – 2:30 pm). Then after about three hours, we would run out of things to discuss. The two times my mom visited me, she saw how busy I was and that made her and the family more comfortable. The visiting room was a large room connected to a security window and sealed a metal door. The room was painted white and had vending machines, civilian and inmate restrooms, a play area for the children, and chairs for the visitors. At the camp level, inmates can get one hug and one kiss from each visitor. I’ve seen inmates have newborns and toddlers sitting on their laps.

If I had to give anyone advice, I would suggest being an active part of your loved one’s post-prison strategy. That is what helped me the most. I also noticed it helped minimize my parent’s stress while increasing assurance that I would return home safe and have a productive post prison life. Because of all they have done, I’ve dedicated my book, Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp to them. The help that they continue to give me aids in my surety that I will never spend time in prison again.

 

This was re-posted on www.prisonthehiddensentence.com

Could College For Convicts Reduce Recidivism?

I was reading an article by Professor Charles J. Reid, Jr. discussing rather education could lower recidivism rates. He references Christopher Zoukis’ book, College For Convicts.  I thought Reid had some great points and I wanted to discuss them here in this post.

In College For Convicts, Zoukis suggested that maybe if inmates obtain degrees, their odds of going back to prison and committing a crime could be reduced.

“Among inmates who have completed high school courses, recidivism rates drop to 54.6 percent. Those who complete high school or the GED have an even lower rate. Vocational training brings recidivism down to approximately 30 percent. For prisoners who attain an associate’s degree: 13.7 percent recidivism. For prisoners who attain a bachelor’s degree: only 5.6 percent recidivism. And for prisoners who attain a master’s degree: 0 percent recidivism. Zero!” (p. 13)”

I’ve never read this book, but based on my experiences there may be a point to this evidence. People commit crimes because of lack of money or resources. I spent time with inmates who committed crimes because they couldn’t get the money they need to handle their responsibilities.  Most of these individuals had minimum wage jobs and were unable to obtain a higher paying job because of their education or lack of skills.

It’s easy to see why they had a lack of finances. Let’s look at the salaries of individuals with different educational levels. According to an article on Chron.com,, “Those [who have records or not] with no high school diplomas had the lowest median earnings of $23,452 per year and the highest unemployment rate of 14.1 percent (of 2011).”

I’ve served time with inmates who never obtained a GED. As I mentioned in my book, Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp, it’s possible for inmates to serve their entire sentence without obtaining their GED. This means that they are very likely to be unemployed, which is usually a violation of probation. It also puts the inmate in a position where they are unable to compete for jobs, giving them the impression that they would need to commit crimes to pay bills.

Education LevelAverage SalaryUnemployment Rate
No High School or GED23,45214.1
High School Diploma33,1769.4
Associates Degree39,9366.8
Bachelor’s Degree54,7564.2
Master’s Degree65,6763.6

In regards to the above information, I am not suggesting that formerly incarcerated individuals with master’s degrees will be making $65,000 or more a year. I am saying that based on those stats, I can see how an inmate with a high degree could reduce his chances of returning to prison. He would more than likely find a job that he enjoys and benefits many people, thus feeling rewarded. This would give him the chance to earn the money needed to sustain the lifestyle he desires.

However, without a master’s degree, the inmate could see if self-employment or entrepreneurship are fruitful opportunities. Otherwise, the inmate may find a demeaning job which he’ll hate. This could put him into a position where he’ll have to choose to sacrifice his manhood for pennies. When I was working as a dishwasher that is how I felt. As I washed the dishes, I would routinely have hot or dirty water splashed in my face. The ‘front of the house’ employees and managers would look down on me because of my position in the restaurant. Although I was actually more educated than they were, they only saw a Black man washing dishes. In an effort to resign, I sought out jobs that I normally wouldn’t keep or work to gain a promotion in.

However, since I graduated with a degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, I can work as a writer. When I write I feel free from all the drama and office politics. I feel as if I’m spending time doing something meaningful for the community. What if it is possible for inmates to reduce their chances of going back to prison with education? Based on my life after prison camp, inmates should further their education and improve their chances in society.

What do you think? Add your comments below in the discussion section.

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The Importance of Having a Routine In Federal Prison Camp


4 Reasons Routines Help You in Prison

Routines can seem mundane and tedious to the person that has to follow its rigid structure. It can almost feel like life’s daily assembly line. However, having a daily schedule maximizes your day and allows you to be much more productive in life, even if you are in prison. Just because you are behind lock and key doesn’t mean that you can’t create an enjoyable schedule for yourself. While I was in federal prison camp for 17 months, I noticed that having a consistent routine is very important for the success of inmates. Here are four reasons you should keep a routine while in federal prison camp.

Routines Help You To…

  1. Work On Yourself
    While in prison camp, I had a routine that allowed me to better myself. Most inmates better themselves with education, however, I already had a degree in English. I created a routine which allowed me to workout alone or with a fellow inmate. I also made time to find spirituality and obtain a greater understanding of myself.
  2. Stay Out Of Trouble
    I personally feel that the biggest advantage to establishing a routine was the fact that I didn’t get caught up in drama or prison politics. I was too busy doing what I needed to do that I didn’t have a lot of time for unnecessary crap. The inmates that sat around and did nothing were easily drawn to trouble. It was usually the newer inmates that found themselves in trouble over petty things like showers or television shows.
  3. Ease Family Worries
    Another advantage of having a routine is that it always gave me something positive to tell my family. No one really thinks about how much family members suffer when a loved one is locked away. Quite naturally, my family was concerned about me being in prison. However, when I told them that I was writing books, studying, working out, and reading, they became more at ease. Instead of picturing me stressed out, bored as hell, or getting into trouble, they pictured me bettering myself just as if I was in college all over again.
  4. Accomplish Goals
    After prison life, my routines never ended. To be honest, I personally feel that having a routine helped me focus on re-establishing my post-prison life. My desire was to have a steady career as a writer so I went to the library to write my journal. My journal eventually turned into my first book called Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp. My routine also allowed time for other writing projects as well.

If you haven’t already watched the video above, check it out. It will give you more information on the importance of a routine for inmates.