Punishing American Prisoners: No Dignity Allowed

As I neared the end of my stay at the Herlong Prison Camp, I realized that I didn’t like participating in furloughs. The so-called freedom I experienced was trumped by a self-realization that I was nothing more than free labor. I didn’t mean a thing to these people and all the hard work I did was truly unappreciated. I didn’t earn more respect or validate my dignity by working for them either. I get that inmates are being punished for their crimes, but that’s why they’re locked up. That’s the punishment, being taken away from family and friends, losing your stable income and the possibility of ever finding it again, as well as forfeiting any accomplishments you may have gained beforehand. It’s belittling, to say the least. To add insult to injury, prisons encourage inside labor and menial wages; they literally pay you a couple cents per day. If your post-prison goals don’t seem logical and reasonable to their administrators, then they’ll bluntly tell you how stupid and unrealistic your dreams are. Recidivism is high most likely because American prisons go beyond punishing criminals by stripping them of their dignity.

Dignity is the state of being worthy of honor and respect. It’s something that shouldn’t be lost during disciplinary action. Everyone agrees that telling young children they’re worthless for making mistakes is detrimental to the psyche of that child. Furthermore, it doesn’t help their self-esteem or the likelihood that they’ll have the confidence to shoot for the stars. The same is true for adults, criminal or law-abiding citizen. The lost of self-worth only leads to further problems in an inmate’s life, especially when they are released. Yet, American prisons seem to reduce the dignity of prisoners when they break up families, belittle inmates and their feelings, and invade their privacy.

In my book, Subprime Felon, I mention how most white collar criminals complained about their new harsh reality. They compared it to Europe’s prison system, which apparently allows home visits on the weekends. It seems American prisons aim to disrupt families by creating broken homes and relationships. Many inmates are sent far away from their families which makes it difficult to keep in contact. When I went into camp, I lost the ability to contact my family and friends at my leisure or on social media. The Trufone (telephone), TRULINCS, and mailing letters were the only ways I could talk to them. Family members had to create phone accounts and add money to it in order to talk to their loved ones. I had to pay for every email sent to them. When funds run out, so did the conversation. Unfortunately, funds are quickly depleted with just a few conversations. Also, most of my friends didn’t feel comfortable talking to me over the phone because it was recorded, and they didn’t know if the government was keeping their numbers on file. Other friends and family didn’t answer unknown or blocked calls, and when I called them, the caller ID would say either “blocked” or “unknown.”

Traveling is expensive and visiting hours are restricted to certain days. Visiting was out of my parent’s price range, so needless to say, I didn’t receive many visits. Nearing my release, I received only ninety days in a halfway house instead of six months. When I asked why they stated that I had a strong family connection and didn’t need as much assistance as other inmates. Perhaps the reason why other inmates didn’t have a strong connection could be due to the significant limitations to keeping in contact with family.

When an American prisoner is unable to visit familiar faces or talk to those who they’ve previously created a bond with, trouble can begin. Most often depression and guilt sets in. I know I’ve experienced this. I wondered how I got myself into this situation and blamed myself for my family estrangement. It was painful because I didn’t have the choice to spend the time I wanted to with my friends and family. That choice was made for me, and I was the only person to blame for it. I couldn’t help but to think of hugging and kissing and laughing with everyone at home. Not to mention, I was full of regret. I tried to focus on what I was going to do when I was released, but a counselor advised me that my dream of becoming a blogger and a writer was unrealistic. She wouldn’t even entertain the thought with me and offer suggestions. Instead, she claimed writers don’t make a lot of money. She also implied that writing wasn’t a skill that could keep me out of prison.  The meeting was a shocker, to say the least, and certainly didn’t help my self-esteem.

Dignity According to an article on Business Insider Australia, inmates in Europe’s prison system are treated like humans and not property. The correctional officers knock on cell doors before opening, have their own keys to their cells, and separate toilets. Prisoners can make their own schedules and are allowed to visit family on weekends. They are also allowed to vote while in prison and receive certain welfare benefits. They don’t throw away young adult lives by giving them life in prison if they commit a crime while underage (even if they’re 18 to 21) and solitary confinement is rarely used.

At the end of the day, an inmate still has to have some type of dignity. Dignity is the foundation of self-esteem and the fuel for confidence. Being treated with respect means that you have value in this world. Maybe dignity is the starting point of reducing recidivism. Either way, the article said it best, “there are better, more humane ways to respond to rule breaking.”

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.

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.

People Going To Prison For Drug-Related Crimes Doesn’t Make The Country Safer.

people going to prison for drug related crimes doesn't make the country safer. According to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts there were less than 5,000 people serving federal prison time for drug-related offenses in 1980. That number is now 95,000 today.

Americans want to believe that sending people to prison for drug-related crimes are the best option for keeping the streets clean. However, sending people to prison for drug-related crimes doesn’t make the country safer.

According to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, there were less than 5,000 people serving federal prison time for drug-related offenses in 1980. That number is now 95,000 today. Does this increase mean that law enforcement has improved their methods of finding and arresting criminals who violate drug laws? No, it means that the drugs are more accessible and more people are using drugs, thus, more people are getting arrested.

According to the White House’s “National Drug Control Strategy” report, drugs are more accessible because the prices for cocaine and crack and meth have dropped since the eighties.  

Also, according to the Pew, about 11 percent of traffickers are put into federal custody. This means that there are more traffickers available to the drug using population. This also means that it is easier for traffickers to obtain their supplies and get it to the necessary people. Not to mention, crack cocaine and meth are getting easier to make and there are several suppliers. Making their sentences longer doesn’t stop the problem either.  “The average prison sentence for a federal drug offender rose 36 percent between 1980 and 2011, tacking almost 20 additional months onto the average sentence,” according to the report on TakePart.com.

It’s easy to say that we should have better parenting, increase the price of the drugs, or even find ways to stop using them altogether. The truth is, those are not possible solutions. Parents could give their children all of the positive and moral values in the world, but children will do what they want. The prices of drugs are created by the market and demand for each drug and varies from street to street. To stop using drugs altogether would require an increase in trafficking laws to prevent the drugs from coming to the States as well as more drug rehabilitation programs.

I believe the solution is actually to legalize drugs. Then the money used to run prison facilities should be used to give adequate drug counseling and recovery programs to drug offenders. Lastly, I would change the law so that only the most violent offenders would be convicted and sent to prison. The non-violent offenders would get the help they need.

If my idea works, this would keep strong men and women in the streets, allowing the individuals to have jobs and contribute to the community. It would also create more jobs in the social work occupation.

However, I do believe the tide is changing in this direction. Colorado and other states have legalized marijuana, which has reduced the number of drug arrests in that state. I just hope that in my lifetime I could see these changes on the federal level.

Relaxing and How I Hoped To Apply Relaxing When I Got Home From Prison Camp

relaxation-technique

My goal in prison was to find various methods to help me stay positive. I knew it was going to be difficult, but I kept pushing to find ways to relax as well. As a method of staying busy, I kept a journal. Here is an insert from my personal prison camp journal. I discussed the importance of relaxing and how it would benefit me. The foundation of these concepts came from a book called, “Self-Discipline in 10 days: How To Go From Thinking to Doing, by Theodore Bryant, MSW.

Relaxation is another good way to stay positive. It allows me to de-stress and remove tension so that I can focus on what needs my attention. Meditation CD’s work too. One of my favorite is the Inner Temple of Witchcraft.

Learning to relax in my daily situations will prevent me from stressing and having anxiety and it will overall keep my stress to a minimum. I’ll take some relaxation or wellness classes to learn how to relax when meeting new people. Which is something I’m going to do a lot as I finish poems and perform them.

Also, I need to learn to build from my mistakes and “move like water” to help avoid and control anxiety. With those emotions under control, I hope the need for escapism and procrastination—two of my biggest problems resulting from fear of failure and fear of rejection, will also be under control as well.

The following relaxing techniques are those I found in Theodore Bryant’s book, which I then modified:

  1. Take a deep breath, slow my breathing and say “relax”. This technique will relax the tension in my body and I’ll gain a controlled breathing. This is something I could do while looking at a menu.
  2. In case someone immediately engages me in conversation, I will picture relaxing images or discuss relaxing subjects.
  3. Counteract any thoughts that prevent me from relaxing or enjoying the task at hand. If I have a quick conversation, I’ll have to send the person away or refuse to have any conversations until I’m fully relaxed.
  4. Remind myself as often as possible to relax and breathe.  I also won’t think about anything negative. It’s a problem I always have when talking to people.

 

These methods gave me the relaxation I needed to think and act at my peak performance. Do you have any relaxation methods? Share them below in the comments area.

Memorizing your poetry

Black Man

Have you ever seen a smooth poetry cafe where various poets get on stage, recite their poems with a cool swag, perfect delivery and awesome performance? Remember how the crowd snaps their fingers in approval? The entire experience is unforgettable and amazingly enjoyable.

I decided that I wanted to get on stage so I’ve been doing open mics at a place called Mahogany Urban Poetry Series. It a place in Sacramento, but I’ve been to other places in the area too. I’ve always gotten on stage and read my poems aloud. I never thought I could memorize them and be good at. I was dead wrong.

I’m still working on it, but I realized I allowed fear and anxiety to get to me. As soon as I let it go and got over my subconscious fear of memorization, I saw that my poetry came alive. I was able to empathize my verses and stress the meanings of my words with gestures and body language. Suddenly, I felt like a whole new world had opened up to me, just by doing a little bit of memorization. I want to get hooked! I want to memorize my poems and work on them as much as I can.  My goal is to work on them as much as two to three hours a day. I just want to hone in on my performances.

My reason for stressing over memorization is due to so many people telling me my poetry is solid, but I just need to memorize it. That’s saying a lot because many poets aren’t performers. They may have a great delivery, but they use clichés and are horrible writers because they rely on buzzwords to get the crowd going. You can use buzzwords, but if you’re a good writer, you’re able to convey a good message without it.

In order to perform on stage, excellent writing isn’t enough. You have to perform well because this is still entertainment. Of course, the better I perform, the more likely I’d sell books and CDs or drive traffic to my site. That’s my goal. I hope that by next week I could have a solid performance on tape so I can post it. Meanwhile, I am going to work on making time to rehearse daily.

Do you have any tips for memorization? Have you ever attended or performed at a spoken word cafe? Let’s talk about it.

4 Advantages Of Working For A Temp Agency

4 Advantages of Working for A Temp Agency

As of recently, I left my full time job at Bon Appetit (assigned at William Jessup University) to work for a temp agency called Acrobat Outsourcing. The reason I quit was because I was driving thirty minutes to and from work. I drive an SUV now, so you can imagine the gas the car needed. It damn near drunk forty dollars every three days.

The temp agency found me a job making the same hourly wage which was just enough to pay my necessary bills. However there’s a much bigger advantage to working for a temp agency. Here is a list of the advantages I’ve experienced while working for a temp agency.

More Time
I now have a lot more time to work on my writing career and I’m seeing some serious improvements. At the time of this post I’m writing almost three to four hours a day. I’m posting about four times a week and I started writing my second book. My second book will be about my prison camp experience and thoughts on the entire culture of prison. My goal, of course, is the post five times a day. So I’m slowly getting there.

Better Social Media Connections
My social media skills are improving since I’ve made the switch. This is because I’m now able to read articles online and in magazines. When you read more, the more interesting topics you can come up with. With more interesting topics, I’m able to have more interesting conversations on Facebook and Twitter. Not to mention, I’m able to interact with more people also. The more interactions I have, the more my social media connections will help to improve my traffic and book sales.

Healthy Eating
Switching to a temp agency mean I’m also eating better. No more eating junk in a hurry and no more eating only once a day. All of which I was doing to save time and money. Now, I’m not rich by any means, but because of my extra time, I can spend time cooking good food! I mean like veggies, pasta, and lean meat.

Healthy Body
I’m back to working out three times a week now. My goal is to workout five to ten times about once or twice a day, with two days off. I’m not trying to not trying to get ripped or strong, I just want my head to stay focused. I’ve noticed the more that I workout, the more focused and productive I am.

All the above is part of my post-prison plan to do what really matters to me. I want to do things that make me happy. I want to feel good when I wake up and start working. This, to me, is proof that I’m on my way to achieving it, but I know I still have a long way to go.

How To Get Readjusted After Returning From Prison Camp

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9 Tips for Reestablishing Your Life

So you just got home from prison, congratulations! I’m sure seeing your family was a fantastic blessing. Breathing that fresh, clean, FREE air is so refreshing. Now you need to get adjusted to society and get your life back in order. You’ve heard all the stories and lies, so let me show you how I get back on my feet.

I recommend walking the path that will get you on your feet and independent as fast as possible and then get a good job or your own business. If you go to a halfway house first, use it to your advantage. Get as many jobs and/or schooling as you can and stack up as much money as possible. I worked up to forty hours a week. Other inmates worked up to sixty hours a week.

Pyerse’s 9 Tips for Reestablishing Your Life

  1. Temp Agencies
    Employment is going to be HELL! No one wants to deal with your criminal history regardless of your crime. However many temp agencies want to people to fill jobs for catering events or weddings. I found several in Sacramento and Los Angeles. They had me washing dishes and serving food. My felony was never an issue. It even led to me having a full-time job with a company who loved my work ethic.
  2. Similar Prison Jobs
    Look for a job that was similar to your job in prison. If you did a lot of warehouse work, find a warehouse job. If you worked in HVAC, then find an HVAC job.
  3. Consider Truck Driving
    Though I didn’t do it, many of my friends started truck driving jobs and had tons of success.
  4. Go to School
    If you can’t find a job, look for job training classes. Sometimes, depending on your state, you can get government aid for going to school.
  5. Cheap Housing is Best
    Find the cheapest place to live. Whether it is your parent’s house or a girlfriend’s, stay there. Contribute as much as possible and as cheaply as possible. I rented a studio apartment for $500 per month. Try to look on craigslist in your city.
  6. Avoid Housing Discrimination
    Housing discrimination is very real. People are not going to care what your crime was, but as long as you are a felon, people will look down on you. I suggest looking for private owners and avoiding property management. A private owner is likely to discuss your past with you and judge you accordingly.
  7. Studios & Motels
    Now, these options are very expensive, but they do good as far credit checks or background checks. As long as you have the money, you have the place.
  8. Transportation
    Use Craigslist to get a decent car or live in a city that has great public transportation. Other good transportation ideas are a bicycle or a scooter. A scooter will save money on gas and get you around just as effectively as a car.
  9. Vouchers
    Look into getting food stamps and housing vouchers because getting these services will give you a head start. I was able to get $100 per month in food stamps, which was plenty for me.

Once you have a good foundation, you’ll need more clothes and furniture. For the time being, consider going to Goodwill and other thrift stores.  Also, don’t forget yard sales.

Once you have all of this done, consider looking for a job you really want or start your own business. You can clean up your resume to a professional job or go to school and get the degree you’ve always wanted.