29 May 2017

Variety

SHARING IS CARINGShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on PinterestShare on TumblrPrint this page

imageedit_1_7925133951

Every woman in prison the nymph Thetis. Wanting to make her son Achilles immortal like her, she dipped him in the River Styx. She held him by the heel and Styx missed a spot, leaving a tiny invitation at the back of Achilles’ foot to anyone who wanted to take him down.

In here, we mother each other. I dip, you dip, we dip when we say: “I don’t judge you [for your crime]” and “The only person who can judge us is God” and “People make mistakes” and “I know you’re a good person,” spraying an invisible coating that will deflect scorn we get from the CO’s and in courtrooms, from people we’ll meet in the future. Protected, our self-esteem never will never die if we listen to each other. Condemnation will wait forever.

Thetis never wanted to vanquish her own son. If she had, it would have been easy because she knew vulnerability’s secret location, like we know what someone can be judged for.

Whenever rage rears its head it goes for the heel. Disputes over commissary or gossip or prison property rights devolve into accusations and name calling, using the words I hate: the conclusory nouns like ‘murderer’ and  ‘criminal’ and any descriptors that invoke the crimes that brought women here. They call each other fucking thieves and robbers and forgers and the worst: they challenge others’ ability to mother their children, as if any woman with children who’s in here isn’t in the same boat on the Styx.

arrow1

“Who the fuck’s takin’ care a’ your kids?” they shout at each other. Apparently, it’s a mark of real exclusivity not to have one’s kids in foster care.

While I’m screaming:

“Ladies, please! Let’s not conflate the person and the behavior!” they throw each others’ convictions, charges and arrest headlines in at each other, not even careful to aim for Achilles’ weakness since once we bring up each other’s crimes that impermeability isn’t limited to the ankles anymore.  In fact, it’s gone totally. What the protector giveth, the protector can taketh away.

arrow2

I think it’s telling that Thetis’s son, Achilles, gets nailed by none other than a provider of judgment, the judge of the ancient world’s Fairest of Them All pageant. Paris was his name and, in exchange for the opportunity to steal the world’s most beautiful woman from her marital bed, he rendered a decision in Aphrodite’s favor. Crooked bastard.

Of all the people who can condemn us morally, we do it to ourselves the most. The people who should judge least do it the most. Public enemy’s worst enemy is herself. If society acts like this when they get pissed at us, we’ll never be allowed to forget where we were.

arrow4

As I am sitting in the back of the GED classroom typing this, Shirelle ran in, yelling, pointing to the hallway and devoid of any intent to work on her writing assignment.

“Motherfucking murderer, killer bitch! Dirty bitch. Go beat someone to death and stuff their body in a box you’re too stupid to get rid of!

“Whoa. You alright?” Kelly asked her.

arrow5

“This bitch killed a bitch because she was jealous and stuffed her ass in an air-conditioner box. She’s a motherfuckin’ murderer and I’m not takin’ any of her shit.”

I knew exactly who she was talking about. The chick with the body-in-the-box was my cellmate.

“Wait…what’re you…aren’t you here for murder?” I asked Shirelle, eyes slitted into Whachyou talkin’ about Willis?

“Yeah, but I’m not that type of murderer, ‘kay?”

“Well, then,” I shrugged and sat in judgment, asking her to expose her heel like I was Paris, which I’m not because that motherfucker was murderer and a kidnapper.

“What kind of murderer are you?”

arrow3

 

THREE IDEAS IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE FROM MAY 22 – 28, 2017

facebook dick

While some New York media outlets reported the arrest of three staff members at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center for raping inmates, only the New York Post reported how they were caught. “Three of Lt. Eugenio Perez’s five victims separately gave investigators matching descriptions of the prison guard’s penis right down to the nickname he’d bestowed on it…” is how the Post put it. Another lieutenant, Carlos Richard Martinez, posted “It’s only PREA [Prison Rape Elimination Act] when you don’t like it,” on Facebook. Leaving aside for a moment any discussion of the amount of class that these two federal employees have, it’s important to note that prison rape is so rampant that these two thought they would never get caught and, certainly, never be punished, otherwise they wouldn’t have shared their crimes and introduced their privates to inmates.

Lee Boyd Malvo, the 17-year old who was suckered into going on a serial sniping spree in 2002 watched his life without parole sentences sail out the window on Friday when a Virginia judge vacated them.  I always felt that this kid, who lacked a positive male role model, was hijacked by John Allen Muhammad, a very ill man who was 25 years his senior, and brought into crimes he never would have been involved with otherwise. Malvo admitted well after his sentencing  – when it couldn’t mitigate his punishment – that Muhammad sexually abused him. In 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional in Miller v. Alabama. Last year the Supreme Court applied Miller retroactively to sentences issued before 2012, paving the way for the Virginia judge to give Malvo another turn at sentencing. By all accounts (except the prosecutors’ – because they have to show how big their dicks are) Malvo is contrite and a well-behaved inmate. He deserves a chance.

This week brought three more instances of Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke’s coloring outside the lines. Allegedly the man who ran the jail where four inmates perished in six months (including one who was dehydrated to death) plagiarized his master’s thesis, projects the image that he’s earned medals for valor when he really just wears a big pin collection like costume jewelry,  and had someone who barely disagreed with him on a plane detained and questioned by his deputies. I almost want him to become the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security because this man will never quit this fraud, puffery and abuse. I think people need to know how corrupt and abusive law enforcement is and Clarke likes the attention; he’ll put law enforcement’s warts on full display so people can really understand who’s supposed to be keeping them safe.

SHARING IS CARINGShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on PinterestShare on TumblrPrint this page
22 May 2017

No Chaser

SHARING IS CARINGShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on PinterestShare on TumblrPrint this page

spicoli

No other inmate believes me when I tell her I’ve never smoked a cigarette or pot. They all accuse me of trying too hard to appear pure.

“I think the fact that I’m telling you this in a maximum-security prison makes a Snow White schtick a little difficult for me,” I defended myself. I use so many words that I sound like Mr. Hand talking to a Spicoli.

It’s not like the potheads here are badasses. In a Connecticut criminal courtroom, the word “marijuana” couldn’t be uttered without the phrase “low-level” accompanying it in the sentence so it’s been decriminalized. I haven’t, but weed has been freed.

I may be the only person who favors prison reform yet hates any type of permissive attitude towards pot.  I can’t deal with stoners. Talk to a daily smoker and tell me that they haven’t dumbed down. While it is true that there’s scant evidence of marijuana-induced violence, I live in a vat of anecdotal evidence that potheads are screw-ups and lumps.

To me,  even in their resting states, they’re as craven as heroin addicts but very few people will recognize that, especially since everyone in here treats pot like it’s Diet Coke, simply because it’s not crack. Many of them have sworn off harder drugs, at least in word if not in deed, but still fantasize about rolling a blunt the day they leave prison. They don’t dream of reuniting with their kids, reconciling with victims, or even walking down a street as a free person. Fatties are all they want.

When your top thought is how you can chemically alter your interface with reality, you’re an addict. Does it really matter that scientists say you can’t be physically addicted to pot? I see women who are psychologically addicted to getting high. Several of them have been inside for several years. Now with reform underway, they’ll emerge to a society that will make it easier for them to find this chemical release. In fact, the most common question I hear is “Can you help me get a medical marijuana card so I won’t violate probation when I get out?” Even if possessing it is legal now, smoking it can get them packed back into prison if they are under supervision that requires drug-testing.

I support what the Connecticut General Assembly just did to marijuana for one reason only: decriminalization will unclog the courts. Most people don’t realize that it’s not just lazy lawyers or pompous prosecutors or cuckoo cops; the size of our criminal justice system contributes to wrongful convictions. Any system manned by human beings has a margin of error. When that system grows larger, the percentage of errors may not necessarily increase but the number of errors does. The fewer criminal cases we have crowding our dockets, the less likely people are to be confined for something that they didn’t do. I don’t support legalization because I want everyone lighting up.

I’m the adult child of an alcoholic. As a kid, I never understood why my parents needed to alter their realities. A child can’t understand why temperaments change; they always blame themselves for what appears to be a parent’s unhappiness. When you’re the child of an alcoholic, booze can ruin your life even when you never touch a drop.

From watching my parents suffer from substances, I learned to like my dysphoria straight up. And I think everyone else should take it that way, too. At least if they want their lives to get better.

Almost every other woman I’ve encountered has a history of substance abuse so the mostly-discredited claim of  ‘marijuana’s a gateway drug’ actually works in here. So many of them are turnstiles already; they’ve used and been used in every way possible and their gateways are several thousand miles behind them. There’s no drug user in this prison who skipped an intoxicant grade. If they’ve used drugs – heroin to dust to an excess of Merlot –  then they’ve smoked pot.   All that anyone needs to know about disenfranchised women and drugs, legal or not, is that they’re a bad combination.

Don’t even attempt to convince me that potheads are generally content people who just relax with a toke. Anyone who gets high with anything is just trying to hide their unhappiness. No one who’s that happy needs to take the edge off their bliss.

No herb, no drink, no smoke can erase emptiness. Even if it’s legal, smoking pot won’t cure what ails them. After pot, it’s just a matter of time before they move to something else. They just won’t get arrested before that now. Only after.

Getting stoned will drain their ambition to rise out of the situations they live in and make it easier for inequality to chase them back into oppression. When poverty, a lack of education, and ever-present violence surround you, it’s just dumb to get high so you can be “mad chill.” No one who’s really on these women’s sides – like the decriminalization people claim to be – would want them stalled where they are with a dime bag, even if it’s outside of prison and can’t get them admission. When you chill, you stay where you are. That’s the last thing I want for the women here.

Of course, there are brilliant, ambitious people who use pot. Bill Maher, who I love, admits enjoying ganja and he’s not leaning on everyone else to get his work done. But for every Bill Maher, there are hundreds of stoned women around me who can’t Google what ailments would qualify them for a medical marijuana permit. They have to ask me, Mr. Hand, and can’t read my clear disdain for all of this.

I fully acknowledge that I would be a significantly duller pain in the ass if I were a bit more relaxed. I’ve wondered if pot would make me more socially-lubed and not the mass of high-strung seriousness I’ve been since the third grade. Just thinking about abandoning my self-imposed duties as monitor and arbiter of all things around me gives me flutters of panic. Who would do what I do? Just the thought of how out-of-control that scene would be scares the shit out of me. Pot’s dangerous if it threatens my imaginary presidence over daily life.

I know there’s evidence that marijuana has benefits for people’s health. I don’t doubt these scientific stats and I double my support for any effort to expand access to medical marijuana. If a remedy exists for someone’s physical illness and pain, we shouldn’t deny them what can make their lives both safe and livable. That’s as cruel and stupid as these life-without-parole sentences in federal courts for possessing a pound of the stuff. When it comes to the wacky-tabacky, we can act a little whacked. It’s better for you to get caught possessing a dead body, bloody fingers and a DNA match than a 20-pound brick of weed and a plan to sell it. If turning a hundred people into semi-responsive slackers is really worse than slaughtering someone, then everyone who teachers psychology would be doing life.

I think everyone’s lives should be safe, livable, and, quite frankly, at least a little bit happy, but not happy because their souls have been marinated or smoked or peppered with herb. I mean happy in the raw, and none of these stoners has ever been anything close to that. That’s why they’re here.

THREE IDEAS IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE FROM MAY 15 – 21, 2017

joe-lieberman-hearing-ap-img

Rumors are that President Trump wants to name former Connecticut senator and Al Gore-running mate Joseph Lieberman to head the FBI, which is an unconventional choice for top G-Man to say the least. Lieberman, who would be 85 at the end of his term as director if he were appointed, currently works at a law firm that has represented the president for more than a ten years. He also has no experience in federal police work or criminal law. So he’s compromised and potentially incompetent. Sounds like a fit for law enforcement.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, the supervisor of a jail where four inmates died within six months, including one man who dehydrated to death after guards shut off the water to his cell as well as a newborn baby, says he is joining the Department of Homeland Security although the department hasn’t confirmed that. Even though people perished on his watch, Clarke has remained silent on the matter. There are two ways to look at this: either abusing and neglecting inmates to the point that they died in his jail was okay with Clarke or it wasn’t. If it was, then I really don’t want him guarding anyone’s life. If he disapproved of how his employees behaved, then that’s just as bad because it shows they didn’t respect him enough to follow the policies and ethos he established. Either way, he’s unfit to lead.

For the first time ever, the murder of a transgender person was prosecuted as a federal hate crime. Joshua Vallum pleaded guilty to violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and was sentenced to 49 years in prison for the murder of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson, a transgender woman who was his ex-girlfriend. “Today’s sentencing reflects the importance of holding individuals accountable when they commit violent acts against transgender individuals,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions, like he cared that the victim was transgender. The New York Times, I think, made a bigger deal of this than it is. It’s not that killing trans people was legal before. It’s just that no federal court took jurisdiction and considered it an act of hate when a victim was transgender. I fail to see how this is a victory for criminal justice; it’s not as if someone will think twice about murder because the potential victim’s gender identity is not what’s expected. There’s no boon here for public safety or defendant’s rights.  It’s a victory for identity politics, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it won’t change courtrooms or police investigations all that much.

SHARING IS CARINGShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on PinterestShare on TumblrPrint this page
15 May 2017

Going Pro

SHARING IS CARINGShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on PinterestShare on TumblrPrint this page

Major-Hasan

 

I was less shocked than most to learn that the [November 5, 2009] massacre at Ford Hood was perpetrated by an Army psychiatrist named Nidal Malik Hassan. I know these professionals can be lunatics.

I was forced to see psychiatrists for years. While they dubbed me crazy, all I could do was watch from the couch as they displayed their own madness. One of my doctors left a drunken voice message for my parents, calling them “pieces of excrement” because they questioned his bill. Another wore glasses with women’s Gloria Vanderbilt frames; he was a 70 year-old man. When I asked him: 

“Is  this like a Seinfeld joke?” referring to that episode where George gets female frames, he had no idea what I was talking about.

A female shrink whom my parents foisted upon me accused me of covertly dating her husband, a man I’ve never met, and gallingly told me I was paranoid. The last doctor I saw wore a button on his lapel that read “Four More for Gore in 2004.” It was 2005 when I met him and I still wonder if he knows that W won the 2000 election. If you or I wore that button, these doctors would run after us with nets.

But apparently, some people are too important to be institutionalized or forced onto a shrink’s loveseat, even if it’s their own furniture. 

Prior to his fatal attack on 13 people, Dr. Hassan reportedly tried to convert patients at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to Islam. When studying for his Master’s in Public Health, Hassan allegedly made an academic presentation that extolled the virtues of suicide bombing, a totally unjustifiable topic for classroom PowerPoint slides.

The field of public health derives any power it has from numbers – biostatistics and epidemiology. Suicide bombers cannot be contacted in their fiery graves for input into statistical analysis so their violence can never be a legitimate public health study. To the extent that no numbers exist that make suicide bombings a good thing, the presentation was not a completed assignment but a display of mental illness.

Despite this wild performance of insanity, no one ever challenged Dr. Hassan’ s competence or reported him to licensing authorities which makes me think that I’m not the only one who expects shrinks to be nuts; everyone who worked with Hassan must have thought his behavior was essentially normal for him, otherwise they would have reported him, no?

Let’s be honest about this: no one ever reported Dr. Hassan to police or to Homeland Security because he was a doctor. His receiving a medical degree and passing his boards meant that Dr. Hassan was stable and bright; people thought that nothing serious could have been wrong with him if he had achieved so much. While he continued to practice as a licensed physician, his colleagues assumed that he was functional. They also assumed that reporting him for acting like a whacko would destroy his career.

Unfortunately, I witnessed this professional immunity and the tyranny of licensure up close as no one gave a shit about how myriad psychiatric diagnoses would ruin me. I met weekly, twice weekly, thrice weekly, biweekly and very weakly with these dubious masters, and they collected their data from two other professionals – my mommy, a licensed public health nurse (RN) and my daddy, a licensed attorney. Culling clinical data from someone other than the patient is generally unethical. Recording bizarre stories from someone other than the patient, stories that don’t track and holding them against the patient is just plain nuts.

“That doesn’t even make sense,” I would protest to them after my parents would manipulate them. Stories – not facts – data that ended up charting psychiatric misdiagnoses on me that made my file as veiny and layered as a AAA map yet still couldn’t tell anyone where to go with me. 

“They’re making sure you get the help you need. They care about you,” these psycho headshrinkers would tell me. They weren’t even experienced enough with the human experience to know that true care, love, for another person never gets rightfully paired with coercion. 

It seems like certain degrees and jobs make people immune to mental illness, at least in practice.   Professionals suffer from mental illness at equal, if not higher, rates than their non-professional counterparts, yet, if I had to advise someone who wanted to commit a crime or get a little squirrelly with no consequence, I’d tell them to get a professional license first.

Especially in the medical community, what would have been so bad about Dr. Hassan’s being confronted about his behavior and referred for evaluation? God littered the Kennedy family with doctors, lawyers, senators, congressmen and other esteemed professionals. That same family has displayed every possible dysfunction from mere depression to alleged sexual violence for over fifty years. The American Bar Association estimates that almost half of lawyers suffer from depression. 

This is exactly what happened to my father; his license to practice paved the inroads to facing his alcoholism, depression and anxiety. He ended up giving up the license in the face of losing it (he had a stroke and physically couldn’t handle the fight) but without that license to hold over his head no one – including himself – would have been able to help him.

The numbers are sketchier for doctors, probably because people hate them less as a profession and therefore complain about them less, generating less data to examine. Grievances against lawyers force them to interface with disciplinary authorities – sometimes even law enforcement – where they can be studied for population dynamics.  I guess lawyers are expected to be crazy while physicians heal thyselves.

Or, like Dr. Jihadi, they don’t. Psychiatrists are the first people to descry stigma, that it prevents people from seeking treatment, puts a damper on their accounts receivable. Yet when they refuse to sample their own product, shrinks end up perpetuating that stigma themselves. No one reported even the extremes of Dr. Hassan’s behavior for fear of dealing a fatal blow to his livelihood. Making the report that could have compelled Hassan to engage in treatment never needed to destroy his career. Failing to make the report, though, cost 13 lives, plus Hassan’s, because he’s slated for the death penalty for the attack.

Now every time an attorney or a shrink (they come with the attorney for me) screws up, I file a complaint against him with the appropriate licensing authorities. I’ll go after judges, too, even though they technically aren’t licensed to practice law. I think I’m up to seven complaints filed now.

“She’s always filing complaints!” one state’s attorney cries when I go to court.  She’s a pain in the ass and I’m waiting for her big fuck-up to nail her, too.

And I’m only doing it because I care, to help them, to make sure they get the help they need. 

 

THREE IDEAS  TWITTER ACCOUNTS TO FOLLOW IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE FROM MAY 8 – 14, 2017

Twitter_bird_logo_2012

If only real-life detectives worked like this…

This week I won’t give you three ideas to work on, but rather three people to follow on Twitter. These independent citizen journalists have broken news on what may be (probably is) an ongoing criminal investigation into the most powerful people in the country and, as it looks, their eventual  prosecution. Word on Twitter from these people is that  sealed indictments have already been handed down, even for President Trump, to serve as a basis for impeachment. These Twitterers have never been wrong.

First is Claude Taylor. Follow him on Twitter here. Paste Magazine wrote him up just a few days ago. He hasn’t been wrong yet, save a mistake in legal terminology on where the sealed indictments have come from (it’s the Eastern District of Virginia court, not a FISA court). It wasn’t a material error and this guy knows what’s going on.

Second would have been Louise Mensch, former Member of Parliament, and the journo who broke the story about the Obama administration’s securing a FISA warrant for investigation into Russian interference in the election. If you look at what she tweets here you can see she definitely has a solid source, probably from her political days, but sometimes hyperbole overtakes her.  This isn’t a challenge to Louise, but second place, for me,  is @Bitchyologist AKA Molly, who does some super-fast Google-sleuthing when news breaks. She’ll keep you up to date.

Lastly, is John Schindler, National Security columnist at the Observer. Months ago he tweeted that his sources in the intelligence community were going to see to it that Donald Trump dies in prison.  Pay special attention to his retweets on @20committee.

Claude Taylor doesn’t, but Mensch and Schindler have spotted pasts. She claims she did drugs and it affected her mind. He has an alleged dick-pic scandal behind him. And despite these problems, they’re still right, more right than mainstream media. 

#TrusttheOutsider 

#TeamScrewup

 

 

SHARING IS CARINGShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on PinterestShare on TumblrPrint this page
8 May 2017

Impatient Warning

SHARING IS CARINGShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on PinterestShare on TumblrPrint this page

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ADVANCE ONE STEP

Rachel* had a miscarriage, you know,” my cellmate said from behind me in line. Rachel, one 25 year-old woman on my floor, was lined up behind my cellie. Two months into her pregnancy, a fetus emptied itself out of her and into an industrial-flush toilet without Rachel’s ever seeing a physician.

I’m not sure exactly what she paid for two other inmates’ Haldol and Thorazine pills to keep her knocked out all day so insanity-making idleness couldn’t reach her. Whatever the price, Rachel got more than she bartered for after bingeing on anti-psychotics at abortifacient doses. At first blood, she asked to go to the medical unit where nurses told her that the doctor was out and was the only person who knew how to use the ultrasound machine. So they let her bleed. To quell her rising anxiety, Rachel took more Haldol and Thorazine, spotted tablets, tye-dyed by another woman’s saliva.

This upsets the usual paradigm of correctness in corrections, namely that the state is always right and the prisoner is always wrong. Unless you ask one of us, in which case, we are always right and the oppressor is wrong. The seesaw evened out on this one, though. Here, the nurses and Rachel all contributed to her misfortune of having to wait for large doses of Motrin to deal with her pain and continued bleeding.

“What should I do?” she asked Terry.

ADVANCE ONE STEP

“When you get out, get a lawyer and sue these motherfuckers! They let your baby die! Whadya think, Bunkie? She’s got a good case, right?”

“I don’t know. Maybe one of those pro-life groups will help you,” I said, looking straight ahead. We’re not supposed to talk in line.

“I didn’t get a fuckin’ abortion!” Rachel cried.

“Yo! Quiet in the common area!” a C/O shouted.

“No, you had a miscarriage, a spontaneous abortion. You’re thinking of induced abortions. Pro-lifers don’t like either one,” I explained quietly, still looking straight ahead like I was talking to an imaginary person.  “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

ADVANCE ONE STEP

I feel sorry for Rachel but, quite frankly, not that much. It might be that I’ve been here for five and a half years, watching heartache on repeat.  Or maybe I’ve refined my understanding of cause and effect in the House of Consequence. Should they have transported a pregnant, bleeding woman outside of the prison for a full exam? Of course. Is it their fault this woman took another person’s psych meds while pregnant? That’s on Rachel. Actually, on second thought, that’s their fault too, because they run Med-line, where the pills that probably caused this event were spirited away and sold to Rachel.

One of the worst parts of needing medical attention and/or medication in prison is Med-line. In the morning and at night, a guard escorts two nurses (their names are ‘A through L’ and ‘M through Z’) to each housing unit to dispense all pills that could somehow be abused. All psych meds, anything that can be stockpiled sufficiently for suicide attempts, gets dropped into the palms of the begging inmate who then swallows it and opens widely for a mouth check. Of all the degrading aspects of prison life, this has to come in, at least, in my top three. I’m getting over shitting as a spectator sport, bleeding all over my hirsute self, negotiating for a maxi-pad like its NAFTA, but this: lining up to be infantilized, like it’s something worth waiting for, is one of the biggest tortures for me. I’d do two weeks in seg in exchange for the chance to be trusted with my own healthcare. 

ADVANCE ONE STEP

When I first got here, ‘A through L’ went all Johnnie Cochran and told me:

“I peek so you can’t cheek.” 

They used to make me bob my head in all different directions to do these mouth checks.

“Head back!”

“Lift your tongue!

“Bow forward!”

ADVANCE ONE STEP

One even gloved up felt up the insides of my cheeks, mouth-fisted me like we were in some kind of German porno.

But they’re obviously not doing that to everyone if Rachel was able to put herself in such a fix that she’s just spent the rec period curled up on the floor, hugging her knees, and crying about her child, one who will never be.

Allowing this woman to take someone else’s Med-line pills and inadvertently erasing her child while no one in the medical unit rushed her to a local hospital for an ultrasound pointed out who was wrong. The nurses who failed to secure a timely sonogram are the same stiffs who’re monitoring me like I’m a medication magician but seem not to catch on when other Med-line diversionary tactics unfold – inmates pretending to drop pills, feigning choking, jumping down the nurses’ throats with insipid questions like the woman in front of me who’s asking:

“Is this pill pink or peach?” as she puts it up to the nurse’s face as she hides another pill under her finger around her water cup. The nurse knows the deal; the inmate’s hiding something but she plays along as if the color of the pill matters. It’s not like the inmate would even know if she’s getting the wrong med.

From my place in the Med-line, I can see that inmates are not always the ones in error. In fact, it’s not a case of prisoners being right or the staff being right, black and white.  As backwards as it sounds, prisoners and staff work together very well to be wrong. Our hijinks – like trying to get high off pills that were in someone else’s mouth, prescribed for them – work in tandem to cover up and augment the incompetence and neglect in this place. We know victimization so well that we take it over and do it to ourselves. And they let us. 

When it’s my chance to present myself to “A though L’ like an imbecile, I step forward and announce woodenly to both the nurse and the cheeky inmate as she steps away with some sedating drug under her forefinger, about to be placed on the prison black market so it can ruin another life:

“You’re both dead wrong.”

*Names have been changed

THREE IDEAS IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE FROM MAY 1 – 7, 2017

desiree-fairooz-e1493782132232

CODEPINK activist Desiree Fairooz, a woman who laughed during a Senate hearing to confirm Jeff Sessions as Attorney General and then caused a scene as she was being escorted out, was convicted by a jury on Wednesday ofdisorderly or disruptive conduct.”  Unlike many media reports that say she may go to jail for laughing, the foreperson of the jury was very clear that Fairooz wasn’t convicted of laughing, but for her conduct when Capitol Police tried to remove her from the hearing room. According to jurors, the way the law is written means “there’s almost no way that you can find them not guilty.” Lesson here: use your Fifth Amendment right not to speak around police at all. Even die-hard justice reformers talk to police, argue with them, ask why they’re being arrested. But, as you can see, even that can be a crime under our country’s ever-loosening laws. Fairooz’s crime was asking: “Why am I being taken out of here?” and then saying: “I was going to be quiet, and now you’re going to have me arrested? For what?”  If she hadn’t said anything she would never have been tried, much less convicted. I know she has a right to question why she’s being taken into custody, but in an era when police don’t follow procedure and respect rights, maybe it’s wise to fall back on the Fifth. Jail time is unlikely for this woman but still, take notes on this one: SAY NOTHING TO COPS.

The decision was rendered earlier, but it hit the news this week. Even though a defense lawyer was seven minutes late for trial after a court-imposed lunch break and the trial court started without him, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the defendant, a man named Alexander Roy, was not deprived of assistance of counsel.  In the United States, a court can try you if your lawyer is in the bathroom, passed out drunk or just running late and you will get no relief from an appellate court because of our “harmless error” doctrine, which basically admits that a defendant’s rights were violated but says that, because the person is so guilty, it doesn’t matter. The problem with the harmless error doctrine is that it forgets that everyone in the middle of a trial is innocent so any violation of rights, in theory, can harm them. By law, a defendant being tried can’t be guilty but we always think they are.  Roy was being tried for possession of child pornography so people will say that he’s not the most sympathetic case to make this point. That attitude shows how much we presume guilt in our defendants. That’s what he was accused of doing. And what if he didn’t do it?

The Sentencing Project released a study this week showing that a record 206,268 American prisoners are serving the equivalent of a life sentence. That’s almost 10 percent of all incarcerated people. And approximately 17,000 of them are serving those sentences for nonviolent crimes. Chew on that for the next 1400+ days of the Trump presidency.

And, because we’re talking about drugs here, note that anti-drug Trump cut the funding for the Office of Drug Control Policy by 95%. That’s the office that’s in charge of trafficked drugs, i.e. ones that cross the borders illegally.

SHARING IS CARINGShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on PinterestShare on TumblrPrint this page
1 May 2017

Throw Scissors

SHARING IS CARINGShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on PinterestShare on TumblrPrint this page

imageedit_34_5429272107

 

Scales symbolize justice because interests compete; one consideration can outweigh others.

It’s a classic problem in here: pitting an offender convicted of a serious, violent crime who has completely rehabilitated herself and poses no risk versus a repeat offender convicted of non-violent crimes who clearly will never reform herself. It’s all good to spank the shoplifter and bury the one who opportunes the use of a body bag, except when the shoplifter leaves a trail of failed deterrence and she lands in lockup for the same thing again and again. Eventually over 100 times.

Who do we let out? The Career Girl, someone who guarantees her promise of more victims or the woman with a single Whopper crime who will never do so much as change lanes without the proper turn signal if she were released? On paper,  Career Girl seems to win. But on scales, Whopper weighs in strongly.

imageedit_1_2643827904I see it every day. Whoppers stand-by as recidivists sing “I’m on a count-down!” – nearing the last day of her sentence. Everyone on this compound – including herself – knows she will screw up again. She worked while incarcerated because she was required to, but she did nothing to edify herself  – college courses, trade certification, nothing. She attended an accountability class on victimization and emerged believing that ripping off big-box stores hurts no one because she “doesn’t steal from people.” In fact, she considers shoplifting not only victimless but noble.

“I steal from the rich and give to the poor,” she declares, proudly defending a ream of a rap sheet and her choice of fences.

“Who do you give the money to?” I asked her once.

“Myself.” She was indignant.

The guards agree with her; they know her from her numerous returns over the years.

stone_PNG13573“You’ve never hurt anyone,” they reassure her and come together into de facto defense teams, talking each other out of writing her tickets to accomplish her early release as early as possible.

And she leaves behind the Whopper, convicted of felony murder for a burglary in which the homeowner died. She took college classes, has become certified in safe food service, commercial cleaning, cosmetology, all of the prison school’s meager offerings. Whopper acknowledges her direct and collateral victims and admits:

“My crime is horrible. I would do anything to rewind my life to that day.”  Remorse and regret tug her face downward each of the fourteen thousand, six hundred days she’s serving. She’ll never be released even though her supporters and critics agree she’d never reoffend. Wouldn’t she be a better candidate to be cut loose?

Crumbled-Paper-Ball-psd102642We never anticipate a fall in perfect balance, like this, a total tie, like a flipped coin that lands and stands on its edge. The method we use to make decisions is looking, watching for the essential tip that indicates Lady Justice’s favor, the way things should be. When we don’t get a glimpse of it, when we do land in equilibrium, we’re supposed clear off both sides, let them both out. But we don’t do that in corrections.

We need to chuck the scales and come to understand justice is like Rock-Paper-Scissors. Punishment is the rock, deterrence the paper because – examples are made big and wide not in courtrooms but in newspapers – and rehabilitation the scissors that sever an offender from old ways. In the game, none of the three trumps both of the others; it’s the nature of the game that each one’s power matches its vulnerability. Punishment can thwart rehabilitation just like the rock breaks the scissors. Rehabilitation can reform someone, cut through the paper, to the point that she’s an example to follow, no longer a cautionary tale. And deterrence should be able to counteract punishment the way paper covers rock, but it doesn’t.

Scissors-PNG-FileIn real life, when paper covers rock, it just blows away in a few minutes. Rock always wins, definitely against scissors – that’s the plan – but also against paper. And in the game, you never know how other players’ fingers will gather. In real life, though, you know who’s shooting what and who will win. No matter how sharp – or, in the case of Career Girl, how dull –  your shears are, punishment overtakes the game. Rock busts the scissors, punches through the paper, and shatters the scales. Everything else in the system breaks but retribution never even gets chipped.

I see Whopper when Career Girl discharges and say:

“Rock always wins.”

I have no idea whether she understood what I mean. But she throws scissors:

“Oh, they got crack up in here? I don’t want no part of that shit. My dirty days are over,” she says, losing again.

rps6

THREE IDEAS IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE FROM APRIL 24 – 30, 2017

Lock-Her-Up-1024x340

President Trump attended a 100-day rally in Pennsylvania where his supporters chanted, again, LOCK HER UP! Since the election is over and Hillary isn’t going anywhere, let’s look at three cases from this past week for real-life examples of women who are about to get locked up.

In Louisiana, two teachers were arrested for bullying one of their own students – even telling her to take her own life – encouraging classmates to fight each other and threatening to fail other children who complained. For that, the two women are charged with “malfeasance in office, intimidation and interference in school operations.” I don’t know about you. but I didn’t even know that ‘interference with school operations’ was a crime. The statute that made it so was undoubtedly designed to be used to charge students who didn’t really commit a crime on school grounds but whom administrators wanted to expel, and a criminal charge could underpin that administrative action. These teachers might run into students who have flowed through the school-to-prison pipeline, aided by the same penal law that landed them in cuffs.

In North Carolina, an Army vet was arrested for shooting her dog, five times at close range, after tying her pet to a tree. The video was posted on Facebook. The dog was her emotional support animal, assigned to her for a diagnosis of PTSD and other mental health complications stemming from her service to her country. The State of North Carolina includes “Veteran’s Courts” in its judicial system. They’re designed to handle crimes committed by veterans who have been traumatized by military service.

A woman in Maryland was arrested for first and second degree assault after an argument broke out in front of her house and she went inside, retrieved a machete, and came out and allegedly threatened someone until the arguers dispersed. She didn’t touch anyone with the large knife. If she had come out with a gun, Second Amendment supporters would have been on her side. Is it acceptable to come out one’s home with another weapon to create one’s own peace?

If you were a prosecutor on these cases, how would you proceed? What if you were the judge? Those decisions you envision now happen in the hundreds every business day around the country.

 

 

SHARING IS CARINGShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on PinterestShare on TumblrPrint this page