October, 2008

What Prisoners Miss Most

Prisoners miss what they cannot have. Those who serve time in supermax prisons, like the ADX in Florence, Colorado, live in sterile cells. They are deprived of nearly all human contact. Their mattress is thrown on a concrete slab. They can hardly move beyond the small space allotted to them. They cannot use the telephone […]

Effective Prison Reform: Restore Hope

Prisons operate with 70 percent recidivism rates for a simple reason. They extinguish hope. Instead of encouraging prisoners to develop values, skills, and resources that will help them live contributory lives, prison policies and the infrastructure of the prison system crushes the spirit and humanity of every man serving time. Overcoming the pervasive negativity requires […]

When Prisoners Ask Me for Guidance

After more than 21 years in prisons of every security level, I am usually the most senior prisoner in any institution where I am held. Others who are serving time frequently ask for my guidance. Rarely do I offer any suggestions pertaining to their legal standing, as I am not a lawyer. My area of […]

Prison Led me to Reflect, Repent, and Reform

My judge sentenced me to serve a 45-year prison term. That sanction at the age of 23 really woke me up. It helped me to understand that I had made some really bad choices as a younger man. I had to acknowledge my guilt. The decades that I would serve in prison gave me an […]

Prison as Part of my Future

Provided I receive permission from the parole officers who will supervise my release, I hope to build a career that will help individuals avoid prison, and that will help those forced to struggle through prison emerge successfully. Besides working with at-risk adolescents, I hope to lead seminars inside of our nation’s prison system that will […]

Prison culture encourages prison rape

In higher security prisons, where prisoners serve lengthy sentences and have histories of violence, prison inmates pursue power on a primal level. Criminals that are more sophisticated may have political skills, though many equate power with instilling fear in other men. Some predators rape weaker inmates in an effort to create illusions or reputations of […]

High-security Prisons Create Vicious Cycles

Since 2003, I have been confined in minimum-security prison camps. I share living space with many offenders who serve time for white collar crimes. In this environment, most of the prisoners behave well. They are educated and focus on preparing for the lives they want to lead upon release. In higher security prisons, where I […]

Prisons Fail to Prepare Offenders for Law-Abiding Lives

Many social scientists have observed that bureaucracies, in time, take on a life of their own. Prisons follow this pattern. Where they were originally designed to confine offenders into small cells until the men became penitent, they have since morphed into complex, total institutions that place little interest in whether offenders become penitent or whether […]

How Conservative Policies Influence Privileges in Prison

I received a question from a reader who wanted my opinion on the ways that conservative court policies influenced privileges in prison. My experience as a long-term prisoner has convinced me that federal judges rarely intervene in prison matters. They generally defer to prison administrators to make the rules. When courts do intervene in prison […]

Marriage in Prison

Frequently I receive letters from readers who’ve read my books about prison adjustments. One letter that I received today asked me questions about how I met my wife Carole, about how we married in a prison visiting room, and about how we have cultivated our love through all of the tribulations and turmoil that are […]

Professional Sports Agent Serves 60 Months for Smuggling Cuban Athletes

In September of 2008, I had an opportunity to speak with Gustavo “Gus” Dominguez at Taft Prison Camp. Gus was a founder of Total Sports International. He built a thriving career as a sports agent for Major League Baseball. Many of Gus’s clients played for the Cuban national team before they fled Castro’s oppressive regime for […]

Inappropriate Sexual Relationships in Prison

A criminal justice student who had read my book Inside:Life Behind Bars in America, asked me how often sexual contact occurred between officers and prisoners. She wanted to know how such behavior could escape notice from other authorities inside prisons. An Internet search on the subject would yield disturbing results. Around the same time that […]

The Time is Now for Prison Reform in America

This morning, Sunday October 19th, I woke early to watch the morning news reports and saw that supporters of Barack Obama donated more than $150 million to his campaign in September, and that General Colin Powell endorsed Obama’s campaign for the presidency. Karl Rove’s electoral map showed that if the election were held today, Obama […]

Why Can’t Guards Stop Prison Rape?

In my book, Inside:Life Behind Bars in America, one of the chapters describes a gruesome rape scene. The scene took place in a high-security penitentiary. Two wily and hardened convicts lured two new prisoners who were weak into a false sense of security. The group of four prisoners snorted meth and drank pruno together. Then, […]

About the Bureau of Prisons

My wife sent me an article from BOP.gov that is titled About the Bureau of Prisons. The article states that the BOP “helps reduce the potential for future criminal activity by encouraging inmates to participate in a range of programs that have been proven to reduce recidivism. My experience of having been locked within various […]