Prison reform

Community Sanctions Make Sense

When prisoners lack family or community support, where do they go when their sentences conclude? I spoke with Steve today, and this was a question that concerned him. He was completing a 10-year term for a crime related to drugs. Steve did not have a history of violence, and he had never been confined before. […]

Alternatives to Prison

The U.S. Sentencing Commission issued a report that said “alternate sanctions [to imprisonment] are important options for federal, state, and local criminal justice systems.” The report went on to hold that “alternatives to incarceration can provide a substitute for costly incarceration. Despite the published statements by the United States Sentencing Commission, judges rely on imprisonment […]

President Obama and Prison Reform

I feel confident that President Obama will take significant steps forward with regard to prison reform. I know that our country faces significant challenges going forward. American citizens are rightfully concerned about the economic crisis that has brought high unemployment. They want to see reduced costs and expanded coverage for health care. They want reforms […]

Prisons are Profit Centers for Lobbyists

Linda Pacheco is a college student who is expanding her understanding of the prison system by reading my work. I welcome the privilege of being able to contribute to her education. Clearly, she understands that I write from the perspective of a long-term prisoner. In an article I wrote about the interests of prison lobbyists, […]

Prison Camps Waste Taxpayer Resources

President Obama has repeatedly said that under his administration, leaders will evaluate the effectiveness of every government agency and program. Those that provide useful services to society will received appropriate resources, and those that fail will undergo reforms. I know the economy, the war efforts, foreign policy, energy, and health care take priority. As long-term […]

My Wife Opposes Funding Prisons in Economic Stimulus

I feel very proud of my wife for the active efforts she makes to live as an integral part of my life. In late January of this year, Carole told me that she had contacted the offices of both California senators to express her outrage that Republicans were trying to squeeze a billion dollars into […]

Prison Administrators Can Lower Recidivism Rates by Offering Incentives

As I watched political news shows this past Sunday morning, I heard many Republican pundits assailing President Obama’s economic stimulus package with accusations that it lacks incentives for success. I wish those conservatives would support the use of incentives when deliberating over strategies for prison reform. For more than 21 years I’ve served time in various […]

Prison Furloughs Can Lower Recidivism

American citizens have a vested interest in preparing offenders for successful re-entry into society. Those who leave prison without strong networks of support, without employment prospects, without a fundamental knowledge of the communities to which they will return, and without resources, stand a significantly higher chance of failure. When offenders revert to criminal activity upon […]

Prison Reform Like Foreign Policy Reform

As a prisoner in the midst of my 22nd year in continuous confinement, I have had a first-hand look at this system. I’ve served virtually my entire adult life within prison boundaries of every security level. This perspective has given me unique opportunities and experiences from which I have learned. They convince me that prisons […]

Economic Crisis Opens Possibilities for Prison Reform

I’ve been following newspaper reports that describe a crisis in the California penal system. Prison population levels have soared beyond the system’s capacity to handle effectively. Without sufficient space, administrators have crammed three prisoners or more into cells designated for one. Thousands more serve their time locked inside gymnasiums and rooms designed for recreation. Such […]

Locking More People of Power in Prison Will Promote Prison Reform! Bring in the Governor!

News reports show that federal law enforcement officers have arrested the sitting governor of Illinois. Governor Blagojevich may soon follow his predecessor, Illinois’ former governor Ryan into federal prison. I’ve been locked inside various federal prisons since 1987, and it always pleases me when formerly influential members of society join our community of felons. Besides […]

Prison Camps Waste Taxpayer Resources

Prison reforms should include the elimination, or significant restructuring, of minimum-security camps. I have been a federal prisoner since 1987, and since then I’ve served time in high-security penitentiaries as well as Federal Correctional Institutions. In 2003, administrators transferred me to serve the final decade of my sentence inside the open boundaries of various minimum-security […]

Media Attention May Promote Prison Reform

Television networks have begun broadcasting shows that bring the ugliest aspects of the prison culture into American living rooms. Shows like Lockdown, Maximum-Security, and Inside America’s Prisons perpetuate the stereotypical images of the prison yard. Those shows focus on the failure, the gangs, the tattoos, and the violence. I am convinced that lobbyists who represent […]

Prisoner Access to E-mail Makes Society Safer

J. Michaelsen wrote me a comment in response to an article I wrote suggesting that prison reform should bring email access to prisoners. The readers asked why I thought email access alone would help offenders prepare for release, and asked whether gang members would abuse such a privilege if it were offered. I appreciate these […]

Prison Lobbyists Enable Prisoners to Live Better than Some in Society

Carlos was a fellow prisoner who served with me inside Taft’s minimum-security camp. He was assigned to one of the cubicles adjacent to mine and we formed a friendship. Since he knew I spent a lot of time writing about the prison experience, he asked whether I ever wrote about what we as prisoners had […]