Response to Readers

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. […]

The Pervasiveness of Prison Apathy

An old maxim holds that power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The prison culture is one that imbues staff members with an inordinate amount of power, while simultaneously stripping prisoners of a sense of efficacy. Consequences follow from such a culture. In the 1960s, Professor Milgram conducted an experiment at Yale University that […]

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 […]

Justice Requires Redemption

Justice Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court said that he thinks our country incarcerates too many people and that American prisoners serve sentences that are too long. I agree with him. Prisons have become our nation’s only response to crime. The United States Sentencing Commission recently released reports that show how federal offender demographics change. […]

If I Weren’t a Prisoner

The Washington Post published a story about Ricky Bryant, a federal prisoner who has been locked in prison for 30 years. As I read through the story, I thought about what Mr. Bryant’s life may have been like had he not committed a crime that necessitated so many decades in prison. That wasn’t a subject […]

Rigid Rules Influence Prisoners

One of the reasons prisons rock with violence, gang pressures, and corruption is because the rigid controls extinguish hope. Prisoners live inside the boundaries with a continuous pressure. Granted, most of the prisoners brought that discomfort upon themselves through their criminal convictions. While locked inside the prison boundaries, however, the prisoners adjust to the culture […]

Measuring Justice Served

As a 45-year-old man, I am coming to that fulcrum where I will have lived more of my life in prison than I lived in society. Truthfully, it feels to me as if I’ve always been in prison. I was 23 when my sentence began. The experiences I had prior to my confinement feel abstract, […]

Close Prison Camps

Bernard Madoff appeared in a Manhattan courtroom and┬áplead guilty to numerous federal crimes. He admitted to orchestrating a Ponzi scheme that swindled victims of more than $50 billion. Jesus Rosales, a criminal justice student, has asked a question that causes me to consider an appropriate sanction for white-collar ciminals. The Madoff case presents an extreme […]

Educate Prisoners!

The Pell Grant ought to be available to people in prison. Congress provided that funding to help poor people advance their education. People who have access to higher education make greater contributions to society. They earn higher incomes than those without an education, and the incomes they receive stimulate the economy. Further, the taxes those […]

Maintaining A Thriving Marriage From Prison

Since I am a long-term prisoner, many people wonder how it is that I enjoy such a magnificent marriage with my wife, Carole. I understand those curiosities. Divorce rates in America for couples who don’t struggle through the obstacles of confinement do not bode well for the concept of marriage. Carole and I are enjoying […]

Institutionalized Failure Does Not Lead to Corrections

Ryan Thomas asked whether I thought “the institutionalized lifestyle of a prisoner is in itself a way of correcting.” He also wanted to know what I attributed the growth I have made over 21 years of imprisonment if not correctional officers. I appreciate this opportunity to respond to Ryan’s question, and I hope readers find […]

Reform Prison Guards

In the 1970s, Professor Phillip Zimbardo conducted the famous Stanford Prison Guard experiment. Many academics have cited his findings. Matt Kelley quoted some of Professor Zimbardo’s findings in an article he recently wrote for change.org. The academic experiment at Stanford, together with my own experiences as a long-term prisoner, convince me that when guards enforce […]

Mentors Guided Me Through Prison

The negative influences that exist within the prison system are well documented. In the Second Chance Act, Congress published findings showing that seven of every 10 prisoners recidivate upon release. My thoughts have always been that the three prisoners of every 10 who succeed upon release adjust to prison differently from the seven who fail. […]

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 Divert Billions of Tax Dollars From Education and Health Care Programs

Rachel and Ana asked me some poignant questions on prison reform that I appreciate. An article I wrote on work-release and study-release interested them. They are criminal justice students and they understandably expect prisoners to pay a price for the crimes they committed against society’s laws. Rachel thought it unjust that people in prison could […]