Era of Transparency Should Abolish Administration Obstacles to Prisoner Writings.

By · Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

President Obama issued an order indicating that “every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known.” As a federal prisoner who writes about the reasons our country needs prison reform, I was encouraged to learn that President Obama signed such an executive order on his second day in office. It sends a welcome signal of transparency, one that differs in remarkable ways from the Bush administration.

Our nation’s prison system confines more than 2.3 million people and it releases more than 650,000 people into society each year. Taxpayers fund these prisons with more than $460 billion in expenditures each year. Despite the costs, the system of corrections fails to prepare offenders for the challenges they will face upon release. High recidivism rates suggest that we need prison reform to make American communities safer.

I strive to help taxpayers understand the culture of failure that proliferates inside prison boundaries. It is a culture I know about, as my own imprisonment began in 1987. I have served time in prisons of every security level. During my imprisonment I earned two university degrees, I have published extensively, and I have maintained a clean disciplinary record while preparing for the challenges that I expect to confront after a quarter century in prison.

Prison administrators have consistently erected obstacles to block my efforts to help Americans understand the prison system. I have been locked in segregation because of my writing. I have been transferred from prisons across state lines to interrupt my writing. I have had my access to telephone, visits, and media blocked by administrators. I have been admonished that I was not allowed to “promote my books on prison” while I was incarcerated. Recently, the warden at Taft Camp blocked my access to typewriters.

Americans need to know more about what goes on inside prison boundaries. It is a disgrace on our democracy that prison administrators erect obstacles that obstruct prisoner efforts to apprise taxpayers of the reason why these subcultures of failure proliferate.

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