Incentives Would Improve Prison Culture

The U.S. Congress published findings that show how much prisons cost taxpayers to operate. They swallow more than $59 billion each year. According to the Pew Report, those funds are diverted from social programs like education, health care, and unemployment assistance. What taxpayers may find especially troubling is that despite the massive expenditures, recidivism rates […]

Utilize the Family Structure to Prepare Offenders for Re-entry

More than two years have passed since I’ve heard my mother’s voice. I have not spoken with my younger sister, Christina, in the same length of time. During those two years I’ve seen my older sister, Julie, three times. I hardly know my nieces and nephew, as prison rules prohibit me from playing a significant […]

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 […]

Prison Environments Influence Prison Guards

Sarah Dooley asked me whether I thought the prison environment influenced the behavior and attitudes of those who staff prisons. My answer is yes. Administrators at every prison establish the culture that exists within the prison boundaries. When they admonish staff members for interacting with the prisoners on human being to human being level, they […]

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 […]

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 […]

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, […]

How hope keeps drugs out of prisons

Over the past 21-plus years, I have served time in prisons of every security level. While I was locked inside the walls of a high security penitentiary, I saw significant problems with drugs. The problems were not much less in medium-security prisons, or in low-security prisons. Ironically, when administrators transferred me to minimum-security camps, in […]

Avoiding the Prisoner Profile

Every man in federal prison is assigned to a particular job. At Taft Camp, where I was transferred in June of 2007, I was assigned to work in the food service department. As far as prison jobs are concerned, I consider my job at Taft one of the best work assignments that I’ve had during […]