Monday, April 12, 2010

Parenting Programs For Prisoners to Expand

JEFFERSON CITY - Parenting Corners offer advice and information to parents in prison. Access points will be placed in the visiting areas of 21 prisons throughout the state.

The program aims to help offenders remain or become connected to their children and families throughout their time in prison. It's about rehabilitating offenders, not just as citizens, but as parents.

The corners are to be stocked with research based pamphlets that cover nine different topics that can relate to both the parent and child. The themes include, basic child development, legal, education, substance abuse prevention, mental health, exercise and nutrition, safety,and special populations.

The program hopes to help parents transition as they come into the prison system, and as they are released. "Just because I'm in prison doesn't mean I'm not still a father or not still a mother," ParentLink Carol Mertensmeyer said. "They still take that role very seriously."

Children whose parents are imprisoned are seven times for likely to enter into the prison system. They often suffer emotionally and physically, children mourn the loss of their parent. "We know how important it is to have those adults in our lives, and then just poof, you know, just coldly," Mertensmeyer said. "You know, they're gone and it's traumatic."

ParentLink believes the corners will ease the trauma of losing a parent, and end the cycle of incarceration. "It's important for any child to know that their parent is thinking of them, and caring about them, and establishing that relationship. Even if it's for the first time," said Meg Roohouse, avtivity coordinator.

And with more than 95 percent of offenders released from prison, it's important to prepare parents for rentry into their community and a reunion with their family.

"Maybe parents made some mistakes, and hopefully that parent has figured out what those mistakes were while incarcerated, so they can go out and give their child a happy life," said Veronica Stuvall, awareness project manager.

There are currently two prisons with parenting corners at a men's and a women's correction facilities. The programs were met with warm welcomes and great appreciation from inmates and officers. After such a success, the director of the Missouri Department of Corrections, George Lombardi and ParnetLink worked together expand the program.

The Missouri Department of Corrections hopes to see parenting corners in every correctional and parole facility in the state.

ParentLink is affiliated with the University of Missouri, but receive funding from grants. 'The Parenting Corner' is also funded by grants and is being build by inmates from the Northeast Correctional Center in Bowling Green.

ParentLink offers a wide variety of services for parents and families throughout Missouri.

Visit ParentLink's website to see all of the services they provide

You can also call ParentLink toll-free at 1-800-552-8522.

Pennsylvania quietly shipping prisoners out of state

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Dawn had barely broken when prison guards shook Raheem Tucker awake and told him to pack his belongings and board a bus that would be taking him to another institution 500 miles away: the Muskegon Correctional Facility in western Michigan.

“He didn't get any other warning,” said his father, Rob Tucker, 56, who lives in Northeast Philadelphia, “and he didn't get any say-so. We only found out because a friend of his called us to tell us.”

That is how Pennsylvania Corrections officials say they must handle the delicate – and controversial – task of shipping 2,100 inmates out of state as a way to ease an overcrowding problem that has reached near-crisis proportions.

So far, 1,633 inmates have been transferred to Michigan and Virginia, the two states that Pennsylvania has contracted with to accept its prisoners. The remaining 467 will be moved by the end of the month.

“Sending inmates out of state was a last resort, but we became so overwhelmed that I became concerned about the safety of the system,” said state Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard. “We couldn't go on the way we have been.”

Although Pennsylvania's prison population has been on the rise for decades, it has jumped dramatically just in the last five years – so much so that corrections officials say the four prisons under construction will be at capacity as soon as they open in 2013.

According to state Department of Corrections figures, the population increased an eye-popping 523 percent between 1980 and 2009, from 8,243 to 51,326. Just between 2006 and 2009, the number jumped almost 21 percent.

That increase was only compounded when, in 2008, Gov. Rendell issued what ended up being a two-month moratorium on paroles after a paroled felon killed a Philadelphia police officer.
During that time, prisoners kept entering the system, but none were being released. Even after the moratorium was lifted, the parole rate – which had hovered for years about 62 percent – fell to a low of 37 percent.

“The parole rate is rebounding,” said Beard, “but if nothing changes, we'll still be in as bad a shape in 2013 that we are today, even with the new prisons.”

Overcrowding comes with a price tag: The Corrections Department has requested $1.9 billion in state funding for fiscal 2010-11. That alone would make up almost 7 percent of the state's overall $29 billion in proposed general-fund spending.

That is why, late last year, Beard announced the state was moving 2,000 prisoners to out-of-state lockups: half to the Muskegon facility in Michigan and the remainder to the Green Rock prison in Chatham, Va.

The announcement immediately raised questions about how inmates would be selected for the transfer, and ignited concerns that it would be costly and do nothing to deal with the broader problem of too many inmates entering state prisons.

And there have been bumps since the transfers began: At least 75 inmates have been returned because of health and other issues.

“This business of sending people out of state is not only a tremendously expensive strategy of dealing with the problem, it will do little to alleviate dangerous overcrowding in the long term,” said Bill DiMascio, executive director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, a private nonprofit that advocates for prisoners and for improvements to the criminal-justice system.

DiMascio is among a growing number of officials in the corrections world – Beard included – pushing for alternatives to incarceration, including community-based treatment for low-level offenders.

As it stands now, the majority of available bed space in state prisons – about 52 percent – is occupied by nonviolent offenders and parole violators, according to the state corrections office.

But such changes would require legislative action, and lawmakers have been slow, if not downright reluctant, to tackle them.

“The concern is the perception that we're turning soft on crime,” said Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R., Montgomery), who is pushing a package of bills to change sentencing and parole rules.
“But we can still be tough on crime while at the same time be smart on crime,” he added.

Short of legislative changes, corrections officials say they had to do something to address overcrowding.

Pennsylvania decided to contract with prisons in Virginia and Michigan because of their proximity, corrections officials said.

Prisoners chosen for the transfer were ones who receive “none to few visits,” have no medical or mental-health concerns, and have more than two years to serve on their sentence, said Corrections Department spokeswoman Susan Bensinger.

Bensinger acknowledged that prisoners get little notice that they are being transferred. The reason, she said, is simple: security.

“We would never want an inmate calling outside people and saying, 'Hey they are putting me on a bus tonight,' “ she said.

On days that inmates are being moved, the entire prison goes into lockdown, Bensinger said. The prisoners – all men – are then boarded onto unmarked buses, and handcuffed and shackled for the ride to their new facility.

Once inmates arrive there, they receive form letters telling them where they are and how they can contact their families.

Pennsylvania intends to bring them back by 2013.

“Moving is a traumatic event, but the majority of inmates are content now that they've settled in,” said Bensinger, the Corrections Department spokeswoman. “But we know it's impossible to make everyone happy.”

Tucker, the Northeast Philadelphia resident whose son was moved to Michigan in February, said the transfers are not just hard on prisoners. They are gut-wrenching for families, too.

Before, he and other family members would rent a van once or twice a year and drive to Greene County in Western Pennsylvania, where Raheem used to be confined.
Now, he will have to fly.

“It's hard,” Tucker said. “I have diabetes and high blood pressure, and backaches. And it costs a lot of money for a whole family to fly.”

Joann Thigpen, 65, who lives in North Philadelphia, also has a son who was transferred.
Her son Willie had been serving time on a drug offense in the state prison near the Poconos when he was awakened one morning in February and told he was being moved to Virginia.

Thigpen said she had such bad arthritis that it was difficult to travel two hours when her son was in Pennsylvania. Instead, she went to the Pennsylvania Prison Society's Philadelphia offices to do a “virtual visit” through video with her son.

It angers her that that ended up penalizing her son, who was considered to have few visitors.
“I know that they have to do what they have to do, but it's not fair,” Thigpen said. “Our children may be in jail, but we're parents, too.”

Family and focus helped him beat the odds

Major national award recognizes Smiley High grad

Houstonian Devon Wade, 20, is the first black student at LSU to receive the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a $30,000 award.

By society's standards, Devon Wade should have been another grim statistic.

He's a young black male. He grew up in a northeast Houston low-income neighborhood infested with violence. And both his parents were behind prison bars for most of his life.

But it turns out that the 20-year-old Wade is, indeed, a statistic. A graduate of M.B. Smiley High School in the North Forest district, he's the first African-American student at Louisiana State University to receive the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship Award.

The competitive award honors college juniors who show leadership potential. About 60 students across the country are selected each year and receive $30,000 to pursue graduate study in public service fields.

But for Wade, a straight-A student, the award is less about money and more about setting an example for other young black scholars.

“They can say, ‘Hey, if he can do it, I can do it,' ” Wade said.

In his neighborhood, lack of encouragement and complacency keeps many young people from looking beyond their world, he said. People often told him he would end up like his parents, but he made up his mind in middle school that his life would be different.

All it took was some tangible school recognition — candy and a coupon to Jack in the Box.

“I always did good in school but I didn't care,” Wade said. “When they honored me for doing good and making honor roll, I said, ‘They're going to reward me?' That was a changing factor in my life. That's when I became passionate about education.”
Raised by grandparents

While Wade's mind was on his studies, his heart yearned for the life he saw on TV — two parents at home, sitting around the Christmas tree with their children.

“I've always longed for that,” said Wade, whose boyish face belies his 6-foot-1-inch height. “I don't care if I'm 40 years old when it happens. I still want that.”

Wade has never met his father because he is in federal prison. His mother has been in and out of state prison throughout his life. His maternal grandparents raised him, his identical twin and two younger brothers, who are in college and high school. His granny made sure the four brothers had contact with their parents. The boys exchanged letters with their father and visited their mother in prison.

He said he never talked about his parents being incarcerated because of the stigma. “People look down on you and treat you different. I didn't want people feeling sorry for me.”

He bottled up his emotions, which felt like he was carrying around a weight, and some days he felt depressed, he said. “Those are times when you need someone to talk to,” he said.

In high school, Wade, then 15, turned to No More Victims Inc., a Houston nonprofit that provides support for youths whose parents are incarcerated.

The group's founder, Marilyn Gambrell, remembers the quiet and shy boy who didn't say much during meetings but was always observant and attentive. He also was angry back then and got into fights, she said.

“But all the brilliance we knew was there is now spilling over,” Gambrell said proudly. “He's so expressive, well-spoken and confident.”

The program, Wade said, taught him how to deal with his problems and move on with his life. He served as student body president and band drum major, ran track, was a member of the National Honor Society and graduated magna cum laude. He also was accepted to all six universities he applied to and collected more than $100,000 in scholarships.

He's now working on double majors — sociology with a concentration on criminal justice, and African-American studies — and on a thesis on how the stigma of having incarcerated parents affects children's education.
Travel opportunities

Last summer Wade studied in Africa, where he honed his fluency in Swahili. This summer he'll participate in a research program at the University of Chicago and will be on track to graduate early in December. His goal is to become an FBI agent.

“I'm just so proud of my boy,” said his mother, Suzanne Wade, who was paroled last year and recently completed a commercial driving certificate program at Houston Community College. “I've always told him to not travel down my path, to continue to think positive, do good and stay focused. I'm grateful he's on the right track.

“I owe my parents a great deal,” she said. “All my boys are doing great.”

Wade, who is active on his college campus, never misses an opportunity to give back. He mentors students in No More Victims and in a community program in Louisiana.

“I had to go through so much I didn't want to go through,” he said. “It's important for those who make it out to come back. That's what the community lacks.”

Friday, April 2, 2010

Parent-child contact during incarceration

Staying in Touch

An examination of the 1997 survey data on state prisoners indicates that most children’s contact with their parents in prison is irregular or nonexistent.
Since being admitted to prison, more than half of parents with minor children had never seen any of their children.

Gender and ethnicity are associated with the likelihood that incarcerated parents will maintain contact.

It is likely that the number of children who had not seen their parents since they entered prison is higher than this number reflects. This is because parents provided information for at least one of their children, but not necessarily for all of them. Since many parents with two or more children had different levels of contact with them prior to imprisonment, these different patterns might continue during incarceration. Prison rules and restrictions, the distances involved, increased family tensions and the effects of stigma all hamper the communication between incarcerated parents and their children.

Gender and ethnic differences

The likelihood that incarcerated parents will maintain contact with their children appears to be based in part on their gender and ethnicity. Mothers in prison stay in touch with their children more than fathers in prison, and African-American incarcerated parents of either gender maintain connections more than parents of other ethnicities. Sixty-one percent of Hispanics and 60 percent of Caucasians had not visited with their children in-person since they were incarcerated, compared to 55 percent of African-Americans. Twenty-four percent of African-Americans reported monthly visits with their children, compared with 21 percent of Caucasians and 20 percent of Hispanics. The numbers are similar for phone contact; 33 percent of African-Americans maintained weekly phone calls with their children, compared to 26 percent of Caucasians and 22 percent of Hispanics. Conversely, 50 percent of Hispanics, 45 percent of Caucasians and 33 percent of African-Americans had never spoken with any of their children by phone. Divided by gender, 31 percent of mothers and 42 percent of fathers had never talked with any of their children by phone.

A statistical profile of incarcerated parents

The most comprehensive source of statistics on children of incarcerated parents in the United States is the Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities, designed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and conducted by the Bureau of the Census from June through October, 1997.

This survey consists of personal interviews with a representative sample of the 1.3 million individuals housed in state and federal prisons. Researchers gathered a range of information on 12,663 prisoners,including their family background and status. Women made up 20 percent of the sample, although they account for only six percent of the prison population nationally. The ethnic mix of the sample was representative of the prison population at that time; 50 percent African-American, 35 percent Caucasian and 17 percent Hispanic.

The survey results illustrate inmates’ pre-prison domestic arrangements and provide insight into their parental roles and family relationships before and during incarceration. Most importantly, the numbers tell us that parenthood is a reality for most incarcerated adults,male and female. The numbers also reveal that the image of the traditional nuclear family does not represent the experience of most parents in prison. Three in four parents were divorced or unmarried. Most mothers,but fewer than half of fathers, in state prisons had one or more of their children living with them at the time of their arrest. Nearly one third of women and four percent of men were single parents living alone with their children. Studies of parents in prison show that before going to prison, some parents have all or some of their children living with them; while, some have none. In addition,children in the same family may have different mothers or fathers.

1. Numerous parents whose children did not live with them were still involved in their children’s lives. Many of the fathers surveyed in one study who did not live with their children saw them regularly; two-thirds said they also supported them financially.

2. In another study, mothers who did not live with their teenage daughters before incarceration rated their relationships with their daughters as very good or excellent.

3. When mothers are incarcerated, their children are most often cared for by grandparents or other relatives. The majority of fathers indicate, however,that their children are cared for by the child’s other parent. About two percent of fathers and 10 percent of mothers indicate that they have children in foster care. The number may be higher as many incarcerated parents do not have up-to-date information on their children or do not view state sponsored kinship care as a form of foster care.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Postcards from Prison

Jails Use Mail Restrictions to Combat Contraband and Lower Costs

Starting April 1, prisoners in a central Florida jail will see big changes in one of the ways they communicate with friends and family.

The Alachua County Jail, which holds 950 inmates, is instituting a new "postcards only" mail policy, which restricts inmates to sending and receiving postcards that meet certain requirements.

It's a major change from the previous policy, which allowed inmates to write full-page letters sealed in envelopes, with no limit on the amount of pages. The only exceptions to this new rule will be privileged or legal mail.

Alachua follows the lead of jails in Arizona, Oregon, Missouri, Michigan, Colorado, Kansas, and other parts of Florida, including the Manatee County Jail, just south of St. Petersburg.

Manatee began a postcards-only policy last June, and spokesman Dave Bristow calls it "a big success.

"It has really cut down on work load, and that's what we were trying to do," Bristow added.

Alachua County spokesman Eugene Morris said the policy will help improve security while saving the jail money.

"We have a concern about contraband being introduced that may be coming through the mail," Morris told

Contraband is less likely to enter the jail on postcards than in envelopes, but because of an incident in which an inmate received drugs through the adhesive on a stamp, the policy adds an extra measure of protection: No stickers or adhesives, including stamps. Plain white, pre-paid-postage only. No drawings, no photographs.

Morris said the new policy will speed up the process of sorting through the estimated 400 pieces of mail moving in and out of the jail on any given day.

Despite county officials' satisfaction with the policy, several inmates and their family members are not happy with the restrictions. They say the policy infringes on their First Amendment rights. A group of Manatee County inmates and their families have filed a class-action lawsuit against the jail.

Katherine Earle Yanes, an attorney hired by the families, said the plaintiffs want to end the policy and declare it unconstitutional. Yanes added that they want to "set a precedent so that it would not be able to be instituted at other facilities."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Young men 'are victims of jail cycle'

Research shows need for training and detox to stop pattern of re-offending.

Men in their late teens are the most neglected section of the prison population despite being the most prolific re-offenders in the country, a new study will reveal tomorrow.

In 2004 around 19,000 18-to-20-year-olds went to prison at a cost of $35,000 each per year. Many receive sentences of a year or less which, in practice, means only a few months served in jail. Seven out of 10 are back in prison within two years. According to the report, Out for Good, written by Finola Farrant for the Howard League for Penal Reform, these brief periods of incarceration mean that young offenders lose jobs, apprenticeships, girlfriends, family contacts, children and often a place to live. Inside, they are offered little in the way of effective detox programes or constructive help with education, training, social skills and anger management.

'Prison is a place of aggression in which a young adult learns even more about selfishness and violence as forms of survival,' said Farrant. 'Instead of reflecting on the impact on their victims and communities, many come to blame their victims for their incarceration. Prison infantilises these 18-to-20-year-olds at a crucial moment in their development. A vital opportunity to recast themselves as men with a non-criminal future is lost.'

Farrant interviewed 86 young offenders, aged between 18 and 20, over two years. They were re-interviewed just prior to release and seen again after release. Three-quarters of their offending was related to alcohol or drug misuse (some spending between $80 and $1,500 per day on drugs); 60 per cent had previous experience of custody; 30 per cent were fathers or about to become fathers; 24 per cent had been in care; and 20 per cent had been homeless at the point of imprisonment.

Lee, 19, said: 'I went into care when I was nine years old. My mom was drinking... my brother got adopted out. I started drinking right heavy. My dad was violent... Had my daughter when I was 16 but I haven't seen her for months. My mom died while I were inside and they wouldn't even let me go to the funeral.'

A number of reports have dwelt on recurring patterns in the prison population - illiteracy, self-harm, chaotic childhoods, mental ill-health, racism and physical and emotional abuse all figure prominently. The need for training, education, housing and employment to help with resettlement has been made repeatedly. Out for Good argues that practical help for 18-to-20-year-olds is lacking but, unique among recent reports, it also says that more needs to be done to show young offenders that 'being a man' does not have to involve living a life of crime. The government has set a target of reducing re-offending by 10 per cent by 2010.

Farrant said: 'They [young offenders] explain involvement in crime as a way of gaining respect. Yet, in interviews, many also expressed a desire for something better - one said "I know I'd stay out of trouble if I was up in the morning and going to work, that would be the thing".' None of the young men in the final interviews had been encouraged to apply for employment or training while in prison.

Under the new National Offenders Management Service (NOMS) more is on offer for this group, but many in the penal service say that similar promises have been made in the past with few results.

Farrant said improved training for prison and probation officers was needed. She also called for the creation of advocates to offer sustained support. An advocate, for instance, might have helped Darren, aged 20 and illiterate. At 14, he was introduced to heroin by his uncle. He wants to go on a detox programme, but he said:

'In prison I don't get to see no one so it's got to be when I get out, but I can't write so I can't even make an application...' In frustration, he added, summing up the feeling of many of the young offenders in the study: 'You can't fucking change your life in a couple of months.'

The report makes a number of other recommendations, including greater use of community sentences; family mediation to help mend ruptured relationships; improved access to detox programes; a statutory duty on local authorities to house homeless prisoners on release; and job training inside jail and after release.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mandatory Minimums

1. Mandatory minimums have not actually reduced sentencing discretion. Control has merely been transferred from judges to prosecutors.

Source: Caulkins, J., et al., Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences: Throwing Away the Key or the Taxpayers' Money? (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1997), p. 24.

2. "As previously noted, various drug offenses carry a mandatory minimum. For such offenses, the mandatory minimum precludes judges from sentencing at a lower guideline range minimum or from granting a downward departure that might otherwise be available, unless one of two statutory provisions applies. First, a judge may impose a sentence below the applicable mandatory minimum if the government (the federal prosecutor) files a motion with the court for such sentencing relief because of the defendant's "substantial assistance" in the investigation or prosecution of another person. The discretion to make such a motion rests solely with the prosecutor. Second, in the absence of a substantial assistance motion, the "safety valve" provision affords relief from any otherwise applicable mandatory minimum sentence for drug offenders who have minimal criminal history (i.e., no more than 1 criminal history point); were not violent, armed, or high-level participants; and provided the government with truthful information regarding the offense. In these cases, the court is directed by statute to impose a sentence pursuant to the sentencing guidelines without regard to a mandatory minimum."

Source: General Accounting Office, "Federal Drug Offenses: Departures from Sentencing Guidelines and Mandatory Minimum Sentences, Fiscal Years 1999-2001," GAO-04-105, October 2003, pp. 9-10, from the web at, last accessed Nov. 1, 2003.

3. "Similar to federal sentences overall, of the 69,279 drug sentences for which complete departure information was available, we found that most sentences were within guideline ranges (56 percent). Unlike federal sentences overall, from fiscal years 1999 to 2001, federal drug sentences departed downward more frequently due to substantial assistance (28 percent) than other reasons (16 percent), as shown in table 1. Other reasons that drug sentences departed downward included early disposition, that is, fast track, programs initiated by prosecutors; plea agreements; and judges' consideration of mitigating circumstances."

Source: General Accounting Office, "Federal Drug Offenses: Departures from Sentencing Guidelines and Mandatory Minimum Sentences, Fiscal Years 1999-2001," GAO-04-105, October 2003, p. 11, from the web at, last accessed Nov. 1, 2003.

4. Prosecutors, not judges, have the discretion to decide whether to reduce a charge, whether to accept or deny a plea bargain, whether to reward or deny a defendant's "substantial assistance" or cooperation in the prosecution of someone else, and ultimately, to determine what the final sentence will be.

Source: Caulkins, J., et al., Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences: Throwing Away the Key or the Taxpayers' Money? (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1997), pp. 16-18.

5. "After eleven years, it should be obvious that the system has failed and that it cannot be fixed - even by the Supreme Court - because the criminal justice system has been distorted: the enhanced power of the prosecutor in sentencing has diminished the traditional role of the judge. The result has been even less fairness, and a huge rise in the prison population."

Source: Smith, Alexander, and Polack, Harriet, "Curtailing the Sentencing Power of Trial Judges: The Unintended Consequences", Court Review (Williamsburg, VA: American Judges Association, Summer 1999), p. 6-7.

6. "Most of the judges we interviewed were quite bitter about the operation of the sentencing guidelines. As one of them remarked: 'The people who drew up these guidelines never sat in a court and had to look a defendant in the eye while imposing some of these sentences.'"

Source: Smith, Alexander, and Polack, Harriet, "Curtailing the Sentencing Power of Trial Judges: The Unintended Consequences", Court Review (Williamsburg, VA: American Judges Association, Summer 1999), p. 6.

7. Fifty-five percent (55%) of all federal drug defendants are low-level offenders, such as mules or street-dealers. Only 11% are classified as high-level dealers.

Source: US Sentencing Commission, Special Report to Congress: Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy (Washington DC: US Sentencing Commission, February 1995), Table 18.

8. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, only 5.5% of federal crack defendants are considered high-level crack dealers.

Source: US Sentencing Commission, Special Report to Congress: Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy (Washington DC: US Sentencing Commission, February 1995), Table 18.

9. "Though it is still too early to make a final judgment, RAND found that three strikes and truth-in-sentencing laws have had little significant impact on crime and arrest rates. According to the Uniform Crime Reports, states with neither a three strikes nor a truth-in-sentencing law had the lowest rates of index crimes, whereas index crime rates were highest in states with both types of get-tough laws."

Source: Turner, Susan, RAND Corporation Criminal Justice Program, Justice Research & Statistics Association, "Impact of Truth-in-Sentencing and Three Strikes Legislation on Crime", Crime and Justice Atlas 2000 (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice, June 2000), p. 10.

10. Since the enactment of mandatory minimum sentencing for drug users, the Federal Bureau of Prisons budget increased by more than 1,350%, from $220 million in 1986 to about $3.19 billion in 1997.

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1997), p. 20; Office of National Drug Control Policy, Executive Office of the White House, National Drug Control Strategy, 1997: Budget Summary (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1997), p. 111.

11. The ONDCP in its 2000 annual report detailed administration requests for major increases in funding to the Federal Bureau of Prisons for drug-related prison construction. These include an extra $420 Million in fiscal year 2001, and advanced appropriations of $467 Million in 2002, and an additional $316 Million in 2003 - all drug-related.

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1997), p. 20; Office of National Drug Control Policy, Executive Office of the White House, National Drug Control Strategy, 1997: Budget Summary (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1997), p. 111; Office of National Drug Control Policy, Executive Office of the White House, National Drug Control Strategy: Annual Report 2000 (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 2000), p. 96.

For a more complete perspective, also read related Drug War Facts sections on Alcohol, Crack, Drug Use Estimates, Gateway Theory, Prison, Race and HIV, Race and Prison, The Netherlands, and Treatment.

The biggest problems are all not address: 1, that the pursuit of personal happiness, a right that should have been included in the bill of rights and not just mentioned in the preamble to the Constitution, has been infringed upon by our drug laws. 2, that the courts have been packed with prosecutors (40%) and fellow travelers, so removing the discretionary powers means little for in 95% of the cases the results would be essentially the same. 3, that the jurisprudence distinction between malum prohibita and malum per se has been violated. The former are regulatory laws; the latter are for causing harm. Thus violating tax and drinking laws is prohibta, and robbery and arson are malum per se. That long periods of incarceration are meted out for the violation of a regulation governing the personal taking of a substance not as pernicious as alcohol is unconscionable.


Women In The California Prisons System

Children & Families

* Roughly 80% of women in California prisons are mothers, and the majority of these women are single caretakers. (Barbara Bloom)

* Due to stringent regulations on the attire of visitors, many family members have been turned away after traveling hours or even days to visit a woman in prison. In one instance a baby was unable to see its mother because it was wearing a denim jump suit. Children have also been turned away for wearing shorts.

* In the California prison system, visitation is a privilege not a right. Prisoners on death row and prisons in California serving life sentences without parole cannot receive unsupervised family visits. Family visits are also not permitted with common law relationships.

* All potential visitors to California prisons must submit a visiting questionnaire that requires the individual to state personal information, including full arrest record and criminal history. Verification time for questionnaires can be lengthy, and if any piece of information proves to be incorrect, access can be denied for up to 6 months.

* Most women in California's prisons are from urban areas of the state. However, the facilities that house the majority of the female prisons are in rural regions of California. Bus service to these locations can be limited and the trip often takes many hours. Chowchilla is home to two female correctional facilities, VSPW and CCWF. Together the populations of these two prisons comprise 62% of the total female prison population in the state. For a Los Angeles family to travel via bus to this location, it would take seven hours and cost $38 per person. If departing from San Francisco, the travel time would be five hours at a cost of $55 per person. The same family traveling by bus from LA to the California Institute for Women (CIW) in Frontera would still have to set aside five hours of travel time.

* The exorbitant cost of the current phone system for California state prisons places another enormous financial burden on inmate families. MCI charges California prisoners $3.00 just to connect collect calls from the prison in addition to high collect call fees. Calls paid by prisoners accrue high surcharges and charge the maximum per-minute rates. Prisoners are not permitted to use discount numbers like 1-800-COLLECT. Though phone companies allege that higher rates are necessary because of the expensive security systems required for prisons, the states also share responsibility for these high rates. Telephone companies are offering higher and higher commissions for states in order to get contracts. In some states, these commissions have gone as high as 60% of the profits earned by the state prison telephone system. The money the state of California receives from charges to prisoners and their families goes directly into the state's general fund and not the Inmate Welfare Fund.

* For women released from the California prison system the challenges for them and their children continue. Under new welfare reform guidelines, an individual previously incarcerated is not eligible for public benefits, including housing assistance.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How Love Can Survive Prison Walls

Believe it or not, love can survive, even if your husband, boyfriend or lover is in prison. My husband and I are prime examples, and not only has ourlove survived, but it has grown stronger with each passing day...with each beat of our hearts. I like the saying, "we are 2 hearts that beat as one."

My husband has been within the prison system for the past 23 months. We have benn married for 4 years, of which 23 months we have been seperated by prison walls. But we have proven that "love prevails," and not even prison walls can keep us apart!

"How do you both do it?" you may ask. It is easy, and in this article, I hope to give you a few basic tips.

First of all, it does help to be madly "in love" with each other! Then, the rest becomes easy!

1. Keep in close contact by the phone. As most prison wives know, prison calls are highly expensive. If you are able to, accept those collect calls. If you are not capable of it, keep in close contact through the mail. I send my husband letters, computer print-outs of articles and information he is interested in, newspaper clippings. I keep manilla envelopes at home and throughout the week I slip things of interest into the envelope...Then I make at least one, if not more trips to the post office to mail letters and envelopes to him. At my post-office I am a well- known face for the past 23 months!

2. Send him lots of cards for holidays, and other times. It helps me to not only think of him while looking for "that perfect card," but he enjoys receiving them, and often shows them to the fellow inmates. Remember that "mail-time' is a very important time of the day when in prison. Some guys never even receive is almost a game or competition with the guys as how much mail they receive....The inmates would always joke around with my husband that his wife was going to cause the mailroom to 'close,' as I was sending him so much mail.
.....Valentine's day is a few days away...I have sent several cards to my husband, and he has sent me 7 cards!....if there are times he cannot buy cards, he makes his own, which are very special to me.

3. Photos...I keep photos of my husband throughout the the bedroom, living room, and kitchen...In the beginning I would go to the refridgerator and hug it, where his picture was...I would talk to his picture. I also carry a pix of the both of us, with our dog , on my keychain. When he first went to prison, I mailed him at least close to 100 pictures of us. He was able to put them in photo albums and he would happily show his pix to the other guys. And yes, my hubby would sleep with those photo books under his pillow, he missed me so much.

4. Share your thoughts, feelings, and emotions on the phone. Tell him if you are lonely...or even is ok to be honest. After all, your husband is in prison, and you are allowed to feel what you feel.....but most of all, tell him you "love him." ...a little "love talk" will get you through those lonely days and nights.

5. Daydream about your husband. Think abotu those past days with him, and think about how the future will be when he gets home. Yes, daydream, and at night dream...and imagine he is still there next to you at night...Think about each other, as much as you can!

6. Keep the household together while he is gone. Also, do something for yourself, to make you a better person...for example, take a college course, or go to adult school...get involved in church activities...join the choir! volunteer work, at the hospital or nursing home...try to put a little sunshine in the lives of others...try not to concentrate on the difficulties you are going through at this time...

7. Look forward to the future, and know that you are getting there, even though it is one step at a time. Be strong and positive that your love will survive......For us, it is easy, because, "we love each other very much...and that is simply that...prison or not"!

I hope this article has made your day a little more positive, and that I helped you through another day....Happy Valentine's Day!.........and don't forget to tell your husband, lover, boyfriend, or whoever else is in your life, "I love you."...Those are 3 very important words!

I am a 51 year old woman, who got married 4 years ago to the "man of my dreams!" I married him knowing fully well he had committed a crime and woud have to serve time in prison. But love does survive, even the toughest of times. I am a retired Registered Nurse, who is now legally blind, and enjoys doing "free-lance writing" at home. I want to make people happy and strong through my "written word."

When you get a chance, please visit my journal, called "Reflections of a prison wife". It is the day to day life of me, a woman whose husband is in the prison system. See just what it is like: the ups, the downs, the laughter, the tears... I have been writing the journal for over a year now, and it has become quite popular: http://JOURNALS.AOL.COM/CRYSTALMOON222/REFLECTIONSOFAPRISONWIFE/