I finally got the September newsletter out. I am learning the new technology, and thanks to my Web guy, I am making progress.
I wanted to thank those who attempted to put a “Welcome Home” party together for me. Although I wanted to have the party, it may have been my undoing. I am still on supervised release and I have to be careful. (This is where you must read between the lines.) I plan to have a party in August 2012.
This month I want to talk about a sad subject – The Prison System.
Most Americans have been taught to think that everyone in prison is guilty of something. I have met many people, before and during prison, that are adamant that anyone in a jail or prison cell “must have done something wrong”. Nothing could be further from the truth. In my experience, filtering out the obvious liars, at least 20% of the women that I talked to in prison were innocent, and at least another 10% were guilty of something, but the sentence didn’t fit the “crime”.
You may shrug your shoulders and think, “well, I’m Okay. I would never do anything to get put in the slammer.” In reality, you don’t have to do anything to be sentence to prison.
Here are a few stories of people I actually know. Names have been changed, but not the circumstances.
Peggy Smith is a 64-year-old grandmother. She loved her family and did everything she could to make them comfortable. Peggy’s 22-year-old grandson went from job to job and got in trouble from time to time. He would call Peggy and ask to borrow her car sometimes. He would say that either he had a job interview or that he needed to get to work. Peggy let him use her car often since she wasn’t driving as much anymore. One day the police showed up at Peggy’s door. She was 51 at the time. They said that her car had been used in drug deals. They asked her questions about her car and her grandson. She admitted that the car belonged to her, but she said she didn’t know anything about her grandson dealing in drugs. Peggy was asked to testify against her grandson and she wouldn’t. Peggy was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison, just for letting her grandson borrow her car. Now she is suffering from dementia. She will be released soon.
Jamie Nevis is a 55-year-old professional. She has a Masters degree and a PhD. For years she worked very hard in her government job, traveling around the state giving lectures on the subjects in her field, and managing a small staff. One day Jamie got a visit from government agents. Apparently, state funds had been embezzled from the grant that she managed. She told them that she knew nothing about it. The agents told her that they knew that it was her assistant that embezzled the money through a dummy corporation, but she should have known about it and was thus, just as guilty. Jamie refused to take any blame for her assistant’s actions. She even proved that her assistant forged her signature on several checks. The agents told her that they wanted her to plea to conspiring with her assistant, and that she would serve a 9 month sentence. Jamie refused to plea, stating that she was innocent. After $250,000 in legal fees, lawyers that threw her under the bus and government expert witnesses that were caught in lies on the stand, Jamie was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to 7 years in prison! The assistant didn’t serve any time because this woman was used to testify against Jamie, stating that Jamie knew that she was signing checks in her name. Jamie is due to be released in 2015.
Joan Cercal worked at an insurance company. She was the supervisor over the mail department and the janitorial staff. Joan’s bosses were being investigated by the Feds for insurance fraud. She was questioned, and for a while nothing came of it. Then, to her surprise, she was indicted along with the officers and several other employees. When she asked why she was indicted the answer was, “because you are a supervisor and you should have known that fraud was taking place in this company.” Joan received a 5 year sentence.
Lisa Brock ran an investment firm. She had certifications in two different countries and was approved by the various regulators. One day someone decided that Lisa’s company was no longer acceptable. (Maybe not enough people were losing money.) She was indicted for conspiracy and money laundering. She told the government that she would never plead guilty because she had all the proper regulations and certifications, and her company was totally legal. She was told that if she didn’t take the plea her sister would be indicted also, and there would be nobody left to care for her invalid mother. Lisa took the plea and received a 5 year sentence. Her sister is there to take care of her mother, who comes to visit at least once a month. Lisa is due to be released in 2014. In addition, her company was never shut down. It is now being run by someone with government ties!
These are but a few of the stories of women that did nothing wrong but were caught up in a corrupt system of people wanting the “big fish” for promotions. Many, after winning several large cases, receive promotions and monetary rewards.
Most people have also been told that to feed and house each prisoner costs the “taxpayers” $36,000 per year, or some similar figure. I am here to tell you that you need to clear your mind of visions of inmates walking around with new clothes, shoes, and electronic equipment, eating steak on your dime. The bulk of that money goes to companies that contract with the prison system and received large amounts of money for substandard products. Here’s how it goes:
A prison or group of prisons buys products in bulk. The price you would pay for that widget may be $5 each, but the prison contract says they will pay $9 for the same or a lesser quality item. These items are then shipped to the prisons for the prisoners to use.
The prisoners themselves have a chance to buy items at what’s called commissary. These items are often not name brands, but cost much more. For example, a jar of Royal Crown hair oil that costs $1.00 in the store cost me $5.62 in one of the facilities in which I was housed. Also, sweat suites costs $40 when I could have grabbed one at Wal-Mart for $15. The commissary at the prison complex in which I was housed was reported to have grossed $9,000,000 a year.
In addition, the food is not of a quality that you would eat. Much of the food is often donated. I can’t tell you the number of times I saw molded bread on my plate and on other’s plates. And oranges that looked like they had the mange. Companies must get a tax write off for donating food to the prisons.
AND WE WON’T GET INTO THE HEALTHCARE ISSUE!@
Now there are even private prisons out there. I spent a few months in a detention center that was actually run by a company called the GEO Group, Inc. When I had my good friend, the late Fred Marshall Jr. look it up, turns out they also ran Guantanamo Bay!
Prison is an industry, one of the largest and most powerful in the country. There are millions profiting from the women I mentioned earlier in the letter. There are thousands of jobs depending on those same women and many other men and women spending years away from their families under extremely debilitating and humiliation conditions. There are unions within the prison system that relentlessly fight against every effort on the part of families and advocacy groups to reduce the sentences of non-violent offenders and implement early release programs. They call it job security.
The problem as I see it is that people are generally apathetic when it comes to prisons. However, now that the United States has more prisoners in federal and state prisons than ALL other countries combined, maybe somebody will wake up and notice that it’s not about punishment or rehabilitation, it’s about MONEY!
I pray that this little glimpse into the prison industry awakens your mind to understand that it could be you; it could be your child or your grandchild, anytime, anywhere. Greed doesn’t discriminate.
Finally, while sitting in a prison bed one day, this train of thought came to mind:
Many, in and out of government, have been fighting the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for years. Groups like the NRA have fought for Americans to keep these rights. Now, there is a back door hanging wide open to take away those rights for good! When a person is made a felon they are supposedly no longer allowed to own or possess a gun/firearm. This new felon can’t even live in a house that contains a gun.
Well, if they produce a felon in every household, which is what’s happening now from the gardener to the grandmother, then no one will be able to own or possess a “firearm”, or have one in any household, thus wiping out the Second Amendment without passing any new law. Pause and think about that!
Until next time, when we will discuss the political and economic climate of our day,