Alabama TRUTH IN SENTENCING

Here is another lively discussion that starts out on Alabama Truth in Sentencing and ends up with deep philosophical - eye-opening - things that will peak your imagination on a question that plagues us all:
What is the answer to crime in America?

We hope you enjoy this discussion among Patrick Crusade Members.  We hope you get something important out of it.

 
----- Original Message ----- 
Sent: Tuesday, February 25, 2003 5:57 AM
Subject: Alabama: Panel OKs Truth In Sentencing Report
Panel OKs truth-in-sentencing report 

02/25/03, The Birmingham News

STAN BAILEY 
News staff writer

MONTGOMERY A panel studying Alabama's criminal sentencing practices voted Monday to recommend
revamping the system over the next four years by adopting "truth-in-sentencing" measures, abolishing parole and making convicts serve full prison terms. 
     
The Alabama Sentencing Commission, which has studied the state's sentencing system for the past two years,
also voted to recommend a major expansion of community punishment alternatives for non-violent convicts and the hiring of more parole officers. 

"We need a wide array of sentences other than to an overcrowded penitentiary where they can't be held
accountable," said Rosa Davis, chief assistant attorney general and member of the commission. 

The commission, which will make its report to the Legislature at the session beginning next week, voted
Monday to recommend at least a $5 million expansion of community corrections programs, which now are
available in only about a third of the state's counties. 

Such programs are designed to keep state felons in their home counties, make them work and pay back victims for stolen property or other damages or put them in substance abuse or other treatment programs. 

The commission also will recommend the Legislature appropriate at least $1 million to hire 28 more parole
officers. Gov. Bob Riley already has transferred to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles $1 million in
emergency money as part of a plan he filed in federal court to reduce severe crowding at Tutwiler Prison for
Women. 

The commission also is considering recommending a $1.3 million expansion of drug treatment programs for 180 offenders over the next year at $7,500 each. 

Davis said a new sentencing system should be implemented over the next four years to give judges
time to become familiar with new voluntary sentencing standards; to give the state time to find options
other than prisons for non-violent convicts; and, to measure the effects of the new sentences on prison
crowding. 

If the Legislature approves, the Sentencing Commission in July will provide judges a manual that identifies
offenders considered most likely to be held accountable to the public through community punishment
alternatives. 

In the second year of the phase-in of the new sentencing system, the commission would recommend that
judges start imposing new sentences based on the times convicts will actually serve. 

For example, a convict who gets a 10-year sentence today may serve only about three years in prison. The
new standards would recommend the convict serve the full three years, then have a year of mandatory
supervision by a parole officer. 

Since the new standards would be voluntary, the commission for one year would study the sentences that
judges actually imposed to measure their effects on prison crowding. 

The standards then would be fine-tuned before their permanent adoption in 2006, at which time parole and
time-off sentences for good behavior would be abolished, Davis said. 
 
 

DISCUSSION

 

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Taoss - Sherry Swiney 
To: PATRICK Crusade 
Sent: Saturday, March 01, 2003 10:43 AM
Subject: Re: Alabama: Panel OKs Truth In Sentencing Report

Abolishing parole and making convicts serve full prison terms???  THIS is not going to relieve the overcrowding problem in Alabama!!!  What the hell are these people thinking???  Who are the members of the panel?  We need to get in touch with them and drum some sense into their pea-brains.  My Lord! here we are, working hard to RELIEVE the prison overcrowding problem and these guys are working exactly COUNTER to that.  I swear, I don't know what kind of math they learned in school but ADDING TIME to prisoners does not LESSEN the population in our prisons.
 
Honestly....the more we work with the marching morons in Alabama, the more we see that these people aren't thinking with any sort of logical reasoning at all.
 
"There is nothing more terrifying than ignorance in action." - Goethe
 
Sherry Swiney
www.patrickcrusade.org

 

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Candyce J. Hawk 
To: PATRICK Crusade 
Sent: Saturday, March 01, 2003 12:01 PM
Subject: Re: [patrickcrusade] Re: Alabama: Panel OKs Truth In Sentencing Report

Well, their "truth in sentencing" proposal is supposed to do that by getting judges to impose a sentence for actual time rather than a longer term with parole eligibility.  The only reason this would work at all is if the majority of current inmates are parole-eligible but not being released.  Hence, the expansion of the Board of Paroles proposal?  The 28 new hires (parole officers) would have jobs until 2006 and then there would be no reason to have any POs except to deal with "old law" inmates.  Expansion of alternative sentencing measures would relieve the prison overcrowding problem as long as judges actually impose those alternative sentences.

The proposal sounds like more of a "long term" answer.  It's also a politically neutral answer.  What are the alternatives to this proposal?  At least this proposal approaches the source to some extent: the sentencing courts.  You can't fix the overcrowding problem without attacking the source.  The panel has gone as far back in the "source" as they legally can (the sentencing courts).  It is up to legislators to change the laws and the way the trial courts operate.  As long as Alabama laws and the corruption in the trial courts are not changed the endless supply will continue and there's little likelihood of relieving prison overcrowding in Alabama.

One thing in this article didn't make sense at all.  It said that the state awarded emergency funds to relieve the overcrowding at Tutwiler by giving money to the parole commission?  So does that mean the commission is looking at parole eligibility for inmates at Tutwiler?  Last I heard the state intended to ship some of the Tutwiler prisoners to other facilities to relieve overcrowding.  This is significant!  If this is the state's answer at Tutwiler they can expand the parole commission and do the same thing at all facilities in AL for a more immediate response to an ongoing problem.  If that is not what is actually happening at Tutwiler, then why are emergency funds going to the parole commission?  Makes ya say hmmm.......

Candy

 
----- Original Message ----- 
From: Taoss - Sherry Swiney 
To: PATRICK Crusade 
Cc: Birmingham News ; Birmingham Post Herald 
Sent: Saturday, March 01, 2003 7:17 PM
Subject: Re: [patrickcrusade] Re: Alabama: Panel OKs Truth In Sentencing Report

Indeed, it does make ya say hmmm.......
 
One of the things that will certainly ease the overcrowding situation at Tutwiler and the other 14 prisons in the state (doesn't count the work-release facilities, of which there are 12), is the Alabama Pardon and Parole Board actually doing its job.  Most of the prisoners in Alabama serve a day for a day - few are paroled.  Most are turned away for another 3-5 years before they can get another parole hearing.  In two cases, when it appeared that the Parole Board was seriously considering parole for an inmate, the former governor heir siegleman intervened with a letter to the Parole Board asking them not to grant parole to the individual.  Highly out of line.  We do not expect the new governor Bob Riley to do that.  Meanwhile, I think the inmates who were turned down under the above circumstances, aught to be given another chance - not in 3-5 years - but next month.
 
The truth in sentencing as a longer-term solution to the overcrowding problem, as Candy says, would only work "IF" the judges are given the mandate to affect sentencing that fits the crime (fair sentencing).  This would eliminate the Parole Board (but what about the Pardon Board?) and Parole Officers.  However, the Parole Board cannot be eliminated until all the "old law" prisoners who received extraordinarily long sentences that do not fit the crime, are re-considered for parole - or have the judge reduce the sentence (of course that would require the prisoners being HEARD in court).
 
In the longer-term scenario - with the Parole Board and Parole Officers out of jobs, because of Truth in Sentencing being implemented, perhaps the parole officers can offer to work for the Rehabilitation Industry -- they can go into the prisons as teachers (isn't that what they are "supposed" to be trained to do as parole officers anyway? - duh...).  There is money to be made in Rehabilitation and fewer prisons.  
 
 
Sherry Swiney
www.patrickcrusade.org
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking 
we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein

 

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Beverly 
To: Taoss - Sherry Swiney ; PATRICK Crusade 
Sent: Saturday, March 01, 2003 2:53 PM
Subject: Re: [patrickcrusade] Re: Alabama: Panel OKs Truth In Sentencing Report

Rehabilitation is a large part of the answer and there is none in the joints.  I don't care what kind of program it is.  When anyone does go through any of the "programs" in prison but yet remain in that same environment with long sentences, it is quickly lost. That's my opinion of it. 
The joints are all about survival.  And if anyone knows much about Maslow's theory, when you are in a survival mode at all times, then behavioral sciences are of very little significance, as is anything else.  There is absolutely no support from anyone in a person improving themselves there. You are on your on. 
My favorite saying to some at the joint was:  "I am who I was when I came to this hole, and I'll be that same person when I leave this hell.  I refuse to let this place change my very being, for I am of more integrity than that!" 
Oh well, don't know how I got off on that.  

 
----- Original Message ----- 
From: Candyce J. Hawk 
To: patrickcrusade@yahoogroups.com 
Sent: Saturday, March 01, 2003 4:31 PM
Subject: [patrickcrusade] Beverly's statement on Rehabilitation

Beverly,

I'm glad you did get onto this subject.  This is important information for everyone to pay attention to.  Not all of the people on this list have been in prison and there is absolutely no way that a person who has never been to prison can understand or even fathom what it's really like 24/7 in those awful places.  My boyfriend told me the other day, "you have no idea what humiliation is."  When he said it I could hear the anger and tears in his voice.  He was very controlled (because one has to be) but to me it was obvious that he was right.  I have no idea what humiliation is like; I can't even grasp the concept of humiliation at that level.

Prisons humiliate people, that is their basic function, not rehabilitation.  Some of the greatest experts in psychology, like Maslow, have stated things that the DOCs and BOP pay no attention to.  The prison industrial complex is in the business of warehousing - not rehabilitation.  They are funded by the tax dollars of the citizens and they are not serving the public good by warehousing!  The majority of taxpayers have absolutely no clue that their money is being completely wasted in this manner because they believe the propaganda spouted by politicians wanting to get elected.  They are the sheep and it is up to people like us to smack the sheep on the head until they realize what's really going on.

One way we can do that is by smacking the media in the head.  But it's going to take a lot of that!  The media is no longer given access to the BOP or to most state DOC facilities.  Why?  Because the prisons have a lot to hide!  Taxpayers do NOT want to know what goes on in prisons.  They want to turn a blind eye because that's easier and this society is all about "ease."

Hearing the truth from people like Beverly, wrongfully convicted, tortured and humiliated by a broken system, harassed and tormented by the legal system, a victim of the intrinsic injustice that exists in this society, these are the things the media needs to hear.  The media does not need to hear the "sanitized" accounts about murderers set free only to murder again, how terrible the crime rate is, and how prisons are the ultimate answer to the problem.  These things are not true!  Murderers have been deliberately released in order to re-offend and create more jobs/money/press in support of mass incarceration!  This is what happened in the case of Polly Klass!  Her parents knew it and opposed mass imprisonment but did anyone hear that part?  No!  Because that's not what Americans are supposed to hear...they are supposed to hear that we need stricter laws, more laws, tougher sentences, the death penalty in order to protect victims of crime.

Well, in my opinion, creating another victim is not the answer to the crime problem.  The majority of people in prison are not there for murder (and some of those like our own Patrick Swiney who DID NOT COMMIT ANY CRIME AT ALL).  Yes, there are people in prison who should be there but the vast majority should not be (i.e. drug war "criminals")...and Beverly should never have been in prison either.  Does anyone care about that?  Do the courts care about that?  Do politicians care about that? NO!  It's people like the members of the PATRICK Crusade that care about that.

If we only had the resources to fight this thing 24/7 like the states and feds do....now wouldn't that be something!  They are fighting to make sure that injustice exists and we are fighting to rid this country of injustice.  They have an enormous lead, virtually unlimited resources, the support of the sheeple who are too asleep to give a da*n about this subject!  So what can we do against those seemingly insurmountable odds?  We have to be like Sisyphus pushing his boulder up the hill for eternity!  We do this one situation at a time with dedication.  I've been doing this for 10 years now.  Am I tired?  Am I discouraged?  Yes, I am both of those things.  Will I stop?  YOU'D BETTER BET I WON'T!  This is too important for any of us to give up.  Are we losing the battle?  It appears so....but one never knows what is happening below the surface.  Some of us see the injustice so clearly and we must "keep our eyes on the prize" at all times.

Will we ultimately fail?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  Time goes on, more are incarcerated, more are subjected to the humiliation and lack of rehabilitation, more die (like Amos), and society continues to deteriorate.  It's time to double our efforts, double our voices, actively seek out people of like mind to join the ranks of those who see the big picture.  It's time for REVOLUTION in America.

Candy Hawk

 
----- Original Message ----- 
From: Taoss - Sherry Swiney 
To: patrickcrusade@yahoogroups.com 
Cc: Birmingham News ; Birmingham Post Herald 
Sent: Saturday, March 01, 2003 9:35 PM
Subject: Re: [patrickcrusade] Beverly's statement on Rehabilitation

Beverly Wrote:
<<My favorite saying to some at the joint was:  "I am who I was when I came to this hole, and I'll be that same person when I leave this hell.  I refuse to let this place change my very being, for I am of more integrity than that!">>
 
I love this!  That is exactly Patrick's persona in prison and he's paid dearly for it.  It doesn't deter him.  He is who is/was when he went in and no prison government is going to turn him away from his integrity.  As a matter-of-fact, it was his integrity that drew me to him and was the primary factor that solidified our marriage.
 
On the topic of prison "programs" not working, Beverly makes some excellent points!   I was in prison at age 6-1/2 because there was no room at the orphanage.  I stayed there for 6 months and during that time, the warden placed me in solitary confinement for 2 weeks.  It was because a 12-year old girl attacked me and I defended myself.  All the girls defended this 12-year old ring leader and said I started the fight.  The warden hauled my ass off to confinement, guilty as charged.  Beatings were common place in front of everyone - at the prison and then later at the orphanage where I spent 5 years.  I know that kind of humiliation well.  I can understand the humiliation when a guard treats you like dirt for no reason at all - and I have seen that in the visiting yard, the way a guard will talk to an inmate and sometimes to a visitor.  I watch the expression on the face of the prisoner who has been humiliated and it hurts me inside because I know how that feels - and you can't do squat about it.
 
None of this treatment is conducive to rehabilitation.  It either churns up the anger or causes one to "give up" and become institutionalized.  Once to that point, education has no meaning to the individual - what's the point?  Scam programs have been introduced to prisons that don't work.  The prisoners laugh at how they can so easily cheat the program.  What's the point of learning something when there is no support behind it?  Beverly is exactly correct on this point.
 
I completely agree with what Candy wrote: <<and it is up to people like us to smack the sheep on the head until they realize what's really going on. >>  I think the primary reason people don't want to hear about the realities of what goes on inside our prisons is because then they would have to DO SOMETHING...and doing something takes a little effort, and it might take time away from their Bingo games or Wal-Mart sales, so they don't really want to do that.  They'd rather ignore it and hope it goes away.  Well, it isn't going to go away until the majority of the public is aware and is sick of their tax dollars being wasted.  We shall continue because we are affecting a "consciousness raising" throughout the country - even if it means opening one eye at a time.
 
There are indeed some very good rehabilitation programs available, at reasonable prices, run by qualified teachers and professors.  The prisons aren't interested in these programs - why?  Be-cause it WILL INDEED rehabilitate people and they WILL INDEED never return to prison again!  Loss of revenue, plain and simple.
 
Candy's analogy of Sisyphus paints a pretty realistic picture in my mind regarding the struggle with which we are faced.  I shall give this image to my friends at Jens Galschiot (Art in Defense of Humanism) www.aidho.dk - perhaps they can use it for their next Pillar of Shame display.
 
Like Candy and so many others here on the Patrick Crusade, I will not give up either.  "Eye on the Prize" is too important - for ourselves, but more importantly for our children and their children.  I don't want them to grow up to live in chains as we and the 2 million prisoners in this country are now living.  There are answers.  Good answers to the incarceration, abuse and prison overcrowding.  We need to be heard and we shall be heard.  Like our mission statement says: 
"To the elected officials, we say: Ignore us and you are out of office. To Society, we say: Ignore us and one day you too may find yourself stripped of your dignity by a rogue system that has gone completely out of control. To all, we say: Listen to us with wisdom, do what is right and you will continue to enjoy that which you hold dearest to your heart, for your very freedom is at stake if you do not heed these signs of our times. " 
It is indeed time for a REVOLUTION in America.  That revolution shall be fairness in our courts, abolition of bad laws, prison reform, and an end to government corruption.  Tax-payers should know that the current waste of human resources is coming straight out of their pockets, taking food off their own table, and contributing to more crime.  Government has all the resources to stampede citizens into thinking that prison is the answer to stopping crime.  However, << "Building more prisons to fight crime is like building more graveyards to fight a fatal disease." >>
 
Sherry Swiney
www.patrickcrusade.org
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking 
we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein


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