Aug 162015

This essay comes from a friend of a friend.  I do not know who she is.  However, I have heard many stories from people who believed in the criminal justice system in this country, until they or a member of their family learned first hand that their experience was the polar opposite of what they had believed.  This is one mother’s reaction to such an experience.

July 26, 2015

0816thematrixWhat I want people to know is what I’ve learned over the past two years – how my life is upside down both philosophically and emotionally. Philosophically, because what I learned, believed about our justice system is just thrown under the bus. I am angry. Angry at people who are charged with our wonderful, ideal system and have perverted it and made us all accomplices in torture and harm. We were standing shoulder to shoulder with prison guards who abuse prisoners; DAs and police who lie, who give up honesty and integrity to convict.

We became part of the problem. Only we didn’t even realize there was a problem. They lie. They suck us in to be their accomplices. We asked no questions. We believed them. No. We believed the idea of a system. We believed they were the embodiment of truth. They kept us safe from people who would harm us, who were really terrible people.

But what do they do? “Lose” evidence, lie to protect themselves, serve as judge and jury to convict whom they have decided is guilty. Screw looking at evidence. How did they get to the place where they are in such a hallowed system of our country, protecting our country’s ideals, being the keeper for those ideals and now corrupting those ideals.

Am I naïve? Not now. Was I? Yes. But I’m in the company of the majority of our country. I listen over and over and OVER again to “I had no idea how this system works! I was shocked to learn how it really works.” Problem is – no one does know until it happens. No one believes until it does happen.

I’m angry that I was blindsided. Is it my fault? Should I have known better? WHY SHOULD I!?!! Where’s the disconnect here? That our system as taught to high-schoolers is just too much of a fairy tale? I should know better than to believe such a fairy tale could actually work? Are the people in the justice system just laughing at me for being so naive?

Or is the disconnect in how people have subverted the ideal? The people who have gotten used to having it their way? People who have decide they are smarter than tedious “truth and justice” and will improve a hopelessly naïve system?

Are we in The Matrix*? They have created this fake world that they’ve sold us on that every thing is right in our world, that they have the knowledge and expertise to keep it the ideal it is.

But behind their words and assurances that create the perfect illusion is a world of crumbling, moldy, derelict laws. A blighted world wildly out of control with more and more laws, penalties, and incarcerations for longer and longer times. A world destroyed with smoking embers, blown out, burned down buildings, haunted people. Out of sight behind the illusion they create with their paternalistic, mesmerizing lies! Do we choose to believe their lies because it’s just easier? No! I think we believe because we truly believe that they are the pillars of our justice system. We hear their excuses—which they call “reasons”—and that reinforces what we already instinctively believe.

But now pieces of their façade may be cracking. Can they hold it together and continue to make us believe their fake world? We know what is really behind their world of “safety, justice and truth”. We’ve seen and heard the destroyed lives, the money taken from society and spent to warehouse people and then return wasted people with wasted lives and difficult options. The LIES – The harm – The self-supporting arguments.

What will it take to bring down the phony façade of a tough on crime, retribution, vengeance model of justice and return us to where most people already think we are: convicting wrong-doers but with consideration of mitigating or extenuating circumstances, incarcerating only people who are a threat and then rehabilitating them so they can live as successful citizens. Giving people a chance to pay for their crime and then re-joining society. Being humans helping humans.

My passion. I want people to know what I’ve learned. I want to shock them awake to what our criminal justice system has become. No, ladies and gentlemen, it is not what you believe it is.

Unfortunately, most of you will never really find that out. No, it’s not fortunate that you will never have a loved one, or yourself, caught up in this horrible system. It’s not fortunate that you’ll never have an accusation made at you of something you never did. It’s not fortunate that you get to keep living oblivious to how our criminal justice system has lost its way in mandatory sentencing. Because unless you are unfortunate enough to have personal contact with this devastating system, you won’t try to do something about it.

(From Wikipedia: The Matrix movie depicts a dystopian [an imaginary community or society that is undesirable or frightening] future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a simulated reality called “the Matrix”, created by sentient machines to subdue the human population,)

Personally, I find what she has to say believable and compelling.

Dec 282013

Here is an excellent article about the use of online Registries to track people who have committed sexual crimes.

28a-researchContrary to popular belief, offender registries are not a recent phenomenon. Offender registries are government-controlled systems that track the movements and other activities of certain persons with criminal convictions. While today they are most commonly used for sex offenders, registries have been adopted

since the 1930s to regulate persons convicted of a wide variety of offenses including embezzlement, arson, and drug crimes.

Early registries were widely criticized as ineffective and overly punitive, and many were eliminated through litigation or legislative repeals. Others simply fell into disuse over the course of the 20th century. Now, there is a growing body of research that demonstrates that modern sex offender registries are similarly ineffective at reducing crime. Sex offender registries are costly, vastly overbroad, and error-ridden.

Even worse, the overwhelming stigma of public notification provisions may actually increase recidivism among offenders.2 [sic] Despite their repeated history of failure, enthusiasm for publicly available, internet-based registries for every offense imaginable has only grown in recent years. There have been proposals across the country to register those found guilty of animal abuse, arson, drug offenses, domestic violence, and even failure to pay child support.

Existing registries are expanding and becoming increasingly punitive. Without a concerted effort to stop the tide of offender registration, we are at risk of repeating past mistakes on a much larger and more treacherous scale.

Offender registries are backwards, punitive measures that do not make communities safer. Unfortunately, those in favor of more nuanced, data-driven methods of reducing violence and sexual abuse face substantial barriers in overcoming precedent from years when registries were far narrower in scope than they are today… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Sex Offender Statistics>

I am personally acquainted with cases where such online registries have thoroughly disrupted the lives of individuals, who had completed treatment and lived productive lives in their communities.  The greatest danger to the community comes not from offenders, who have completed treatment, but6 from those, who have not yet been discovered.  I urge you to click through to the original article.  It contains a wealth of information on why we need to be concerned with restoring such individuals, not heaping additional punishment on them.

Jul 302013

There is one class of offender that is often considered worse than all the others combined, although that is rarely the case.  Because of that, they have been targeted with legislation that has become progressively more draconian over time.

SexOffendersRegistry…Every year, on their birthdays, registrants are required to go to the police department and re-register. They must update their picture and residential information that will appear on the website and address any other concerns. Throughout the year, Emily keeps a folder documenting all the places she goes and the permission she obtained to go there: to her weekly Bible study group; parent-teacher meetings and so on. When she makes her birthday trip to the police department, she must take this folder with her.

Eugene Porter, a therapist who has worked with convicted sex offenders and male child victims of sexual abuse since 1984, describes this annual ritual as a “powerful shaming structure.” 

And what about the shamers? Criminologist and professor Chrysanthi Leon remarked that the public spectacle of these hyper-restrictive laws is a “crucial way of signaling that we’re doing something about sexual violence, when in reality we’re doing very little.” 

Tom Tobin, a psychologist by training and currently serving as the vice-chair of the California Sex Offender Management Board, carefully acknowledges the unique trauma experienced by a victim of a sexual crime, but questions whether concern for this lasting emotional damage is what fuels our current handling of such crimes. 

“I think there’s something more primitive," he says. "There’s something about human sexuality that engages some part of everyone so that if we can identify this group who can be the ‘bad ones’ around human sexuality, or the exercise of it, than maybe it lets the rest of us off the hook. We can be sexist, anti-woman; we can make our own behaviors acceptable because it’s the sex offenders who are violating peoples’ rights. I think there’s something deeper and more profound going on that makes it difficult for people to respond in a thoughtful way.” 

When Eugene Porter reflects on the experiences he has witnessed and treated over the course of his three-decade career, he conveys an authority over and insight into a subject of which he nevertheless insists we must “acknowledge the level of our own ignorance.” 

“Being a sex offender is the worst stigma—maybe after 9/11, being a terrorist is as bad,” Porter asserts.

It is not uncommon to hear people who work in this field employ the metaphor of terrorist to describe how the criminal justice system has come to treat and portray sex offenders. Both specters have been ascribed a set of behaviors and placed on a continuum of threat to a vulnerable society. Wherever one falls on that continuum, there is an assumption that forward progression on it is inevitable.

With the logic of a continuum, on which offenders are interminably placed, a justification emerges for a permanent registry that treats all offenders of crimes involving sexual arousal or genitalia as essentially the same. Our attachment to a powerful system that confines and separates thousands of individuals, making pariahs of them all , reveals for whom these shaming rituals and spectacles provide a soothing salve: it’s for those of us not on the list.

Charlotte Silver is an independent journalist currently based in San Francisco. She writes for Al Jazeera English, Inter Press Service, Truthout, The Electronic Intifada and other publications. Follow her on Twitter @CharESilver… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Alternet>

This is just the last section of an extensive article that covers the subject in depth. I urge you to click through to

I became aware of this article through a newsletter from CURE National:

CURE is one of the very few organizations out there who will advocate for those most marginalized by society.  The topic of sex offenders is treated by many as the third rail of politics.  As a result, we have watched as those who are convicted of even the most inoffensive or understandable legal transgressions – often while they were still in their teenage years or as even quite young  juveniles – are made to suffer the most draconian sentences.  In some cases, young people whose only offense was with another consenting adolescent while they were still minors themselves can be locked away indefinitely in psychiatric facilities under prison-like conditions merely because the state argues they might commit a future sexual crime if they are released.  Kansas University Law School professor Corey Yung wrote in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology comparing civil commitment to Guantanamo Bay, and arguing that in many ways the civil commitment prisoners are worse off…

They deserve thanks for their willingness to oppose the trend.

Apr 142011

The excessive cost of telephone calls plagued me as a prisoner, and twelve years later there’s far too little progress in eliminating the shameful fleecing of prisoners’ loved ones.

14prisonphoneAn exhaustive analysis of prison phone contracts nationwide has revealed that with only limited exceptions, telephone service providers offer lucrative kickbacks (politely termed “commissions”) to state contracting agencies – amounting on average to 42% of gross revenues from prisoners’ phone calls – in order to obtain exclusive, monopolistic contracts for prison phone services.

These contracts are priced not only to unjustly enrich the telephone companies by charging much higher rates than those paid by the general public, but are further inflated to cover the commission payments, which suck over $152 million per year out of the pockets of prisoners’ families – who are the overwhelming recipients of prison phone calls. Averaging a 42% kickback nationwide, this indicates that the phone market in state prison systems is worth more than an estimated $362 million annually in gross revenue.

In a research task never before accomplished, Prison Legal News, using public records laws, secured prison phone contract information from all 50 states (compiled in 2008-2009 and representing data from 2007-2008). The initial survey was conducted by PLN contributing writer Mike Rigby, with follow-up research by PLN associate editor Alex Friedmann.

The phone contracts were reviewed to determine the service provider; the kickback percentage; the annual dollar amount of the kickbacks; and the rates charged for local calls, intrastate calls (within a state based on calls from one Local Access and Transport Area to another, known as interLATA), and interstate calls (long distance between states). To simplify this survey, only collect call and daytime rates were analyzed.

Around 30 states allow discounted debit and/or prepaid collect calls, which provide lower prison phone rates (much lower in some cases). However, since other states don’t offer such options and not all prisoners or their families have access to debit or prepaid accounts, only collect calls – which are available in all prison systems except Iowa’s – were compared. Also, while telephone companies sometimes provide reduced rates for evening and nighttime calls, many prisoners don’t have the luxury of scheduling phone calls during those time periods.

Lastly, it should be noted that more recent phone rates may now be in effect due to new contract awards or renewals, and while data was obtained from all 50 states, it was not complete for each category. See the chart accompanying this article for a breakdown of the data obtained…

Inserted from <Prison Legal News>

Hat Tip: Cure National

This is just the introduction to an extensive review.  I urge you to read the original.