Let’s take a simple test about the scope of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution (ratified in 1865).
True or false: the Thirteenth Amendment prohibiting slavery applies to all people.
The correct answer is false.
The thirty-two-word Amendment states the following:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to its jurisdiction.… Read the rest
The September 12–19, 2016, issue of Time, in its Ticker section on page 12, has a short entry: “President Obama commuted the sentences of 111 prisoners on Aug. 30, bringing the number of early releases he has granted to 673—more than the previous 10 Presidents combined. Most were drug offenders.”
Those who appreciate the unfairness of the harsh mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines baked into the punitive sentencing guidelines of the “War on Drugs” (the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986), clap with one hand for the president’s actions.… Read the rest
This November 8th, three states are asking voters for a thumbs up or thumbs down on the death penalty. The proposed laws illustrate how the death penalty in this country is not standardized (whatever happened to equal protection?) and is thus susceptible to political influence.
Nebraska voters are casting ballots for Referendum 426, which asks whether they want to repeal or maintain a 2015 law eliminating the death penalty that Nebraska’s Republican governor vetoed.… Read the rest
The fate of California’s death penalty is up for a vote. Two competing yes/no propositions are on the November 8th ballot. Should the state end the practice of killing condemned convicts, and should the botched ways of ending these lives finally be stopped?
Since 1976, as reported by CNN, 87 percent of the 1,391 executions over the last forty years in the United States have been by lethal injection, and 11 percent have been by electrocution.… Read the rest
I was incarcerated for two years from October 2003 to November 2005. Following is a review of my October 12, 2013, journal entry:
I returned to CIM, a California prison in Chino—this time as a visitor. My buddy Marcus, whom I met at Ironwood State Prison, has been my pen pal since I left in November 2005.… Read the rest
In a recent blog I wrote about the dank, colorless, and claustrophobic environment of imprisonment. A one-word description of jail and prison decoration is “austere.” There’s no color. There’s certainly no charm. Jumpsuits are blue with gold lettering, and inmates dress in many shades of gray. Because colors adopted by gangs can cause flash-point combat, all primary colors and gradations thereof are restricted.… Read the rest
My recent MRI stirred up memories of passing through a sally port (controlled entryway) and living in a prison cell. Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a system that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to take detailed images of the interior of the body. Lying on my back, noise-muffling ear gear in place, I was slowly inserted into a large tube after having been admonished not to move by the technician in charge.… Read the rest
I kept a journal in prison. Writing made me feel safe. I captured parts of days that interested me, humored me, or frightened me. The entries about fear reflected my feeling out of control when I expected a negative event. At times I witnessed the wheels of authority edge toward a potential race riot on the yard.… Read the rest
Inmates’ voices are muted by the cloak of incarceration. The prison system has no complaint departments. When you complain about having only four minutes to eat a meal, the sickly cynical response of guards is “if you don’t like prison, don’t come here.” Play that around in your brain a few times and see what it feels like.… Read the rest
What does prison reform mean to you? What does it mean to your friends, the general public, issue-aware people, and inmates? The connotations are fluid and depend on the depth of knowledge or caring a person has about why prison reform is an imperative.
There are several categories of people who have strong, visceral feelings about what prison reform should look like.… Read the rest