Prison reform must address the needs of men and women who are reentering the work force after serving time in prison. Returning to your community can be as traumatic as going to prison when work opportunities are hampered because of a felony conviction. The idea that it’s a person’s conduct that’s bad, not the person, gets lost in the employment market.… Read the rest
In a previous post, The Loss of Compassion: The Gray Wave—Part 1, I used this definition of compassion: a “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” People without the compassion gene stand out; there’s something missing. I saw it all the time in prison in the interaction between staff and inmates and between inmates themselves.… Read the rest
What is compassion? We use the word a lot, but what does it mean? Isn’t this human emotion wired in the womb? You know compassion when you feel it—you feel a vacuum when it’s withheld.
Merriam-Webster defines compassion is a “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Charles Darwin offered an explanation about the origin of human compassion.… Read the rest
The heavy hand of unchecked power has gone too far. The indefinite detention of people whom immigration officials have yet to decide whether to admit or deport from the country is out of control. I see policies that affront the constitutional rights of due process and equal protection of the law.… Read the rest
Crusading for change includes knowing when real change happens. Some states are making more progress than others in their efforts for prison reform. According to the New Republic, “One could reasonably argue that Georgia is doing more to reform its criminal justice system than any other state in the country—from sentencing to felon employment after release to juvenile detention.” The thrust of Georgia’s reform movement begins before sentencing occurs and extends to when an inmate reenters society.… Read the rest
Real prison reform is a slow process. As with other social issues, it takes time for the public, judges, and legislators to make serious moves toward change. I’ve been asked why reforming prison living conditions takes so long. It’s because such reform germinates in the dark and easily goes unnoticed.
Prisons are the black holes of societies; they hold facts about aberrant morality that result in serious moral issues.… Read the rest
Have you ever considered what rules control California’s 120,000 inmates’ daily lives? Is there a book that specifies what conduct is or is not permitted? Meet the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR’s) Department Operations Manual— the DOM. The 849-page DOM provides an extensive overview of the institutional infrastructure of the CDCR.… Read the rest
In prison, books are friends. They’re virtual tickets out of the prison yard and into worlds of escape. Science tells us that reading benefits our brain function and emotions.
Prison administrators should understand science-based findings that reading is good for people. In her article “8 Science-Backed Reasons to Read a (Real) Book,” Abigail Wise gives four reasons that are particularly relevant to inmate readers:
- It [reading] increases intelligence
- It can boost your brain power
- Reading can make you more empathic
- Reading can help you relax
In my blog, Prison Is a Good Place to Catch Up on Your Reading, I argue that the boredom inherent in doing time and the resultant numbing of the mind caused by the never-changing, predictable daily routine of life has an antidote in the reading of books.… Read the rest
Cell phones in prison inmates’ hands are a problem. During my term at Ironwood State Prison (2003–2005), inmates did not have cell phones, and I never imagined cell phones’ being used by inmates. Outgoing phone calls were allowed only on prison phones, after evening chow, and only after the inmate had signed up to make a call at a specific time.… Read the rest
AB 1008 Becomes Law in California
Assembly Bill (AB) 1008 is California’s extended Ban-the-Box law. It is an antidiscrimination employment law. I discussed the bill in Ban the Box and called for its enactment into law. The law is well intended but flawed. The reasoning behind Ban the Box is not complicated; it forces the removal of this question from job applications: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” Without the question, it was argued, formerly incarcerated people can be evaluated the same as other applicants, without immediately being tainted by having a felony record.… Read the rest