Author, Expert & Speaker

Inside perspectives

As I’m writing this post, we are in the twenty-ninth day of the government shutdown. The passionate truth is the country has a limping, underfunded government that is impacting people hard. Putting the political causes aside, what matters now are the short- and long-term effects on individuals and families of eight hundred thousand government workers, countless government contractors, and thousands of prisoners.… Read the rest

On December 18, 2018, the US Senate passed the First Step Act, a measure previously passed by the House of Representatives. Its passage was the culmination of five years of political arm wrestling that started with the Obama administration and was supported by the Trump administration. On December 21, 2018, Donald Trump signed the First Step Act into law.… Read the rest

Poetry is a penetrating art form that can give voice to the plight of incarcerated people. In his book Wounded Researcher: Research with Soul in Mind, Robert Romanyshyn studies the art of keeping the soul in mind when authoring psychological research reports. I was struck by the unusual juxtaposition of his research.… Read the rest

The fervent fight to eliminate California’s discriminatory cash bail system has resulted in qualified reform. Initial reporting on the subject is laced with hyperbole—for example, Thomas Fuller reported in an August 28, 2018, New York Times article, that “California . . . became the first state to fully abolish cash bail, a step that backers said would create a more equitable criminal justice system, one less dependent on a person’s wealth.”

Fuller quotes further puffing by Governor Jerry Brown: “Today [August 28, 2018], California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly.” The substance of the new law is based on an equitable and humanitarian formula regarding pretrial detention.… Read the rest

As I write this post, a seventeen-day prison strike is going on in this country. The coordinated actions started on August 21, 2018, and will end on September 9, 2018. The strike brings to the forefront prison reform issues that I, and countless other supporters of change, have been bringing to the attention of the general public and public servants about the pernicious grind of mass incarceration.… Read the rest

California is burning. The air contaminants from uncontained wildfires have caused a hazy reddish-gray umbrella sky extending from north to south. The images of brave and dedicated firefighters battling the rampage of fire in the midst of high temperatures and low humidity appear in the local and national press. Fighting wildfires in California is very serious business.… Read the rest

In a July 28, 2018, Kaiser Health News article, Siraphob Thanthong-Knight reports that “state prisons across the US are failing to treat at least 144,000 inmates who have hepatitis C.” This report reviews a recent survey of state corrections departments and concludes that inmates with hepatitis C, a curable but potentially fatal disease, can’t get the expensive drugs they need to cure it.… 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

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

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