Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dead TIme

"Dead Time" and Ideas for Change
                Letter from prisoner in Red Granite Correctional Institution

to Investigator Cecil Tates
US DHHS Office for Civil Rights
233 N Michigan, Suite 240
Region V;Chicago, Ill 60601

Representative Tamara Grigsby
 State Capitol, Room 182 North
 P.O. Box 8952
 Madison, WI 53708-8952

A graphic accounting of what it feels like to be told that you have to wait until 6 months  before your mandatory release date before you can do programming, that no matter how well behaved you are, you will have years of "dead time " to do. This was a lengthy letter discussing many prison problems. We here feature  only those sections on parole. 

Dear Representative Grigsby & Investigator Tates:
      This letter is from the "nobodies" who have been told to wait. We feel like there is no alternative for us other than to reach out to you, our State Representative & Civil Rights investigator, in a positive A sincere effort to present our "bodies", as a means of laying our case before ears that will hopefully listen.
      We feel strongly that our treatment here is inhumane and we are all desperate for change. We openly express this desperation for change in our lives as well as our current condition of confinement & stagnation to the social worker and  we are consistently told "you've still got dead time to do" These words are psychologically traumatizing to us. Our lives are equated with death. To equate a man's life with death is the ultimate- show of hopelessness. This practice is very harmful to us as it is used to justify to us, why we are being told to be idle. You have dead time to do because you are not recommended to take part in sanctioned rehabilitative programming unless you are 6 months prior to you mandatory release (MR) to the date they projected you would be released.
       Prison is filled with ways to distract ones minds from the reality of his present condition. There are hundreds to thousands decks of playing cards, domino games, different recreation games like basketball and soft ball and men spend their days submerged in these games because here, in these little games is the only place they can feel alive. So they play these games for 12 hours a day, but after awhile a man says to himself, "it is time to stop this nonsense and do something with my time. Once this decision is made he will then seek help from where he is told that it resides, with the social worker. He'll then be told, not because of a lack of self-motivation or eagerness, but because he has more than 6 months until the time he is to be released that he has to do "dead time" Death and denial are associated
       Here at RGCI, learning is highly emphasized and in some cases enforced. In addition to the HSED programs offered here, the institution has a Microsoft vocational program. It also offers the IYO college program. And a B of the Arts Degree program through Milwaukee area technical college, but these programs are inaccessible for those who are over the age of 26. These programs are operated under the 6 to 24 months rule. Men who's projected release for prison exceeds this time frame are met with a shrug of the shoulders and told they are not eligible yet.
It is counter productive that our requests for program placements are denied. Our request for placement and recognize treatment needs and educational needs are continuously denied. Our complaints about the wrongs that are done to us are unjustly denied, and in the end we feel denied.
Rehabilitation is a frequently used word, but the truth is that there is no real rehabilitation built into this system. What we are experiencing is a system of oppression. It is inconceivable that men can be rehabilitated when they are denied work, school and school programs because the dates fall outside the next 6-24 months.
The made-up policy of not allowing willing men to participate in treatment or school programs and telling us to do dead time, is counter rehabilitative. It is seen by some that this is actually the design of the system as a whole. If white men are statistically given lesser sentences in the court room than minorities, than the policy of choosing inmates for treatment and programs with 6-24 months is most beneficial to those with shorter sentences. Further more, men who apply for TIS sentence adjustment near the completion of their sentences are deemed unfit because they have not taken part in any recognized DOC rehabilitation programs. The DOC of course does not explain that these programs were denied. If they did explain, the whole world would see that the DOC intends to dictate the release the date of the men despite any other legal authority.
This magic authority the DOC assumes manifests itself in other ways too. For example, men who have been deemed by the sentencing courts to be eligible for the early release program, or for the boot camp, are frequently told by the DOC that due to some dynamic of their offense they are not going to be permitted to participate. We have tried to see a copy of the law books from which the DOC works, but they are inaccessible to us. Therefore, how the DOC can override the judicial branch remains a mystery to us all. 
       We all want to be better men were when we came to prison. However the condition we currently live under here  are truly the antithesis to this growth. If rehabilitation is to take place, then it must not only between the hearts and minds of men who are incarcerated. It must also be in the interests of those in authority. Because it is these people who can cultivate men and point them in the right direction.
    So many of us Men have such wonderful talents here. There are award winning artists here, there are also great rappers, musicians, poets, authors,, educators and athletes and the list goes on and on. What is sad is that a lot of the these talents in our situation are considered be nesciences and threats to good order of the institution. These talents are often discouraged, thus removing the self-satisfaction and sense of purpose and achievement men get from seeing and hearing the creativity manifest a itself.
    There is a saying that goes "the best person to design a house alarm is a burglar." And I believe wholeheartedly that the form of rehabilitative programming will come from the hearts and minds of those, who are or have been, incarcerated themselves. Incarcerated individuals see clearly the flaws and roadblocks to rehabilitation first hand. Therefore they are the best situated to effectively point out to others and give helpful and productive suggestions on how to overcome these obstacles.
     The first step in this process would be to realistic expectations from everyone involved in the rehabilitation process. The staff/ inmate relationship must remain professional and discipline must be firmly set in place in order to create a safe working and living environment for everyone. It is well know that a student cannot learn if he has safety and security on his mind.
        It must be acknowledged that due to the ethnocentric difference between staff & inmates, staff must be culturally literate and adept to dealing with men of diverse backgrounds. This literacy if learned & demonstrated by the staff will be taught to the men quite naturally. The staff will be respectful and in return the Men will I treat them as they are treated. The way it is now, we are respectful & the staff does as they please. This training would best be given to the staff from a group of former inmates, as they can convoy exactly what needs to be known about dealing with culturally diverse men in a prison setting.
       Another idea would be to design programs for inmate's hose projected release dates exceeds 24 months & allow men to accomplish things. programming should be set in place for Men who refuse to sit in a coffin while he's still alive..
     There is nothing better under confinement condition for a prior bad act than the feeling of accomplishing something positive. These programs would give the Social Workers a chance to get to know the M«n & this would give the men an a "meaningful" opportunity to be known. This will also place the Social Worker in a better position to help the men, because by knowing us, she can prescribe accurate & efficient help for us. This type of programming is critical to men who are incarcerated. Not all of Not all of us here are fortunate enough to have a strong family support network & these programs would be a way for men to see that some one does care about their lives, someone wants them to change.
         Through the implementation of new programs, such as "Coming into Manhood", Men in prison can be taught proper ideas about manhood. As it is now,There  is no teaching. Men who are not religiously affiliated or in a search for that type of inspiration should be provided with another association group which they can be a part of, one of men who are of the same or ethnic backgrounds It would be very healthy for men to be shown the accomplishments of great men who have come before them. From here Men will be able to draw inspiration from these examples of success or failure. Men who are culturally aware of themselves are greater assets to their cultural community, and in many communities, these Men are the leaders. It is essential to the interest of the community to have prospective leaders who are incarcerated to return to their communities rehabilitated, so that one day they can assume their roles in that community.
        From here, we see that so much can be done to cultivate great men from behind these walls of madness, but there is so little faith in change. The staff  have this a "walking Dead" philosophy, where they either see us as inanimate or without the attributes that are normally associated with living people, such as feelings, families and goals.Men have been crying for help, but no one seems to hear us, those screams echo here. We need you to hear us. We want to be given a chance to turn our lives around and be productive citizens and  loving, caring, teaching and providing fathers. We want rehabilitation. We need this chance and we ask that you see that we get it..
        There is a saying that goes "the best person to design a house alarm is a burglar." And I believe wholeheartedly that the form of rehabilitative programming will come from the hearts and minds of those, who are or have been, incarcerated themselves. Incarcerated individuals see clearly the flaws and roadblocks to rehabilitation first hand. Therefore they are the best situated to effectively point out to others and give helpful and productive suggestions on how to overcome these obstacles.


          2008 rally by families of prisoners in front of the WI DOC headquarters                    FAMILIES for a  SECOND CHANCE   WE invi...