Archive for » November, 2010 «

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Sometimes, you just gotta be there…

During my federal trial back in ’90 for cocaine conspiracy (theirs, not mine…), I was sick at one point and the trial was adjourned for a couple of days.  Thru my court-appointed attorney, I complained of the lack of medical care.

Of the two side-by-side  jails in Detroit, the old one was especially rife with sickness.  In the summer, we sat around in our underwear, sweat just pouring down.  In the winter, freezing.

I recall at one point a deputy sheriff making his rounds recognized me.  As a criminal defense investigator in Detroit for 17 years, I used to have a jail security pass to visit clients, many of the guards knew me.

He motioned to the other end of the bullpen and asked, “What the f*** are you doing here, Mac?”

I answered, “Don’t you watch TV?  Read the papers?” more…

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America’s Most Lame…

Dammit!  They had me going for a minute…  I admit it.  The corporate/police state media wonks suckered me.  I actually accepted their initial reportage that some lame halfwit kid from Portland, Oregon, nee Somalia, tried to pull off a terror attack.

Public hat trick...

Having been a federal prisoner now for 21+yrs, I should know better.  Unlike the average befuddled citizen of Big Brother’s republic, I have no excuse.

The US prison systems—comprised of the federal, all 50 states, the colonial Territories, the jokey-sovereign Native American “reservation” prisons, immigration facilities, ad nauseam—are a vast representation of every demographic that exists.

Stripped of all that you’ve earned merit-wise, which otherwise makes you unique and who you are, packaged in the same khaki uniforms, catalogued and numbered with assigned prisons and cells according to your security-classification, we become brothers (and sisters) of a type that exists nowhere else. more…

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Home of the Brave…

I don’t know how many times I’ve alluded to the principle: What you do to others—to the least of us, if you will—is what comes around on yourselves…

But who's watching the "eyes"?

On Wednesday I posted an article here in the American Tribune entitled, “Gulag America—Prison Nation.”  That article highlighted an incident of a search of the factory inmate-workers for a missing hammer.  The search included stripping the prisoners and having them bend over and spread their cheeks—as if a hammer could be found up their asses.

Maybe that pleasure exists as a daydream for the likes of Sarah Palin or John Boehner, but I doubt that it makes much sense for the rest of us (unlike us, they go around these search points).  more…

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Category: Corporatism  One Comment
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Happy Thanksgiving—2010…

I wasn’t gonna post today…but what the hey…  I suppose if I think about it for awhile, I’ll recall some memorable prison experience that occurred during this holiday over the past 21 yrs.  But, for the most part, the holidays have only been a check-off on the calendar, “Ten Thanksgivings down, 12 to go,” whatever…

"Cement work is easier..."

In a sense, I was fortunate.  I was in my late 40s when I started this 25-yr bit; my family was already grown.  Many of the guys (and lady prisoners) have young families.  Their incarceration—most on a humble, some bullshit 2-bit crime, like reefer or coke—is a further impoverishment for their families, especially the children.  A vicious conservative cycle.

Well, it’s been an interesting week for thankful remembrance.  Let’s see.  Ahh, Bristol Palin came in 3rd in that dance show (I watched once, a yr-or-so ago). more…

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Gulag America—Prison Nation…

Toward the end of the workday at the prison factory (UNICOR), one of the tools—a hammer—turned up missing.  Before we could return to the housing units for count and dinner, all tools had to be accounted for and locked in the toolroom.

Pat-Down Line...

When a preliminary search failed to find it, the inmate who had checked it out and the 5 others in his crew who had access to it, were ‘cuffed and taken to the hole.

Collective punishment: In its more extreme forms, the Nazis were prosecuted for it at Nuremberg.  The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) uses the nomenclature,  Common Area Punishment.

   Still, there was the problem of the missing hammer.  Doug Moyer, the Supervisor of Industries (one of the more retribution & punishment oriented jumped-up prison guards) called for a full-strip search of the worker-prisoners, about 250 of us. more…

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Conservative “Justice”…

One of my cellmates used to be a cop in Cambridge, Mass.  He and his partner did personal drugs on occasion.  When his partner got busted, he agreed to a sting in order to beat the case by snitching out Emilio, my cellmate.

Federal Judge Jack Camp

Long story short:  Emilio did not “cooperate.”  He went to trial.  Nothing pisses off the prosecutors and judges more than someone who won’t at least flip to a plea bargain.  Their typical retaliation comes at sentencing.

The jury came back with a compromise verdict finding Emilio guilty of only the conspiracy count (not realizing that that charge is the tail the wags the dog).  He was found not guilty of the predicates and objects of the conspiracy, which would normally obviate any conspiracy charge…there being no one with which to conspire.

However, the US Supreme Court has ruled that as a “technicality” in typical conservative double-speak.  (Conservatives consider all “rights” as “technical,” except for themselves, of course.)  more…

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Speaking of Snitches…

When I served time on a chain-gang in the Old South (1963-65), snitching was practically unheard of.  The one snitch that I recall in general pop where I was at was punked out.  He gave handjobs to all comers for candy bars, and blowjobs for smokes.

Joe Wilson & Valerie Plame

Today’s a different story.  Over 90% of convicts have either “accepted responsibility” and pled guilty for a deal, and/or “cooperated” by snitching out others (even when they had nothing; police and prosecutors would provide) for an even better deal.

Certainly there are rational and responsible reasons for taking a plea—assuming you do so on yourself.  But snitching when you’re a player in the game?  You’re a punk.

These realities don’t exist in a vacuum.  The prison system is a reflection of the people who create and run them.  From the top-down. more…

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EXIT: Democracy…

…The plutocracy is not a projection.  It’s here.  As disparate as the more than 2 ½ million souls in America’s gulag are, there are certain facts on which we agree.  One of them happens to be that all the politics, economics, and social reality out there has a direct impact on the law, our sentences, and the conditions by which we live.

Footmen for the Apocalypse...

Writer Bill Moyers recently described a guy who turned the corner just as a big fight broke out down the block.  He rushed up to an onlooker and asked, “Is this a private fight, or can anyone get in?”

He summed it up:  Democracy is one big public fight, and we should all be in it.  That’s the only way we’re ever really going to get justice. more…

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Vultures & Bottom Feeders…

There is a systemic logic to why America—the world’s oldest plutocratic democracy—maintains the planet’s largest prison gulag of its own citizens (and others).

American Tribune has spoken at length to the postbellum (Black Codes and convict leasing) origins of the modern American prison system.  But that does not fully address what continues to drive the growth of this prison nation.

Favoring Occam’s Razor, the simplest explanation usually best answers the basic questions.

We witness the composition of the prison population:  Overwhelmingly skewed toward the minority and poorer ethnic and worker demographics.  And the composition of the laws and sentencing:  The vast majority being of a victimless, consensual type. more…

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Justice & Innocence…

I recall one time when the supervisor of the education dept at FCI Ray Brook, Lake Placid, NY, asked me, “Are you claiming you’re innocent?”

   I was stumped for a moment.  The question was a non sequitur, out of the blue.  We had been discussing their withholding my grade-one pay at the prison factory for the requirement that I take a GED exam (I already had 3 yrs of university).

   After the first couple of yrs of my 25-yr sentence, I had ceased arguing my conviction.  What was the point? No one was listening, and the courts were not following their own law.  

   In my own experience, few prisoners claim innocence.  Their argument, like my own, was often some form of mitigated circumstance, mischarging, over-charging, dirty deals with snitches, and outright manipulation and manufacturing of evidence.

   “Actually,” I answered, “Yes.  Of the crime charged (membership in a certain cocaine conspiracy), I am innocent.”

   He startled the room by jumping up, clapping his hands, and gleefully laughing.  Reaching out to me, he said, “Let me shake your hand.  Every day for the past 16 yrs I’ve worked in the prison system, I’ve heard about convicts who claim that they’re innocent.  You’re the first one I’ve actually met!”  Clearly, he had a regular shtick… more…

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