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Ink From The Pen

Mabili Ogun about almost 4 years ago

Ink From The Pen writings of Gerrard D. Jones from a Florida Penitentiary...

Vol. 1, Column 1

A COMMON-SENSE SOLUTION TO PRISON OVERCROWDING AND THE RELATED TAXPAYER CONCERNS

There are roughly 100,000 Inmates in the Florida Prison System. It ranks third in the nation, behind California and Texas.

98% of all Florida prison Inmates will be released back into society. Less than 1% of prisoners get "life" sentences, "death" sentences or otherwise die of natural causes in prison. Currently, a released prisoner gets $100 and a greyhound bus ticket, period, upon returning to society from his stint in prison.

A näive sector of the community will, no doubt, raise an argument stating that there are numerous "programs" to assist prisoners upon reentry into the outside world. The reality is that there aren't. "theoretically", a released person can apply for foodstamps; get a few nights lodging at a salvation army; get a few used clothing outfits at a Goodwill store and get a "labor pool" temp job. However, oftentimes the first order of business is the (mandatory) "reporting-In" to the Sheriff's office (within 48 hours) to notify authorities of yopur freedom. Next, nearly all released persons are on (mandatory) supervision, either on conditional/controlled release (a Florida statute 947 mechanism whereby [with few exceptions] every releasee must serve whatever "good behavior credits" earned in prison on supervision once out) or on probation ( a Florida statute 948 supervision mechanism).

Probation is imposed by a judge while conditional/controlled release is imposed by the Florida Parole Commission and the Department of Corrections. In any event, a releasee's immediate concerns are housing for the night; food; a ride to the Sheriff's office and Probation/Parole office. Most Releasees who've served a few extended months (or worse, years) often lose any "foundation" they have prior to incarceration. Spouses move on, jobs wait for no-one and the great majority of prison releasesees do not own homes or cars.

So, quite literally speaking, the vast majority of releasees leave prison with the clothes on their backs, $100 dollars stipend and a bus ticket to a place where no-one awaits them. They are straightway under pressure to fend for themselves after being indoctrinated mentally into relying upon the prison system for food and lodging ("three hots and a cot"). This pressure overbears fully 80% of releasees (statistics show within "months" but its actually) within the first days or weeks. Faced with such uphill scenarios, a lot of releasees feel "doomed" upon arriving at their destinations on the bus.

Another consideration of note in this paradigm is that a great many releasees have untreated mental diseases which exacerbate the already delicate situation.

Sadly, the "road of (seeming) least resistance" to the releasee is to make-a-quick-buck by "investing" his $100 dollars in drugs, gambling or some other "ill-fated scheme". Often, the latter category of choices includes the "soft target attractiveness" of robbing the first elderly person in sight.

The budged for the prison machinery is nearly 3 billion dollars yearly. The majority goes to salaries, then prison healthcare services, then prison healthcare services, then the routine business of running the routine business of running the nation's third largest prison industrial complex. The economy is in recession while taxes are increasing and prison population continues to climb.

The choice is to vie for the lead with Texas/California, or to utilize ideas and resources to the wisest and most expedient use of Florida's taxpayer.

I propose the first of two workable plans---which will both alleviate overcrowding by 20 thousand beds while simultaneously earning the taxpayers some $4 million per week, or roughly $200 million per year.

The State need only put 20 thousand nonviolent prisoners with 5 years left on their sentences into a work-release program. The ratio would be 19 thousand men and 1 thousand women. Inmates on work-release are required by law to pay 45% (almost "half") of their job salaries to the State of Florida. The 40 hours per week job paying $10 per hour for $400 weekly. Taxpayers would get "half", or about $200 per week per inmate on work release, which totals about $4 million weekly.

Moreover, the inmates would not need as intense monitoring, because they would have a stake in spotless behavior so as to earn themselves $200 weekly for 5 years, or about $52 thousand per inmate. They could live in existing facilities (prisons minus the normal "guard" force; halfway houses, salvation army facilities; drug treatment centers and faith-based cooperatives.

the "goodwill" shown to inmates, coupled with the stability of a place to live, food and a viable opportunity to see long-term betterment would enhearten even the most pessimistic of prison inhabitants. There would be an accompanying plethora of ("goods and services") reasons for the business community to embrace such a plan.

Lastly, with the rights of former inmates to vote, the vestiges of incarceration which negatively yoked so many would be nullified by the simple, yet realistically tangible prospects of livelihood, dignity and respect of community. I firmly believe that such is a far better way to have formerly wayward citizens come back to us "out there" since 98% are coming back anyway.

The second plan, I will readily admit is more politically incorrect, taboo and just as necessary as my first plan. Here I speak of Florida's sex offenders. I saw a story last year (in print and on TV) about some sex offenders in Miami who had ended up living collectively under a bridge.

The prison I am at (Desoto Annex) is adjacent to the Florida Civic Commitment Center (FCCC). the FCCC is a place where sexual "predators" (not "offenders") are housed once they have completed their prison sentences. The FCCC was created under Florida statute 394 pursuant to the 'Jimmy Ryce Act'. (so named for a child who was unspeakably victimized by a sexual predator)

In a nutshell, a "sexual predator" has a least one prior sexual crime in their history and they tend to use additional violence over and above that which is inherent in a rape/molestation crime.On the other hand, a "sexual offender" can have a crime ranging from fondling, touching, "consensual", yet "underage", (18 year old guy/15 year old girl) a sexual encounter and rape or molestation without any additional violence than is offense inherent. All "predators" go to FCCC. They get "evaluations" yearly and, upon the word of mental health professionals, can be released into society with no place to go (except to the bridges In Miami).

Meanwhile, sex "offenders" get out of prison and are sent back into the communities. We have all seen the stories of neighborhoods "up-in -arms" in full 'Frankenstein/vigilante mode' outraged at the nerve of a sex offender to dare move into their hood. the reality, too, is that even these people are 'people' and they, too, will have to live "somewhere".

So I propose that a piece of land in a rural community be bought. It should be a mile in each direction. Dormitory-style housing would be built for 10 thousand residents on-site, such as like hotel rooms. There would be everything they would need on-site: A hospital for medical/mental health, grocery store, police department, probation office, jobs (perhaps a cabinetmaking shop; a garment factory and other viable enterprises).

There would also be movie theater screens, a bowling alley, go-carting track, arcade, weightroom, basketball, tennis, a bank, social services etc. It would be fully self-sustaining. Residents would pay rent and the cost of services they need. the upside is that all of the sexual predators released by FCCC and all the sexual offenders leaving prison would be in a safe place to live, get they help they need and be accounted for as is fitting for this special class of offenders.

Moreover, Florida could "rent out" three thousand bedspaces to similar residents of other States and obtain about 60 to 80 thousand dollars per person per year to house and otherwise caretake offenders from other States. These people are all going to get out of prison anyway. All of them coul move to Florida anyway. They would otherwise be living "who-knows-where" all over our State.

Let intelligence guide us. I hope to foster dialogue/debate. I (personally) cannot benefit from any of the listed options herein, but there are about 90 thousand other Florida prisoners who can.

Gerrard Jones, Ink From The Pen Critical Times Correspondent

NEXT UP:

THE U.S. SUPREME COURT'S RULING REGARDING PERSONS WHO COMMITTED CRIMES WHILE JUVENILES. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

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