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As Defined By Who: vol. 1 Internet Inside

As someone who has been inside, working with a "jailhouse lawyer," and as an advocate out here, it's painful to read about all the things that go on in the BOP, and I'm sure it's the same in the state.


The abuses, shortcomings, outright ignoring the law in prisons and lack of oversight are ubiquitous. The courts are flooded with abuse cases, that may or may never get heard. You've taken fallible humans, many with mental health challenges themselves, and with no accountability, have given them dominion over other people, US citizens, with rights.


I can tell you from being there, that they foster an "Us and Them" culture and will openly say that they see making sure nobody gets it easy as part of their responsibility, well, unless you're one of "their guys."


I only decided to make it a series today as I was working on my next piece, and saw that it amounted to the same thing. I just don't understand how they (the courts) can make their own definitions of what cruel and unusual punishment are, when we have socially acceptable terms for words in a dictionary.


Any other definition, not in that socially accepted book, is so obviously a case of misrepresentation and deception. The fact that it diverges from the socially accepted definition is all the proof we need to call "bullshit," and be right. What other reason could there be...and unlike others, I will accept new information and admit that I don't know everything. So feel free to explain.


The BOP makes it easy to find fault with them, and this is small potatoes to what we'll get to later, but one of the great failures I see from a reentry perspective is a lack of access to technology…of almost any kind. The average length of sentence in federal prison is 145 months…12 years and one month…AVERAGE!


Take a moment and think about how much technology has advanced in the past 10 years.Think about how much technology affects everyday life, and how, even using these devices all the time, they frustrate most of us, regularly. You're not getting a job without a cell phone and probably need a smart phone. I know at my job I'm required to take pictures and submit them. Being connected has become required.


When you've been sequestered from the very technology that the rest of society has become dependent on, catching up can seem impossible. Take our friend, Marty Peebles, for example. He was incarcerated for over 17 years, meaning he was arrested in 2003 (he got out at the end of 2020). The internet had really just begun. Upon his release, he was 69 years old. He didn't know what a u-scan was, how to book a hotel and believed that there really were hundreds of thousands of dollars available now, if he just gave him his email address.



He was literally lost in this technological wonderland. He's not the only one. I did three and a half years and was stunned at how much more prevalent technology had become in that short period of time. Think about going from 2003 to 2020 in terms of technology. In 2003, Blackberry’s were just becoming popular. There were no smart phones yet.


Look, there are cell phones in most, if not all prisons, with internet, unregulated by the BOP and that hasn't led to more escapes or drugs or uprisings.The most that’s happened is people have looked at other people naked and some guy proved why he was in prison, posting pictures of them partying inside.


Certainly with all of our tech advances, we can safely let these folks learn about the technology they'll be faced with on top of all the other stresses of release. At least a class on basic smart phone navigation and functions.


Since pictures seem to be a problem, let people email pictures. They now have "tablets," in most if not all facilities but they're not much more than a store for movies and games (or way for somebody to make money, if we’re being honest). Folks are missing out on being able to research anything, or even being able to learn how to research.


Oh yeah, and for all the promises of educational materials on the tablets, as promised by Keefe, (and Im willing to bet that's how they sold them...as educationaldevices. How is that not fraud?) there are none*. Only games and movies, with which the folks inside have to pay the most costly pricing structures available…pay-per-view, rather than allowing them a subscription service, like Netflix...like other prisons do


From a reentry perspective, this lack of technological access equals cruel and unusual punishment. Denying people access to knowledge of the tools they'll be required to learn post-release is absolutely setting people up for failure.


It’s this “piling on,” that seems to happen throughout society to those having the misfortune of getting caught breaking the law, and not being wealthy enough to have it taken care of.


Not only do you lose everything, and go to prison for years. Apartments won’t rent to you, jobs won’t hire you, drug convictions (which far outweigh anything else in the feds) will bar one from getting food stamps. On top of all that, we’re going to pile learning new technology just to be able to function on top of it. Let’s be clear, there’s no mystery about why recidivism is so high. It’s because these people aren't given a fair shot at redemption.


Prison is an adult, long-term time-out. One is removed from society for not abiding by the rules to a degree that those in charge deem punishable by physical imprisonment, kept away from loved ones, including children, and made to live under horrible conditions. In the feds they’re often made to live this way for a significant portion of their lives.


This time-out is meant to inspire one to change one's life, so as to never have to go back. It's one of, if not the only time in one's life that they'll be stripped of not only their freedom, but responsibility.


No more does one have to worry about paying the power bill, or getting the kids to school on time. They pay a price, dont get it twisted, but you can always find a silver lining if you just look.


For me, working on my issues was the only way I could justify being away from my daughter. If I could pull it together, then it wouldn’t necessarily be wasted time.


In there, one has years to go inside and do the work of change. I spent three and a half years working on that change and still had and continue to have work to do. It sucks, but you are free from the stresses of society.


If you think about the stresses of society, you know they're hefty and exhausting, which leaves one poorly equipped to exert the huge effort required to change how one thinks or behaves. Smart people recognize this hidden perk and take advantage.


To be able to really take advantage, people need the necessary access to information, as they attempt to mold themselves into something they’ve never been.


To catalyze sustained change, one needs reinforcement, encouragement, the leadership of one who’s gone before, coupled with that time to absorb and make sense of it, then to work it into a part of who you are. What a huge thing it would be if they could access Tony Robins materials, or buy Rosetta Stone courses to study while they’re walking the track. Unfortunately, they’re not.


Technology is a ubiquitous part of our lives, and I believe that we should be advocating for access to technology in prisons across the board.


If there’s an organization working on this, please take a moment to share them so we might get connected. This is going to be one of the efforts that Phoenix Reentry Resources gets behind going forward.


Thank you for your time and be safe out there.


Alex


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