Bridge of Voices # 17 pages 1 through 3
Newsletter of FORUM FOR UNDERSTANDING PRISONS (FFUP)
C = Community
F = Forgiveness
R = Reconciliation
M = Movement
CFARM movement- Mission statement evolving- A discussion invited.
Lutalo has named us- here is his summary: CFARM is a movement based on the concept of moving the community to partake in its social responsibility to its citizens by
(1) forgiving those who have failed their community, and
(2) working to ensure that the forgiven are given an equal opportunity to be sewn back into the fabric of society upon completion of their sentence. CFARM endeavors to see that prisoners are not kept in prison longer than justice requires.
Non prisoner retort: When I read the word “ forgiveness” the first thing I thought of was that the prisoner also has forgiving to do- Most prisoners come from abused backgrounds, were not well supported by their community or family and had no chance to develop ability to make real choices before being incarcerated : The abused learn to abuse. In order to truly heal and become contributing citizens, he/she has to become more conscious than most in the society he returns to. For me CFARM is as much about society taking responsibility and being accountable as it is about the prisoner’s attitude.
Your input welcome.
Founder’s note: This FFUP newsletter is our first attempt to reach out primarily to the Wisconsinites unfamiliar with the prison world. We try to explain the need to re-examine prison policies as well as conventional attitudes toward those incarcerated. There is a reader survey and petition to encourage legislators to support reasonable prison policies and we have drafted two bills, one for juveniles and one for the elderly, and have been working with a legislator to get them ready for presentation. If you know people who might be interested in receiving this newsletter, please send us their addresses as this is a new venture.
The work progresses. This will be a long term effort. Here we concentrate on a group of prisoners whose incarceration in many cases no longer makes sense: “Old Law” prisoners, juveniles waived into adult court and serving life or near-life sentences, and elderly prisoners who have served 20 or more years and are currently rehabilitated. We need a legitimate pathway for their release and propose several in this newsletter.
For the FFUP mission statement, project information, how to get involved, how to “meet your prisoners,” we invite you to visit our web and use the links to view the many blogs for prisoners: www.prisonforum.org.Thanks to Mansa Lutalo Iyapo, Prince Atum-Ra Uhuru Mutawakkil and David Rhodes for editing and organizing help and also thanks to the many prisoners who have trusted us with their stories. As always, donations of time, money and ideas are welcome and needed . Donations are tax deductible. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or write 29631,Wild Rose Drive, Blue River, WI 53518. Peg Swan
(This newsletter printed on 100% recycle paper)
(end of page one)
Written shortly before elections, even more relevant today. (Edited for space.)
Prisons: Spending up, results down, but no repercussions
By editor of Cap Times, Paul Fanlund « email@example.com
With elections looming, it seems there's no political upside to thoughtful conversation
about Wisconsin's corrections policies. Consider an op - ed column last week by
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett. "There is no reason prisoners should
have better health care than working and middle-class families … My plan will save nearly
$10 million per year by cutting Cadillac health care for state prison inmates." (Two years
ago, Cap Times reporter Steven Elbow wrote an investigative story on medical treatment
in a state prison. The Mayo Clinic it wasn't.)
In fairness, Barrett is following a well-worn trend in con¬temporary Wisconsin
politics. His major Republican foes strive to sound even more uncompro¬mising. Anyone
convicted of a crime appears to be the most dependable political target this election year,
outstripping even public employ¬ees.
. The “tough-on-crime” trend gained full force 10 years ago when Wisconsin’s
so-called "truth in sentencing" law eliminated parole for good behavior. In the years since, Wisconsin’s inmate population has risen and its annual correc¬tions budget has exploded from $700 million to $1.2 billion,
equaling state support for the UW System. (For comparison, on July 1st, Minnesota had 9,423 inmates compared to Wisconsin's 22,084, even though overall state populations are similar.) Higher incarceration rates apparently had little effect on Wisconsin’s violent crime rates, however, which increased by 28-percent between 2000 and 2007.
Last year, the state tried a modest early release program for some nonviolent offenders. State Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, quickly proclaimed, "Thousands of dangerous criminals... may soon be coming to a neighborhood near you."
You get the picture.
Enter Joe Parisi, a thoughtful Democratic state representative from Madison's east side. Parisi has embarked on a lonely campaign to bring common sense to corrections policies and would like candidates to back up pronouncements about inmates and prisons with facts. "I see this as an important junction," says Parisi, chair of the Assembly Corrections Committee, in an interview at his Capitol office. "There is a growing move¬ment" of experts drawing attention to the fact that some expensive get-tough policies are ineffective, he says. Yet, "there is an equally strong, if not stronger, force on the other side that has its heels dug in."
Parisi’s effort to inject critical thinking into the corrections debate has in part grown out of his 10 year involvement with Operation Fresh Start, which provides job training for young male offenders. As a former board member and OFS volunteer, he recalls many suc¬cess stories.
Parisi observes: "People who tout themselves as fiscally conservative in all other areas... throw that philosophy out the window when it comes to corrections ... They are stuck in this mind-set that the more you spend on corrections, the safer we are. But that is sim¬ply not borne out by evidence."
Retribution, he says, seems a key motivator for many legislators, and it is not strictly a partisan issue. Some Demo-crats are as stridently "tough on crime" as Republicans. Upbringing and life experience have more to do with determining attitudes than party affiliation, he says. Which brings him to the most sensitive topic: race.
"I think one of the facts that make it easy for politicians to demagogue against felons... is that over 50 percent of the populations in our prisons are African¬-American," quickly adding that he is not calling anyone a racist. Yet race "is the 800-pound gorilla sitting in the room."
He wishes more legislators listened to the real-life experiences of African-American legislators from Milwaukee. He says they "get it" but currently lack a major voice on the issue in the Capitol.
"The facts speak for themselves," he says. "If you are a 16 year-old African-American male in Milwaukee caught smoking pot, you are much more likely to get busted than a 16-year-old white kid living in Middleton. It's just the facts”.
Parisi would like candidates to be challenged: "What are your #1 goals for criminal justice?
I think public safety would come first, he says. But “If people say we have to quit letting criminals out early, what are they basing that on? Is it supported by empirical data?"
So where do you go from there?
"I am just looking for some way to break this logjam and bring some sanity back," he says. "Why do we keep doing this stuff that doesn't work?"
Name any other state budget area where spending could increase by a half -bil¬lion dollars over a few years with no measurable impact and produce no political back¬lash.
No place else I can think of. You? July 14-20,2010 (end of page2)
Andre bridges 248420
CCI; PO Box 900
Portage, Wi 53901
SECOND CHANCE FOR JUVENILE OFFENDERS?
I was the second Milwaukee teenager, 16 years old, to receive a life sentence in 1992. When I become eligible to see the parole board, I’ll be 61.
I take full responsibility for my childhood transgressions. But please do not overlook the fact that I was only 16, misguided, with a world of issues that ultimately caused me to become angry, heartless, and self-destructive. Hence, hurt people, hurt people! Such ultimately caused me to lose my life in the form of institutional death.
The rough streets of Milwaukee proved safer for me than life at home. There, I was nothing more than a punching bag for my drug-addicted mother and a sounding board for her verbal assaults. Why did my mother hate me so? I showered her with the love I hoped she'd one day show me but that day never came. As far as she was concerned, I was good for nothing.
I had what I thought was a true friend, who unfortunately took to sexually molesting me. As bad as that made me feel, I accepted it because, in that, I proved to be good for something. It should come as no surprise that I became a child who couldn't distinguish between love and hate or life and death. Thus I took to hating myself and thereby chased death. Drugs, alcohol, and gangs to the rescue. Gang banging was the road I chose to act out my anger and self-hatred.
It wasn't until ten years or so into my incarceration that I started to “get it”. I took to examining and addressing my turbulent past. In doing so, I developed a real understanding and appreciation for life and everything it has to offer. I love the man I am today but I also feel inadequate, unable to fully experience the life I've come to understand and appreciate. In addition, I'm unable to give back, to work for positive change the way I know I'm capable of.
I am no longer the angry, heartless, misguided, self-destructive child I was 18 years ago. Yet, I must remain in prison and continue to be punished as if I am. This wounds my manhood far more than the abuse I suffered as a child. That's why, with the help of my friend Roy, I put together a proposal entitled Redemptive Re-Entry Program. The purpose of this proposed program would allow child offenders who, like me, were sentenced to life and have served a substantial amount of time and proven to be rehabilitated, to be given a second chance by having their sentences reduced. So that release is timely and we might get out as young adults as opposed to old men and women, I beg you to support efforts like the Redemptive Re-Entry Program or programs and/or campaigns of a similar nature! To read the entire R.R.P. proposal, more about my story, and the stories of other child offenders, please log on to andraebridges.blogspot.com or go to FFUP website prisonforum.org.
Note: Please fill out the survey on page9. This is one of the ways we can show legislators that forever punishment is not needed and there are ways for prisoners to show themselves ready for release. FFUP is working with a legislative aide to perfect the above mentioned second chance plan and we are combining these ideas with another plan submitted by DarRen Morris.
For a sampling of stories, writing of prisoners waived in adult court as kids: www.prisonforum.org: click on second chance for juveniles page or go direct to blog at secondchanceforjuvenileoffenders.blogspot.com/.
Roy Rogers Jose Bonilla Sarah Kruzen Hayes Jackson James Earl Jackson