November 1, 2011
I would define emerging successfully from prison as having a plan in place so that I will be able to adjust to the outside world after 2 decades in prison. I have been working hard toward this goal by getting as many college degrees through correspondence as I can and by continuing to write books, articles and my blog. I am also writing screenplays and trying to network with as many people as possible in the film, publishing, and magazine and book worlds. I have a house and a wife go come home to. I have my plan in place and I have a small publishing house to run when I come home. My immediate needs of car, clothes and other necessities will be met thanks to my wife, mother and father. I have been building my network of support and the possibilities for me to do what I want in terms of work and creative projects are there. So that is how I would define emerging successfully from prison. One must have a plan and be prepared and ready.
I am now in my 19th year of continual confinement in the Bureau of Prisons. I am nearing the end of my bid and should be released by the end of 2013 if I complete the drug program (rdap) offered in the feds and get the full year of halfway house and home confinement. As a federal prisoner these are things I have paid a lot of attention to over the year. Rumors or federal parole being enacted and extra good time have been rampant in the system since 1995 but nothing has happened yet. But lately things are looking better. With the changes in the crack laws and the 100 to 1 ration prisoners are catching breaks and getting some relief. I am hoping that some other ideas and rule changes that have been floating around congress pass also.
A couple of years ago there was a lot of hoopla about the Second Chance Act. But on the inside nothing dramatic has really happened. Recently though the feds made changes in the Code of Federal Regulations regarding halfway house and home confinement. The Second Chance Act said prisoner could get up to six months halfway house and six months home confinement but there was nothing in the CFR guidelines that permitted this. Just in September they finally made the proposed rule changes but altering the language in the CFR so that prisoners will be eligible for the whole year that was promised in the Second Chance Act. I am hoping that in the next year so prisoners will be able to get the full year with six months of halfway house and six months of home confinement. For long term prisoners like me and dudes that have been in the feds for over a decade it would be a great relief.
Also as the statutes are written Congress intended federal prisoners to get 54 good times days a year but the BOP only gives prisoners 47 days a year. Prisoners filed in court and it went all the way to the Supreme Court but the Justices sided with the BOP. But now in Congress there are several bills floating around that if passed would give federal prisoners the seven extra days that they should be entitled to. It doesn’t seem like much but if it is retroactive then prisoners like me, who are serving 25 year sentences, would get another six months off. Anything to shave more time off our sentences would be good.
The drug program (rdap) enables prisoners who complete the nine month residential drug program to get up to 12 months off. That has been in effect since the 90s and a lot of prisoners have taken advantage of it. For someone like me the 12 months off is a god send but after doing 19 calendars I am always looking for more. There are several other bills in congress that if passed would enact other good time measures. Allowing prisoners to get up to 60 more days of good time credit a year for completing educational, vocational and other BOP programs. If this is passed it could save more time off federal prisoners’ sentences. But this good time credit would not be retroactive. It would only be for the time prisoners have remaining.
So let’s do the math. If all these things pass and go in effect this is how I would be looking time wise. As of right now I have 48 months left. The drug program would take off 12 months leaving me at 36 months. The six months halfway house and 6 months home confinement would take another 12 months off, leaving me at 24 months. That extra seven days a year on my whole sentence of 25 years would give me another six months off, leaving my at 18 months. and if I could get 60 days more good time credit for my remaining two years or so that would put at about 14 months left. I would be happy with getting out or going to halfway house at the end of 2013, which is 24 months away. But I will take anything I can get as I know many other federal prisoners would.
I have been accustomed to lazy staff in the Bureau of Prisons, but the staff here at FCC Forrest City Low takes the cake. In a way it is good but it is also bad because if you are trying to do something positive during your incarceration they will make you battle for it. Because for real the staff here is trying to do as little work as possible and if you make work for them that will make them mad. When staff gets mad at a prisoner all types of things can happen because they have the power and the prisoner, whether right or wrong, is basically helpless in any type of confrontation or disagreement with a staff member. If the BOP were a real corporation in corporate world America I believe they would have the worst and least motivated staff in comparison to any other workforce. That is just my personal opinion though.
In some ways having staff who do not want or do not care to do their job is good from a prisoner’s point of view because prisoners can get away with stuff and staff will not find out because they simply don’t care. They are just trying to do their eight hours and get their paycheck. They are not trying to do any unnecessary or strenuous work or go above the call of duty in any such way. But if a prisoner is trying to get staff to do something or process something it can be bad because staff does all the paperwork that makes any type of process here start so if they are lazy and don’t like to work that can be bad for a prisoner who is trying to transfer or file administrative remedies or something of that nature. If you press them about or file paperwork on them or go above their head in an attempt to get them to do their job it can backfire terribly as that immediate staff member can make a prisoner’s life hell with random shakedowns, vindictive shots and just general harassment and most times they will get a way with it because there is no way that a prisoner’s word will be believed above a staff members. So when a prisoner gets themselves in this position they are basically hit. It is a fine line a prisoner needs to learn to walk in dealing with staff. It’s a game that they have to attempt to play knowing that 9 times out of 10 they will lose.
The staff in the BOP is so under qualified I don’t think they could get a job anywhere else. I believe they love their government job and all the benefits they get along with it. Basically after their first year, in which they are on probation and can get fired, they are set for life because the union protects them and they can’t lose their job just because their boss doesn’t like them or their work habits. In a prison like FCC Forrest City there is really no accountability at all. In theory the warden is the boss but from being here I can tell you that the staff does not give a fuck what the warden says. I hear them say it all the time. They will tell prisoners “I don’t care if the warden says you can do that or if he tells me to let you do that I won’t do it.” That is staff’s general attitude and the warden is more like a figurehead.
Besides being lazy the staff is inconsistent and it depends on who is working as to what you are allowed to do. The rules change as every new guard takes control of the shift and their unit. If the government is really concerned about corrections and what is going on in here they need to have a serious investigation and overhaul their whole policy because this system is corrupt, inept and lazy from top to bottom. It’s really a shame because they call it a correctional facility but they are trying to correct anyone in any type of way at all. There are no programs in place to give prisoners the tools they need to survive in the outside world. The system is set up for recidivism not rehabilitation, but I guess that is just how it is.
By Anne Ferranti. October 2009
There are days like today
When my thoughts wander back
Back to a time when
My blond haired baby boy
Was laughing at my antics
When my toddler padded his way
Across the floor
When my five year old began
When my eight year old
Swung a bat and hit a ball
When my twelve year made all A’s
And tried marijuana for the first time
That’s when I began to lose him
That’s when my lovely, baby boy
Began a journey away from me and
Into the hands of the government
Who has stolen his young adulthood
And the promise of whom he could
Now he’ll be a different person
Than I thought he’d be
I envisioned a Harvard graduate
Who’d be the best at all that he tried
I saw him with a gaggle of little
Kids calling him Daddy
A handsome man who could
Be whatever he wanted
In a few years
He’ll leave the regimented life
Where he is stifled and put down
By men who cannot begin to
Understand who he is
And what he can still be
They envy him because
While their lives are stagnant,
He is improving his mind and
Has many plans for the future
After he is free from
The Clutches of a revengeful
Government and the men who
Do its bidding
It matters not how harshly
They treat this boy of mine
He is stronger and smarter
Than all of them put together
They throw him into the hole
To break his spirit
But he emerges a better man
Than they can ever hope to be
So as I listen to the music
Of the eighties and Guns and Roses
Blasts from my TV
My mind wanders back to those
Carefree days of his early life
When he ran free and happy across the
Green grass of the park
And into my arms
I see him as he is christened
When he is confirmed in church
I see him as an acolyte and
As he played with his baby sister
Making her laugh as only he could
In my mind’s eye
I see him going to the prom
And graduating from high school
Playing on the school soccer team
Or baseball team
I see him accepting his diploma
I see him cuddling his newborn baby
And gently kissing her cheek
I remember when…
And I imagine what should have been.