Sunday, June 26, 2016

Inmates as Guest Bloggers

Sunday, 26 June 2016 - about 6pm PST


I was writing to one of my sons and realized I could publish his writings as a Guest blog here... and the thoughts of others.  No profanity, no objectionable materials, and no editing... what they send gets copied into one blog post.  I am wondering if it would work as a way to reach the public... to share the hearts of inmates and ways to change the system from their viewpoint.  I will have to wait and see what comes in.  If you have any inmates in your family, let them know.  The mailing address for these writings will be ::

Working Together Inc.
Making Prisons Better
PO Box 828
Eugene  OR  97440
United States



I am commenting on social media a lot these days, when I get there and find something to comment on.  It seems Twitter is the bigger market for prison issues, and I am trying to find the different groups involved in prison reform.

My plan to create and distribute a monthly newspaper for inmates is still progressing.  At my income level, I can only plan at this stage.  I hope to make a cost estimate soon... get a general idea of the costs and maybe start contacting those groups that care about inmate issues to buy ad space.  I have contacted Christian organizations in the past, but it seems to be a competitive arena.  I am hoping I will be able to get something started this time...  Subscriptions are the key.  How to make them affordable for the things I want to do.

I am hoping that GOD will finally provide for the needs of Working Together, including Inmate News.


Until next time,  May GOD help us all to become better today than we were yesterday, and better tomorrow than we are today.   :-)

Friday, May 6, 2016

Friday, 6 MAY 2016 :: Checking in and catching up on everything

Today is my day to catch up with all my blogging sites... just to start the process again, and let everyone know what is going on.

I'm not sure where I am at on prison issues right now.  I just had one son released from prison and another just went back into the system.  It is hard for me to deal with, even after all these years.  I am hopeful my recently released son will make it this time... only he can make the right choices to keep himself out of trouble.  There are so many issues attached to crime, it isn't something I want to get into right now.


I wrote on another blog about changing the way to treat theft crimes... changing from jail time to a supervised work program with restitution payments and building a new kind of life in the process.  I think it was the political blog (Political Rehabilitation at http://political-rehabilitation.blogspot.com) I wrote today.  It would keep people out of the prison system and, hopefully, help them to find better paths to a better future.  You can read that post for more information, and I will be exploring it more in future posts here.

Currently, my main focus is getting information to inmates through a monthly newspaper... I am hoping to get it going before I leave this earth, but money is always my issue.  I have been trying to find another way to reach the goal...  I have a simple plan, but have to figure out how much money it will take to get going.  Finding the mailing addresses of inmates is a big challenge, keeping them accurate is another, and reaching the inmate populations has to be the first step.  Families and inmate organizations would come after the inmates in priority. 

I think this would be an excellent employment future for some released inmates, and they would be great resources for deciding what inmates need to know.  Bringing each state into the process allows all of us to see the differences between them, and to see what works (from an inmate perspective) and what doesn't.

There are so many ideas and possibilities to include in just this one effort.

That is about all I can share today.  Keep checking for new posts... and future links to a Facebook page.

In Christ,
Deborah Martin

http://work2gather.us

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Monday, 22 FEB 2016 :: Reaching Inmates With Information

There are so many problems with our prison systems I can't solve, but I have thought about ways to make them better for inmates and our country.  I believe I have already shared how I would like to see INTERNET SALES bring income to both inmate and prison budgets.  It could change lives forever.  This blog, however, is about getting INFORMATION to inmates and their families.

I began to discover our penal systems when my sons became involved with drugs as teens, discovering it with the view of a parent and from the perspective of poverty.  People in poverty experience the world of prisons in a different way than those who can afford their own lawyers or hide their drug use inside cars or houses. Wealthy people don't have to resort to crimes to support their habits either.  These are just some of the reasons there are more poor people in prisons than those who have money.

I haven't searched for statistics to back up my claims, these statements come partly from my experiences and partly from things I have read and seen over the years.  Being the parent of someone in prison is a frightening experience.  There is nothing you can do to help them.  You have to focus your mind on anything besides the dangers of prison life :: gang issues, violence, sexual attacks.  You are always worried your child is suffering things they don't deserve, or becoming something worse than what they were when they went in, or going to die.  In prison, protecting yourself becomes a crime, increases your time in prison, and increases the problems being faced or overcome. 

Prison is such a hard place to experience as a family.
Like poverty, if you remain in it too long, it just makes things worse. 

Another problem I discovered in my years of struggle was how to keep that time in prison from becoming a total waste of life.  In my poverty, in my learning status, looking for a way through this challenge as a parent wanting to help their child, opportunities became difficult to find. 
  • You discover the high costs of visiting, if you can even reach the place your loved one is at.
  • Letters, photos, and copies of articles from different sources become the main vehicle to share the world with your inmate. 
  • Stretching your budget is a monthly challenge when you try to send them some level of cash for things they need or want, things not provided by the institution. 
  • You learn that shoes become an essential possession because they tell everyone else in prison there is someone on the outside that cares about them.
  • You find out how little money is earned by inmates that have jobs, and how hard it can be to get and keep them.  
  • If you can afford them, magazine subscriptions and books sent from approved vendors become your gift selections.  Newspaper subscriptions would be nice, but they are very expensive, too expensive for poor families.
  • Mail-order education is not paper and pen and stamped envelopes anymore... finding affordable alternatives was impossible for me.
  • In the middle of your difficult struggles, you discover all of this effort can be a wasted when your inmate is moved around the system.  Their belongings get "lost" so they have to start over at the new prison; there isn't mail forwarding so their subscriptions get "lost" even if they have only received one issue; your letters get returned; your undelivered orders get returned...
Information, keeping up with the world, focusing on positive opportunities -- these became my goal for my sons and I knew there had to be others who wanted the same things.  Information that mattered to the lives of inmates and their families seemed to be the easiest road to change, like education in small doses. 

My journey to bring this information into prisons began with the desire to know more of what my sons were doing in the places they were living in.  How to connect my desire to know more with the restrictions within prison systems made me think the solution would need to be internal, within the prison.

I started my effort by suggesting the Oregon prison system organize one or more inmate teams to create weekly subscription-based newsletters for family and friends of inmates.  Paid by quarters to make the cost affordable for low-income families and because of the prison practice of frequent moves, I thought it would pay for itself, provide wages for the inmates, and bring the world into prisons through news resources and the reporting process.  It could improve the education, intelligence, and perspectives of those inmates who were involved in creating it, and those reading it.  For continuity I suggested building a team with both lifers and other medium- and short-term inmates.  I even thought it could be published in small scale, within each separated prison building if possible, to expand the benefits I saw it having.  I never heard back from the Department of Corrections, and haven't heard of this being accomplished...yet.

Then I tried to think of something I could do in my retirement, on my own.  I called it "Letters to Inmates" and felt it would be like sharing the same letter with all those who subscribed (on their own or as gifts from others).  With a subscription base, it could be possible, too.

In the process of searching for answers, I added PRISONS to my Working Together programs and envisioned a global reach someday.  I discovered that some prisons in other countries are worse than any I have heard about in the US, even though news reports tell us we have more inmates than other countries.  I suspect there is something wrong with this claim.  In looking at world prisons, I wonder if it seems we have more inmates because other countries kill anyone they want to.  I have also seen prison documentaries on PBS that show entire families being in prison, children with their parents, usually their mother.  Prisons are a huge global challenge.

The information aspect of any Working Together outreach to prisons would required a printed newsletter for inmates, but online and email options might be achievable for friends and family.  INMATE NEWS was born to meet these needs. 

What is the dream for changing prisons with information?  Sharing what is currently being done within each state from the inmate perspective, creating a place where inmates can share ideas and opinions with each other, restricting advertising to programs and organizations that help inmates and their families, offer ways inmates can earn money for their needs.  Inmates need to know how technology is changing criminal arrests.

Reaching inmate populations is the real problem.  They seem to be a protected population, kept apart from the rest of the world. 
You can't buy an inmate mailing list
from the Department of Corrections.
 
I'm not sure if this separation from the world is to protect them, the public, or someone else.  Inmates become locked in the system, they become forgotten people.  Some have absolutely no one to care about them, send them a letter, buy them a birthday gift, give them money for everyday needs not provided otherwise, or anything else.  Their only "friends" become other inmates... which are not always healthy relationships, and their time in prison can be multiple years to decades.

It seems to me this lack of outside influence needs to be changed.


Monday, May 25, 2015

25 MAY 2015 :: Sentencing of a 14-year-old girl

I am in the process of entering several blog posts under different topics and I wanted to add a short message here about the 40 year sentence given to a 14-year-old girl who was jealous over a new baby in the house and drowned it  --  in a fit of rage, I suppose. 

I don't agree with the crime, but a 40-year sentence for a child!  We need to set limits on juvenile crimes, and try to rehabilitate young inmates instead of trying to put them out of our sight for unreasonable amounts of years.

Think about it...
  • A temporary insanity plea would at least get her to a doctor that would work with her insecurities, and help her to better deal with life...which, I hope, would not take 40 years.
  • Some people commit worse crimes and get a lot less time, as adults.
  • Children simply cannot process events like adults and MUST NOT be treated as though they can.

We should have a prison system that will help her to recover her life and return to society.  Sticking her in our prison systems isn't going to help her, it will make her even worse.  Maybe they hope someone will kill her before the 40 years are over so she won't be back in society at all.

I cannot believe this sentence.  It is outrageous.  I cannot understand the logic, or the purpose.

Mandatory sentencing is not any better.  Each person's life, and crime, and potential for recovery, is different.  They need to be treated individually...in courts, in prisons, in rehabilitation efforts.

What kind of prison system do you want America to have?

I would like to see America lead the way in prison reforms that help inmates to change into the people they want to be, educated to achieve their better dreams, and able to earn money while in prison that will help them to change their futures on release.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

9 APR 2015 :: An introduction to how I view prison issues.

I thought I had already posted in this blog, way back in January, but that was when I created the description statement in the title.  I can see that will need to be updated.  I don't know exactly what to share about prison issues, there is so much to be done.  In my own experiences, with two sons that went to prison because of drug and related theft issues, courts and prisons are a frightening thing. 

When my sons reached their teen years, everything changed. Their lives became a battle zone and my life became a nightmare.  As a parent in distress, my desire to recover their lives took a wide variety of turns.  Poverty prevents a lot of interventions that other budgets can access.  Finding poverty solutions to these intervention needs was a desperate effort, but there weren't many.  The ones I tried didn't work out.

A child that has run away is no longer a child. 

These children have discovered freedom, have been in charge of their decisions, and think of themselves as adults.  In many ways, they are.  We have no idea of the things they have experienced while away from us.  Parents may have legal responsibilities for a runaway child, but not the ability to stop them from leaving, from doing what they want, or from creating consequences that will last the rest of their lives.  Drug-affected children can't see what they are doing to themselves...and because they can't continue their freedoms when they return home, they don't return. 

I am thankful to anyone who helped my sons when they were beyond my ability to reach them, but most of the groups that are on the streets have the same issues and aren't going to lead them back to where they should be.  Juvenile detention units, jails, prisons, and rehab facilities, may dry them out, but if these loved ones don't see themselves as addicted, they become what is known as "institutionalized" --  they learn how to work the system, how to pacify those in charge over them, familiar with the survival requirements they have to learn.  Peers in prison are not the mentors a  parent wants for their child... mentors don't seem to be an option.

My hopes for my sons were for the things that would change the course of their lives from prison to self-respect and a prison-free existence.  If prison systems helped inmates to discover and overcome their addictions, improved their lost educations, taught them the daily-life skills they missed by leaving home at a young age, discovered their hidden dreams and showed them a way to achieve them, explored their abilities and opened up new dreams, paid them minimum wage so they could actually feel human, want to work, and allow them to see what their budgets will be like on release (and help them to save for that day), there might be hope the future would not mimic the past.

Visiting is critical to maintaining good relations with the world and family and potential mentors.  That means local access, local prisons for local residents.  In my quest for solutions, I decided a county facility approach would be the best.  If every county was required to house their residents, or inmates that will be released to their area because of family ties,  it would allow better community interventions for education, mentoring, training, work release, and visiting by those who love them.  As a poverty family, I am not able to travel hundreds of miles to visit my sons for a few hours.  With a county approach, the institution would be more easily accessible.  Visiting privileges also need to be taken off the menu of restrictions when there are problems between inmate and administration.  Visiting is essential to family recovery and provides a natural protection against inmate or institutional abuses.  Prisons can find other means of punishment for internal offenses.

At one point I felt that every single inmate needed to be busy every day with activities that would benefit them, improve the institution, and help the community.  Education is one of the greatest benefits an inmate can acquire.  The phrase I created to deal with this issue is :: 

The more you know, the better your decisions will be. 
 
I believe this is more true for inmates than any other population we know of.  When jobs are not possible, inmates need to be in classrooms discovering all the things they don't know, especially computer skills that are required for future job options.  I decided four hours was a minimum requirement and would set a better tone for each day.

Why do I believe inmates need to be paid minimum wageOne reason is because it would prevent the state or county from turning inmates into slave labor.  Another reason is because it will give the inmate a reasonable budget to work with, incentive to do a good job, and self respect.  A minimum wage is pretty much all an inmate can look forward to.  As an inmate, it allows them to discover what their finances would be like upon release, including required payments of restitution, child support, and fines.  Income allows them to save for their release or larger purchases, allows them to provide for their own needs while in prison, allows them to participate in family celebrations and not become a burden to those who love them.

I suppose I could continue, but I will save some of my experiences and opinions for the future.  Throwing people in prison without addressing the issues that put them there will never solve the larger issues our society is facing.  We have to find a way to change the system to make it better.