A Three-Strikes Prisoner Speaks Out


Last month I wrote about how Massachusetts is considering a “three-strikes” sentencing bill. I asked my prison pen pal “Conway”, whose poetry I’ve often shared on this blog, to share his thoughts about the unjust impact of such legislation. A nonviolent offender, Conway is serving 25-to-life in a supermax facility in California for receiving stolen goods. The “EDGE” program that he mentions was a youth mentoring program that he taught in before he was transferred to his current facility. Conway is a talented writer and artist who used his skills to help at-risk youth find safer outlets for their negative emotions.

Here is an excerpt from the letter he sent me last week:

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“…So the Mass. State House is contemplating a three-strikes bill? Didn’t or haven’t they seen that it broke New York’s budget and California, which supposedly had one of the largest economies, has now begun sending prisoners to five other states because of overcrowding.

California has been forced by the Supreme Court to reduce their prison population. And they have created a [prison] guard union that forces the lawmakers to bow down to their agenda. Sounds like someone is not thinking about the people except as commodities/prisoners.

That’s one way to build a voters’ market.

Only the franchised can vote. Next comes the prison labor bill. Put those crooks/slaves to work for pennies an hour. Sound familiar? ‘Cause they did that here. Same time they put the three strikes into effect. Check Prison Industries and the Joint Venture Program, Penal Code 2717.4. 

It’s all legalized slavery.

It’s sad really how easy the voting public is manipulated.

For example: They show television programs with perfect or dysfunctional lives. (But not truly dysfunctional.) Then they advertise all this shiny crap every 10 minutes and you say ‘Wow! I want some of that.’ But wait there’s more.

You need money, you need to stay away from where money is, ’cause the cops know you ain’t got none. Don’t betray your morals, our morals.

If you work 10 hours a day, I’ll pay you minimum wage for 8 hours. And you can make payments on this car someone already wore out.

Oh? You have a record? No soup for you!

The frustrating way that a carrot is dangled in front of an old plow horse, basically…

…Wackenhut or some other private prison conglomeration…convince the public that crime is on the rise with false pie charts, and media exploitation of some heinous crime that is unexplainable. Because no one knows what’s going through some of these sociopaths heads. Some are just broken machines; broken by the prison system itself. These broken machines pacing back and forth and back and forth, until one day these fools just open the cage, hand them 200 dollars and drop them off at a bus station.

No one reached out in here and the thing is, if you did see a headshrink they just fill out a subscription [sic] for pills that make you sleep or nonresponsive.

Do I know a cure? No. I don’t even know what I would do to change the current way things are run. But I do know that another tough on crime bill, is not a deterrent to crime or a way to manage human lives.

How about voting for a second change program. When a person paroles, they enter a working environment that treats them like people. Like their lives can be whole again if they want to show the effort.

They could learn a trade and earn an honest dollar. Feel proud of their accomplishments without being locked in a toilet every night.

Obviously some would fail to assimilate. But, most prisoners would rather take a beating than subject themselves to this drudgery.

Most of these prisoners are not good with frustration. So, they lash out (because, maybe that’s a learned response). But, give em something to be proud of. And enforce that attitude and you’d see miracles.

I wish that I could of had a follow-up program for my EDGE kids. All of those kids had serious potential. They just needed someone to show an interest in their abilities. Someone to listen to their frustration, that went through the same unique things…It’s such a shame that the prison officials decided to stop the program, because of the new warden.

We had a judge come in and see a couple of our groups and he wanted to make it a mandatory program for the juvenile offenders in his jurisdiction. He even bought a huge library of child psychology books and different self-help books to help us explore our program.

Why wouldn’t something like that work for prisoners as well?”

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