Forced

Forced from home to a far off distant land

Forced to pick and farm whith bare and blistered hand

Forced to live apart when freedom was bestowed

Forced to sit in the very back row

Forced to live on the other side of the tracks

Forced to prison when evidence is lack

Forced to beg for one final breath

Forced to submit leading to death

Forced to Stand when Kneeling was the plan

Forced from home in a far off distant land

The Razor’s Wire

They may in fact be innocent they may be guilty, but, what they have in common are stories.

The Shawshank Redemption (TSR) is an excellent prison movie but in reality it is and always will be a movie script. The post today is going to contain some spoilers. The main spoiler TSR is only a movie. Others being Andy’s attempt at escape is successful and Red’s parole is finally granted and he too decides to escape the system and join him.
The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 American film written and directed by Frank Darabont, based on the 1982 Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. TSR is not a true story but a screenplay adapted from a novella. If you haven’t seen the movie then watch it. The fact that the movie is only a movie and not based on or adapted from any one persons prison experience will leave some of you scratching your heads. If you are reading for the first time that TSR is only a screenplay don’t be too hard on yourself for thinking that it could have been true. Stephen King also wrote The Green Mile another collaborative work adapted for the big screen by director Frank Darabont. The Green Mile you may have figured out was more fantasy and fiction but you still could have believed it was based in real life. Both movies deal with the innocent being sent to prison Andy for being falsely accused of killing his wife and of course John Coffey being accused of the rape and murder of two white girls. If you have never been to prison or only have a TV knowledge of the justice system. You may not believe how easy it is to send an innocent person to prison. Let’s begin to look at the life behind the razor wire (being in prison) through the eyes of Frank Darabont, Stephen King, and the Truth. (I would like to recommend to you the movie THX 1138 also directed by Frank Darabont.)
The Shawshank Redemption is a clever deception that can be reconstructed into reality. The only way to understand how clever the deception is, is, to understand ourselves. From an early age we understand and can differentiate between right and wrong. Of course we are taught and guided along the way but deep down we really know what is right and what is wrong. As we get older and begin to learn about our world we are taught, in the US, that we are “innocent until proven guilty”. But this doesn’t happen in the TSR Andy is innocent and proven guilty. Our understanding of Andy’s innocents is confirmed when Tommy Williams another prisoner in the movie gives us information that Andy is doing time for a crime that he didn’t commit. In reality, it is estimated that, one percent of the prisoners in America could be innocent. TSR could in fact be true because we know it’s wrong to punish someone for a crime they didn’t commit.
(A note to the reader what is true is not what is popular. The truth is not a compelling story. Popular opinion is not the truth. What I want to believe may be popular but may not be the truth). A good work of fiction can often mirror life and leave us looking for meaning and truth. When it comes to prison we have to understand that truth and compelling stories go hand in hand. Some of the prisoners may be innocent and convicted because of a compelling story. Prisons are full of prisoners with compelling stories. They may in fact be innocent they may be guilty, but, what they have in common are stories. A true account of an innocent man was dealt with in the movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock, The Wrong Man but we only have to know the true story of Christopher Emmanuel “Manny” Balestrero to understand that a compelling story can be written to fit any crime and individual accused of a crime.
TSR takes some liberties with the guards again some truth based in fiction. But a compelling story is best told with embellishment and suffice it say not all guards are like Captain Byron Hadley. Not all Wardens are like Norton and remember that not all prisoners are Andy Dusfresne. We see at the beginning of the movie truth being on the side of the guards and wrong being on the side of the prisoners. The movie does make an attempt to show us how life balances between truth and wrong. Andy begins to manipulate the system and work within it to achieve his goals. The warden has been in the system working against it and in fact is a murderer and yet he goes home every night to his family. Andy, in the end escapes the system to live on the beach.
Escaping to the beach may be a pipe dream for some prisoners but the vast majority of prisoners will do their time and return to society. The truth of their incarceration will always be with them. How we receive them back into society should be compelling not as a story, but by understanding, what is right, and what is true.

Funding,Hunger,Staffing

We lament the fact that low income students go to school without being properly fed.

In the last post (please read) I dealt with someone being in a county jail and the issue of overcrowding. My intention was to get you to think about how this effects someone in a county jail that you may know personally or may not know. Overcrowding is a major concern and I mentioned two others underfunding and understaffed. Underfunding is not a problem that will be dealt with in blog post but as a discussion it lends itself to a lot of the major problems inside of jail facilities.

There are many problems associated with underfunding but for the sake of time I will discuss two “chow time” and staffing. To deal with chow time one only has to think of a spoonful of cold greens, a slice of processed meat, two slices of stale bread, and a cup of juice that contains enough dye to stain the floors permanently. Consider eating three meals a day that cost less than two dollars to purchase. The average person that doesn’t understand due process may be thinking; good thats what they deserve. Is that a proper response? The question of getting what you deserve is one for the ages, and, does anyone really get what they deserve? Of course not. A humanitarian response in the sense of doing what is right cannot be quantified in a budget. A biblical response from Christians should be biblical. I will get into secular vs biblical prison volunteers in later blogs but as an aside to the discussion of underfunding and chow I am not sure either side has much to do about it unless you are putting money on an Inmate’s account. Why even write about hunger? Being hungry lends itself to poor decisions, fights, theft, and low scores on performance and IQ. tests. We lament the fact that low income students go to school without being properly fed. Are we as concerned about any person that is accused of a serious crime being questioned by a district attorney or detectives and that person has not consumed a sufficient meal?
Understaffed facilities are ran by the Inmates. In any group situation the group of individuals with the most like minded participants make the rules. This is especially true in larger facilities with open housing concepts. I will discuss this further in the next post. Until then subscribe follow and dialogue.

Reference https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/06/before-the-law this story is about Kalief Browder. His story is way beyond a sufficient meal and understaffing but if you are not really familiar with county jails and prisons this happens across the US every day also reference the Stanford Prison Experiment. https://www.simplypsychology.org/zimbardo.html

Continue reading “Funding,Hunger,Staffing”

county jail, overcrowded

You get a call in the middle of the night or day and the caller i.d. shows the call is originating from the county jail. Perhaps you expected this call because of a family member or friends addictions, violent behavior, “clepto” tendencies, you just knew they would end up there someday, or the last place they were known to be was a city jail. You throw caution to the wind and answer.

The latest numbers in Texas show that 65,269 persons are being housed in one of the 254 county facilities in Texas. Because of the phone call you now know one of those persons personally. If you live in a lessor populated area in Texas chances are the person you know may be one of a handful of people in the jail. If you live in a heavily populated area the person you know is in a large facility that could be housing thousands. Tarrant County, Fort Worth, (the county I reside in) is housing 4050 inmates at 81% operating space. Harris County, the Houston area, is housing 8167 inmates utilizing 77% operating space. Compare these two counties to Knox County that has 7 inmates and is operating at 50% of its total capacity. By the numbers some of the county jails in Texas are operating at capacities that are over crowded, underfunded, and understaffed. It should be noted that the USA operates on the belief of innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Being arrested is not a court of law and should not be seen as a verdict of guilt being in jail is not equal to being guilty. The county jail is a place to hold persons accused of crimes. The populations can vary with the accused and those with prior convictions but for now let’s deal with our caller as someone that has not been to court and is facing their first time in the system.

I am guessing that your caller is male. This might be a good guess but Texas has more women behind bars than any other state. The person you know may be one of the growing number of transgender populations but before we become mired in more numbers and statistics… let’s return to the call. Let’s place your caller in a jail comparable in population to the Tarrant County Jail, 4050 inmates at 81% operating space. As stated earlier most county jails are overcrowded, underfunded, and understaffed.

Why should you be concerned about your caller being housed in a county jail that is overcrowded, underfunded, and understaffed? We will take a quick look at overcrowding and deal with the others as time allows.

The definition of overcrowd is to fill (accommodations or a space) beyond what is comfortable, safe, or permissible. How do we define it in terms of your caller? This will depend on the mental acuity of the person that has called and I will now refer to them as an Inmate. The Inmate and comfort. Should comfort even be considered for someone in the county jail? Yes, because comfort may be as simple as a place to get the required hours of sleep or enough calories in a meal to keep you healthy. I am not suggesting luxuries but basic human needs at an acceptable level of comfort. What does that look like for you? Safety, is someone in the county jail safe? Yes, but in terms of physical assault the chances increase because of the close proximity to other known and convicted violent inmates often housed in the same cell as a first time Inmate. Safety could be acceptable noise levels, heating, clothing, access to visitors. Could safety be equated to medical care? How safe is someone with mental health issues that go undiagnosed or ignored? Permissible what is a permissible amount of inmates? Texas says that up to 72 inmates can be housed together with one officer watching over them. Some facilities have placed bunked beds in cells doubling the amount of inmates in a cell without increasing the dimensions of the cell. What does all this mean for your first time Inmate? They are in a different world for them it will seem like a parallel universe without meaning, without hope, without end.

The Author of Asylum2880 worked in a county jail and has volunteered at numerous prisons within the State of Texas. Hebrews 13:3