Making a good first impression is something we've all tried to do at one time or another and doing it on paper is much harder then in person. If you've ever written a resume , or letter, text to someone you are interested in, trying to find just the right words can be a real nightmare. Now just imagen if the first impression your going to make was on paper written by someone else, and that person may or may not have your best interest at heart. This is the dilemma anyone involved with the justice system faces. If you get a ticket the officer writes a report that can and will be used in court if you were to challenge that ticket. This is true in every case from a simple ticket to all other crimes where involvement of a report is required. In the case of prisoners it comes in the form of a C-file. In this file there are things like police reports of the crime sentencing transcripts and all kinds of paperwork written by interviewers, counselors, correctional officers, and free staff. If everyone writing things for this file had integrity it would be full of truths and there would be no issues. People reading it would be able to make first impression judgment's about you that were based of facts, sadly that is not the case. There are those who have an "agenda", or just a bad day who decide to write things that are not factually true or is an out right lie and by the time you find out about it its placed in your file and considered fact. You could have never drank or used drugs in your life, never had a physical altercation (fight) or not be a violent person, then just because someone decided to write that you were one of these things true or not, because it is written in your file its considered fact and you can't change it. yes you can fight it but it dose not get removed. If your lucky you might get a new paper saying the you deny ever saying this but then it's you word against there's. When you parole this file is sent to the parole officer who gets to read all the stuff written about you true or not and they form an opinion of you based on this information, and place parole conditions according to what they have read, and all of a sudden your a drunken drug user with a violent history.
this is but a few of the things I personally know that has happened to others, my file was 6 inches thick by the time I was paroled after 33 years of incarseration and I can only imagen the things that were said about me over the years. It over complicates the prosses of trying to get your life back together for those trying to do the right thing and at time's seem to feel like they want you to fail. To be told you have to quit a job with no explanation, or you can't live in a place you've been living at and have to move when it was to only place you could afford all adds up to needless frustration because of the things that were written about you. Sometimes the things are true and the scrutiny is needed, but the fact remains that "paper Impression" dose not always fit the person, it's just one more thing that has to be dealt with in order to make it back to being a free citizen. Pray for those returning from prison that they make the transition and break the chains. Till next time
As you know the covid epidemic has effected every aspect of our lives. From shelter in place to social distancing, and the ever present masks. Our lives are filled with hand sanitizers and plastic gloves to help protect us from the virous. All these things we have have and can readily get and have access to with just a little searching on the web or at one of the many stores we are allowed to go, yet these things can't be bought by prisoners.
The worst prisons I can think of to face this exposure risk is Folsom State Prison and San Quintin State prison where the cell blocks are 5 tiers high and face a common outer wall. No isolated ventilation at all to at least slow down the coughs of other inmates, there coughs are spilled into this common area to be breathed by all the other prisoners and currently there are 231 cases of covid in Folsom as reported today by KCRA 3 in Sacramento surpassing that of San Quintin. add to this being locked in the cell 24/7 with only a minimum of 3 hours per week of exercise time and that is "if" the prison allows it. This can be terminated due to the security of the institution for any reason they deem necessary. The ones who are lucky enough to be paroled don't face it much easier, they must pass a screening before being released and then they are quarantined in a motel room for two weeks and they often go without the food and other items that are supposed to be provided.
Being in prison is not meant to be fun, the isolation from family can be agonizing and during the covid prisoners are not allowed to visit or make call to there family's so it adds that extra bit of, what is felt like punishment, that was not meant to be. Its not any easier on the family's who don't fully understand why there loved one is not calling or even writing like he or she use to. getting to the store for stamps if you got money is not allowed and the state only provides 5 stamped envelopes per week if you are indigent. As we all deal with this virous and feel the sting of this new life style we are living under let's not forget the old adage of "it could be worse" because for those in prison as well as those getting out its a nightmare I thank God daily I don't have to live through and I haven't even touched on the problems they have to face finding housing and jobs. So as we hit our knees tonight giving thanks for all we have please try to say a little prayer for our Brothers and Sisters on the inside
* from now on these blogs will be published under my pseudonym X-offender *
Till next time may you all be blessed X-OFFRNDER
Let me tell you a story of just how it is getting out under covid-19. Its not my story its the story of a man just released a few weeks ago. He related to me that CDCR calls you down to R&R (Receiving and Release) with all you property you have in a bag or tub. you dress in what cloths you have or that that's donated to the prison, in most cases its sweats or if you were lucky cloths your family sent to you. from there one of the officers from your tier, pod, dorm, will drive you directly to a motel in your county of parole where they house you in quarantine for 14 days. During this time you meals and basic needs are supposed to be provided. As it turns out this service is sketchy at best. There is a budget in place that is to allow you to order breakfast, lunch, and dinner. however the delivery of food is not what it should be sometimes it comes sometimes it don't and they end up having to spend there own money at a gas station on junk food or at a restaurant to make up for not getting what should be provided. They are on restriction as to leaving the motel, so going to a store is out of the question. Those on parole are most often headed to some type of program where housing is provided yet those on probation are turned out into the streets to make it on there own. All this takes place in the 14 days they are required to stay in quarantine.
This Pandemic we are going through is causing undue hardships on those paroling and placing them in danger of relapse back in to there former life style. It has turned what should be a simple process into a nightmare for those not able or knowledgeable enough to navigate this new world they are being released into, remember some of these have been in prison for a very long time decades in some cases. I bring this to your attention so if you have the time you can call CDCR, Parole and your local reps to encourage better management of those getting out. It not only helps the guys and girls getting out but makes the community safer when there is a fair chance at success.
Asking Someone to Just change the only way they have known how to survive and cope with life's up's and down's without any guidance on how accomplish is asking for failure. Just imagine if that same person asked you to enter his or her world of addiction and criminality without real knowledge of what it's like you would be lost, scared and want to revert back to the life you had known. Its the same for the person we wish would change. Just getting clean and sober is only a starting point in a long journey of learning to exist in a world they have no real idea how to function in. Remember There will be no old friends to kick it with or ask questions of, everyone will be sober minded and clean living. you will have to meet and make friends with people you may or may not have things in common with they may be older of younger, strait from the gate or ex-addicts who's worked a program. All new people in you life living a life you have on idea of how to live in. Ask your self in a role reversal how long it would take you to change to exist in there world and the pains you would have to suffer in doing so. The hard truth is "we" can't fix anyone and the desire to change has to come from within that person, however we can show them a new way to live and provide a safe secure living environment to nurture this new life. It will take time and money to rescue our youth from the depths of addiction and criminality and in the end its cheaper then prison and jail. How much is a safe community worth?.
How many times have you asked this question of someone, how many time's has someone asked this of you? Speaking for my self, far to many to count. The simple answer to this is there is no simple answer. To really understand what is ticking in the mind of someone who is addicted or involved in criminal activity, or both you have to understand there outlook and perception on life it's self from there view point. I can't speak to you in scientific terms about the brain. What I can do is give you insight into understanding how someone can get to a place where addiction and criminality seem the normal thing to do.
Self-perception is the starting point to this journey down the rabbit whole. while attending countless groups and speaking to thousands of men during my 33 years of incarseration Low self-esteem and even a lower opinion of your value in life was a common theme among us all. Perceiving your self as a social outcast, not fitting into the "norms" of society starts the mold for the future self. The reasons for believing this of your self don't have to be true only the fact you do is enough. Every human being on this planet is looking to be loved and wanted and if it doesn't get this from the main stream of society we go looking for someone or something to fill this void.
This is where addictions and criminality have there advantage to gain control of our belief system. From a very young age we start looking for that place to fit in and dealers are quick to "be your friend" the same goes for those involved in crime and gangs so for the man or woman looking to fit in its a natural fit.
Now give this person years of involvement with drugs, gangs and crime and learning to survive in that world and develop a sense of thinking that's "normal" for that existence, change is so far from a reality they know, it dose not seem possible. They would change if the future without drugs, gangs, and crime could be seen but its so far from there reality when offered at the first sign of trouble they run back to where they know how to live and in there mind is safe. That is the devil in the details we have to understand. they need to be Hand held and walked through this mystery of sober and clean living and what we ask them to do is discard all they have ever known and trust it will be better.
It is a hard thing to have the courage to walk this new road and there is an old belief system in place we have to find a way to overcome. WE can start by giving them a safe place to live and a chance to grow as a human, changing there perception of them selves building self-esteem getting them to see them selves as more then societies rejects. We need to have the ability to show them a future and get them to realize it is not only possible but reachable. there will be more on this at a later date till then this is Don: out
I know there are some who may be asking "why do we need to help these people". Simply put it gives opportunity, and hope of a different life to those formally incarcerated that like it or not, will someday return to the streets. One of the biggest challenges facing those released from prisons and jails is deciding what to do now. Most are out of touch with life in this new world they have entered, and depending on the amount of time spent inside it can be quite overwhelming. Trying to navigate in a world you left and in some cases decades ago can put fear and cause anxiety in these men, I was one of these, I went to prison in 1986 and was released in 2016 and it was as if I were placed in a new world I knew nothing about. Without the help of places like Stepping Stones I have no doubt I would have sunk back into my life of addiction and criminality. Having someone to support this transition and provide drug counseling, life skills classes, programs that allowed me to realize and work on reinventing myself in a clean and sober as well as safe living environment has given me the opportunity to become a productive member of society and give back to those I have taken so much from. No, it will not work for all, overcoming a life time of "Stinking Thinking" is at times hard to do because its how we survived, but Stepping Stones gives a person the chance to learn a new way of living if they want it. So when asked why, tell them it reclaims Humanity, provides a safer California and saves money in the long term and in addition rebuilds families. Its Gods work after all it was said "Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers that you do for me. Don out.
One thing I'm always amazed is the confusion I hear about what does and does not happen in prison. The three hots and a cot is one of them. the truth is there are only two hot meals served and a sack lunch. the breakfast is composed of one ice cream scoop of eggs that has been shook so it ends up being two to three spoons full of eggs. two slices of bread not toast two pads of margarine one scoop of potato's and fruit of some kind. lunch is two slices of bread and two slices of lunch meat (chicken) an apple, cookie and chips. Dinner doesn't get much more filling with the one scoop policy. this is why many prisoners spend there money on top ramen and dried refried beans the staple of diet. We all laugh at the menu because it sounds like a meal but in reality its far less so if you hear a prisoner say there still hungry after a meal you can bet he is. That's all for now more on my next blog.
Posted by Don Couch, 38 year veteran of corrections.