Category Archives: Dissertation

Topics surrounding my areas of study: restitution, rehabilitation, restoration, transformation,
Correctional Education, mass incarceration, recidivism, law, legal, public and Justice administration, the African-American male, Black males, sentencing reform, social justice and leadership.

Success Story: Elizabeth Melson

Elizabeth at HeritageLet’s face it: every once in a while, you just need to hear a story with a happy ending. The U.S. criminal justice system has some devastating effects, and here at FAMM, every day we hear from people in prison and their families about how the criminal justice system is failing them. We share these stories to reform unjust sentences, and we’re grateful to have them to share.

But earlier this year, we decided that we needed to share some good news, too. In order to advocate for change, it’s necessary to demonstrate what that change could ultimately look like. So we expanded our profiles to include success stories – stories of people who get a second chance at life and make the most of it.

Click (FAMM, 2016) for more about Elizabeth’s story.

Commentary

We better all get on board.  It is time we give the nations offenders a second chance.  Period, Case-Closed!

30 Years of Mandatory Sentencing

FOR 30 YEARS, federal law has utilized an array of mandatory minimum sentences for various drug offenses. Those laws and other mandatory minimums have come under attack for the impact they have on individuals and the criminal justice system as a whole. Mandatory minimums are unjust, do not rehabilitate people, and are a waste of taxpayer dollars. We live in a time when 77 percent of the public agrees it is time to reform our mandatory minimum laws.  (FAMM, 2016)

COMMENTARY

Pay attention this year to the conversations and debates surrounding mandatory sentencing. It is a chief reason we have mass incarceration in this nation.  Period, Case-Closed!

$1000 of Marijuana 55-year Sentence

This story is a by FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Sentencing):

Thirteen years ago I was standing outside the federal court house in Salt Lake City, Utah, awaiting the sentencing of 23-year-old Weldon Angelos. Together with his family and advocates from across the state, we rallied for the fair sentencing of a father of three who was caught selling $1,000 worth of marijuana to a confidential informant. Despite our best efforts, Weldon was sentenced to 55 years in prison for his offense. His own judge called the sentence “unjust, cruel, and even irrational.” In spite of the judge’s objection, his hands were tied by mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Weldon was sent to prison, 600 miles from his family, to await his release at 80 years old.

Three weeks ago, I received one of the best phone calls of my life. After 13 years in prison, Weldon was home with his family. And this week, I got to celebrate Weldon’s freedom with him, his son Jesse, and the staff at FAMM!  Thankfully, Weldon’s story has a happy ending. But there are thousands like him who are serving excessive mandatory prison sentences. Just like Weldon, there are mothers and fathers across the country who have been separated from their children for lengthy and unnecessary periods of time. Just like Weldon, there are judges who have spoken out against the mandatory sentences they are forced to impose.

COMMENTARY:

Judges are trained in the area of law.  They should be allowed therefore to judge. Otherwise, let the robots run the criminal justice system.  Huh?! Period, Case-Closed!

Regarding Justice

justice scales

In visiting the question about “justice”, in the sense of “fairness in distribution” or “what is deserved”, an injustice, then, occurs when some benefit to which a person is entitled is denied without good reason or when some burden is imposed unduly. (Office for Human Resource Protections, 2016)

COMMENTARY

Mandatory sentencing laws require binding prison terms of a particular length for people convicted of certain federal and state crimes; they are inflexible and a one-type fits all, quick-fix solution for crime.  These laws undermine justice by preventing judges from fitting the punishment to the crime. Mandatory sentencing laws cause federal and state prison populations to soar, leading to the overcrowding (or mass incarceration), and exorbitant costs to taxpayers (FAMM, 2016).  Mandatory sentencing does not make good economical nor common sense (Irvin, 2016). Period, Case-Closed!

Small Important Victory in Congress

As you’ll recall, Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) proposed an amendment to the defense authorizations bill in early June. The amendment, if passed, would have given people long mandatory minimum prison sentences for as little as half a gram of the drug fentanyl. This change would have put more drug users and addicts in federal prisons, at huge cost to families and taxpayers.

More than 1,600 of you wrote to your members of Congress to oppose this idea, and they listened! The amendment never even came up for a vote, and the defense bill passed today without the sentencing increases included.

Thank you for your advocacy – playing this kind of defense really matters. Every time we stop lawmakers from making bad sentencing laws worse, we send an important message: mandatory sentencing laws are not acceptable. We want a smarter approach to solving America’s drug problems and keeping the public safe.

Thanks for your hard work and support!  (FAMM, 2016).

CLICK HERE

The Veil

torn veil

God created created a tertium quid and called it a Negro, – a clownish, simple creature, at times even lovable within its limitations, but…foreordained to walk within the Veil! – W.E.B. Du Bois, the Souls of Black Folk

 

 

Commentary:

Today we celebrate Independence Day 2016.  While researching and writing for dissertation, I came across the above quote. This was a thought that Mr. Du Bois pondered while writing about the slave-ship(s), humanity, liberty, freedom, and opportunity.  Tertium quid literally refers to an OTHER, a something ELSE, a some-THING else! I thought then, maybe this is why we have mass incarceration in the United States.  Since Black men are disproportionately incarcerated in jail or prison, I thought, “Obviously Black men are seen as an OTHER, a something ELSE, a some-THING else!  Which led me to the question, are black men innately immoral, lazy, criminal – violent?!  Are Black men some new kind of monster? a tertium quid” (Irvin, 2016)?”  This is quite possibly so, “within the Veil!”  So, we celebrate Independence Day 2016, but our brothers and sisters of all colors are yet to experience freedom from without the Veil! Huh?!  Period, Case-Closed!

Irvin, Derek O. (2016).

Prisoners Coming Home to Roost

pigeon prisoner

There are many in American society who have advanced the argument that it is a matter most vile to spend taxpayer dollars on attempts to educate or rehabilitate offenders.  – Derek Irvin, PhD Candidate

COMMENTARY

The 1994 crime bill passed by the United States Congress explicitly prohibited inmates from receiving Pell grants by stating:  “No basic grant shall be  awarded…to any individual who is incarcerated in any Federal or State penal institution (Korte, 2016).  Surely people who break laws of a system should be punished.  However, the system should too provide an opportunity to rehabilitate and restore!  Surely the prisoners will eventually come home to roost.

Korte, G. (2016).  Pell grants for prisoners:  Obama to give inmates a second chance at college.  Retrieved from USATODAY.com/story/news/politics/2016

And We Call Ourselves Christian?!

The United States imprisons for more people, both in absolute numbers and in the rate of incarceration, than any other country in the world (Soltis, 2011).

Black Male Jail 1

Commentary

We must work to design a new conception of justice in the United States.  What we have currently does not work.  The research states that is does NOT work.  In this so-called “Christian” nation, we are very quick to punish rather than to rehabilitate.  So quick to retaliate versus vindicate or rehabilitate!  Remember back in the day, when someone would do something to you, our response was ” Imma get you!”  I think our “justice system” is true to its word in demonstrating “Imma get you!”   And we call ourselves “christian”.  – Period, Case-Closed!

Soltis, K. G. (2011).  Mass Incarceration and Theological Images of Justice.  Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics.