Yeah, yeah, I have heard it all before. We shall see whether she has what it takes. The test will be whether she hold officers and medical staff accountable for their wrongdoing, or whether she goes along with what I heard criminal, abusive staff say over and over and over: “We stick together”!
Time will tell.
Excerpts from the Article:
Claire DeMatteis officially replaced former Department of Correction Commissioner Perry Phelps in a swearing-in ceremony held at the department headquarters in Dover on Monday. Ms. DeMatteis, addressing DOC staff at the ceremony, said that rather than providing a list of her departmental priorities she wanted to reassure officers working for DOC on two questions: “Does she have my back?” and “Does she have what it takes?”
She promised to answer these challenges in the same way she said she has all the others in her life: with “leadership, grit and grace.”
The ceremony drew a large portion of DOC administrative staff, politicians, bureaucrats and other officials from throughout the state — including Gov, John Carney and the majority of his cabinet. Gov. Carney in his welcome speech rehashed Ms. DeMatteis’s qualifications for the position at the head of the 2,500-strong department. “Commissioner DeMatteis has worked hard over the past two years helping lead reform efforts at the Department of Correction — modernizing equipment and training to make our facilities safer, and helping recruit correctional officers to do one of the toughest jobs in state government,” he said.
The DOC has been struggling over the past decade with understaffing concerns, steadily growing overtime requirements and lawsuits claiming substandard inmate living conditions and medical care.
The department’s systemic ills lurched into the limelight on Feb. 1, 2017, when a riot broke out at the state’s largest prison, resulting in the death of a correction officer. Ms. DeMatteis was appointed in mid-2017 as Gov. Carney’s special assistant to help implement a list of “41 key recommendations” provided by an independent investigation team.
In the role she worked alongside DOC leadership implementing a series of reforms intended to strengthen security, safety, officer training, recruitment and retention, prison-based programming and services. Ms. DeMatteis is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Delaware and serves as a University of Delaware Trustee. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Delaware and her law degree from Widener University’s Delaware Law School. Ms. DeMatteis was also former senior counsel to then-U.S. Sen. Joe Biden. Though the current presidential candidate didn’t make an appearance at the ceremony, Gov. Carney read out a letter from him extolling Ms. DeMatteis’s “exceptional” strengths.
Working together for more than a year, Mr. Phelps and Ms. DeMatteis claimed great progress has been made addressing the department’s ills, but that work still needed to be done — specifically with staffing numbers and overtime requirements.
“I just want to thank him for his tremendous support and leadership of this department,” said Gov. Carney. “He would often remind me that he could retire at any time. But I kept saying: ‘don’t even think about it.’”
The announcement of Mr. Phelps’s retirement came in late May. Two weeks prior to the announcement, the Associated Press had reported that Gov. John Carney refused to say whether he still had confidence in Mr. Phelps following allegations that contract medical workers were falsifying inmate treatment records.
Since then, it has been announced that DOC’s medical contractor is under investigation by the Department of Justice and both an inmate’s family and a former employee have filed separate lawsuits against the provider.
The day Mr. Phelps was sworn in on Feb. 1, 2017, the riot broke out in James T. Vaughn Correctional Center that would largely go on to define his career as commissioner.
Though the violent 19-hour hostage stand-off that resulted in the death of correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd received only briefly alluded to during the swearing in ceremony on Monday, Ms. DeMatteis memorialized the officer in her speech.
“We will face challenges, it is the nature of the job we signed up for,” she said. “But with the memory of Lt. Steven Floyd, and the ultimate sacrifice he and his family made for us never far from our hearts and souls, we will meet every challenge and exceed every expectation because we have what it takes.
“We have what it takes to carry out the dual mission entrusted to us of public safety and second chances.”
What a racket! If the changes sought by the ACLU are not enacted, lawsuits should fly, to hold these people ACCOUNTABLE!
Excerpts from the Article:
U.S. jurisprudence generally strives to avoid conflicting interests and even the appearance of impropriety. This practice apparently does not apply to the system of mayor’s courts in Ohio. Reminiscent of ancient Star Chamber of England, Ohio mayor’s court proceedings have no court reporters or even recorders present. In this manner, they are able to operate in open secrecy in order to avoid scrutiny.
However, this is, after all, the United States of America. So, unlike Star Chambers, defendants in Ohio’s mayor’s courts are allowed to be present while their cases involving traffic and local ordinance violations are decided … sort of.
The American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) of Ohio observed defendants in Newburgh Heights, North Olmsted, Parma Heights, Lockland, Highland Heights, Mt. Orab, and Reading being coerced and pressured by prosecuting attorneys and magistrates to plead guilty to charges even after the defendants protested and attempted to plead innocent. Kind of like the old Star Chamber proceedings.
Mayors recruit municipal employees like police officers and magistrates or justices of the peace. Some mayors even preside in their mayor’s courts to hear and pass judgment on cases that provide revenue for their municipality through guilty findings. This is a textbook example of conflicting interests and judicial impropriety.
ACLU of Ohio investigations of mayor’s courts in 2015 found the above-mentioned North Olmsted mayor’s court collected a total of $1,300,000 that year. Mayor’s court cops in 51 municipalities issued 168.8 misdemeanor citations each on average for that year.
Fine payments are coerced in these courts by magistrates threatening defendants with arrest and jail time for failure to comply. Nine of these courts of coercion issued 8,232 arrest warrants in 2016. Eight of the nine suspended 1,912 driver’s licenses.
With apologies to William Shakespeare, concerning Ohio’s mayor’s courts, “Extortion by any other name is still extortion.”
ACLU of Ohio is urging that all mayor’s court proceedings be recorded, with the publication of the defendant’s demographic information and publication of case outcomes. In addition, these courts should be funded by state taxes instead of revenues they themselves generate. Finally, these courts’ discretion should be limited to the point that they are unable to arrest and jail defendants or divest them of their driver’s licenses when the accused cannot pay their fines.
It was noted that people of color and low-income areas were the hardest hit by mayor’s courts. Faced with dire consequences that far outstrip those of people who can afford to pay their fines, a disproportionate number of these disadvantaged populations are routinely hit with compounding fines, increasing legal sanctions, arrests with jail time, and the loss of their driver’s licenses.
Too many folks look down their noses at ex offenders, or “convicted felons”. Big mistake, especially when you consider that tens of thousands of them were wrongly convicted. Maybe this little essay helps make the point. Nobody is “better” than another; we’re all just different.
Essay on Being Different
When my son was 5 or 6, we were enjoying the day swimming and playing at one of the many lakes in Orlando. Had a picnic in the park … just having fun “hanging out”.
A van with 7 or 8 children with Downs Syndrome pulled up and the kids got out and sat at two nearby tables/benches. As others stared and whispered I said to my son, Baxter, “Come on, son, let’s go say Hi”. We went over and visited with them for about ½ hour*, and then I went to a nearby fast food place and got a ton of chicken nuggets, which they all enjoyed.
Baxter got the point: these kids weren’t poison, they were just different. I reminded him often as he was growing up: “the only thing you can tell by what a person looks like is what a person looks like”!
Do YOU get the point?
*They really liked our water balloon toys – the best toys for pool or lake. You put a balloon under the tap and add 3 or 4 ounces of water. Inflate to only about 4 or 5 inches in diameter and tie it off. The balloon has enough weight to make it skip over the water, roll off a roof, etc., but is still strong enough that it does not break. Beats the hell out of all the expensive pool toys we had!
You know that having SEEN it for 5 years, “up close and personal”, and realizing how counterproductive it is, and how lawless it is, prison abuse is my #1 issue.
See so many articles here under that subject. This article is yet another instance of it, and echos much of what I have been saying for 7 years now.
Knowing what really goes on in our prisons, I could only laugh at this statement! LDPSC spokesman Pastorick called the claims in the lawsuit “outlandish,” adding that prison officials “look forward to our day in court.” The case remains pending.
God Bless the Plaintiffs’ lawyers and the judge in this case!
Excepts from the Article:
Alleging a “culture of cover-up and excessive force,” the MacArthur Justice Center and the Advocacy Center of Louisiana (ACL) filed a class-action lawsuit in February 2018 against officials at the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (LDPSC) and the David Wade Correctional Center (DWCC).
The suit followed a contentious investigation by ACL, which was itself the subject of litigation that settled in August 2017, after the New Orleans-based non-profit accused DWCC staff of interfering with and impeding its efforts to investigate alleged abuse of disabled prisoners.
ACL is Louisiana’s designated advocacy organization for individuals with disabilities under the federal Protection and Advocacy system.
Prior to filing its initial suit in June 2017, ACL received “alarming reports of serious abuse of people with disabilities incarcerated in the lockdown units” at DWCC. A review of written complaints from prisoners and interviews led the organization to conclude that probable cause existed to investigate DWCC.
ACL then set up an appointment to tour the facility and interview prisoners. But when its investigators arrived at DWCC on June 21, 2017, they were not allowed to enter cells or recreation areas; they also were prohibited from asking staff or prisoners questions. Nor were prison employees allowed to talk to investigators or answer their questions.
After the initial tour, when personal interviews were finally allowed, investigators and prisoners were not allowed to exchange documentation – not even a business card.
MacArthur Justice Center attorney Katharine M. Schwartzmann and ACL investigators returned to DWCC on July 13 to see prisoner “J.W.,” because “the Advocacy Center had reason to believe that he was extremely suicidal and at risk of immediate harm.” However, Warden Jerry Goodwin and Col. Lonnie Nail refused to allow the visit because J.W. “was on suicide watch and hunger strike.”
ACL staff also wanted to investigate several alleged problems at DWCC, including:
• Failure to provide adequate mental health care to prisoners,
• Failure to properly screen for mental illness,
• Extended solitary and segregated confinement of mentally ill prisoners, and
• Other “acts and omissions.”
The latter included incidents of verbal and physical abuse – such as mentally ill prisoners who were struck or sprayed with bleach. Some were reportedly stripped of clothing during the winter, with fans turned on and windows opened. Others had heaters turned on during summer time and were not allowed to remove their jumpsuits to cool off. One allegation detailed how mentally ill prisoners were forced to kneel or get on all fours and bark like dogs in exchange for food. One prisoner was made to unclog a toilet by hand.
The settlement in the initial suit did not resolve any of those claims but merely allowed them to be investigated by ACL. Although concerned about the use of chemical agents on prisoners – LDPSC spokesman Ken Pastorick admitted to 149 incidents in 2016 and the first half of 2017 – Advocacy Center investigators also wanted to know how mental health complaints were being handled at DWCC. Prisoners said those seeking mental health care were charged with malingering at disciplinary hearings and punished with prolonged use of physical restraints and a restraint chair.
In addition to Warden Goodwin and Col. Nail, LDPSC Secretary James LeBlanc was named as a defendant in both lawsuits, filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana in Baton Rouge.
The settlement terms for the initial suit gave ACL complete access to prisoners and their records when conducting a lawful investigation. The only limitation was that ACL staff must be on an approved list of DWCC visitors and complete a training seminar in prison operations, safety concerns and security risks.
The settlement agreement spelled out details for ACL’s access to DWCC, prisoners, records and staff, including hours and advance notice requirements, as well as the equipment ACL investigators were allowed to bring with them. They were also provided a visitation room to conduct confidential interviews. The parties further agreed to the payment of attorneys’ fees to the ACL and MacArthur Justice Center.
“We’re very alarmed about how people are being treated,” said Schwartzmann. “There are some serious allegations that we’re trying to get in there to investigate.” See: Advocacy Center v. LeBlanc, U.S.D.C. (M.D. La.), Case No. 3:17-cv-00468-JWD-EWD.
The subsequent class-action lawsuit filed in February 2018 was a result of the investigation into claims that DWCC prisoners were subjected to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment due to “extreme, abusive conditions” at the facility.
Prisoners seeking mental health care were placed on suicide watch. Stripped naked, they remained in solitary confinement for weeks, leading some to mutilate themselves or attempt suicide to escape the conditions, according to the 53-page complaint. The suit concluded that “virtually no mental health care is provided to prisoners on extended lockdown, aside from scattershot, poorly administered and inconsistent medication.”
Two prisoners are named as plaintiffs in the case. Anthony Tellis claims his mental illness developed only after he was placed on extended lockdown in February 2016, where he remains. Bruce Charles, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder before entering DWCC, says he also has been on extended lockdown since June 2016.
A third prisoner named in the suit, Terrance Goudeau, was on extended lockdown when he hanged himself and died in June 2016, never receiving mental health care despite frequent requests.
In addition to the improper use of segregation, the class-action alleges widespread physical abuse of mentally ill prisoners at DWCC. The use of temperature extremes as a punishment tool – particularly cold weather, which ill-clothed or naked prisoners are forced to endure – is reportedly so common that it has a nickname: “bluesing” or “getting bluesed.”
LDPSC spokesman Pastorick called the claims in the lawsuit “outlandish,” adding that prison officials “look forward to our day in court.” The case remains pending. See: Tellis v. LeBlanc, U.S.D.C. (M.D. La.), Case No. 3:18-cv-00161-SDD-RLB.
Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds – New discoveries about the human mind show the limitations of reason. VERY Interesting – kra
It is baffling to many of us why some people, most notably tRump supporters these days, will hold to certain beliefs DESPITE ALL OF THE EVIDENCE THAT THEY ARE INCORRECT!
I know from my 72 years of associating with thousands of ALL sorts of people – super smart, Chief Justices, other professionals, homeless folks, drug addicts, criminals … and everyone in between, that there is NO understanding the human mind … but this article takes a stab at it and is a very good read.
This New Yorker article reminds me of why I used to subscribe. Today I have neither the money or the time! 🙂 Doing my work is #1! I have read the entire article, and I recommend you read it too!
The article truly is about science, not politics, and you should read it.
Here is one excerpt which is spot on: “Where it gets us into trouble, according to Sloman and Fernbach, is in the political domain. It’s one thing for me to flush a toilet without knowing how it operates, and another for me to favor (or oppose) an immigration ban without knowing what I’m talking about.
Sloman and Fernbach cite a survey conducted in 2014, not long after Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Respondents were asked how they thought the U.S. should react, and also whether they could identify Ukraine on a map. The farther off base they were about the geography, the more likely they were to favor military intervention. (Respondents were so unsure of Ukraine’s location that the median guess was wrong by eighteen hundred miles, roughly the distance from Kiev to Madrid.)”
Surveys on many other issues have yielded similarly dismaying results. “As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding,” Sloman and Fernbach write. And here our dependence on other minds reinforces the problem. If your position on, say, the Affordable Care Act is baseless and I rely on it, then my opinion is also baseless. When I talk to Tom and he decides he agrees with me, his opinion is also baseless, but now that the three of us concur we feel that much more smug about our views. If we all now dismiss as unconvincing any information that contradicts our opinion, you get, well, the Trump Administration.
“This is how a community of knowledge can become dangerous,” Sloman and Fernbach observe. The two have performed their own version of the toilet experiment, substituting public policy for household gadgets. In a study conducted in 2012, they asked people for their stance on questions like: Should there be a single-payer health-care system? Or merit-based pay for teachers? Participants were asked to rate their positions depending on how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the proposals. Next, they were instructed to explain, in as much detail as they could, the impacts of implementing each one. Most people at this point ran into trouble. Asked once again to rate their views, they ratcheted down the intensity, so that they either agreed or disagreed less vehemently.
Sloman and Fernbach see in this result a little candle for a dark world. If we—or our friends or the pundits on CNN—spent less time pontificating and more trying to work through the implications of policy proposals, we’d realize how clueless we are and moderate our views. This, they write, “may be the only form of thinking that will shatter the illusion of explanatory depth and change people’s attitudes.”
Here is the Article:
This article was sent to me by great Delaware lawyer, Stephen Hampton, Esq., one of too few who will sue the prison jackasses – staff and administration – when that is necessary.
These projects should get government funding – it’s a great way to reduce crime.
According to the American Bar Association, there are over 45,000 laws on the books restricting people with criminal records, ranging from about 300 in Vermont to over 1,800 in California. These “collateral consequences” can bar people with certain convictions from public housing, from voting and from certain jobs, such as veterinarians, real estate agents or other occupations that require state licenses.
There are more than 45,000 barriers to reentry nationwide, and many are completely unneeded. They should be eliminated.
The story of Marcus Bullock shows that it takes much effort and commitment to make it.
Excerpts from the Article:
As he prepared to leave prison for the second time, David Figueroa decided he was going to walk away from the Chicago street gang he belonged to since he was a boy and build a better life for himself. “I wanted to do the right thing this time,” he says. “I wanted to get a job. I wanted to get married. I wanted to have children.” He knew finding work would be hard because of his criminal record. “It was a very scary moment,” recalls Figueroa, whose hands, fingers, arms and chest were covered with gang tattoos when he left prison in 2005 at the age of 29. He thought at the time: “Wherever I go, I will be looked at as a scary person.”
Figueroa grew up in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, notorious for its violent street gangs in the ’80s and ’90s. He wanted out, and he hoped to work in construction. But doors began slamming as soon as he filled out job applications. “Every time I checked the box that asked whether you were a convicted felon, I never got a call back,” he says.
While looking for work, Figueroa got help from a community-based organization that offered ex-offenders classes in life skills, including anger management and financial literacy. Not long after that, a construction company hired Figueroa, and he stayed there for several years.
But then he injured his back after falling off the roof of his home and spent nine months recovering. Figueroa was able to return to his old job, but he had lost his seniority and sensed he was not wanted anymore. “I could see the writing on the wall,” he says.
Rather than face the prospect of looking for another job, he decided to create his own business. Pulling together his savings, Figueroa launched a home renovation company in 2014. He promised himself that he would employ others with criminal records, offering them opportunities he never had. “We all have done something we regret,” he says.
He decided to name his company Second Chance Renovations.
Formerly incarcerated people like Figueroa have a difficult time separating themselves from their criminal histories, which makes getting jobs a struggle. Even when they’re eligible to get their records sealed or expunged, most don’t go through the process because they are either unaware of how to do it or lack the legal help they need to get it done.
For example, a study in an upcoming Harvard Law Review found that only 6.5% of people in Michigan legally eligible for expungement obtained it within five years of eligibility. For those who don’t pursue expungement, the accessibility of their records makes it harder to find employment, even in states that have “ban the box” laws that prohibit certain businesses and government agencies from asking about convictions on job application forms. (Those employers are still free to perform criminal background checks on their own.)
According to “Expungement of Criminal Convictions: An Empirical Study” by J.J. Prescott and Sonja B. Starr, professors at the University of Michigan Law School, those who got their records expunged were more likely to stay out of trouble and get steadier and higher-paying jobs than those who didn’t.
“There can be lifelong consequences for not only a felony conviction, but also for a misdemeanor conviction,” says Lucian Dervan, chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section and an associate professor of law and director of criminal justice studies at Belmont University College of Law.
The ABA Criminal Justice Section has for decades supported efforts to remove the many barriers that prevent people with criminal records from moving forward with their lives. This past January, the ABA House of Delegates passed Resolution 109B, which supports the expungement and sealing of records for nonviolent convictions. “Affording these individuals a way to expunge or seal their nonviolent convictions recognizes both the accomplishments of the individual in building a life free from further contact with the criminal justice system and the need to reduce the collateral consequences of a conviction,” the resolution’s report states.
Rather than face continued rejection, some formerly incarcerated men and women are taking another path. They’ve decided to create their own businesses, drawing on their intelligence and street smarts while also committing to help formerly incarcerated people get back on their feet.
David Figueroa grew up with a single father who had to raise six kids on his own and wasn’t very good at it, he says. His memories of his dad, who had a construction business, are not happy ones. He remembers him as verbally abusive and often angry. Figueroa’s oldest sister took care of him and the younger siblings. Figueroa says he was a good student but had a behavior disorder that landed him in trouble.
Figueroa doesn’t dwell on his past, nor does he hide from it. But he doesn’t ask those seeking jobs at Second Chance Renovations to explain theirs. He asks applicants about their future goals instead. “I don’t look backwards,” says Figueroa, who’s strong voice still has echoes of the streets from which he came. He is tall and fit with closely cropped brown hair and a goatee. “I don’t care what you’ve done in the past.”
New employees start at $12 an hour, even if they have no experience. If they consistently work hard and show promise, they get a raise. After they get their first paychecks, the workers are responsible for buying their own basic hand tools. Figueroa provides power tools.
Figueroa teaches his recruits skills in construction, carpentry, drywall installation, window replacement, hanging doors, painting and more. “I love to teach. If I can tell that you’re someone eager to learn, I’m patient,” he says. “I tell my guys: ‘I want you to work so hard that you go home so tired that you have no time to do nothing else but go home, eat, spend some time with your kids and go to bed so you can do it all over again tomorrow.’ ”
His goal is to help employees develop habits they may never have had. “I’m really hard on my guys for the first 30 days because a lot of them don’t have any work experience,” he says. “Sometimes it’s very hard to get these guys to commit and understand this is not a game.”
Teresa Hodge: “I kept seeing that over and over in prison: the spark in someone’s eye saying, ‘I’m gonna make it,’ and then the return of someone whose light had been dimmed by the reality.” Photo by Larry Bercow.
Hodge shared what she learned with her daughter, Laurin, and together they discussed ideas about how to help women make a successful transition home from prison. “I wanted to take the stories and the experiences that I heard, and I wanted to try to clear a pathway for people who were choosing entrepreneurship because they had no other alternative.”
Laurin, then a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, submitted a business plan in a universitywide competition. That plan eventually led to Mission: Launch Inc., a Baltimore-based nonprofit that initially was created to teach financial literacy, technology and entrepreneurship to previously incarcerated women to help them become self-sufficient.
“We felt as a family the effects of incarceration,” Hodge says. “We felt through the power of entrepreneurship, through the power of work, that people would have an opportunity to reconnect with their communities, be productive citizens but more importantly, reestablish family connections.”
The organization, which launched in 2012, has since expanded to include both women and men and offers leadership training, technical assistance and help getting access to capital for budding entrepreneurs. “For a lot of people, they turn to entrepreneurship out of frustration. Many of the people I met in prison are extremely resilient, and entrepreneurship is about being resilient. The ability to survive and to have drive, to maintain hope and maintain courage while you are in prison is certainly a strength that can be used,” Hodge says.
One of Mission: Launch’s latest ventures takes a deeper and potentially a more fair-minded look at people with criminal records by allowing them to be evaluated by more than just their records. It’s called R3 Score, and it’s a score and a report based on an algorithm that quantifies criminal history with other factors such as education, volunteer work and other aspects of a person’s life. People are evaluated on a scale of 300 to 850, much like a credit score. An R3 Score might be used in applications for occupational licensing, bank financing, commercial contracting or other opportunities.
Hodge says it gives a more rounded picture of the people trying to rebuild their lives—so that they’re not judged solely by their criminal pasts. Paraphrasing a familiar line from public interest lawyer Bryan Stevenson, Hodge says that people are more than the worst thing they’ve ever done. “It was in prison that my humanity was brought to another level,” Hodge says. “I saw the women who I was incarcerated with as humans, as other people who were deserving of a second chance.”
Hodge created her own second chance, but she will always be reminded of her past. “The hardest thing I had to do was to forgive myself. The hardest thing I had to do was to move forward in spite of this—knowing that some people were going to judge me harshly, potentially for the rest of my life,” she says. “For the rest of my life, I may always have to get over that hurdle that is the life sentence for people with a criminal record after they serve their sentence in prison.”
Marcus Bullock has been out of prison for 15 years now, and by all accounts has been a model citizen. He’s a successful businessman. He’s been featured in the Washington Post, in Forbes and on NPR. Yet he still has trouble renting an apartment because of his criminal history. But that’s getting ahead of the story. Bullock, who grew up in Washington, D.C., was just 15 years old when he went to prison. He was convicted as an adult for carjacking, attempted robbery and gun charges. Like a lot of teens, he easily got bored. To pass the time behind bars, he studied for his high school equivalency diploma. He also took classes in business and computers.
“I knew I didn’t want to go back home and go back to the same neighborhood where all my friends were selling drugs,” he says. “I don’t want to put my mom through another prison visit ever again.”
He was released at age 22 and tried to figure out what he wanted to do. He took real estate classes and passed the licensing exam. When he took the results to get his certificate, a clerk said, “It looks like there’s a problem with your background. Are there any issues you want to tell us about?” he recalls. “My heart sinks to my toes. I said ‘Yes,’ unapologetically, “I’m a convicted felon. I made a mistake about 10 years ago. I was a kid.’ ”
“He said, ‘I’m sorry, you can’t get your real estate license,’ ” Bullock says.
It was a jarring moment that showed Bullock how collateral consequences can put a wedge between people with criminal records and their dreams.
“You talk about a high and low in the same moment,” he says. “Now I have to go home to my mom and tell her that all the classes I took, all the money we spent for school, all the books that I bought—all of that running and hustling to the train station, every single day. All in vain. Now I have to go back to square one where I had been turned down for every job I ever applied for.” All signs were pointing for him to go back to the streets and sell drugs. Instead, he went looking for jobs. Bullock recalls filling out 141 job applications. Most of them were for retail or service-related jobs.
Then, he filled out an application at a paint store. “The question on the application was ‘have you been convicted of a felony within the last seven years?’ ” he recalls. His conviction was 10 years old by then, so he answered no and got the job. But Bullock wanted more. “I want to create my own destiny instead of relying on someone else,” he says. “I’m naturally an entrepreneur, I sold candy in school.”
He started by building his own painting and remodeling company. From there, he worked to develop a business plan drawn from a phenomenon he observed while in prison. Every day he saw that mail call was the best part of the day for him and his fellow inmates. Getting something, anything, in the mail was like gold. He could see that communicating with family members helped instill hope about the possibilities of life on the outside. But not many inmates got letters. Social media had shifted how people communicate, and sending letters and photos was not as common as it used to be.
Because inmates are not allowed access to social media, Bullock saw an opportunity. He created Flikshop, an app that allows family and friends to take photos and write messages that are then printed on postcards and mailed to registered correctional facilities across the country for just 99 cents each.
Marcus Bullock: “I want to create my own destiny instead of relying on someone else.” Photo by KK Ottesen.
His company was a hit, attracting investors and grants, including $50,000 from Unlocked Futures, which is affiliated with John Legend, the Grammy-winning recording artist and criminal justice reform advocate. (Hodge’s Mission: Launch also received a $50,000 grant from Unlocked Futures.) Bullock now has seven employees—many of whom are formerly incarcerated. “In our company, it’s frowned upon if you haven’t been to prison, which is interesting,” he says with a laugh. “The people who haven’t been to prison feel isolated among the community because they don’t get the jokes, they don’t get the humor.”
He wants to help erase the stigma formerly incarcerated people feel, especially when applying for jobs. “People don’t need to feel shame coming in the door. They talk about which prison they went to, about common friends and complaints, and they can be themselves,” he says. Bullock sees his company as a springboard for employees to move on to bigger and better jobs or to pursue their own entrepreneurship. “They can leverage up and learn about business and marketing,” he says. “If we do this right, we’re changing the world, we’re changing the narrative.”
He knows there are challenges as soon as people walk out of prison, challenges that are likely to follow some for the rest of their lives. “It doesn’t matter how many companies I build, how successful we are, what tools we come up with, I still have to walk around with this stamp on my chest,” he says.
That stamp, for example, has kept Bullock from being able to rent an apartment in his own name in many places, even after going straight and succeeding as a businessman for 15 years. “It continues to follow me.”
Bullock frequently visits prisons to teach basic entrepreneurship skills to inmates. “I never tell them it’s going to be easy, but this is a first step,” he says. “Now, entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. But for those who want it, let’s give them an opportunity to provide for their families.”
Bullock is right, it’s not easy.
These companies, including the ones operating the deplorable ICE “detention centers” so much in the news lately, are a blight on the Criminal Justice system and on America. They do NOT save money, and they needlessly cause untold abuse and suffering.
Both parties in every state should follow this lead! Of course, Republican’ts never will, because today’s Republicans, under the guidance of racist, criminal, inept, Donald tRump, have no moral conscience.
Excerpts from the Article:
Reacting to severe criticism from activist groups and other party members, the Florida Democratic has decided to give back a $10,000 donation to a political action committee for the private prison company G4S Secure Solutions.
G4S subcontracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to transport undocumented immigrants. It also runs prisons and immigration detention centers internationally. Campaign finance records show that the Florida Democratic Party accepted the $10,000 contribution in February, though Democratic activists have pushed to disassociate themselves from the private prison industry.
That contribution led to searing criticism from a coalition of progressive groups led by the Dream Defenders, a social justice organization based out of Miami, as well as from other Democratic party leaders from around the state. The coalition says the donation violated the will of their own membership.
In a letter last month sent to party chair Terrie Rizzo, executive director Juan Penalosa and treasurer Francine Garcia, the coalition wrote:
“Florida locks up a higher percentage of its state residents than most nations on the planet do. The hundreds of millions of dollars spent contracting with companies like G4S, GEO Group, and CoreCivic are starving our communities for resources while abusing and brutalizing children and families. Refusing to do business with these companies is not mere partisan opinion; protecting the very lives of people who call Florida home is what is at stake. So, what side will you choose to be on?”
The coalition also asked party leaders to ““exercise moral leadership and authority” by immediately returning the campaign contribution. On Friday, a party spokesman said they will do that.
“The Florida Democratic Party did not solicit the donation from G4S, but we did receive a donation from them and are returning it,” spokesman Alex Morash told the Phoenix in an email.
The national party has been moving away from accepting donations from the private prison industry. For example, the Hillary Clinton campaign announced in the fall of 2015 that it would no longer accept donations from federally registered lobbyists or PACS for private prison companies.
The Florida Democratic Party voted a year ago to support a resolution proposed by Juan Cuba, the chair of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party, that they would “refuse any donations from private prison companies, namely CCA and Geo Group,” and encouraged all Democratic local, state and federal candidates in Florida to “refuse any donations from private prison companies.”
In addition to requesting that the party return the campaign contribution from G4S Secure Solutions, the activists say that want a “commitment” from party officials to meet with advocacy organizations and community members to develop guidelines for accepting campaign contributions “moving forward.”
Commentary: Is the increased equity really going to the public good? – This woman has built, and still champions, a fantastic homeless shelter! Maybe the best in America.
Another spot on analysis by my friend, Jeanine Kleimo.
This woman has built, and still champions, a fantastic homeless shelter! Maybe the best in America, by any measure.
When we help the homeless we help our communities, and we reduce crime.
READ the Article:
Another great article from our friends at PLN. While they cannot now point me toward a documented instance of using this technology in a malicious way, we MUST be sure that it never is used that way. It is RIPE for abuse!
Excerpts from the Article:
Automatic License Plate Readers (“ALPR”), facial recognition technology, and predictive policing are some of the new weapons in the arsenal of the police state. And minority communities are caught in the crosshairs.
The failures of facial-recognition technology are widely known. According to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the three most advanced systems had error rates of 1 percent for light-skinned males, 12 percent for darker-skinned males, and a whopping 35 percent for darker-skinned females. Systems have even mistaken black members of Congress for criminal suspects.
Predictive policing uses algorithms that build on historical crime data. The programs suggest future crimes will occur in past high-crime areas. But historical data is biased because police in the past targeted low-income and minority neighborhoods. Because of the algorithms, there is increased surveillance of those communities to find the predicted crimes. This perpetuates the designation “high-crime area,” resulting in further surveillance.
And the ALPR create massive databases tracking people’s movements that are accessible by hundreds of police agencies. With almost no oversight, the potential for abuse is astounding. Members and friends of groups unpopular with law enforcement — such as Black Lives Matter — can be unknowingly tracked, false criminal evidence planted, or worse.
Technology can be useful in the criminal justice system. But there must be demanding standards of accountability. Criminal justice personnel must be made aware of its limitations, including its inherent ability to create and perpetuate racial biases.
UPDATE 7/16/19 – To be PUBLISHED in The Jackson Free Press. 🙂
They requested a head shot, so, once again I prepare for an onslought of calls from sexy Babes! lmao
Letter to the Editor or Op Ed Submission – The “Illegal” Immigrants – 6/19/19
There is a great deal of confusion about what is an “illegal” immigrant. The need to revamp our immigration laws and the policies on enforcing those laws is glaringly obvious. People get all excited when this administration says it is cracking down on “illegal” immigrants, thinking that dangerous criminals will be getting what they deserve. Sadly, that is far from the truth. Hard working family people are getting what they never expected and what Congress never intended: abuse by the system!
The fact is that these “crackdowns” or “sweeps” mostly are rounding up industrious individuals and families looking for a better life here in America, just as our ancestors did. Because our current laws make it “illegal” to enter surreptitiously, or without completing all the paperwork, it is easy for racist enforcement policies to take hold. And make no mistake about it, this administration is racist. Remember our president’s first words about this in 2016: They were, in effect, “Mexico is sending us killers and rapists”. That is what the man said about immigrants.
Very, very few who are rounded up and placed in squalid, awful “detention centers” are what anyone would think of as a criminal – an evil, dangerous, malevolent wrongdoer. That is an inalterable fact.
Racist or not, people should know what is really going on. The administration is using the immigration issue for political expediency, not to keep America safe! One need not be an attorney nor a Rhodes Scholar to see this, but too many Americans are buying into the political B S.
Ken Abraham, former Deputy Attorney General, founder of Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE, Dover, DE 302-423-4067