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February 12, 2008

I clearly have been visiting the wrong prisons

In various trips to prisons, I have never seen a drunken orgy.  But this new CNN piece suggests that this just means I have not been visiting the right prisons:

Softball, drunken orgies and a prison system run like the mafia. That's what Florida's former prison secretary says he inherited when he took over one of the nation's largest prison systems two years ago....

In fact, on his first day on the job, James McDonough says he walked into his office -- the same one his predecessor used -- and there was crime scene tape preventing anyone from entering. "That was an indication we had a problem in the department," McDonough told CNN in an exclusive interview before he stepped down last Thursday.

McDonough revealed a startling list of alleged abuses and crimes going on inside Florida's prisons:

  • Top prison officials admitting to kickbacks;
  • Guards importing and selling steroids in an effort to give them an edge on the softball field;
  • Taxpayer funds to pay for booze and women;
  • Guards who punished other guards who threatened to report them.

"Corruption had gone to an extreme," McDonough said, saying it all began at the top. "They seemed to be drunk half the time and had orgies the other half, when they weren't taking money and beating each other up." Watch a corrupted prison system » He added, "Women were treated like chattel in this department." McDonough described a bizarre prison culture among those that ran the system -- one that he says seemed obsessed with inter-department softball games and the orgies after games.

And some people are getting all worked up about faith-based prisons?  Yeesh.

February 12, 2008 at 05:57 PM | Permalink

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Comments

When lawyers visit prisons and jails, the guards have total control over where you go, it's typically a very limited view of the prison, and you're brought straight into the attorney visitation booth/room. Why would the guards let you see anything else? Prisons are designed so that visitors, particularly visiting defense lawyers, only get to see what those in charge want them to see.

And yes, I think faith-based prisons are horrendous. Captive audience having jesus forced down their throats. It's an affront to freedom of and from religion. Drunken, corrupt guards is the lesser of the two evils, however, don't think for a minute that guards in faith based prisons wouldn't be just as - if not more - corrupt. I say more corrupt because when people think they have religion on their side, they tend to act worse than they otherwise would.

Posted by: bruce | Feb 12, 2008 6:23:43 PM

First "bruce" comment I think I've ever agreed with on this blog.

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

-C.S. Lewis

Posted by: | Feb 12, 2008 6:53:42 PM

It doesn't just happen in state prisons. The federal prison in Florence, Colorado had a notorious group of guards who called themselves "The Cowboys."

And amen to just saying no to faith-based prisons. Somehow I just can't see the prison authorities being as receptive to, say, Muslim-based prison programs as Christian-based programs. The guards in yet another federal prison nicknamed one of my Middle-Eastern clients "Osama bin Laden." I doubt they had much respect for his religious beliefs.

Posted by: Colorado AFPD | Feb 12, 2008 7:15:37 PM

The federal prison in Florence, Colorado had a notorious group of guards who called themselves "The Cowboys."

Notorious for what? Being a clique with its own name? Being Dallas football fans? Orgies? Chaps?

Posted by: | Feb 12, 2008 7:43:47 PM

My favorite facilities are those where the guards let you walk yourself to the interview and the interview is either on the pod, block or unit. Several states, Kentucky, Mass & Nevada come to mind, have/had facilities where you could basically walk the entire of the facility if you wanted going to/from client interviews, as do several of the county lockups in the NYC environs (that may have changed in the first three's case as i haven't been in either for almost a decade)

Posted by: | Feb 12, 2008 8:22:21 PM

Since when has anyone ever disagreed with one of my comments on this blog? The very thought is ridiculous.

Posted by: bruce | Feb 12, 2008 10:20:22 PM

I visited Ocala Florida. It was a county facility and the prisoner was a non violent first offender not yet convicted. He was brought in in striped uniform with legs in chains and wrists chained to a chain around his waist. The visit was conducted through glass with no phone, just a 5 inch band of wire at the bottom of the glass to talk through. This necessitated bending over to talk.

The visits were limited to three fifteen minute visits a week. A guard stood behind the inmate the entire visit. Visits could not be prearranged and the visitor had to call at the beginning of an eight hour shift. If it was not convenient for the guards on that shift it was necessary to wait eight hours and call for permission again.

This inmate was also awakened every hour with lights for a check (?) He was strip searched every day, required to pack his belongnings (only legal papers) and move to a new cell.

This inmate was a federal prisoner but his attorney was told there was not room for him in the federal facility in Tallahassee.

Posted by: beth curtis | Feb 12, 2008 10:32:23 PM

I don't see how they can legally put time limits on attorney-client interviews - particularly fifteen minutes, which has to be per se unreasonable. Sure there are valid reasons why they can require attorneys to prove who they are and come at certain times of the day (normal business hours would be fine, say 9am to 5pm). But to not let you see your client except when it's convenient for them, and then for only 15 minutes, and then with a guard listening to everything so that the client cannot confide in his attorney and have privacy for attorney-client communications to be able to take place... that's just wrong. Seems blatantly unconstitutional to me, a denial of assistance of counsel and due process. It's one thing to monitor all phone calls, b/c they don't know who the inmate is speaking to. But when they know it's the attorney (who is there in person and ID verified), there's no reason for the state to listen to the conversation.

In my experience there is a huge difference here between jails and prisons. I've never been to a county jail in Texas where I couldn't just walk in, show my bar card, tell them which inmate I wanted to see, and be given an attorney booth while they went to get my client. Some have a glass divider between us, some don't, but there is never a guard in the room.

In prisons, however, in Texas you have to make arrangements beforehand for atty-client visits, give at least 48 hours notice, and be there at a certain time. Each prison has a different setup in terms of how the attorneys and inmates meet. The federal BOP also requires you make an appointment, but the last time I went to a federal prison they were pretty nice and let me meet my client in a room with a table, no glass, no restraints, and no guard listening to every word said. The only time limit was that we had to be finished by 4pm, but I had made an appointment to be there at 2pm, so I had plenty of time.

Posted by: bruce | Feb 12, 2008 11:31:44 PM

The "Cowboys" were notorious for "the widespread abuse of prisoners and the falsification of records to cover up that abuse." See U.S. v. LaVallee, 439 F.3d 670 (10th Cir. 2006).

Posted by: Colo. AFPD | Feb 13, 2008 12:42:19 AM

I wish Federalist could explain why the Cowboys did what they did, and why it is good.

Posted by: S.cotus | Feb 13, 2008 6:49:53 AM

I don't understand the animosity towards faith-based prisons (by Bruce and the C.S. Lewis quoter). My understanding is that it is very regulated, and only prisoners who request it are given the opportunity. To force jesus (or anything) down the throat is obviously wrong. To minister to very damaged people who have nothing else in their lives, and to give them something which literally saves them from a downward path (i.e. a life of recidivism and re-imprisonment) doesn't seem like such a bad thing. How Bruce or anyone can consider this the greater of two evils, compared to the abuses described in the article, is a mystery to me. My guess is that it is anti-Christian bigotry.
Bruce, how many people from faith-based prisons have you talked to?

Posted by: | Feb 14, 2008 4:45:41 AM

"Ministering" (a euphamism for forcing religion down the throats of others) to "very damaged people" (the most susceptible to brainwashing) is simply wrong. It's the ultimate for of taking advantage of one's fellow man, when he is most hopeless, most troubled, most in search of relief.

You clearly agree with me, because you concede forcing jesus down the throats of others is "obviously wrong." Why you don't see faith based prisons as forcing jesus down the throats of a captive, hopeless, susceptible audience is where the disconnect lies. You also implicitly acknowledge that it is only Christianity/Jesus that will be forced on others in faith based prisons by your comment that opposition to them is a form of "anti-Christian bigotry." There won't be Jewish or Muslim prisons.

You also presume that religion helps people. That's a huge, and faulty assumption. Very few people are better off with religion, and those are the sociopaths who need the fear of hell to prevent them from harming others (the type of sick, whacko people who question atheists by saying "if there is no god, then what stops people from killing and raping others?").

As for the "faith based prisons are voluntary" argument, it's total b.s. People can stay in overcrowded, run-down, loud, smelly, unairconditioned, messsy, gang-run, horrrible secular prisons with cruel and abusive guards, or they can have the "choice" of requesting to serve their time in a smaller, cleaner, privately-run, facility with presumptively nicer guards who will be easier to manipulate (b/c they are presumably religious), where the only concession is that they have to allow others to force Jesus and the bible on them on a daily basis. That's no choice at all. Either stay in Auschwitz or some learn about Jesus in happy land.

How many people (what, prisoners or guards or administrators) from FPBs I've talked to has nothing to do with whether FPBs are a good idea. I don't care if there is truly scientific, statistically meaningful data (i.e. don't tell me about how a smaller faith-based facility has less violent crime than a larger facility with a smaller inmate to guard ratio as a meaningful display of FBPs working) that shows FBPs are successful at anything. It is morally and constitutionally WRONG. It's the greater of all evils to which it can be compared.

Posted by: bruce | Feb 14, 2008 12:10:31 PM

"Ministering" (a euphamism for forcing religion down the throats of others) to "very damaged people" (the most susceptible to brainwashing) is simply wrong. It's the ultimate for of taking advantage of one's fellow man, when he is most hopeless, most troubled, most in search of relief.

You clearly agree with me, because you concede forcing jesus down the throats of others is "obviously wrong." Why you don't see faith based prisons as forcing jesus down the throats of a captive, hopeless, susceptible audience is where the disconnect lies. You also implicitly acknowledge that it is only Christianity/Jesus that will be forced on others in faith based prisons by your comment that opposition to them is a form of "anti-Christian bigotry." There won't be Jewish or Muslim prisons.

You also presume that religion helps people. That's a huge, and faulty assumption. Very few people are better off with religion, and those are the sociopaths who need the fear of hell to prevent them from harming others (the type of sick, whacko people who question atheists by saying "if there is no god, then what stops people from killing and raping others?").

As for the "faith based prisons are voluntary" argument, it's total b.s. People can stay in overcrowded, run-down, loud, smelly, unairconditioned, messsy, gang-run, horrrible secular prisons with cruel and abusive guards, or they can have the "choice" of requesting to serve their time in a smaller, cleaner, privately-run, facility with presumptively nicer guards who will be easier to manipulate (b/c they are presumably religious), where the only concession is that they have to allow others to force Jesus and the bible on them on a daily basis. That's no choice at all. Either stay in Auschwitz or some learn about Jesus in happy land.

How many people (what, prisoners or guards or administrators) from FPBs I've talked to has nothing to do with whether FPBs are a good idea. I don't care if there is truly scientific, statistically meaningful data (i.e. don't tell me about how a smaller faith-based facility has less violent crime than a larger facility with a smaller inmate to guard ratio as a meaningful display of FBPs working) that shows FBPs are successful at anything. It is morally and constitutionally WRONG. It's the greater of all evils to which it can be compared.

Posted by: bruce | Feb 14, 2008 12:15:55 PM

My problem with faith-based prisons is more general. There are literally tens of millions of fundamentalists in this country who, if given the opportunity, would disrupt my efforts to raise my child as a Jew. As of now, they can't use the power of government on their behalf.

As long as I'm in a blue state, I'm safe for reasons other than court protection. But in places like Virginia, children have been removed from homes because they have lesbian parents, which violates nothing other than fundamentalist Christian doctrine.

The only protection against Christian supremacy people have in really red states and counties are the doctrines of the church/state wall and the incorporation doctrine. Both of which rest more on established precedent than anything else.

I just don't want to give the opposition any traction.

Posted by: Mike | Feb 14, 2008 2:58:27 PM

Mike: i agree with you completely. And rest assured, even in the bluest of states, there will never be a state-funded Jewish prison. Of course, jews don't proselytize and try to convert others, so the idea probably never even occurred to them. Regardless, only Christian prisons do and will get state funding, support, and certification. Christians just love the idea of being able to proselytize to a literally captive audience of people looking for hope. Reminds me of the evil, abusive, murderous warden in Shawshank Redeption telling Andy Duphraine that salvation and the answers to all his problems were in the bible. They were, to the extent Andy was able to hide his rock hammer in the cut-out pages of his Bible.

If it were up to me, I'd keep the Bible and Koran and Torah out of prisons. They're violent books that breed more violence. Prisons are violent enough. Better off letting the inmates look at porn all day long, at least they'd be occupied and distracted.

Posted by: bruce | Feb 14, 2008 3:23:18 PM

Oh yes, that portrayal of the warden in Shawshank Redemption was very realistic. Of course, that's how a Christian warden would behave.
Were you molested by a priest or something, Bruce? You sure do have a lot of animosity towards people of faith.

Posted by: | Feb 14, 2008 10:11:52 PM

People of faith think they can do whatever they want, because they are 'of faith' and will be forgiven by the creator of the universe. Moreover, they feel they are better than those who are apparently of less faith than they are. Religious people are not to be trusted. The warden in the Shawshank Redemption is precisely what I'd expect from an overtly Christian warden.

And it's not just Christianity, although Christianity breeds moral superiority and lack of accountability far moreso than any other religion at the present moment in history.

Posted by: bruce | Feb 14, 2008 10:28:01 PM

Wow? Even Islam, at the present moment in history?
I don't recall hearing about any Christian honor killings. I have heard of Christians doing their best to help victims of female circumcision.

Posted by: | Feb 15, 2008 5:51:18 PM

Islam breeds violence and vindictiveness moreso than any other religion at the present moment in history.

Moral superiority and lack of accountability, however, go to Christianity. It's the nature of the religion. Say you love someone and you can do whatever you want. Show me a white collar criminal in America who abused his/her position of trust to steal from someone else and I'll show you a Christian. Show me an unethical business owner, and I'll show you a Christian.

Show me someone who wants to blow up random people, and I'll show you a Muslim. Sure there are some exceptions for both, but I'm talking about the majority. The greater amount of time a given person spends on religious activities, the greater the chance they have bad intentions and poor morality (in terms of the golden rule, not in terms of not eating a certain type of food on a certain day after sundown or whatever other random crap religious people use to define "morality").

Posted by: bruce | Feb 15, 2008 11:12:59 PM

Bruce, every single Christian I know believes that "thou shalt not steal" is still binding on Christians. As Paul (the apostle) said, "Let him who steals, steal no more."

Are there hypocrites, and poor examples out there? Of course. But I get the impression you don't spend time with many genuine Christians, who could rid you of your presumptions and bigotry.

There have been many criminals who "came to Jesus," and became different persons. There have been many career criminals who said that they stopped their criminal behavior when they became Christians. (Often they themselves minister to fellow prisoners, and continue once they leave prison.) Such people don't respond to something being forced down their throat. They respond to an expression of love and care.

I know a man who used to be homeless. He was a drug user and hung out with fellow homeless addicts. He occasionally robbed people to support his habit. A group of Christians would often visit where he and others spent the night, and bring fresh food and blankets. They didn't proselytize. Eventually the homeless man asked who they were, and they explained. He asked for help. Now he has a job, he has a home of his own, and he's off the drugs. He no longer robs people. He also has a homeless ministry, which has helped many people, both physically and spiritually. All of this because of a religion you despise.

Posted by: | Feb 16, 2008 8:50:07 AM

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