We know it's been a long
time coming; however, we are finally back in print. Nobody said it was
going to be easy, and it certainly wasn't. Assuming all things go
according to plan, we will be publishing Outlook on Justice four times a
year: January, April, July and October.
Now, exactly what's
Outlook on Justice going to look like? What it is going to look like
will depend entirely upon you. Your input will have an enormous affect
on the publication. Outlook is going to be an open forum for dialogue
and debate around the concepts of justice, corrections, the courts,
legislation, rehabilitation, reentry, and the creation of safer
communities. It will focus on identifying problems and, where possible,
suggesting solutions or alternatives. We know that sometimes you will
want to say, "I don't know what the solution is, but this is a problem
I'm living with." That's definitely okay. But Outlook is not going to be
a forum for simply airing gripes or sniveling.
Here are some questions we
will be considering. We invite you to write us with your thoughts.
Lifers and Long-termers:
Can you write about what your life is like? What would make your lives
more meaningful and purposeful? For example: what if you could earn a
Master's degree in Education and then teach other prisoners, or become
trained in certified vocational skills and then train other prisoners?
Prisoners who are at the
end of long sentences and can now see the light at the end of the
tunnel: What do you believe you need in order to increase the chances
that when you leave prison you won't return? Education, vocational
training, drug treatment, psychological counseling?
Short-termers, people who
won't be in the system long and will hit the street shortly: What do you
think you will need to survive once you leave prison? What will help
keep you from returning to prison?
All prisoners: How do you
think: society can best rehabilitate people while they are in prison and
then re-integrate them into communities? How do you think society can
work: toward building safer communities?
Judges, legislators, and
the community at large:
How do you believe society can best rehabilitate
criminals while they are in prison and then reintegrate ex-prisoners
into communities? How do you think: society can work: toward building
safer communities? What are your ideas and initiatives?
Justice is going to be what we make it.
Let's make it a vital and thought-provoking forum for dialogue and
debate about justice.
Need For Periodic
Reiteration Of Correctional Philosophy
George J. Reardon Jr.
When the politicians' slogans
and the superficial packaging are removed, there arc two basic
;;correctional" philosophies: One is based on the premise that people do not
change, and therefore prisons should serve the sole purpose of isolating
offenders from society. The second philosophy adheres to the notion that the
overwhelming majority of prisoners will, at some point, return to society,
and therefore it is in the interest of that society to attempt to alter one
or more of the factors which led to a given prisoner's antisocial act. Each
philosophy has its own set of problems.
The overarching problem with
the first philosophy is that it does not consider reintegration at all.
Rather than promote socialization, it causes or reinforces antisocial
patterns. The proponents of this philosophy believe that reintegration
becomes less critical if prison sentences are lengthy enough to hold
prisoners past the age when they are likely to re-offend (not addressing the
cost of their needed support at that point).
Enacting this philosophy calls
for an increasing number of prison cells. In Massachusetts, a relatively
small state, even local jails and houses of correction have become sprawling
and costly prison complexes. During the Weld and Cellucci governorships, the
prison populations increased well beyond a cost-prohibitive level. The
prison guards union, along with the various other agencies and unions it
associates itself with, became so large that they could credibly, as a bloc,
swing state-wide elections. The tail could, in fact, wag the dog.
This article is about the
overarching problem with the second of the two philosophies: the problem of
public perception. One would think that where one philosophy offers no
depth, and no promise or possibility of success whatsoever, the
other--however marginal its success may tUI1l out to be--would be the
obvious choice (real dollar costs can favor either, depending on
management). Yet a review of correctional philosophy in Massachusetts over
the past half century would show a distinct and periodic swinging back and
forth between the two above-outlined philosophies. Why?
Public perception is why. The
ineffective hard-line philosophy is simple. It hits home with an audience.
The people who are moved to vote in this direction do not care that the
overall rate of crime does not rise and fall as a result of correctional
philosophy and that the ebb and flow of crime rates are relative to more
complex social indices. They are moved by the 6 o'clock news. When a
politician or policymaker can offer a solution in a simple sound-bite, its
reception is relative to its simplicity. 'Simple' equates to 'refreshing'
when dealing with complex issues.
The second philosophy is
complex in its application. It has many components: a diagnostic component;
a planning component; a school and/or training component; a reintegration
plan component; and possibly, community-based components. The discussion of
every detail of these components, their exact numerical correlation to the
likelihood of re-offending, and the penny-by-penny cost analysis of policy
are mind-numbing to the public.
The public wants to be
periodically reminded of what the administration's overall philosophy is,
and why it has chosen it. Simple is refreshing. If the public puts its faith
in the administration's philosophy, then the administration owes it to the
public to put in place people who are willing and able to enact the policies
necessary to carry out that philosophy.
The Department of Corrections
cannot affect the overall crime rate. (Economics, school systems, parents,
adolescent intervention programs, and particular social conditions are the
primary variables that affect overall crime incidence.) But the Department
can and should have an obligation to have an affect on whether a given
released prisoner will impact the rate of crime in his or ~ler specific
community. The Department can affect the preparation of that released
prisoner to earn a living, and his or her ability to foresee common
pitfalls. The Department of Corrections can affect whether there are future
victims of a released prisoner by the philosophy it adheres to while that
prisoner is in its custody. Though the responsibility lies with the released
prisoner, the effect of prison policy should not be taken lightly.
People can change. That is the
underlying tenet of the second philosophy. There are two conditions which
are absolutely essential to the successful reintegration or rehabilitation
of a released prisoner. The first is a healthier understanding of the roles
and responsibilities of every member in a community, including him or
herself and the impact each individual has, negative or positive, on the
community. This understanding will bring empathy, caring, and valuing into
any decision-making process. The second essential condition is the ability
to earn a legitimate living wage.
The Department of
Corrections cannot guarantee these conditions. It can, however, create
prison environments and policies which make attaining these conditions
possible. Remember, these are not ideal-case options. They are, as
stated above, absolute essentials. They ca11not be obtained under the
warehousing or isolation-from-society philosophy outlined above.
Therefore, the choice between those two philosophies, if one's aim is to
successfully reintegrate prisoners into society (which they will
eventually re-enter), should be clear. In order to continue to implement
that philosophy, public statements regarding it should be equally clear.
If not, we run the risk that a more short-sighted philosophy will seem
more refreshing, if solely due to its simplicity.
(Made at a hearing at the
Massachusetts State House)
I send you my words to you
in the hope that you will see through Ollr eyes and hear our voices in
the detrimental plight of incarcerated individuals who receive and serve
minimum mandatory sentences. Our stories are not that of proclaiming
innocence, but ones of fairness and equal access and opportunity in our
esoteric community called prison.
I will begin by telling
you a little about myself. My name is Mary Lou. I will keep this brief
but would like to allow you to see and feel as I do.
Presently, I am serving a
minimum mandatory sentence for trafficking cocaine. The sentence imposed
for my offense states as follows: MCI Cedar Junction to serve a term of
three to ten years. I must serve a minimum mandatory term for a
three-year period prior to becoming eligible to receive a hearing by the
parole board to determine if! could have the privilege of reentering
the community. I am a first time non-violent offender, but I am fll11y
aware that I have committed an infraction against the laws of our
Commonwealth and the laws of our country.
I was an ambitious woman,
the proprietor of an Insurance Agency; I am a mother of two beautiful
boys ages 5 and 9; I made a grave mistake in my life. I began my
fascination with an organic substance believing that I could accomplish
1110re work and tasks in my day-to day life; my fascination ultimately
became I11Y dependence, my destruction, my loss of will, drive, ambition
and yes, caring for my loved ones. The victims of I11Y crime are my two
beautiful children, my mother, my family and friends.
By the time I was
arrested, I was a broken individual. In the almost year that I awaited
sentencing, I attempted to regain some of my self-worth and began to
question, "Where did I go Wrong?" I will spare you from all of that
because I will end up losing you as to why I am sending my words to you.
My co-defendant is my husband, who is also
incarcerated and is serving a mandatory sentence of five to ten years.
We pled guilty as charged. In a plea bargain arranged by our attorneys,
we accepted the sentences imposed and did, in fact, admit to our guilt.
But, previous to the honorable judge imposing this sentence upon me, he
called my attorney and the prosecutor to the bench. The judge asked the
prosecutor if he would consider lowering his recommendation for the
sentence that I was about to receive. The prosecutor refused to lower
his recommendation for the sentence under the guidelines of mandatory
Sentencing. The judge, in his entrusted judicial capacity in fact, had
his discretionary powers rescinded I will ask you to question in your
minds this ludicrous removal of a judge's discretionary ruling when he
is about to impose a sentence, especially a
sentence for a nonviolent offense.
Allow me to explain
further what a Minimum Mandatory sentence entails. Anyone who is
sentenced to a mandatory term of incarceration is precluded from the
- Earning good-time
deduction to reduce parole eligibility.
- Making application for
early consideration for reduction of sentence via the parole board.
- Any consideration for reduction on a Revise
Revoke Motion via the courts.
- Applying for any
Bracelet Preparatory Program.
- And the most unfair
preclusion of all, the opportunity
to apply for pre-release
status to allow and permit us to engage in gainful employment - and to
leave the confines of prison with the hope to re-enter their community
successfully with some dignity and financial security.
Consider the following:
with every offense committed, under the guidelines of the sentences
imposed, the individual is afforded the opportunity to apply to the
Department of Corrections for pre-release status and eligibility.
status, any and all inmates granted the privilege of obtaining gainful
in the community are
required to remit 15% of their earnings to the respective institution,
therefore economically contributing as a supplement to the budget
granted each institution. Although it may appear to be little, it is
better than none.
By the precluding of
individuals who are serving minimum mandatory sentences from becoming
prerelease eligible, the reality is that our criminal justice system is
being bogged down even further with overcrowding and more of our tax
dollars are being
utilized to house,
maintain and support even more individuals convicted of felonies. The
full detrimental effects have not been seen yet, because very soon, many
individuals who received and have served mandatory sentences without the
opportunity to save a little nest egg to re-enter the community - will,
in fact, become an even bigger burden to the community.
After spending a number of
years incarcerated, many people do not have a viable supp0l1 group to
assist them with successful re-entry. Our human service agencies are
stretched presently, due to our economy and the plight and despair of
tax-paying people who are trying to survive; therefore, human service
assistance has been slashed drastically to assist any incarcerated
individual who desires to re-enter society and rebuild his or her life
Boston Workers Alliance
BWA was formed in
September 22,2005 at a large meeting of jobless workers at the 12th
Baptist Church in Roxbury. We agreed to unite for the uplift of our
community by building powerful collective challenges to the crisis of
unemployment. Our two immediate priorities involved fighting CORI
discrimination and forming a BW A worker-owned temp agency.
Tn this organization, we will work on improving our
job situations by developing the necessary skills and resources to find
work. At the same time, it is clear that job training and business
resumes are useless if no one is hiring. We recognize that unless we
demand a societal change to have fair work for all, members of our
community will be forced to compete, like crabs in a barrel, for fewer
and lower-paying jobs. When we unite, we are fighting tor more than a
paycheck. We are fighting for jobs for our youth and stable work that
,we can raise our families on.
If you're unemployed, working two jobs
still not making it, can't get a job because of
your CORl, or just sick
tired of being "sick
tired," please join us-tell your story, fight for
CORI refonl1 and jobs.
Address: 51 Roxbury
Street, Roxbury, MA 02119. Contact person: Aaron Tanaka, Phone No. (617)
427-8180. http://www . bostonworkersalliance
Massachusetts State Wide
Harm Reduction Coalition (SHaRC)
The mission of SHaRC is:
To build a statewide social justice movement that is
dedicated to working with individuals and communities;
To minimize the adverse
consequences of drug use, t1u'ough means such as: syringe access,
healthcare for those with HIV and hepatitis, and overdose prevention;
for drug law changes,
moving from punitive criminal justice policies, in support of
non-coercive, community based public health models.
We are individuals,
groups, organizations and agencies from across the state of
Massachusetts against jailor prison expansion/construction and/or
addition of beds.
Address: c/o ARISE for
Social Justice, 94 Rifle Street, Springfield, MA 01105. Phone no.
to the editor
Here is ""here the letters
to the editor are going to appear in the future. However, for today,
we'll outline the basic structure of the issues we envision discussing
in the upcoming issues. Along with the
topics mentioned below, we will always have space for
issues that are brought to
our attention as we hear
more from you.
March: Classification, Mass Health, and vocational
June: Solitary confinement, educational resources, and
the death penalty
September: Parole, commutations, lifers and long terms
Sincerely, The Staff
(Robert Dellelo, Jamie
Bissonnette, John Boughner, Rabia Mir)
What is the AFSC's
Criminal Justice Program?
Jamie Bissonnette Staff Writer
The American Friends
Service Committee's Criminal Justice Program in New England was founded
in 1973 to continue the work begun by the Ad Hoc Committee on Prison
Reform and the National Prisoners Reform Association at Walpole Prison.
The NPRA Board at Walpole
was pivotal in determining the kind of work that the Justice Program
would focus on.
The AFSC has four foundational positions: we call
for the abolition of prisons, a moratorium
on prison construction, the abolishment of capital punishment and of the
mandatory sentence of Life Without the Possibility of Parole.
Currently, the AFSC is the
sponsor of the STOPMAX Campaign, a national campaign to end the use of
solitary confinement in the US. This Campaign unites prisoner rights
activists and human rights activists across the country to work together
to end the cruel and unusual punishment of isolation.
From the beginning, the
voices of those who are in prison have been the crucial voices in
determining the work of the CJ program of the Service Committee. To this
end, Outlook on Justice was first published on 1974. Initially, Outlook
focused exclusively on the issues that confront men and women in
Massachusetts prisons. NO\v, the publication looks at prison issues from
a New England-wide lens, hoping to unite those who are engaged in the
struggle for justice throughout the region.
Over the years, prisoners,
formerly incarcerated men and women, and prisoner family members have
written most of the articles in Outlook. Today, we welcome a new editor:
Robert Dellelo, who was the President of the Walpole NPRA and one of the
original board members of the Criminal Justice Program. The editorial
outlines Bobby's vision for this publication. On page 7, you will see a
list of themes that we will address in upcoming issues. We hope you will
both contribute articles on these topics and give us feedback on the
articles we do publish.
Thank you for joining us in the crucial work to move
the criminal justice system away from punishment and toward healing:
healing for the victims harmed by
crime, the communities that are impacted, your own
families, and all of you who are in prison.
Our culture--indeed, our social well-being-depends on it
Opinions Express in Outlook are not necessarily those
Norfolk Lifers' Group Proposes Task Force on Long Term
The Lifers' Group at Norfolk Prison has drafted a
resolution which calls for the creation of a task force on long-term
prisoners. Gordon Haas, chairman of Lifers' Group, Inc., has sent the
resolution, modeled on a national initiative by Citizens United for the
Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), to every Massachusetts state senator
and representative. Ed Bowser of Lifers' Group asks that concerned
individuals call their senators and representatives asking them to
sponsor the resolution, which is printed below. The Norfolk Lifers'
Group can be contacted at: Lifers' Group Inc., 2 Clark Street, P. O. Box
43, Norfolk, MA 02056-0043.
Whereas there are over
200,000 long-term prisoners in the US including 128,000 serving life
Whereas the number of prisoners serving life sentences
has increased 83% in the last ten years;
Whereas in 1992 there was
only one in six lifers serving no parole sentences and today there is
one in four;
Whereas research shows this increase has not been the
result of violent crime, but longer mandatory
and more restrictive parole and commutation policies;
Whereas the recidivism
rate for long-termers is the lowest of any group of prisoners;
Whereas it costs a million
dollars to house a person sentenced to life in prison for 40 years;
Be it resolved that a Task Force on Long-Term
Prisoners be created to recommend a state strategy involving the prison
and parole agencies and other partners, as appropriate;
That this task force's
recommendations ensure the achievement of the highest level of public
safety; That this task force study successful long-term release programs
such as Life Line in Canada;
That this task force be appointed by the Governor and
complete its work
by December 2006, in time
for the legislative session in 2007.
Milt W. Jones Contributing Writer
While AFSC for many years has diligently addressed various
social justice issues, particularly relative to prison reform, we have taken
a more active role in the area of reentry. We recognize that focusing inside
the walls and seeking assurance that out' incarcerated men and women are
treated humanely and afforded the maximum opportunity for rehabilitation is
extremely necessary, but not enough. We must seek ways to help our returning
men and women adjust to society in a manner that will enable them to
relinquish their negative life-styles and to embrace a more healthy way of
living, thereby contributing to out' ultimate goal of building safer
communities. To that end
T have been designated to steer
our focus on reentry.
I founded Community Reentry
Preparation Group (CRPG), which is a program designed to stimulate the
thought process in preparation for release into the community. Each
individual that goes through the program receives a certificate upon
CRPG is entering its third
year of operation at Plymouth County Correctional Facility as well as
Norfolk County. It serves 30 men monthly for a six month cycle. The groups
are engaged in in-depth discussions developed from and guided by six
pre-determined topics: pride vs. humility, dangers of addiction, desires vs.
needs, spirituality, changing the thought process, and an overview/group
Through these topics we
discuss behaviors during incarceration and the resulting benefits or
consequences. We consider the obstacles one will face upon release and how
to work through them. Ultimately we seek to layout the framework for making
the necessary life changes that will allow one to live a quality life and
become a meaningful asset to his or her community. In furtherance of this
initiative we are proposing this program to at least three more county
facilities, for which we will seek funding. For those CRPG graduates who are
released to the Boston and surrounding areas, we have set up CRPG at AFSC
for their continued group participation. Lastly, we have assembled a group
of advocates consisting of formerly incarcerated men and women (with a
proven record of successful reentry); lawyers; paralegals; clergy;
college students; social
service providers; grant writers ; and research analysts to work on the
Reentry Center Development Committee.
The obvious objectives of
this committee are to plan the strategy for the development and
operation of a reentry center that will provide a safe haven while
offering educational, therapeutic, and recreational programs. Those of
us who are moving ahead are responsible to encourage those who are
Are you wrapping up soon? Do
you expect to live on SSI? If you answered yes to these questions, the
following information may be of help to you.
Social Security's Definition
We consider you disabled under
Social Security rules if, due to a medical or mental condition:
a) You cannot do work that you
did before and ,ve decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of
your condition(s), and
b) Your disability is expected
to last for at least one year or to result in death.
Unlike other programs, Social
Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial
disability or for short-term disability. Social Security program rules
assume that working families have access to other resources to provide
support during periods of short-term disabilities, including workers'
compensation, insurance, savings, and investments.
The prerelease procedure
allows you to apply for SSI benefits and food stamps several months before
your anticipated release from an institution so that benefits can begin
quickly after your release. We do not pay you SSI benefits when you reside
in a public institution.
We will process an application
for you under the prerelease procedure if you are in an institution (e.g.,
hospital, nursing home, prison, or jail) ; and appear likely to meet the
criteria for SSI eligibility when you are released from the institution; and
are expected to be released within 30 days after you are notified of your
potential eligibility for SSI benefits.
There may be a prerelease agreement in effect between the
institution and your local Social Security office. However, you may file an
application for SSI benefits under the prerelease procedure even if there is
no agreement in effect. A prerelease agreement may be formal (a written
agreement signed by both parties) or informal. Under the agreement, we help
institutional and social service staffs learn the prerelease procedure, and
we provide a contact to assist the institution in applying the prerelease
procedure. The institution agrees to: notify us if you appear likely to meet
the criteria for
SSI eligibility and you could be released
within 30 days after notification of potential SSI eligibility; provide
current medical evidence and nonmedical information needed to process your
provide your anticipated
release date and notify us of any delays that may result in a later release
date; and notify us when you are released. We agree to: process your claim
or reinstatement as quickly as possible; and notify the institution of the
SSI determination promptly.
You should take advantage of
this program because the process can take a very long time and you might as
well have them processing your claim while you are still serving time. If
you experience any difficulty accessing this program, please be in touch
Will Social Security benefits
to my spouse and children stop while I am in prison? No. Your eligible
family members will continue to receive benefits. You, or a member of your
family, should contact Social Security right away to report that you are in
Next time: more information
about Social Security.
Outlook on Justice
New England Regional Office, American
Friends Service Committee
Promoting Non-Violent Social Change since 1971