On Monday day we woke up to find that the microwave had been removed from F gallery… for the next month. Here’s the memo explaining why. Basically, too many people on F gallery are getting write-ups so they are punishing the whole gallery. First off, of course F gallery gets more write-ups per person than any other gallery; that is statistically inevitable when they put all the “trouble makers” in one place. What did they expect, that putting all the disruptive elements together would mellow them out??? My personal objection to TSCI’s use of collective punishment is 3 fold: 1. It denies everyone due process. 2. It causes us to lose respect for those in authority which increases the likelihood of inmate-on-staff violence. 3. By holding everyone responsible for some people’s behavior it is virtually requiring us to “regulate” each other which increases the likelihood of inmate-on-inmate violence.

Even when a person get’s an MR (misconduct report) of the highest severity, class 1, they are entitled to a hearing where they can plead their case and there is recourse to appeal to a higher authority. That’s called due process. When the warden unilaterally decides to punish an entire gallery there is no hearing and there is no appeal. The entire “justice” system is based on the premise of due process, and the penal system is supposed to be part of the “justice” system. Denying due process is not only inherently unjust, it also creates resentment towards the system, which leads to the next issue.

Even though the warden’s memo says they removed the microwave because of “safety and security” concerns, the microwave was not involved in any of the MRs and was removed purely for punitive reason. Punishing people who did nothing leads to even less respect for those in authority and actually decreases institutional safety and security by increasing the odds of inmate-on-staff violence. Since the collective punishment started I have noticed at least 1 extreme incident of people disrespecting staff and that could easily escalate into violence at people’s tempers become more inflamed.

In addition to increasing the risk of inmate-on-staff violence it also significantly increases the risk of inmate-on-inmate violence because the warden is almost literally requiring everyone to monitor each other’s behavior. Within 4.5 hours of the microwave being removed I saw the first verbal confrontation between 2 guys over one’s behavior. I expect it won’t be long before people are “taking it to their cells” to settle things. So how exactly is collective punishment improving the safety and security of the institution? *roll my eyes*

I sent an email, through my dad, to the Ombudsman and Inspector General of Corrections asking their opinions on the use of collective punishment. I haven’t heard back yet. I am also going to file a grievance over it which I’m sure will be dismissed, just like my earlier kite  expressing my concerns about violence when the warden took the microwave away in Aug. I will follow the whole grievance process so my concerns are documented clearly and then I will share them with the media when something does finally happen. It’s unfortunate that public scrutiny is the only way to make any change in most corrections systems.

On a happier note, we are supposed to get a new way to make calls sometime this month, or at least that’s what the warden told the inmate council. GTL, the phone provider, is going to allow us to have tablets which we can use to make calls. Not only does this mean that we will be able to make calls from our much quieter cells rather than the dayroom, but also means we won’t have to wait for one of the 4 phones in the dayroom to free up and we can even make calls during count times which we can’t now because the dayroom is closed at those times. They are also increasing the amount of phone time per day from one 15 min. call to 4 15 min. calls. Wow! I’ll be able to talk to LOTS of people regularly instead of just the set 6 people I call weekly now. *smile*

Speaking of calls, I had my first call with Humberto today. He is an old family friend and the closest thing to a brother I’ve ever had. He lives in Switzerland and Brazil though and hasn’t been back to visit my parents since I was incarcerated. I tried to get a special visit approved for a visitor coming from such a distance but it was denied because he wasn’t on my approved visitors list. That was the whole reason for requesting a special visit, but oh well. Since he couldn’t visit I rearranged my calling schedule so I could call and talk to him today, tomorrow and Sat. It was great to hear his voice and chat with him about the effect of the mind on our bodies and how I am coping with my incarceration (or mandatory monastic retreat *smile*). It sounds like he is doing very well. He’s set up a think tank and helped create a public broadcasting series in Brazil called Terra Dos. I wish I could watch the series. I’m sure it would challenge my recollection of the language. LOL! I’m eagerly looking forward to talking with him tomorrow and the next day. I hope he can sign up for the new email system once it starts so we can stay in touch more regularly.

I also had an excellent call when I called Roz for our regular Sat. chat on the 4th. Gary was there too so I got to talk to both of them. I was telling Gary how my blind-mirror-image taiji had significantly improved my practice time then they explained that they were setting up for the taiji group’s annual Halloween party and as we spoke others started to arrive. I got to speak to Paul and thank him for his suggestions on origami books. I also got to speak to Bruce and Sanae and I told Bruce how grateful I was for his introducing me to Yin Yoga as I do and hour and a half of it every day. It helps with my lower back pain but more importantly it keeps me calm and centered, even in here. *smile* How great that I got to talk to 5 friends in one call. I just wish I had the hour that we are going to get soon but it still put me in an excellent mood that evening.

Last month I finished the MRT (Moral Reconation Therapy) class and I was happy to have my Wednesday morning free again so I could go to yard or gym and do taiji. While I was in the MCC class on the 6th Ruth, who teaches both MRT and the MCC class, came up too me and asked if I wanted to be a Mentor in the MRT class. I was initially hesitant because I liked having the time free plus I hadn’t enjoyed being in the MRT class with my neighbor who had threatened to rape me, and he was still in the class, but after thinking it over I agreed to it. She needed a mentor in F gallery, I could help some guys who were willing to engage in he class, it could possibly lead to a GED TA position and finally it would look good for parole (which after all is my single most important objective while in here). Now I’m permanently in MRT as a mentor.

As for the MCC (Metro Community College) class, our last session is next Monday. We got out grades on the mock interviews, which was the aggregate scores of evaluations from all our other classmates. I had gone above and beyond the requirements. A video we watched said to have spare resumes to hand out in case an interviewer didn’t have one and to hand out and collect business cards at the end so you can write and thank the panel members. I couldn’t print copies of my resume as we aren’t allowed to print anything, nor could I get business cards. Instead I had blank sheets of paper with “Resume” written at the top and offered them at the start of the interview and at the end I had torn pieces of paper to business card size (we aren’t allowed scissors of course) with “Business Card” written on them that I handed out. My friend Black, who was on the panel, leaned over and whispered “brown noser” to me. LOL! I also incorporated humor into the interview. My average evaluation score was perfect, 100%. Black got 98% so I’ll finish the class with a higher score than him. *chuckle* Oh, and we got the scores back on the TABE that we took a month ago. I scored higher than him on most sections, 99th percentile, though the spelling section kicked my ass, 33rd percentile. I was racing with him to finish the test and being rushed and dyslexic is a bad combination for spelling. Hahaha. One of our fellow MCC students refered to me as Sheldon (from The Big Bang Theory) the other day. I took that as a compliment. *smile* Then someone asked if I was Sheldon who was Black. They said Wallowitz. Ouch, he wasn’t even Leonard, he was Howard, a mere engineer. (How was that for sounding like Sheldon? LOL!)

I haven’t given my next (3rd) speech in Toastmasters yet. We have so many members that we are still trying to get everyone to at least get through their 1st icebreaker speech. I think I will try and volunteer to give my “How to escape prison” speech (it’s about practicing gratitude to change your attitude) at our first meeting in Dec. Practicing gratitude will be appropriate at a meeting between Thanksgiving and Christmas. *smile* I’ve also got a list of objectives as the VP of Public Relations. I’m working on a petition to get the admin. to allow us to use the computer lab to create our quarterly newsletter. I am going to write to The Economist to request that they allow us to reprint one of their columns on linguistics/grammar in our newsletter. I want to send out invitations to state senators and the Inspector General of Corrections so they can some see the good that comes when they allow us to do productive programs like Toastmasters. Finally, I want to invite a guest speaker to come visit us. 60 Minutes did a piece on a guy named Sean Hopwood who is originally from a small town in NE, who went to federal prison for 11 years but subsequently passed the bar and now is a professor of Law at Georgetown. I think he would be an excellent example and motivational speaker for Toastmasters and since he is originally from NE he might actually be interested in coming to speak to us. We’ll see. Of course I would also like to chat with him about being an advocate for prison reform in NE. *smile*

Mel, the editor of the Nebraska Criminal Justice Review quarterly newsletter, mailed me and asked if he could print and excerpt from my letter to state senators about the need for programming in NDCS. I, of course, gave him permission plus I wrote a second letter to the editor for him to publish in the NCJR next month. It is a call to action for the roughly 1400 people in NDCS who are awaiting screenings to determine their programming requirements. NDCS is supposed to complete our program plans within 60 days of our initial classification but they are taking years to screen people and because of that many fail to complete required programming before their parole eligibility date and therefore don’t get parole. I encouraged everyone who is awaiting screening to file a formal grievance to make it clear to NDCS that we all know they are failing to meet their statutory obligations and if someone was denied parole because of lack of programming I suggested they write senator Ebke, the chair of the Judiciary Committee, and the Inspector General so they can get an idea of how pervasive the problem is. Even locked up I can still be an activist. *grin*