Yesterday was the ’18 midterm election. I watched the returns and suffered from vote-envy. It is so frustrating that I didn’t get to vote for Obama either time, then I couldn’t vote against Trump (not that my vote would have changed the outcome here in red-state Nebraska), and last night I missed out on the chance to cast a vote for oversight of the Trump admin. I was on pins and needles watching the Beto O’Rourke/Ted Cruz run off bouncing back and forth between the two. It was a surprisingly suspenseful and interesting election, especially for a midterm.

The NE results weren’t so suspenseful as all state wide offices were a straight Republican ticket. The only slight surprise was that state senator Ebke, from Crete, lost to a farmer. She had disagreed with some of governor Ricketts’ policies so she left the Republican party, became a Libertarian, and then the governor backed her opponent to get a more compliant legislature. I was disappointed because she was a big advocate for prison reform and was chair of both the Judiciary and Prison Oversight committees. That’s when being disenfranchised really hits home.

Florida voted to automatically restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated (except for those convicted of murder…and of course, sex offenses *sigh*) which is an improvement over the lifelong ban that they used to have. NE used to have a lifelong ban on voting for felons also but in 2001 or 2 that was change to automatically restoring voting rights 2 years after being off any form of state supervision. Here’s my question: why are we banned from voting at all? In Puerto Rico, no one is banned from voting and they even set up polling stations in prisons. The rational behind banning felons from voting, whether for life or just while incarcerated, is based in racism. If slaves were to be made citizens, then states would set up as many obstacles to them having any say in government as possible, including arresting them disproportionately and then banning them from voting. I think there’s no reasonable justification for banning felons from voting. We are still citizens and are expected to eventually participate and contribute in society, so we should be ENCOURAGED to be politically active to practice being good citizens, not banned and discouraged from participating in society. I image that prison reforms would be talked about more during campaigns and not just in terms of how to decrease the costs of prisons. Ha! Next election year I think I’ll make “I couldn’t vote today” stickers to wear and pass them out around the gallery. *grin*

One sad observation I have recently made is that several people from in here who got out have returned on new charges. Since I’ve been here at TSCI there are at least 3 guys I’ve known who got out and then caught new charges. There was a black guy here in F gallery called Lumpy who got out and got caught with meth soon after. Danny’s former cellie and friend, Fat Fat, got out and is now back here in F gallery. Even Alan, the guy who approached me when I first arrived here at TSCI and before I even got to my cell told me that if I was a cop I needed to roll it up (leave). He was in Defy and making big plans for setting up a not-for-profit to help people do parole/probation and was participating in Toastmasters to try to improve his public speaking skills. He got out and apparently got drunk and assaulted a cop. *sigh* I guess this is an instance of negative stimuli carrying more weight than positive because I can’t think of guys who got out and haven’t come back, even though I’m sure there are several.

Tomorrow is our Toastmasters meeting. I’m evaluating Mckenzie which is what I’m best at. I’ve concluded that I really need to work on my vocal variety. I am no monotone, I actually sing-song like Mr. Rogers, but I don’t impart enough emotion into my voice to give emphasis (much like Mr. Rogers also LOL!). I won best speaker from our last meeting but that was because my topic of prison overcrowding was of particular interest to absolutely everyone in the room. The Toastmasters’ objective for the speech was good research, which I had in spades; I’ve been researching this topic since I was sentenced. I even used the overhead projector to show data and graphs but I could have varied my voice more to show frustration at the system or paused to add emphasis more. I come off too analytical and less emotionally engaged than I would like. I can improve that. *smile*

I earned my Competent Leader (CL) certification and I only have 2 more speeches to finish my Competent Communicator (CC) cert too. However, my next 2 speeches are going to not be for my CC cert but rather they’ll be from Toastmasters’ Successful Club Series. Once I do 2 of those I will have completed everything necessary to get my Advanced Leader Bronze (ALB) cert except for the 2 speeches for my CC. I can deliver 2 speeches for my CC outside of the club meetings as long as I get an oral and written evaluation. That means I can finish off my CC at LCC if I get transferred before I give them. By delivering the ALB speeches first I can finish up both the CC and ALB from LCC, earning both as opposed to just the CC, since I can’t give the ALB speeches outside of a club meeting. It not only allows me to get the ALB cert but that gives our club one more ALB and moves the whole club one step closer to the next Distinguished club level.

I’m trying to get as much of my role as VP of Public Relations set up with regular processes so that my jobs don’t fall apart when I leave. I’ve already started the newsletter committee for the Feb. issue (though our Nov. issue is going to be late if it snows tomorrow and the volunteers don’t come *pout*). I’ve already written my columns for the next issue. I’ve put in for our annual banquet for Dec. I’m trying to get Gigstad, the club coordinator, to line up a new vendor for the t-shirts and caps so we can line up all the options for our next time for the club to order in Jan. Not only do we need to line up a new vendor but we also need to choose the shirt colors and cap styles. I’m even trying to get all the “public relations” requests done before I might go. Things like getting approval to invite state senators to come visit our meetings and videoing a meeting for our volunteers to use to show the energy for future fundraisers. I guess I took the VP of PR position seriously. *chuckle* I want to leave everything running smoothly for the next person to take over.

I am also organizing myself to start several projects to try to improve things in here. I have set up different folders to work on a few petitions. The first one is a simple one and a test of the process so I can figure out what obstacles or common responses they will throw at me. It’s to get them to not freeze deposits from cashier’s checks for 21 days. They say they have to freeze the funds because they say you can put a stop payment on a cashier’s check. You can’t so they shouldn’t. *chuckle* After working out the process and likely boiler-plate responses I’ll move on to trying to get them to reduce the price of photo tickets. They charge us $2 per photo but it shouldn’t cost any more than 50 cents to print. The long-range goal is to petition them to increase the base pay rate from the $1.21/day as it hasn’t been increased in over 15 years, or more, while canteen prices increase almost annually. The final project isn’t a petition. I am working with Jeri to arrange an art show featuring incarcerated art that depicts life in NDCS focusing on overcrowding. The intent is to try to get some press coverage which will increase public awareness and hopefully give Jeri’s studio some positive coverage too. *grin*

In order to increase awareness of the overcrowding crisis I wrote an article for the next Nebraska Criminal Justice Review issue. The article is summary of how NDCS may attempt to avoid declaring an emergency in 2020 by hiding how seriously overcrowded the system is. Hopefully, the new editor will find it worthy of being included. My dad emailed it to John Krejci, who writes many articles for the NCJR, and he said he’d advocate for including it. It will also be posted on the new community forum that we’ve set up. Once it’s published in the NCJR I’ll ask dad to send it to several other media outlets to try and get someone to publish an article on NDCS’s miscalculations. Otherwise NDCS will manage to obscure the depth of the problem and not have to do anything about it.

Someday I hope NDCS regrets that I was ever sentenced in NE. Eventually, I hope to also implement court records reform and make judge Arterburn regret that he ever sentenced me. Hey, if you’ve got nothing but time on your hands why not put it to good use, right? *grin*