Woohoo! I have now passed the 3 year mark so I am over my mandatory minimum and have started earning my 191 good time. Everyone gets their regular good time of 50% off unless they get a serious misconduct report (MR) and lose some of it. 191 good time has to be earned. Once you have gone a year without any serious MRs you can earn an extra 3 days off your tentative release date (TRD, discharge date) or “jam” date. That’s over a month every year. At the start of this month I received a letter from records saying I had earned my first 3 days. Woot! *smile* I have been MR free since day one and as long as I continue to not get any serious MRs, or more than 2 minor MRs in a month, I will get 3 days off my TRD every month. If I do get MRs that disqualify me I have to go another year without MRs before I can start earning 191 good time again so I loose a full year’s worth of good time or 36 days. That’s a good incentive to try and not get written up though if some CO wants to give you an MR they can always find something to write you up for. Luckily, most all the COs recognize that I am not the highest priority for oversight in F gallery. Ha!

Now I just have to wait 4 years for my earliest possible parole date. It’s unfortunate that NDCS seems to misread the 191 statues and only applies it to TRSs and not to PEDs (Parole Eligibility Dates). By my reading of Neb. Rev. Stat. sections 83-1,107 and 83-1,110.01 191 good time should be applied just like regular 1/2 good time and therefore should apply to both TRDs and PEDs. The Ombudsman said my reading was very “lawyerly” but just not how they had interpreted it in the past so they weren’t going to change. I guess if you’ve been doing something wrong for a long time then you should just keep doing it wrong. *sigh*

Last month I gave my 10th speech in Toastmasters and finished my Competent Communicator, and thus my Advanced Leader Bronze, certifications. The objective for the 10th TM speech is to inspire the audience. I figured this would be the most challenging speech for me as emotional engagement is what I am working on improving throughout all of my TM speeches. I also didn’t want to do the typical fluff kumbaya inspirational speech about “let’s all just love each other” so I took a different approach. My speech was titled Show a Little Compassion but instead just appealing to the audience’s better nature I went through 3 examples of when I failed to show compassion, how I regretted it later and how I learned from each instance. At the end of each example I asked the guys listening if they could remember a similar time in their past when they kicked a dog, ignored a homeless person, etc. The speech was more of a confessional where I asked the audience to feel my regret rather than a guilt trip and by the end I was choking up and at least a few of the guys were crying. I think I succeeded in evoking an emotional response. *smile*

There was one exception which I hadn’t anticipated. The last example of me not showing sufficient compassion was about a guy in here who was killed by his cellie, Terry Berry. I had written a poem about it for the creative writing class I took earlier this year so I read that poem as the closing of my speech. There is a line in it where I say that I wasn’t the person who “put him in a single cell with a lifer/in for murder.” There was one audience member who is a lifer in for murder as when he heard that line he said he immediately stopped listening to everything else I said. I guess I hadn’t fully considered my potential audience and how they might take the poem differently than I intended. I have thought about it though and I don’t think I would change that line or how I delivered it in my speech even knowing that there was a lifer in for murder in my audience. Only in prison would you have to seriously consider that possibility. *chuckle*

This past week I was interviewed for a peer counselor position. I had seen the announcement on channel 14 that they were looking for people to serve in an unpaid peer support position so TSCI could offer more mental health services and to possibly alleviate some of the backlog for the actual psychologists. I had originally decided that I wanted to keep my time free to work on my activism to reform the system but then it hit me. If I’m trying to change the system to help those of us in here then I should be willing to directly help those in need by offering peer support. Plus, it would be hypocritical of me to have just given a speech imploring people to Show a Little Compassion and then to not do so myself. So I applied, along with a lot of other guys from housing unit 1 (PC). It turns out they will be offering training for the position to only 3 people from HU1 and there were 9 of us being collectively interviewed when I went and they had at least 3 other group interviews too. That means there are probably between 30 – 40 applicants. During the interview process the lady who will provide the training read a list of questions and went around the room asking for each person’s response and took notes on a form for each of us. I was the last one to answer every question so I had the advantage of being able to make sure my answers stood out in some way (not that I have to try too hard to be different in here LOL!). There will be a second round of interviews in a few weeks so we’ll see if I get a call back. *smile*

Last month there was a Radio Lab episode all about jury nullification. I was very interested in hearing it because my lawyer, Stu Dornan, had explained that the defense I proposed he use if we went to trial was jury nullification and that he could get disbarred for doing that. Apparently jury nullification has been quite a hot button topic in the American judicial system at least since the 90s. The Radio Lab episode did a great job of providing the historic background to the concept of jury nullification, it dates back to a old British case, but also showed how it is an inherent power that all jurors have while pointing out the pros and cons of its use. I thought it was an excellent episode and have posted a link to it in the forum. I think anyone who may serve on a jury should know about jury nullification.

Another issue I’ve been hearing more and more about that bothers me are mandatory arbitration and non-compete clauses in employment contracts. This has nothing to do with the judicial system but it is definitely a social justice issue. More and more employers are including both mandatory arbitration and non-compete clauses in their employee’s contracts and we potential employees just sign the contracts without knowing about them.I will never fail to ask about these kinds of clauses in any future employment interview.

Mandatory arbitration clauses prevent an employee (they are in many terms of use agreements for lots of web sites too) from taking an employer to court. They are contractually obliged to resolve any disputes through arbitration and the employer chooses the arbitration provider. Not only does this remove your right to sue in a court of law and force you to accept the decision of the arbiter who is paid by your employer but it also prevents any possibility of class actions suits. No more pesky class actions suits claiming the company had discriminatory practices or safety violations, instead every individual has to take them to the arbiter that the company paid for and abide by their decision. Nice way to short-circuit any serious attempt to hold an employer responsible.

Non-compete clauses have been around for a long time and are usually used to keep some high level employee from quitting and taking some proprietary
information or skill to a competitor. For example, if you work for a company developing Artificial Intelligence you probably have a non-compete clause so you don’t take quit and take their proprietary algorithms to a competitor. However, today businesses like house cleaning services are including non-compete clauses so their maids can’t quit and go work for another house cleaning service. That clause basically traps the manual laborer in a job with that company and allows the company to pay them less since they can’t leave to work at another job using their own skills. This distorts the labor market, reducing employer competition and is possibly one of the reasons that wages have been so slow to rise even during the current prolonged economic boom. Yet another social justice issue because it is being used (unfairly) against lower skilled jobs than it used to in order to suppress labor costs.

In your next job interview ask if they have mandatory arbitration and non-compete clauses in their employment contract. You may be surprised to find out how ubiquitous they are. Maybe even check your current employment contract. Know what rights you’re signing away before you do.