I have been pleasantly surprised. This past month the Director of Corrections testified before the legislature’s Judiciary committee and admitted that not only is the declaration of an overcrowding emergency in 2020 inevitable but that there aren’t enough parole eligible people in the system to reduce the population down to the required 125% even if they released them all (which they would never do). That has been one of my 2 big talking points for months now. I am pleasantly surprised because it feels like all my efforts to “spread the word” have actually influenced the dialogue. *smile*

The director admits to at least one of my main observations but unfortunately he reaches the conclusion that the solution is to build more prisons. I realized I had been pointing out the problems but not offering any suggested solutions. Now I need to start promoting MY suggested solutions: real sentencing reform, increased good time credits, and increased oversight to make sure the Parole Board is only denying . First, I need to research whether changes to good time laws can be applied retroactively otherwise the change, like with sentencing changes, would only have an impact on the overcrowding many years down the road. Luckily, I am scheduled to go to the Law Library tomorrow so I can do some research on good time changes and if they can be applied retroactively. I so wish I had an expert in the law I could correspond with to work out such details.

For instance, my longest range goal is to work towards restoring the right to vote to felons, even while serving their sentences. Some states do not disenfranchise felons, Puerto Rico even sets up polling booths in prisons, but it is a state by state decision. I have been researching the legal grounds for why the states are allowed to restrict voting rights for felons and all the legal cases I can find center around the 14th amendment, equal protection under the law, which was meant to guarantee former slaves the right to vote. The 14th amendment has an explicit exemption for those convicted of treason or other crimes and so all the Supreme Court decisions have allowed state bans on felons voting to stand. Why is there no case challenging the ban on 1st amendment grounds? The 1st amendment protects freedom of speech and was specifically created to protect political speech, necessary for a healthy democracy. Well there is no more quintessential political speech than voting and wouldn’t the 1st amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, supersede the 14th? And yes, managing voting is delegated to the states but the federal government has stepped in to set controls on how states manage voting when it comes to former slaves and women in order to guarantee their fundamental right to vote is protected so there is precedent for the Sup. Court meddling in states control over voting. As a matter of fact, it HAS to be the Sup. Court that does it as neither the Executive nor the Legislative branches would have authority over the states’ control over voting. These are the sort of issues I would love to discuss with a constitutional law expert. *chuckle*

I will be sending an email to all the NE state senators this coming week (if my father will forward it for me) with a link to an article in The Economist about the overcrowding in NE’s prisons. How embarassing that we finally make international news and it’s about the failure of our state to be able to manage our prison system. *sigh* I will also include my poem about Terry Berry’s murder since he died one year ago this month. I sent a copy to Ernie Chambers as material for him to read during his frequent filibusters on the floor of the legislature. I even had Colin tweet it to All Things Considers which has a reading of selected poem from their listeners every Sunday afternoon. With help from friends and family I’m doing what I can to increase awareness of the problem

On Friday I received a letter from the new Associate Warden (AW) Cruickshank saying I had been identified as a potential candidate to go through the training for a new “intentional peer support” group. They had done a first round of group interviews of those who said they were interested an I apparently made that cut. They are going through a pretty lengthy selection process for a role that isn’t even a paid position (but I assume it isn’t paid so they can avoid any legal liability for the program). Coming back from visiting today I was asked why I would volunteer to work in a program when I don’t even get paid to do it. I explained that if it can improve the overall conditions in here for all of us I would be glad to put in the effort. Some people already come to me to talk things through so why not be available to the whole housing unit? If I get selected to be one of the peer support group I will eventually ask if we can offer a yin yoga class to help people cope with stress, maybe even a taiji class some day. *smile*

Our Toastmasters’ elections are coming up at our first meeting in May. The “debates” took up all of our last meeting. I am running for VP of Public Relations again and one person, Brian Marshall, is running for the same position. I have been training him to take over in the event that I get sent to LCC (which I don’t think is happening anytime soon). In the debate I tried to make it clear that whichever of us wins the other would still help the winner so the club really gets a two-fer. Even if I get transferred in a few months I want to do everything I can to increase the clubs public exposure before that. I’m really using PR for the club as a spring board to PR for the whole incarcerated population so even if I am not VP of PR I’ll continue my efforts on behalf of us all. And Brian will be prepared to take over if I am ever moved to LCC. From the club’s perspective it’s a win/win because whichever of us is elected they get both of us. *chuckle* Interestingly, I am the only incumbent running for re-election to the same position. The VP of PR position matches up nicely with my goals beyond that of Toastmasters so I don’t really want to change.

As for the transfer to LCC, I have written my case manager, unit manager, unit administrator, and the warden here at TSCI and they have all said some variation on “it’s out of our control so just be patient.” Apparently it is up to the warden at LCC to decide when I should move there and it appears that I am specifically waiting for my name to come to the top of the wait list for the program I have to take at LCC rather than just waiting for any bed to open up there. Given that the wait list is about 150 people long and only around 12 people out of the 50 in the program graduate each year, it could be a multi-year wait for me to get to the top of the list and a bed to open up in the program. *sigh* I am going to start writing to the LCC warden and the person in charge of the program to see if I can at least get to LCC and sit there waiting to get into the program, but I don’t expect my requests to even be answered let along have much impact. 🙁 If I don’t at least try then there would definitely be no impact so I’ll give it a shot.

Yesterday Jeff, my cellie, woke up from a nap and looked over the edge of his bunk to check and make sure I was still there. He told me I should be prepared to move to LCC soon because he just dreamt that I had been moved without him knowing, which is why he was checking to see if I was still here when he woke up. I told him that I didn’t put much stock in dreams forecasting the future because about a month ago I had been a woman, not me as a woman, some random woman, in my dream and yet I haven’t been overcome with the desire to change my gender. *chuckle* For the past 6 months or so I have been having very active dreams that I can actually remember when I wake which is unusual for me. I normally have no recollection of even having dreamt let alone remembering the content. I have noticed in the past that when I’m under lots of stress my dreams become more active or more memorable, but I don’t think that I’m under undue stress right now. If anything, I’m extremely calm nowadays. What’s the change in my mental state that has triggered the change in my dreaming pattern? Hmmm, I’ll have to keep observing and analyzing.