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  #1  
Old 01-11-2007, 01:47 AM
Bookworm1 Bookworm1 is offline
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Angry "Lock em up and throw away the key!"

I am involved with an inmate who is serving a life sentence, WITH the possibility of parole. I started writing to inmates because I believe that all human beings are deserving of care and concern, and that no one should be all alone in this world. Unfortunately, a lot of people(it seems that MOST people in fact) do not agree with my philosophy. I am passionate about prisoner's rights, and wish that there were more opportunities to get involved where I live.

My question to all of you seasoned prisoner's rights activists is how do you respond to the argument that inmates do NOT deserve our compassion? That they do NOT deserve any priviledges or luxuries? Particularly when the focus is on violent offenders?

It REALLY bothers me that most people seem to view these men/women as disposable, but sadly I am outnumbered. I have been told on more than one occassion that these men are not deserving of my time or sympathy, and can not be helped. That I should focus my attention on the "victims" or others in society that are more "worthy. But I believe that these men and women are victims too! Victims of child abuse, mental illness that went undiagnosed and/or untreated, drug and alchol addiction, poverty and so on. But when I bring up that point, I am told that I am just "making excuses". That "a lot of people are abused, grow up poor etc and don't grow up to be criminals".

I'm just wondering if any of you have some tips for me, on how to respond to such comments when debating issues pertaining to prisoner's rights? To be quite honest, I have a difficult time keeping my emotions under control, because this is such a personal subject for me. It hits home for obvious reasons, and it pains me to hear the sometimes downright cruel and vicious things that come out of people's mouths! I even lost a so-called "friend" over this! Any feedback would be welcomed, and greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time!

Lisa
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Old 01-15-2007, 03:11 AM
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Hello! Well those judging people just see the bad thing these people have done but don´t see the person itself anymore. You´re right they are still humans and can also be really nice people.

My penpal is also the most sweetest person I´ve met on this way, in fact I never think of the thing he has done, for me, I like him as person.

Don´t give anything about of what people say, stay to your own opinion.
I just ignore it, otherwise it´d make me angry too.

Greetings!
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Old 01-16-2007, 09:26 AM
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I just tell people I go by my own moral compass to make my decisions about that. I write to a young man on death row, and though he says he is innocent, it would not matter to me if he wasn't as long as he regretted it. I just say I listen to my heart about what is right and wrong, and my heart tells me to forgive.
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Old 01-16-2007, 01:11 PM
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Lisa,

i know where you are coming from. Like you I am very passionate about prisoners' rights. As for people criticizing me?

What I tell them is that prisoners are HUMAN BEINGS who make mistakes. I would tell them true-life stories about prisoners who have committed horrible crimes or made stupid mistakes, went behind bars to come out as better human beings with remorse for their crimes.

Ok, and another thing: not all prisoners are the same. Each prisoner has committed a different crime in an unique degree. Would you give the same sentencing to a paedophile murderer as you would sentence a young 18 years old thief? I dont think so. Yet that happens a LOT-- and prisoners' families are unfairly put through trials and tribulations.

I remember somewhere on PTO reading about a 15 years old boy who was sentenced to LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE!!! How unjust and wrong is that??? Dont the USA believe in a second chance? I mean COME ON! I am 24 years old now, and I can safely say that I am a different person now than from when I was 21 years old! People CAN change over time, age and mature with more wisdom.

Besides, how can prisons in the USA claim to "rehabiliate" prisoners whenn it does nothing but push them down further, hardening them into angry criminals who face no future when they get out, only to make a mistake again, and get slammed back into the pen?

Sure some criminals may make a MISTAKE-- send them away to prison, PUNISH THEM, BUT DONT PUSH THEM AWAY! They need to be REHABILIATED, be TAUGHT that crime does NOT pay and that they CAN earn a decent living and live a good humble life.

I suggest you check out books about prison life by a real-life federal prisoner, Michael G. Santos, who has served time in Lompoc, USP Atlanta, and Fort Dix. His books are a great source of argument for prisoners' rights and for prison reform in the United States.
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Old 01-16-2007, 02:20 PM
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I read his first book and boy did it open my eyes! now my brother and I have a more honest and open relationship about what goes on in prison. I think he tried to protect me before but when I started telling him what I had learned he started telling me the truth about what his life is like. You are so right about inmates being different, and the crimes they committed are different. When people hear my brother is in prison their first question is did he do something really bad!! It kind of irritates me.
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Old 01-16-2007, 08:55 PM
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Everyone has a story, and when you hear each individual story you begin to see the person for who they are. It doesn't take long to see into someone and sometimes you can relate to them. I get saddened by the words scumbag and animals. We are not that different and are all capable of many things. It's easier to de-humanize and use words like "they" and "them" to justify oneself above others. Labels, disgust and finger pointing are the easy way out, the truth is the U.S. has thousands innocent, maybe a hundred thousand out of the 2 million along with thousands of trumped up charges and petty crimes. There are so many laws, anyone can go to prison and anyone can accuse anybody of anything and it's not hard to make it stick. Yes, there are some outrages crimes, but they are not the majority and nearly everyone in prison will be released in their lifetime. Prison should be for people who need to be there, for as long as they need to be there, no more no less. It's about money now, filling up the beds and free labor. Life is busy, too busy for anyone to see the truth until they or a family member gets thrown into the mix.

I would say lack of compassion is probobly a big part of why they are in prison, and to treat someone years on end like an animal and release these thousands back into society will later have an effect society in ways that we do not want. I hear, well act like an animal you get treated like an animal, but that works both ways. There's nothing wrong with picking up someone whose fallen, there is something wrong wrong with kicking them when there down. Just my 2 cents.
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Old 01-17-2007, 11:46 AM
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@getup: very good reply!
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Old 01-31-2007, 11:31 AM
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People commit crimes for a lot of different reasons, including widespread unemployment, racism, sexism (believing that women are property), poverty, and many other diverse and complex factors that lead to alienation and desperation. But here I am not going to go into why people commit crimes; we’ll save that for another day. Instead I want to briefly address the perceptions of the victims’ rights community.
I’m not a religious man, but didn’t Jesus teach something like—as you do unto the least of them so you do unto me? Here you have millions of people held in a state of dependency and irresponsibility; they are disenfranchised slaves of the state. The problem with the professional victim advocates is that they think good results will come from doing bad things to people. But my experience as an ex-convict teaches me otherwise. When you poke a stick in at a caged dog, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, etc., you are going to wind up with an angry animal on your hands. Greater minds than mine have said to distrust anyone in whom the urge to punish is strong. The eagerness of the victims’ community in this regard is telling.
But what about the victims? Nearly everyone is eventually released from prison. Today’s prisons are like factories that produce a product, and that product is angry men who when released take that rage out on their children, wives, neighbors, or the community. These confused victims of a failed social system, not to mention a badly broken correctional complex, will most likely offend again. If victims’ rights people are really all that concerned about the victims of crime they would want a prison system that reduced crime, not one that aggravated it. Conservative estimates put the recidivism rate at 67 percent; other experts say it is more like 82 percent. In any case, if you had a factory the produced a product with that high a reject rate how long would you stay in business? Wouldn’t you want to do something about it other than doing more and more of what clearly doesn’t work? And when that fails to do yet more of it?
Wouldn’t it be less expensive and more effective to send offenders to a university and make rocket scientists of them than to confine them in a prison for a year? When you have a tear in an item of clothing you apply a patch to the weak spot to strengthen it. Crime is but a reflection of a weakness in the social fabric, it is an indication of where energy and resources need to be applied—like a patch. Banishing the offenders from their communities, depriving them of their human rights, and treating them cruelly have the opposite effect. Rather than seeing them as “other” we should see offenders as a part of “us” in need of our attention and resources.
The analysis of the victims’ rights people is petty and vindictive; their understanding of the issue of crime and punishment is both superficial and reactionary. The irony of the victims’ rights advocates is that they fail to see that their ongoing demand for ever increasing levels of punishment and repression will only result in more victims. That is the flaw in their reasoning—always more and more of what clearly doesn’t work.
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Old 11-30-2007, 09:28 PM
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the prison system needs to be completely changed even better something else like reform but how do you change the prison system?
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Old 12-01-2007, 10:15 AM
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i used to feel this way in my teens. until i got involved with a guy who is now an inmate. it took me talking, asking questions, and even taking a criminology class to understand and lose my prejudice.

i am more sympathetic, well, understanding is more like it. because i know the WHY more than i did back then. i still think there are senseless crimes- and can't understand why the level of violence- but anyway- those are my feelings. and no- i don't have to accept everything...

anyway. the general public- is going to have strong opinions about everything that is not 'the norm' unless they have walked in your shoes or at least been given an honest chance to know, learn and listen to someone who has. and that is rare...

ignorance is bliss... or at least it is 'easier' than the effort of learning and understanding.

what to do and say? nothing you can to change a mind in a minute. people make good and bad choices on a daily basis. some land us in situations that are less than desirable. and we deal. but if they are christian- i love to 'throw' this in their faces (pun intended)... the one about living in glass houses. just say that- hey- we all live in glass houses hon. walk away. let them think about it.
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Old 12-01-2007, 03:14 PM
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A lot of people are quick to pass uneducated judgments on Incarcerated people whilst conveniently forgetting there would NOT be one person In this world who themselves or thier loved ones ( Children - close mates - family and so on ) who has not commited a crime that they could of been jailed for. I mean honestly who hasnt at some point ( or anyone they are close to If not them ) had a toke on a joint - driven over the Influence bla bla bla - there would not be ONE person. Even If they were 15 and brought some mull of someone - hey gee they were mixing with a drug dealer by choice werent they when you just take the facts. People are too quick to forget this.
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Old 12-01-2007, 05:05 PM
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absolutely... it took me a class (criminology) to learn this. from simple things like mailing money across state lines (federal offense), driving without your license, insurance (i did it for a year- broke), to snagging food from the buffet and sneaking into another movie... (thievery) and taking your friends extra percocet for your raging toothache (DEA issue)--- all are breaking the law.

it seems like the ones that get caught, even if for the smallest things are the ones who get judged. when in all reality it could be any of us at any time. then the tables would be turned oh so much!
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Old 12-09-2007, 02:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrs.battsiii
absolutely... it took me a class (criminology) to learn this. from simple things like mailing money across state lines (federal offense), driving without your license, insurance (i did it for a year- broke), to snagging food from the buffet and sneaking into another movie... (thievery) and taking your friends extra percocet for your raging toothache (DEA issue)--- all are breaking the law.

it seems like the ones that get caught, even if for the smallest things are the ones who get judged. when in all reality it could be any of us at any time. then the tables would be turned oh so much!
Yep, my father was a criminal for all of the above mentioned crimes. I've done a couple of them, too, and nearly every person I know has done some of these things, most of them completely unaware that they are doing anything "wrong". For them it's a like a white lie-everybody does it, right? There's no criminal intent, just criminal action.

It bears the question-why do some folks get away with doing these things their entire lives, while others are nailed to the cross for them? How much does it have to do with profiling?
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Old 12-10-2007, 02:43 AM
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Bookworm.....I think that while the mainstream society may buy into that kind of thinking, this site was constructed for the purpose of offering support to those left behind. It has developed way beyond the original vision. The way I read it...the people on this site are mostly in agreement that keeping their loved ones connected to the outside has many positive outcomes, including reducing recidivism, which research supports. Abandoned inmates are more likely to have a nothing to lose attitude, which will only lead to more problems within and outside the walls.

I know in my case, my support and continued involvement with my son, has played an important part in his maturation process. He knows his family loves him, supports him, values him, misses him and he has a reason to try and stay out of trouble and try to make it work out here. Contrary to maybe how it looks...but if you would have known him a few years ago you would see there is change. I am changing too. This site has helped me understand many things that I was searching for answers to.

So I guess it is just one brick at a time, but we are building a better foundation....as I see many others doing.
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Old 01-17-2008, 10:45 PM
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Up until recently my life has been an open book I share way more of than I should. I recently have been practicing keeping quiet about my life as to avoid the stupid questions and ignorent oppinions. However, I am looking for a way to become activly working toward the reform of our justice system. I have tried to take this expirience as a message that I can do somthing to better the world, "make somthing happen" as my mother would always say. For the last year I've been working my butt off to get my fiances charges dropped to misdomenors and I did it, but he still got 2 12 month sentences 90 days and 10 of his 25 backup years with 15 susspended. And now I have no work left to do. Im not good at feeling helpless and I want to make somthing happen.
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Old 10-13-2008, 11:42 AM
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There is a certain percentage in society that would deviate from cultural expectations and end up in prison. But, with that being true we should have an equal cross section representing poor and wealthy alike. That is not the case, prison houses our poor at a much higher rate than those not born into poverty. The prison system as it exists today is a reflection of one of the failures of us as a society. Reform, reform, reform....Prison should be about reform more than it should be about punishment. How can we help to give these prisoners an opportunity to be successful participants in our society, contributing to it's growth and potential? We need to give them opportunities to develop marketable skills, health care, drug dependency counseling, and therapy. We need to give them a vision for themselves when they are released. There should be a program for de-institutionalizing them. As they get closer to their release date we should be preparing them for the change. Why is our rate of recidivism so high? We could do so much better.
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Old 10-13-2008, 03:52 PM
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Thanks for that, Lil red.

Your fascinating post raises a number of interesting problems.

What IS a crime? Why is it that people like Clinton, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Libby and others can get away with everything from war crimes to financial corruption and yet no action gets taken against them? Why IS it that poor people are far too disproportionately represented in the prison system?

On the other hand, why is it that the MAJORITY of poor people DON'T commit any crime? Why is it that murder in particular is NOT a respecter of social class or income bracket?

I am in Britain and I have a deep personal interest in crime and prison reform. As a teenage girl, I got high on drugs, belonged to gangs, and did all kinds of stuff that I'm pretty ashamed of now, including two occasions on which I nearly killed someone.

I also have personal experience of police corruption and prison brutality.

We must be a voice for inmates because hardly anyone wants to stand up for such an unpopular cause.

Yes, I believe in punishment for the crime. I'm not some naive idiot who thinks that everyone in stir is innocent.

On the other hand, far too many people are in there for victimless crimes like drug offcences or prostitution.

I am what some people with narrow minds consider a strange mixture of views. I am, for example, what is known as a 'wowie' and I see NO contradiction between that position and my fierce committment to inmate rights, prison reform and alternatives to prison wherever possible.

If we legalised drugs and prostitution we would empty thousands of people from the prison system overnight.

If we looked on prison as a last resort rather than a first one we would put those REAL offenders who DESERVE to be there behind bars rather than victims of poor judgement, peer pressure and stuff like that.

I was lucky enough not to get caught but if I hadn't met my hubby I would STILL have been on the fast track to prison so I know what I'm talking about. I'm NOT some middle-class do-gooder who's never been in spitting distance of the streets; I'm a gypsy and I grew up in the mean streets of South London.

When I go to prison and visit young offenders and try to persuade them NOT to be as stupid as I was they LISTEN to me because they know I'm one OF them.

There but for the grace of God etc.
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Old 10-15-2008, 02:58 PM
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biglinmarshall-
I agree with you that the trend toward locking up those offenders of non-violent crimes is another failure of a different sort in our prison system. It is costing lots, and disrupting lives, making people less functioning, not more. It has not done much to dissuade people from committing these crimes. But, again by not investing in reform we are doing a disservice to our society. There should be more success stories and less recidivism. Even if there would be a 10% success rate in reform measures, wouldn't it be worth it to our society as a whole. Wouldn't we all benefit from those who would be able to contribute to the growth and potential of our country? I am probably somewhat of an optimist here (and probably a bit naive). I would like to believe the rate would be so much higher than 10%. Even so, I think the money would be well spent on education and drug counseling. We're setting ourselves up for a circular trap of spending if we don't decrease recidivism.
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Old 10-16-2008, 07:46 PM
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so proud of you wanting to be a solution to the problem... i pray things continue to work out on your behalf...


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Up until recently my life has been an open book I share way more of than I should. I recently have been practicing keeping quiet about my life as to avoid the stupid questions and ignorent oppinions. However, I am looking for a way to become activly working toward the reform of our justice system. I have tried to take this expirience as a message that I can do somthing to better the world, "make somthing happen" as my mother would always say. For the last year I've been working my butt off to get my fiances charges dropped to misdomenors and I did it, but he still got 2 12 month sentences 90 days and 10 of his 25 backup years with 15 susspended. And now I have no work left to do. Im not good at feeling helpless and I want to make somthing happen.
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Old 10-16-2008, 08:06 PM
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The light you shed on the subject impresses me. Truly thank you. your two cents make much sense, that's for sure. what is it about our society that takes a people and re-invent the whole idea of slavery? why are there so many solutions and none of them are being pulled and applied to the fray? Locking someone up and throwing away the key when the offense doesn't measure up to the punishment is lunacy. Slavery is alive and well in our prisons. Where else can you be worked for less than 40 cents a day in these United States...and you're to feel a sense of accomplishment?
And then...after being held accountable for such a long period of time, reminded of being thought of as the lowest of the low, raped possibly physically but for certain mentally and emotionally...you're released to your peers, family...and they have no idea of the degregation you were subjected to.
You mentioned them being for some reason separated as like a different life form... they aren't us anymore because the prison and its staff...more imporantly the prison's mentality has shaped the prisoner's mentality...it's not what it was...it is now what it is...no rehabilitation... only concentration of degregation, humilation...assimilation (forgive spelling)...
AND WE FOR THE MOST PART SIT BACK AND RECEIVE THIS KNOWINGLY...
what can be done? whatever it is, it must be swift, taking all prisoners (non-violent) and giving them more than the benefit of the doubt...it's time to remove the doubt...
-sorry so long-

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People commit crimes for a lot of different reasons, including widespread unemployment, racism, sexism (believing that women are property), poverty, and many other diverse and complex factors that lead to alienation and desperation. But here I am not going to go into why people commit crimes; we’ll save that for another day. Instead I want to briefly address the perceptions of the victims’ rights community.
I’m not a religious man, but didn’t Jesus teach something like—as you do unto the least of them so you do unto me? Here you have millions of people held in a state of dependency and irresponsibility; they are disenfranchised slaves of the state. The problem with the professional victim advocates is that they think good results will come from doing bad things to people. But my experience as an ex-convict teaches me otherwise. When you poke a stick in at a caged dog, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, etc., you are going to wind up with an angry animal on your hands. Greater minds than mine have said to distrust anyone in whom the urge to punish is strong. The eagerness of the victims’ community in this regard is telling.
But what about the victims? Nearly everyone is eventually released from prison. Today’s prisons are like factories that produce a product, and that product is angry men who when released take that rage out on their children, wives, neighbors, or the community. These confused victims of a failed social system, not to mention a badly broken correctional complex, will most likely offend again. If victims’ rights people are really all that concerned about the victims of crime they would want a prison system that reduced crime, not one that aggravated it. Conservative estimates put the recidivism rate at 67 percent; other experts say it is more like 82 percent. In any case, if you had a factory the produced a product with that high a reject rate how long would you stay in business? Wouldn’t you want to do something about it other than doing more and more of what clearly doesn’t work? And when that fails to do yet more of it?
Wouldn’t it be less expensive and more effective to send offenders to a university and make rocket scientists of them than to confine them in a prison for a year? When you have a tear in an item of clothing you apply a patch to the weak spot to strengthen it. Crime is but a reflection of a weakness in the social fabric, it is an indication of where energy and resources need to be applied—like a patch. Banishing the offenders from their communities, depriving them of their human rights, and treating them cruelly have the opposite effect. Rather than seeing them as “other” we should see offenders as a part of “us” in need of our attention and resources.
The analysis of the victims’ rights people is petty and vindictive; their understanding of the issue of crime and punishment is both superficial and reactionary. The irony of the victims’ rights advocates is that they fail to see that their ongoing demand for ever increasing levels of punishment and repression will only result in more victims. That is the flaw in their reasoning—always more and more of what clearly doesn’t work.
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  #21  
Old 10-21-2008, 03:12 PM
JJS811 JJS811 is offline
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Prison reformers are always going to have a rough time. I am an campaigner for DR rights, as well as GP rights. I also work on inmate cases, researching information to help get them off death row, new trial, re sentencing or whatever is needed. Sometimes having a consecutive sentence changed to a concurrent sentence, etc. I also campaign for the abolition of the DP.

I have been put through hell at times, once people know what I do. I have been accused of wanting child killers to be allowed to go free, murderers to go free etc. Told I have no compassion for the victims and their families et, etc. People all have their own opinion of the penal system, based on their own experience of it. Most folk have zilch idea of what prison is like, or life behind bars. Ignorance is the biggest obstacle reformers have to overcome.

Ask the majority of Brits, about the US penal system, and they look at you blankly, ask them about the DP and most want convicted killers to "swing". I have a group of contacts here in the UK who know the truth, the reality of prison life, many like myself, know the ins and outs of DR. These days, any time I need to vent, I do it to one of the people who know where I am coming from, and share my views, as they do with me. Yes, I have lost friends because of my work/views, but to me, if they can stop being my friend for that reason, they were never real friends anyway. I would rather come here to PTO and be surrounded by like minded people, and with my real true friends, who accept this is not just a view and my work, it is my passion.

If I can make a difference to just one person during my lifetime, I have achieved success. I will continue to fight for what I personally believe in, no matter what the cost!
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Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. ~ Henry David Thoreau

America - land of the free, home of the incarcerated.

The USA has 5% of the worlds population and 25% of the the worlds prisoners.
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  #22  
Old 10-22-2008, 01:06 PM
godsjewels godsjewels is offline
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Inmates are people. Just like you and I.
My husband and I have a Christian pen pal prison ministry, and love writing to these guys, and gals. They bless us more than we can ever bless them.
It's is amazing how people who have no idea of the life of an inmate, can stand up and judge them. Christians included. God's justice is not mans. I am so thankful for that.
Yes, there are things as a christian God requires of us, but if you love God they are not requirements they are love, and one of them is to show mercy, and to visit those in prison.
Prayer is the best defense in combating the opposition, then action.To be hearers only of God's word, and not doers make your actions of non avail.
I thank God, for each person that sees mercy for each one of these Jewel's, as we call them.
Sheri

Last edited by godsjewels; 10-22-2008 at 01:09 PM..
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