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Saturday, January 14, 2012


My time inside the Warren Correctional Institution

Posted by Justin Jeffre

It was bone chilling outside as we walked towards the entrance. We went through the security process which takes some time. Then we had a long cold walk in two single file lines across a long courtyard and into the chapel.

Once were inside we were treated to a performance by some of the inmates. They sang several songs-really well I might add. And then we were treated to a performance by a group from the Martin Luther KING CHORALE. My understanding is that there are several incarnations of this choir. They sang spiritual and songs from the civil rights era. I felt compelled to sing along.

I along with 4 others performed a piece written by students from SCPA titled “Where Do We Stand?”which they will be performing on Monday at BE THE CHANGE-LIVE THE FREEDOM! MLK tribute at Music Hall at 12pm. It was well received.

I had a chance to interact with many of the inmates and we all sang together. I was struck by how warm and appreciative they were. Too often people that have gotten caught up in the criminal injustice system are portrayed as hardened criminals that are a danger to society. Granted this wasn’t a maximum security prison, but the reality is that most of those men shouldn’t be behind bars and the system does nothing to help them become productive members of our society. It does that opposite. Legal scholar Michelle Alexander describes the system as the New Jim Crow.

Having had the pleasure to interact with these men-most of who were relatively young-I’m more convinced than ever of the need to reform our criminal injustice system into a restorative justice system that helps to make people whole. We need a system where we help people realize their full human potential instead of marginalizing them into a second class or caste status. There can be no peace until we have justice. In order for us to have justice we need to transform this criminal justice system which busts our budgets and destroys lives and families.


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  1. CAJD says:

    Well said Justin.
    Yes, we must work to reform the criminal justice system.
    In Hamilton County we need a new prosecutor.  NOT someone who is soft on crime, but someone who is smart enough to fashion a punishment that keeps one from reoffeding.
    America should be the land of second chances. George W. Bush said that. 
    Yes, people need to make better choices, but we must also fix the broken criminal just-us system.
    JANAYA TROTTER for Hamilton County Prosecutor.
    Please like the Facebook page Janaya Trotter for Hamilton County Prosecutor.

  2. Jones says:

    Jeffre, sorry it’s taken me so long to provide a quip. I’ve been laughing at your story. In addition, feeling great sympathy for individuals & entire communities who have been negatively impacted by those who had a whole list of choices, but chose to commit crimes against innocent people. 

    Couple of things here - where were you & the rest of your “fix the criminal justice system” when the new Ohio sentencing guidelines took effect?  Did you & your little friends provide any feedback to Maureen O’Connor & the rest of her tribe when they were updating the sentencing structure? Talk with any of your state legislators who serve on the Judiciary Committee?

    Restorative justice system???  I’m sure you’ve discussed that line with tremendous success to victims of these criminals who you want to see made whole & back into society. I’ll bet they were overjoyed. There’s already layers of restorative justice in place in Ohio & other states. The taxpayers are on the hook for all of the “restoration” efforts.

    I can think of one particular individual who would be thrilled with this idea. The individual’s family would, too. You see, this person was working in a financial institution in 2007, when 2 thugs with guns came barging in like out of a cheap Bonnie & Clyde movie, & held the place up. These 2 gunslingers were all piped up on dope, needing money for school, the latest shoes or threads, something like that. There will never, ever be restorative justice, peace of mind, or normalcy as the employees once knew it in their lives. This particular person is now in a nursing home, requiring constant care for a myriad of disorders that stem directly from this incident. The public at large should be required to make criminals of this ilk, who traumatize the innocent, whole & restore their person & human nature?  I don’t think so. 

    For some to place blame solely on the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office, Joe Deters in particular, is absolutely & profoundly ignorant & stupid. It’s high time the blame goes on the backs of those who cannot & will not abide by the laws of the land, put in place for everyone, by those elected to the state government. That unhappy with the laws? Go see your elected friends, sitting in those soft chairs in Columbus. Uh, good luck with that. I’ve been buttonholing politicos for several years now for a felony ammunition clause to ride with gun possession by already documented felons.

  3. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    There’s a massive amount of nonviolent offenders in our prison system. Many are nonviolent drug offenders. Why do we waste money locking up people for nonviolent crimes that are essentially victimless crimes?

    Here’s how legal scholar Michelle Alexander describes the New Jim Crow.

    MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Yes, yes. You know, I think we’ve become blind in this country to the ways in which we’ve managed to reinvent a caste-like system here in the United States, one that functions in a manner that is as oppressive, in many respects, as the one that existed in South Africa under apartheid and that existed under Jim Crow here in the United States. Although our rules and laws are now officially colorblind, they operate to discriminate in a grossly disproportionate fashion. Through the war on drugs and the “get tough” movement, millions of poor people, overwhelmingly poor people of color, have been swept into our nation’s prisons and jails, branded criminals and felons, primarily for nonviolent and drug-related crimes—the very sorts of crimes that occur with roughly equal frequency in middle-class white neighborhoods and on college campuses but go largely ignored—branded criminals and felons, and then are ushered into a permanent second-class status, where they’re stripped of the many rights supposedly won in the civil rights movement, like the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment, housing, access to education and public benefits.

    If everyone in prison were guilty we wouldn’t need the Innocence Project, but they aren’t all guilty.

    Many are simply guilty of being poor and black. Barbra Erenreich desrcibes, “How America criminalised poverty”. She argues that, “The viciousness of state officials to the poor and homeless is breathtaking, trapping them in a cycle of poverty”.

  4. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Why do we waste money locking up people for nonviolent crimes that are essentially victimless crimes?
    Here’s how legal scholar Michelle Alexander describes the New Jim Crow.

    You keep avoiding one simple question as you parrot the slogans of a person I believe is a well-paid history professor (to a large extent paid from the taxes of the citizenry)who never the less apparently feels completely free to totally misrepresents the history of the 80’s federal drug laws in order to give a more dramatic, revolutionary sheen to her arguments.  She claims in the Democracy Now interview you linked to recently that Ronald Reagan used Southern Strategy coded arguments to ram through a drug law mainly meant to disenfranchise and ruin the lives of African Americans.  Unfortunately for her dramatic and revolutionary talking point, the actual legislative history of the laws shows that the majority of the Congressional Black Caucus voted for the laws (meaning, in essence, they voted for what Ms. Alexander so felicitously, if not accurately, calls the New Jim Crow). 

    Oh well.  I guess I’m just being a spoil sport.  The whole fun of politics is coming up with melodramatic descriptions of reality and shouting slogans proclaiming your moral superiority to the average sucker.

  5. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Here is one of Ms. Alexander’s oh-so-priceless quotes on the subject:  “Pollsters and political strategists found that these thinly veiled promises to get tough on a group of people, not so subtly defined by race, could be enormously successful in persuading poor and working-class whites to defect from the Democratic New Deal coalition and join the Republican Party in droves. So the war on drugs was really an effort by the Reagan administration to make good on campaign promises to get tough on a group of people defined largely by race.”

    And it is actually kind of enjoyable to know that as an amateur, lay historian I can basically completely refute this line of argument (which is more or less the title of her book, by the way)with a simple phrase like: “laws that the majority of the Congressional Black Caucus voted for”.

  6. Jones says:

    What’s your definition of “non-violent”, Jeffre? What’s your definition of “victimless”?

    Every crime has a varying degree of violence, including drug offenders.

    “The viciousness of state officials to the poor and homeless is breathtaking, trapping them in a cycle of poverty”.

    This is a bag of baloney. Both individuals you’ve quoted are so far left, they’re out in space. That Alexander woman is a racist. Ehrenreich has an axe to grind against those who can stay out of trouble, make something of themselves, garner some cash, and get on with adult life successfully.

    Both of them have completely discarded CHOICE. The poor, homeless, those criminals of ALL colors, not just the blacks, have choices. Everyone has choices to make, right in front of them. The criminals habitually make the wrong choices, and there’s consequences for their actions.

  7. Kevin Faber says:

    http://www.prisonpolicy.org/scans/whos_in_prison_for_marij.pdf

    “Who’s Really in Prison for Marijuana?”

    But aside from that, Justin is his typical fountain of misinformation on this topic.

    I will agree with one point - drugs are a problem throughout all society and all races and class levels. The difference is, the “white kids” are smoking dope in the garage, or mom and dad’s basement and thus never get busted by the police. The black kids are out on the corner of 12th and Vine smoking dope at 3 in the afternoon - thus they get busted more often.

    Also, do some research on “drug offenders.” Many drug offenders end up with a variety of other charges - things like disorderly conduct, domestic violence, robbery, assault, etc. Often these violent offenses are directly related to their lust for drugs. The drugs are just a small part of the overall picture of a degenerate lifestyle. We could legalize every drug under the sun tomorrow and a good percentage of these fools would still be criminals.

  8. trey says:

    We could legalize every drug under the sun tomorrow and a good percentage of these fools would still be criminals.

    Get with the program Kevin.  Haven’t you been paying attention?  America’s smart party, the liberals, explained this long ago.  If only the backwards parts of America would abandon their backward thinking on drugs and their racist tricks to try to ruin black lives and decided to legalize drugs, all those kids you see selling on 12th and Vine would of course naturally become the new heads of the Walgreens and CVS’s of the newly legalized trade. (wink, wink)

    But seriously, the above is not all that uncommon of a viewpoint and I actually in my younger, more naive, liberal days would actually give such thinking some credence.  But as I’ve hopefully become more mature in my thinking, I think I realized that really 90-95% of the direction of the causation path is that the kids you see selling take up the trade because they learned no legit trade and it is no terribly big blot on one’s character in the culture they were raised in to be engaged in illegal activities. 

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing an easing of some drug laws but doubt it would have a terribly dramatic impact on the life trajectories of those kids who really nobody on either the left or right have figured out how to educate for a role in the legal economy.

    All that said, I would actually not mind seeing someone on the left flesh out more   their explanation why there is this supposed disparity in drug prison sentences among ethnicities if all supposedly use at the same rate.  Is there some prosecutor misconduct or something going on?  Can you document it?  For people like me (who no longer really accept the near tyrannical demand by all the “wise” parts of society that one must believe that all the peoples of the world are essentially the same under the skin), merely reciting a disparity in percentages among ethnicities is not enough.  I’ll also be seeing huge disparities in ethnic percentages when I turn on the football games this afternoon.  This doesn’t really surprise me (or others who share my perspective) any more.

  9. KGA says:

    I’m sorry Mr. Jeffrey, but you are so incredibly naive.  Work in the court system or at the correctional facility for a while, you will lose that ignorance really quick.  If you happen to run into my best friends ex-husband while at WCI, the one who raped her two sons when they were 7 and 8, and you find him to be a super nice guy, as the rest of us were tricked into believing, kick him in the balls for me! Did you ever consider that these “warm” individuals were just being manipulative??? Or are you too naive to even consider that?  My friend was naive too, and it got her kids attacked, however, she didn’t him at a prison.  I mean where is your red flag Jeffrey?  Maybe after you get attacked or victimized, god forbid, you will not be so stupidly sympathetic toward even “drug related” offenders because there is “no victim”...are you serious?? What about those offenders families? Their children, that you know they have not fathered whatsoever!!  I am shocked at how stupid and gullible people are these days! Stop posting stupid stuff on the internet and get a life man!!

  10. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    I’m sorry Mr. Jeffre, but you are so incredibly naive.  Work in the court system or at the correctional facility for a while, you will lose that ignorance really quick.  If you happen to run into my best friends ex-husband while at WCI, the one who raped her two sons when they were 7 and 8, and you find him to be a super nice guy, as the rest of us were tricked into believing, kick him in the balls for me! Did you ever consider that these “warm” individuals were just being manipulative??? Or are you too naive to even consider that?  My friend was naive too, and it got her kids attacked, however, she didn’t him at a prison.  I mean where is your red flag Jeffre?  Maybe after you get attacked or victimized, god forbid, you will not be so stupidly sympathetic toward even “drug related” offenders because there is “no victim”...are you serious?? What about those offenders families? Their children, that you know they have not fathered whatsoever!!  I am shocked at how stupid and gullible people are these days! Stop posting stupid stuff on the internet and get a life man!!

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