December 20, 2014

Sentenced To Prison

Before coming to prison, I spent many a late night searching the internet for any information about Prison. Along the way, I found many articles that suggested that everyone you meet in prison claims to be innocent. Based upon my own experience, I have found that most people in Prison admit that they are guilty of a crime. The real complaining begins when you bring up the subject of sentencing. The common theme is my sentence is to long and/or I got 5 years and a guy doing the same thing only got 2 years. As I sort through the common complaints, I tend to discount the grievances put forth by folks who are down (in prison) for the second and third time. Once you demonstrate to the world that you did not get the message the first time you were convicted and sentenced to a Federal prison, there are very few folks who will be empathetic to your situation.

However, there are many Prisoners in Jesup serving rather draconian sentences for first time/non-violent offenses. Most of these sentences are predicated upon the Federal Sentencing guidelines implemented many years ago. Although the Guidelines are now “advisory”, many Judges cling to them like a child clings to his favorite toy.
In the past, I must confess that I never gave sentencing reform a second thought. A conviction and prison sentence is all it took for Me to become interested in the subject? (In the interest of full disclosure, there is a group of Bankers in Detroit who disagree with my position on sentencing reform).

First of all, serving time in Prison is a very difficult thing. It is dehumanizing, humbling and depressing. It destroys not only the prisoner, but his family as well as they “serve” the sentence on the outside with him. I am convinced that Judges who could experience prison for a few days as an “under cover” boss would rethink their sentencing policies. I have many months left on my sentence. The Public can rest assured that I have received the message and that I will never return to this little slice of “Hell on Earth”. The question is was it necessary to impose a lengthy sentence to accomplish the goals of the criminal justice system? Would society be better off if I was performing full time community service and paying for my own room, board and health care expenses?

Many enlightened countries impose much shorter sentences along with community service for first time/Non-violent offenders. The theory underpinning this philosophy is to give such offenders a second chance at life and to permit them to give back to society through community service. A pleasant by-product of this philosophy is the monetary savings associated with shorter prison sentences.

Many states have successfully revamped their sentencing policies to reflect this new philosophy. The results have been beneficial to both offenders and the community. However, The Federal Government has ignored this trend and has simply grown its prison capacity to accommodate lengthy federal prison sentences.

Congress does have several bills regarding sentencing reform sitting on the back burner, stalled by inter-party bickering and election year politics. Perhaps the new Congress will dust off these bills and revisit the subject as there is strong support for them on both sides of the aisle?

Ok, You now have the biased viewpoint on sentence reform that every prisoner advocates! Don’t worry, I will not hold my breath waiting for sentencing reform.

Ken Flaska

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