Financial security in your retirement? How about state prison?

Elderly_in_prison Are you better off than you were 6 years ago, or 12 years ago when the Republicans took over congress? Desi, the web mistress of Mia Culpa, one of my favorite blogs has a sad story today of how desparate some people have become.

Columbus, Ohio - A man who couldn’t find steady work had a plan to make it through the three years until he could collect Social Security payments: He robbed a bank teller, then handed the money to a guard and waited for police.
Timothy J. Bowers, of Columbus, told a judge a three-year prison sentence would suit him, and the judge obliged.
“At my age, the jobs available to me are minimum wage jobs. There is age discrimination out there,” Bowers explained Wednesday in a quiet voice to Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Angela White.
He turns 63 in a few weeks and said he would receive full Social Security benefits at 66.

As Desi points out after she provides the full article:

And so even among lawyers and community leaders, no one had a better alternative for Timothy J. Bowers than convicting him of a felony, and sending him off to prison. I don't know if I could think of a sadder commentary on the times we're living in today.

Our congress has done very well for millionaires and corporations, but the "little guy" like Timothy Bowers is getting screwed over. It is a sad day in this country when the best place for some financial security, "3 hots and a cot" as they say, is the County jail or State prison.

The Fort Wayne, Indiana, News-Sentinel had an interesting article on 12/01/99 on "Prisoners of Age: Growing old behind bars". The article says in part:

Add all those factors together and it's guaranteed that the average age of the country's prison population will continue to climb. With that increase comes the unique and expensive problems older inmates pose.

The most obvious is health care. Like anyone else, the older prisoners become, the more health problems they are likely to have. A study earlier this year by the California Department of Correction said dealing with Alzheimer's disease will be "one of the most challenging aspects of an increasingly aging population." Two years ago, Indiana corrections officials who responded to a survey by the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives listed senility and dementia and the need for a hospice program as high on the list of special needs for elderly inmates.

Meeting those challenges won't be cheap, states are learning. The center reports that the cost of incarcerating an elderly inmate averages $69,000 a year. Virginia recently spent more than $61 million on only 891 older prisoners. Edward L. Cohn, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Correction, says the state's average per-diem cost of keeping a prisoner — about $17,000 a year — won't increase if the prisoners stay healthy, but admits that's a pipe dream.

If the average cost of incarcerating an elderly inmate in 1999 was $69,000 per year, can you imagine what it would be today in 2006? It seem to me that the cost to the state of Ohio to incarcerate Timothy J. Bowers for 3 years will be far more than what it would cost to give him some financial assistance.

It makes my ache as a Social Worker, and as a citizen, when I reflect on how far wrong we have gone as a society when we are willing to spend billions of dollars a month on Iraq and put people like Timothy J. Bowers in jail.

Link: Mia Culpa: Here's your Economy, Dumbya.

In Tiny Courts of N.Y., Abuses of Law and Power


On September 25, 2006, the New York Times published an investigatory report on the local court system in New York State. It is a huge eye opener, and every New Yorker should read it.

Some of the courtrooms are not even courtrooms: tiny offices or basement rooms without a judge’s bench or jury box. Sometimes the public is not admitted, witnesses are not sworn to tell the truth, and there is no word-for-word record of the proceedings.

Nearly three-quarters of the judges are not lawyers, and many — truck drivers, sewer workers or laborers — have scant grasp of the most basic legal principles. Some never got through high school, and at least one went no further than grade school.

But serious things happen in these little rooms all over New York State. People have been sent to jail without a guilty plea or a trial, or tossed from their homes without a proper proceeding. In violation of the law, defendants have been refused lawyers, or sentenced to weeks in jail because they cannot pay a fine. Frightened women have been denied protection from abuse.

These are New York’s town and village courts, or justice courts, as the 1,250 of them are widely known. In the public imagination, they are quaint holdovers from a bygone era, handling nothing weightier than traffic tickets and small claims. They get a roll of the eyes from lawyers who amuse one another with tales of incompetent small-town justices.

A woman in Malone, N.Y., was not amused. A mother of four, she went to court in that North Country village seeking an order of protection against her husband, who the police said had choked her, kicked her in the stomach and threatened to kill her. The justice, Donald R. Roberts, a former state trooper with a high school diploma, not only refused, according to state officials, but later told the court clerk, “Every woman needs a good pounding every now and then.”

Link: In Tiny Courts of N.Y., Abuses of Law and Power - New York Times.

Cardinal Bernard Law and Dennis Hastert, two peas in a pod

Here's why religion and politics is a bad idea and they make bad bedfellows. Both religion and government seem to be self-serving and protect their own before they protect the people they profess to serve and they are beholden to for financial and social support.

I found this photo on Frameshop on Sunday, October 1, 2006 and as they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words". Is is a picture of Cardinal Bernard Law, former Archbishop of Boston, and House Leader, Dennis Hastert, side by side, both of whom protected child sex offenders.Hastert_2 Law_and_hastert


Fifty years from now, when historians write about the social problem of sexual predators in early 21st Century America, they will put a photo of Cardinal Bernard Law next to a photo of Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.
These are men who had the chance to protect our children,  but chose to protect a predator instead.

Link: FRAMESHOP by Jeffrey Feldman - Politics, Insight, Results.

The Attica Rebellion, 35 year anniversary.

Attica_rebellion This week America will be pre-occupied with the fifth annivesay of 9/11, but there is also, this week, the 35th anniversary of the Attica Prison Rebellion. I remember the day well on September 13, 1971 when Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered the retaking of the prison in which New York State Troopers killed 45 people in D yard in cold blooded murder. None of the hostages or prisoners killed that day were killed by inmates, but by New York State employees. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

The state has never apologized to inmate families or correction officer families for the atrocity committed that day although small reparations have been made. Correction Officer families have been treated dispicably by the state. For their story click here.


The National Radio Project produces a radio show called Making Contact which has a brief, 29 minute program which aired on September 6, 2006, regarding the Attica Rebellion which you can listen to on line. It is well worth listening to. To go to the Making Contact web site to listen to the show click on the link below.Link: The Attica Rebellion.

The ugly under belly of America's racist past

Elizabetheckfordmob 49 years ago today, September 4, 1957, Elizabeth Eckford was blocked from becoming the first black student at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, called out the National Guard to block the school and on September 24, 1957, President Eisenhower sent in federal troops to enforce the law.

I was 11 years old at the time growing up in Brockport NY and feeling scared that I was living in a country where such hatred existed solely because of the color of a person's skin.

Terrorism was alive and well in the South in those days with blacks being killed along with white civil rights workers. This country has an ugly past which we should not forget as we attempt to intervene around the world. There are brave and courageous people among us who fight for justice which often are overlooked by history and from whose courage and sacrifices millions of people now benefit.

On 4th September, 1957, Elizabeth Eckford and eight other African American students attempted to enter Little Rock Central High School, a school that previously had only accepted white children. The governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, was determined to ensure that segregation did not take place and sent the National Guard to stop the children from entering the school.

On 24th September, 1957, President
Dwight Eisenhower, went on television and told the American people: "At a time when we face grave situations abroad because of the hatred that communism bears towards a system of government based on human rights, it would be difficult to exaggerate the harm that is being done to the prestige and influence and indeed to the safety of our nation and the world. Our enemies are gloating over this incident and using it everywhere to misrepresent our whole nation. We are portrayed as a violator of those standards which the peoples of the world united to proclaim in the Charter of the United Nations."

After trying for eighteen days to persuade
Orval Faubus to obey the ruling of the Supreme Court, Eisenhower decided to send federal troops to Arkansas to ensure that black children could go to Little Rock Central High School. The white population of Little Rock were furious that they were being forced to integrate their school and Faubus described the federal troops as an army of occupation. Elizabeth Eckford and the eight other African American children at the school suffered physical violence and constant racial abuse. Parents of four of the children lost their jobs because they had insisted in sending them to a white school. Eventually Orvel Faubus decided to close down all the schools in Little Rock.

For more information, click on the link below.

Link: Elizabeth Eckford.

Zero Tolerance in schools - adminstrative cop out?

Do Zero Tolerance policies in schools make sense? Do they work? Are they too easy an excuse of administrators to not use their judgement and gapple with the nuances of difficult situations?      Malcom Gladwell has an interesting essay in the September 4, 2006 issue of The New Yorker entitled "No Mercy".

A Tennessee study found that after zero-tolerance programs were adopted by the state’s public schools the frequency of targeted offenses soared: the firm and unambiguous punishments weren’t deterring bad behavior at all. Is that really a surprise?

To read the American Bar Association report on Zero Tolerance policies click here.

Link: The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town.

Is President Bush lying to us about torture?

Torture_2 Is President Bush a liar? Many people recoil when they hear this word "liar" because it is a moral judgement. So let's ask the question a little differently. Has President Bush given the American people accurate information about his administration's use of torture? The answer is clearly "No" and there is plenty of evidence that the statements that President Bush has made to the American people are inaccurate and false.

For more information, go to the Amnesty International web site by clicking the link below and click on the link "learn more" under the paragraph entitled "Connecting the dots on torture". It will take you to a 60 second flash movie on current U.S. practice on torture. The Flash movie is entitled "connecting the dots".

Link: Home 2006 Denounce Torture Lobby Week.

The War on Torture: U.S. Policy Exposed

Iraqtorturedogsthumb On July 5, 2006 The National Radio Project's program, Making Contact, released its latest show, "The War On Torture: U.S. Policy exposed. Most of the 30 minute show is an overview of the law and policy that the Bush Administration uses to justify it's current policies on torture presented by Dr. David Luban, a professor of Law and Philosophy at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Here is the brief description of the show from the National Radio Project's web site.

Images of bloodied, naked and shackled men.. some stacked like cordwood on a cement floor... some hooded, standing on boxes with wires attached to their fingers. These are just some of the lasting images of detainees held by U.S. forces in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. The reports of suicides and hunger strikes by prisoners at Guantanamo Bay further remind us that a policy of torture, through deprivation and isolation, remains.

On this edition, is the U.S. practicing inexcusable torture or are these instances of overzealous intelligence gathering by a nation at war?

The policies which the Bush Administration have pursued regarding torture has made the United States a pariah around the world and has seriously tarnished the view of America as a civilized country which follows the rule of law.

This is a very important show and I encourage people to click on the link below and take the 30 minutes to listen to it.

Link: The War on Torture: U.S. Policy Exposed.

Army cuts 1,000 for personality disorders - Yahoo! News

The Associated Press reported on July 7, 2006 that the Army has discharged at least 1,000 soldiers for having personality disorders. This is news in light of some of the atrocities that U.S. soldiers have committed in Iraq wantonly killing civilians and in one case of pre-meditatively raping a 15 year old Iraqi girl and then killing her and her family.

The Army discharged more than 1,000 soldiers last year for personality disorders, the reason it gave for this year's discharge of a private now accused of raping a young Iraqi woman and killing her and her family.

That total represents about 1.2 percent of the 83,000 soldiers given early discharges during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2005. That was a bit higher than the less than 1 percent discharged for those reasons during the 2001 fiscal year before the war in
Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, the Army's surgeon general, told reporters Friday that the disorder usually is not associated with combat trauma and may be a lifelong problem that is not always easy to identify in military screenings. He said soldiers exhibiting such traits would not be automatically discharged because many can continue to perform well.

The problem that I have is that the Army apparently only deals with enlisted personnel. Watching the behavior of President Bush, Defense Secretray Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, and a few other of the architiects of the U.S. policy of immorally, and pre-emptively going to war in Iraq, I suspect that they have personality disorders too. In fact their charming and manipulative ability to wreak havoc on their nation and the world with their glib rationalizations with no apparent remorse or regret or ability to acknowledge culpability and responsiblity for their errors in judgement resulting in horrorible consequence, makes me think that they have anti-social personality disorder as well. Unfortunately, as elected officials, they cannot be "discharged". However, it should give voters pause in the future to consider the "character" of the people they are voting for. There are not mentally healthy people  or they could not do the things that that they do.

Further, it should be noted that armies and nations need their psychopaths. They often rise to levels of leadership as Adolph Hitler, Milosevich, Ken Lay, President Bush and others have. And then they cause great suffering to their people and to the world. They apparently have no conscience, no capacity to empathize with suffering of others on whom they prey. They often are very charismatic, charming, manipulative and convincing as long as they are getting their way and getting what they want. When you cross them, they can be cold, cruel, calculating, bullying, and with weapons, deadly.

The places where psychopaths, anti-social personality disorders, can flourish is in the Armed Forces where you not only can kill people with impunity, but be rewarded for it, in business where cut throat success is often significanty financially rewarded, and in politics where you get to enjoy power, adulation, and the perks that come with access which are so easily abused as we see these days with the Abramoff scandal, the Valerie Plame affair, and the negative campaigning and impugning of opponents which would never be tolerated in any other social arena.

The estimate is that 4% or 1 out 25 people are sociopaths, that is that they have anti-social personality disorder.

Link: Army cuts 1,000 for personality disorders - Yahoo! News.

Is it ethical for mental health professionals to assist in interrogation and torture?

The June 7, 2006 New York Times brings news that the United States Department of Defense has decided to give preference to using psychologists over psychiatrists as advisers to its interrogation teams at Guantánamo and other unnamed locations based on “a recognition of differing  positions taken by their respective professional groups.” More specifically, The American Psychiatric Association unequivocally has adopted a policy stating that its members should not be part of these interrogation teams. The American Psychological Association has adopted a far weaker policy that, in practice, puts no constraints upon its members participating in interrogation, stating only that members consulting on national security interrogations should be "mindful of factors unique to these roles  and contexts that require special ethical consideration." This position is taken in spite of considerable pressure from many members desiring the Association  to state unequivocally that members should not participate in these interrogation teams in any capacity.

To see the petition click on the link below.

Link: Against Psychologists' Participation in Interrogation of 'Enemy Combatants' Petition.

Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now radio show, had a great show on June 16, 2006 during which she interviewed several people on this issue. You can listen to it streaming on line or download it. It is well worth listening to if you are interested in the issue of mental health professionals participating in interrogation and torture.

Should doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists participate in military interrogations? Both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association have adopted policies discouraging their members from being involved. But their counterpart, the American Psychological Association has not. We host a debate with APA president Dr. Gerald Koocher, Dr. Steven Reisner, an APA member who is calling on the group to take a stand against the practice and Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist who is a retired Brigadier General in the Army Medical Corps.

To go to the Democracy Now archive of this show to download the audio or read the transcript click on the link below.