Everything we do revolves around the mail, and opening our post office box is a daily adventure. This week, we received a handful of unexpected donations in the mail – just in time for our volunteer work sessions this weekend.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to angels Laurie and Nicole, who donated items in December and January; and to Wendy, Laura, and an anonymous donor who sent items this week. Because of your gifts, hundreds of inmates will hear their name at mail call in the coming weeks.
Hello Everyone! I love that I get to learn something new every day no matter where I am in life or actuality. Today I learned that this topic (Hate Mail) is an ongoing series on the blog. Yea Missy!
Just a reminder, I’m still housed at the county jail facility, back from prison fighting for justice; and I say that to say this, the problems that we prisoners have sending and receiving our mail is endemic throughout not only the prisons, but also the jails. And not in any geographical or jurisdictional sense, this particular issue pervades the entire system at every level; local, state and federal.
How might someone in my position here in a county jail in Florida know this? Here in the Pinellas County Jail is a federal holding facility for the Middle District Federal Court in Tampa, and there are county-leased jails all over the country as it must be less costly for the feds and more profitable for the county jails; not to mention the federal cops will chase you down anywhere for placing a stamp cooked on an envelope. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration… maybe.
Let’s look at the most recent action of errant-ry. If a person is indigent, in this county jail, you are permitted four legal mail envelopes per month through the law library by application as they are guarding those priceless folded and gum-stripped sheets of wood pulp from nefarious and unscrupulous users such as myself. I used one of the said envelopes to communicate my grievance of an appeal that’s best addressed in another article. The envelope, which was addressed to the Colonel of the jail, the highest ranked officer of the facility, was returned to me three days after I mailed it because someone deposited twenty dollars on my account some time between mailing and vetting. Instead of simply forwarding the envelope via in-house mail delivery… across the parking lot, they consumed the hourly wage rate of the law librarian, which certainly surpasses the forty-nine cents it would have cost to process the letter through the U.S. mail, to return the letter to me with instructions to open and return the contents and then destroy the envelope. This begs the question: What?
It’s the spend a dollar to save a dime mentality that connotes the need to make sure that people in custody are feeling the full force of those who must believe it’s their job to mete out punishment by way of mail interrupt-us.
It does get funny at times, though. I mean really funny. I had my best person in the world go onto the Florida DOC website to send me a location finder for Florida prisons; an outline of the state with the prison locations, no roads, no highways, or byways or parkways or even driveways. Alas, it was returned because we are not permitted to receive maps; just in case we get out of the myriad of locked doors and miles of razor wire, they don’t want us to find our way around or through the armies of law enforcement. I informed the mail room this outline had none of the attributes of a map and this is available to DOC prisoners from the DOC themselves. Under my suggestion, my love returned it to me with “This is not a map.” written boldly across the top. Lo and behold, the paper came to me this time and has been the subject of a great many he-haws since.
I don’t know if that is topped by this fact, but it is in the running: Among the crazy list of do-not-sends is newspaper or magazine articles or book passages torn from a publication. I have not been able to get any answer at all why this prohibition is in place, and I have asked, except that it is because it is. However, all you have to do is – put them on a copier, copy them onto a plain white piece of paper and then send it in. It will get to you. And, oddly enough, I have sent others articles ripped from magazines with no issue at all. If anyone can come up with any guess as to what logic may be applied here, I’d be so relieved to know what even your best guess might be since I’ve exhausted more brain cells trying to figure this one out than all others combined.
So many people who become incarcerated have no idea that just because we are behind the fences doesn’t mean that we have no rights. One of the most important rights is that of communication. We can, for all intents and purposes communicate with our lawyers and loved ones, and letters to state agencies and media are also protected rights.
However, the penal system that has no oversight and has a culture attempted through the excuse of penalogical interests and even by power drunk staff can and does read and withhold mail that may incriminate those powers that be by simply rejecting or censoring incoming and outgoing mail. But it goes further when they use your mail against you under the guise of being a threat to the order and security of the institution.
If any of you are familiar with the Uniform Commercial Code and becoming a sovereign citizen of the United States, there are real patriots out there that have legitimate companies helping people with a myriad of complex filing issues. I had written to such an organization out of Georgia. I’m not aware of other state’s decisions on this but the Florida Department of Corruptions, with their statutorily given right to make their own rules, has by rule and threat of punishment, made it an offense to even possess the Uniform Commercial Codes. Not being as knowledgeable, I am curious, so I wrote to this organization. My letter was rejected and sent back under the fallback go to that I was “being a threat to the security of the institution”.
Something about pursuing any legal means necessary to expose them for the cruel culture that has been prevelant for so long buys you special attention. So I was called to the gang Sergeant’s office because I apparently became part of a security threat group seeking out information to help gain my freedom. I am 55 years old and have never been in trouble in my life, but now I am supposedly on an FBI watch list. Normally I would laugh this off but later, I applied to be placed in an honor dorm with mostly age-grouped inmates and was denied as being a gang member.
Is it overkill? Probably so, but beyond that it’s motivated by fear that someone may draw attention to the American plague that is our prisons.
The Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) is in the process of implementing a new service for our inmate population. Through JPay Inc., a Florida–based company, the Department will make available a variety of multimedia services to inmates through both an interactive kiosk, available in each general population housing unit, and secure tablets. These services are geared toward enhancing family connections, expanding educational opportunities, and incentivizing positive inmate behavior at no cost to the Florida taxpayer.
FDC will implement kiosk services in all major correctional institutions, annexes, work camps, re–entry centers, and Department–operated Community Release Centers throughout the state. Implementation of kiosks began in August 2017, with a projected completion date in the Spring of 2018. Upon completion of the kiosk implementation, secure tablets will be made available for purchase. (projected Spring 2018). Educational content, including JPay’s Learning Management System (LMS) Lantern LMS and Khan Academy Lite videos will be available.
Additional services include:
Secure Email, including pictures
Educational Content (including JPay’s Learning Management System (LMS) Lantern LMS and Khan Academy Lite videos)
Movies (available for rental)
Electronic Greeting Cards
eBooks and Audio Books
Link to Employ Florida Marketplace job search
Video visitation will be offered at the cost of $2.95 per 15-minute session, making it a very affordable option for inmates who want more access to their families, and competitive with the rates in other states.
Secure Mail is available to inmates at a cost of $0.39/stamp, with one stamp purchasing one email. This is $0.10 cheaper than the cost of a first-class postage stamp, currently at $0.49. The cost of Secure Mail covers the cost of the infrastructure to support it and monitoring of the messages for safety and security purposes.
All inmates who currently have a digital music player, through an existing contract with Keefe Commissary Network, are eligible receive a free JP5mini tablet, along with a $10 credit to apply to media purchases. All other inmates will have an opportunity to purchase either the JP5mini (4.3” tablet) for $79.99 or the JP5S (7” tablet) for $129.99. Additionally, for the first 60 days after implementation at their institution, inmates can purchase tablets for a 50% discount.
Each secure tablet will come with complementary content, provided at no additional cost to the inmate, including several games, 100 classic eBooks, relaxation music, and access to educational content including Khan Academy Lite videos and GED preparation. The cost of games, movies, ebooks, audiobooks, and music will vary depending on the item purchased, similar to how prices in online stores like Apple iTunes and Google Play vary.
The Department is committed to ensuring that services provided to inmates are offered at a fair and reasonable cost that maximizes the use and benefits of these services. Through careful monitoring and a clear contract, this partnership with JPay, Inc. has the potential to modernize programming for inmates and provide the Department a delivery channel for future innovative programming ideas.
For most of my life I believed what the media and television wanted me to believe. Everyone convicted by the courts is a criminal and should be thrown in prison. The keys should be tossed into a lake somewhere and they should spend the rest of their miserable lives behind bars and barbed wire – so that the rest of us will be protected from them.
I believed them to be sub-human, not worthy of … anything, to be honest. When I would hear about them watching cable TV I was outraged. I mean, who do they think they are? Cable TV? Health care? A decent meal? Bread and water, I say! Don’t spend my hard-earned tax dollars on trying to help some … some convict. They’re nothing but a bunch of animals – sausages, all of them. There’s no reason why they couldn’t have stayed out of prison. My life hasn’t been a bed of roses. Let them suffer, I say.
Then I found myself standing before a jduge, court-appointed attorney by my side. I’ll be okay. I’ve seen the TV shows. I’ve been a firefighter for 26 years. I’m one of the good guys.
My heart leaps to my throat. Eight years. The sound of the gavel makes it official. I’m now one of “them.”
My family still believes as I once did, never having had to experience the judicial process. I’ve been deemed guilty, therefore I am. They turn their back on me and I find myself alone, in a place not meant for me, with no one to talk to. I’m afraid. I’m surrounded by “them.”
Weeks, then months pass. It can’t be. How is this possible? “They” are just like me. I’m no longer afraid. We talk and I realize we’re not so different. Am I becoming an animal? A sausage? Or had I been wrong all these years? Are these convicts actually human? With feelings? And people who care about them? I was so sure of myself. How could I have been so wrong? Me? I’m usually right.
Months turn into years. I now have friends. I share in their happiness, their pain. I read about a birthday, a graduation, a death. We smile, shed tears, but they never ask me about my family, because they know I’m one of them now.
I go into my cell. Bury my head. I don’t want them to know.
You may not think a few words scratched on a piece of paper to be very important but I want to let you know that they can be life changing. You have an opportunity to truly touch another human being in a way that most cannot comprehend. I’ve seen the power of words turn men away from hate and violence and lead them to enlightenment.
You may not think you have anything to offer or anything in common with someone in prison. Trust me. It doesn’t matter. Just knowing you took the time to write is more than enough to form a bond and cause one of “them” to come out from under his blanket and yell, “Hey, Fred! Look what I just got!”
If you would like to drop Kenneth a line, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for his contact info.