Whether you like to read it, or hear it, or even think about it -- the reason for America's high recidivism rate is this: we treat our ex-offenders, even those who have worked for decades to rehabilitate themselves and re-enter society through good conduct, civility and community service, like scum. Our 10-million strong permanent subcaste of ex-offenders is not afforded in most cases even a remote chance to rejoin society regardless of how hard they try. This fact is what makes America the King of 'Carceration and, as discussed below, if America is the King, then California is certainly the most regal of its court.
So, why should we care? The prisoners are just a bunch of crooks, right? Read on and do so with Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman in mind. You remember the evil Sheikh, don't you? He is the one who so corrupted his team of American defense lawyers they were all convicted of sedition and who is now busy proselytizing more Americans into radical Islamism from within our prison system. Well, he is busy recruiting and so are many of his fellow-jihadists.
King Of 'Carceration
To become the King of 'Carceration, our elected officials, prison administrators and police have consistently lied to us to an extent simply inconceivable. Why? The answer is obvious. The facts below were aggregated by The Rehabilitated Project's 'Carceration Taskforce.
Let's look at some numbers. United States Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), in making a demand to the federal government to pay costs associated with California's housing of illegal alien prisoners, has asserted that California's cost per prisoner is approximately $35,000, even while the United States Department of Justice states that, for approximately the same period covered by the Honorable Senator's claim, the cost is only $22,000 for any prisoner, legal or not.
Where these numbers come from is anyone's guess. One thing is for sure, however: our elected officials and government employees are not telling us the truth!
What is the actual number? Well, to delve into that let's look at California's current prison-building bond proposal of $6 Billion to find a clue. California houses 175,000 prisoners in premises designed to hold less than 100,000, and does so in conditions so inhumane and depraved the federal government has stepped in, in no small part because California routinely denies all medical attention to its prisoners. In fact, this situation is so inhumane that federal judges are now working to shut down this horrible, crime-breeding, prison guard promotional scheme.
When you stuff 4 people into a 1-person cell, or 250 men into a single room originally designed to be a classroom, for years on end you not only permanently institutionalize most of them, you can make them into violent-prone, highly reactive recidivists. Then, when they are ultimately released, what do you think they're going to do? Of course, strike back at the society that brutalized them in the first place. Many would say that the society that would commit such barbarity against its own citizens deserves what it gets in return.
This bond proposal of $6 Billion will build barely 5,000 new beds plus a few knickknacks for the prison and union bosses to expand their empires. Let's do some math with the following assumptions: first, the facilities built will last 20 years until they have to be refurbished at an equivalent amount not discounted for inflation; second, the bonds will require about $500,000,000 in interest payments a year (about an 8% real societal cost since they will be tax free); third, in addition to the amount from the bonds and the payments on the bonds for interest, the facilities will also require an operating budget and -- you guessed it -- the highest paid prison guard staff anywhere in the world. Into the prison staff costs you have to figure in the generous health and pension payments that accrue each year and count those as current costs, as well, and the average annual cost of such guards, support staff and executives will be $57,000 as determined by the 2007 California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation published budget, which is approximately $10 Billion.
From this point, the math is simple: Principal depreciation:
$300,000,000 ÷ 5,000 inmates = $ 60,000 Interest Payment:
$500,000,000 ÷ 5,000 inmates = 100,000 Prison Staff Costs
Per California 2007 Budget = 57,000 Total Current Cost per Year
per Prisoner = $217,000
Statistics show that some 74% of California's inmates return to prison within 3 years of their release. After being brutalized by rape, over-crowding, mental illness, third-world quality health care and institutional violence, it is a wonder that more ex-offenders don't return even faster.
What is the truthful amount of the annual cost? Who knows except to say that governments of all shades, stripes and colors are well known to stuff costs here and there in a budget in order to hide from the taxpayers the true cost that they must bear in order to allow the expansion of inherent powers, privileges and profits enjoyed by all politicians and governmental agency employees, apparently a common occurrence in California where the prison officials can't even build a suitable execution chamber for the amount budgeted and lied to hide the true amount.
What this means is that every time California adds a new prisoner, or sends back a re-offending former prisoner, the real cost to the State is $217,000.00 per year according to the bond costs! If the federal judges currently convened to correct the rampant institutional and inter-prisoner rape, debilitating institutionalization and mayhem caused by our "King of 'Carceration" mentality cause the surplus 74,000 prisoners to be released due to the grossly inhumane housing conditions under which they are compelled to exist, and that 74% of them are back in 3 years, or less, California will plunge into bankruptcy paying the $11-to-$21 Billion associated with providing new, humane housing. In fact, with a cash reserve of only $345 Million, it would only take less than 1,600 new prisoners to drive the state into bankruptcy.
A New Approach
Charlie Rangel's has introduced HR 623 which would provide that nonviolent, first-time offenders who have completed all terms of their sentence, provided a year of community service and have proven themselves to be both drug- and alcohol-free are entitled to prove their rehabilitation by clear and convincing evidence before their federal sentencing judge in a "mini-trial." Further, if there is ever a subsequent conviction for any state or federal crime, the expungement is completely negated and the facts of the prior crime can be used for any purpose.
Rangel's bill provides that if a federal judge orders expungement of the conviction the ex-offender can receive his civil rights as though there had been no conviction, but law enforcement is at all times able to access the conviction information.
At this time, there is absolutely no provision for federal ex-offenders. The "power of the pardon" has died in the White House, according to Margy Love, former pardon attorney under both Republican and Democratic administrations. In fact, so few pardons are granted that the current administration has ceased publishing the statistics. In the past 12 months, fewer than 20 have been granted. Were the rates of pardon-granting from the 1920s and '30s followed today, there would have been more than 1,000 pardons each year since Bush took office. These statistics are shown on The Rehabilitated Project's site.
California has a system wherein an ex-offender can receive a "Certificate of Rehabilitation" after proving such before a Superior Court judge; however, the controlling statutes require that the Governor's office then consider granting a pardon. As a matter of fact, in the past 10 years, under the Davis administration (which granted NO pardons) and the Schwarzenegger government, there have been less than 5 pardons issued. Thus, California -- like its federal counterpart -- treats it ex-offenders as scum; and, we ask ourselves why do we have such a high recidivism rate..
As Rangel also stated, the effect of a conviction is to deny employment, education and housing opportunities enjoyed by every resident in the United States. This is true for both citizens, legal residents and those here illegally, but are permanently denied to citizens and lawful permanent residents who are ex-offenders -- even decades after their conviction.
The Peril Of Not Reforming
Thus, there is a crying need for reform. There should be no wonder that America has the developed world's highest recidivism rate. While all other developed countries do their best to reintegrate ex-offenders, in America it is a bus ticket and 20 bucks. All hope of rehabilitation is thus denied to our citizen ex-offenders. Because our penal system has been termed a "breeding ground for radicals," this problem is also one of national security because -- with all hope of a future beyond the conviction being taken away -- the propaganda of the radical hatemongers may become alluring to some desperate individuals who are in this permanently disenfranchised sub-caste of some 10 million ex-offenders.
Take, for instance, Sheikh Abdel-Rahman who was issued a tourist visa to visit the US despite his name being listed on a US State Department terrorist watch list, and who is now in federal prison for life due to his terrorist activities. Rahman entered the United States, in July 1990, via Saudi Arabia, Peshawar, and Sudan. Preaching at three mosques in the New York area, Abdel-Rahman was immediately surrounded by a core group of devoted followers that included persons responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. One of Rahman's followers was linked to the shooting death of Meir Kahane. So great is Rahman's power of persuasion, after his incarceration, in 2005, members of his legal team, including noted New York Criminal Defense Attorney Lynne Stewart, were convicted of facilitating communication between the imprisoned Sheikh and members of his terrorist organization Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya in Egypt. Now the blind sheikh has only his fellow-inmates to direction his proselytizing.
If rich, intelligent, well-educated and urbane lawyers such as Stewart can be duped by radical Islamists the question becomes: how many eager American minds are being turned by imprisoned Islamist radicals against their motherland because she has stripped them of all hope?
The Rehabilitated Project (TRP) is building a nationwide coalition to help over come these grisly facts. Interested parties can visit TRP's site, www.rehabilitated.org, and use the TRP contact page. Or, call TRP at 877-587-9266. If you are an ex-offender, you may find great benefit from reviewing TRP's site and taking part in its rehabilitation regimen found under the "Classes" tab.
Charles Benninghoff began in journalism in the 1950's, writing for such newspapers as the Los Angeles Times, The Los Angeles Examiner, The Daily Report, The Pomona Progress Bulletin and the San Bernardino Daily Sun. He was elected President of the Scholastic Sports Association in 1960 and was awarded the Randolph Heart Scholastic Medallion for excellence in journalism in 1961. Somehow he lost his journalistic direction and went off to serve the United States for two years in Viet Nam as a GMG2, then followed that up with earning bachelor, masters and doctorate degrees from the University of Southern California, exiting in 1974. Thereafter he became both a lawyer and a Certified Public Accountant for almost 25 years. Entering the internet in 1995, Mr. Benninghoff formed Jury dot Com, Ltd. (which operates as a California business trust) (JURY) and he has authored such sites as www.rehabilitated.org, www.jury.com, www.proofofservice.com, www.abogado.com, www.healthfreedom.ws and many others. Mr. Benninghoff retired from public accounting in 1995 and in 1998 he resigned from the California Bar Association with charges pending. He now devotes his time to developing JURY,s properties and realization of The Rehabilitated Project (TRP) goal of enactment of legislation to change how the United States reintegrates its ex-offenders who seek rehabilitation through civility and good works. He began the latter after developing a series of Classes based on his own experiences.
We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.