Arguments RE: TDCJ - Texas Dept of Criminal Justice Appropriation Bill FY2012-13

Deep cuts in, or the elimination of funding for education, health care, mental health care, re-entry programs, parole, probation, etc. will serve to completely reduce the prison experience to one of gladiator combat and criminal higher education.
July 29, 2011 - PRLog -- The FY2012-13 summaries of the general appropriations bill for the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice (TDCJ) are draconian. Deep cuts in, or the elimination of funding for education, health care, mental health care, re-entry programs, parole, probation, juvenile mental health services, etc. will serve to completely reduce the prison experience to one of gladiator combat and criminal higher education. After all, not only does attending school, church, and parole programs to some degree prepare prisoners for the free-world, but the very act of attending these programs requires that they leave the day-rooms. With fewer programs and prisoners congregating in packed day-rooms, there will be more gang activity, fighting, extorting, raping, drinking, smoking, and, of course, domino playing.

Describing the above cut to education as draconian is actually a bit disingenuous on my part,given that the TDCJ education programs are totally without either substance or meaning. It is because these programs were probably at one time noble and well intentioned, and out-of- touch lawmakers consider this to still be the case that their motives for -— if not so much the consequences of - cutting education are draconian.

Be that as it may, the TDCJ education departments love to tout a study that shows the two-
year recidivism rates for ex-convicts who have earned various college degrees while in prison. To paraphrase: no degree — 65%, Associate's degree — 24%, Baccalaureate's degree - 11%, Master's degree — 1.6%. An honest lawmaker might think this astounding at first blush, and ask herself why not just issue bonds to borrow from future taxpayers, use the proceeds to cycle every prisoner possible through higher education, and use the increased future tax revenues that result from the lower future recidivism rates to pay off the bonds. And yet it is not so cut and dry as this because, contrary to the implication of the study in question, degrees earned in prison do not necessarily cause lower future recidivism. Because prison education programs are so ineffective 1, and cheating is rampant, and the degrees are less useful as credentials in the free-world due to laws restricting where ex-convicts can work, the relationship between college degrees earned in prison and future recidivism is correlative.

l believe that the causal relationship is actually the other way around: those prisoners inclined to earn college degrees are necessarily predisposed to lower future recidivism rates. Moreover, even the lack of learning, unrealistic expectations, and cynicism that prison education programs tend to engender in prisoner students do not alter their inherent predisposition to not return to prison. The prison education programs and college degrees are merely expensive (and unintentional) ways of distinguishing these particular prisoners —~ and their subsequent recidivism rates — from the prisoner population as a whole.

lf l were able to make a’ general appropriation bill proposal for TDCJ, one of my proposals would be to scrap the education programs as they are currently situated. ln their place, l would encourage grass-roots initiatives such as, but not limited to the following:

1. Letting free-world volunteers with proper credentials come to prisons to teach prisoners who sign up for classes.
2. Hosting full-class tutorials for prisoners by crowdsourcing the job to internet tutors
3. Allowing inmates to tutor one another according to their verifiable education levels (much as they do now in the peer-to-peer programs for infectious disease tutorials)
4. Expanding the size of, and access to, prison libraries while reducing access to television (save for the channels PBS and CNBC, where applicable)

So, as prisoners increasingly (and verifiably) engage the above programs to educate themselves, they will be allowed to spend less and less time at their *assigned prison jobs (please refer to attachment A). The very prisoners that earned various degrees would etch out similar academic achievements within my proposed educational framework, and they would likewise have similar recidivism rates at one-hundredth or one-thousandth of the cost.

Given Texas’ budget shortfall, any cuts must be severe. And yet, if the current general appropriation bill proposal for TDCJ passes, there might be a two year window of prison system savings. However, by cutting programs such as education, medical, and community supervision, the system is only_ downsizing by locking in future growth, because following will be a crime wave of unprecedented proportions. My proposal, by downsizing while fostering a more rehabilitative environment, will save both money and lives in the long term.

1. While the following is anecdotal it is nevertheless illustrative: A friend of mine once tried to force one of his professors to fail him; he literally did nothing all semester and at the end demanded the "F" that he should have been given, but the professor assured him that he had tried, and gave him a “B” for the effort.
2. A man's mind should be just as fervently saved as his soul, therefore free—world teaching volunteers should be encouraged to teach once a week or once a month, just as free-world religious volunteers now come and preach.

Forced Labor As A Rehabilitative Option — True or False?

Fact and truth are not the same thing. Rather, a truth acts in accordance with a fact or facts. The sense/reference distinction exemplifies this relationship. Take for instance the woman Jane; she IS the girlfriend of John, the sister of Joe. "Jane" thus symbolizes one existing referent, but John and Joe have very different senses of this referent. Truth is thus contextual: that Jane is, is a fact, and yet John and Joe take at least two different truths from this fact — girlfriend and sister, respectively — due to their particular relationship to Jane.

I've often come to the defense of my letters on account of them rarely citing sources. This does not mean, however, that as a writer l am less relevant or informative, only that my subject matter consists more of truths than of facts. My truths are articulated from my relationship to the facts of life in prison, but in so articulating, l necessarily write about the truths, rather than the facts themselves. So, while I deal with my truths and ideas, other in the space — Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice Degrees Guide, Grits For Breakfast, etc. - deal more with facts and sources.

Granted, because these others deal with facts and sources, which are more easily confirmed than my dealing with truths, these journalists are most likely correct more often than l am. And yet, my being incorrect more often is mitigated by the fact that even my falsehoods are reflective of truth in a way that mistaken facts are not reflective of actual facts.

Take for example the position that forced prison labor is always good for rehabilitation. Though the Texas prison system - one of the few that still refrain from providing its prisoners with monetary compensation for their required labor - takes this position, it is of course manifestly false. But, the opposite position —— that forced prison labor is always bad for rehabilitation — is false (though not as false), aspwell. So, if forced prison labor is sometimes good for rehabilitation, then the variables, "forced", and “labor”, are determining factors in the degree of a particular prisoner’s rehabilitation within the prison experience. Historical evidence unequivocally proves that of these two variables, the
application of force is in itself less conducive to the development of such virtues as the application of labor (i.e. with monetary compensation).  Thus, from the original false position, "forced prison labor is not always good for rehabilitation", we arrive at two truths: "prison labor is not always or even often good for rehabilitation because it is forced".

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