Today we have a guest article submission. Daphne Holmes article is about reform programs within prisons. Based on my own experience I have to be honest and say I doubt the effectiveness of many of today’s typical prison reform programs — for instance one prison I was at, rehab class consisted of us sitting in a room, without instructor or instruction, for a designated amount of time so that the prison got the credit for a rehabilitation program — but I do agree that “reform” ought to be the main objective, for drug cases. Hope you enjoy the read, send your feedback. And if you would like to be a guest writer for us, just shoot me a note. Peace ~ Magnum

In addition to protecting the public from dangerous criminals, reforming offenders is among the central functions of corrections agencies. A hotly debated topic, rehabilitation strategies at corrections facilities draw attention for their failures, but there are also successful programs operating within the country’s corrections systems.

Each state, and individual facility ultimately control what types of reform programs are made available to inmates, so specific needs are addressed in-house. These programs represent some of the alternatives being utilized to help set prisoners on the proper path to rehabilitation.

Cage Your Rage – This anger management program operates at many correctional facilities, often as an extension of a popular workbook of the same name. The multi-week course helps inmates identify specific causes of anger, subsequently offering recommendations for managing the conditions at the root of their anger issues. Nature vs. Nurture questions are explored, helping offenders recognize how past events come to bear on their present behaviors. Through reading, discussions and written exercises; inmates devise personalized approaches to overcoming anger and aggression.

Canine Programs – The effectiveness of rehabilitative work with animals is proven many times over in medical settings. Patients and elderly residents consistently find comfort and rehabilitation alongside domestic animals. Animals provide similar benefits in corrections settings. In some programs, rescued dogs and cats are paired with inmates responsible for nurturing and training them. The service assists inmates; but it also prepares animals to be placed in loving homes. Obedience training and special service instruction is conducted by offenders, who learn practical animal handling skills as well as compassion and the value of commitment.

Life Without a Crutch Program – This program uses classroom settings, written course materials and personal assignments to help offenders come face to face with their addictive behaviors. Participants learn to see the bigger picture, including how addiction impacts loved ones and others surrounding them. Formal intervention, such as 12-step programs are discussed as well as treatment and counseling alternatives available outside corrections facilities. By incorporating self-assessment into the curriculum, Life Without a Crutch embowers offenders to take control of their own situations. There is evidence of success, including one study which polled inmates who have completed the program. Across the board, offenders’ attitudes and perceptions about drug and alcohol use changed positively after completing the program.

Social Survival Skills Courses – Integrating into society after serving prison time presents unique challenges for inmates unfamiliar with some aspects of modern socialization. Practical skills courses are common features at corrections institutions, sometimes reserved for inmates destined for parole hearings or release dates. Topics like money management and employment practices are explored in ways incarcerated citizens can understand, setting the stage for their success upon release.

Inmates Helping Inmates- Unique programs, including one initiated by Percy Pitzer, a retired warden, which helps inmates help each other. Pitzer’s initiative, launched with $150,000 worth of personal funding, furnishes scholarship money for children of incarcerated parents. Aiming to break the string of poverty and offending that often plagues families with incarcerated members, Pritzer asks inmates to contribute to the fund themselves.

Corrections agencies serve vital functions, including reforming offenders. Various efforts put-forth by facilities across the country are serving inmates well; preparing them for life on the outside and creating access to skills they’ll need once there.

Author:
Daphne Holmes contributed this guest post. She is a writer from ArrestRecords.com and you can reach her at daphneholmes9@gmail.com.

Short Timer Here

Posted: 2nd March 2014 by Texas Magnum in Reflections
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I feel like I am a short timer on my parole these days. I can see that light at the end of the tunnel. Can’t wait. it will be the first time in 7 years that I am not either locked up or on paper. My choices will be mine. Nobody looking over my shoulder. Just got to mind my business for another couple of months. I can do it, that’s not a problem at all.

I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, but I can’t help but start to feel anxious for this all to be behind me. Maybe when another 7 years will go by I will have the bucks then to expunge my record also. I have a buddy who is working on that for himself, so I know it can be done. It will open up some doors for him I am sure, and if I could do it someday it might be well worth it for a lot of reasons.

Life is good these days. My beautiful wife and I are real happy. We feel like we are working towards something good together. Our son is beautiful, and healthy and happy. We’re getting better at making ends meet. I keep getting steady raises and Spring is almost here too, that means more hours. Can’t say I will miss the cold-ass weather we’ve had all winter long. I love spring and summer in the Texas Hill Country. It’s a beautiful state I live in. If some of y’all reading this are from out of state you are missing out for sure. Ha! I’m a lucky man. Feeling the love on this Sunday.

Peace to y’all. Keep the faith ~ Magnum

How to Find Someone in Prison in Texas and Elsewhere

Posted: 17th January 2014 by Texas Magnum in About Prisons

I have found that over the past couple of years, the page on this blog that gets the most traffic, comments and questions is the Inmate Locator page. It is a nerve wracking time for family and friends when a person is incarcerated, and a lot of the time there isn’t very clear information about how to find out where they are, what prison they are at, and how you can communicate with them. I am going to write today’s post with some explanations of all of this, hopefully it will help y’all find your people who might be incarcerated in prison.

First of all, one big source of confusion is who has them locked up? Just because you know someone is incarcerated in Texas doesn’t mean they are at a TDC prison. A person who is an inmate in Texas can be in city jail, county jail, Texas state jail, Texas Department of Corrections prison, or Federal Penitentiary. All of these are different. Both Texas State Jail and TDC prisons fall under the Texas Department of Corrections. These are for felony crimes committed at the state level. You can use the Texas Inmate Locator on here to look for them. Go to Texas Inmate Locator and enter their first and last name and any other details you have. You need at least a first initial. Remember, some names are pretty common and will bring up a lot of results, so knowing their date of birth, race and gender is helpful to narrow down who you are looking for.

When someone is arrested, the typical way it goes is first they are held in a city jail or in county jail. Some people serve sentences that can last many months at the county level, and stay their term in county jail. Texas is a huge state and all counties do not have automated systems to look up inmates at the county level but if you suspect a person is held in county jail you can call and ask if someone is there, by name, or you can search for the county website, find the area for the county jail or sheriff’s department, and sometimes find a search feature.

If someone is arrested for a federal crime then they can be held in a federal penitentiary anywhere in the country, depending on their charges. Things like weapons and arms violations, certain frauds cases, kidnapping, and many other crimes fall under this umbrella. It makes a difference if a crime was committed across multiple states. At any rate, federal pens have the rap of being very different than state prisons. There are federal pens in Texas, including 22 in the state of Texas. I have gone ahead and made a new page here that has the Federal Inmate Search tool for those folks that are looking for somebody at the federal penitentiary level. You can access it here: Federal Penitentiary Inmate Locator. If you want to learn anything else about the Federal Bureau of Prisons you can get information at www.bop.gov.

By the way, if you are looking at someones history in the TDC Inmate search tool, you will see their TDC criminal history but not their federal or county records. Just something to keep in mind.

So, hope this information is helpful to y’all, and if you have questions or need help or have a comment, give me a holler. Peace ~ Magnum

Felons – Reality vs. Fiction

Posted: 14th January 2014 by Texas Magnum in About Prisons, Reflections

Hey everyone. Sometimes I catch something on television or see something online about prison or prisoners, and I have to laugh at the stereotypes that persist about us felons.

Today I saw a thing on the internet news about a recently released prisoner coming to the rescue of a little girl that had fallen into a septic tank and was drowning. Now that is cool whether the guy is an ex-con or not. But what is troubling is that this was reported under “Odd News”. Like, it’s ODD that a man who has a record would help someone. Here is the article: Man, two weeks out of prison, helps rescue 2-year-old girl

If you take a minute to read that article you will find that first of all, just like me, the guy was incarcerated for a drug felony. He’s been out two weeks and he is trying to keep it together. I understand and I wish him well. But they make it sound like he gained these morals in prison that led him to save the little girl.

I am pretty sure he would have jumped in and saved her before he went to prison too, really. People who screw up and go to prison, for non-victim crimes like drug use, or even for things where there was a victim of some sort are not necessarily evil, immoral people. Let me tell you, there are a bunch of bad people in prison, no doubt. But there are a bunch of inmates who are not bad people at all, right along side the bad ones. A whole lot of them love their families, treat people right, go to work regularly, pay their bills, and so on. They screwed up. Plain and simple. Maybe they got angry and got in an altercation that resulted in someone seriously hurt. Maybe they got desperate and stole something. Maybe they got hammered and drove a car and wrecked. None of those are acceptable things in our society, and the result if you get caught is you are punished with prison. And now they are pitched into a seriously crappy environment and invited to reflect on their screw ups for a year or two or five or ten.

The point is, this is a good article about a little girl getting saved. And, it’s great the guy is out of prison and had a chance to do a good deed. I bet he feels GREAT he was there at the right time and place, even if he did get a mouth full of sewer water. I know I would have been so glad to save that little girl too. When you are in prison you think about those things, about doing the right thing, and making a difference somehow once you get out. You want to redeem the screwed up period of your life when you are sitting in prison like a dumb-ass. And he was able to do that in a big way, that is cool. But the point of him being a recently released felon is really irrelevant to the story in my opinion.

Did you know in the U.S.A. we incarcerate more people than anyplace else on the planet? I don’t often get on a soapbox on this blog. It is what it is, and I accept my time in prison was due to my screw up, plain and simple. But being a felon is becoming a little too common if you ask me. Maybe it’s time for a change in the way we approach things like drug abuse and in the way we treat those who have spent time in prison and are now rebuilding their lives. Just saying. What do you all think? Peace out, till next time ~ Magnum

While I was in prison, the holidays were sad days. I couldn’t help but feel alone and sad and think of my family and friends more than usual. I think it’s safe to say that was something almost all of us in prison dealt with, although some tried to act like they didn’t care. Maybe they didn’t, who knows. We did try to make the best of it. We were given a better meal than usual, with baked chicken and turkey. Baked chicken is one of the few things that prison cooking can’t screw up, since it’s relatively simple and doesn’t require much in the way of seasoning. We also would make our own spread, pooling all of our items from commissary on one of the tables in the common area. Might not sound like it, but a buffet of ramen noodles, tuna fish, peanut butter and crackers can be downright festive if that is all you’ve got. We tried to have some laughs and have a little holiday spirit but I will be honest, it was a stretch. At night, when it was time to go to sleep, my last thoughts of the day were spent imagining the smiling faces of my family and dreaming of a future I wasn’t sure could ever be mine. I never want to be that lonely again.

This year my Christmas was like the exact polar opposite of those darker days. I had my wife and my son, who is 1 month old now, beside me. We took a couple nice drives to look at Christmas lights around town, and we listened to Christmas music quite a bit. Money is tight but we got lucky. We got a Christmas tree from my grandfather which added a lot of Christmas spirit to our place. Then I got a little Christmas bonus at work so we went shopping for ourselves and got a few necessities like some new work clothes for me, and things for my wife and son, and we wrapped them up and put them under the tree. That might sound a little goofy but it was fun.

If you are spending the holidays away from your loved ones, if they are incarcerated or living the life of addiction somewhere, hold on to hope. Things change. People change. What I learned is life is good when you let it be.

Imagine me, a father and husband, celebrating the holidays with my family, surrounded with so much love and happiness. This is the dream I had and now it is true. I have a lot to be thankful for, and a lot to look forward to in 2014. Peace to y’all ~ Texas Magnum

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/09/02/texas-prison-guards-union-to-reportedly-join-inmate-litigation-over-hot-state/

I’ve not been paying attention. Looks like getting the correctional officers behind the push to provide some cooling for Texas prisons might be the final straw to make it happen. Anybody have more updates on this news?

Hello all, I have been very lax in keeping up with the blog. A whole lot of real life got in the way. Just let me take a minute to brag. I am married to the most awesome woman in the world. We got married on 9/11. A funny date for a marriage but that was the same day I had parole, and I had to consolidate everything so I didn’t miss much work, lol. The way I look at it, that is a good and happy thing that occurred on a day remembered for something unhappy and bad. Maybe over time, when enough babies are born on that day, and people get married on that day, and other happy events, we won’t only remember it as bad. So I did my part.

And, guess what — we just had a baby! Yep, I am a father to a big healthy son. He is so cool. Lays there and sleeps a lot now, but he’s GOING to do great things in this world. And if I have anything to do with it, going to TDC won’t be on his list. Nope, none of that for my son. I hope I can be a good father and good husband. I am trying my best. I will admit, it’s harder some days than others. And having a family changes everything. Before if I screwed up I was screwing up myself. Now a lot of other people are going to get affected by it. I got to keep it together.
I am working hard pretty much every day. Construction so bad weather means no work. And I am broke most of the time, lol. But hey, I have a little place of our own, and we get by.

Hope you all are hanging in there. If you are reading this because you have a loved on incarcerated somewhere, don’t ever give up on them. Everybody deserves hope. Some of us have pushed things too far over and over and maybe you feel things will never change. I am proof that things do change. I am not saying I have it all figured out, I don’t for sure. And believe me, I know I got a ways to go. But look how far I have come. Less than two years ago I was locked up for the 4th year in a row during the holidays, between rehabs and prison. Now I am a married man and a father, holding a full time job, and stressing about paying the light bill rather than stressing about where my next high was coming from.

Oh and by the way, for anyone looking for some kinship and advise regarding the incarcerated, I strongly suggest www.prisontalk.com. It’s a very strong forum with lots of good information. For anyone wanting to help or learn more about helping the incarcerated, a great organization is The Human Kindness Foundation. It was founded by Bo and Sita Lozoff. Bo wrote “We’re all Doing Time”, probably one of the most widely read books by inmates ever, and one that brought me great hope and a better understanding of myself and the world. Check it out, you don’t need to be in prison to get a lot out of it. You can buy it on the Human Kindness site at http://humankindness.bigcartel.com/product/we-re-all-doing-time. They send this book for free to inmates all over the world. If you buy a book on their site, it helps their efforts.

I am hoping for all of you out there that you pass the holidays safe and sound with your family and friends. If you have someone incarcerated, keep the faith. Keep the candle burning. Peace out y’all. I will try to be more regular on here, but I do love you all.

Here is a great piece about Johnny Cash and his work for prisoners and prison reform from BBC. Take note of the additional links and info about prison included in the right hand side bar of the article.

We refuse to abandon our loved ones

Posted: 5th December 2012 by Texas Magnum in Uncategorized

Passed on by a friend today:

“We are tired of being made to feel inferior or unwelcome in churches, clubs, organizations or society in general simply because we refuse to abandon our loved ones…………”

We are everywhere–

For those who forget that the incarcerated humans in this country are indeed just that – HUMAN – I would like you to think on this the next time you talk about “inmates, criminals, convicts, etc…”.
These humans have families and those who love them despite whatever they did. Look around you and wonder, because this is who we are….

We take care of your children and grandchildren in nursery schools, we give them shots in the doctor’s office. We are dental assistants, we are school teachers and Sunday school teachers, we stand behind you in the grocery store, we prepare your medicine in the drug store. We work in banks, we approve your loans, we service your insurance claims, we work for newspapers, TV stations and radio stations, we read your electric meters and water meters. We are your landlords, your neighbors, we take care of your elderly parents in nursing homes, we are nurses, lab technicians, X-ray technicians, we own beauty shops, flower shops, printing shops, we are welders, plumbers, tree trimmers. We work for the IRS, the State Dept., in the courthouse, schools, churches, drug stores and toy stores, we are legal secretaries, lawyers, school board members. We are bus drivers, we prepare meals for your kids in school, we are city council members, bank tellers, we process your checking account, your saving account, we work at your Social Security office, your insurance company, we take care of your IRA, stocks, bonds.

We sell your kids bikes, school supplies, clothes, shoes, eyeglasses, we repair your cars, we are real estate agents, car dealers, college professors, psychologists, administrative assistants, safety engineers and ranchers. We work at Ralphs, Albertsons, Trader Joe’s, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, Macy’s, Nordstrom and Saks 5th Avenue. We sell Avon and Tupperware. We are not all “on welfare”, no matter what the government would like you to think.

There are two million people in prison in America and twice that many on parole and probation. Add in mothers, fathers, children, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends and about sixteen million people are personally affected by the prison system in the United States.

We are tired of letting ourselves feel humiliated or embarrassed because our loved one is in prison. WE did nothing wrong, and they are paying for their crime! We are tired of fearing the loss of our jobs or evictions from our housing should anyone find out we have a loved one in prison. We are tired of being made to feel inferior or unwelcome in churches, clubs, organizations or society in general simply because we refuse to abandon our loved ones.

We are ready to unite, to come out of hiding and openly support each other and our loved ones. It’s a new day, America and we’re here to prove it! We are ready to speak out against the “they deserve what they get” attitude we hear you talk about in stores, theaters and restaurants. We number in the millions, we are everywhere, every state, county, city and town. We may even live next door to you. Sixteen million & counting. We are everywhere.

Author Unknown

While I was locked up I spent a lot of time dreaming about being on a river in Central Texas, listening to music, playing my guitar or harmonica, singing, and just having a good ol’ time. I have done just that as often as possible this summer. I want to share a song I really enjoy, by Jason Boland, called Backslider Blues. Fantastic lyrics on this one.

Friends, I have really slacked off when it comes to writing blog posts. I had already known that once I got out, the site was going to need to change it’s direction, because reading about a guy on the outside just plain isn’t as interesting as reading about a guy in prison. And, the truth is, now that I am not locked up 24/7, it’s pretty hard to make myself sit down and write.

Sure, I can tell you about being on parole. Basically, it sucks. But it doesn’t suck as bad as being locked up. Some days I think differently, there are literally some days when the parole process is such a pain in the ass that I think I ought to just go serve out the rest of my time. But just a little rational thinking usually gets me off that train real quick.

The way parole works, as time goes on you see your parole officer less often. Right now I am still on 2 visits a month. One in her office and one at my home. It’s kind of funny, she seems to be scared of dogs, when she comes to my house she literally stays for all of 5 minutes, tops, and she is out of there. My dog isn’t mean, but there is a tip for someone who might have something to hide from their parole officer, get yourself a mean dog. Ha ha, just kidding.

My parole officer seems OK, I don’t feel like she is out to get me, but then again, I don’t feel like she is necessarily real enthused about me either. I am sure I am just another parolee to her. I think that probation and parole officers are underpaid and overworked, generally speaking. I imagine they go into the job thinking they will make a difference and get burned out pretty fast. And, unfortunately, I am sure they see a lot of us just go right through that revolving door, straight back to prison.

What about me, you might ask. How have I been doing? Well, I won’t say it hasn’t been challenging not to fall back into old ways. I have felt good about most of my choices, and overall I am doing good. I ended up getting a new job, it’s in the welding business. I have a girlfriend, which of course I am glad about. I have had some money problems, my vehicle needs a new engine, and my living situation has been sort of up and down. I am trying to just concentrate on keeping one foot in front of the other. Living simple, keeping it real. See? I told you, not near as interesting as reading about someone locked up, fighting to survive every day.

So, what to do about this site? I want to keep it up, it has some good traffic, and people have been so supportive. After some thought and research, I have made some decisions. I found a few guest editors to start posting news we come across about Texas Prisons, the inmates, conditions, jail, probation, parole… the whole correctional institution business. (Because it IS a business, of that there is no doubt.) Some of them are ex-cons, some are family, and some are just some cool folks with something to say.

I am also going to start offering some more resources for the many folks who have family members and loved ones currently incarcerated. Links to other useful sites and information, and links to books and other materials that can be helpful. I am thinking about trying to offer prison stationary items too, but I know that is a whole process to get approved by TDC to be a vendor. I still might try to do it though. So stay tuned, over the next couple of weeks you will see some changes on here. If you like what you see, let me know. And, if you have ideas for the site, it would be great to hear from you.

Thanks, y’all, for all of your support. I apologize for the big gaps in posting. But things are going to get better now. Stay tuned. And stay cool… your friend, Texas Magnum