Friday, March 28, 2014

The Last Stretch

The last stretch is always the hardest. The last stretch is also the most exhiliarating. The last few miles of a long journey, the last sip of your favorite drink, or even the season finale of your favorite show, are all impressionable. One of the most thrilling, stressful and unfair events of a prison sentence is the last stretch, the last few weeks, the last processing that will return you to society.

I was sentenced to over nine-years of confinement beginning in 2006. On the day I was sentenced it only took about 30 minutes to strip me of my clothes and get me dressed in prison garb. I had a bedroll and supplies within an hour. I was assigned to a prison cell in general population within two-hours from the moment my judge delivered my sentence and hit his gavel.

Over my time in federal prison, I've seen the season finale of many men. Some good, some sure to return to prison, and I'll be leaving many more behind. The last stretch of prison is when you think about all your plans. You second guess yourself and you wonder what the next chapter of your life will be like. I've seen guys become reclusive and despondent, while others smiled and became extra talkative.

Two of my closest friends are leaving soon and although the quickness of a persons intake, the process of release is agonizing.

HOW IT WORKS:

Your case manager makes a recommendation for the date you are to be released. You sign two papers as your case manager develops a release package to be routed throughout the prison facility where you are located.

Your release must be approved by Medical Services, your Unit Manager, the Captain, the Associate Warden and the Warden. Once all of these signatures are obtained your package goes back to your case manager who then sends it to the Community Corrections Manager in the area of the country where you will be released (your release address).

The CCM coordinates your release to a halfway house or to home detention. Once this process is complete you're set to leave prison at some date which doesn't have to be that original recommended date. It could be decided you leave prison before or after your recommended date, but once the date is set by the CCM, you are are set to leave.

This entire process aka "the last stretch" takes on average two to three months, versus the two hours for your prison intake. It's like a prisoners is too valuable to let go. It's as if no one cares how anxious you may be to leave when your sentence is complete.

While you wait for your final release date it only gets bearable when prison staff communicate with you on your status. In all other cases, it's like sitting in a pot of hot water as the flame beneath the pot increases slowly. Eventually, you cook internally - especially if you have plans.

I hope this helps.

Please support New Leaf Alliance Foundation online.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

HIV/Aids Compared With a Felony in Society

There is a great article in the October 2013 issue of the "American Journal of Public Health" located at apha.org. The article is titled, "Only Your Calamity," by Joe Wright, MD. This article was extremely informative on so many levels.

You may wonder, why would someone in federal prison be interested in such a professional and upper echelon publication? Well, as the founder of the New Leaf Alliance Foundation, Inc. (NLAF), I find all sorts of information necessary and my thoughts are often provoked by obscure topics. This article is one such piece which sparked my mind to wonder, compare and then develop a link between two very different segments of society.

In "Only Your Calamity," Doctor Wright coins a term called "social-death." Intriguingly social-death is described as an experience of those who find themselves infected with HIV/AIDS. Social-death is when those who know you have HIV/AIDS decide to alienate, shun, distance and separate themselves from you. They no longer invite you over for dinner, go out socially with you, respond to text or email, or celebrate achievements of life with you. As more and more people, friends and family find out you have HIV/AIDS they leave you alone to die a social-death oftentimes long before your physical death.

This social-death period could last for many years and it is truly unnecessary, because we've learned that HIV/AIDS is not a reason to abandon someone. The article goes on to discuss a positive grassroots movement coast to coast, how it began and eventually how it became politicized. This interests me because of the model I'm creating for NLAF, but there is also a connection I want to make, I hope you don't see it as unfair.

People with HIV/AIDS have family who care about them, activist groups who care about them and fellow persons who have HIV/AIDS who walk in brotherhood with them. The social-death pattern is unfortunate and unsettling but it doesn't stop with possessors of HIV/AIDS.

Social-death also affects convicted felons. People living with a felony are victims of social-death, disenfranchisement, travel restrictions, housing restrictions, license restrictions, job restrictions and insurance restrictions in addition to their social non-acceptance.

Like persons with HIV/AIDS having family, fellow infected persons an activist groups on their side; felons have the same groups; family, fellow felons and activist groups. Should both groups suffer the horror of social-death? I hope not. Neither group should suffer in such a school yard bully sort-of-way.

I recently heard the worst way to die is to wake up in a box buried deep underground. A social-death is just like this. No one should die alone who is living outside of a hospital or correctional institution. I hope you agree with me and the need to support my vision and this blog.

Please "like" NLAF on facebook, "follow" NLAF on twitter, and bookmark the NLAF website here.

MDC Brooklyn Visitation Alert

Attention all visitors who are visiting Metropolitan Detention Center Brooklyn, otherwise known as MDC Brooklyn, a federal prison of the Bureau of Prisons. If you are visiting a cadre prisoner on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, here are some disturbing situations and what you can do about them. I've included my suggestions at the end.

Visitors are having numerous issues with visiting room staff. The child playroom is seldom opened for small children to spend time with parents. Staff treats visitors as inmates, and visiting children as criminals.

A 75-year old lady wearing a dress travelled from Boston, Massachusetts to MDC to see her nephew. She road with a family member because she recently had knee surgery on both legs, and the scars clearly visible. Visiting room staff turned her away because she couldn't clear the metal detector, due to the screws placed in her knees during reconstruction. She may not live to see the cadre released from MDC because of her other medical issues.

A child of two-years old is oblivious to the surrounding atmosphere of the prison while visiting her dad. A two-year old has more than a small amount of energy and the staff didn't like her talking loud in the crowded visiting room. Staff also didn't let her and her parents use the children's room, which staff kept locked arbitrarily. Staff restricted the child's visits to one day a month and threatened to deny all future visits of the child. Two children were present and only one was punished - I believe the child was punished far too harshly and unnecessarily.

A family of three comes to MDC to see a cadre prisoner on a Saturday. The family completes the paperwork, clears the metal detector and is escorted into the visiting room. The family sits there for 2 1/2 hours waiting and growing more and more impatient every few minutes. When the cadre arrives in the visiting room, he sits down and 15-minutes later his visit is cancelled due to (supposed) space issues. Staff didn't call the cadre's job to inform him that he had a visit waiting. Staff decided they'd seen his family long enough.

Another frequent visitor waited 45-minutes for a cadre to come downstairs to the visiting room. He finally found out his visitor was at MDC when another cadre returning from visit told him. When the cadre gets down to the visiting room his visitor is arguing with staff about the wait time. The staff member says "You're the stupid bitch for visiting," and the visitor loses her composure. The visitor was barred from visiting MDC all because for 45-minutes staff called the wrong name to visit, being unable to pronounce a six-letter last name of American origin. The cadre subsequently was placed in SHU (Special Housing Unit) for telling the staff member, "Don't talk to her that way."

A young man of 24 years old, comes to MDC to see his uncle whom he had not seen in 10-years. He shows staff his out-of-state identification and is told he can't see his uncle although it's 9am (well within the 8am-3pm visiting hours). The young man is turned away (denied entry) and not informed he can return in 2-hours after the 10am-count is complete.

Two visitors leave MDC within an hour of each other. Two days later, visitor #1 realizes she was given the wrong picture ID. when leaving the MDC visiting room. When this visitor calls MDC to report the mix-up perpetrated by staff, the visitor is told to go to DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and get another license.

A twelve-year old girl wears a bra with an underwire to visit. She can't clear the metal detector with the bra on, and can't visit without wearing a bra. She is forced to sit in the lobby while her family visits with her dad. She cries the entire time.

A woman visits often in hopes of staying connected with her fiance. She wears a black blouse and is turned away. She drives around and finally finds a store. She buys a new shirt that's blue and returns to MDC. She's rejected a second time because the of the shirt. She returns to the store, buys another shirt and returns to MDC. This shirt is a huge sweater but she's finally allowed into MDC to see her cadre fiance. The next day, she returns to MDC wearing the same sweater and the staff turns her away. Supposedly the sweater is the wrong color.

MDC Brooklyn has no oversight. There isn't anyone to take responsibility to oversee and correct unprofessional actions. MDC is one of the busiest facilities in the federal bureau of prisons, however this is not a reason to lose all sight of responsibility. Not everyone who works at MDC Brooklyn is a culprit of egregious, flagrant and malicious activity. There are some other caring and professionals here, but this report is not about the few of them.

MDC Brooklyn has been without a warden for almost three-months and all grievances by cadre prisoners from inside has been obviously used for waste basket target practice. Cadre prisoners have made senior staff aware of the issues but if you are visiting a cadre at MDC Brooklyn, you must express yourself intelligently.

What do I suggest?

1. Visit bop.gov. Locate the facility "MDC Brooklyn" in New York. Look at the staff and you'll see clickable links and fax numbers for the Warden. Email or write and fax your experience to the Warden and NO ONE ELSE AT THE PRISON. Be sure to include your contact information, in case they want to apologize to you.

2. Email your complaint (NLAF) to New Leaf Alliance Foundation, Inc. (here) so they can document your grievance and follow up with other parties, such as the local media.

3. Sign and support the MDC petition by the NLAF located on change.org at http://bit.ly/mdc-change.

4. Send the issue of your complaint out over twitter using the hash tag #MDCBrooklyn and #NLAF.

5. Talk to others about your experience. You will be surprised at the number of visitors you meet outside the building who are having similar issues. The more chatter created, the more chances of change.

Good luck and there is more I'll write about, which may only be available in my upcoming book. Please support NLAF as this is a part of the "True Transparency" project I've started.

Click here for NLAF.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Prepare for Summer and Life, Part 3

My last two articles covered dieting and exercises you may use to begin your quest of getting into better health. I felt these topics were and remain necessary for this blog. My years of study should be able to help anyone willing to spend some time reading and doing. We now will cover "rest" and "flexibility," the last two components of general fitness.

REST:
Rest is not merely abstaining from exercise, it's more than that, and a busy life often diminishes our time to sleep. Sleep is mandatory and we all should get at least seven-hours of sleep per night. Continuous sleep is preferred so your body may perform all its functions such as refreshing your brain, calming your heart and repairing torn and injured muscles.

I've learned to stop drinking water at least three-hours before I go to bed. Contrary to some beliefs our bodies can digest 8-10 ounces of "cold" water every 20 minutes. Waking from a sound sleep to use the bathroom isn't tremendously harmful, however it is disconnected your body from a needed function. If you are unable to sleep throughout the night this is possibly a sign of something else.

Just as you tune-up your vehicle, re-charge your cellular phone and take care of your pets, you must also take care of your body with this important step called "rest."

FLEXIBILITY:
Flexibility is the most overlooked and forgotten aspect of general fitness. Flexibility is necessary for total body health. Blood circulation, equilibrium, functional range of motion and stress levels are all believed to be dependent on flexibility.

Vehicles with worn and stiff timing belts always render a car unusable because the belt breaks. Some items are good when stiff and unmovable, but your body isn't. A stiff body with inadequate movement due to lack of flexibility is prone to health issues. I hate seeing body builders who can't touch their navels or put their shoulders down. Those people who are unable to bend at the waist and touch their toes prove flexibility is often overlooked.

To increase your flexibility I recommend you get involved with Yoga. In prison, I was a part of Sidha Yoga Meditation for over four-years. I loved the poses/positions and often went to sleep during the meditation period. I'm just being honest. Anyway, I guess I was able to push flexibility and get rest at the same time.

I'm a firm believer in all ages participating in yoga classes or private yoga instruction with a video in private.

As I close this segment of getting into "beach-body" shape, I want to encourage you to get started. Don't procrastinate because waiting to get started only affects you. My hope is you will get started on the road to general fitness and you will stay at it. Nothing happens overnight, and if you do get started, tell your doctor on your next visit.

These plans are for educational use and not to be considered as the law of your body. You eventually will look like the best of "you." Good luck!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Prepare for Summer and Life, Part 2

When I began writing this topic of preparing you for the summer season and life, the idea was to give you some basic information to help you along the way. After writing about dieting, the article length depicted the need for multiple articles on the subject. Welcome back and here are my exercise suggestions for getting into "prison shape" without going to prison.

EXERCISING
Getting into better physical shape is the product of consistency. Very few people are genetically endowed with an "action figure" body. There are three types of metabolism and in plain language, they are, 1. hard weight gainers, 2, easy weight gainers and 3. those in-between.

The core movements in exercise are push, pull, squat and core stability. I believe it is extremely beneficial to your body to choose the days you workout, and leave days for rest (no exercising). I workout five-days a week (Sunday through Thursday) and I rest my body for two-days (Friday and Saturday).

While having access to free weights, I was stuck at trying to achieve a clean bench press of 315 pounds. My friend who is a body builder showed and proved to me legs development are the foundation of any exercise regiment. Increase the capabilities of your legs and the rest of your body responds in kind. For this reason, my legs are worked out hard on my first day back to exercising, after my two-days off.

Contrary to old thought methods, you should not stretch cold muscles. I like to begin each day's exercise with 100 jumping jacks. This is just the warm-up and followed by stretching the body part I will exercise that day. All stretches are held for 12-15 seconds for at least two-sets.

Here is a simple "get into shape" exercise plan. The numbers with an asterisk are up to you. Just do the same amount for each set. Be sure to warm-up and stretch. Work alone or with a partner, whatever you prefer.

Sunday (Legs)
4 sets of 15 "deep squats" (also known as cake development for women).
4 sets of 10 "lunges" (per leg)
3 sets of 15 "calf raises"
3 sets of 10 "leg-curls"

Monday (Chest and Abs)
8 sets of 10 "push-ups"
5 sets of 20 "crunches"
5 sets of 15 "leg lifts"
3 sets of 1-minute "planks" (left side, flat, right side)

Tuesday (Back and Arms)
10 sets of 6 "pull-ups" (overhand grip)
5 sets of 4 "chin-up" (underhand grip)
6 sets of 5 "good mornings" (holding a weight to your chest)
4 sets of 6 "arm curls" (any weight you can do comfortably)

Wednesday (Shoulders and Abs)
5 sets of 8 "dive-under pushups"
5 sets of 6 "wide pull-ups"
5 sets of 12 "upright rows" (light weight for beginners)
3 sets of 1-minute "planks" (left side, flat, right side)

Thursday (Cardio)
Jump rope to music (3 songs, rest, 2 songs, rest, 1 song)

Be sure to eat after your workout at least 300 calories. I hear there are some really good shakes and smoothies you can get in most gyms and that you can make at home.

It's never too late to get started in getting into better shape. This simple routine can be tweaked in many ways, but if you stay consistent, you will see progressive development. I know this for sure. I came into prison 172-pounds and now I'm 212-pounds of consistency.

To be continued ....

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Prepare for Summer and Life

It has occurred to me that prisoners are some of the best students of getting in great physical shape. I'm one of them. In addition to being a former U.S. Marine, in prison I've studied NFPT Professional Training, NFPT Endurance and NFPT Nutrition manuals. As I look around the prison dorm there are guys studying exercise books, and reading magazines like Mens Health and Mens Fitness; others are reading Navy Seal workout book and the financially capable are counting every calorie of their meals. Most prisoners are fit or picking up the fitness bug.

In this blog I wan tot help you get prepared for summer by getting fit and into better health. With a busy schedule, juggling all your affairs of work, school, kids, relationships and more, how do you get into shape?

There are four keys to general fitness: diet, exercise, rest and flexibility.

You need all four of these to be in good shape. Here at MDC Brooklyn I workout alone or at times with a partner for no more than 45-minutes. Cadre prisoners don't have access to weights but we do have a pull-up bar and mats. We also have an elliptical machine but I don't use it. Here is my plan with the available tools to include a jump rope and plastic aerobic step. I pray this is DoctorOz.com approved.

DIET
Food limitations in prison are many, so I encourage you to follow this simple non-prison plan. Find out how many daily calories your body needs by using the "Harris Benedict" formula (search here). Break your food into a five-meal per day schedule by eating small meals at 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm, and 8pm . This speeds your metabolism. After 4pm, I suggest no heavy carbohydrate foods because your body stores any food you don't use through activity. Stored food is fat (adipose tissue).

A key to remember is your body need and wants food (calories). Eskimos are some of the leanest people on earth and they ingest a mostly fast based diet. This diet consisting of whale blubber would be what most people believe is unhealthy. Under normal conditions this would be bad for you but your body uses any and all food ingested to get its needed calories.

Eat more calories than your body needs and you gain weight, while eating less calories than your body requires will allow you to lose weight. The complexity of our bodies gives us a very smart machine which uses food proportionately. Eskimos who have only fat to eat will be lean because of how their body uses the calories (3500 calories = 1 pound).

Getting in shape requires you to pay attention to what you eat, even if you exercise three-hours a day. Use the Harris Benedict formula to figure out what your body needs. I bet it's not 2000 calories.

In all practicality a "diet system" can be considered "everything you put into your body." These are my studious suggestions.

Keys to "my daily diet" are:
1. Drink one-gallon of water daily (32oz every 3 hours).
2. No smoking and very little alcohol (if any).
3. No trans fat food.
4. Bran at least twice a day.
5. Vitamins daily (multi-Vitamins, Vitamin E&D, Vitamin B and     Vitamin C).
6. Eat green vegetables (Kale, Collard Greens, Broccoli, etc.)
7. Minimal salt usage
8. No junk food (sugar based, primary ingredient)
9. Eat fruit daily
10. Bathe daily.

To be continued ...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Foolish Comment

Welcome to my blog where I try to touch on various aspects of thought while I sit in federal prison. I write for my own therapy and to provide insight into the prison system. A very foolish comment I've heard recently came from a haughty prison guard.

I had a prison staff member ask me how long I've been in prison and I responded, "Over seven-years." This same staff member made a snide comment of "Oh, that's nothing compared to the 20-years I have working here." Let me explain why this is a foolish comment.

Prison staff should never compare themselves to a prisoner, especially how it relates to a prisoners time inside the system. Prisoners have feelings, emotions and their own smart comebacks. A prisoner doesn't complete an application to live inside the system, although pre-incarceration actions may seem that way. In other words, prisoners don't volunteer to come here.

Staff can leave a secure prison facility at any time. Prisoners are confined and cannot leave unless given permission or declared by a judge to be released. These are all obvious issues but because I'm analytical here is something you may not have considered.

The typical prison staff member works eight hours a day for five days. Some work ten hours a day for four days. In all, each type of staff member will work inside the prison facility or within the prison compound for 40-hours a week. The staff member who decided to compare his years of work to my years of incarceration did not bother to think. For every 40-hours a week a staff member works, I live here for 168-hours. Therefore, it will take a staff member four-years to equal one-year of incarceration time. You do the math and it will prove my point.

If a staff member is foolish enough to compare years with a prisoner, what else are prison staff foolish enough to do? What else are they foolish enough to think?

I assure you when true transparency is provided to the public all foolish, redundant, financially abusive and fraudulent activity which wastes taxpayer money to the tune of $74 billion a year will be exposed. Where there is smoke, there is fire, and when there are foolish comments there is a lack of common sense and abuses is prevalent. More to come at NLAF.