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I believe JGH May Have Posted a Part of This Report in an earlier thread,
But I have compiled the entire four-part series (and 4 associated features) by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

I didn't find it overtly liberal, or pro-con, but it does have a
"Rehabilitative" as opposed to disciplinary ring to it..
I would have appreciated a few editorial liberties taken that focused on personal responsibility & paying your debt. to society,
but after all, this is still Massachusetts…

Hopefully you will find it as interesting as I did...
Stay Safe Boys….
Cheers, Bobby K.

[hr:9c8597b4eb]
BEHIND BARS
PART ONE OF FOUR
LIVING THE LIFE INSIDE - A window to reform
Mar 20, 2005


A window to reform
Rehabilitation, recovery considered key changes

By Jason Feifer TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

Brian S. Cronin is out on the Worcester streets now, finishing what he
started in prison. That is, he's trying to finally get his tractor-trailer
license.

Life has been a steady tumble for him, from an injury at age 17 that led
to a painkiller addiction to the way that was transformed into an
allegiance to heroin. Soon he was caught breaking and entering in the
nighttime, something he did to feed his habit, and was thrown in prison
for almost a decade.

His bad luck continued on the inside. After he began his sentence in March
1995, he took tractor-trailer classes to prepare him for a job upon
release. Then along came the state's "tough-on-crime" attitude. Prison
became tougher. Programs were swept aside, and with them went his
tractor-trailer class.

He did find other programs available, and received his GED. But those
efforts, he said, hardly filled the days.

"Prison is a warehouse. Basically, that's all it is today," said Mr.
Cronin, now 36. "You sit there and do nothing."

Mr. Cronin was released in December 2004, and has since attended regular
counseling and is looking for a job. He dreams of owning a truck, or
perhaps a trucking business, so he plans to finish what he never could in
prison. He wants that license.

"As long as I stay off the sauce or the drugs, I have a very good chance,"
he said. "A very good chance."

And he may. But the odds are against him.

Prison, people often say, is a revolving door. Almost all inmates are
eventually released, but often with no supervision, and they can quickly
stumble back to their former habits. They see old friends and are tempted
by old addictions. They fail at finding jobs, often end up homeless and
finally turn to what's comfortable - crime, drugs, a life on the fringes.

The numbers tell the story: Forty percent of inmates released in 1998 were
reincarcerated within three years, half of them within the first year
after their release, and even more than that were arrested, according to
the latest Massachusetts Department of Correction report.

It is a problem that has persisted for decades and through numerous prison
philosophies, from eras of looser inmate restrictions to years of
hard-nosed lock-down policies. It is a problem across the country, with
recidivism rates nationally similar to those in Massachusetts.

It is all too easy to slip back into crime, repeat offenders say. Anthony
S., a 35-year-old Worcester resident with a long history of drug addiction
and incarceration, who asked that his last name not be used, said the
explanation for his failure at re-entry, and the failure of others like
him, is simple: "The hole's so deep that I dug that it's easier to go down
than go up."

A decade ago, the state's solution was to be "tough on crime." Inmates
were given longer sentences, and programs that were perceived as frills
were discouraged. This was supposed to make prison a real deterrent to
crime.

Today, many are saying that these policies have led to the reduction and,
in some cases, destruction of valuable rehabilitation programs such as Mr.
Cronin's tractor-trailer vocational training.

For years, critics of tighter prisoner restrictions argued that when the
focus was placed heavily on keeping criminals out of society, the
department ceased to help place them back in. And because most inmates
will eventually return to the streets - frequently without supervision -
they say it's in everyone's best interests to make sure they do it
successfully.

But change, at least in Department of Correction policies, is afoot. The
department says it is moving slowly toward a new philosophy of prisoner
rehabilitation, one in which support is individualized and carefully
planned. Officials say they recognize that the system is releasing inmates
who are ill-prepared to face the outside world. To correct that, the
Department of Correction is preparing to offer more programs and better
case management.

Instead of talking tough, Department of Correction officials are talking
about being "smart on crime," a philosophy that aims to reduce crime by
changing criminals and not simply storing them. It is, according to the
department's newly rewritten mission, an approach that focuses on re-entry
into society from the moment an inmate enters the prison system.

"In my humble opinion, no, it doesn't work," Marcel F. Beausoleil,
assistant professor of criminal justice at Anna Maria College, said of the
"tough on crime" mentality. "I'm not saying some people should not be
locked up. Some people should be. What's happened in prison is there's not
enough being done to rehabilitate people, to make them productive members
of society."

But the new focus does not sit well with those who still support tougher
treatment, including many correction officers and their union.

One former correction officer, who asked that his name not be used, said
most prisoners only use rehabilitation programs to boost their chances of
getting out early. If the programs manage to help a few inmates stay out
of prison, he said, it still isn't worth the risk of believing that
they're rehabilitated and releasing them.

"Oh, sure, we have five people out of 1,000 that may not come back to
prison," he said. "But to me, those five people have to lose."

But many Department of Correction officials take a different view.

"I firmly believe this is the way to go," said Steven O'Brien,
superintendent of North Central Correctional Institution in Gardner, who
has worked in the system for 22 years and through numerous philosophies.
"We're targeting what we need to target; we're looking at those risk
factors. That's critical."

The department proposes to evaluate individual inmates by the difficulties
they would face upon re-entry, and then work to overcome them. That will
mean something different for each inmate, although many share the same
troubles, such as lack of anger management skills, no marketable skills or
proper education and mental health problems.

The goal is to draft a rehabilitation plan for each person that will map
out which programs will be valuable and when to get them. Programs would
be offered in an appropriate order. For example, a literacy program would
come before a substance abuse group if the inmate has an addiction but
cannot read group homework. Vocational programs would be offered toward
the end of a sentence, so that newly learned skills are still fresh upon
an inmate's release.

The programs themselves will be scrutinized like never before, with a
focus on participants' success at rehabilitation and re-entry, according
to Veronica Madden, associate commissioner for re-entry and reintegration.
That means not offering programs that simply keep inmates busy, but ones
that have a proven track record, in this state or others, to really help
inmates succeed.

She said that in the past, the department did not pay as much attention to
program research as it should have.

"We're looking at a broad spectrum of how to really intensify re-entry
into day-to-day operations," Mrs. Madden said. In fact, her job is a part
of that process: It was created last year to coordinate the department's
re-entry and rehabilitation efforts.

In researching programs, the department plans to re-evaluate the programs
it offers now. A report on its Correctional Recovery Academy, a
rehabilitation program touted by many Department of Correction officials
and available at eight prisons, will be released soon. Mrs. Madden said
the results are looking good.

While the proposed changes have not fully taken form, the department has
already changed the way it helps inmates after they've been released by
developing eight regional re-entry centers around the state. The centers,
a collaboration with the Parole Board, connect willing former inmates to
community resources that can help them through the difficulties of
establishing a new life.

There is a hunger for programs inside prison, according to former inmates,
although for different reasons. Some prisoners take them just to increase
their chances of parole or of being moved to a lower security facility;
others are more sincere in trying to change their lives. Either way,
inmates said, the programs are beneficial, as they make days more
productive and provide opportunities for change.

Indeed, the programs currently available are in high demand, and Mrs.
Madden confirmed former inmates' complaints that there are too many
waiting lists. In fact, according to a recent report, the Correctional
Recovery Academy has a waiting list of more than 500 inmates.

And to truly rebuild, the department has to begin filling a hole just
recently dug.

The Division of Inmate Training and Education budget was cut from $5.33
million in 2001 to $3.72 million in 2004, eliminating 36 full-time
teachers and numerous vocational programs, according to a study released
last month by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The
division recently hired 10 new teachers, and Commissioner Kathleen M.
Dennehy said she hopes to hire more in the future.

Implementing the plan will be slow, in part because proper funding must be
found for all its proposals, Mrs. Madden said. In fact, she said, the
Department of Correction does not even have a concrete vision of what the
ultimate goal will look like, because it is still waiting to conclude
research on which program models are successful.

Meanwhile, prisoners inside are not getting the help they need, former
inmates and prisoner advocates say.

Jeff G., a Worcester man who spent six years in prison but has been out
since 1998, who asked that his full name not be used, said he can clearly
remember the day that the "tough on crime" policy hit him. He was halfway
to an associate's degree when the program was cut, leaving him with more
time to be depressed and agitated.

"I feel bad for those individuals nowadays, because they have nothing to
look forward to," he said. "The programs are important. Without them,
these kids have no hope."

BEHIND BARS
PART TWO OF FOUR
LIVING THE LIFE INSIDE - Coping Inside
Mar 21, 2005


Coping inside Inmates try & hunt for ways to break stress
By Shaun Sutner TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
[email protected]

WEST BOYLSTON- It starts with the banging.

The 100-plus prisoners in H Building, a medium-security block of 60 cells
surrounding a large open day room at the Worcester County Jail and House
of Correction, are locked down, two to a cell, in their 8-by-10-foot
cubicles, for a 15-minute head count after a disturbance in another unit.

As the clock ticks toward the moment when they will be released into the
relatively free space of the day room, the inmates start to pound on their
cell doors.

In a minute, a cascade of catcalls, mild obscenities and jokes builds. The
poor acoustics of the modular building - built in 1990 as temporary
quarters for 60 prisoners - soon has the sound bouncing off the walls. The
racket quickly gains volume.

Finally a correction officer in a glass-walled control room above the
second tier pushes a button. All the cell doors slide open at once. The
rumble suddenly turns into an echoing cacophony of shouting and hooting as
the inmates flood into the bright day room with its soft chairs, card
tables, telephones and a communal television set.

"Listen to that. That's a big part of the stress in this place," said
prisoner Gerard L. Garry Jr., 42, of Spencer, a plasterer on the outside
who is just starting the fifth month of a one-year sentence for assaulting
his longtime live-in girlfriend. "It's far from a joke in here. This is
not any kind of life you can be proud of."

Another prisoner, Patrick Johnson, 24, of Clinton, passes the time by
volunteering as a "worker." In exchange for unpaid labor - sweeping up
around the two-story unit - he and other workers curry favor from the
guards and roam more freely around the modular campus, which contains four
housing blocks, fields, a gym and a cafeteria.

"It gets me out of my cell so I don't have to look at the back of my
door," said Mr. Johnson, who is in for a year for a variety of offenses
including larceny, burglary and assault and battery.

When in his cell, Mr. Johnson, like most prisoners, usually stays glued to
his clear plastic-enclosed TV (designed to prevent prisoners from hiding
weapons inside the sets). He loves watching popular crime shows such as
"CSI" which, he quips, help him learn more about crime.

"That way if I do anything, I know not to do anything," jokes the inmate,
a former furniture mover.

These two inmates and other residents of H Building spoke with a reporter
who recently spent several hours inside the House of Correction. The
conversations took place in their cells and in the day room, sometimes
with the one uniformed correction officer assigned to the block looking on
and sometimes in private.

As the prisoners tell it, life in medium security at the county's only
jail and house of correction isn't easy, although for some it is a fairly
tolerable way to detox from drugs or alcohol and to get three hot meals a
day for free.

Many of the institution's 1,300 inmates and prisoners awaiting trial are
fatalistic about what they see as a bleak future after incarceration that
will likely have them quickly back in jail or in a state-run prison.

While some say they would welcome the post-release supervision and
assistance that generally comes with an early release, just as many would
rather serve full sentences and get no supervision or monitoring.

Luis E. Ortolaza, originally from Boston's Dorchester section, was
arrested after assaulting his girlfriend in Hopedale. He is serving out
the last nine months of an 18-month sentence.

The former auto mechanic said he was addicted to heroin when he arrived at
the jail and fears he will return to drugs because he has no choice but to
go back to his sister's small apartment in a Dorchester public housing
project.

"I'm going to go right back to my old neighborhood," he said.

The maximum-security wings on the other side of the jajil grounds are an
altogether harsher environment. There, detainees charged but not yet tried
for serious crimes such as murder, rape and arson huddle in single-bunk
cells along a dimly lit hallway, under the round-the-clock supervision.

In H Building, the noise of the cramped space is only one of the pressures
in a structure that prisoners and jail managers agree is horribly
overcrowded.

Like prisoners everywhere, those here complain about the institutional
food. In a confined space that breeds suspicion and paranoia, some think
kitchen workers are poisoning their meals, even though the chow hall
features a "blind" feeding line in which servers can't see who they are
serving.

Jail employees scoff at the prisoners' attitudes about the food.

Giovani Brignola, a civilian cook and kitchen manager, invites a visitor
to taste a plate of Italian meatballs and pasta, with gumbo soup and
garlic bread on the side - the same fare served to prisoners and their
overseers. It was typical cafeteria food."They've got it made," Mr.
Brignola said, beaming.

"As far as the food, there's better food here than when I was in college
at UMass-Amherst," said Sheriff Guy W. Glodis, who runs the jail and house
of correction. "This isn't the Marriott Long Wharf (hotel). If they don't
like the food, my advice is stay out of jail."

And while many prisoners say they get along fine with the guards, others
complain that officers instigate fights among them and set them up to be
shipped to the dreaded lockdown building. Some inmates say they fear a
coming crackdown by the new sheriff, who has vowed to limit privileges and
has already ordered a lockdown after the recent deaths of two prisoners.

Officials maintain that guards act professionally and won't risk
disciplinary action, or their jobs, by meddling with prisoners.

In many ways, the guards who stand watch, unarmed, all day long share a
culture with the inmates. And with more than half of all prisoners
returning to jail after their release, the guards have come to know many
of them over the years.

"I've been doing time with these guys," said Capt. James Trainor, an
18-year veteran of the house of correction. "The guys who come here all
the time give us the least problems."

J Block is the place that the medium-security convicts fear most. It is a
segregation unit for aggressive prisoners with disciplinary problems and
for those who need protection from other inmates. Prisoners here spend 23
hours a day locked in their cells.

The unit recently had the kind of extreme violence rarely far from the
surface of life behind bars.

On Feb. 3, prisoner Dennis Hadley of Rhode Island allegedly kicked his
roommate, Daniel McMullen of Douglas, repeatedly in the face and torso -
hard enough to rupture his spleen. Mr. McMullen died in a hospital 20 days
later.

A week later, another inmate died of a heroin overdose in a fatal example
of the widespread availability of contraband in jail.

Sheriff Glodis, who took over the jail and house of correction three
months ago after winning last fall's election, is now under added pressure
to enact reforms promised during his campaign.

In the wake of the overdose death, he has ended physical contact during
prisoner visits with family members and friends and is now pledging to
limit television time, canteen visits, sessions in the weight room, and
telephone hours by tying these popular privileges to participation in
alcohol and drug-abuse prevention programs.

At the same time, he plans to make more drug and alcohol treatment and
education programs available, set up a halfway house on the grounds and
expand the ankle-bracelet house arrest program to free up more beds at the
jail and house of correction.

"If you're taking steps to get a GED or be a worker or go to rehab, then
you ought to get privileges," the sheriff said. "Jail should be more than
just incarceration."

Contact Shaun Sutner by e-mail at [email protected]

BEHIND BARS
PART THREE OF FOUR
LIVING THE LIFE INSIDE - THE INMATE MENTALITY (Rehabilitation, recovery considered key changes)
Mar 22, 2005


THE INMATE MENTALITY
"System" hard to shake

By Jason Feifer TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

Anthony S. says he learned something quickly in prison: He could get beat
up, or he could start beating people up.

It's an instinct that helped him get through four sentences, the latest of
which was five years and ended a few months ago. Behind bars, the
35-year-old former drug dealer said, the rules are different. Aggression
is traded like handshakes. The rules of social engagement are incompatible
with the rest of the world.

It's not that he learned how to be violent in prison. While growing up, he
had no real family support and learned his morals on the streets. When he
went to prison, those ideas were just reinforced. At an age when other
people were learning how to be responsible, he was learning to survive.

Now, as he works hard to stay off drugs on the outside, he's fighting
against the instincts he learned inside.

"If I start doing the right thing, it feels wrong to me," said Anthony,
who did not want his last name printed in part because he is looking for a
job.

Some people call it being "institutionalized" or "systemized" - falling
into habits that work in prison, but not in the real world. It takes many
forms, embedded in the most innocuous behaviors, and former inmates and
their advocates say it adds to the struggle of inmates trying to make it
on the outside.

Of all the problems facing inmates, this seems one of the most
unavoidable. It is the nature of the beast - when criminals are housed
together for long periods of time, the rules of their insulated society
will differ from those outside.

"It's something they're going to carry with them the rest of their life,"
said John L. Flaherty, a parole officer based in Worcester. "It's their
baggage. It haunts them."

Some become more aggressive. Others become too used to simple decisions
being made for them by the prison system, such as what to eat and when to
go to bed, and cannot make those decisions on their own.

Edgar J. Bowser III, serving a life sentence for the 1975 murder of a
Shrewsbury police officer, described it as a "learned helplessness." It is
something he has consciously avoided falling into, he said, both with
small daily decisions and through sweeping personal changes. He has earned
three college degrees from the inside.

But the small gestures are important, he said as he sat in a room at
MCI-Norfolk. Prisons run on a strict schedule, telling inmates when to do
just about everything, so there is not much room for individual choices.
Still, Mr. Bowser said there are small decisions that can be made, little
tokens of responsibility.

An inmate must wake up at a designated time, but he can choose to lie in
bed or be productive. Before routine inmate counts, an inmate can choose
to be at the designated place on time, so he's not responding to a
correctional officer's whistle "like Pavlov's dog," he said.

These are the ways he's fought the learned helplessness. It's his
preparation for the real world, he said, should he ever get parole. He's
been rejected numerous times, but said he will keep trying.

"If you can't be responsible here, how can you be responsible in the
community?" he said.

But still, the habits learned inside can be hard to shake.

One former inmate, a 30-year-old man who asked that his name not be used,
said he remembers being told by another inmate that it takes 10 years to
emotionally recover from prison. The former inmate had become more
aggressive while inside, but believed he could change instantly once
released.

He was wrong. He's been out for years now, and has to suppress his
aggression every single day, he said.

The social system outside of prison is completely different, he said, and
he's still trying to acclimate to it. Inside, he said, respect is a
commodity and often must be physically defended. Outside, respect is more
malleable and often based on wealth. Still, his gut instinct is to lash
out at people he believes disrespect him in small ways.

At Dismas House, transitional housing for former inmates in Worcester,
those hurdles are routine. Colleen A. Hilferty, co-executive director,
said one recurring problem is that house residents fail to tell a staff
member if a resident with a drug addiction relapses.

If residents told staff, the struggling resident could receive immediate
help. But instead, she said, former inmates have been trained not to
snitch, and they cannot shake those rules outside of prison.

"In a caring community, you see a problem with someone and you tell
someone," Ms. Hilferty said.

In the 19th century, some prisons tried eliminating this problem by
keeping prisoners silent and isolated from one another, according to
Marcel F. Beausoleil, assistant professor of criminal justice at Anna
Maria College. But there was a problem with that as well: It drove many of
them insane.

"Too long a period without human contact is not a good thing, either," he
said.

So instead, according to Mr. Flaherty, systemized behavior is something
prisoners should address in counseling after their release. While inside,
he said, becoming systemized is a coping mechanism. It's a different world
in there.

BEHIND BARS
PART FOUR OF FOUR
LIVING THE LIFE INSIDE - AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
Mar 23, 2005


Re-entry; Ready or Not
After Release, a New Struggle Begins.

By Jason Feifer TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

In his last moments before freedom, after 11 years and one month in state
prison, James P. Johnson walked through downtown Worcester in handcuffs
and chains.

He was a spectacle, and people stared. Here was this well-built man,
dressed in a well-worn sweatshirt and jeans, bearing a striking
resemblance to boxer Marvin Hagler. And yet a mess of chains contained
him, preventing him from offering anything more than a limp handshake at
waist level. The symbolism was clear: This is a criminal. A problem for
society. A violent man convicted of manslaughter, chained for your
protection.

But Mr. Johnson, 40, said he didn't mind. Let people look. This is the
last time they'd see him this way.

"Call me Joe Citizen," he said a few minutes later, after the chains were
removed. "I'm done."

He was being taken to a regional re-entry center, whose staff expected a
different kind of man. Mr. Johnson has a long criminal history - the last
strike was shooting a man to death in Worcester in 1994 - and he had been
known to refuse rehabilitation programs. They thought he would be like
some other ex-cons they've seen, the ones who say, "Where's the nearest
liquor store?"

But on that sunny day Feb. 25, a different Mr. Johnson walked in.

He was smiling, friendly, receptive to help. He had severed ties with all
of his old friends, he said. He was eager to work, and declared that no
job was beneath him. It was going to snow soon after his release, and he
liked that. It would keep him indoors, slow him down. Joe Citizen. Joe
Citizen.

After Mr. Johnson had been at the re-entry center half an hour, Michael
Bird, a parole officer there, said he thought the ex-con was sincere.
Scared, even. There's a window of opportunity here, he said, and Mr.
Johnson needs to take it. He had let go of his anger, but he needed to
brace himself for the frustration.

Life after prison can be one hurdle after another, prisoner advocates say,
and there may not be enough resources outside the big house to help
everyone who needs it.

Prisoners have problems that complicate a successful re-entry. They are
largely uneducated, have poor work histories and suffer from mental or
physical health problems. Forty-seven percent of inmates do not have a
high school diploma or GED when they begin their sentences, and one in
five has an open mental health case. The majority have a history of
substance abuse, according to recent reports.

Life on the outside is a shock. In interviews, former inmates describe
stumbling over the smallest details of lawful life, from getting proper
identification to figuring out how to navigate public transportation. In
prison, they may have been given medication for physical or mental
problems, but on the outside they must learn how to get those medications
themselves.

And they must overcome a stigma that will follow them everywhere.

"It's not like, as ex-cons we're looking for sympathy. We're looking for
the ways and means to do this ourselves," said Al, 42, who spent 11 years
in prison and asked that his last name not be used. "You're definitely at
the starting line, there's no question about that."

Critics have accused the Department of Correction of not doing enough to
rehabilitate inmates while inside, but post-release problems are often
beyond the department's control. Former inmates have trouble finding
housing and jobs, fail to avoid situations that lead them back into
trouble, and often cannot find enough help to stay on a straight path.

And yet, keeping these people out of jail is clearly in the state's best
interest. For every 1 percent of recidivism eliminated, the state would
save $1 million, according to Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey. That money, officials
have said, could be used on programs to reduce recidivism even further.

Regional re-entry centers such as the one where Mr. Johnson was taken have
been the Department of Correction's latest attempt to ease the problem.

The centers, jointly run by the Department of Correction and the Parole
Board, serve as a clearinghouse for post-release programs. Since November,
every released inmate has been taken directly to one of eight re-entry
centers across the state and offered connections to resources such as
housing and counseling. Each person is issued a Mass Health card - also a
new offering - connected with a local medical facility.

The center also serves a public safety function by gathering information
about the released inmate and providing it to police departments.

Inmates cannot be forced to take advantage of the programs, but are
encouraged to. So far, most have. From the start of the program to the end
of 2004, out of 175 inmates released from prison, 116 agreed to return to
the center for services. By February at the Worcester re-entry center, 22
out of 36 had.

But center staff acknowledged that, while they can offer direction, there
is not always enough actual help available.

"We don't consider this the panacea, the problem-solver of prison
re-entry," said Parole Board Chairman Maureen E. Walsh. "It's not rocket
science. It's a rational and reasonable approach to addressing some of
their basic needs."

The largest risk for an inmate is in the first 72 hours after release, she
said, so while there may be no silver bullet, it is valuable to at least
have the center available. Released inmates can drop in any time for
guidance or just to use the phone.

One 47-year-old woman who recently served a year in prison said many
inmates desperately need help after release. Sure, she said, some will
refuse it, but many inmates want to turn their lives around and cannot
figure out how.

She said she met repeat offenders in prison, and "a lot of it was due to
hopelessness. … They wanted to change, but didn't know how to go about it.
When they tried, they hit roadblocks, so they go back to what they know
best. It's comfortable."

The woman is one of a lucky few. She is a resident of Dismas House of
Central Massachusetts, a transitional housing center for former inmates in
Worcester. It provides a blessing, its residents said, by offering a
buffer to the outside world while they acclimate.

But they're blessed for another reason as well: Getting inside is a
miracle. The organization receives 1,000 applications a year, while on
average 35 beds at Dismas House will open in a year's time.

"It's easier to get into an Ivy League college than Dismas House, which is
a shame," said Colleen A. Hilferty, co-executive director.

Even regular housing is hard to find, according to Mr. Bird, the parole
officer in the re-entry center. Inmates often do not have stable families
to come home to, and they may find trouble if they go to live with old
friends. With only the $75 every inmate is given at release and any small
wages from prison jobs, former inmates typically cannot pay for an
apartment or even a motel room.

If they can find transitional housing, they'll take it. Many end up
homeless and desperate.

Mr. Bird said that with help, such challenges can be overcome. The
re-entry center in Worcester has found housing for all former inmates who
needed it, although it hasn't always been easy.

"Let's not give up on it," Mr. Bird said. "Let's not throw our hands up
and say, 'There's no housing.' "

But steady housing comes with its own dangers. Some former inmates have
families or friends willing to take them in, but that means they'll be
moving back to their old neighborhoods - and often surrounding themselves
with the people and bad influences that led to their incarceration.

That's something Jose M. Henriquez, 26, expects to struggle with
constantly. He was released from Concord State Prison last week, after
serving about five years for cocaine distribution, and is now living with
a cousin.

He has a strong family support system, he said, and knows he's lucky.
However, by moving back to where he grew up in Worcester, he's attracted
ample temptation. People have been inviting him to countless parties, he
said, or to run around and hang out the way he once did.

He'll have to be strong, he said. He can't go. If he slips up, he's just
inviting another prison sentence.

"My intentions that I have implanted in my mind, I always tell myself,
'Jose, go out, do the right thing, man, because if you don't, who knows.
You might not even make it home no more,' " he said.

It is also extremely difficult for former inmates to find steady,
well-paying jobs, because employers often are hesitant to hire anybody
with a criminal history. More companies do background checks and drug
checks on job applicants, and they frequently dismiss someone with a
criminal background regardless of the crime, according to Donald H.
Anderson, director of the Workforce Central career center.

The center in Worcester is one of 32 one-stop career centers in the state
to provide job seekers with everything from training to resume writing to
interview skills workshops. The center takes clients referred from the
regional re-entry center.

Finding a job for a former inmate is a struggle but not impossible, Mr.
Anderson said. He advises people with criminal backgrounds to be upfront
with employers, and to display that they not only have the skills for the
job but are emotionally ready as well.

Still, he said, they have to be prepared for failure, and must consider
job-seeking a full-time job.

Studies show that former inmates will hit many dead ends. Having a prison
record cuts a black man's chances of getting a call back from an employer
by two thirds, and cuts a white man's chances by half, according to a
study published in the American Journal of Sociology in 2003.

Former inmates who owe child support face added pressure to find a job and
a way to afford housing. If on parole, they are expected to find work in a
certain amount of time, which adds to the scramble.

"They're fried. It's very hard to find something more than a low-wage
job," Mr. Anderson said. "It's a real challenge not to go back, either
underground or to the illegal economy."

The state has stepped up efforts to make hiring ex-convicts more palatable
by promoting financial incentives, according to Mr. Anderson. There has
long been federal insurance available for such hires, as well as state tax
breaks, but they had been previously underpromoted.

But there has been a renewed effort by state agencies to hype the
incentives, Mr. Anderson said, and for good reason: He has seen a study
showing that employers are more willing to hire a former inmate if there
is no financial risk.

Then there is what often becomes the final hurdle, a lingering addiction.
Ms. Hilferty of Dismas House said many success stories come tumbling down
because of drugs and alcohol. She's seen former inmates go through
rehabilitation programs, find a good job and a move into steady housing,
and then somehow come back to the addiction that led them into prison.

But all the programs on the outside, and all the guidance and
hand-holding, mean little if an inmate is not fully devoted to changing.
Even former inmates acknowledge that. That's why Mr. Johnson made a good
impression when he walked into the re-entry center last month.

His story is one of change, he said. When he was sentenced to prison in
1995, he was angry and propped up by false pride, blaming everyone but
himself. In 2000, he went to a parole hearing with bitterness and
attitude, and was promptly shot down. Not ready, they said.

The easy fallback was a standard inmate formula - taking classes, acting
better, building a resume for the board's approval. In 2001, though, he
was rejected again. He hadn't really changed, they said.

And he hadn't. He knew that. But the experience made him reflect upon
himself, upon all the people he had hurt and disappointed, and that's when
he came to a lesson he followed the rest of his time there: "I thought,
'If I want people to accept me, I need to give them something to accept me
for,' " he said.

So, he got his GED. He worked odd jobs in prison and took vocational
training in carpentry, electric work and welding. Through countless
visits, he reconnected with his younger sister, whom he had never really
gotten to know because he spent too much of his youth running around town.
With all this, he said, he began to respect himself.

After he told his story at the re-entry center and posed for a mug shot
that would be given to Worcester police, Mr. Johnson sat quietly and
flipped through his legal files. He needed a minute to just sit, to soak
it in, he said. He took a deep breath.

"I still can't believe it, though," he said, mostly to himself. "It's
finally over."

Then he looked up, and sniffled. His eyes reddened, and he excused himself
to go to the bathroom.

A little while later, Mr. Johnson was preparing for the typical final act
of these sessions: a walk to the bank with Mr. Bird, the parole officer,
to cash a check for wages earned in prison.

Mr. Johnson had $458.28 - and would have had more, he said, but some was
taken for child support. He is a father of six.

As he and Mr. Johnson were preparing to leave, Mr. Bird told of a woman
who had come to the center after being released from prison the day
before. While he was walking her to the bank, she told him that she felt
as though everyone was staring at her, that everyone knew she had just
left prison.

No, he said, they were just two people walking.

Number of women behind bars soars
Mar 21, 2005
By Shaun Sutner TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF


Maritza Morales, 34, has bounced in and out of jail and prison since she
was a teenager. She has served time for prostitution, shoplifting, selling
drugs and other crimes done to support her heroin habit.

The Worcester woman was released six weeks ago from the Hampden County
Jail and House of Correction in Springfield and is living in a group home
that offers rehabilitation programs for drug abusers.

"Jail was hard," she says. "But honestly, this last time I feel like I was
more or less rescued. I had tried to stop using drugs before, with no
success. Detoxing was a wonderful thing. Once I was done, it was a relief
not to have that burden."

Her latest stint inside, a seven-month stay for selling heroin, included
30 days in the "hole," the 23-hour lockdown unit, for a fistfight with
another inmate who she says accused her of being responsible for the
overdose death of her co-defendant.

Now she is trying to keep clean and be a better mother to her 4-year-old
son. She is on welfare, but plans to learn how to do medical billing and
get her first legitimate job.

Ms. Morales' story is typical of women in the state and county correction
systems.

Women have a slightly lower long-term recidivism rate than men - 47
percent compared to 53 percent - and their sentences tend to be shorter.
However, the number of women sentenced to prison is increasing
dramatically, according to Erika Kates, research director for the UMass
Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of
Massachusetts at Boston.

Female inmates also have higher rates of mental illness and drug
addiction, and both these categories of female prisoners are growing fast.

The state's only prison for women, the medium-security MCI-Framingham,
holds about 670 offenders and detainees. Its minimum-security offshoot
next door, the South Middlesex Correctional Center, has 200 beds.

In addition, seven of Massachusetts' 13 county houses of correction
incarcerate women. The Worcester County House of Correction, one of the
biggest and most crowded, has no facilities for women. The county's female
offenders are sent to MCI Framingham.

On a recent visit to the women's prison, residents of a cottage-style
housing unit that is dedicated to prisoners with drug and alcohol problems
sat around in a circle talking about their addictions as a counselor
moderated.

"It's OK to love yourself. I'm learning that I'm a good person," one woman
said, receiving a round of applause from the other participants. "I need
to take care of me."

The barbed wire-enclosed facility, the oldest continuously operated
women's prison in the country, provides a host of programs for drug abuse
treatment, mental illness, high school and college classes, parenting,
violence prevention and work skills.

Even so, advocates for female prisoners charge the state and county prison
systems with falling short on women's issues.

Ms. Kates said some programs at MCI-Framingham are fine, but not enough of
them effectively treat mental illness, parenthood and drug abuse as
related issues.

Ms. Kates said the correction systems also don't effectively handle the
problems of women with children. Her study said women are most often the
primary caregivers for their children at the time of arrest, and that
overcrowded prisons and jails don't have enough visiting hours for
children or meeting rooms properly equipped with toys and children's
furniture.

"There isn't one place, including the houses of correction or the state
prison, that has a child-friendly area and a place big enough to handle
all the women and children who need to use it," she said.

In the wake of a blue-ribbon prison reform commission's report last year
that identified problems particular to female prisoners, correction
officials say they are trying hard to deal with the special needs of women
in the system.

Compared with male prisoners, many of whom have assault, manslaughter or
murder on their records, women are serving time for such crimes as
prostitution, theft, passing bad checks and drug abuse.

And while fights occur, they are considerably less violent than those in
men's prison. Fights involving weapons and attempts by female inmates to
escape are rare, although suicide attempts and self-mutilation are
considerably more common than among men.

"The reality is, you don't have the same physical threat level,"
Department of Correction spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said during a tour of
MCI Framingham, pointing out the relatively quiet prison housing blocks
and the more docile behavior of female prisoners than their counterparts
in men-only prisons.

In consideration of these factors, Correction Commissioner Kathleen M.
Dennehy, who was appointed a year ago amid a scandal triggered by the
prison murder of defrocked pedophile priest John Geoghan in Lancaster,
says she is focusing closely on women's issues.

She is planning to change the way officials classify prisoners. As part of
the effort, all inmates in state prisons will be reclassified over the
next two years to determine if they are correctly placed in a maximum,
medium, minimum or pre-release setting.

For the first time, female prisoners will get a classification system of
their own. It will give more weight to their backgrounds as parents and
any history of spousal abuse or mental illness. It should result in women
being placed in lower-security lockups in which they can get better
programs and treatment, officials say.

"We acknowledge that women are overclassified" or are too often sent to
high-security cells, Ms. Dennehy said. "Women have different criminal
histories."

Ms. Dennehy is also overseeing a rewrite of the prison system's
disciplinary rules that will likely result in downgrading of offenses such
as angry verbal comments directed at a correction officer, which now can
land a woman in lockdown.

Ms. Kates, of the UMass Center, said she is glad Ms. Dennehy is taking a
closer look at women in prison, but added that she has not seen any
significant changes yet.

"Does it look like she might do some good things? We'll know when they
actually happen," she said.

Inmates draw on religion
Mar 22, 2005
Jason Feifer; TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF


At first, the church was good for everything but religion.

The people wore normal clothing, not drab prison garb. The lighting was
different. It was quiet. There were female volunteers - and for a male
inmate, contact with women is a rare commodity.

So, while he had no significant religious background or interest, Jeff G.
began going every chance he could. He was 18, serving a five-year prison
sentence at North Central Correctional Institution at Gardner for severely
beating another teenager, and was just looking for something besides the
routine of chow time and gym visits.

"It was the people of the world, not in uniform," said the Worcester
resident, now 30 and out of prison for seven years; he asked that his full
name not be used. "It was your connection to the real world, the closest
you can get to it."

But after a while, he began going to church for another reason: It had
become a place of emotional refuge, a source of inspiration. He learned to
pray and did it often. He read the Bible, cover to cover three times,
while serving

his sentence.

Religion plays a large part for some inmates, who turn to it for direction
or a connection beyond the earthly grit that surrounds them. Each prison
has numerous chaplains from various denominations who counsel prisoners
and advocate for their religious needs.

Rabbi Yaakov Blotner, the Jewish chaplain for many state prisons, said
both Jewish and non-Jewish prisoners approach him for help. Sometimes they
want religious guidance, but often they just need to talk with someone.

Often, he suspects, they come to him by default. The inmates' families
carry too much emotional baggage, and the inmates are not comfortable
talking with prison staff. So a chaplain, regardless of the faith, is a
secure middle ground, he said.

He became a prison chaplain because he was interested in connecting with
Jewish communities off the beaten path. He visited nursing homes and
colleges, and has spent a significant amount of time with prisoners.

The Jewish inmates he sees rarely have a significantly religious
background, he said, but they come to him because they want some
connection and perhaps a sense of community.

"In an environment that's so alien, I represent a little bit of home, you
might say," he said.

But he considers his role more than just providing a comfort zone.

Religion, he said, can be an anchor for inmates. In particular, he
remembers one female inmate who faced a dilemma when the prison's canteen
day, which he called "the holiday of the century" for inmates, fell on Yom
Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar and a day of fasting. She
decided visiting the canteen was not in the spirit of the holiday and
skipped it.

"I was very impressed," he said. "It required a great deal of
self-sacrifice."

Ultimately, he said, he wants the Jewish inmates he sees to take at least
a little bit of Judaism with them after release. That might mean a few
traditions done in private, or, preferably, connecting with a synagogue.
There, the inmate will find a far safer and more supportive community than
the one he or she might have otherwise returned to, he said.

That's what happened for Jeff, who attended church in prison and
maintained his connection to Christianity on the outside.

When he got out, he found a job and has kept it. He makes a good salary
now, he said, and is living a productive life. And although five years of
his youth were traded for his violent and almost deadly mistake, he is not
bitter. He is thankful.

"Prison saved my life," he said. "I had no direction."

Inmates inventive - from home brew to weapons
Mar 22, 2005


While walking through the prison kitchen one day, a correction officer
discovered something bizarre: Stashed high up, intentionally hidden, was
what appeared to be a trash bag full of rotting garbage.

He took it down to show another officer, who revealed its real purpose.
The bag was filled with fruit and other ingredients, left to ferment until
the time was right to squeeze it out and have a drink.

This was home brew, an inmate specialty.

"They make it all the time," said the former officer, who asked that his
name not be used. "They're geniuses at making home brew."

In fact, according to correctional staff and former inmates, prisoners
have a knack for making lots of things - often to cause trouble.

With nothing but time on their hands, inmates become remarkably
resourceful, using every scrap of available material to create what they
want or miss the most. The inventions go from simple to elaborate, and
from quirky to menacing. They find unique ways to make toast inside their
rooms, for example, or to make dangerous weapons. If there is a will, it
seems, there's usually a way.

"They can be extremely industrious in many, many ways," said Steven
O'Brien, superintendent of North Central Correctional Institution at
Gardner. "You go back to that old adage: You wish you could take their
intelligence and use it for good instead of evil. That's true in many
ways."

Inmate inventions often involve piecing together other items, but crude
electronics are not out of reach.

To make hot tea or soup, inmates have been known to stitch together an
extremely hazardous contraption. They hook pieces of metal up to stripped
wire, and then stick the wire into an electrical socket. The electricity
flows to the metal, heating it up, and they can then put a cup or pot on
top.

There are more dangerous inventions. Inmates sometimes extract tiny blades
from their disposable razors and embed them at the ends of pens or
toothbrush handles, former correction officers said. As a knife, it isn't
particularly useful for stabbing, but it's perfect to slice open a vein.

Drugs also move throughout the prisons, smuggled in by mail or visitors
and moved between inmates in enterprising ways. Drugs have been found
everywhere imaginable: tucked behind a postage stamp, adhered to a wall by
plastic wrap, or stored in a bedpost.

"If they can get drugs into the country, they can get them into prison,"
said one former inmate who has served multiple state prison sentences.

Every prison superintendent will admit that drugs are a problem in
prisons, Mr. O'Brien said, and correction officers often find drugs
through inmates who are willing to be informers.

The officers said some inmates would routinely tell them about the illicit
doings of other inmates, often as retribution against the inmate or in the
hopes of receiving a favor from the officer. The informants would expect
officers not to let on who had told them.

A few months ago, Mr. O'Brien said, intelligence led officers to intercept
drugs mailed to an inmate. The contraband was hidden inside a birthday
card - not between the two sides of the card, but carefully wedged into
the actual paper.

Clever, but not clever enough.

"It's something you battle all the time to prevent," Mr. O'Brien said.

Lockups having to adapt to more elderly prisoners
Assisted-living accommodations made
Mar 22, 2005
By Jason Feifer TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF


The first floor of Thompson Hall at North Central Correctional Institution
at Gardner is fairly unremarkable.

It is largely filled with inmate rooms - often small cells that hold two
people, with their beds bunked or up against different walls. But the
floor also contains a health services center, and so some of the rooms
here house elderly inmates who might benefit from near medical staff.

It is just one of many considerations made for elderly inmates, who
require more care as their bodies grow frail.

Their numbers appear to be rising. There have been more and more inmates
age 56 and older in the last 10 years: There were 81 in 1995 and 155 in
2004. As of Jan. 1, 2004, 69 inmates were 70 or older, 295 were 60 to 69,
and the oldest inmate in the system was 88, according to Department of
Correction reports.

Prisons do what they can to accommodate elderly inmates, particularly to
counter their decreasing mobility. For example, prisoners have only a
certain amount of time to get from one place to another, so elderly
inmates are given help making those time constraints. If one of the
inmates cannot physically get to the cafeteria for a meal, the food will
be brought to a closer location.

Last month, MCI-Shirley became the first prison in Massachusetts to offer
an assisted daily living facility, which will provide 24-hour nursing
assistance to mostly elderly inmates with mobility problems. The unit
contains 13 beds, and will free up beds now occupied in the prison's
infirmary, according to prison Superintendent Michael A. Thompson.

"It's more for people who are not sick enough to be housed in our
infirmary, but are not mobile or well enough to make it on their own in
our general population," he said.

Inmates at the assisted living facility receive the kind of assistance
sometimes found at a nursing home, such as help getting out of bed,
getting dressed or taking a shower.

Mr. Thompson said he has seen an increase in elderly inmates in his
prison, although that may be because his is one of three prisons in the
state to contain an infirmary. Because of that, he said, the prison
typically has more elderly inmates than other prisons.

Older inmates may require added medical care, but he said they do not
generally require much extra attention from correction officers. Even
though the elderly may be weaker than younger inmates, he said, fellow
prisoners do not usually take advantage of them.

"As you would on the outside, there's somewhat of a respect in the inmate
population for elderly people," he said. "They tend not to be victimized
so much as you might think."

Copyright 2005 Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.
 
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