FUTUM COMMUNICATIONS, INC Data Processing Typesetting Printing Mailing 512-389-1500 FAX 512-389-0867 3019 Alvin DeVane, Suite 500 Austin, Texas 78741 this time he’s only got about three months before parole. He’s too busy thinking about getting out to learn anything. And he can’t take any vocational courses; they last six months. Even if he were interested in learning, he just hasn’t got the time. So here’s a guy who’s been convicted of felonies three times, sentenced to prison twice, and only served a total of six months in TDC. He leaves prison this time just like he did last time, with a big grin on his face and ready to get back in the groove. He’s not about to give up the good life for a job at Burger King. And he might not remain a nonviolent offender. He might get into a drunken argument at a bar and pull his gun. Someone might burn him in a drug deal, “forcing” him to get even. Don’t think that just because this kid’s a car thief he doesn’t carry a gun. He’s a career criminal; he’s got a reputation to uphold. And carrying the gun increases the odds that he’ll turn violent. This young offender may be lost at this point. The time to turn him around has come and gone. He is firmly entrenched in a criminal lifestyle that has so far been very good to him, that his given him little reason to change. But turn back the clock to his first arrest and add this scenario: He is arrested once and offered a five-year probation. His alternative is a five-year sentence, but new laws require that any offender sent to prison serve a minimum of 18 months before parole. So he takes the probation and is glad to get it. He hasn’t gotten the message yet, though, and his second conviction brings the fiveyear sentence. He must serve 24 months, but passing his literacy test will knock off three months, as will the completion of a vocational course. He’ll be knocking on the school door as soon as he gets to the unit. By the time he’s released, he is tired of prison, he has learned a trade and he can read. He’s had mandatory drug education and counseling. I can’t promise that he won’t be back, but there’s a good chance he spent some long nights thinking about a career change. If he comes to prison again, he must serve a minimum of 36 months. The worst that could happen under this scenario is that our car thief serves a total of five years in prison for three convictions and is still not deterred. But the additional time in prison represents at least 150 cars that he didn’t steal. And at least there’s the chance that he will improve himself or, if nothing else, get tired of prison food and try to find some way to stay out. The state must act to teach this young offender that it’s not a profitable game he’s playing. The criminal justice system, to be effective, must wipe the grin from his face. He must be made to realize that there is a substantial priceto pay for ignoring the law. And the earlier in the offender’s career this is done, the better. To make this happen, new prisons will need to be built. But instead of spending exorbitant sums to build and staff maximumsecurity prisons, the state can invest in cheaper, minimum-security prisons with dormitories instead of cellblocks, Quonset huts if need be. This is not to say that the state can build its way out of the crime problem. And I don’t advocate a more liberal use of imprisonment \(although that is one of the problems with building new prisons: they will be filled, no be the last resort, and alternatives should be employed at every turn. I’m simply saying that if society sends a man to prison if all else has failed prison should be a rude slap in the;face, which will get his attention. If not, the system is simply sweeping dirt under the rug. And while it’s important to make sure young offenders see the negative consequences that crime will bring them, they must have some glimpse of a decent future to be had by obeying the law, by going to school, working hard, and staying off drugs. If they can’t see a future for themselves other than through drugs and crime, they will be down here with me. There’s a lot the state can do to fight crime that has nothing to do with punishment. I think our new governor realizes this, and others in state government are beginning to look for answers that don’t have fences and walls around them. Drug-education and treatment programs should be a priority. Jobtraining programs in high schools should be expanded, with perhaps incentives for employers who hire students competing the programs. Big brother programs for fatherless children can help by giving kids positive role models. Early intervention is the key. It’s much cheaper to get involved in these kids’ lies when they are young than to wait until they are standing before a judge. We need new prisons now because enough wasn’t done before. You may wonder why a convict would advocate building more prisons, why he would take a seemingly get-tough stance on young offenders. I am nearing 40 years old. I’ve spent over 40 percent of my life here in TDC, serving a life sentence. As a convict, I have nothing to gain or lose by the passing of new laws or the building of new prisons. In fact, it might be argued that my chances of parole would be increased if no new prisons were built and TDC became even more crowded. My time here, however, has stripped away the glamor and excitement crime might have once held. I have seen the kids come and go and come again, their eyes a little less hopeful each time, their step a little slower as they realize what they’ve let themselves in for and as they see their options reduced. I often wonder what could have been done when they were first exposed to the system, what might have turned them around. I know the pain my imprisonment has caused my family, and the pain that all prisoners’ families suffer. I’ve put myself in the places of victims and the families of victims and felt the anger they feel toward criminals and the criminal justice system. I feel that crime is tearing our society apart, robbing it of something valuable, although I an unable to say just what it is. And to be honest, I don’t feel very hopeful about the future; I see no end to it. If I saw my child walk out into the traffic of a busy street, I would yank him to the curb and swat his tail right there on the spot. He might not know what can happen in that street. I do. 0 ANDERSON & COMPANY COFFEE TEA SPICES TWO JEFFERSON SQUARE AUSTIN, TEXAS 78731 512 453-1533 Send me your list. Name Street City Zip 10 JANUARY 11, 1991
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