By Prison Legal News Former FCI Ashland guard James Lewis and Cindy Gates, the girlfriend of a prisoner at the federal prison, both pleaded not guilty in September 2013 to charges related to smuggling contraband into the prison. Gates’ boyfriend, prisoner Gary Musick, was accused of participating in the scheme by telling Gates and Lewis
As I write this, I sit at a TRULINCS computer in a federal prison’s housing unit. A set of in-ear JVC earbuds pump out Bush’s “Reasons” hit. This is accomplished through the SanDisk MP3 player that the headphones are connected to. This was not the case when I arrived in the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2008, and it has greatly improved my quality of life.
Over the past 6 years, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has made leaps and bounds in terms of the technology made available to the inmate population. Back in 2006 — and in the early 1990s, for that matter — federal inmates were allowed to purchase Sony AM/FM Walkman radios. These days this radio costs $39.95 from any federal prison’s commissary. For as long as many prisoners can remember, these radios have been their primary contact with the outside world. Today they are required to hear the televisions in inmate housing units, which have their speakers removed and are mounted high upon the walls in the housing units.
The technological revolution has also expanded to the Inmate Telephone System, where inmates can now place both collect and debit calls to their friends, family members, and others outside of prison. Of course, most federal prison telephones now require the inmate to type in a nine-digit security code and state their name. The name-recognition feature is to ensure that the prisoner attempting to call a particular authorized phone number is actually that prisoner.
While the Federal Bureau of Prisons has most certainly been analyzing these new technologies for quite some time, they have only recently become commonplace in federal prisons across the nation. In 2012, FCI Petersburg — the medium-security federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia where I am incarcerated — installed Trust Fund Limited Inmate Communication Systems (TRULINCS) computers in every housing unit. This coincided with the removal of all in-unit washers and dryers. The trade was a good one.
On June 14, 2014, the Law Office of Jeremy Gordon, in conjunction with the national criminal justice reform organization Prisology, announced the latest installment in their Commitment to Change College Scholarship. This scholarship covers the cost of tuition and books for one federal prisoner to take one course at the regionally accredited Adams State University, a university highly regarded by most incarcerated students for their prisoner-friendly correspondence policies and recommended in both Education Behind Bars(Sunbury Press, 2012) and the Prisoners Guerrilla Handbook to Correspondence Programs in the U.S. and Canada (Prison Legal News, 2009).
This scholarship is offered four times a year to one federal prisoner who submits either an essay or a piece of artwork for judging. There is no entry fee to participate. Due to Prisology’s significant reform efforts during the first quarter of 2014 — which consisted of testifying before Congress concerning the two-point sentencing reduction for federal drug offenders and its potential retroactivity, and other non-Congressional outreach concerning clemency petitions and various federal sentencing legislation and initiatives — this quarter’s scholarship will be awarded to not one, but two federal prisoners: the first and second place winners of the current contest.