By Margaret Wright A flurry of preparations in a cavernous warehouse on N.M. 14 just south of Santa Fe resemble those for any other fine
By Christopher Zoukis Finding a job and somewhere to live are probably the two most critical factors determining whether a released offender will do well,
W.E. Donaldson Correctional Facility, Bessemer, Alabama has a harsh atmosphere and reputation for housing some of the most dangerous criminals in the country. Death row inmates, some with life sentences without the possibility of parole and others with a chance to be released and lead a new life are part of the W.E. Donaldson Correctional Facility (WEDCF) community, but, if one is to live a gratifying life, whether it is behind bars or outside prison walls, a serious attitude change needs to occur.
January 14 – 25, 2002 is the first day of a 10-day project at a U.S. state prison and the first time a U.S. maximum-security facility has the possibility of transforming every participant in the process. Twenty inmates with a variety of offenses ranging from robbery to drug-trafficking shuffle down the hallway to the gymnasium that is going to be a makeshift for a meditation retreat. Bed rolls in hand the inmates enter the gymnasium with apprehension about spending the next 10-days sitting on the floor and being silent. How could this possibly make a difference?
Prisoners don’t realize the luxury of being in a unique position that provides them an opportunity to escape reality for ten-days. Many people of the outside world would be ecstatic to trade their routine work week, traffic, and paying bills for a time-out vacation in a sea of stillness.
Vipassana meditation is a tool prisoners and anyone interested in reaching a mindful diligence that surpasses a hostile consciousness can use to cope with everyday life. The word Vipassana means “to see clearly.”
The meditation program taught by S.N. Goenka has been internationally adopted by prisons and has been successfully offered over the last 25 years within prisons located in India, Israel, Mongolia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Thailand, U.K., and Myanmar. Vipassana was introduced to the U.S. penal system in 1997, but has only been accepted by three facilities; King County North Rehabilitation Facility, Seattle, Washington, San Francisco Jail Course, Jail #7, San Bruno, California, and W.E. Donaldson Correctional Facility, Bessemer, Alabama. The first Vipassana course in a North American correctional facility was conducted at the North Rehabilitation Facility (NRF) in Seattle, Washington in 1997.
By Matt Clarke
The sheriff of Dallas County, Texas had a good reason for giving prepaid debit cards to prisoners containing the balance of their trust fund accounts when they were released from jail.
“There was too much money handling,” said Sheriff Lupe Valdez.
The cards contain the funds the prisoners had with them when they were booked into the facility, plus any money they received during their incarceration, less what they spent at the jail’s commissary. But Valdez and the Dallas County Commissioners were surprised to learn that the debit cards come with fees, and that prisoners who use the cards are charged for accessing their own money.
The issue came to light when former prisoner Steve Mathis addressed the commissioners at the end of their first regular meeting in January 2013, to complain about the fees. County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner John Wiley Price didn’t like the idea of released prisoners having to pay debit card fees.
“But let me just tell you, it’s his money,” Price said, noting that was the first he’d heard about any fees. “He said he didn’t give us no bank card [when he was jailed], he gave us cash. He should be able to get his money back. I got a real problem if they’re being charged a fee.”
Sheriff Valdez agreed, but said she didn’t know much about the issue since Mathis was the first to complain about it. However, she promised to look into whether an ATM or kiosk could be placed in the jail complex so the debit cards could be redeemed with no fees.
America’s prison population is, like the general public, aging rapidly. The wide net cast by the incarceration explosion of the 1980s and 1990s means that the percentage of prisoners needing increased health care has risen dramatically as well. This is particularly true in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which has always had an older population than the national average, due to the profile of the offenders it prosecutes.
Basic Health Care in the Federal Bureau of Prisons
Every inmate entering the Federal Bureau of Prisons is given a general health screening which includes basic blood tests and a consultation (a psychology screening and a dental exam are also provided).
If the inmate is found to be in a generally healthy state, then further medical care is provided only upon request, with the exception of annual tuberculosis testing, which is mandatory. On occasion, an inmate may be called in for random HIV and other disease testing programs. Those deemed generally healthy are directed to use the sick call/triage program to access health care, as explained below.
Chronic Care in Federal Prison
Some inmates enter the Federal Bureau of Prisons with chronic health conditions, or develop them during their incarceration. For these inmates, they are assigned a “care level” commensurate with the care required. They will be seen regularly and monitored accordingly.