End Prison Draconian Policies
By Mutope Duguma
It’s no secret that the government, whether local, state and federal have been complicit in the exploitation of prisoners, where the political, judicial and prison industrial slave complex have all signed up to exploit the poorest citizens of this nation. But, before I go into the essence of this story, let me speak to what motivated me to write it.
I was recently placed back in solitary confinement for mistaken identity, where I was placed in cell with a youngster name of Jamico Wright, who was sentenced to 13 years, for an alleged robbery. Normally youngsters like Brutha Wright would ask me to help them with their 602 appeal, on their solitary confinement placement. Yet, Brutha Wright was seriously agonizing over how the state is charging him $23,113.39 restitution in association with his alleged crime. I would learn that Brutha Wright, is like most youngsters who came out of humble beginnings (i.e., impoverished communities), single parent homes, foster care at a young age, then to the streets, where they are forced into a world of their making.
I wasn’t surprised in the least bit, of Brutha Wright’s story, because like most prisoners (men/women) held in prisons, they share similar stories. Brutha Wright came to prison at 19 years of age, on July 26, 2011, for his alleged offense, and, what’s different about Brutha Wright is that he gets it, and actually took steps to do something about it, where he became a certified plumber (May, 2014), earning himself a trade. More remarkable, he earned an AA Degree in Business Management, July 17, 2017, demonstrating that he has done just about everything consistent with rehabilitating himself. Sadly, Brutha Wright would learn that he will be unable to utilize his AA Degree while incarcerated. He was given 85% of that 13 year sentence, which is 11 years and 5 months.
The new sentencing laws enacted in the 1980s and 1990s would make sure that young prisoners did 85% of their time, when the government conspired to massively incarcerate its poor citizens of this nation. Brutha Wright would still have six years to serve on his 13 years. He, like many of us held indefinitely in Amerikkka’s prisons will have to navigate through the inhumane conditions of prison life.
This story isn’t about time, but instead, it’s about how you have a young man like Brutha Wright, who has gotten an AA Degree in Business, and owes the state $23,113.39, of which he has paid $1,768.39; money he received from working class citizens, who are working minimum wage jobs; family members, friends, etc. The state charges him 55% of each dollar he receives, meaning, if he gets any money for commissary, for example, if his (poor) Mother sent him $25.00 for hygiene when he gets the money it will be reduced to $11.25. If he had a medical condition and sent in a CDCR-7362 medical form he would be charged a co-payment fee of $5.00 for every medical slip he submits – that would be immediately removed from his trust account statement, leaving him with $6.25 of that $25.00. If he had legal fees of any kind, they would be deducted from those fees, as well. If he submitted a dental form, he would be charged a $5.00 co-payment charge, leaving him with a $1.25, of that $25.00, which is why so many youngsters refuse their dental/mental care in prisons: because they choose hygiene and food over dental or medical care, when they actually have funds on their trust account!!!
We older prisoners didn’t get charged with astronomical debt. Our restitution was $100.00 to $200.00. The restitution that these youngsters are being asked to pay is ridiculous, and the 50% is supposed to be paid to all alleged victims, whereas, 89% of the cases never received one penny of the restitution fees collected. CDCr trust office adds 5% charging fees for removing the fund off your trust account. This adding if you file a civil complaint (i.e., lawsuit) about prison conditions, etc. You would pay a $450.00 filing fee. If you continue to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal you will pay another filing fee of $505.00. They initially charge you 20% of each dollar you have in your account, so if you have $200.00 in your account. They’re taking 20% of that which is $40.00 and they will do this every month ‘til you have paid what you owe because incarcerating prisoners is big business, and the exploitation of California Tax Payers, where they pay $14 Billion dollars a year to maintain its 34 prisons. This is real money spent.
I understand that we live in a capitalist country that exploits all forms of life from humans, to animals, etc., etc., for profit!!! But, what’s cruel in this form of exploitation in respects to prison, is that prisoners like Brutha Wright are restricted from creating businesses, or using their creative talent, whether it be their art work, rap songs, writings, movie scripts, etc., etc., from legally making a profit while they are incarcerated, per CCR Title 15. Yet, they have many taxes being imposed upon them. Prisoners should be encouraged to find creative ways to market their talents for a profit. Yet! they are charged for restitution and other fees, then told that you can’t involve yourself in any profit earning businesses. This is a perfect way to encourage hopelessness in men and women held in prisons… while you feed on them by exploiting them for the crumbs they receive. Brutha Wright and many more just like him, have to wait ‘til they parole before they can begin to pay on their monetary debt to society, that would for sure burden them in their attempt to be re-assimilated back into the so-called free world, where they for sure would be at a disadvantage simply because they are starting in debt, where their checks would be garnished for that 55% accordingly in keeping up with their restitution.
We all know that prison working wages start at 3 cents to 15 cents an hour, which usually turns out to be $11. to $20. per month, and then 55 % of that is then taken for restitution. Slavery in the 21st century is real, and I personally feel that the cruelty in this exploitation is in the hopelessness it produces in each and every prisoner. This practice has to be abolished because it would further influence recidivism. With these debts prisoners have to be able to earn a decent wage while incarcerated, so they can begin to pay off their restitution, now, or end their restitution all together. These types of policies are counterproductive and only hurt the prisoners and their families. Can you imagine doing a decade or two with a $30,000 dollar debt to pay when you get out??? If this is not ‘cruel and unusual then what is!!!?
One Love, One Struggle,