I am in a battle that should not be: with the head of the Education Department and prison authorities over my right to type book manuscripts and other non-legal documents, such as business or personal letters, college course assignments, resumes, etc. (Technically, if something is not illegal, it would actually be “legal.” ) Imagine that — a prisoner fighting his keepers so he can do something to constructively occupy his time. By the way, this is not a national issue, since the majority of prison administrators encourage prisoners to constructively occupy their time by learning new skills, trades, getting a better education, reading, as well as writing business and personal letters to prepare for release from prison.
Writing can be instrumental in the life of a prisoner who needs to establish contacts within the community to help secure employment, housing, and to build family and community ties. Furthermore, federal officials consider an inmate’s family and community ties as a factor in determining the custody and security score of inmates. The staff use that score to determine the level of security necessary to manage the inmate; e.g., placement in low, medium, or high security facilities, each of which have different programs available for inmates to use, and different management techniques for staff to follow.
What I find insane about the situation, is that the Director of the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons, Mr. Charles E. Samuels, Jr., encourages his 216,000* inmates to “[p]repare for a successful return to the community.” In his December 9, 2013, MEMORANDUM TO ALL BUREAU INMATES, he wrote, “Our long standing approach that ‘Reentry Begins on the First Day of Incarceration’ is as true today as it has ever been in the past. The Bureau of Prisons provides and searches for new opportunities to help you be as productive as possible while in prison, preparing to return to your family and community as a productive, law abiding citizen.” I believe he means what he wrote. The sad part is that some of those he entrusts to carry out his mission are not on the same page, as many prison officials are stuck in the “old mentality” and would revert to the days of putting prisoners in sweat boxes and beating them, if the laws had not changed to deter them from doing it.