By BitcoDavid

Here’s a joke.

The President decides to stage a contest to determine which among the FBI, the CIA and the LAPD is the best law enforcement organization. He informs the three, that their challenge is to find a rabbit in the woods. A month goes by, and the President calls representatives from each of the law enforcement groups to the White House to present their findings.

The rep for the FBI produces a 356 page document proving that no rabbits exist, or have ever existed, in the woods. The gentleman from the CIA informs the President that the Company has spent 11 million dollars destabilizing the economy of the woods, and getting all the woodland creatures hooked on cocaine.

But the guy from the LAPD shows up with a badly beaten bear. The bear – with broken paws, black eyes and swathed in bandages – yells, “OK! I’m a rabbit!”

In Murder by Cop: a growing crisis in ‘Murica, my good friends at Prisonmovement’s Weblog document the story of a man who was tasered and shot to death by a California sheriff’s deputy, after the family had called 911. They were seeking help with the man’s depression. It looks like they got it.

Police brutality and overuse of lethal force is nothing new. In fact, nowadays people react via the press, lawsuits and other methods of combating police overreach, whereas in the past, it was simply accepted as a fact of life. In the 1930s, police forces all across this country were used against the labor movement, for strike breaking and scab recruiting. In the deep South – well into the late ’80s – it was not at all uncommon for the local sheriff to run his community like a fiefdom. Cases of wrongful arrest to generate revenue from fines, or to provide a labor pool, are well documented.

And of course, I shouldn’t have to remind you of the case of 16 year-old Lucia Roberts, gang raped and murdered by Boston police in 1982. Her parents led the charge that resulted in the 2nd largest case of police corruption and misconduct in American history. Yes, I too, remember the Silver Shield.

No, this is nothing new. What is new however, is the use of para-militarized police forces across the country. What started as an outgrowth of the failed War on Drugs, has become commonplace. Swat teams armed with military weaponry and body armor are carrying out even the simplest arrests, utilizing smoke grenades, battering rams, robots and even small tanks. These hyper-charged armies of law enforcement approach every scenario as a violent and potentially deadly conflict.

This becomes a recipe for disaster. People armed for war, and kept on a hair trigger, are bound to overreact and a mouthy kid, a deaf woman or a depressed old man can easily end up becoming just one more statistic.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

Newest Weapon in War on Drugs? Special-Ed Kids

By BitcoDavid

Image: AlterNet. Image Credit:

AlterNet reports that a California school administrator forced a Special-Education student to buy marijuana from a teenaged suspect, for a police sting. The boy is now the subject of bullying, violence and threats, and his parents are suing the district.

In a complaint filed against the Temecula Valley Unified School District this month, the child’s mother said, “My husband and I were just dumbfounded. How is this OK?” — AlterNet. She went on to mull the question as to when school administrators became cops.

Here’s a block quote from the AlterNet story:

[T]he assistant principal asked the special-education student to ask a fellow student for some marijuana; the assistant principal had a suspicion that the student was selling pot. The student told his parents about the request, and his parents then called the school to voice their objections. But the sting went ahead as planned. The marijuana was sold, and the school district called the police, who arrested the teenage dealer.

The parents want school district officials to be held accountable for this action. The claim they filed against the district states that officials engaged in “outrageous, reckless, illegal and egregious conduct.”

The parents told the Press Enterprise that school officials have done nothing to address their concerns, though the principal did tell the mother the school let her son down.

Here’s a link to AlterNet’s coverage.

English: Close up shot of some high quality ma...

Close up shot of some high quality marijuana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the school to prison pipeline widens, and the failed War on Drugs continues to rage like a wildfire, private – for profit – corporations like CCA clap like dolphins at Sea World. America creates the largest Criminal Class in history, and gladly furthers her status as the World’s Jailer.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

Interview With Glenn Langohr, Author of Prison Riot

By BitcoDavid

While reading Prison Riot, I was struck by how similar this story is to the classic Melville novella, Billy Budd. Of course, the latter was written in a much more stilted voice, and was built on Biblical allegory – but the thread of the story is very much the same.

Here we have a power struggle between a cruel and sadistic Corrections Lieutenant, and a fair minded but ineffectual Warden. The victim in that power struggle ends up being the innocent – the powerless everyman, whom in the Melville book was represented by Billy, and in Prison Riot is represented by B.J. and his friend, Giant.

Where the analogy breaks down however, is that Billy Budd was fiction.

Suspension of disbelief is not necessary when the writer actually lived through the hell of the California prison system. As a student of literature, I can think of no author, better suited to tell the story of incarceration than a former inmate. Glenn Langohr’s writing is filled with tension, vivid characterization, in the moment conflict and a true pathos that dispels stereotypical thought. The reader sees his characters as people – not just inmates.

From the entertainment standpoint, Prison Riot is filled with all the stuff that a good novel needs. There’s plenty of action, violence, conflict and tension. From the educational point of view, one can use this book as a blueprint for how to behave, should the reader ever face the misfortune of confinement in an American penal facility. For example, at one point in a conversation with a fellow inmate, B.J. is asked a question that he sees as a violation of his personal space – the kind of thing that just wouldn’t happen in the outside world. His response? “I know how to do prison time.” Of all the prison books I’ve read – and there’s been a plethora of them – I’ve never read one that delved so deeply into the social mores and memes of prison life.

The book is short – only about 30,000 words. His writing style is quick and terse. The words race off the page. One can read this book in a sitting, but the impact will stay with you long after you’ve put it down.

As a writer myself, what I like best about Langohr is his voice. He writes for readers, not for the dictionary, and he peppers his books with argot. In short, this book should be a College textbook for all students of Law Enforcement, and a users manual for the rest of us. Read this book, and internalize it, and you’ll be able to walk the yard with confidence – and you’ll never sit at the wrong table.



The Destruction after the Fremantle Prison Rio...

The Destruction after the Fremantle Prison Riots 4 January 1988 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BD: You refer to the term “Block Guns.” Could you describe these? I take it from one of your paragraphs, that they shoot some sort of inert charge (apparently made of wood) or blank round, but can also accept live ammo. Can you expound on that?

GL: Great question. I didn’t explain it well enough in Prison Riot. The prison guards in California State prisons have a supply of block guns in the gun towers. Each building has a gun tower that overlooks the interior of the building, and also has a view of the yard where that building releases inmates. The block guns look like shotguns, but only shoot wooden blocks. They don’t shoot live rounds. The tower guards also have rifles that shoot live rounds – that legally, they are only supposed to use when inmates are using deadly weapons, not for fist fights. The block guns are used for fist fights.

The wooden blocks are compacted into a circular shape about the size of a silver dollar, but are a little thicker then a ping pong ball. The block guns are extrememly effective – in part because of the noise. In the building, or on the yard, the echo “booms” so loud that inmates inside every other building on the yard can hear it.

At Centinella State prison in Imperial Valley on the California and Mexican border, the prison yards are close enough together that inmates can hear the block gun go off on other yards. At Centinella it is an almost daily occurrence. As an inmate you become trained to expect it shortly after you hear the alarm go off, followed by a tower guard yelling, “GET DOWN!! GET DOWN!!” and then, “BOOM!! BOOM!!”

To give you a feel for the prison politics at Centinella, the Mexican inmates are ordered [by their shot callers] not to stop fighting until the block gun has gone off. Most of the time they keep going for about 30 seconds after the “BOOM” for respect and effect. That means you can expect to see a fight or stabbing on the yard, continue until the alarm screeches a whining noise – that rises and falls in decibels – followed by the order to get down; followed by a swarm of a couple dozen prison guards running to the incident, with about every third guard carrying a block gun.

At close range, block guns hurt bad and will knock the wind out of you and put you down. At more than around 40 feet, the block begins to come apart. Seeing it up close so many times, I can tell you that it breaks apart into circular rings and sizzles – burning  on the ground – on fire from the explosion sending it.

Prison Tactical Team (riot control)

Prison Tactical Team (riot control) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I find it interesting that in your descriptions of the riot – you make it clear that the guards are seen as a lower priority then the “enemy” inmates. Did you find that to be the case? In other words, was it common that an inmate would attack even at a time when an armed guard was standing there?

With this question you are getting really deep into prison life politics. It is the most eerie feeling to know a prison riot is coming well before it comes. Now you are getting into a gang riot or a Race riot. The gangs are where the pressure and most of the decisions are coming from. The prison guards don’t matter at all, compared to orders. To give you a better understanding, pretend you are in a California prison and you are told by your race, “If you ever see another race attacking one of us, you have to help and fight. If you don’t, you will be considered weak and you will be attacked.” This is the common mentality of every single race and to me, an ex prisoner of over 10 years, understandable and respectable.

I guess to fully understand this kind of thinking you have to picture being housed race by race, as far as who is in each cell. To watch your own race get outnumbered, attacked and possibly killed, while you are just watching, is a guarantee that you will be attacked by your own race later, as a form of discipline and order. So in that regard, as an inmate, the guard with the gun in the tower, or even 10 feet away in the chow hall, isn’t there at all.

Since we are getting so deep into prison life politics amoung races and gangs, I will explain it as it relates to other then race war and gang war situations. Lets say that I’m a White inmate and I watch another White inmate get attacked by a group of Black inmates – and instead of rushing to his aid, I follow the guards orders to “GET DOWN,” and just get on my stomach and watch the pummeling. For being in the area and not helping, I am in big trouble. In that situation, when the order is given to get me, the inmates will pick a spot to handle the business. That means that it will be done on the yard, as far away form the guards as possible. At times they – the guards, just can’t be avoided.  We call those suicide missions.

There has been a lot of discussion in the tech world and the media – over the past decade – of use of non-lethal but highly effective methods of stopping this kind of thing. Stuff like foam, high-pressure water, low frequency sound and pancake bullets – that sort of thing. In your experience, was any of this newer technology ever employed, or did the guards stay within the older framework of guns and gas?

While I was in prison from 1990, on and off through 2008, before I found a new path in writing books, I saw some changes in those deadly force measures. Keep in mind I’m talking California State prisons. First of all, the pepper spray works! It isn’t the kind of pepper spray you can imagine if all you are used to is what the police use on the streets. California prison pepper spray at one point killed a number of inmates because it was so pure that it stopped peoples breathing, caused shock and heart attacks. Somewhere in the mid 1990’s they finally toned it down slightly.

Don’t picture a little pepper spray bottle, picture a small fire extenquisher. Picture inmates drenched in so much pepper spray that it looks like they have been painted orange. I’ve seen white shirts and bald heads completely drenched in dripping orange fire. The pepper spray is so strong that if a fight is going down in the building, all of the inmates inside the cells will start coughing.  They will stand at the cell watching, with their faces covered with shirts like bandanas.

The next level of force was the old fashioned billy clubs. New laws changed the shape of them from the same kind the police use on the streets to higher tech ones that are spring loaded and eject a thinner steel outward. Those disappeared later. As mentioned earlier the guns start with the block guns and graduate to “LIVE ROUNDS COMING NEXT,” usually with that exact warning.

I have finally got around to writing about life at Centinella, where I spent my last amount of prison time and will use an example of a respectable gun tower guard. I had made it my business to develop conversations with gun tower guards, because I figured they would see me in a human light. I tried to pick their brains and make them laugh. One prison guard I talked to was an ex-military sharp shooter. When the Mexican inmates and Black inmates went off in a yard riot, that everyone knew was coming, that tower guard never fired a live round. That riot was a very serious one and prison made weapons were scattered all over the yard. More than a dozen inmates had puncture wounds from being stabbed. He probably should have fired live rounds, even if he only fired into the ground. But he had a lot of pressure on him to dance that fine line of which inmates can I righteously say are trying to kill. Later he was laughed at by many of the other guards as weak.

That Mexican and Black war was a long way from done. The next time they came off lockdown to wage another round, that same guard fired a live round in a smaller riot. He fired it through the middle of the basketball backboards right where the red square is.

I get the distinct impression that the guards’ reactions to you would have been no different, had you not been involved in the fighting. From your writing, I felt that they just kind of swept in and mopped up – paying no heed to innocence or guilt. In other words, even if you had hunkered down with your hands over your head, you still would have been tied up with zip ties and carted off to the SHU. Is that true, or am I missing something?

You have that part right on. In a riot like that they take everyone in the area and sort it out in ad-seg. To be found guilty of “being a combatant” it takes the written reports of eye witness accounts from the guards, pepper spray proof dripping off the inmate, injuries, hand evidence from punching or using a weapon and the very rare testimony from another inmate.

It’s clear to me that the financial rewards benefit the guards in these situations. Overtime, Hazard pay, etc. Bearing in mind that neither of us are corrections professionals, in your opinion, were the guards complicit in these riots? Did they see the financial benefits as incentives to foster dis-harmony among the many inmate groups?

Fantastic question and hard answer. Yes I have painted that picture in a number of my books that this is the case, and yes it does happen. However, it is rare where the guards do it in an evil way. For people who haven’t been there, this must be so hard to understand, but even the prison guards become affected by all the violence and pressure.

There are so many examples I can use of this but to be fair to how hard their jobs are, they can know a riot is coming just as well as the inmates – because a tiny percentage of the inmates send them written notes, telling them it is going to happen – yet they can’t stop it. What are they going to do, ship hundreds of inmates to other yards every time? I have been on over 25 different prison yards. In my experiences, I have seen guards get evil and instigate wars to continue, by what they say while we are locked down. When one side wins a yard fight in a big way – let’s say the Mexican inmates are attacked by the Black inmates and get their asses handed to them – and a Mexican veteran prison guard says things in the building like, “You guys aren’t getting off lockdown for years. You know that if you mess with one bean you get the whole burrito.” That is putting pressure on both races to keep the war going.

The prison guards and gun towers can pop cells open inside the building where both races are let out, in those situations, and the war reignites with what is called, on site orders. That kind of situation keeps the yard on lockdown and that hazard pay – time and a half continues.

Again, to be fair to the 99% of the prison guards who don’t deserve to be painted this way, it is a rare fact of California prison life. But, besides the extra money incentives, and overtime control, the prison guards are following a divide and conquer strategy because they would rather see the inmates fighting against each other versus fighting them!

There are 3 reasons that I can see for becoming a prison guard. A) One could have an anti-crime hard-on. Say one’s family or one’s self were victims of crime, for example. B) Money. It’s possibly the best paying and most in demand area of law enforcement. C) A genuine desire to help people turn their lives around. However, several psychological experiments conducted over the last half century would indicate that regardless of the motivations for joining up, the tendency is to move towards a culture of cruelty and corruption. Based on your experience, would you say you found that to be true? Were there any guards that you thought highly of?

Yes I found many that I respected and thought highly of. Most of those either usually looked like they could have been in prison themselves, and or they were militarily trained pros. As mentioned earlier I studied them like my life depended on it and this became getting to know them through conversation.

In California prisons you have regular prison guards, tower guards, free staff workers who work the clothing, food and other shops, Inmate Gang Investigators, Security Escorts, Special Teams for searches and cell extractions and Counselers that go all the way up to the Warden. They are hardly ever all on the same side themselves. Inmates are constantly studying this angle to find cracks in their structure. How do you think all the cell phones are landing in prisoners hands? How about a percentage of the dope and pretty much all of the tabacco? How about inside info?

For the most part most of the prison guards are there to earn a paycheck. On the serious level 4 yards where the inmate population is more then half lifers, there isn’t much room for a prison guard with a hard on to be disrespectful to inmates because he knows he will get stabbed. In a place where violence and pressure are a constant, moment by moment, 24-7 affair – 365 days a year, the senses are hardened and the culture becomes emotionless.

What is the relationship between I.C.C. and the store? You waited for a long time to get I.C.C. so you could buy essentials like toothpaste and deodorant. Why is it viewed as necessary for an inmate to be classified before he’s allowed store privileges?

Because an inmate has to be classified to a certain level for yard and store priviledges. I.C.C. is a collection of prison administrators mostly made up of counselors who do the paperwork. That part of the process is where they determine special needs situations. Lets say that an inmate gets off the bus and enters a prison, that person has to be cleared for yard before they get to go to yard and get store. I.C.C. looks through the file to determine if there are any enemies or reasons not to put the inmate on the yard. For instance, a well know rapist, police officer doing time, or even Charlie Manson, can’t just be put on a mainline prison yard because they are all consided, points to earn and will get stabbed. For that and many other reasons, I.C.C. keeps inmates locked down, without priveledges, until that process is determined.

Once determined, and you are on the mainline, and a riot or any form of discipline puts you in the hole-ad-seg (SHU), you have to go through that process all over again to get yard and store in there.

I get that it was terribly important for the I.C.C. to classify you as what you were – White inmates, but could you spell out for our readers why the Southern Mexican label would have been so detrimental.

In the true story I wrote, Prison Riot – I was involved in a massive riot that made the news at Solano in 1998. The southern Mexicans were outnumbered by the northern Mexicans and my friend Steve Smith, also known as Giant and myself decided to lend a hand to the southern Mexicans because we were friends with many of them.

Let me make this very clear, I’m a White man who doesn’t gang bang or claim a gang, and I helped them because I don’t like to see people bullied or outnumbered. Giant felt the same way. The problem with being 2 White guys in the midst of almost 100 Mexicans at war in a riot is that the prison guards had to assume we were what is called, Sleepers, who were Mexican gangsters. The massive problem for us as White inmates to be classified as southern Mexicans in the hole, is that when our SHU term ran its course, we were going to be housed as southern Mexicans. That is a massive problem.

Imagine getting off the bus at a new prison, being put in a cell with a southern Mexican, and having to tell him, “Look I’m sorry to disturb you but I’m a White inmate so please don’t tell me about who you guys are stabbing tomorrow.” On the other side of that coin you are also going to have to explain to the rest of the White inmates that you are indeed a White inmate!

I’d be very interested in some of your views regarding the impact of America’s drug war on these racial politics within the prison system. Could you give me a brief paragraph showing a connection between the Drug Culture in the U.S. and the struggle as it is currently playing out in Mexico – and could you tie that to the California prison system?

Perfect question to add to the last one, to show you how crazy it is –because of the drug war and the direct connection to it, breeding more violence and gangs, under the current policy where we incarcerate drug offenders!

In California prisons southern Mexican inmates are under enormous amounts of pressure to straight up be gangsters, and that breeds an army of gangs. That is also the case for every other race, maybe to a lesser extent. The amount of gangs in southern California is staggering and their reach is long. By not getting to the root of the problem – drugs and poverty – prison is the breeding grounds. People see the news that the Mexican cartels are powerful and they don’t understand that in California’s prisons, those cartel members don’t have the most influence. So if I’m in a cell with a southern Mexican all of those politics are crossing into a White inmate’s loyalties.

Back to the drug war breeding gangs. By incarcerating low level drug offenders we are turning an addiction into an affliction much harder to escape, where gangs and violence are the calling cards. The problem gets bigger when these displaced, tattooed down, harder to get a job, mentally taxed from post traumatic stress, human beings get released without any job training or housing placement.

Now you mentioned Mexico’s drug war also. Most people don’t know this but in Mexico it is legal to have up to an ounce of Meth, Heroin, Cocaine etc. You just can’t bring it to sporting events or sell it! I used to hear this on the radio in my cell in Centinella, on the border of Mexico, and scratch my head in exasperation. But guess what. By decriminalizing drugs you take the power out of them! Look at Canada, their policing of drug addicts is more of a nursing program to get them into treatment. If we treat drug addiction as a disease, which it is now looked at like alcoholism, we are being not only smarter, but more humane. We shouldn’t call drug addicts criminals. For those of you with kids who have become addicted you understand.

English: Aerial view of San Quentin State Pris...

Aerial view of San Quentin State Prison, in Marin County, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kind of a side note here, but the homemade lighter you spoke of is actually called a carbon-arc lamp. It was one of the first lamps used for film projection in the 1890s. Necessity truly is the mother of invention. Can you think of some other prison fabrications you created that were of equal technical interest?

The Asian inmates are the most advanced, go figure. They made lighters with batteries that were almost like a regular lighter! We also used salt water lighters. Inmates can make cell phone chargers and so much more, but I personally am not that talented.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

Should We Decriminalize Drugs to Take The Power Out of The Drug War and The Mexican Drug Cartels?

By Glenn Langohr

We now look at drug addiction as a disease in government and medical institutions, so when are we going to end the War on Drugs and how will we? The War on Drugs has only made drug use more desirable by making them more taboo, thus creating an underground culture where it is cool to avoid detection. Fast cars, fast women, flashy tattoos and jewelry and being the man, or woman, that can supply the need is what spurs the desire to be involved and it makes it cool. There is a social structure involved that includes sex, money, power, control and greed. So if we decriminalize drugs we take the power out of them and the rest of this underground culture. Vicente Fox in Mexico has come down hard on the cartels and 40,000 drug war murders have been the result. In- fighting between cartels like the Sinaloa, Juarez and Zetas has been over how to get the most money from the U.S.’s demand for drugs.

Recently, some problems with an operation the ATF dubbed, Fast and Furious, has made headlines with over 2,500 machine guns that our government gave the cartels in a sting operation and have since been used to kill our own law enforcement in Arizona. This is just another example that proves the joke is on us, in this War on Drugs. Another problem, the pharmaceutical giants who sell legal heroin to our kids in pain killers like Oxycontin. The kids smash up the pills and snort them for a quick high. This is leading to the more raw form, Mexican tar heroin. In south Orange County, California there have been 80 overdose deaths in a few years and finally reporters like David Whiting, chief editor for the Orange County Register, has started writing about these very issues.

The solution to this War on Drugs is many fold. First we have to make drugs look less enticing. A mass media campaign must be followed by success stories from those who have turned away from drugs and got their families, careers and lives back. We have to show the public that it is a spiritual war since drug use divides every blessing possible, like families, marriages, freedom, jobs and everything else that is forgotten about during drug use and all the aforementioned are broken and divided to nothingness. Second we have to attack this problem with our over crowded jails and prisons. We have to give these inmates something to turn their lives around while incarcerated, like helping them learn how to write all manner of scripts, along with job and living placement upon release. In Nevada released prisoners are offered jobs in sanitation and released prisoners find meaning in work, getting their families back, fitting into the community and realizing they can survive. Nevada has the lowest recidivism, rate of return back to prison in the nation.

Militares del Ejército Mexicano a su llegada a...

Militares del Ejército Mexicano a su llegada al estado de Michoacán, México. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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“I went from obsessively pacing my cell to realizing that if I find a way to write what’s in my head, I can find a way out of this hole.” — Glenn Langohr

Help End the Felony Murder Rule

By BitcoDavid

A Follower on FaceBook brought this petition to our attention.

They bring up the following points:

The felony murder rule operates as a matter of law upon proof of the intent to commit a felony to relieve the prosecution of its burden of proving intent to kill, which is a necessary element of murder.

The intention to commit a felony does not equal the intention to kill, nor is the intention to commit a felony, by itself, sufficient to establish a charge of murder.

The felony murder rule erodes the relation between criminal liability and moral culpability in that it punishes all homicides in the commission, or attempted commission, of the proscribed felonies, whether intentional, unintentional, or accidental, without proving the relation between the homicide and the perpetrator’s state of mind.

Under the felony murder rule, the defendant’s state of mind is irrelevant. Because intent is a characterization of a particular state of mind with respect to a killing, felony murder bears little resemblance to the offense of murder except in name. First-degree murder is an arbitrary assignment.

Holding one or many criminally liable for the bad results of an act which differs greatly from the intended results is based on a concept of culpability which is totally at odds with the general principles of jurisprudence.

It is fundamentally unfair and in violation of basic principles of individual criminal culpability to hold one felon liable for the unforeseen and un-agreed to results of another felon’s action.

The basic rule of culpability is further violated when felony murder is categorized as first-degree murder because all other first-degree murders (carrying equal punishment) require a showing of premeditation, deliberation and willfulness, while felony murder only requires a showing of intent to do the underlying felony.

The purpose of creating degrees of murder is to punish with increased severity the more culpable forms of murder, but an accidental killing during the commission or attempted commission of a felony is punished more severely than a second-degree murder.

While the felony murder rule survives in Tennessee, Virginia, Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, West Virginia, Indiana, California and other states, the numerous modifications and restrictions of it by some states’ courts and legislatures throughout the United States reflect dissatisfaction with the basic harshness and injustice of the doctrine and call into question its continued existence.

The felony murder rule can be used by prosecutors in a manner so as to cause grossly disproportionate sentencing, depending on the circumstances of each individual case.

The felony murder rule is probably unconstitutional because presumption of innocence is thrown to the winds. The prosecution needs only to prove intent to commit the underlying felony; that
done, first degree-murder becomes part and parcel of the underlying felony because intent to commit murder does not have to be proved.

The felony murder rule is probably unconstitutional because in some cases it violates the Eighth Amendment: cruel and unusual punishment, grossly disproportionate to the crime(s) actually

The felony murder rule holds unequally involved parties equally accountable and punishable. Again, cruel and unusual punishment if you’re only the lookout for a robber who happens to kill in the process of the robbery.

they deserved it

they deserved it (Photo credit: Will Lion)

The felony murder rule violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of due process because no defense is allowed on the charge of first-degree murder, only the underlying felony.

The felony murder rule bears no rational relationship or equity in its two penalties, with the penalties of other murder laws, including, at times, the charge of first-degree murder.

It is no longer acceptable to equate the intent to commit a felony with the intent to kill.

Believe it or not, the American Justice System was created to keep people out of prison. The concept of innocent until proven guilty, The right to protection against self incrimination, and The 8th Amendment – all speak to the American concept of fair play, the dread of incarceration and our aversion to cruel and unusual punishment.

What could possibly be crueler than to Imprison a teenager for life – for merely being present at the scene of a crime. Maybe he was driving the car. Maybe he was the lookout. Should he be punished? Yes, of course. But can we, in good conscience, allow one stupid moment – one adolescent lapse of judgement – to cost him his entire life?

Please consider signing this petition at:

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.


Another Digest Post

By BitcoDavid

With all that’s been going on at, I’ve been unable to keep up with regular news posts. Well, the world keeps on turning and news waits for no man. Now we’ve got a huge backlog that will be presented in one massive digest post. So, let’s get this done.

Apply head to desk, lift, repeat as often as necessary… Thanks to Bric123 for the graphic. (And we thank AnotherBoomerBlog for making it available to us.

On November 24th, AnotherBoomerBlog’s Marsha Graham posted the following on her site.

What Would You Do If…

In it, she poses the question that we’ve been grappling with all along.

Welcome to the world of the Deaf in the criminal justice system in America.  So far as I can tell, there are a significant number of the deaf – perhaps as many as 20% – who are so incapable of understanding English and the concepts of Miranda as expressed in English that they were actually incapable of participating in their own defense and should never have been brought to trial. I’m not saying that they didn’t do whatever it was – maybe they did, maybe they didn’t – but even if they did, they were not competent to stand trial based on a lack of understanding.


Image of Glenn Langohr

Image courtesy of Glenn Langohr . (Don’t get scared. Guy’s really a teddy bear.)

Our newest contributor, Glenn Langohr put up a great editorial on Ezine @rticles. In No Taxes For New Prisons, he makes the point that so called tough on crime sentencing policies and mandates, make for a situation where we’re actually creating a criminal class instead of offering people a hand-up to getting their lives back on track.

[In his books, Glenn speaks of a fellow inmate he calls “Giant.” Well, if the guy in this picture calls another guy “Giant,” let’s just say I’d hate to get on the wrong side of that guy! :) ]

With further awareness that non violent inmates, most for drug related crimes, are becoming institutionalized, where an addiction is bred into an affliction much harder to escape, where gangs and tattoos become the answer, spitting displaced, alienated inmates back into the neighborhood without any job placement or a new skill set, equals the need for more and more prisons. The public has had enough on both sides of the party lines with the majority of Democrats and Republicans voting more than 60% for sentence modification for crimes like shoplifting and other petty offenses, rather than increase taxes to build even more prisons. 70% said they would have no problem with early releases without sentencing modifications for non violent offenders a poll from Washington.

In California there are already 33 state prisons. The most in the nation. California also has the worst recidivism percentage in the nation with more than 70% of released inmates are back behind bars within three years. Nevada however, has the lowest rate of return for released prisoners because they have job placement into sanitation jobs upon their release.


English: Supermax prison, Florence Colorado Es...

Supermax prison, Florence Colorado (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the Denver Post, we get this:

Officials at the highest-security federal prison in America have taken steps to address mental- health issues among the prison’s inmates, following a lawsuit that accuses the government of indifference.

The changes at the administrative maximum prison in Florence, known as Supermax, started last summer, shortly after attorneys filed a lawsuit in Denver federal court on behalf of several inmates who say their mental illnesses are not being treated at the prison.


AlterNet did a report on a Montana man who received 80 years for growing medical marijuana, in a state where medical marijuana is legal. according to the report, he also had guns in his home, which is the sticking point for the DOJ, but both are legal in Montana. This story is a complex web of 2nd amendment issues conflicting with 10th amendment issues.  Here’s the link to AlterNet’s coverage.


We also get this story from AlterNet, but I know that both Solitary Watch and PrisonMovement’s Weblog have covered it.

In Washington state, an elementary school’s use of a padded isolation room is sparking controversy.

Image courtesy of AlterNet

Apparently, some schools in Washington State are using what is essentially solitary confinement to discipline certain special needs kids. The schools maintain that these devices are therapeutic for kids with autism and other learning disabilities. They claim that parental permission is required before the booths can be used.

Some parents disagree, and several have stated that their kids were put in the booth – or threatened with it – without parental permission. Regardless of all that, I see this as a clear cut illustration of the School to Prison Pipeline in action. By inuring students to solitary as punishment, we set them up to anticipate receiving similar treatment when they embark on their inevitable prison careers.

We’ve also seen commonalities between mistreatment of disabled students, including the Deaf, and an increased likelihood that those disabled students will end up in the system as adults – or even as older juveniles.

Again, here’s AlterNet’s link:


Image courtesy of Solitary Watch

Once again, the People’s Republic of Massachusetts  is on the bleeding edge of Human rights issues. According to Solitary Watch, a Massachusetts court ruled against solitary confinement without due process. This would turn California’s system on its ear. On November 27th, an inmate named LaChance won a lengthy court case. He had been sentenced to 2 weeks in solitary as punishment for a minor offense, but after the 2 weeks were up, the COs didn’t release him. Instead, they waited for action status.  LaChance remained in solitary for 10 months.

Here’s that link:


Documentary film director, Ken Burns has just completed a movie about the Central Park Five, which discusses how New York railroaded a group of innocent teens in what was called at the time, the crime of the century. AlterNet covers the story, here:


Now famous WikiLeaks suspect, Bradley Manning, while in solitary confinement attempted to use exercise and other techniques to cope with the overwhelming monotony in his bare, windowless cell. The authorities deemed these activities as signs of an impending suicide, and…

That night guards arrived at his cell and ordered him to strip naked. He was left without any clothes overnight, and the following morning made to stand outside his cell and stand to attention at the brig count, still nude, as officers inspected him.

The humiliating ritual continued for several days, and right until the day he was transferred from Quantico on 20 April 2011 he had his underwear removed every night. The brig authorities later stated that in their view the exceptional depriving of an inmate’s underpants was a necessary precaution, in the light of his ominous comments about using his underwear and flip-flops to harm himself.

More on this – again – by AlterNet:


I received this via e-mail from James Ridgeway of Solitary Watch. The world’s only professional Deaf/blind theater troop performs a play while actually baking bread. They get up on stage and bake bread. Yes, you read that right. They bake bread – and while doing so – take the audience on a trip into the world of the Deaf/Blind. The show is receiving rave reviews. Here’s the link.


MadMike’s America is my mentor site. When get’s even 1/10th as big, I can die and go to Heaven. Here’s a post they did this week. A juvenile was driving under the influence, and had an accident. This resulted in the death of his passenger. The judge in the case ruled that the teen didn’t have to do time, but he would have to attend church every Sunday for the next 10 years. I’m not sure which is worse! Give me prison! Please!

Here’s MMA’s coverage:


Scientists are working on developing signs for some of their terminology, making it easier for Deaf students to learn. Prior to this, students and interpreters were forced to fingerspell out complex words like m-i-c-r-o-b-i-o-l-o-g-y. Now, there will be specialized ASL signs for those words. Here’s the link from the New York Times:


Still on top of things, Solitary Watch reports that the now infamous Tamms State Prison actually has more guards than inmates. Surprising in a country that is literally drowning in its immense prison population. Anyway, there are more guards than prisoners – and these guards are still racking up huge overtime. The end result is that Illinois is even broker than we previously suspected. The governor of the state has called for the closing of the facility, but he’s meeting resistance from AFSCME, the guards’ union. Here’s Solitary Watch’s link:


Whew! Well, that’s that. Let’s hope I can stay current with stuff, and not have to do this again.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

State Crime Data Log Is Lacking Due to Drug War

By Glenn Langohr

The criminal records system California relies on to stop child abusers from working in schools, and violent felons from buying guns, is so poorly maintained that it routinely fails to alert officials to a subject’s full criminal history. The other side of this issue is that a list of possible matches appears, denying work or gun ownership for those without a criminal history, or one that has been expunged. Imagine trying to get a job, in an already depressed economy, and the background check returns a bunch of possible arrest and convictions, that aren’t even accurate.

Information from millions of records buried at courts and law enforcement agencies has never been entered in the system. This overwhelming amount of information is then haphazardly rushed into possible matches and isn’t accurate. Tough on crime platforms have destroyed the criminal justice system because for a District Attorney seeking to climb the ladder or enter politics a soft on crime look will stain their reputation or get them fired. In Orange County, California, a ninety nine percent conviction record is where the bar is set but look at the fact that six out of ten convicted cases that reach the Supreme Court are overturned for reasons like ineffective councel, leading the nation. This means justice has been thrown out the window and the right to a fair trial and the right to adequate defense is no longer viable. In other cases brought before the district attorney, police officers are trained to charge the suspect of a crime with as many possible charges relating to one charge as possible to make it easy for a plea bargain, also helping keep that ninety nine percent conviction ratio. Imagine just being released from jail or prison after not being defended properly or over zealously prosecuted, and now you are trying to find employment and the background check the employer runs shows a list of possible crimes not even committed!

Image courtesy Google Images - Public Domain photo.

Image courtesy Google Images – Public Domain photo.

Are we creating laws faster than good sense provides in the interest of tough on crime political stances? Are all these new laws creating a police state and only beneficial to people who have government jobs and unions to push even more law and early retirement benefits? When considering that unemployment in California is leading the nation at approximately ten percent and then realize even those numbers don’t show the percentage of released prisoners who aren’t even on the radar. The unemployment numbers are actually much higher and the result of too many petty laws putting too many people in jail or prison and completely forgetting about redemption or rehabilitation.

“I went from obsessively pacing my cell to realizing that if I find a way to write what’s in my head, I can find a way out of this hole.” — Glenn Langohr

The playground

YOᙀ ᙖᙓTTᙓᖇ ᙎᗩTᙅᕼ OᙀT YOᙀ ᙖᙓTTᙓᖇ ᑎOT ᙅᖇY ᙖᙓTTᙓᖇ ᑎOT ᑭOᙀT I'ᙏ TᙓᒪᒪIᑎᘜ YOᙀ ᙎᕼY ᔕᗩᑎTᗩ ᙅᒪᗩᙀᔕ Iᔕ ᙅOᙏIᑎᘜ TO TOᙎᑎ

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