I want to share a rule here in the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) that doesn’t restrict inmates from writing or receiving letters from pen pals, but restricts the inmates from advertising for pen pals. The rule is under chapter 33-210:101 section (9). If you violate this rule, not only will you do 30 days in Disciplinary Confinement (DC), but the prison administration will give you a six month mail suspension. Cut you off from your family, friends and all loved ones, you can’t receive any cards or letters, nor can you send a card to your mother, father, daughter, son, grandparent, etc… to wish them a merry Christmas or happy birthday. And this is not done in the name of security, because an inmate violated a law, but over an FDOC rule that is going to eventually fall in the court. Several companies are challenging this right now.
I got caught up in this rule in 2005. I had an ad up that had been up since 2002, over a year before they passed this moronic rule. And in December 2005, with no warning, I received a Disciplinary Report (DR) for mail violation. And I got 30 days DC time and 180 days mail suspension. I immediately started a hunger strike, which lasted 3 weeks. I managed to get them to drop the mail suspension to 60 days, and I’m still not happy about that. It’s been 5 years and I’m still mad when I think about it. Some of the people within these prison administrations have no compassion whatsoever for the families of the inmates. They intentionally sever family ties. The FDOC is notorious for this, not just for cutting off the mail. No, some idiot rule maker decided not only will we give the prison administration the arbitrary and capricious right to suspend and sever family ties through the mail suspension, but we will allow them to sever family ties through visits also. And not for violating a law, or even for violating a visiting rule. You simply get two DR’s in a year and they can suspend your visitation for 6 months or a year. So now your family is suffering because your lines of communication have been shut down.
Family ties and bonds should be encouraged because when those ties are completely severed and you have a prisoner who has absolutely no one to care, love or show compassion, then what you have done is created an animal. For it’s not normal to cut a person off from complete and total human contact. It’s unnatural. And when you take away any and all hope, then what do you have left? Now there are those who say, “You’re under the sentence of death, you deserve to be treated like an animal.” Well, not everyone who gets convicted of murder is actually guilty. Florida has released (I believe) 24 men from death row since the death penalty was reinstated in 1974. Secondly, inmates in general population are being subjected to this rule as well, inmates who will eventually make it back into society, so you should care.
Back in 2002 through 2004 I spent some time in Q-wing at Florida State Prison. The prison administration was abusing the hell out of men. They were confining us to a cell where we had nothing. No TV, no radio, no newspapers, magazines, or books. The only reading material was a bible. You got recreation once every 30 days if you were lucky. This was your worst nightmare. And you could spend 6 months or 6 years there, it’s up to them. I organized a hunger strike in February 2004 that brought attention to the abuse and got half of us move off of Q-wing. We should have never been under those conditions to begin with. I was over there because someone said I had a handcuff key. It was a lie.
Over there I witnessed the misuse of mace, guys being sprayed for amusement, and these were men who were doing prison sentences, who would be going back to the street. Some were being released from Q-wing directly back to the street. This took stupidity to a whole nother level. There’s no way I’d want my loved ones living next door to someone who’d been abused and mistreated like that. You have dehumanized these men, treated them in a manner worse than you would treat an animal, and then you throw them out of the cage into society. Can someone explain this rampant stupidity? It just boggles the mind!
I was arrested in 1985. I had a serious drug and alcohol problem. I was 17 years old. I’d violated probation several times. I was sent to a drug center in the summer of 1986, which I ran from. All I wanted to do was get high. I saw guys popping in and out of the jail house, and I was told,”You can go to prison and you will be out in less than a year with no probation.” So I asked for prison time. I’d serve less than a year at Appalachee Correctional Institution (ACI). Going into the FDOC, they knew I had a drug problem, yet no treatment was administered. In fact the whole time I was at ACI, I was stoned or drunk. I was making prison wine called “buck,” and smoking weed like I was on the street. I was still a druggie. There as no real effort made to rehabilitate. So when I returned to the street I was still a druggie. Would I have succeeded, had there been? Well, that’ a question we’ll never know the answer to. I hear all this talk about how we cut programs because they’re too expensive and that’s why we’ve given up on rehabilitation. Here in the FDOC, we have over 100,000 inmates. You have 100,000 able bodies available for slave labor, yet everything’s being contracted out rather than making the prison system be self-sufficient. For instance, raising and growing their own food, the excess of which could be given to homeless shelters. Prison canteen. Keefe Commissary Network is making millions of dollars off a prison canteen, which could be run by FDOC. This would allow the money to be placed back into the FDOC to cut the budget back. This is free labor! If this place was run like a company, it could generate millions of dollars a year in profit. Something is definitely wrong here. I don’t know whether these contracts are allowing people to steal or what the deal is. But if the FDOC were a real corporation it would be out of business. Keefe Commissary Network was involved in illegal contracts with former secretary/current inmate James V. Crosby Jr. back in 2003-4. One such contract sent Crosby to prison. Why FDOC did not ban Keefe from any further contract bids is a mystery. Keefe should have been banned from any further bidding for at least a decade. Yet people turned a blind eye to Keefe’s corruption and allowed them back into the game. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? There’s a lot of corruption and abuse inside these prison walls.
Hopefully, in the near future you will see Florida inmates back on pan pal web sites and this unconstitutional rule will be lifted. Most guys I know are anxiously awaiting the ruling so we can get out there. The rule doesn’t prohibit us from writing to pen pals, just from soliciting them through ads. And I know most guys aren’t getting much mail these days. At least, I don’t.
Thank you very much for allowing me to share this with you.