From my limited experience, I know that it is difficult being incarcerated.

Here is a first post by Oscar in which he makes a modest request for SOAP

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Dear Warden Outlaw:

I’ve noticed that the prison cafeteria, which seats 468 inmates, has one general inmate bathroom.  Cafeteria workers routinely use this bathroom while on duty.  This bathroom, consisting of one toilet, a sink and a mirror, never has any soap, paper towels, or a fingernail brush.  There is a sign on the wall instructing all employees to wash with soap for 20 seconds, and to use the fingernail brush.

During orientation your personnel told me that inmates are not permitted to bring anything into the cafeteria, nor to take anything out.  Therefore the exhortations to cleanliness and hygiene are useless, since the inmates cannot possibly comply without breaking prison rules.

I was also told about the epidemic of MERSA, or drug resistant staph, in this prison.  It is understandable that this and other diseases flourish on this overcrowded compound.  All the inmate bathrooms lack soap dispensers.  Rather, each sink has three telltale puttied screw holes where the soap dispensers used to be.  There are paper towel dispensers, but they never have paper towels.  In fact they are used to store other items, because everyone knows that the paper towels will never come.

Staff bathrooms are clean and well stocked with sanitary supplies.  I’ve looked.  Of course inmates are forbidden to use these bathrooms.

The public is highly concerned about the poor hygiene habits of illegal aliens spreading disease in the food supply, as well they should be.  The situation here in prison is even worse, since it teaches inmates that signs about cleanliness mean nothing.   Prisoners, unlike illegal aliens, have not only the right but also the duty to get jobs when they leave prison, and a disproportionate number of those jobs are in low wage food service industries.  Inmates should be conditioned to wash their hands, thoroughly, each time they use the bathroom, so that they don’t even have to think about it.

It is highly likely that at least some of the well publicized health scares involving alleged food borne disease pathogens were the result of prisons such as this one conditioning inmates not to wash their hands after using the toilet.  These are real illnesses that impose real costs on ordinary citizens, businesses, and taxpayers.

There is a placard in the cafeteria stating that OSHA rules do apply, and that safety issues will be promptly addressed.  Soap for bathrooms is clearly a health or safety issue that should be addressed immediately.

Please spare us any government money for this problem.  We don’t need any more government money.  The waste of taxpayer dollars on this correctional complex is too obvious to miss.  The inmates need meaningful, remunerative opportunities to honestly create and conserve wealth.  We also need both opportunity and incentive to save tax dollars while simultaneously improving the efficiency of this facility.

Therefore I am requesting, pursuant to the federal Freedom of Information Act, (FOIA), an opportunity to inspect the complete financial and employee records of this correctional complex over the past three years.  Of course I only request those records or parts thereof to which the public is entitled.  I want to identify and eliminate wasteful and unnecessary spending, and thus to reduce the burden on the taxpaying public.  Right now I don’t want copies, I only want the opportunity to review the records.  I’ll decide about copies later.

Consider the following example of waste.  In my housing unit, equipment for ducting dryer air to the outside of the building is inoperable.  Thus the hot air is discharged directly into the living area.  I am told that this pervasive inoperability has persisted for at least five years, and that out of 12 housing units, none are in working order.  This imposes large unnecessary utility costs during the cooling season, and forces nearby inmates to unnecessarily breathe clothes lint.  This is another OSHA violation that needs to be fixed sooner and not later.

This request is directed to you, the warden, as opposed to lower level personnel.  The matters complained of herein have persisted, in violation of law, with your actual knowledge, for extended periods of time.  Therefore, I request that you delegate a staff person to act as a liaison with me respecting the matters outlined in this email.  The liaison should have the actual authority to make binding agreements related to the use of prison land, procurement of goods and services, etc., incident to the matters discussed herein.   In addition, I respectfully request reasonable access to my counselor, S. Foreman, who by both observation and reputation is rarely in his office.

This prison insists that inmates must know, or else be well taught, how to apply for welfare and food stamps.  Inmates are asked upon their arrival if they know how to apply for such things.  Also, I have overheard prisoners talking about all the taxpayer largesse they can avail themselves of immediately after they get out of prison.

Yet the administration of this prison recently ordered the destruction of existing gardens and prohibited any new inmate gardens! Inmates in this prison are routinely permitted and even required to use shovels, rakes, and similar garden tools.  Thus taxpayers are forced to bear an unnecessary economic burden of supporting children who would otherwise be financially supported by their own fathers, at least in substantial part, if prison administrators allowed inmates access to meaningful work.

During my admission and orientation lecture, your own personnel admitted that many inmates have “ghost” jobs.  Many of these ghost employees would be delighted to have an opportunity to grow a garden or otherwise engage in some sort of subsistence agriculture.  Some inmates would also teach others how to grow their own food in an economically viable manner.

Consider the following measures of government performance related to this particular request:

1.     CORRECTIONS

From 1970 to 2005 the prison population in the US increased 7 fold.  The US has about 5% of the world’s population, and about 25% of the world’s prisoners.  Recidivism statistics, according to a recent USA Today article, indicate that 70% of prisoners will re-offend, and 50% will be re-incarcerated, within 3 years of release.  Compare this to recidivism rates in European countries of as little as 20%, based upon incarceration rates perhaps a fifth of those in the US.   US taxpayers pay in the neighborhood of $30,000 per federal inmate per year, yet receive the opposite of what they pay for.

The logical conclusion is that current policies exacerbate rather than correct bad behavior.  The social, economic, and human costs of these policies are simply staggering.  The costs show up not only in homicides, robberies, thefts, and burglaries, but also in heightened feelings of personal insecurity, increased insurance costs, and increases in all sorts of expenditures designed to protect against crime.

2.     PUBLIC HEALTH CARE

The federal government last year spent some $850 billion on health care costs.  It is estimated that perhaps 80% of this cost is related to poor  lifestyle choices, such as unhealthy food, sedentary lifestyles, etc.   In addition to the actual health care costs, the associated costs due to lost productivity, shortened working lifespans, etc, are unquestionably in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Yet this prison by the admission of its own staff serves an unhealthy diet.  There is no meaningful attempt to teach inmates how to improve their health, despite pretenses to the same.  Cafeteria drink machines have beautiful pictures of fruit all over them, but they never dispense fruit juice.  They do dispense literally tons of high fructose corn syrup, a cheap but pernicious source of calories.  Inmates have little access to raw or lightly cooked vegetables.  Much of the vegetables we do get are so overcooked that they have little of their original nutrients and palatability.

I am informed that your staff threatened an inmate with 30 days in the Special Housing Unit, (SHU) which is punitive segregation, for complaining of chest pains, then immediately called for emergency medical transportation to the hospital when it became clear that he was having heart attacks.  Yet your policies deprive inmates of the opportunity to juice fast, to eat a diet high in whole grains, raw fruits and vegetables, and other healthy choices.  Thus the prison administration essentially forces inmates to wreck their health, even when they desperately wish to do otherwise.  The inmates suffer the personal consequences, the taxpayers pick up the tab.

3.     US BUDGET

The US government currently spends well over 150% of its tax revenues.  The best case scenario calls for a $1.3 trillion dollar deficit for the current fiscal year.  The difference is made up through borrowing and the printing press, which in itself is a deceitful and dangerous method of borrowing.  It cannot be doubted that this over spending is unsustainable and will lead to economic ruin.  Our creditors, taxpayers, and citizens are all increasingly frightened and desperate for positive change.

Please understand that nothing in this missive should be construed as anything other than a respectful, albeit firm, request for assistance from you.  Furthermore, my main focus is on the prospective correction of bad policies, as opposed to dwelling on historical missteps.  The following is a list of what I request:

A.     All violations of federal, state, and local health and safety regulations in this prison should be corrected.  Every other business is expected to comply with the law.  This institution should do the same, cheerfully, completely, and promptly.  If a law or regulation is onerous, the proper remedy is to lobby the appropriate legislator or other responsible party, requesting that the law or regulation be changed in the legal way.

B.     Honesty and forthright prison administration is essential.  Inmates cannot reasonably be expected to learn scrupulous honesty when they see the opposite from those in charge of supervising their incarceration.   The hypocritical advice to wash with soap is only one of many examples of speaking one way and acting another.

C.      The overall cost to the tax paying public must be dramatically reduced.  This prison can and should do its part by reducing its total cost to the tax paying public at least by the percentage amount the federal budget needs to be reduced in order to have a balanced budget.   Savings should be calculated to include reduction in reliance on food stamps and welfare, reductions in health care costs imposed by poor diet and lifestyle choices by inmates, etc.  The administration of this prison should receive credit, from Congress as well as the tax paying public, for objective, verifiable reductions in the costs associated with those government programs.  I intend to make sure that it does.

This document discusses matters of public funds, public health, and public concern.  As such it is core 1st Amendment speech, accorded the highest level of legal protection under the law.  This message is being sent to my friends, to various think tanks, to legislators, to the general public via my blog, and otherwise disseminated to the widest possible audience.

When I meet with your liaison, I request an opportunity to discuss objective goals and timetables.  Bland, undefined hopes and dreams for improvement are not enough.  I expect objective, reasonable goals for improving the corrective function of this facility, lowering costs to tax paying citizens, and ensuring full compliance with the laws, especially those related to health and safety.

I furthermore will seek reasonable information about the resources available, a suitable written framework for ensuring that the goals can be met, a means for obtaining baseline statistical data concerning recidivism, overall inmate health, etc., and time frames deemed reasonable by the administration of this prison.  Summaries of baseline information, and progress in meeting  goals, will be published and updated from time to time.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  I look forward to your permission, even blessing, to commence work on the project of ensuring that every bathroom in this prison is in good repair and fully stocked with sanitary supplies.   Nothing would please me more than the distinct honor and privilege of giving you credit for a revolutionary improvement in the correctional outcomes at this facility.

Thank you very much for your kind consideration of this request.  I look forward to your reply.

Oscar Stilley

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