Some months ago the Director of the BOP issued a new rule, prohibiting inmates from receiving their own eyeglasses from home. That’s wrong on every level. In this blog post, I’m making public an administrative request for a rule change, which would allow inmates to receive their own eyeglasses from home or from commercial eyeglass producers. I’m also asking for concerned citizens to call federal officials, and lobby for a prompt favorable action on my request…

On 8-5-2013 I mailed an administrative request to Department of Justice-Federal Bureau of Prisons (DOJ-FBOP) offices, asking them to allow inmates to receive eyeglasses.  I also mailed the letter attachment to DOJ-FBOP Director Charles A. Samuels, Jr., directly, in a separate envelope.  A copy of the request may be read here… Letter to Charles Samuels-080513

This request was sent in an envelope together with an appeal of a “shot” (formal disciplinary incident report) that cost me 14 days of “good time.” I lost that time because my locker was searched, and 5 (allegedly 6) oranges were taken from me.  If you want to see the text of the appeal, click here… Appeal to National-Oranges  It has more to do with opposing fraud and corruption in the administrative process than it has to do with one specific disciplinary action.

I’m asking for your help on the eyeglasses issue.  The policy of which I complain is the one of the worst examples of fraud, waste, and abuse in the federal government.  This policy, which came from the desk of Mr. Samuels, protects government parasites who make eyeglasses.  More correctly, it protects the economic interests of government parasites who “supervise” inmates so as to ensure that the inmates cannot do a respectable and competent job of making eyeglasses for their fellow inmates.  The BOP can’t make a pair of glasses worth wearing.  A very high percentage of them simply cut wrong – they’re either not ground correctly, or the prescription itself was wrong.  If you send the glasses out, you can’t get them sent back.  And then you have to explain why you have no glasses.

Even if they cut the glasses according to the prescription, they’re junk.  They constitute a permanent reminder to inmates that they are, in the eyes of the BOP, subhuman.  These eyeglasses are what you would expect from a small, backward, communist regime in Eastern Europe at the height of the cold war.  The BOP can’t do its job for all the same reasons that communist regimes couldn’t do theirs.  The BOP is a Potemkin village to end all Potemkin villages.

Every penny used for these glasses is stolen money.  It is stolen by false pretenses, by a federal government that borrows money which it most certainly cannot pay back.  “Borrowings” by the federal government, at the present time, are theft by deception, neither more nor less.  It matters not whether the theft is by insincere Treasury bonds, or by operation of the printing press.  There is no way for the federal government to honestly repay its contracted debts — EVER!

I’m asking for your help.  Call Mr. Samuels and ask for a prompt favorable decision.  Then post information on this blog about the feedback you get when you call.  Put in 1) name and official title of the contact, 2) public phone number of the contact, and 3) Date, time, and a brief summary of the contact’s position on the issue.  Put the pressure in the most advantageous direction. If you don’t get a firm promise of a favorable decision from Mr. Samuels, go up, over his head.  Go to Eric Holder and to your US Senator or Representative.

You may get objections.  I’ll help you with responses.  If you get an objection that is not addressed here, let me know and I’ll help.

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1)   Inmates might use glasses to smuggle in contraband.

RESPONSE:  Surely you can’t be serious.  Will you tell me, the taxpayer and citizen, that you can’t effectively find contraband in shipments of eyeglasses?  Are your employees so simpleminded that they cannot, with all their expensive equipment, detect contraband in eyeglasses?  You maintain the custody of 219,000 inmates, employ about 37,000 employees, and spend some $7 billion a year, but you have no facility anywhere that can find contraband in EYEGLASSES???!  And even if that were the case, why don’t you allow glasses to be sent directly from a commercial supplier?  You don’t allow in USED glasses, you don’t allow in NEW glasses.  Does the DOJ-FBOP trust nobody at all?  They allow in hardcover books from commercial suppliers of books.

Can you not punish inmates who ship contraband?  Do you not punish private citizens who try to introduce contraband into prisons?  Does this not take laziness to a new level – denying all inmates eyeglasses over the possible (perhaps only theoretical) transgressions of a most miniscule minority?  You have a recidivism rate of some 70% – how can you possibly make things worse by allowing eyeglasses?

Ask them what percentages of eyeglass shipments have contraband.  What are the statistics, and what contraband came into the prisons in eyeglass shipments?  Please tell us all the contraband you’ve gotten, when, where, from whom, and to whom.  Ask if they’ll expedite a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request on that issue.  The truth of the matter – DOJ-FBOP paid employees are most probably the main source of contraband in federal prisons.

The DOJ-FBOP punishes inmates for not learning, not getting a GED, etc.  How can you punish them when some can’t see well enough to study, without glasses?  Your own junk just hurts their eyes.

2)   We want uniformity.

RESPONSE:  Most BOP glasses don’t even work correctly, and they don’t protect against damage from the sun.  The BOP is way behind schedule.  The government issued glasses are junk.  Other inmates have commercial eyeglasses already.  Why does uniformity even matter?   And is uniformity worth denying inmates the ability to see effectively?

3)   We want to create jobs.

RESPONSE:  Your inmate employee records are a complete farce.  How about showing us your complete records, of glasses produced, total costs of production, etc., salaries of employees, etc, at the facility at which these glasses are made?  Will you expedite the response to an FOI request, so we can see exactly how much you’re spending on these glasses?  If you get a positive response, let me help you draft the FOI request.

“Jobs” at my expense???  You’re using borrowed money to make these glasses.  Why do you refuse what amounts to donations to the federal government?  The government owes inmates dental, medical, and eye care, including serviceable glasses.  How do you justify spending taxpayer dollars for something the family will gladly supply?

4)   I haven’t seen the letter and can’t comment on it.

RESPONSE:    OK, give me an email address and I’ll send you the full text or the URL via email.  The letter is less than a page in length.  How about a phone call tomorrow, after you’ve had a chance to read the letter and think about it?  (You may want to talk to Samuels’ secretary beforehand, and make sure she or he has the URL, to make it easier for you.)

5)  Stilley started the administrative process at National, whereas he should have started with a BP 9 request to his local warden.

RESPONSE:  Oh really?  Do federal prison wardens have the power to overrule a National level policy issued over the signature of the Director?

And by the way, I’m an ordinary citizen, voter, and taxpayer – not an inmate.  I’m asking you nicely to do your job promptly, professionally, honestly, and competently.  I pay your salary, and you work for me.  I’ll give you a fair chance to correct your mistake – that’s why I called.  No, I won’t go UNDER you, unless you can show me the policy was issued AND SIGNED by one of your subordinates, in which case I’ll take the issue up with the proper person.  But if you insist on squandering my tax money on unnecessary purchases for inmates, over my objection, I’ll go OVER your head, to Attorney General Eric Holder, Congress, and the Office of the President, to see what they say.

POINT TO PONDER:  If you have to go OVER a department head for such a ridiculously obvious request, should you also ask FOR his head – figuratively speaking, of course?  Department heads who protect graft, corruption, featherbedding, and cronyism are the ENEMIES of honest taxpayers.  If taxpayers SACKED a few department heads who harbor such a mindset, do you think that others might take notice?

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The usual rules apply.  Be polite but firm.  Treat others as you would wish to be treated, if the tables were turned.  Make contemporaneous notes of who you talk to and the results obtained.  If you get agreement, post it as a comment to the blog post, and let me know.   If not; keep the pressure coming.

Remember, Mark Pryor has an election coming up.  I hope it isn’t necessary, but if you have to call his office, remind his personnel that both parties claim to be trying to save tax dollars.  Let him know you expect results, and PROMPTLY.  Justice delayed is justice denied.

The same goes for US Representative Tom Cotton.  He wants Pryor’s job.  If Pryor can’t stop this waste of tax money, Cotton needs to prove THAT HE CAN.  Play one against the other, if lesser efforts don’t get results.

Don’t forget the media.  If you catch them on a slow news day, you might well get a reporter calling the Director of the DOJ-FBOP, or some other public official.  Swindlers and thieves – especially those with lofty titles and a veneer of respectability – don’t like their nefarious activities exposed to the light of day.

It takes about 8 hours of drive time for my family to visit me.  Visitors then have to wait in line for your fair share of abuse, trying to get in, to an uncomfortable and crowded room.  That’s WAY too much time, money, and effort for most people.  I don’t expect you to do that.

But surely it isn’t too much to ask you to pick up the phone and make a call.  Can you make your voice heard?   Can you make it clear that for one small thing, you don’t want the federal mafia to borrow more money to squander on utterly unnecessary goods?  That doesn’t take hours – it takes a few minutes.

Many friends have asked what they can do to help me.  THIS IS WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP ME KNOW.   I’ve failed and fallen short on a lot of things.  I thought I’d have a published book by now, available for purchase.  With respect to that effort, I’ve fallen off my bicycle and used my nose for a brake.  I’m still trying, but all I can say right now is “wait a little longer.”

Yes, in the grand scheme of things, eyeglasses for inmates are small potatoes.  That’s one of the reasons I’m starting with this specific issue.  Economically, it is small potatoes compared to the total federal budget, but it means so very much to someone who has been denied eyeglasses for 3 years.

If you’ll help me win this battle, we can move right along to the next one.  Getting control of a massive organization such as the federal government is a lot like a flywheel.  If you can start it moving a tiny bit, you can add more momentum as time goes along.

It’s not just about money.  I’ve been locked up, on your nickel, for 3 years.  You have every right to demand some sort of competence from my captors.  Arguably, you have a DUTY to demand competence.  We claim to have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  Do we as citizens bear no responsibility for a DOJ that refuses to allow its legal adversaries to have the ability to see clearly?  Surely not!

Remember the story of the sheep (the righteous) and the goats (the unrighteous) on the Day of Judgment, in Matthew 25:31-46?  Jesus told the righteous “… I was in prison and you came to visit me.”  He told the unrighteous “…I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” (NIV)

BOTH the righteous and the unrighteous were surprised to hear that.  The righteous said “when did we see you in prison and go to visit you?”  The unrighteous similarly said “Lord, when did we see you…in prison, and did not help you?”

Verse 46, in the NIV, says “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

If you think prisoners deserve harsh treatment, remember that Jesus promised a robber being crucified for his crime that he would be with Jesus in paradise the same day.  Remember that Jesus also counseled forgiveness of enemies.  Should we deny forgiveness to a man who has already lost many years of his liberty, without any consideration whatsoever of his own repentance, self-rehabilitation, good deeds, or other factors?  If so, who SHOULD we forgive?

Whether or not you call, you can put someone else up to it.  You probably know someone with the gift of gab, a confident speaker.  Give them a programmed cell phone, a copy of this post, and ask them if they’ll call.  Block your caller ID, if you’re worried about them seeing multiple calls from different people on one cell phone.  See what happens.  Spread the word via email, blog posts, FaceBook, Twitter, etc.

Hit hard, hit fast.  Choreograph and organize, work smart, work together.  Believe in yourself, believe you’ll succeed.

This is one we can win.  This is one we SHOULD win, and soon.

Let’s roll.

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