The fiscal and moral responsibility of leadership (accountability to the taxpayer and society)

Rice, Milton L.



The Fiscal and Moral Responsibility of Leadership (accountability to the taxpayer and society) by Milton Rice 
 This is written in response to several newspaper articles that spoke in favor of Governor Weld's recent proposal/s the charge inmates for room and board. The public deserves to know all the facts. It would appear we have no short supply of passengers and/or crew for, as Dr. James Gilligan would describe in his book,[1] Violence, Our Deadly Epidemic..., "the voyage of the Pequod... societies endless... futile, self-defeating crusades, called "the war on crime"... and "the war on drugs"... and/or "get tough on crime". The Real problem here is that the public is being deceived by misinformation and prejudice perpetrated for political purposes by the Governor, an ever willing media and his DOC (Department of Corrections) in what appears to be a conspiracy to promote and finance a massive bureaucracy. According to[2] MCLS, the FY 1997 State Corrections budget was $582,833,000. With additional capital construction already approved at $420,000,000 for 6000 new prison beds, the corrections budget will increase to $769,000,000 annually. I agree with you, what an absurd waste of taxpayers money. Money that could be directed into education and other well deserving and needed areas for the public good. In actuality, the DOC has promoted the current overcrowding and waste within the Massachusetts Correction System by failing to follow inmate security classification criteria set forth by the National Institute of Corrections, resulting in the emptying of lower security facilities and the crowding of inmates into expensive high-tech higher security facilities.[3] Real Change of Cambridge reports that according to the DOC's own research, 49% of all inmates in Massachusetts have been needlessly assigned to higher security while hundreds of beds lie empty in Minimum security prisons. Over 50% of all prisoners are non-violent and with alternative sentencing/detention programs using available high-tech methods like bracelets, house arrest and other creative supervisory scenarios, men and women could stay out of prison, support themselves, keep their families together and at the same time be supervised. These few adjustments alone would negate the need for a half billion dollar construction program, not to mention save the taxpayers over 100 Million Dollars a year. The Governor and the DOC have absolute power over the corrections system in Massachusetts (soon to have and annual budget of 3/4 of a Billion Dollars) and intelligent citizens should realize that kind of power absolutely corrupts. Representative Kay Kahn (D-Newton) and Senator Robert Antonioni (D-Lemoninster) have co-sponsored a[4] Bill, #H2753 to establish a citizens, DOC Advisory Board. They have the right idea, to reign-in and more closely supervise "the loose cannon"... for the greater public good and accountability. Conditions within prisons are repressive, degrading and with few (if any) training, counseling and educational programs... all of which is totally contrary to anyone's benefit, inside or out. Over 85% of all prison inmates will be returned to society some day... and may very well become your neighbor. Would not a more intelligent and compassionate approach serve the public interest better than perpetuating the Governors "seven circles of Hell theme?" Of nearly 1600 men at MCI Norfolk, not many more than 250 have paid jobs, most of whom are paid from $1 to $2 per day with half of that amount mandated into a savings account. Even those earning at the highest monthly pay rate could hardly afford to pay rent. Most of the prison population is indigent and rely on the generosity of friends and relatives to send them any money. Many more have nothing at all besides what the state provides. The mere suggestion that prisoners should pay for services is so ludicrous that only an imbecile or heartless demon could possibly subscribe to such a plan. Most prisoners want to be able to look toward the future with a modicum of hope. We don't need to be handed a bill at the end of bid that will place a further burden upon the ability to merely exist let alone get started over again. 5% of the $39,000 figure mentioned in your article is $1,950. That's a lot of money for someone netting .50 cents a day ($10 a month) and even more for someone with no income. The kicker is that the Governor wants an additional 2½ year sentence imposed upon anyone who fails to pay the amount due. Sounds like the debtors prisons of the 16th and 17th centuries. Hopefully most informed citizens will realize that the Governors proposal is little more than a publicity stunt to get the "voyagers" juices flowing, attempting to rally more support for his "lynch mob". He's essentially telling anyone listening, "lets beat-down more defenseless people," add something more to their burdens and anxiety level and we can almost guarantee that after being released, they'll need to commit a crime in order to pay the bill we present to them. We'll never run out of customers for our human warehouse business and can almost guarantee the destruction of many more families who will themselves become customers of the mammoth bureaucracy we are creating. And frivolous law suits? Please, what a joke! When wasn't a frivolous suit thrown out of court or never given a second look. No one wants a frivolous suit and frankly few exist. The Governor and DOC conveniently wants the legislature to deny prisoners access to the courts and deny constitutional rights like Freedom of Speech and Due Process, etc. for the purpose of keeping them quiet. Most suits by inmates are brought about because of administrative violations of basic rights and needs. Without access to the courts, prisoners would be at the mercy of a fickle master at best. If the DOC would honor and comply with its own regulations, CMR's and policies as well as the State and Federal Constitutions, there would be little cause for (what "they" call frivolous) law suits. The problem is No Oversight and they do what they want capriciously and with impunity, without regard to common sense or rule of law. When faced with circumstances that should be dealt with at the institutional level and are not, prisoners have little recourse but through the courts. It is especially disconcerting when the DOC is plainly wrong and in violation of the law, they will instead of "doing the right thing" (even in the face of a court order) refer a case for further litigation to their own legal department, after all it doesn't cost them any money. The tax payers are picking up the tab. Who is really being frivolous? In most cases it is not the inmates. Making indigent prisoners pay for access to the courts plays into the Weld administrations plan to keep the public "deaf and dumb" and from knowing the whole truth about what goes on "inside." This is the United States of America... lets not forget it. Everyone has rights, even prisoners... and believe it or not... when you think of a prisoner... whatever your imagination conjures up, you can truly remark, ...but for the grace of God, there go I. The bottom line is... What is Fair? The taxpayers should not be paying nearly a Billion Dollars a year for little of no return on their investment. Especially for something that just doesn't work, is profoundly unfair and only succeeds in continuing a cycle of violence, broken homes and creating potential monsters. The whole Criminal Justice System and especially the Corrections System and the concept of punishment needs to be torn apart and rebuilt with serious intelligent and creative re-thinking about what kind of socially acceptable outcomes are wanted. What kind of man or woman does society want exiting it's prisons? Hopefully someone who will be a productive member of society. 
 Very Truly Yours, Milton L. Rice, MCI Norfolk P.O. Box 43 Norfolk, MA 02056 
 March "1997" 
 [1] Violence, Our Deadly Epidemic and its Causes, James Gilligan, MD, G.P. Putnam's Sons Publisher, New York, NY c 1996, pg. 22. [2] "The State of Corrections in Massachusetts: A Warning", January 1997 Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, Eight Winter Street Boston, MA 02108 (617) 482-2773 [3] "The Need for Oversight" Real Change, Lea G. Jaroszewski 229 Third Street, Cambridge, MA 02142-1129 [4] Write to: in support of "The Citizens Advisory Board on the Department of Corrections" Docket No. 2775 Joint Committee on Public Safety, Room 473B, State House, Boston, MA 02133 Senator James P. Jajuga, Chairman Representative Paul Caron, Chairman Joint Committee on Criminal Justice, Room 166, State House, Boston, MA 02133 Senator Robert Antonioni, Chairman 
 Representative Peter Larkin, Chairman

Author: Rice, Milton L.

Author Location: Massachusetts

Date: October 23, 2016

Genre: Essay

Extent: 3 pages

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