"There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience." ~ French proverb
Cancerfornia: A Letter to the Golden State
Column by Kevin Patten.
Published in late 2009
There is a cancer growing inside the State of California. It is crushing the social stability of our counties and destroying the lives of thousands. The mass media has lied to you, saying it is in your best interest. But do not be deceived by this creature, for it is our own prison system – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Since 1970 the prison population in the Golden State has grown from 22,000 inmates to anywhere between 160-170,000 inmates (depending on which report you read) in 2009. And it will continue to do so. The simple reason being: There is absolutely no deterrent for criminals to stop committing crimes. When you get to the bottom of it, it is very simple logic: criminals will produce more criminals. This is exactly what is taking place behind the prison walls. And the officials and politicians who are supposed to watch over this monster are in reality endorsing this behavior. Sworn officers who are paid by your tax dollars actually advocate the escalation of criminal activities, for their own so-called “job security.”
How do I know this? Because I have just finished serving time behind those walls. I have watched very intently on what is happening. That time has given me the opportunity to see things that would probably make the average tax-paying person sick--for nothing else but the blatant insanity of it all. Anyone doing any sort of research on this matter could clearly see the fraudulent creed of “Rehabilitation.” With roughly seven out of ten inmates returning immediately back to jail, a sensible person would probably realize that there is something dangerously wrong. But perhaps it would take the experience of somebody who was inside to explain what is really going on. So regrettably I inform you of this: There is a breeding ground in our state penitentiaries, with people making a lot of money in the form of luxurious benefits and huge paychecks.
The first thing that is imperative to understand is the general mentality of the prison population. The public has a widespread illusion that because it is prison, it must be a place no one would want to go. This is a mistake. The truth is behind those gates there is an entire community of very comfortable inmates. Indeed, they are quite happy being the statistics that you read about in all the reports.
As would be expected, the majority of the prison congregation comes from street gangs. Surenos, Bloods, Crips, Skinheads, Wah Ching – just to name a few. There is a wide variety to choose from. Naturally, of course, the gangs are almost always divided up by race.
The Caucasian inmates usually fall between two primary groups; the Peckerwoods (‘Woods) and the Skinheads. The former consist of just about every white man that walks onto the yard while the Skinheads have established more of a hierarchy, constantly stabbing each other to move up the ranks. These hypocritical, Hitler-saluting scumbags have a mixture of racist ideologies, blending Nazism and the infamous “88 Precepts” to formulate their supposedly “superior way of life.”
Hispanic inmates move in a similar fashion, betraying each other to move up the ladder of command. With over 500 Hispanic gangs in the Los Angeles area alone, they are the major players in the prison game and “run” most of the yards. Not to mention that a large majority of them work for the murderous drug cartels in Mexico, running the drugs and doing the dirty work. Their main enemies are the Norteno’s from the northern part of the state.
The African Americans are a bit different – less organized and far fewer politics. The majority of them are either Crips or Bloods, again with dozens or hundreds of different sects and turfs. When they’re not feuding with each other, they usually fight with the Southerners, which is also a very prominent rivalry on the streets. Asians and Indians are the minority in prison, and they round out my list of categorized prisoners.
Now, read your newspapers. Turn on your T.V. The next time you see a person being arrested for one of the countless crimes committed in the state, remember that that offender first goes through the county jail. In Los Angeles County alone, that process can take up to three days, transferring from one cramped cell to the next. It is not uncommon to see people passed out on the urine-soaked floor, or prisoners putting graffiti on the walls. My most vivid recollections of the county jail could easily be likened to a medieval dungeon.
However, this is but the tip of the iceberg. When one eventually does get settled into either a dorm or a cell, the real problem will suddenly come to full understanding, the one that set the entire justice system astray from its original purpose of rehabilitating criminals.
As stated, the gangs are divided up mostly by race, so depending upon the color of your skin, you will be instructed on how “things” will be working in the dorm (or whatever housing unit you are assigned to). This will be done via the “shot-caller.” He will explain in detail about the mandatory politics which were established long before you got there. For example: if you are white then there will be no eating, drinking, or showering with any black man. Sharing and conversations will be kept at a bare minimum.
These pathetic rules, made only by another inmate, will be strictly enforced by the remainder of the “car.” If anyone violates these rules, it shall be considered a treasonous act and it will be dealt with by rigid discipline, almost always by a group of men pummeling you in the back corner of the room.
Many of these synthetic regulations apply to the other races; there are few exceptions. And perhaps this might sound almost natural at first. After all, it would seem quite normal to stay with your “people” in an environment filled with vicious gangs. But it doesn’t stop with the racist unity. These rules have a much deeper effect. They penetrate into every county jail, every prison, and every yard in the entire state (the exception is the Sensitive Needs Yards, to which I’ll return.)
Try now to imagine the socially ostracized inmates, longing to be accepted into a group of similar delinquents, wanting to “fit in,” “be part of things.” The perfect opportunity presents itself. Instead of rejecting the oxymoron (that is – breaking rules, then following them), these individuals now try desperately to be part of a seemingly decent way of life . . . prison life. They look at the older “homies” as their mentors, and expectedly, the older homies comply – more than happy to have a new fertile mind to corrupt, and do their dirty work.
It is not long after that when the ignorant young inmate is stabbing other people on the yard, on orders of the shot-caller. When these “torpedoes” carry out their mission, they are given a tattoo as a sort of praise for their obedience, along with a new release date.
Even more disturbing is, while many are happy to please their new masters, there are many who are never given the choice. Many times the shot-caller instructs the new arrivals to faithfully carry out any demands he might make. Whether it be stabbing of another inmate, or simply a brutal assault, the order is given and the shot-caller expects execution. Disobedience, perpetually, requires rigid discipline.
Understand that every time something like this happens, it affects the order of things. No longer is there even the slightest hint of reform. It is criminality compounded with criminality. Once the inmate paroles, this newly enforced mentality goes back to the streets, and thus the reason 70 percent (perhaps more) come right back.
This does not happen by itself, indeed there is a master designer at work, pulling the strings. California Correctional Peace Officers Associations (C.C.P.O.A.) is a union comprised of roughly 57,000 workers. Thirty-two thousand of them are sworn officers of duty and pleading an Oath, similar to most law enforcement agencies . . . something to the effect of purporting to be beneficial to the state.
They are one of the strongest unions in the state, which has also garnered a $10 billion budget for their operations in 2008-2009, compared to half that amount five years ago. With this enormous increase in money to work with, the average taxpayer might expect the crime rate to eventually drop, or at least stagnate. As just explained, this can’t happen as long as inmates are forcing other inmates to commit more criminal activities.
Believe me, this happens with full encouragement of the C.C.P.O.A. It’s the old rule of “divide and conquer.” Separate the prisoners, label them according to their race (or gang) and segregate them into allocated cells. From there, one can constantly be told to “follow the program,” which essentially means do what you’re told – by either an officer or another inmate. The wardens and all the other “higher-ups” are aware that as long as the inmates are busy fighting each other, they won’t be giving them much trouble. So they enforce the racial hatred to keep the population preoccupied.
I have personally seen wardens laugh in an almost hysterical tone, while their officers tell me they wish everybody was out committing more crimes, simply to fill their $100,000 paycheck, complete with full benefits for the rest of their lives. In 1980 the average salary of an officer was $14,000 a year, now it’s $54,000, and usually much higher.
This tyranny is added to the extreme lack of any educational or vocational programs. There might occasionally be an “AA” meeting and sometimes motivational speakers speak at one of the chapels, but as a whole, there are no beneficial programs inside the prisons. They are simply to meet required state standards, nothing more.
Once again, any hard-working person who pays their dues would expect more money directed towards schooling and vocational job training, instead of the luxurious benefits of the corrupted officers. How does a state, the creed of which is supposed to be “For the People, By the People” allow a tax-dollar supported institution like the C.D.C.R. to make non-negotiable contracts without any oversight?
When all these complications are put together, they formulate a very backwards, if not downright evil system--one in which criminals have no chance of becoming the reformed, productive members that society expects. It is nothing less than modern slavery.
Every day an officer breaks his or her oath of justice, and actively supports this perversion. That is why the incarceration rate grows every year. And C.C.P.O.A. constantly demands more and more money. All the while the people see no progress. To put it figuratively: why would they slay the monster when they get paid so much for fighting it?
How can you be so deceived? Because the mainstream media is rarely allowed behind those walls. And even then, they never show an accurate picture. Because most people would be appalled at what is happening; 50 naked men cramming their way into one showerhead, or rat feces inside the food. So that all you know is the distorted facts produced by the incompetent media.
If it isn’t the press that lies to you, then it’s the bogus ads run by the C.D.C.R. itself, complaining about the abuses they’re subjected to, expressing their grievances to the public as to invoke sympathy and justify budget increases. The truth is most of these clips are taken from Level 4 yards, where violent altercations occur more often than on other yards. It doesn’t happen as often as one is led to believe, and it is their own fault anyways for refusing to bestow any sort of rehabilitation on any inmate, or even giving them the chance to do it themselves. Pure propaganda.
The only one who makes any sort of statement regarding these conditions is our own “Governator,” Arnold Schwarzenegger. And then he tells the people that a reform on the 3-Strikes Law would be a detriment to our well-being. In 2004, Proposition 66 would have required the third strike to be violent and/or serious. But a week prior to voting, Schwarzenagger launched an intense campaign of making sure this would not happen, saying that 26,000 rapists and child molesters would be set free. This was an outright lie, seeing that at the time only 8,000 people were sentenced to life in prison under the 3-Strikes. The legislation almost passed with 47.3% of California’s population voting yes, and 52.7% voting no. Now the courts give out 25 to life sentences for extremely minor infractions, thanks to the Governator’s rhetoric about “not allowing violent predators out on the streets.” Perhaps Mr. Schwarzenagger is trying to live up to his heroic persona depicted onscreen, but I believe he should have stayed in Hollywood and not come to Sacramento, because the fact is, he is ignoring the issue.
There is another perception that is still very prevalent among the masses. That is: the glorification of prison life. If it isn’t the rap “artists” who glamorize criminal behavior and make it look so stylish, then its “true-life” reality series like Lock-Up and Gang Land. People seem to be so captivated by the decay of society. And it will only be a problem when a recently-released convict breaks into their house and violates their freedom. So as long as the public sees prison as a form of entertainment, nothing will ever be done about it, because nobody will ever take the situation seriously. Even then, what could be done about it? What would be the first step towards resolving this growing problem?
Right now a large number of prison yards are converting over to “SNY,” or Special Needs Yards. Originally these yards were designed to house sex offenders who are typically the target of “mainline” abuse. However, throughout the course of the last several years, these yards have been opening up to a larger variety of inmates: homosexuals, snitches, guys who owe debt. But a lot more of them are those who have grown tired of the prison politics, and wish to do their own time.
This is a good thing! It shows willingness on behalf of the inmates to do their own time, and get away from the gang lifestyle. However, while this might be a necessary first step in alleviating the problem, it is not an overnight solution. But certainly we must pressure the government to accelerate the process.
My proposal is this, however extreme it might be: First, all the prison politicians must be locked down for at least 23.5 hours out of the day. No longer must they be given the option to give orders and manipulate the rest of the prison population, for that is the sole element that is completely undermining the purpose of this state's correctional facilities.
When that happens, the prison yards will then be converted into “Program Yards” in which inmates will finally be allowed to do their own sentence, without the hindrances of other influences. Anyone trying to call shots and give orders will be locked up indefinitely until otherwise stated.
The second action that must be taken is the immediate elimination of the C.C.P.O.A. As unlikely as it might seem, their union is destroying the state. What must happen is this: the people of California must make an amendment to the constitution to make it possible to hire an outside, private security company. No more egregious benefits and non-negotiable contracts. With the money saved from the termination of the current state baby-sitters and thus, their outrageous budget, more money can be used towards educational programs.
This critical issue is of the greatest concern. If it is not resolved swiftly then it will eventually ruin the state. For any taxpayer who is interested in freedom and justice, this letter is for you. Negligence will only result in disaster. Something must be done!
Although there is plenty of argument against drug legalization, one must objectively discern the horrible underground economy that methamphetamine, heroin, and, to a much lesser extent, marijuana have generated in the streets. Legalization and controlled environments would eliminate the lucrative businesses of the drug cartels.