Prisoners are persons whom most of us would rather not think about. Banished from everyday sight, they exist in a shadow world that only dimly enters our awareness. They are members of a "total institution" that controls their daily existence in a way that few of us can imagine. "[P]rison is a complex of physical arrangements and of measures, all wholly governmental, all wholly performed by agents of government, which determine the total existence of certain human beings (except perhaps in the realm of the spirit, and inevitably there as well) from sundown to sundown, sleeping, walking, speaking, silent, working, playing, viewing, eating, voiding, reading, alone, with others. . . ." It is thus easy to think of prisoners as members of a separate netherworld, driven by its own demands, ordered by its own customs, ruled by those whose claim to power rests on raw necessity. -- Justice William Brennan, dissenting in O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 354-55 (1987).

Thursday, April 26, 2007

White Collar Room

It's 6:15a Monday morning. I'm in the library. I missed breakfast. I haven't eaten since 3:30p yesterday. Breakfast on weekdays is served from 5:00 - 6:00a. I woke at 5:30a, showered and dressed only to hear the intercom announce: "The dining hall is now closed." Nice.

So now I'm in the library, specifically the law library, which is a room off the main library [see maps at bottom of page]. I usually write in this room because it has good tables, comfortable chairs, newspapers, and ... white collar criminals, like me, as I discovered this weekend. It does not mean they are better, just more like me. No one wears white collars or blue collars here in prison, at FPC Pensacola we all wear green.

Advertising fraud. Tax fraud. Bank fraud. Mail fraud. Wire fraud. (I seem to be the only "hacker" around.)

According to the inmates I have spoken with, 80 - 90 % of the population here are drug offenders; the remainder are in for white collar offenses. Additionally, 60% are black, 20% Hispanic and 20% white (a subject I will write on later).

Virtually all the drug offenders will acknowledge they were guilty and they knew they were breaking the law (although they were generally unaware of how stiff the US Sentencing Guidelines are when it comes to drug offenses, especially when conspiracy and guns are involved).

The white collar guys are all "innocent." Not technically innocent, because there was probably some law they didn't know about that they violated, but they claim that government lost "perspective" in their case, the system abused them, and they were unaware of the possible drastic consequences of their actions.

Most white collar crimes are business crimes so most white collar criminals view every problem as a "business", not a legal or ethical, issue. Business problems are resolved through negotiation, compromise, and eventually, if necessary, money. It probably goes without saying that our legal system doesn't work that way.

It is very difficult - I can certainly understand - for most white collar defendants to wrap their minds around the idea that they did something that could warrant prison time. The denial and resistance continues even in prison. That is why they are here in the law library -- trying to figure out some way to reverse what has happened to them.

Good luck.

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