Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Capitalizing off Crime: Disgust for Public-Private Partnerships (PPP's)

The prison industrial complex is a 100 giga-billion dollar business.  It is troublesome to know young people are still making decisions to get themselves locked up.  Then they relegate themselves to second class citizenship because the cloud of living as an ex-convict follows them around long after they have been released.

Statistics show that prison is a likely destination for people who drop out of high school, or do not have a college degree or technical certification.  I have been very outspoken in opposition to PPP's in rural areas that rely heavily on an inmate population of young men who look like me.  White-collar criminals continue to get away with running the economy into the ground without fear of prosecution because police spend too much time making the easy arrests.  The easy arrests I am speaking of are the average street corner drug dealers.  These young men do not control the boats or airplanes that bring drugs into this country, but they are certainly considered to be the face of the so called “War on Drugs.”

PPP's need warm bodies to fill those cells to keep the money in the pockets of the executives who running the prison.  It is like they have a neon "VACANCY" sign flashing, encouraging young people to keep dropping out of school, keep selling drugs in their own communities, keep robbing, stealing, and killing each other because there are plenty of beds available.

Although the criminal justice system in undoubtedly flawed, it is not the systems fault when young brothers get arrested while standing on the corner with a pocket full of dope.  It is not the systems fault when young brothers are sporting a new outfit every week, spending thousands of dollars on platinum teeth, and riding around in custom cars with 28” rims; with no job.

For some, trouble is easier to stay out of than for others, but the bottom line is that we have to start taking responsibility for our own actions and stop putting ourselves in situations that police and the prison industry can take advantage.  These people are literally getting rich off a system that is in place for the purpose of correction, hence the name, the Department of Corrections. Not the Department of Rehabilitation or the Department of Get Right once a person is locked up. 

In July 2010, Congress changed a 25-year-old law that has subjected tens of thousands of African Americans to long prison terms for crack cocaine convictions while giving far more lenient sentences to those, mainly Whites, caught with the powder form of the drug. 

During his presidential campaign, then Senator Obama said, "the wide gap in sentencing cannot be justified and should be eliminated.”  The new measure changes a 1986 law, enacted at a time when crack cocaine use was rampant and considered a particularly violent drug (See the death of basketball star Len Bias).  Under the old law, a person convicted of crack cocaine possession got the same mandatory prison sentence as someone with 100 times the same amount of powder cocaine.  

Five grams of crack equaled a five-year mandatory sentence and 50 grams of crack equaled a 10-year mandatory sentence for first time offenders in comparison to five years mandatory for 500 grams of cocaine. 

The new law also eliminates the five-year mandatory minimum sentences for first-time offenders possessing crack, the first time since the Nixon administration that a President has repealed a mandatory minimum sentence requirement.  However; it does not apply retroactively and the people incarcerated under the old law cannot get a re-trial, or a reduced sentence.  

Big Business:
Corrections Corporations of America, the nation’s largest privately owned prisons owns more than 65 facilities with up to 90,000 beds in 19 states.  This company making millions of dollars from humans being incarcerated can be found on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol CXW.  Their stock is currently trading at $26.22 a share, bringing in approximately $1 billion in revenue last year.

In the Reason Foundation and Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation Policy Brief of Policy Study No. 381, the state of California spends about $47,000 a year for each prisoner, which is over 50 percent higher than the national average.  A table of the top 10 state correctional systems and costs can be found in this same study that makes me wonder what our legislators are doing with our tax dollars.

PPP’s would like us to believe that they are saving states millions of dollars by offering states like California the option to send some of their inmates to lower-cost facilities out of state.  Industry experts have determined that there are not enough beds in other states to absorb the amount of prisoners California needs to transfer.  The state would need to transfer their prisoners in increments that would “allow time for private corrections management firms to finance, design, and build new prison capacity-either through new prisons or expansions of existing facilitates out of state-to accommodate the additional inmates.”

Let that sink in for a moment and think about what that statement means in the grand scheme of things.

While education budgets in most states are being slashed, I wonder if the Department of Corrections budgets are being reduced at the same rate.  How much does your state spend per student (K-12) in comparison with the amount of money they spend per inmate? 

There is a perfectly good explanation why these private prison companies are continuing to expand their facilities all over the country.  MONEY!  Industry lobbyists continue to draft legislation for our elected officials to ensure mandatory sentence bills are passed into law.  Connect the dots and do some critical thinking when the next young man receives a 10-year mandatory sentence for trafficking a small amount of crack, or is sent back to prison for an extended period for a minor parole violation.

We have the power to put these companies out of business by simply staying out of their prisons, which sounds good in theory and can be accomplished if we put our collective minds to criminal prevention.  Communities want and so desperately need citizens who have respect for their fellow man, are self-reliant, and those who will be assets to the community instead of dragging it down.

Originally published by Steve Maynor Jr. on May 30, 2012 via 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Dream Fulfilled: The Necessity of Higher Education

What is a dream?  Is it the mental activity, usually in the form of an imagined series of events, occurring during certain phases of sleep? Yes, but that is the scientific definition.  The dream I’m talking about is the cherished hope a person carries within their soul, or the ambition a person has to be in a better state of mind or better position in life.  Everyone has aspirations to achieve certain goals, but dreaming and praying alone won’t get us anywhere.  Action and effort are two key ingredients that are required in order to make those desires come to fruition.

My dream of attending college after graduating high school was put on hold for a few reasons. 

1.  My parents simply could not afford it.  The “borrow money from your parents to get an education” suggestion recently made by a politician was not an option for me.  With the small amount of money my parents made, I was happy to have a place to stay, clean clothes, and plenty of food to eat.  A lot of kids do not have the luxuries we so often take for granted and despite the political rhetoric out there, hunger and poverty are real in America.

2.  I was tired of going to school and wanted a break from the classroom, or so I thought.  I knew I wanted to be a Marine since I was about 10 or 11 years old, so joining the Corps was the perfect escape from small town Georgia.  Thank God my mother did not kill my dream by telling me that the military was no place for a black man.  I have actually heard parents tell their children that nonsense and it drives me crazy.  The Marine Corps has provided opportunities for me that I would have never been able to tap into had I not joined.  The leadership traits and principles I have learned since I joined have helped me to become a better man and a good citizen.

I would say that the decision to join the enlisted ranks did not turn out too bad for me.  The awesome senior Marines who raised me and the stellar Marines I’ve worked with, in combination with my drive and determination are the reasons I am a Master Sergeant of Marines today.  No one told me that the Marine Corps sends students to college on ROTC scholarships, pays full tuition, and presents them with the opportunity to earn a commission as a Marine Officer.  I’m talking about a chance to lead the Corps most prized possession, the enlisted Marine. 

After eleven years of service, I had no college classes on my resume because I was always too busy to start taking classes and then I met Master Gunnery Sergeant (ret.) Robert “Bob” Organo. Bob was entering his 29th year of service and working on completing his Master’s degree.  He asked me what I was going to do once my days in the Corps were over.  When I couldn’t answer his question, he encouraged me to enroll in college because we are all going to have to take the uniform off one day and you need to have more than 20 or 30 years of experience to put on your resume.

I knew I needed to set short-term (Associates Degree), mid-term (Bachelor Degree), and long-term goals (Masters & Doctoral Degrees) for myself.  Once I took my first college class and got over the fear factor of being a student again, I remembered that I was smart and had the ability to be an outstanding student.  My short-term goal was achieved in 2010 when I finished my Associates Degree from Park University.  On Saturday, May 5th, my mid-term goal will also be achieved when I receive my Bachelor Degree, with honors from the University of South Florida. 

As a parent to school aged kids, I had the opportunity to practice what I had been preaching to my children.  I expect my kids to make A’s in every class and they know I am not satisfied when they make a B and C’s or D’s is not acceptable in our house.  I had to set the standards high for myself if I expected them to follow my lead.  The goal of making all A’s in college was my way showing them that it can be done. 

I was so disappointed in myself when I made my first B in college.  The first thing I thought about was breaking the news to my kids that I fell short of the goal I set for myself.  I am not satisfied making B’s because if I would have applied myself a little bit more, I could have made an A in that class.  Note I said made an A, not received an A because a teacher can’t give a student a grade; they earn what they get. 

Setting high academic standards for your children is not unrealistic because they will perform if parents hold their feet to the fire.  I am not going to sell myself short and not going to allow my kids to get by thinking that it’s OK not to make good grades.  Colleges and Universities are getting harder and harder to get into, and having a transcript full of C’s & D’s does not look good, whether they are a good athlete or not.

I won’t let my kids’ teacher tell them that it’s OK to make B’s and C’s if that’s the best they can do.  That’s a slick way of telling you that your kid isn’t smart enough to make A’s.  Now I know every child won’t make all A’s, but there is nothing wrong with putting those expectations out there.  As parents, we have to be involved and concerned with our kids’ education.  Even if you don’t know how to do the stuff they are doing, at least sit down with them and try to figure it out together, or go to the teacher and let them know that your child needs additional assistance.

Malcolm X once said, “Education is the passport to our future.”  Opportunity flows from education and hardship flows from the lack of education.  A lack of education limits the amount of options we have to earn a living in this country.  Globalization has changed the game, and the work force requires that we have a stronger educational background than ever before.  A college degree does not guarantee you a good paying job, but it makes you a more marketable person.     Think about it this way.  If people with college degrees cannot get good jobs, how in the world is a high school diploma or dropping out of school even an option?

I encourage parents not to be dream killers.  Listen to your kids and figure out what it is that they want to be when they grow up.  Tap into their potential and embolden them to reach for the stars.  The next generation of leaders is living in our homes right now and it is our responsibility as parents to ensure that our kids are part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Being a full time husband and father, a full time Marine, and a full time student at the same time has not been easy, but it is absolutely necessary.  Seeking a higher education does not make me a “snob” or do me any good if I do not share what I have learned with someone else.  I am one of the Talented Tenth W.E.B. Du Bois spoke about in the early 1900s.  I will never forget where I came from and continue working hard to be a leader in my community by educating myself, writing politically conscious material and being directly involved in social change.

Thank You:
The first thank you goes to Marine Corps Tuition Assistance Program and the Post 9-11 G.I. Bill for covering all of my tuition costs.  To MGySgt (ret.) Robert “Bob” Organo, thank you for inspiring me to get out of my comfort zone and helping to re-shape my life and career.  To the staff at the NROTC Unit at the University of South Florida, I thank all of you for your patience, tolerance, and understanding while doing my best to set the example for our students to emulate.  To all of my family and friends who have supported me in one way or another, thank you to you as well.  Finally, to my loving wife and our four beautiful daughters.  Thank you so much for the support you provided during this ride of late nights, early mornings, and countless hours of me sitting in the office studying.  You ladies are the reason that failure was not an option for me. 

Originally published by Steve Maynor Jr. on May 2, 2012 via