Tuesday, February 28, 2012

From a Cracked Pot

An
elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each
hung on the ends of a pole which she carried
across her neck.

One
of the pots had a crack in it while the other
pot was perfect and always delivered a full
portion of water.

At the end of the
long walks from the stream to the house, the
cracked pot arrived only half
full.

For
a full two years this went on daily, with the
woman bringing home only one and a half pots of
water.

Of
course, the perfect pot was proud of its
accomplishments.

But
the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own
imperfection, and miserable that it could only
do half of what it had been made to
do.

After
two years of what it perceived to be bitter
failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the
stream.

'I
am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my
side causes water to leak out all the way back
to your house.'

The
old woman smiled, 'Did you notice that there are
flowers on your side of the path, but not on the
other pot's side?'

'That's
because I have always known about your flaw, so
I planted flower seeds on your side of the path,
and every day while we walk back, you water
them.'

For
two years I have been able to pick these
beautiful flowers to decorate the
table.

Without
you being just the way you are, there would not
be this beauty to grace the
house.'

Note, I received this from my mother-in-law, through email. I am not the author.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Folks, there is indeed brain activity in Richmond!

Thank GOD!  Someone in Richmond figured out Prince William County's original "immigration resolution," the same one that beat our socio-economics to a pulp and incited cultural tensions in 2007-08, would be less than productive if implemented at the state level.  

As it stands, the original resolution was modified in PWC so that now, only those taken into custody have citizen status checked, and officers do this across the board at the jail, better protecting law enforcement personnel and immigrants. 

Unfortunately, even though these changes have been made, PWC continues to feel the socio-economic effects brought on by the hostile debate that still wages in the county because our Board of County Supervisors supported a racist agenda that ultimately tore at everyone's civil liberties. (See posts under the "immigration" label for more history on this.) 

HB1060, a bill modeled after the original resolution, was proposed and pushed by some of these very same  Board of County Supervisors and staff (this time funneled through Delegate Rich Anderson) who apparently thought spreading animosity throughout the state would be a good idea. 

Guys and gals, haven't you figured out yet that you reap what you sow?


Via ACLU:  Victory: Senate Committee Kills Anti-Immigrant Bill - The Senate Courts of Justice also defeated HB 1060, which would have required arresting officers to ascertain the citizenship status of all arrestees, whether or not they are taken into custody. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

House Kills Bill to Study Solitary Confinement in VA Prisons

House kills study to reduce solitary confinement in prisons

The Republican-controlled House of Delegates killed a bill that would have required the state to study ways to limit the use of solitary
Red Onion State Prison in Wise County (David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier)
confinement in state prisons, especially of those who are mentally ill.

Del. Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington), Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) and Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) proposed the bill after visiting state prisons last fall, including Red Onion in Southwest Virginia, to examine how their most violent inmates are treated.

The House killed the bill in its Rules Committee. A similar bill in the Senate has yet to be heard, but it’s unlikely that the House would change its position.

Virginia, one of 44 states that use solitary confinement, has 1,800 people in isolation, a sizable share of the estimated 25,000 people in solitary in the nation’s state and federal prisons.

As more becomes known about the effects of isolation — on inmate health, public safety and prison budgets — some states have begun to reconsider the practice. Among them is Texas, which, like Virginia, is known as a law-and-order state.

Lawyers and inmates say some of the state’s 40,000 prisoners, including some with mental health issues, have been kept in isolation for years, in one case for 14 years.

The Legal Aid Justice Center, which represents 12 inmates in isolation in Virginia, has requested an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, which recently launched a probe into a 1,550-bed Pennsylvania prison where inmates complain of long periods of isolation and a lack of mental health treatment.

A prison agency spokesman said that inmates are given breaks from “segregation” — the term the state uses to refer to solitary confinement — every 30 days or that their cases are reviewed regularly. But inmates and attorneys say prisons sometimes skip the review.

By  |  03:40 PM ET, 02/06/2012

The "It Sucks" List

Okay, I hardly ever do this, but I'm about to write a list of stuff that has sucked recently.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I enjoy writing lists.  Generating lists can teach you a lot about yourself and help you stay focused.  The reason I am writing this "It Sucks" list is to give myself a big hug and say, "Well no wonder you've been stressed, poor thing.  Be especially good to yourself right now."

Thankfully, the "It Sucks" list is short compared to my alphabetical list of things I love and my list of things I am grateful for

January-February, 2012

  1. In January, I was supposed to spend twelve glorious, educational, fun days in Mexico but went home on the sixth day because I got seriously ill as a result of my lap band. 
  2. I had to have the fluid removed from the band, and I put on 12 pounds in less than a month. 
  3. Someone very close to us was diagnosed with cancer.
  4. Our elder cat continues to have health problems and requires a lot of care that comes along with worry.
  5. My youngest offspring got stuck in the mud, couldn't get out and had to be taken to the hospital via ambulance for hypothermia. 
  6. My eldest has had panic attacks three separate times upon our trying to get her a blood test.  We've been unable to accomplish the task.
  7. My husband has been sick for a week and has had to take leave without pay, which means not only will we be short on money, he probably won't be able to take a family vacation with us this summer--AGAIN.
  8. My classes were cancelled for a week and I didn't know if I would have a job to return to.
In my usual fashion, I am compelled to look on the brighter side and counter the items on this list with the following positives:

  1. At least I had twelve days and got more than 400 pictures in addition to journal entries.  And I didn't die.
  2. Twelve pounds gained after losing about seventy isn't so bad numerically.
  3. Still processing this one, but I understand the grieving process, which makes it more understandable.  And serious illness makes you cherish time and memories more intensely. 
  4. Our cat has lived a good, long life and isn't in pain.
  5. The youngest one learned a lesson and was okay.
  6. The elder one is going to have to learn to cope.
  7. My husband will recover and will still have a job.  And we have savings to cover any financial losses.  He and I have a romantic escape planned for the weekend of March 19.
  8. I still have a job, one that I love.
Guess that's it for now.  I hope that's it for a little while, anyway!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Love by the Letter

Today, I got "followed" on Twitter by someone called LovelyLove, whose full profile I didn't check out because I was afraid by her briefly visible description in my inbox that she is a Twitter seductress/porn promoter.  Her catalog of herself included A-Z loves, such as "B" for "Budweiser" and other attractions that might catch the attention of a male who is into things like boobs and behinds.  However, the idea of listing multiple loves arranged according to letters intrigued me, since I'm fond of lists, the alphabet and introspection.  For me, such a list would be long, but I thought, "Why not?"  So here's my own inventory, or at least part of it.  And here's to you, LovelyLove.  May you find "P" for "peace" and not just "penis."

A
ability
amiability
agape
amour
abundance 
apes
alphabet
authors
Alexandra
Anna
achievement
anklets
art
anteaters
alligators
autumn
artists
anticipation
anemone
air conditioning
antiques
"and"
advocacy
adrenaline
affection
angles
Approaching Felonias Park 

B
beauty
bounty
bunnies
Buddhism
boobs
babies
brothers
books
bracelets
bears
birds
blogging
bear cats
brooks
bravery
bells
boots
Bill
bed
blankets
beans

C
chocolate
cocoa 
cats
calm
chickens
cleanliness
creativity
chests
computer
coffee
caffeine
chips
chili
cinnamon
chinchillas
Chinese food
cheese
clothes
cream
Central America
convicts
culture
coyotes
crocodiles
children
charity
comfort
coolness
Cardinals
corn
compassion
curls
Christmas trees/lights/decorations
crazies
churches
coffee houses
conditioner
cheesecake
Chris
cushions 
color
coleslaw
coconut 

D
dogs
deer
dearness
dictionaries
David
Doris
Dad
dreaming
day dreaming
diversity
darkness
daytime
dedication
donating
decorations
doggie paddling
dashes
decongestants
definitions
drawings  

E
Easter eggs
excellence
energy
excitement
Eros
Erika
email
education
earrings
English
England
Europe
exploring
Eagles
esotericism
elephants
enthusiasm
eyes
Emily Dickenson
ellipses
Encyclopedia
entertainment

F
fancy
fluffiness
forgiveness
fire
fiction
fantasy
family
Facebook
faith
fish
fall
fullness
friends
farms
forests
flowers
fairies
fairs
freedom
Furbily-Furld Takes on the World

G
greatness
gratitude
geekiness
groins
grace
gulls
Greece
grit
Golden Retrievers
Grackles
gays
goats
gold
GPS
giggling
ghosts
Google
guffaws
Guinea pigs
generosity

H
hay
happiness
hippos
hens
husband
harmony
harmony
humor
home
hominess
hawks
horses
hugs
hueva
honesty
hair
headbands
hearing
hot tubs
health
hummingbirds
hamsters
huskies
Henry David Thoreau    

I
I
igloos
icicles
ice cream
infants
Italian food
India
Indian food
Italy
immigrants
Internet
Iguanas
interest
insight
introspection
inspiration
intervention
in-laws
ingenuity
islands

J
jumping
Judaism
Jesus
justice
jewelry
jungles
inmates
Jorge
Joe
Jacuzzis
jetties
jelly beans

K
Katherine
kindness
kinkiness
kids
kisses
Koala Bears

L
love
laughter
loveliness
living
lakes
learning
lakes
lace
literature
law
leaves
lizards
law
letters
love letters
lions
listing
loyalty
lima beans

M
malabares
mother
motherhood
mice
monkeys
mating
mates
Mom
Michael
Mexican food
Mexico
Massachusetts
mountains
multiculturalism
moon
men
mosques
Maine
medicine
Michelle
music
mystery
motivation
MS Word and PowerPoint
missions
mysteries
memory
me

N
nothingness
nerdiness
newborns
nursing
nurseries
New Hampshire
nature
necklaces
notes
New Hampshire
names
nephews
nieces 

O
octopi
occupations
ostriches
onions
overcoming
oak trees

ocean
orange
optimism
opera

P
people
porcupines
principles
popcorn
pineapple
peculiarities
pigs
penguins
pets
perfume
pine trees
poetry
people watching
photos
pictures
paintings
paper
purple
pink
pelicans
pine cones
purring
philosophy
penises
pumpkins
pumpkin pie
plants
planets
Polar Bears
protein bars
parks
pools
productivity
paranormal activity
passion
panthers
pillows
printer
peace
Poems from the Battlefield

Q
queers
quacking
quality
queens
quilts

R
ribbons
rats
rabbits
rainbows
running
rain
red
ranches
rhymes
rings
robes
reminiscing
Ray Bradbury
romance
rodents 
rain forests

S
sand
sound
snakes
seagulls
seals
shopping
Star Trek
science fiction
sleeping
Spanish
sun
stars
sounds
synthesis
stories
Shiba Inus
strength
scrapbooks
sculpture
synthesis
snuggling
social justice
spray butter
spring
springs
snow
sight
sketches
satire
synagogues
shine
Sea Lions
sea life
spell check
speaker phone
scents 
silliness
sincerity
squash
spirits
self expression

T
turtles
trees
talent
tribbles
trout
time
teaching
tigers
thoughtfulness 
testosterone
theater
tenacity
temples
turbans
Tenacious Poodle
thesaurus 

U
underwear
Unitarianism
Universalism

V
ventriloquism
violins
violet
vagina
Vatican City
Venice
Vermont
Victorianism
vacations
vegetables
valor

W
water
wandering
wondering
writing
warmth
women
wilderness
words
waves
weight loss
welcome
whales
weirdos
water parks
working
Wikipedia
wisdom

X
Xerox machines


Y
yellow
yaks
yippies
Yellow Bellied Sap Suckers
yams

Z
zebras
zest
zeal
zoos


Help!  I keep adding to this!  And I can't possibly name all the specific people or animals I love.














































Saturday, February 18, 2012

H1060 and HB958: Potential Immigration Blunder at the State Level

Dear Members of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee:   

As a resident of Prince William County where a mandate similar to H1060 and HB958 was proposed and then significantly altered because of its negative effects on the economy and community, I urge you to vote against legislation (H1060 and HB958) that would erode further the relationships between immigrant communities and law enforcement, thereby placing said communities at greater risk of becoming victims of crime as well as potentially becoming subjects of racial profiling.  I have lived through the socioeconomic turmoil that bills like these create, and I assure you, it is not something anyone wants at the state level.

Virginia leads the nation in immigration enforcement measures and the state has done much already to address issues related to persons not lawfully present who commit crimes against persons and property, including a requirement that every person taken into custody at a jail have his/her immigration status checked (Virginia is one of two states in the country that do this). Virginia also has a presumption that persons in the country without authority should not be eligible for bail. Moreover, Virginia was one of the first states in the nation where the federal Secure Communities program has been implemented statewide.

More measures would place unnecessary pressures on police departments’ human and financial resources that should instead be focusing on fighting crime, not ID'ing undocumented immigrants.

I strongly oppose legislation (HB1060 and HB 958) that would take the identification of undocumented persons from the jails to the streets. Currently, all persons arrested and taken into custody and those convicted of crimes have their status checked on admission to jail or prison. Legislation to require every law enforcement officer (state or local) who places a person under arrest to initiate an inquiry into the person's immigration status would jeopardize public safety by taking the officer off the street while the inquiry is being conducted and by discouraging persons in immigrant communities from cooperating with local law enforcement in the effort to fight crime. In addition, the legislation is likely unconstitutional and will embroil the state in expensive litigation if passed.

The real answer to our country’s immigration concerns is comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level – not short-sighted state policies. No one wins when there are undocumented immigrants living and working in the shadows of the Commonwealth.

Sincerely,

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
 

West VA Ahead of VA in Prisoner Education?


The following comes from a handbook for instructors teaching in correctional facilities in West Virginia.  Note the training requirements and recommendations.

If West Virginia can afford to invest in education for the incarcerated, certainly the "ninth wealthiest county in the nation" can.  I'm not a believer in our local government, however, because the county's commitment to education and law enforcement is historically low.  I can provide numerous examples of our local government's priorities, but I think I've blogged about this before and don't feel like going down that well-documented road again.  Look it up under my PWC and immigration labels if you really care to.

Go ahead and laugh at West Virginia, but they are way ahead of us.

PRISON LITERACY PROGRAMS
ERIC Digest #159
Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education
ED383859
Sandra Kerka
1995
"It costs the government half a million bucks to keep me in jail and $450 to teach me to
read and write" (ex-con cited in Porporino and Robinson 1992, p. 92). The literacy
demands of the workplace and society in general are growing in complexity, and
recurring linked cycles of poverty and low literacy levels put some people at increasing
disadvantage. The prison population includes disproportionate numbers of the poor;
those released from prisons are often unable to find employment, partly due to a lack of
job and/or literacy skills, and are often re-incarcerated (Paul 1991). Add to that the high
cost of imprisonment and the huge increase in the prison population, and it seems clear
that mastery of literacy skills may be a preventive and proactive way to address the
problem. However, correctional educators contend with multiple problems in delivering
literacy programs to inmates. This Digest sets the context of prison literacy programs,
outlines some of the constraints, and describes what factors work.
Context of Prison Literacy
Literacy skills are important in prisons in several ways: inmates often must fill out forms
to make requests, letters are a vital link with the outside world, some prison jobs require
literacy skills, and reading is one way to pass time behind bars (Paul 1991). The way
literacy is defined is critical to achieving an accurate picture of prisoners' skills. The
National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) defines literacy as a broad range of skills; it is
not a simple condition one either has or does not have, but a continuum on which
individuals have varying degrees of skill in interpreting prose, documents, and numbers.
The NALS (Haigler et al. 1994) included interviews with some 1,100 inmates from
federal and state prisons in order to depict the state of the prison population and
compare it to the general population. Of the 5 levels measured, 7 in 10 inmates
performed on the lowest 2 levels, on the average substantially lower than the general
population. Only 51% of prisoners completed high school compared to 76% of the
general population. Differences in literacy proficiencies were related to racial/ethnic
status, educational attainment, and disability. Similarly, Newman et al. (1993) suggest
that, by a 12th-grade standard, 75% of inmates are illiterate and that prisoners have a
higher proportion of learning disabilities than the general population (including 75-90%
of juvenile offenders). Other studies found that 65-70% of inmates (Sperazi 1990) and
over 70% of inmates (Sacramento County 1994) did not complete high school. Even
those with a high school diploma have lower proficiencies (Haigler et al. 1994).
However, some evidence exists to mitigate this bleak picture. In some areas, Haigler et
WVABE Instructor Handbook, Section 15, 2011-12 10
al. found that prisoners with less than a high school education were more proficient than
their out-of-prison counterparts. In Australia, Black et al. (1990) interviewed 200
inmates, finding they generally did less well on the prose, document, and quantitative
scales, but on some literacy items did as well or better than the non-prison population.
They concluded that it is difficult to make comparisons with the general population
because prisoners are on average younger and disproportionately represent certain
groups. They suggest that, because low-literate prisoners often must seek help with
literacy tasks from authorities and are subject to various assessments, their literacy
problems are more visible than those of the general population. Acknowledging that low
literacy in prisons is a serious problem, Black et al. advocate looking at literacy as a
range or continuum and in context.
Constraints on Correctional Education
Between 1980 and 1992, the prison population increased 160% (Jenkins 1994).
Besides the problems caused by overcrowding, correctional educators must contend
with inadequate funding, equipment, and materials (Paul 1991). Many prisoners are
likely to have had negative early schooling experiences and may lack self-confidence or
have poor attitudes about education (ibid.). The prison educator's challenge is
compounded by the uniqueness of prison culture: routines such as lock-downs and
head counts, inmates' hearings or meetings with lawyers, all disrupt regular classes
(Shethar 1993). Tutors and students are sometimes locked in a room and monitored by
guards. Peer pressure may discourage attendance or achievement (Haigler et al. 1994).
In addition, the prison environment is not likely to be rich in verbal and sensory stimuli
(Paul 1991).
A more serious constraint is conflicting beliefs about the goals and purposes of
corrections: security, control, punishment, or rehabilitation? Even in institutions where
the philosophy is more rehabilitative than punitive, education is secondary to security
(Shethar 1993). Part of this debate is the issue of whether prison literacy should be
mandatory or voluntary. The federal prison system began mandatory literacy in 1982,
and in 1991 raised the achievement standard from 8th to 12th grade (Jenkins 1994).
The program has had some success in terms of adult basic education (ABE)
completion, but only a small part of the prison population is in federal institutions (5%);
65% are in state and 25% in county/local jails (Laubach Literacy Action 1994).
Mandatory education is resented by some (Thomas 1992) and it sits uneasily with the
largely voluntary nature of adult education (Jenkins 1994). However, Thomas found that
the least educated prisoners favored mandatory programs, and Ryan and McCabe
(1993) conclude that there is little significant difference in achievement between
mandatory and voluntary instruction.
Another problem faced by prison educators is the use of recidivism as an outcome
measure. Sometimes ABE does have a demonstrable effect on reducing the rate of
re-imprisonment (Porporino and Robinson 1992). But Sacramento County's (1994)
literacy program caused no significant reduction despite academic gains. Problems with
WVABE Instructor Handbook, Section 15, 2011-12 11
recidivism as an evaluation measure include the following: (1) a universal definition is
lacking; (2) it is indirect-it measures law enforcement activity, not education; and (3) it is
too simplistic (ibid.), similar to using retention as the primary yardstick of ABE success.
The effects of literacy programs are influenced by factors beyond educators' control:
"One can argue that literacy programs do not change an economic system that requires
unemployment and a working class and that the ability to read does not change a social
structure that reinforces inequalities" (Shethar 1993, p. 368).
What Works
Examples in the literature demonstrate that programs based on current thinking about
literacy and sound adult education practices can be effective. Successful prison literacy
programs are learner centered, recognizing different learning styles, cultural
backgrounds, and multiple literacies (Newman et al. 1993). They are participatory;
instead of taking a "deficit" perspective, educators recognize and use learner strengths
to help them shape their own learning. For example, Boudin (1993) drew upon women
inmates' oral tradition by having them write and perform a play. Literacy should be put
into meaningful contexts that address learner needs. Boudin used concerns about AIDS
in prison as the organizing issue for instruction. Engaging topics motivate and sustain
learner interest; using literature written by prisoners provides relevant subject matter, as
well as writing models (Paul 1991). Family literacy programs enable inmates to view
themselves and be seen in roles other than that of prisoners.
Literacy programs should be tailored to the prison culture. The Principles of the
Alphabet (PALS) computer-assisted instruction program worked in a prison for several
reasons: it was advertised as a "reading lab"; learners were paired according to race,
ethnicity, or the prison "pecking order"; PALS relieves tedium and teaches a skill that
satisfies short-term self-interest; and computer disks afforded inmates a rare opportunity
for privacy (Sperazi 1990). Honeycutt's (1995) interviews with reading program learners
showed that adult education practices may need to be modified: inmates preferred
teachers to facilitate after they taught skills; they liked less formal classroom
arrangements, but wanted well-organized and structured instruction.
Incentives are important motivators, whether programs are mandatory or voluntary:
sentence reductions, parole consideration, preferential prison employment, pay for
school attendance, and grants for higher education are typical rewards for participation
and achievement (Jenkins 1994; Thomas 1992). Lack of funding and staff can be offset
by using community and peer tutors. Community tutors provide links to the outside
world and can help ease the transition back to society (Paul 1991). Peer tutors can build
their own self-esteem, serve as role models, and relate directly to learners' experience
of incarceration (Boudin 1993). Model literacy programs include post-release services
that support the view of literacy as a continuum and reinforce skills that can quickly be
lost. A range of evaluation criteria (Newman et al. 1993) offers multiple ways to assess
program effectiveness: (1) instructional (attendance, test scores, duration, objectives
achieved); (2) behavioral (decreased violence and disruption, better relations with
WVABE Instructor Handbook, Section 15, 2011-12 12
inmates, staff); and (3) post-release (employment rates and success, continuing
education). Other measures include community service, length of time arrest/drug free,
or improved social skills. The Correctional Education Association (1994) provides a
handbook of literacy assessment and instructional techniques that work best in a
correctional setting.
Perhaps the best program outcomes are those most difficult to measure. Instead of
viewing literacy as the inculcation of basic skills, embedding it in a broader perspective
of education might address the hopelessness and powerlessness that may be both the
cause and effect of inmates' actions before, during, and after incarceration.
References
Black, S.; Rouse, R.; and Wickert, R. The Illiteracy Myth: A Comparative Study of
Prisoner Literacy Abilities. Sydney, Australia: University of Technology, 1990.
(ED 328 798)
Boudin, K. "Participatory Literacy Education Behind Bars." Harvard Educational Review
63, no. 2 (Summer 1993): 207-232. (EJ 462 123)
Correctional Education Association. Starting from Scratch. Laurel, MD: CEA, 1994.
(ED 373 188)
Haigler, K. O.; Harlow, C.; O'Connor, P.; and Campbell, A. Literacy Behind Prison
Walls. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 1994.
(ED 377 325)
Honeycutt, R. L. "A Study of Inmates' Perceptions of an Effective Reading Program."
Journal of Correctional Education 46, no. 1 (March 1995): 6-9.
Jenkins, H. D. "Mandatory Education." Journal of Correctional Education 45, no. 1
(March 1994): 26-29.
Laubach Literacy Action. Community-Based Prison Literacy Program Models. Syracuse,
NY: LLA, [1994].
WVABE Instructor Handbook, Section 15, 2011-12 13
Newman, A. P.; Lewis, W.; and Beverstock, C. Prison Literacy, Philadelphia, PA:
National Center on Adult Literacy, 1993. (ED 363 729)
Paul, M. When Words Are Bars. Kitchener, Ontario: Core Literacy, 1991. (ED 334 371)
Porporino, F. J., and Robinson, D. "The Correctional Benefits of Education." Journal of
Correctional Education 43, no. 2 (June 1992): 92-98. (EJ 445 423)
Ryan, T. A., and McCabe, K. A. "The Relationship Between Mandatory vs. Voluntary
Participation in a Prison Literacy Program and Academic Achievement." Journal of
Correctional Education 44, no. 3 (September 1993): 134-138. (EJ 472 104)
Sacramento County Probation Department. Juris LIT Final Report. Sacramento, CA:
Author, 1994. (ED 378 363)
Shethar, A. "Literacy and 'Empowerment'? A Case Study of Literacy behind Bars."
Anthropology and Education Quarterly 24, no. 4 (December 1993): 357-372.
(EJ 478 702)
Sperazi, L. An Evaluation of the IBM PALS Program for the Massachusetts Board of
Library Commissioners. Newton Highlands, MA: Evaluation Research, 1990.
(ED 328 267)
Thomas, A. M. Opening Minds Behind Closed Doors. Victoria: John Howard Society of
British Columbia, 1992. (ED 355 416)
Developed with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S.
Department of Education, under Contract No. RR93002001.
Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the position or policies of OERI or the Department.
Digests may be freely reproduced. ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational

Study Use of Solitary Confinement in Virginia

Via SALT:

Great news! The Virginia Senate Rules Committee passed an amended version of SJ 93, a resolution that directs the Virginia State Crime Commission to conduct a study of solitary confinement in the state of Virginia. The Virginia Senate then agreed to SJ 93 by a voice vote be fore cross-over occurred.

While the study itself will not be enough to end the inhuman use of prolonged solitary confinement, similar studies in other states have prompted state prison officials to re-evaluate the financial, moral, and public safety costs of prolonged solitary confinement, and dramatically reduce its use. We think a similar result could occur in Virginia if the state legislature passes this resolution ordering a study of the issue.
Speaking for the voiceless in Virginia. Contacting your State Senator and Delegate will make a major difference in passing SJ 93.
--------------------------------------------------------------

 Dear Legislator,

I’m writing to express my support for SJR 93, a resolution that would prompt a study of the use of solitary confinement in Virginia.

According to the Washington Post (http://wapo.st/whPUqc), prisoners at Virginia’s Supermax prison, Red Onion State Prison, have been kept in solitary confinement from anywhere between two weeks and seven years, with an average length of stay of 2.7 years. Studies have shown that prisoners held in long-term solitary confinement experience hallucinations, panic attacks, and perceptual disturbances similar to symptoms commonly associated with neurological illnesses, such as brain tumors and seizure disorders. 

Solitary confinement is a destructive and expensive method of managing prisoners and other states, such as Mississippi and Maine, have saved millions of dollars and actually reduced prison violence by greatly reducing the number of prisoners held in isolation. 

The Commonwealth can neither morally nor financially continue to pay the price of prolonged solitary confinement.  I think that this is a critical moral issue and I would like you to VOTE for SJR 93.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Grossness Alert

I'm about to write a pretty inappropriate post, so if there are any easily offended readers out there, I suggest you visit another page.  These are the sort of thoughts I get in my head when I've had a little too much time on my hands and I'm feeling rebellious and don't want to be edited.  Actually, I've felt like this all week, so I might as well just go for it.

First question is, who the hell invented bras with seams that go right across the nipple?  Do these geniuses have any idea how uncomfortable that is?  Have they ever tried to wear a nipple-scraper?  Don one of these less-than-innovative garments and you start out with itchy nipples and end up with chafed ones, especially if you are active.  Idiots abound.

Second item:  ever notice if you eat a lot of broccoli with other green vegetables your poop turns green?  Or does that only happen to me?  I feel like a newborn--you know how infant poop is kind of pea-colored? I wonder if I should plant mine.  Maybe I can grow a garden.

Third on the list is a minor complaint--even if my knees worked well, I still wouldn't be able to jog because when I do, I pee.  I hear this is common in women who have given birth and who are aging, but it's still annoying because jogging was the fastest way I knew to get in shape and kick the metabolism into fifth gear.  Also, there is no high like a runner's high. I just can't get one by speed walking, which is boring.  On the positive side, I don't have it as bad as my friends who sneeze and pee.  If my bladder betrays me that much, it's time for surgery.

What else?  Oh yeah.  Huge dog barf.  I don't mean I have a huge dog.  She's about 50 pounds, kind of medium.  But her barf?  Maybe I'm used to cat and small-dog puke because I find hers absolutely revolting, especially when it's still warm.  Incidentally, this bit about making poop scooping a law?  Picking up warm crap is stomach turning.  A necessity, I know, as is picking up fresh barf,  but still disgusting. 

On a similar note, baby and kid vomit. I used to be able to handle it.  Now I want to heave right along side the kid.  Clean-ups?  Let them do it themselves.

Periods.  Need I say more?

I think that's it for now.  This list is shorter than I thought it would be.  I bet you're disappointed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Quotes on Blogging

Just perusing the web and discovered the quotes below.  I don't really feel like commenting on them, but I thought they were interesting enough to post, especially the one that reads, "Your blog is your unedited version of yourself."  share this Blogging saying   lorelle 
 
Sometimes I really love not editing myself.  Surprise, surprise, right? 
 
 
A blog is in many ways a continuing conversation
 share this Blogging saying   Andrew Sullivan
Blogging is the new poetry
 share this Blogging saying   Unknown
Blogging is a conversation not a code
 share this Blogging saying   Mike Butcher
Blogging is a communications mechanism handed to us by the long tail of the Internet.
 share this Blogging saying   Tom Foremski
A blog is merely a tool that lets you do anything from change the world to share your shopping list.
 share this Blogging saying   Unknown
I think it is equally tiresome and useless to argue about whether blogs are journalism, for journalism is not limited by the tool or medium or person used in the act
 share this Blogging saying   Unknown
The heart and soul of blogging is the individual and/or the group of individuals opining on the fly and responding post-haste to one and all.
 share this Blogging saying   Michael Conniff
A blog is a type of website that is usually arranged in chronological order from the most recent ‘post’ (or entry) at the top of the main page to the older entries towards the bottom.
 share this Blogging saying   Darren rowse

The personal nature of the blog is what they find appealing.
 share this Blogging saying   Ethan G. Salwen

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I'm the 99% But I'm Not Lazy

I am incensed with the insistence that the Occupy people are lazy and need to get jobs. 

"Yeah, yeah," you think.  "Say something we haven't heard before from a million other malcontents."   

Okay, I will. 

I don't defend moron protesters who burn the flag.  I refuse to make excuses for violent participants.  I generally don't take part in sit-ins and the like for the simple reason that I don't trust crowds.  There are always idiots who detract from the message by acting like, well, idiots.

This is not to say I wouldn't ever participate in a live demonstration, a march or  a public protest.  I have, but only two because as I said, I don't trust crowds.  The two I chose were the anti-Westboro Baptist Church demonstration in Woodbridge, VA, and the anti-Immigration Resolution protest in Prince William County, VA (pre-modification of that resolution, which, by the way, VA government has proposed to revive and worse, at the state level). 

Why those two causes?  Because both WBC and the PWC powers were advocating hatred and discrimination against people I love.  Make no mistake--it was personal, and some members of the Board of County Supervisors made it even more personal.  But that's not what I want to write about.  I want to write about another cause that is personal to me. 

I want to say I've been screwed over by the corporate system, and that system includes big bankers (Sallie Mae in particular) as well as the educational system (Union Institute, living off big business and sanctioning government entities).  I want to say these "people" (and they are, after all, eligible for corporate personhood, right?) ruined my chances at ever crawling out of a hole of debt, and they have put the price on the taxpayers, whom we know are mostly the middle class.

Okay, so I've been ripped off.  And I'm a dissident who doesn't typically join massive protests but understands many of the people who do. 

And I work three fucking part-time jobs, take care of my family and volunteer.

Furthermore, I have family members who cannot get decent jobs because the unemployment rate is still high.  People are out of work, are underpaid and living beneath the poverty level, and it's not because they are lazy.  But do you know what I've actually heard?  "Oh, well, I don't know any of those people." 

How can someone not know any of those people?  It must be because there is a segment of the United States that would rather turn a blind eye or pass judgement.  This segment is comfortable, and even if they are part of the middle class, it's easier to sit on the laurels of the prevailing ideology than it is to take a painful look around.

Don't get me wrong.  Not everyone who looks away is a bad person.  Not every rich person is bad, either.  There might be valid reasons why these folks can't acknowledge the seriousness of the situation.  They might have issues of their own.  But there are too many others who choose to judge because they think the poor and the dissenters jeopardize wealth and prosperity.  Instead of helping out, they fight to not have to help out.  They'd rather say, "Get off your lazy ass and work."

To which, in my current disposition, after drinking a heavy cup of coffee and reading the local news, I say, "I am working as best I can.  I am not lazy.  I'm part of the 99%.  And so are many of my loved ones, thank you very much.  So fuck you and the dollar bills you floated in on, bitch."

There.  I feel much better now.  

Another Word for VD

Word of the Day for Tuesday, February 14, 2012

cordate \KAWR-deyt\, adjective:
1. Heart-shaped.
2. (Of leaves) heart-shaped, with the attachment at the notched end.

Her emotions hung like a cordate necklace against her chest, so obvious, she couldn't even look at him.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Student Loan Debt - Help NewsiT Report the Story

Student Loan Debt - Help NewsiT Report the Story

Total student loan debt in the country is now at $1 trillion and exceeds total credit card debt. What does this high level of debt mean for today’s students and recent graduates?

Following up on our report on the costs of textbooks, this assignment researches the impact of student debt and some of the possible solutions.  If you are a student, recent graduate, or parent of a student, please join NewsiT correspondents in reporting this story.


Pregnant shackling bill tabled in House

We talk about rights: women's rights, felon's rights, civil rights, human rights, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  But when I look at how Virginia government operates, I see the rights of the powerless are not only infringed upon, too often, they are trounced upon.  Such is the case with pregnant women who are shackled in jail, even during labor and delivery.

The argument that pregnant women, especially those delivering, are serious threats to public safety is bogus.  There seems to be little or no evidence from states that have banned shackling that this assertion is true.  The most obvious question that refutes Richmond's theory, then, is, when was the last time a woman in labor escaped from prison?  And if that did happen, what were correctional officers doing at the time?  Correctional officers are able to safely restrain larger, stronger men, without the use of shackles.  Why, then, would shackles be necessary for women who are in a notably weaker condition?

There are alternatives to shackling during labor and delivery, such as mild sedation and epidurals, which will not hurt the baby or the mother.  In some cases, a c-section is not out of the question, either.  These substitute procedures would require competent doctors, health professionals and properly trained officers. Without a doubt, there are other safe methods to protect law enforcement personnel, methods which could easily be learned from successful, modern agencies.  However, I am quite sure Virginia's state and private prisons do not want to or cannot fund these initiatives.

It is possible that the Virginia Board of Corrections will do the right thing and mandate alternatives to shackling pregnant women, particularly during labor and delivery--the key word here being "right."  

Pregnant shackling bill tabled in House
The Associated Press

RICHMOND — Legislation to restrict the use of restraints on pregnant inmates in Virginia was rejected Thursday by a House of Delegates subcommittee, which chose to let state prison officials address the is­sue through regulations that are now being developed.

With one dissenting vote, the five-member subcommittee tabled Del. Patrick Hope’s bill after hearing from proponents who decried the shackling of pregnant prisoners as bar­baric and opponents who said public safety is law enforcement’s top priority.

Hope, D-Arlington County, said afterward that he was “disappointed but not surprised” by the subcommittee’s action. He vowed to introduce the legislation again next year if the regulations being developed by the Board of Corrections appear too weak to sufficiently protect the health and safety of pregnant inmates and their unborn babies.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

What have I done, and what do I want?

"If you don't know what you want, you're never going to get it."  That's one of those "things" people say, one of those things I usually blow off because in the past, I've been so goal oriented, I've never had to think about it much.  But I'm "mid life" now, so it's time to re-set the goals.  (Really?  Do I have to?  I'm too tired.  Can't I got back to bed?  NO!)

Okay, then let's make it easy. Let's start by creating a list of what I've accomplished in 42 years of living.  This is always a feel-good exercise, and I highly recommend it to those who think they've done nothing.  Everyone will have a different list, but that's kind of the point.  (Hey, I might have my class do this exercise--good vocab and writing practice as well as a way to remind ourselves that no matter what, we've had victories and have things to be grateful for.)

To make it easier, I won't even put these achievements in chronological order.  Victories are timeless, so who cares when they happened?


  • I survived my own breach birth, cord wrapped around my neck, several minor-mid serious surgeries, trauma, depression, an eating disorder, super-duper stress and other physical ailments.
  • I've raised two gorgeous, smart kids who show no indication they wish to dominate or blow up the planet.
  • I've married a wonderful man who is a great husband and dad.
  • I am living in a house, something I didn't think would ever happen.
  • I have been living in the same state for 13 years, the same house for about 9, two other things I never thought would happen.
  • I've been working in education for 20 years.  (OMG...that means I've also lived long enough to do that!)
  • I've had things published just about every year for the past 19 years.  (Holy crap!  Really?)
  • I've published three books.
  • I've somewhat created and have seven websites/blogs.
  • I have awesome pets, two of them around 16 years old, one of those two whom I've had since she was a puppy. (Hi Shiba!)
  • I'm no longer living under the poverty line.
  • I have a car that's paid for.
  • I teach in a jail when I didn't really expect to be around law enforcement, which was an interest of mine.
  • I survived and recovered from rape, and now I teach sex offenders.
  • I earned a Masters degree.
  • I've volunteered in organizations that make a difference.
  • I've worked for myself in money making and non-profit ventures.
  • I've visited countries and states in North America.
  • I've driven across the U.S. and with babies, to boot.
  • I've lost 70 pounds. 
  • I've developed and lived my spiritual beliefs.
  • I've made needy people laugh.
  • I've survived decades of having my period.
  • I've had numerous vacations.
  • I've laughed every day of my life.
There are more, but these are the accomplishments I remember right now.

Next is a to-do list with some short-term and long-term goals.
  • become proficient in Spanish
  • travel to Central America and India (maybe more, but for me, these are the biggies right now)
  • learn better teaching techniques
  • teach more courses in the jail
  • stress less, laugh more and make others laugh
  • enjoy exercise more
  • maintain a clean house with significantly less laundry
  • get a floppy eared goat
  • seek and live adventures
  • kick the eating disorder once and for all
  • continue to develop and live my spiritual beliefs
  • worry less
  • develop more patience
  • deal better with depression and stress
  • maintain a sex drive
  • publish more
  • wipe Union Institute off the face of the planet without hurting the innocent (aim high, right?)
  • be instrumental in creating social justice
  • leave a big, beautiful footprint on the world
  • help the offspring achieve their own goals and reach fulfillment
  • nurture love between me and my husband
  • bond more through shared experiences, adventure and fun with my husband
  • never be too old that I can't act like a kid
  • never retire
I actually didn't think I had so many new goals, believing I had to seriously re-set.  Apparently, I just had to think about it.

Anyway, so ends today's not-so-academic exercise.  Maybe I will get more physical exercise later.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Yin, Yang and Buddhism from the Bible

“…I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased,
and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry,
both to abound and to suffer need.” Philippians 4:11-12

Friday, February 03, 2012

Just About Nothing

I'm in avoidance this morning.  I'm avoiding paperwork (hope my boss doesn't read this).  I'm avoiding writing a short story with a deadline.  I'm avoiding the treadmill.  I'm avoiding anything that requires a brain and/or a substantially moving body.  I did manage to revise and submit a newspaper story and throw in a load of laundry and make a cup of tea.  But that's not a lot, considering I am writing this about fifteen minutes to eleven in the morning.  I haven't brushed my teeth, haven't dressed, haven't washed my face or taken care of the sour-milk smelling trash next to me.  I'm perfectly disgusting, is what I am trying to say.

I'm guessing this is about stress.  It has been a busy week full of commitments, with a touch of drama.  I've laughed a lot along the way, but that doesn't mean fatigue and tears didn't encroach upon my giggling.  Most of the stuff is too personal even for me to blog about (if you can believe it), and there are few people I can discuss it with.  But at least I do have a few, which is more than some people can say.

To boot, my lap band is still empty, owing to my illness in Mexico, and I can't get it filled until next week. I don't even want to imagine how much weight I have gained.  The stress eating is out of control.  Before, the band would keep it at bay, but now...  I'm not quite back to being able to eat what I did pre-band (thank God), and I am trying to limit my over-eating to healthier choices (can't get too fat by binging on Lima beans, I hope), but the fact is, calories are calories.  This knowledge adds to my stress.

When I'm stressed, I want to avoid thinking about what I am stressed about, so I do things to zap out or distract myself.  This is okay when the zapping or distracting aren't unhealthy and are productive, but when they include things like eating or spending too much, I know there's a problem.  It's a damn good thing I don't like alcohol because, given my personality, I could easily become an alcoholic.  So I suppose I should be grateful I do things that are somewhat less destructive and thankful I have people who support me.  Actually, I am grateful, so I don't feel bad about myself in that area.  Walking around not acknowledging what we do have is a terrible way to live, and having dealt with severe depression, I know how miserable that can be.

I am babbling at this point, which is fine, because that is what I intended to do in my endeavor to do nothing.  In a couple of minutes, I will flip the laundry and go back to bed.  The teeth will come next, and I am sure I will get the paperwork done, the same paperwork I put off every month because it requires absolute attention to numbers and little grids on the Excel spreadsheet.  It's not even that much paperwork, so I should just suck it up and stop procrastinating.  But is it procrastination if you take a little break and then really do get it done?  Depends on whom you ask, I guess.  Just don't ask my boss, please. 

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Please help stop pregnant inmates from being shackled.

I received this from John Horejsi of Social Action Linking Together. Please consider sending comments to the State Board of Corrections. 
--------------------------------------
SALT Advocates:

I wanted to share the great news that the Board of Corrections published
their Notice of Intended Regulatory Action (NOIRA) regarding Prison
Shackling Prevention on 1/30!

The online public comment forum for the Board of Corrections shackling
regulations is open!  SALT urges you to submit comments.
Below are the links directing you to the site to submit comments online.
This phase of the public comment period will end in 30 days.

This is the direct link for submitting a comment:
http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/entercomment.cfm?stageid=6083

This is the link for viewing all the comments that are submitted; to submit
comment from here you'll see the "enter a comment" link on this page:
http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/comments.cfm?stageid=6083

Some talking points to use in your online comments:

I support regulations that limit the use of restraints on pregnant inmates.
Restraining pregnant inmates poses an unacceptable risk to women's health
and to the health and safety of the fetus. Freedom from physical restraints
is especially critical during labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery.
Women frequently need to move around during labor and recovery, particularly
during the birthing process.

The absence of physical restraints is essential so that medical staff can
easily conduct any necessary emergency procedures.  Following birth, it is
critical for a woman to remain unshackled to prevent postpartum hemorrhage.
Freedom from shackles after delivery also fosters postpartum bonding between
a mother and her newborn, which is essential to the healthy development of
the child.

Shackling pregnant women prisoners is a common degrading practice in the
United States, and faith based and civil rights groups in Virginia have
gathered stories from women in the Commonwealth who have been restrained
while pregnant and incarcerated. National correctional and medical
associations oppose the shackling of pregnant women because it is
unnecessary and dangerous.

Restricting the use of restraints on pregnant women prisoners will not
jeopardize the safety of correctional or medical staff. Among the states
that have restricted shackling of pregnant inmates none have documented
instances of women in labor or delivery escaping or causing harm to
themselves, the public, security guards, or medical staff.

Providing a procedure for compliance with this regulation will ensure much
needed accountability.

Please be responsive.  Make a difference.  john

No More Bailouts

I used to be a lot angrier than I am now, which is probably scary to think about because I can still roll out a vicious rant when I get my sensibilities in an uproar.  The thing is, I don't feel like doing it that much anymore. 

It's not that I've mellowed with age, because I still sail on tides of moral indignation, but I now manage to keep most of the water out of the boat instead of having to bail, which essentially means I've gotten better at not letting things like politics, racism and bloggers raise my blood pressure quite so much.

How have I managed this amazing sea change?  I haven't.  Trying to manage is partly what brought me to the sinking point in the first place.  The word "manage" implies that one has some authority and that the authority is recognized.  I have finally accepted that I have no authority over politicians, self-serving people, insensitive a-holes or others who could use a good metaphorical kick in the behind.  I do have a voice, and I do have my rights, which theoretically should give me some authority at least over our elected officials, but the reality is, no such authority exists because politicians and rich people are the ones who hold and manipulate power. And I don't have that kind of power.

All this might sound depressing, as if I have given up.  Actually, it's empowering because I am finally coming to terms with the serenity prayer: accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can and have the wisdom to know the difference.  I can't change people who want to be selfish.  I can't change power-mongers.  I can't change haters.  But I can love and serve.

Perhaps the one thing that nurtures rage the most is the feeling of helplessness.  Feeling helpless makes us believe nothing we do matters, that in spite of all our efforts, we shall be overcome instead of overcoming.  Helplessness makes us feel hopeless, vulnerable and scared, and human beings generally don't react well to experiencing such emotions.  And so we humans rage against the universe, the world, the country, the state, the county, the town, the neighborhood, the household, whatever it is that represents to us our oppression. 

I'm not so angry anymore because I can do things and am doing things within the scope of my abilities.  I can write; I can help the impoverished; I can assist immigrants; I can give something positive to criminals, all because a group of someones discovered I have something to offer, and they've given me opportunity to do what I can.  I'm grateful for that, even though I suspect one or two of these someones provided the chance mostly to calm me down.  So be it.  Mission accomplished.  They've done a good thing, and I thank them.

So here's the message: when people feel empowered, they don't feel as angry, and when they don't feel as angry, they don't feel as out of control, and when they don't feel as out of control, they don't act out as destructively--they can stay afloat and defy the storm, making their way back home.