We Are

Time cannot fathom what is to come

For not even time can out-line what is.

Our story is written beyond all tangible existence

Beyond the star upon which Pinnochio wished, and even beyond the magic of

True Love’s Kiss…

We Are.


The universe has nothing to compare to what is to come

For what is was before the Universe was ever born.

Life was created and consciousness evolved in order to contain our story.

It is more than Cinderella’s lost slipper, and lasts longer than Belle’s dance with the

Beast; as love blossoms and transforms…

We Are.


Love —- in all its Purity.

Love — in all its Tragedy.


What is meant to be will always be, for it is

Meant to be; because what is meant to be will always find a way to be, and …

We Are.

Irrelevance (Antony)

Sometimes I wish I’d never been born

Though this isn’t a suicidal tendency.

I really do enjoy living ;

I guess, sometimes I despise the irrelevancy.

We are born to die.

Live to be forgotten.

There is no such thing as a lasting legacy.


Every man has a story ,

And when his story becomes legend

The legend is then no longer about the man ; he is rendered meaningless.

The real man no longer exists, nor is he necessary…


Re-Sentencing Our Youth, Part 1

By Clifford L. Powers

There has lately been a lot of coverage on the impact of the justice system and sentencing juvenile defendants. Fueled by this, but much less talked about, is a movement to redefine the line between juvenile and adult, and to transform how our youth are treated by the system. Essentially to stop the practice of “lock ’em up and throw away the key”.

In this series of posts, I’m going to give a bit of history and try to explain what’s been done, what’s being done, and what needs to be done.

The first major decision came in 2005 when the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decided Roper v. Simmons [1], holding that a person can’t be sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were a juvenile (under 18). The second came in 2010 when SCOTUS ruled in Graham v. Florida [2] that a sentence of life without parole [3] (i.e., you die in prison) is effectively a death sentence.

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, the Court found, forbids such a sentence for juveniles who haven’t committed homicide. While states aren’t required to release a juvenile during their natural life, they are forbidden “from making the judgement at the outset that those offenders never will be fit to reenter society”. A juvenile must have the opportunity at some point to be released on parole.

These decisions established the two lines of precedent that led to Miller v. Alabama (2012) [4]. Here SCOTUS considered the consolidated appeals of two juveniles; one from Arkansas, the other for Alabama; who had received a mandatory natural life sentence for murder. In these cases, like so many, the sentencing judge had no discretion to give a lesser sentence. In a ruling that is still reverberating through the justice system, the Court said that any mandatory life-without-parole sentence for a juvenile violates the Eighth Amendment.

As the Court explained: “The sentencing schemes at issue were flawed because they treated every child as an adult. Mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features-among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences. It prevents taking into account the family and home environment that surrounds them-and from which he cannot usually extricate himself-no matter how brutal or dysfunctional. It neglects the circumstances of the homicide offense, including the extent of his participation in the conduct and the way the familial and peer pressures may have affected him. Indeed, it ignores that he might have been charged and convicted of a lesser offense if not for incompetencies associated with you-for example, his inability to deal with police officers or prosecutors (including on a plea agreement) or his capacity to assist his own attorneys…. And finally, this mandatory punishment disregards the possibility of rehabilitation even where he circumstances most suggest it”.

The Miller Court made two main points: 1) That “children are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of sentencing”, and 2) that “youth matters in determining the appropriateness of a lifetime of incarceration without the possibility of parole”.

The Court’s decisions in these foundational cases were greatly influenced by a still-developing understanding of child and young adult brain development and psychology. The subsequent decisions across the country have likewise been driven by this.

The Two Millers and Illinois

Long before Miller v. Alabama, the Illinois Supreme Court (ISC) came to a similar conclusion in People v. Leo Miller [5] in 2002. Leon Miller was 15 years old when he was charged with being an accomplice to a multiple-murder. After being convicted, he was given a mandatory natural life without parole sentence. The ISC ruled that this violated the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution due to his age and level of involvement.

Commenting on its decision, the Court asserted that it was “consistent with the longstanding distinction made in [Illiois] between adult and juvenile offenders, a distinction underscored by the reality that our state was the first to create a court system dedicated exclusively to juveniles…. Illinois led the nation with our policy towards the treatment  of juveniles in first forming the juvenile court, and, traditionally, as a society we have recognized that young defendants have a greater rehabilitative potential”.

Miller v. Alabama left open the question of how this monumental ruling was to be applied. The ISC decided People v. Davis [6] in 2014, holding that Miller should be applied retroactively as well as prospectively, meaning to anyone who meets the criteria (i.e., they were a juvenile when the crime was committed and received a mandatory natural life sentence) could petition the court to be resentenced. In 2016, SCOTUS made the same ruling in Montgomery v. Louisiana [7].

While the Miller Ruling seems straight-forward, its real implications and applications are still highly disputed over seven years later. Very important questions are being explored, debated, and answered between and within states. Here in Illinois, our Supreme Court has provided a few answers pro tempore in the past few years.

In People v. Reyes (2016)[8], the ISC held that the defendant’s mandatory minimum 97-year sentence was in contradiction with Miller, thereby extending SCOTUS’s ruling to mandatory de facto life sentences (and aggregate ones). Reyes had been convicted of several charges and sentenced to the minimum on each one. However, because each sentence was to be served consecutively, Reyes would end up spending the rest of his life in prison.

Then, in People v. Holman (2017)[9], the Court held that Miller also applies to discretionary natural life sentences. This actually went beyond the core holding in Miller but was rather based on the rationale followed and concerns how the Miller factors are to be considered and dealt with. (Something I will get into in Part II of this series).

Finally, in People v. Buffer (2019)[10], decided earlier this year, the ISC answered an essential question it had left open in its Reyes decision; i.e., what constitutes a de facto life sentence for Miller purposes? The answer is 41 years.

As we bring new issues to the courts and the State continues to seek exceptions to the rule, this law will keep evolving.

Young Adults

Parallel to the changes I mentioned above, one Illinois court has been leading the charge in developing a new jurisprudence regarding adolescents, or young adults. (These terms apply to the age ranges of 18-20 or 18-25, depending on where you look.) It was in People v. Thompson (2015)[11], involving a 19-year-old, that the ISC first acknowledged that the scientific studies on juvenile maturity and brain development may also apply to young adults, which in turn would warrant a Miller- and Leon Miller- type review. At this time, there were similar studies in young adults but they were new and few; this area of scientific inquiry is still coming into its own.

Although the Court at that time did not extend the Miller holding to young adults, noting that before such a ruling can be made “it is paramount that the record be sufficiently developed” regarding how the “‘evolving science’ on juvenile maturity and brain development” applies to the defendant, it did open the door for the claim to be raised. Thompson failed to do this in his initial petition to the circuit court; however, in December of 2018, he was given permission to refile.

That same year, in People v. House (2015)[12], the same appellate court vacated the mandatory natural life sentence of a 19-year-old convicted of a double-murder under a theory of accountability. Guided by Leon Miller and Miller, the Court found that due to House’s age and level of involvement (he was present at the kidnapping and acted as lookout during the murders, following orders from higher-ranking gang members) his sentence violated the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution.

The court did not find that House’s sentence violated the Eighth Amendment, and this is an important distinction. Miller addressed the sentence of a juvenile and as far as the First District Appellate Court has applied Miller’s rationale to young adults, no Illinois court has even entertained the idea of extending Miller’s Eighth Amendment holding.

In 2016, the same appellate court decided in People v. Harris [13] that his 76-year sentence violated the proportionate penalties clause as well. Like Reyes (see above), Harris received the minimum on both of his charges (20 years plus a 25-year gun enhancement for murder, and 6 years plus a 25-year gun enhancement for attempted murder) to be served consecutively. Harris was 18 when the crime was committed, but unlike House, he was the only one involved.

While the circumstances were different, the court found the rationale in House instructive: “All sentencing cases are fact-specific, but Harris is similar to House in some important ways. Like House, Harris was young… when he committed his crimes. Like House, Harris had no violent criminal history…. Harris’s responsibility for his crimes was much greater than House’s, but Harris has additional attributes for arguing for his rehabilitative potential. Harris had grown up in a stable family environment, and those family members continued to support him through his sentencing. Harris was finishing high school when he committed the murders and completed his GED while in pre-trial custody…. that evidence… does support the notion that Harris might be able to rehabilitate himself if given the opportunity. Or, in the words of our constitution, might be able to restore himself to ‘useful citizenship’.”

Unfortunately, in late 2018 the ISC overturned the appellate court’s ruling in Harris for failing to properly develop the evidentiary record, as they had done in Thompson (see above). The same day, the Court overturned House as well and ordered the appellate court to reconsider its decision in light of Harris. Harris has since been given permission to refile the claim in the circuit court, and the appellate court reaffirmed its decision in House. What happens next remains to be seen.

More and more of us who were convicted for crimes committed as young adults and given life sentences (myself at 18) are bringing this claim to court. The movement is gaining steam and even the Legislature is coming to recognize that people who committed crimes as children and young adults deserve a chance at life. (See my article “Illinois Enacts Youthful Parole for Some” at http://www.criminallegalnews.org). But it will take the concern, compassion, and support of everyone to make the changes happen.

Please check back next month for an in-depth look at these issues in Part II.


  1. Roper v. Simon, 543 U.S. 551 (2005)
  2. Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48(2010)
  3. Life Without the Possibility of Parole is an official sentence, usually reserved for the worst crimes or for those with exceptional criminal records. It means exactly what it says, you remain in prison for life.
  4. Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012)
  5. People v. Miller, 202 Ill. 2d 328 (Ill. 2002)
  6. People v. Davis, 2014 IL 115595
  7. Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718
  8. People v. Reyes, 2016 IL 119271
  9. People v. Holman, 2017 IL 120655
  10. People v. Buffer, 2019 IL 122327
  11. People v. Thompson, 2015 IL 11815
  12. People v. House, 2015 IL App (1st) 11580 (and 2019 IL App (1st) 11580-B)
  13. People v. Harris, 2016 IL App (1st) 141744 (and 2018 IL 121932)


Take A Drunk Girl Home (Antony)

Inside the dimly lit tavern Ian sits quietly in his usual booth at the back of the bar room, in a dark corner, as he usually does on Friday nights looking for something to get into; yet, on this particular one, nursing his second beer, he eyes a rarity ever seen in the dingy little place. Someone new. Not just anyone new, a beautiful red-head with a tempting beauty; she’s unique here, wealthy, although trying to dress down in an old pair of yoga leggings and little jewelry, a pair of hoop earrings and a simple gold bracelet, the aura of privilege sticks out in a dirty place like this. She must be trying to get away from…something. He watches her shoot tequila, chasing it with beer, and suddenly had the urge to have her.

Ian slides from the booth, and as he makes his way to the woman he surveys the surroundings, taking note of a group of women in the corner and a few men scattered among the other booths; the regulars, no-one to worry about.

At the bar Ian slips into the stool next to the red-head and waves to the bartender, signaling him to bring him a round of drinks. The bartender, a muscular fellow with slicked back greasy hair and a sleeve to tattoos up each arm, probably done in prison, gives Ian a look of familiarity and a head nod as he sets a shot of tequila and a beer in front of him and the woman.

The red-head snatches up the little shot glass, raises it to Ian and with a slur says, “Thank ya.”

“You’re welcome,” Ian smiles, taps her glass with his and together knock their drinks back. He shakes off the sting of the tequila, extends his hand, “Ian.”

The red-head is hesitant, looking first to his faded and torn, not fashionably, jeans, then to his dirty-blonde pony tail; she shrugs, places her hand in his, “Jeanie.”

“So, Jeanie, if I rub your bottom would you grant me three wishes?” He grins.

“Excuse me.”

“Bottle…” Ian feins embarassement, “I meant bottle. Like genie in a bottle.”

“Oh,” Jeanie giggles. “I get it.”

Ian takes a swig from his beer and recovers, “So, hard day?”

“Nooo…yesss,” she laughs. “Don’ wanna talk; jus’ drink.”

The greasy bartender set a couple more shots before them, and again, they quickly disposed of them.


After about an hour of slamming shots and guzzling brew, Ian begins to notice that Jeanie is almost too intoxicated, almost to the point of being unable to properly prohibit; he knows that she is no longer safe in a place like this, like that. A place of mongrels and beasts, the worst predators in the world can offer, including himself; Jeanie has no idea how bad this night could actually turn out for her.

Out of the blue the song ‘Havana’ by Camila Cabello starts playing, an odd tune in a dive bar; this causes Jeanie to knock off her heels and stumble from the bar stool, blurting,  “Thiss’s my soong!” heading out to dance.

Ian soon realizes why the song is playing.

It only takes a few minutes of jumping and dancing, probably causing the alcohol to swish around in Jeanie’s stomach, and she crumbles to her knees, vomit shooting from her. Ian looks up to see a bald man with a grungy beard headed toward the inebriated Jeanie, causing him to sprint across the room, push the burly man in the chest and postures, “I got her. She’s fine; with me.”

The bearded man balls his fists, contemplating; shakes his head and backs down, walking away, knowing better.

“Let’s get you out of here,” Ian bends down and lifts Jeanie from the floor, throwing one of her arms around his neck, “before something really bad happens.”

They walk, more like he walks while dragging her with him, to the bar where he picks her phone up and orders them an Uber; he then collects her heels and purse from the floor and takes her outside.

While waiting, Jeanie leans against the brick wall of the bar, bent over, continuing to vomit periodically as Ian holds her hair out of the way. “I’mm surry,” Jeanie murmers, “soo surry,” and vomits again.

“It’s okay.” Ian assures, “Everything’ll be okay.”

On the ride to Jeanie’s house she passed out, her head in Ian’s lap, he starts to regret picking up a woman so drunk, she probably won’t even remember him in the morning.

He sees the driver giving him a disgusted look in the rear-view mirror, and all he could was smile; he knows how it looks.


It takes fifteen minutes to arrive, and the car pulls into a driveway; sitting back a little from the street Ian sees a nice two-story Victorian-style house. He knew she was well-off when he saw her, but who knew?

He tries shaking her awake, although Jeanie moves slightly, she remains asleep. Ian turns to the driver, “Wait here; I’m going to take her in and put her to bed. I won’t be long.”

The driver sighs, “Whatever.”

Ian steps from the car, ducks back and cradles Jeanie in his arms; he picks her up and carries her toward the front of the house. Finding the door locked, he sits her down against the door and searches her purse where he finds her keys. It took him a few tries but he eventually gets the door unlocked and opens it.

He again picks Jeanie up and carries her inside; just inside the door Ian sees a staircase and figures her bedroom is up them, so that’s where he takes her. At the top he opens the first door to his right and finds a bathroom; he’s a little annoyed, because though a small woman Jeanie’s starting to get a little heavy. He opens the next door and finds a bedroom, relieved, Ian moves inside and hurriedly places her on the bed.

He sets her shoes and purse in a chair located near a window at the rear of the room. He turns, and can’t help have his attention drawn to how beautiful she looks in her sleep, then notices a significant amount of vomit on her pants; he gently slides them off, folds them and places them with the rest of her things.

Ian eyes a crocheted quilt draped over the foot of the bed, picks it up and covers Jeanie; he then decides to leave a note on her phone, to put her mind at ease.

You had gotten really drunk, and so I made sure you got home okay. Also, sorry I took your pants off, but I didn’t want you to get vomit everywhere. DON’T WORRY, NOTHNG HAPPENED!!!

I would really like to take you on a proper date sometime, if that’s okay. – Ian


Ian set the phone on the nightstand and leaves the room. He walks down the stairs, out of the house, locking the door behind him, and gets back into the Uber that is surprisingly still waiting.

The driver looks at him curiously; Ian laughs “Take me home.”

Out With the Old, And in With the New: (Antony)

What Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation showed us about Partisan Politics.

What has happened to the political culture when the sexual assault of a woman can become a tool utilized by those in power to pursue an agenda?

I had planned to write a post on political rhetoric for the midterm elections, and I changed my mind after witnessing what has gone on the last couple of weeks over the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as Supreme Court Justice. What I saw affected me deep into my core.

This piece isn’t directed at one side or the other, it is directed at the entire political spectrum as they all had a hand in the pointless torture of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and all should be held accountable for their actions.

As I watched Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee handling Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, I watched partisan politics at its finest, each side, Republican and Democrat, trying to make their points clear at the expense of Dr. Ford’s clear pain and discomfort as she relived the atrocious acts that happened to her all those years ago.

Dr. Ford testified that she came forth with the information that she was attacked by Brett Kavanaugh before he wad the Supreme Court nominee, when his name was merely considered among others; this shows that her intent wasn’t to stop a republican nomination, she wanted to stop the nomination from going to Brett Kavanaugh, the man she claimed sexually assaulted her. This makes you question the Democrat’s intent; did they sit on the information waiting until Kavanaugh was nominated in order to use it as a ploy to delay the confirmation until after the midterms?

Dr. Ford also stated she wanted an FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations, and the Republicans said they wanted her to testify before the Judiciary Committee. Instead of justice, instead of respecting the wishes of a sexual assault victim, their intent was to turn this woman’s pain into a public spectacle in order to besmirch Dr. Ford’s reputation and discredit her claims.

Only when this backfired, because Dr. Ford actually had legitimate claims and concerns, and it could clearly seen by anyone with a heart that something traumatic happened to her and that it may have actually been committed by Brett Kavanaugh, did the Senate and President Trump agree to the pseudo-investigation by the FBI.

They needed something to quell political backlash at the callousness with which they treated Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

The FBI investigation itself was as pointless as having Dr. Ford testify before the committee; each was nothing more than a circus meant to entertain public sentiment and a mirage to protect a political image.

All the Senate Judiciary Committee did was make Dr. Christine Blasey Ford relive the sexual assault; making her testify with no intent of changing the outcome of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation was nothing more than a re-victimization of Dr. Ford.

Dr. Ford was tortured by our esteemed political leaders to simply satisfy their own political aspirations. If we vote for these same politicians in the mid-terms then we become complicit in their actions, are we okay with sexual assault being a tool of partisan politics?

There was no justice, no concern for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the sexual assault that happened to her; she came forward and told the truth, and nothing happened; Brett Kavanaugh is still a Supreme Court Justice.

What does this say to all the young girls and women who are, and will be victims of sexual assault?

What our politicians did should make anyone with a sense of humanity cringe, and with the midterms coming up it’s time to hold them accountable.

It seems that the political climate has turned the career politicians’ blood cold; if this is what the old blood is capable of then I think it’s time for some new blood.

Should Individualism Be Saved?

“The liberalism of the past was characterized by the possession of a definite intellectual creed and program…Liberalism today is hardly more than a temper of mind, vaguely called forward looking, but quite uncertain as to where to look and what to look forward to.”

These could be the words of any number of our political thinkers today, bur in fact it was the prescient sociologist and philosopher John Dewey who made this observation in a series of articles for The New Republic in 1929-30. The series was later published in book form as Individualism Old and New.

When he began writing the Great Crash had not yet occurred. It could be said, though, that Dewey’s essays and that tragic event of October 24, 1929 had shared genesis in the massive cultural changes sweeping the nation since the turn of the century.

The Democratic trust-busting machine having temporarily run out of steam, America was increasingly embracing a multifaceted and pervasive corporatization. Conglomerates were being established in retail, manufacturing, transportation, finance, and many other sectors.

A decade before, President Woodrow Wilson had set up his Committee on Public Information where leading intellectuals Edward Bernays and Walter Lipman built on state propaganda tactics learned during the war. Bernays described what they did there as “the engineering of consent.”

At the same time, professor-turned-executive John B. Watson was employing his pioneering work in behaviorism to revolutionize marketing and advertising. It didn’t take long for them to devise ways to work together. Government had an interest in generating ideological consensus in favor of its political, economic, and social agendas; corporations desired standardization and uniformity in order to reduce costs and to induce consumerism.

These agendas and tactics employed a strong molding effect on society. Through ad campaigns on radio and in newspapers, they disseminated the ideology of the “American Dream.” All this dream required from the people was hard work and dedication to the job. In return they would have material prosperity and be able to own all the great new products being produced by the nation’s manufacturers. And with this new economy employment also changed. Nationwide corporations needed a workforce that could keep up with the demand they were creating; hence the company man was born.

Dewey was concerned with how all of this effected “the change of social life from an individual to a corporate affair.” He saw in this change the suppression of the “old” individualism which was “dependant on stable objects to which allegiance firmly attach[ed] itself;” objects like religion, law, politics, art, philosophy, etc.

People need set social structures from which they can derive a sense of self and a sense of purpose in the preservation of society. In this vein, the individual of the past was characterized by the desire to achieve through their own effort, but with a mind oriented toward the flourishing prosperity of the whole society. This, in Dewey’s opinion, was the individualism of the pioneer, the entrepreneur, the progressive, of the American Dream.

The collective foundation of establish institutions and set social functions, rather than controlling the individual, found expression though them and provided a sense of direction. The internal motivation provided a sense of direction. The internal motivations of the individual ultimately went to the benefit of everyone by strengthening those foundations, and as a result, society and the individual remained integrated.

By 1929, however, this integration had largely broken down (if it ever even existed in the idealistic sense). In “The Last Individual” Dewey describes this disintegration as “a moral and intellectual fact which is independent of any manifestation of power in action.”

“The significant thing is that the loyalties which once held individuals, which gave them support, direction and unity of outlook on life, have well-nigh disappeared. In consequence, individuals are confused and bewildered. It would be difficult to find in history an epoch as lacking in solid and assured objects of beliefs and approved ends of action as in the present. “

Dewey was adept at observing and diagnosing contemporary social phenomena, but he failed to shed the romanticized idea of the past so common to the unoppressed. He neglects the reality that the common individual of the past was chiefly concerned with survival, and unless you were a white male, the institutions and set social functions were very controlling and seldom beneficial. But for Dewey, what characterized the society of the late 1920s was seemingly opposite the recent past: external motivations geared toward the beneficence of the individual often at the expense of society at large.

One of the things Dewey lamented most about this change, quite relevant to the time in which he was writing, was a disproportionate and misdirected focus on pecuniary gain. “This manifested in various ways. People began dedicating their lives to increasing their personal wealth and that of a company they did not own as corporations expanded and began employing larger and larger swaths of the population…completely detached from anything real.” The thing is, this shift also pulled a large portion of society out of poverty, an opportunity people can’t be blamed for taking.

This obsession with money had also entrenched itself in the political realm. Along with the increasing size and prevalence of corporations came a growing political influence from the private sector. This influence was not exercised in the interest of society, as was commonly claimed, but of the businesses themselves , or, more accurately, their leaders. These developments took a serious toll on the political parties and their connection to the people. As Dewey explains: “It would be a waste of words to expatiate on the meaninglessness of present political platforms, parties, and issues.

Individuals derive part of their identity, especially in relation to their country, from their political allegiance. When the thought and actions of the party become incoherent, the confusion deprives people of that sense of self. This effect was exacerbated at the time because of how this political reality conflicted with the ideological consistency the government was trying to cultivate.

Liberals were particularly affected. In the past, “liberals operated on the basis of a thought-out social philosophy, a theory of politics sufficiently definite and coherent to be easily translated into a program of policies to be pursued,” but this was no longer the case.

With so many monetized groups vying for their own interests which were irreconcilable with one another, not to mention with the parties’ larger constituencies, it was impossible to maintain the old philosophy. As a result, many liberals outside the parties and outside the upper echelons within, were left “groping their way through situations which [did] not give them direction.” Their ideals and methods no longer accorded with the changing society in which they lived.

It could easily be argued that liberals and liberalism are in a similar state today, ninety years later. It could also be argued that the confusion felt by so many now is simply a carry-over from the previous century; the problems exposed in Dewey’s time were never really remedied. If anything there is a greater rift between liberal party ideology, and the liberalism of the people has never been more pronounced. This can largely be attributed to two main factors: the liberal base is far more diversified and dynamic than it was 90 years ago while the parties have only become more gentrified and money-saturated. But the seeds of both of these present states can be traced to at least the early Twentieth century.

Again in “The Last Individual,” Dewey speculates on a possible solution, namely the development of a “new” individualism consonant with the present age. Not a novel suggestion, it nonetheless provides a pragmatic course of action. He asserts that: “Individuals will refind themselves only as their ideas and ideals are brought into harmony with the realities of the age in which they act…If we could inhibit the principles and standards that are merely traditional…the unavowed forces that now work upon us…would have a chance to build minds after their own pattern, and individuals might, in consequence, find themselves in possession of objects to which imagination and emotion would stably attach themselves.”

We are not to mindlessly give in to the new tendencies, but rather mindfully take stock of our new social conditions and adapt accordingly. Dewey contemplated a find relationship between the modern individual and the corporate aspects of modern society as a means to integration. While society might benefit from a mental alignment with this corporateness, it does not benefit from the mass consensus and standardization being imposed upon it. The seeming uniformity of thought and social normalization attempted by government and big business are in fact superficial and damaging. They cannot provide a deep and lasting unification only an external conformity.

Dewey says that conformity “is a name for the absence of vital interplay [among individuals]; the arrest and benumbing of communication.” This shallowness of thought and connection is the primary cause of the individual’s lack of anchoring. On the other hand, a conscious alignment with the “actuating social forces” of the day, rather than creating passive minds, may, in fact, release our creative individuality.

The key here, Dewey claims, is intelligent, intentional participation. But which of the many social movements should we be guiding? Dewey assumes an inherent benevolence to modern technological and social advancements; they may be corrupted and corrupting, but with the right control and motivation, they can be turned to our collective benefit. But I don’t think this is the case, or at least not entirely so. Some things are just bad, and others contain mechanisms that are just too easily put to uses which harm us.

Dewey envisioned the creation of a liberal individualism reconciled with the prevailing social forces. But he also saw those forces as originating from those in (economic) power. His idea was that we could mold these forces into institutions to which the new liberalism could be anchored. This type of liberal individualism is still rooted in a positive perspective on the past which must be rejected. Instead, any new foundation must be rooted in the real social environment and used to shape corporate and political bodies.

What Is Happening in the CDC-R

By Hank Watson #AA-4712

Recent laws have passed, namely prop. 57, which will begin to empty bodies from the CDC-R (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation). Each of these bodies represents a dollar sign to a Draconian prison industry manned by 2nd and 3rd generation C/Os who’ve fallen into a state of decadence raking in $100k, and sometimes $180k (specifically transportation guards) at the expense of the American taxpayer. You see, Prop. 57, which passed in 2016, allows for parole considerations for nonviolent offenders, credits for good behavior, and punishment changes for juvenile offenders. Simply put, this measure removes bodies from the prison system and the kickbacks prisons get for having a full house, and something needs to keep those bodies inside.

Seeing the probable end of the construct they’ve created, in a state where public awareness begins to question the necessity of this over-bloated, bureaucratic union, the CDC-R has established a retaliatory game plan to put them back on the offensive. Pitting inmates against one another and racking up violent charges tacks on extra convictions and lengthens sentences.

What the public does not know or understand is that 90% or more of prison violence stems directly from overpopulation and the double housing of inmates in cells initially intended for one person. In fact, recent cases filed and won by prisoner rights organizations in Illinois prove how detrimental this practice can be. The official perspective they’d like you to believe is that inmates walk around all day trafficking in drugs and weapons when the truth is prisons across the state are filled with guys who just want to chill in the sun, talk about music and cars, and be left alone. No one has any issues until you try to stuff two humans in a cell the size of a walk-in closet.

A history of violence erupting for these very reasons has allowed the CDC-R to weaponize the mental instabilities of inmates facilitated by a compliant mental health department. Both have essentially conspired together to place inmates in living situations that could result in injury or death and use this to their advantage. And so far it is working. Many “problem” inmates have fallen victim to violence incited by living conditions, and others told to prove their need for more space by taking one of the problems out.

Mental health serves as an apparatus of the prison-industrial complex effectively sheltering custody from all legal repercussions by facilitating these negligent moves and minimizing and dismissing the real possibilities of the cell violence and homicides in order to keep the gears greased. They all draw their checks from the same source after all.

As a prisoner, if you were to tell your clinician specifically this, “if you house me with a rapist or a sex offender, I believe that I will no doubt harm him,” the clinician will simply note that the inmate seems “irritable” at the idea of having a cellie effectively nullifying any history or warning you may have given the CDC-R leaving their hands clean. Even if you give specific examples of how you might act or what you feel, their reaction does not change.

For California, if you need to speak to a counselor for any reason, you have to fill out a CDC-R Form 22 which is essentially a request for an interview or service. If during that interview you were to ask that a chrono (or informational addendum) be added to your file stating you believe “the CDC-R is weaponizing inmate mental health patients in order to achieve violent results that will benefit the prison and its employees’ bottom line,” the counselor would simply put it into the same bureaucratic run around that we always get and never actually put it into the computer system to hide evidence of mental illness. Any noted indication that you do have a mental illness that could result in violence could make them liable when they get the results they want.

Their most recent idea, cooked up in their union  think tanks, is to have two groups of inmates—general population and SNYs (sensitive needs yards)—pitted against each other then move them onto the same yards. The tension between the groups has been building for some time, but moving them together is new and seems to be a direct result of Prop. 57. The hatred between these two groups (SNYs often house sex offenders, for example, which is a major issue in prison politics) has been brewing and fed for so long, and with the CDC losing bodies, this hatred has become their ace in the hole. Put these yards together, and now the administration can say, “See! We told you that you need us!” And imagine that, it became true. They will file for more funds for overtime and hazard pay. Lockdowns will be popular to warrant the pay needs. And no one will look past the violence to see the truth while it’s the people inside who suffer for it.

Progress, at least when it comes to  the prison-industrial complex, almost always comes at a cost for us.

Tattoos on the Heart

By James Trent

Many Americans here been indoctrinated to believe “The American Dream.” We are taught from youth that America is the land of opportunity, a chance for the immigrant to have a fresh start and second chance for a prosperous life. The dream teaching is hammered into our consciousness from birth. it is taught in schools, found in text books, preached by our religious institutions, displayed in art works, campaigned by political leaders, cited by officials, mentioned on the news, seen in movies, written in newspaper articles, and harped upon by the government. The dream informs us that it does not matter what social class a person is born in, what race they are, or what circumstances may bring; that if a person works hard, makes smart decisions, gets an education, and follows the rules of society, they will become a prosperous and successful person.

The American Dream Ideology is full of great words of hope and promise. But are these words based on the current reality of all social classes in American Society? is the Dream possible for the convicted felon, the undesirables, and castaways of this country? Does the Dream apply to those who are trapped in extreme poverty, those who are raised in broken homes, or those who have experienced horrific violence and abuse? Is success possible for people who have seen drug abuse, prostitution, vandalism, are unemployed or attended a failing school system?

With all of the enormous life obstacles, how can the dream become a reality in a person’s life? Sociologist Robert Merton’s Goal Means Gap Theory says that American society is encouraged to pursue success but the opportunity necessary to obtain that success is not provided. Merton’s theory focuses on the point that if OPPORTUNITY is available, success is obtainable.

Father Gregory Boyle has proven that Merton’s theory works by providing opportunities to promote positive change in people. Father Boyle has written a book, Tattoos on the Heart, where he shares his life experiences during his ministry work in California. He has dedicated his life to focusing on the local gangs. he offers them a lifestyle change from gang culture to become successful members of society. He provides them jobs and tattoo removal services. He offers mentor-ship programs and college education. He knows that many of them have never been out of their neighborhoods, so he takes them on trips. He has them speaking at key events all around the country.

In his book, Father Boyle is driven to make a person successful. His description of success is different than how it is defined in Mainstream America. It’s not owning the big house, having a nice car, wearing expensive clothes or having a well paying job. His version of success goes beyond material possessions. He tries to reach a deep level IN a person to change their character. At one point he tells a story of a fifteen year old kid named Scrappy, whose probation officer has assigned him to Boyle’s ministry. Scrappy was so rebellious and troubled that while in a fight, he pulled out a gun and waved it around wildly. Father Boyle stopped the fight and Scrappy pointed the gun at him and said, “I’ll shoot him too!” A few years later, Scrappy returned to Father Boyle’s office to talk to him. Scrappy tells him, “I know to sell drugs, I know how to gang bang, I know how to shank fools in prison. I don’t know how to change the oil in my car. I don’t know how to wash my clothes. NOW WHAT DO I DO?” Father Boyle hired him that day but more importantly he reached his soul.

Father Boyle does not limit his help only to the gangs, he also reaches out to the community as a whole. He rides his bike in the neighborhood and visits families. he started a bakery and graffiti removal program to provide employment to troubled youth. he does not reject or refuse to help anyone that wants to change their life, but he does require commitment and sincerity. If a person isn’t ready for a lifestyle redirection, Boyle gives them his card and tells them to call him when they are.

Tattoos on the Heart is a roller-coaster ride of events. When reading the book, I found myself on an emotional thrill of joy, excitement, humor, surprise and sorrow. The book is filled with compassion and kinship. It has something beneficial for everyone who reads it. Hope for the incarcerated. Encouragement for the ex-con. Inspiration for the activist, and prodding the action for those sitting on the sidelines of advocacy.

This book is such an awesome read that I had to unite a review about. It’s so uplifting and inspiring! If you want to enrich your heart, mind, and soul, GET THIS BOOK!!!

Labels: James Trent, Review, iconoclastic iconoclastheroes, Iconoheroe, Tattoos on the Heart, father Gregory Boyle, advocacy, American Dream, Review

The Demand of Social Media

“For machinery means an undreamed-of-resevoir of power. If we have harnessed this power to the dollar rather than to the liberation and enrichment of human life, it is because we have been content to stay within the bounds of traditional arms and values although we are in possession of a revolutionary transforming instrument.”- John Dewey

I have been an attentive spectator of the contemporary social movements, especially after the atrocious shooting in Parkland, FL. I was floored by the way the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were able to evoke huge numbers to move in the days following.

This generation time and again, that they are no longer content with the traditional “arms and values” and are bringing about an era of ethical liberation made possible because they’re in possession of a truly “revolutionary transforming instrument” (social media).

I’ve been incarcerated for over 17 years and haven’t been able to experience the force that social media platforms can be; I’ve even criticized them in the past, mainly because of the ills that came with it, yet I’ve watched people, with such platforms, effect real political change, even topple governments, and I’ve realized the power social media wields.

This generation of activists has changed the way I see the social advancements; they have the ability to re-shape the world.

.          .           .

There was an article in May 2018 issue of The New Republic titled, “Corporate Political Conscience: Why Big Business is Suddenly into Liberal Politics”, by Andrew Winkler where he writes about corporate entities getting involved in the controversial political issues they had once steered clear of (like gun policies).

Winkler wrote, “Companies are now embracing the idea of corporate political responsibility” because today’s consumer habits are directly tied to political beliefs. We would like to hope that companies are becoming more conscientious, but unlikely, because as Winkler pointed out, “… it’s important to remember that the existential purpose of most corporations is to generate profit.”

Corporations aren’t having some miraculous change of heart, they’re starting to figure out that it is now more beneficial to pick a side.

What Mr. Winkler points out in his article is the same thing John Dewey noticed during The Industrial Revolution all those years ago; the effect mass production and mass consumerism has on the economical and cultural identity of society. There is power in numbers.

In the capitalist dominated world, capital dictates everything; we need to stop and realize that we as consumers control of capital because we are in control of the demand.

Winkler offers an interesting insight, “That’s why today’s corporations obsessively monitor social media: any complaint about them anywhere has the potential to go viral…Companies can no longer afford to wait for the latest tweetstorm before getting involved on political issues.” Look at the women’s marches, #metoo and the protests against gun violence and more, the ability that social media gives to organize and more almost instantaneous has them scared. Social media doesn’t only have the potential, at any moment, to more millions of people, it can also move millions of dollars.

The power at our literal fingertips can move mountains, we only need to choose the mountain.

.         .        .

We are living in a time where most people feel as if their politicians aren’t listening, which is part of the reason we ended up with Donald Trump as our presidents; people felt like shaking things up, simply to show their vote counts. Trump is the result of political distrust.

The problem with politics, the reason why people can’t be heard, is that the lobbyists employed by big business have the ear of the politicians.

They don’t listen to the people because they’re too busy listening to those they think control the economy; what we as the people need to understand is that we have the power to wrestle that control away.

We as consumers control the flow of money, and we can focus that plow to generate power by directing it through controlled financial boycotts.

.          .         .

Larry Fink and Black Rock was able to get many stores to change gun sale policies, and the reason he did so was out of fear of social media and the movements that were being organized against gun violence.

Understand what that means?

Big business fears the effect such movements can have on their profits, so if we could focus such protests and the millions who are willing to get involved toward controlled boycotts of their business we could force the world to listen.

Corporations par out millions of dollars to lobbyists and politicians in order to get what they want done; if we can’t get our policy-makers to listen, then we must get the corporations and their lobbyists attention.

Imagine the millions who came out in support of gun reform, women’s rights, DACA and so on; instead of organizing coordinated marches what if there were coordinated boycotts. They wouldn’t have to go on for extended periods of time; one week, even one day, would get some attention.

Economists say capitalism is amazing because it gives power to the people, through the Law of Supply and Demand. Couple that power with the power of connectedness through social media and there could be created an unprecedented movement. There is an ability to organize like never before and move as one body, instantaneously; don’t we have the responsibility to each other to do so?

Did You Know Felons Can Vote?

By Clifford Powers

Did you know that Illinois is one of the few states that allow people convicted a felony to vote in state and local elections?
If this comes a s surprise to you you’re not alone. So many people just assume that if you’ve got a felony on your record it closes so many doors, and it does, but not this, at least not in Illinois. If you’re an Illinois resident you *can* vote this November and that’s a big deal.
It means you have a voice at a time when we must be heard.
My sister came home almost 5 years ago and she just recently found out that she can vote. I’ve always known she could but I never brought it up because I just assumed she knew. I shouldn’t have. What I should have done was make sure she knew she has this right and encouraged her to speak up at the polls for the causes she believed in.
When she told me, I was surprised that none of the organizations she’s worked with since being home had told her. Why wasn’t this essential information?
Those of us who know, and those of you now reading this, have a responsibility to get this info out there. So many people and groups are working to it near impossible for poor people and minorities. In just the last year and a half, Republican legislatures across the country have passed dozens of laws effectively and blatantly disenfranchising those who would vote against them. We don’t need to do their work for them.
If you’ve been to prison you know how small our voice is from in here (and if you haven’t, you know the lack of hearing it). You know the issues, the changes that must happen, and now you have the power.
Those of us still incarcerated can’t vote; we’re counting on you to be our voice. And not just on issues of prison reform, but gun reform, immigration, equal rights, government accountability, and so much more. There’s a lot at stake right now. You have an opportunity to step up for the community you left behind in prison and the one you’ve rejoined.
The first thing you need to do is register to vote as soon as possible (whether or not you have a conviction). There are several organizations willing to help you this and I’ll include some links below. It’s more important than ever that you cast your vote and take a stand. Change is happening and we need to push it in the correct direction.
Links to Voter registration organizations: