By Tony Casson

“…uphold the rights of the oppressed and destitute.” Psalm 82:3b NLT

“We did not dare to breathe a prayer
Or to give our anguish scope!
Something was dead in each of us
And what was dead was hope.”
Oscar Wilde “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”

            For the typical individual facing freedom after years behind bars, the prospects – while not hopeless – are limited; the challenges are many and intimidating; the obstacles are numerous; and the odds of success seem to be stacked against them. Society looks down on those bad boys and girls who keep the wheels of “justice” turning and have appeared in its newspapers and on its television sets. The public is both titillated and repulsed by the tattooed tough guys and gals who create havoc on shows like “Cops.” They are inclined to think that this is just how some people are and have allowed themselves to be convinced that people who are broken cannot be fixed.

Perhaps to a degree, and for some, that is a true statement. But there is nothing that will guarantee failure as surely as doing nothing. To say that the criminal justice system as it exists today is focused on trying to rehabilitate, educate, restore and reintegrate those who have gone to prison is simply not true. Failing many of our children early in life; creating an industry in human misery where the profits are enormous; feeding that industry through the abject failure of half-hearted or non-existent rehabilitation and education programs; and dealing with those who have been newly re-introduced to society in a heavy-handed, oppressive way all contribute to the failure that is called “criminal justice” in America today.

With so much money at state, it is easy to hide behind the cynical stance of “they don’t want to change.” However, if the American public was aware of how many men and women desperately want to change, they might alter that stance. Unfortunately, these men and women are expected to change but do not have, nor are they given, the education, job skills, life skills, confidence, support and encouragement that are required to bring about those changes. When all that is done is to extend a hand to someone while standing on their chest, we can hardly be surprised at the negative result.

When I was young, we would occasionally engage in a cruel activity (hey, I was young!) called “piling on.” In the course of playing, one person would wind up on the ground and someone would yell “PILE ON!”, whereby all the rest would bury the unfortunate soul at the bottom of a pile of unyielding bodies. I have been that body at the bottom. I have known the suffocating, frightening sensation of being trapped. I have known what it was like to want to get out. But I have also known the helpless feeling of having absolutely no idea how to accomplish that. I struggled, but to no avail. I tried to get out from under the pile but I was dependent on the very people who had me trapped. How, then, was I to regain my freedom?

Now let’s pile on some more: In addition to all of the difficulties and obstacles facing felons that I have laid out for you, a convicted sex offender – regardless of the nature of the offense – has several oppressive, invasive and restrictive conditions that will make any effort at reintegration back into society so extremely difficult as to be almost impossible. For many, these conditions and restrictions create what is tantamount to a life sentence of suspicion and condemnation that very well should be considered cruel and unusual punishment. At the very least, the current methods used to monitor and control registered sex offenders are nothing more than tactics which bully and belittle American citizens and should be a clear violation of the civil rights of these individuals.

There is no denying that when a child is abused and/or killed by a predatory monster, it is a very natural response for all parents to share the pain of those who have lost a part of themselves that can never be replaced. But as I have tried to point out on these pages, the ones least likely to harm any child are the ones who draw the most attention. People are understandably angry, scared, ad confused; publicity-seeking politicians and a sensationalist media make certain of that.

But those who have had no contact with children and have served the time to which they were sentenced are angry, scared and confused as well; a length of time in prison deemed by many professionals as being excessive, reactionary counterintuitive. When these individuals are released, a whole array of separate, suffocating, demeaning and isolating rules and regulations await them. These are in addition to those that face other felons released from prison.

The single most daunting item facing sex offenders newly released from prison is the sex offender registry, on which they are required to be listed in all of our states. The astonishing number of repressive items, including polygraph testing, GPS ankle-bracelet monitoring, living restrictions and a host of other horrors is overwhelming. The subject of the registry is so dense and complex that it cannot be undertaken here and I will address it in a separate article at a later date.

The battles and debates over many of these “protective” rules and regulations rages in courtrooms across the country. But as they continue, those who fall under their purview have to deal with the consequences created by them.

Finding a place to live in increasingly more difficult – almost impossible in some cities. Some people are not allowed to live with their families. Some actually “live” in tents and “visit” their families during the day.

Some states issue driver’s licenses with “sex offender” stamped on them in red; an updated version of the scarlet letter. How does this protect children and what does it accomplish beyond embarrassing and humiliating the one required to produce it?

Sex therapy group sessions required on a weekly basis for years involve standing up at each session and reintroducing yourself as a sex offender, re-stating your offense and then proceeding to re-live your experiences and remain in the past for 60 minutes a week as a constant reminder of what you did, no matter what you have done to redefine who you are and making moving forward difficult at best.

The average person can simply not fathom how permanent and black is the mark on your life when you misplace your morals, your decency, your maturity and your common sense.

When a sex offender applies for a job and discloses his or her offense, that person is looked at by some with open disdain and distaste. An individual’s ability to earn a living and care for him or herself and those they are responsible for is severely hampered by that mistake that cannot be undone no matter how much they want to or how hard they try.

If you can find a place to live and you are unfortunate enough to have children, they will be subjected to uncomfortable stares and barely disguised whispers after your neighbors discover who you are by running to the computer. Once the “flag” pops up, the circumstances and your remorse will not matter. More innocent victims will be created beyond those who have already suffered as this hate directed toward you spills over onto your children unfairly and unkindly.

These statements can be taken as warnings to those who think child pornography and Internet fantasies are a game. A moment in the “privacy” of your home can cost you your freedom and net a lifetime in the public’s disapproving eye. It can, in fact, cost you more than you thought possible and surely more than anyone should be expected to pay. These statements are also a plea for reform and the upholding of the Constitution of the United States.

Will the situation be impossible for those leaving prison? Or course not; at least not for everyone. But for many, the American nightmare will continue long after the closing of prison gates behind them. The real horror and the real shame will only just be starting. For many, the rejection, isolation and harassment they experienced in prison will pale in comparison to life as a “free” citizen of this country.

If two wrongs can never make a right, then the tens of thousands of wrongs being perpetrated against citizens of this country can never be expected to make right what is so very wrong in America today.

The national embarrassment that constitutes post-prison “treatment” and monitoring of sex offenders – particularly those guilty of non-contact Internet crimes – is the most inexcusable abrogation of the basic rights afforded to Americans by our Constitution that we have ever allowed to occur.

More prejudicial, discriminatory and demeaning than the treatment of African Americans under the idiotic banner of “separate but equal”; as judgmental and blatantly anti-American as the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II; and more inflammatory and irresponsible than McCarthyism. In each and every case of those dark events in our nation’s history, America was wrong – and American is wrong now.

As the world watches, we move forward each day, branding those who have already paid the price. These exorbitant prices are demanded by a legislative body driven by political and financial self-interests. They are endorsed by an appellate court system, right on up to the Supreme Court itself, which should know better. They all lack the courage to stand up and say, “As much as we need to protect the children of this country, we must also protect the rights of those who have served the prison sentences demanded by law. We can never allow ourselves to put the seal of approval on the right to exact punishment for crimes that have not yet been committed or that we imagine they might have gotten away with.”

If this is not fixed by Congress or stopped by the Supreme Court, then the unlikelihood of books and films like “1984” and “Minority Report” is upon us – and shame on all of them.

God help this country.

I thank you for your time and attention to this series: AMERICA’S CULTURE OF INCARCERATION.


By Tony Casson 

“They are corrupt and their actions are evil; not one of them does good.”
Psalm 14:1b NLT

“We find greedy men, blind with the lust for money, trafficking in human misery.”
Thomas C. Clark

The pursuit of the American dream has halted for millions of people who have had a family member become the sustenance required to feed the appetite of an insatiable prison/industrial monster. For all of them, the American dream has become the American nightmare. Unlike the nightmares that produced imaginary monsters in the closets of our youth, this nightmare is a living breathing thing with distinct body parts that can be identified as corporate greed, political cronyism and a shameless disregard for humanity.

The interests of corporate America and America’s politicians have become so inexorably intertwined as to appear almost inseparable. It is becoming increasingly apparent that powerful corporations and businessmen are selecting our leaders and then pulling their strings or calling in favors that come due as a result of the indebtedness created by their friendship or financial support.

If this diminishing of the lines that should clearly separate the two was not evident before, last year’s irresponsible and indefensible decision by this nation’s Supreme Court that “corporations are people” should serve notice that the final nail has been driven into the coffin that holds the right of the American people to decide the country’s fate, fortune and future.

With the way paved wide, clear and smooth for unlimited individual and corporate contributions to so-called “Super-Pacs” formed to support political candidates, it should be very evident that any notion that American’s leaders are chosen by and indebted to America’s citizens is purely superficial.

Political cronyism and outright corruption has existed since the earliest days of this country’s relatively short history. There has always been an abundance of unsurprisingly inadequate laws prohibiting undue influence on our political leaders. Influence that was purchased through exorbitant donations, expensive gifts and outright bribes was deemed illegal. This nation’s affairs were intended to be handled honestly, out in the open and with the rights and concerns of all American citizens taken into consideration.

The line separating corporate America and the influence of wealthy individuals from our political leaders has always been crossed quietly and secretly as a result of friendships, alma maters and the proverbial “good old boy” network. But the blatant public erasing of the lines, which the Supreme Court just completed, was begun in earnest with the formation of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 1973.

I wrote about ALEC in Removing the Chains of Fear,” published here on October, 28, 2011, but the main thrust of this unholy alliance is this: Powerful businessmen and corporations sit together with legislators from every state in the union in private sessions three times a year to discuss, plan and write so-called “model legislation” affecting all facets of American life. Much of the “legislation” that is written directly benefits the very companies and individuals helping to write the laws.

As a result of a piece of ALEC’s “model legislation” dubbed “Stand Your Ground,” several corporate members recently ended their affiliation with ALEC. “Stand Your Ground” was blamed for creating the environment in which an unarmed 17-year-old named Trayvon Martin was murdered by a “Neighborhood Watch” member in Florida. Following the public uproar and the revelation of ALEC’s involvement in the drafting of the legislation, several large corporations such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart withdrew from the organization.

Things had already been heating up for ALEC in recent months with attacks by National Public Radio, Bloomberg News and numerous other sources, such as the website www.alecexposed.org, questioning the ethics, if not the outright legality, of the relationship between businesses and lawmakers as those relationships existed within ALEC.

It was in these private gatherings between ALEC’s legislative and business members in the early 1980’s that America’s Culture of Incarceration was born. Once the notion took hold that there were fortunes to be made from the chaining of human beings, two significant things began in earnest: There was a major push begun to lock up more people for longer periods of time; and the concept of private prisons for profit was born.

For millions of American citizens, the American nightmare was about to begin.

More tomorrow… 


By Tony Casson

“Now then, I will reveal the truth to you.” Daniel 11:2a NLT

“There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.”
-Anais Nin
“The Diary Of Anais Nin, III”

Some time ago, I announced that I was working on a multi-part series on the unfortunate Culture Of Incarceration that has become so much a part of America’s identity in the past 40 years. Here at home, and throughout the world, much has been made of the fact that the land of the free has become the land of the imprisoned.

State and federal legislators enact new laws defining new crimes at an alarming rate each year. The federal government alone has created at least 452 crimes just since 2000, bringing the total of federal crimes to over 4,450. I dare not even inquire as to the number of laws there are on a state level. No one can possibly be expected to know every law and yet the Supreme Court has held that ignorance of the law is no excuse. There is only one exception to that rule and that concerns illegal campaign contributions. How ironic that the only exception to the “ignorance defense” is reserved for those who write the laws.

The more important point is that this country’s state and federal legislators take their roles as ‘lawmakers’ entirely too literally. At the behest of national, multi-national, private, and public corporations and companies, lawmakers have created so many crimes that it has been said that NO person can get through one day without breaking at least one of them.

The series you are about to read covers different aspects of America’s Culture Of Incarceration:

“The Anatomy Of America’s Nightmare” discusses the advent of the culture partly through the formation of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

“The Iowa State Affair” demonstrates how the unholy triangle of corporate greed, political cronyism, and a shameless disregard for humanity combine to create, and foster, the mindset that allows the Culture Of Incarceration to prosper and grow.

-Part 3 is titled “Preparing America’s Children For Prison” and discusses how many children seem to be destined from birth to become food for the prison machine.

-In parts 4, 5, and 6, I talk about the political and financial incentives to not only maintain a large prison population, but also increase it through failures in rehabilitation and education while individuals are incarcerated and with the obstacles and roadblocks confronting those who are released after serving their time.

-The final installment is called “The Worst Nightmare Of All” and outlines the additional obstacles, restrictions, and prejudices that face those convicted of ‘sex offenses’ – regardless of the nature of their crime – upon their release.

I will take this opportunity to apologize in advance for any shortcomings or inadequacies in the completeness of these reports. Time, and my own limitations, precludes anything more thorough in such a format. If the points that I DO make fall short in demonstrating that there is a frighteningly large and shameful problem facing America today, then the fault lies with me and the fact that I am not a writer or a journalist. I am just a man in prison trying to make those who care to take the time to read aware of the broad scope, and depth, of this national tragedy perpetrated in the name of justice, but executed mainly for profit.

In the near future, I will be adding supplemental articles regarding constructive rehabilitation, how to remove the obstacles facing felons as they try to reenter society and how this is to society’s advantage, and I will also try to demonstrate more adequately the horrors of this nation’s sex offender registry as it exists today, why it is an embarrassment to this country, and how it can better achieve it’s intended purposes.

All of that said, I invite you to share my thoughts, to share your own, and – if you feel there is any merit to any of this – share it with others. To quote an old friend in the restaurant business, “If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn’t, please don’t tell ANYONE!”