Prison Pete

Friday, April 22, 2005
  Check Please, Ms. Malkin! Fact Check, that is. Prisoners Do Not Blog!
I can only speak to the Federal and New Yolk State prison systems. No inmate has direct access to computers that would enable them to post to blogs or send E-mail.

Where do these prison blogs come from? They are a labor of love done by law abiding citizens who are not in prison.

They are done by individuals exercising their constitutional right of Free Speech. To say that Michelle Malkin is a journalist and she apparently feels it is within her rights to decide who should be allowed free speech seems a little disingenuous.

Writing specifically about Prison Pete, the original postings in this blog come from years of personal letters written by me to a long-time personal friend.

The letters were transcribed by my friend (the originals were mostly in hand-written chicken scratch), edited and then posted to the blog that he created. While the information, ideas and thoughts are those of a prisoner, I actually have no direct control over what is posted on the blog.

By what law now in effect (or what law would Ms. Malkin propose) would stop an American citizen from writing about prison life while he or she is not a prisoner? Yes, again the devil is in the details.

First you would have to stop the information coming out of prison. Is she assuming that one could limit what a husband in prison could write to his wife? In my case, is she suggesting that I should be limited in what I can tell my parents about my day-to-day existence? How about a father in prison being able to write to his children, letting them know that being in prison is no bed of roses. Maybe, just maybe, the message getting through to that son so that he does not repeat the sins of the father?

Yes, I am being very specific to prove a point. Ms. Malkin's comments are not only shallow, but show that no thought went into them.

If we can agree that even prisoners need to be able to write to family and friends on the street, how are you going to limit what they do with the information they have. This is Debating 101; before you state your premise, be sure you can back it up.

Even famous people in jail have had trouble being heard. Are you suggesting that if Martin Luther King, Jr. were in jail today, he would not be allowed to send out information that could be posted on a blog? Did Ms. Malkin complain about Martha Stewart's greetings and letters from her recent incarceration being posted on her website?

If you say, certainly, those people would be treated differently. Okay, so now who decides whose words can be put on a blog and whose cannot?

The internet has certainly changed the definition of what the press is. The prisoner blogs are a good example of information that is otherwise unavailable.

You would have to have been an actual prisoner to know what goes on inside a prison day in and day out. Whenever reviews are made in an institution, whether by an outside accreditation group or from the regional supervisors, the prison is put on high alert. Everything that does not move is given a fresh coat of paint, the meals that day will be a few steps up from the usual, and most of the trouble makers are kept out of sight.

The chapel at Club Fed was having its program review, which consisted of three or four other federal prison employees going over the paperwork and operations of the chapel department. I was asked by a staff member if I would only say nice things if they let me be one of the ten or so inmates to be interviewed by the stiff reviewing. Yes, that is right; the local staff was allowed to pick the inmates who were interviewed.

Who should tell what really goes on in prisons if not the prisoners themselves? I often thought of the prison system as the ultimate business to be in. Never a shortage of customers, and guess what, if the customer is not satisfied, there are no repercussions.

The fact that humiliating inhumane conditions are allowed to exist in the Arizona desert shows that the average American really does not care what conditions behind the barbed wire are. So why rail against a few blogs that might be able to provide a different perspective?

While there might be some prisoners with support from a person on the outside who use the blog for purposes to annoy or taunt their victims, the prison system has a very effective way of dealing with that issue.

I take exception to that blanket characterization since I have consistently admitted my guilt, and while I may taunt an unnamed prison employee now and then, it is only in relation to his or her performance of the job that is supposed to be done.
Remember Pete, that people like Ms. Malkin consider themselves, as all knowing, all wise, infallible, and "Reporter Almighty." Spouting off with their narrow opinions is what they do best. Don't give her a second thought as your first one was wasted to begin with. Spare her? Spare me!
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