Headline of the week

Sent in by several readers: Angus man who tried to fly drone into Perth Prison claimed Romanian circus stole his chihuahua The report is as mind-boggling as it sounds – certainly beyond my ability to summarize!  Click over there for a good laugh at the insanity (not to mention inanity) of some of our fellow denizens of this orb in space. Weird . . . Peter

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Saturday snippet: Sam the Sex God

Some years ago I published “Walls, Wire, Bars and Souls“, a memoir of my service as a prison chaplain. Many of the realities of prison life are grim and unappealing, but there are flashes of humor even inside the walls that can relieve the tension.  Here’s one incident, as narrated in that book. A large proportion of the hardened criminals in high-security institutions are mentally unstable, to say the least. Some are downright psychotic. We have psychologists who constantly monitor our inmate population, treat those who need it, and advise the rest of us on problem areas. Inmates whose condition

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Social services and prisons: is there a cause-and-effect relationship?

I was struck by two articles, written on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, that I came across within the past few days.  I think that in isolation, each is self-explanatory;  but when read together, the synergy between them is clear. The first article is from the New York Post, and is titled “Social services used to build character — now they blame society“. “Those who have much to do with plans of human improvement,” [Charles Loring Brace] wrote, “see how superficial and comparatively useless all assistance or organization is which does not touch . . . the inner forces which form

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Suicide??? YGTBSM!!!

So, according to news reports, Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide last night . . . while on suicide watch in prison. Yeah.  Right. Folks, I served as a Federal prison chaplain.  I was trained in exactly the same way as a corrections officer, alongside them in the same training institution, because there would be times when I’d have to function as one.  I know more than a little about suicide watches, and I’ve been exposed to my fair share of them.  You can read a little about them in this Slate article, but there’s a lot more to them than that. Basically, on suicide watch, everything and anything that

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What to do with hard-core terrorist prisoners?

That problem is rearing its head in the Middle East right now – but it’s likely to impact many countries, sooner or later.  Strategy Page reports: In northeast Syria the U.S. backed SDF (Kurdish led Syrian Defense Forces rebels) have a growing problem with ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) wives (and their children) that ISIL had ordered to surrender as SDF captured the last ISIL controlled territory in eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province). The mass surrenders began at the end of 2018 and by April the SDF had 63,000 of these refugees. Since then that has grown to

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A sad, lonely end for a very dangerous man

I’m not sure how many of my readers are familiar with the story of Thomas Silverstein.  He was convicted of multiple murders while behind bars, and as a result spent the last 35 years of his life in almost continuous solitary confinement.  He died in hospital in Colorado last month. Silverstein was profiled in Pete Earley’s 1992 book “The Hot House:  Life Inside Leavenworth Prison“.  He became something of a celebrity as a result . . . largely to those who had little or no idea just how very dangerous this man was, and how utterly evil his actions were. (By the

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The “American Taliban” and a justice system that can no longer protect us

I note that the so-called “American Taliban”, John Walker Lindh, is scheduled to be released from prison tomorrow, May 23rd.  Criticism is being leveled at the Bureau of Prisons (where I worked as a chaplain for some years) over his release. “We must consider the security and safety implications for our citizens and communities who will receive individuals like John Walker Lindh, who continue to openly call for extremist violence,” Sens. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., wrote in a letter to the Federal Bureau of Prisons late last week that was obtained by the Washington Post. In the letter, the

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With evidence like that, why bother with the trial?

I’m normally a strong believer in the rule of law, particularly the Sixth Amendment to the US constitution, guaranteeing a fair trial to those accused of a crime.  Without that, who can ever be assured of real justice, rather than partisanship, bias and bribed judges and juries? Nevertheless, in a few particularly egregious cases, the issue is so clear-cut that a trial hardly seems necessary.  This appears to be one of them.  (Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.) Investigators have arrested a man after his wife found video on his phone of him sexually abusing her 5-year-old son, his stepson. On May 5, the

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Saw that coming . . .

Readers will recall the murder of Whitey Bulger a few weeks ago.  As I predicted, this is going to end up in the courts – as it probably should. Mr. Brennan says he is preparing to sue the government on behalf of Bulger’s estate for wrongful death and negligence to find out why authorities sent the frail, notorious gangster to the U.S. Penitentiary Hazelton in West Virginia, and put him in with the general population. “It’s important for the family and the public to know why the prisons decided to wheel an 89-year-old man with a history of heart attacks into one of the most

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