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March 17, 1974 - Image 7

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1974-03-17

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-rHE MICHIGAN DAILY

Page Seven

[HE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Seven

- --'

snags
(continued from Page 3)
street-wise but haven't j u s
gotten out of the joint, because
then they have too many other
problemsA" t first, when it came
down to substituting mediocre
new deputies for reactionary old
ones, it often seemed a better
investment to reorient the latter;
who at least had a knowledge
of the jail operation, than to
bring in less than ideal new ones.
A case-in-point of the result
of hiring a person who seemed
to have good experience but did
not work out, hit the program
right at its core. Cliff Stephens
was the black ex-convict who had
been hired along with Donley as
an inmate-counselor. Bright and
sensitive, Stephen's financial and
personal difficulties, exascerbat-
ed by the fact that he had only
recently finished a long stretch
in prison, overcame his ability to
perform effectively. He was fir-
ed after-six months, only shortly
before being arrested on a new
offense.
UT TIME finally began to
work in the program's favor,
and through a combination of at-
trition, transfer a'nd legitimate
firing, less than a half dozen of
the original 35 or so deputies re-
main today. The new ones re-
flect far better the racial and
age composition of the inmate
population, and it is in this area
which some of the most evident
changes have, taken place. "The
jail personnel have a whole dif-
ferent attitude," says Larry Hunt-
er, who replaced Stephens as an
inmate-counselor and is back in
the cells on a daily basis. "It
may be from a hammer, but
now they are firm and fair with
restraint. It definitely has had
an effect. The inmates respect
'em more, don't try to challenge
them because they know they're
not going to get screwed around."
Or, as Frank Donley putts at
from a personal point of view:
"I don't have to walk back the-e
now with my eyes peeled in ev-
ery direction for fear of gettinr
hit. It is much less tension filled.
But perhaps it is one unusual-
ly articulate inmate who puts
the change into its best perspec-
tive, taking into account the li-
mitations of institutional life.
His remarks are taken from a
lengthy handwritten letter he
sent to Paul Wasson, shortly be-
fore his release:
"We of the prisoner caste,"
wrote Arthur Sharpe, "remain
at the 'mercy' of our captor's;
and after much deliberation, I
must confess that it is more
preferable to be at the mercy
of an overseer who professes
to be the friend of those who
are oppressed, than to be sub-
ject to the opposite. Consider-
ing the circumstances, I have
received good treatment by the
jail staff. I know this has not
always been the policy. The
younger correctional officers
are of a much higher charac-
ter than one expects to find in
any such cesspool of human
degradation."
IDEAL No. 3: There is a new
group of guards, arbitrary disci-
pline has been eliminated, and
within the limits of the jail fa-
cility, the atmosphere is now
maximlly conducive to a reha-
bilitate program. With educa-
tional, vocational and counseling
offerings, inmates will take im-
mediate advantage of them, and
move methodically along the
road to rehabilitation.
THE ALLIGATORS: To some
extent, having themselves done

prison time, Paul Wasson and
the original inmate - counselours
knew that giving an inmate re-
sponsibility and privileges - no
strings attached - wouldn't nec-
essarily make him feel indebted
to you. Often it was quite the

in

the

9
ideal

Deputies

and

inmates

Daily Photo by ROLFE TESSEM
IN-SERVICE TRAINING: Deputies and inmate-counselors participate in a class on corrections
methods.

contrary. Used to hustling, he
might more likely take you for a
sap, play along when it meant
an easier ride and never get
seriously involved in a rehabili-
tative program.
It so happened that the first
inmates who became involved
in the program have not been the
most successful (some were
withdrawn from the program;
one who was released has since
returned to jail). One obvious
reason is that most of them.
came to jail with long heroin ad-
diction histories, an area in
which the program claims its
least expertise. "An addict is the
hardest person to work with.
Dope gets his mind," says Was-
son. "We didn't know the situa-
tion at the beginning, but the ad-
dict needs two or three years of
work, after he has kicked the
habit."
A second reason for the early
difficulties with inmates was a
spinoff from the crisis over dep-
uties. "We figure we had maybe
five or six failures out of the 43
people we have worked with,"
says Donley. "But given what
the atmosphere of the jail was
at the beginning, where they
were concentrated, we had to
bend over backwards in the in-
mates' favor. We had to go the
other way and reach out for
some who weren't ready. Now
we take a more balanced view."
Paul Wasson takes it a step fur-
ther: "They played kindness for
weakness. They played their cards
on us knowing we cared. We
learned the hard' way. You nev-
er get too happy in the ass. You
lose sight, and one mistake can
blow the whole thing. You're
not hard on inmates, you simply
ask them to toe the line, and you
loosen up as they progress.
"I've learned never to trust
anybody to the hilt. I always
analyze, keep a reservation,
cause everyone can use you.
From my prison background, I
can talk to an inmate and he
can't say 'You don't know what
it's about.' I say if I could make
it you can make it."
BUT THE obvious risk of tak-
ing a harder line - a more
balanced view - is that it will
be viewed by some as an over-
reaction, and that inmates will
be excluded from the program
on the basis of one or two slip-
ups. Donley says that the pro-
gram is not blind to the prob-
lem, but points out that it is a
difficult one: "Sheri (the secre-
tary who joined the program a
couple of months after it start-
ed) thought we were nazis when
she came here. But we have to
break through that coo.
We havetto call an inmate down,
and we can't let him get away
with manipulating us the way
he's used to manipulating people
on the streets. We have to point
out that we see his con."
Donley also points to a po-
tential difficulty at the other end

of the spectrum: "We worry be-
cause this is a coercive relation-
ship. We do have the authority,
and that means where inmates
might offer resistance on the
outside, they don't in the jail.
But we point out that robbing is
exploiting too. Most inmates
here have innate intelligence.
They use their wits to survive in
the streets. We don't try to
change personality; we just try
to rechannel people, to show
them other alternatives."
Striking a balance is a diffi-
cult job, and not everyone
thinks an ideal job is being done.
Says one person who is sceptical
of the approach Wasson takes, as
well as of the relevance of his
ex-con background: "Paul. has
high expectations. He's had a lot
of success himself and sometimes
he can't emphathize with these
guys. It doesn't so much matter
whether you are an ex-con, cause
if you get slung a boomerang
enough times, you learn, that's
just facts. There ain't nothin'
magical about prison. A black
has experience on the streets
every day. The people in this
program should definitely be
from the streets, but the name
of the game is freshness. Pretty
soon there is dust on your ass
and it's time to go."
Another person, however, who
has watched the program close-
lv sees it differently: "Paul sees
discipline and rehabilitation as
part of the same process. It's not
just giving, giving, giving, but
demanding too. If you don't get
any response, you stop giving.
Paul does have a lot of power,
but he's incredibly perceptive.
He wants to be fair, and time
and time again his perceptions
are proven right. There is a real
problem, for instance, with due
process, because it's all in his
hands, but I'm not sure how you
could change it. I wouldn't have
said this a year iago, and it kills
me because it sounds so reac-
tionary, but if there were a dis-
ciplinary council with inmates on
it, I'm not sure there are any
who could responsibly hold the
position."
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LARRY HUNTER, who does
most of the day-to-day coun-
seling with inmates, believes the
best approach is a firm one
which emphasizes options:
"You gotta make a person
earn something you give 'em
or offer 'em. It has to be
rough, because that's the only
way they'll appreciate it.
You're trying to work with a
person's self - concept, let him
discover what the deal is for
himself. And that's where the
alternative comes in - school,
a business, skill training. You
can say you ought to get out of
your old environment, but
you've also gotta say 'Here's
another environment which you
might find comfortable'. You
have to make sure a guy be-
lieve -that's what he really
wants before he tries to get it."
Wasson is aware that there
is no sure-fire approach to strik-
ing the balance between firm
discipline and genuine efforts to
work with inmates. For now, the
situation is handled on a day-by-
day basis, and experience con-
tinued to be the greatest input
into refining the decision - mak-
ing process at each juncture. The
best indication of the program's
success in this respect is that
despite its openness to the me-
dia, and despite an uncensored
mail system, there have been
no serious accusations leveled
against the program in the 15
months since its inception. And
waxes Wasson philisophically: "I
j'st try to go home each night
with a clear conscience, so I can
sleep easily and wake up fresh."
THE FUTURE: The program
is in many ways a.demonstra-
tion project. It is one of the first
to seriously try a community

corrections approach, and given
its scope (and in spite of its lim-
ited numbers) it is constantly
giving others an idea of the po-
tential of a wide variety of pro-
grams, and a guage of the ef-
fect which more subtle, day-to-
day operational changes can
have. Four inmates have already
earned a high school diploma
or equivalent while in jail; three
others were taking the GED test
at this writing. Six former in-
mates are now enrolled in col-
lege, directly through the efforts
of the program.
Nonetheless, there is no mis-
taking that these changes-and
others-are not yet institutional-
ized, nor that they came about
merely because competent bu-
reaucrats pulled the right switch-
es. The direction of this program,
for better or for worse, has been
largely dependent on personali-
ties like Wasson's and Reno's; on
people who have been willing to
fight off the many-pronged re-
sistances to change and to work
extremely long hours. "Who-
ever came into this program
could decide what happened,"
says one person who has watch-
ed it closely. "He could disman-
tle it immediately." And Paul
Wasson is even more blunt: "If
we left this program, it would be
nowwhere." In that light, one
real danger is that the sheriff-
who maintains ultimate power -
will move to take more control of
the operation at his end. For if
anything in the corrections field
seems clear, it is that the law
enforcement approach, no mat-
ter how apparently progressive
and enlightened, is an inadequate
one.
And the jurisdiction of the
sheriff is not the only outside
challenge to the program. "We
see the beginning of change,"
says Frank Donley, "but it's a
long road. We're trying to u«ue
educational, welfare, social work
and drug and alcohol counseling
agencies; the judges and the pa-
role department and the courts.
All these agencies have always
been competitive, and this new
concept steps on everyone's
feet. We're trying to create a
system where there has been a
non-system."
Two potentially major steps in
the direction of a more far-reach-
ing program will be the estab-
lishment of a new rehabilitative-
lv oriented jail, perhaps 3-5
years away, and the imminent
onening of a 'Residential Center'.
The Residential Center will be
an offshoot of the jail program
philosophies, deemphasizing con-
finement and many of the other
detention - oriented aspects of in-
stitutional life, and providing
semi-private communal living
arrangements. It will house up to
25 sentenced felons who would

JAMES MASON, 32 year old in-
mate: "Basically the officers
now are good, and Wasson is
constantly in the heartbeat of the
jail, finding out what's happen-
ing. But you can see the differ-
ence in orientation when a guy
from road patrol comes down
and substitutes here. A bad de-
puty comes on duty and the guys
in the cell automatically g e t
stirred up. You'll ask one for an
aspirin, and he'll tell you to drink
a lot of water, walk slow and
shut up. They can't see any far-
then than the fact that the guy
broke the law and he's there in
jail to do time.
The guys in the tank have a lot
of pressure on them. A good
deputy will try to talk. L i t t I e
things matter. They can ba triv-
ial, but to a guy in the tank,
maybe keeping a television on anj
extra half hour is the only thing
he's got.
otherwise be in jail, and all ofI
them will be on either work or
study-release during-the day, re-
turning to the facility only at
night when counseling and clini-
cal services will be offered.
"ULTIMATELY what we're
ta"igabout," says Molly
Reno, "is a real community pro-
gram. We want to demonstrate
that through education and em-
ployment people will change
lifestyles. We shouldn't have to
wait till someone commits a
crime. We want to go at the pre-
ventive aspects by trying to
eliminate the causes for crime.
It's a whole system we're talk:
ing about changing."

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Ii)

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