The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, April 26, 1973, Page page 9, Image 9

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    Prisoner rehabilitation a joke or a promise?
Tin's is the second in a .ifrifQ nf
articles written by George E. May, an
inmate at the Nebraska Penal and
Correctional Complex. Today, he
writes about rehabilitation programs at
the prison,
by George E. May
Number 27571
( The time finally arrived. I left the
"fishtank" and was assigned a regular
home-W-F-3. which means the West
Cellhouse, F Gallery and Cell No. 3.
For the first time, my movement
outside was without escort, although
the guards in the tower followed my
every step.
My new home was unbelievable. A
bed, wash basin, toilet stool (without a
seat-they told us seats make good
weapons), a table and me, all crammed
into a five by eight-foot cell.
The only other commodity in the
cell was a five-hole box mounted on
the wall which was the radio outlet,
which I could plug into after I
purchased' a set of earphones.
According to the schedule posted on
the bulletin board, I would spend
thirteen hours a day in my new home
that winter. At least the next spring
("will I ever last that long?") would
allow us an outside "yard period" in
the early evening.
My daily schedule went something
like this:
5 a.m. -lights on
6 a.m. -breakfast
7 a.m. work line
10:45 a.m. -return to cellhouse
1 1 a.m. count
11:15 a.m. -lunch
Noon work line
3:20 p.m. -return to cellhouse
4 p.m. count
4:30 dinner
5 p.m. lock-up time
10 p.m. lights out
The next day I walked to my
assignment and was amazed that I
wasn't shaken down before leaving the
cellblock. The amazement ceased
when I walked into the shop area
where I was frisked twice before I
reached the plate factory. The license
plate production was just beginning
and I was assigned as a spotter on the
paint line. The pay was 35 cents a day.
I anticipated a terrible problem
budgeting all that money. And, after a
little mental gymnastics, I calculated
that in about nine working days I
would have enough money to buy
those earphones. Of course, as they
hold back half my earnings until I am
8:30 a.m. -Studnnt Affairs
Staff Nebraska Union.
9 a.m. --Adult Education
921 Union.
10 a.m. - F inancial Aids Omaha
Campf ire and Girl Scouts Union,
10:45 a.m.-CSL. Committoo on
Studont Organizations Union.
11:15 a.m. -Army
R.O.T.C. luncheon Union.
12:30 P.m.-lntervarsity
Christian Followshin Union,
3:30 P.m. - Transcondontal
Moditation Union.
3:30 p m.-Union Pro(r,im
Council Talks and Topics "John
Noihardt" - Union
4 p . m , -- V o I u n t h e r
Council Union.
0:30 p.m. -Council of Arnorican
Indian Studnnts Union.
5:30 p , m . - V o I u n t o i r
Council dinnitr Union.
0:30 p.m.- Phi Mu Alpha
Slnfonin Union.
5.30 p.m.-Union Board Union.
6 p.m. -Black Unilod
Sistors Union.
6 p . m . - S p ii c I a I
Sorvicus tutoring Union,
6 p.m. -All University Fund
executive Union.
6:15 p.m. -Teachers College
Advisory Board Union,
0:30 P.m.- ASUN
Orientation Union.
6:30 p.m. -All University
F und Union.
7 p.m. - Council on Student
Life Union.
7 p.m. -Christian Science
Organization Union.
7 p.m. - A. ACS. Cross Talk
with Minorities Union.
7 p. rn , - Mexican American
Student Association Union.
7:30 p.m.- Builders tour Union.
7:30 p . m . - M a t h
Counselors Union.
7:30 p.m.-University Womens
Action Grouf) Union.
8 p.m. T r ;i n i c e n d o n t a I
Meditation second lecture Union.
released, I couldn't listen to the radio
for about eighteen working days. Oh
well, one hundred years from now I
would never remember it. Or, I played
"Pollyanna" and was glad I didn't have
to pay taxes.
Three years later-and things are
about the same. The tour would have
the same number of doors, a few
additional guards, the same quarantine
period and the same 35 cents a day.
Even the hourly schedule would be
about the same, except that a new
building housing a gym has been
erected, allowing an extra period for
exercise in the winter.
How is my rehabilitation program
coming along, you say? What
rehabilitation program?
To most of my 902 cohorts, or
fellow misfits, the word
"rehabilitation" is a distasteful one. In
fact, it is a joke to most people in
In the literal sense, the word means
"to be returned to a former state" or
"to restore to good repute." The first
is undesirable (if my former state was
socially acceptable, why am I here?)
and the second is virtually impossible
within the framework of any penal
setting where the emphasis is still
placed on retribution-or getting that
pound of flqsh each and every day.
Let us assume that one of the
causes of imprisonment is
irresponsibility, disrespect for law and
order, living beyond your means or
being unable to remain gainfully
employed, which seem to apply
partially or wholly to most prisoners.
Let us go even further and assume that
the necessary prerequisites for release
from prison are:
-that you have become a
responsible person and can assume the
role of a responsible citizen.
-that you have gained a respect for
the rights of others.
-that you have become aware of
your problem and can now handle it
-that you have acquired a trade,
profession or education which will'
enable you to become a productive
citizen upon release.
Lofty goals you say? Not if the
correction of faults is the primary
purpose of being in prison. Or are we
starting on a faulty premise-that the
felon is being incarcerated in an
institution that can actually correct his
Responsibility means moral
accountability, reliability or
trustworthiness. By definition, an
individual must be tested or relied
upon before he can be judged as a
responsible person. From the moment
a person begins a prison term, he is
never given resoonsibility-except the
12 times every 24 hours that he must
be somewhere to be counted. In fact,
all the regulations seem to be aimed at
making the institutional employe
responsible for anything an inmate
does. Several times, I have heard a
supervisor reprimanding another
employe with remarks like: "You
know you never take the word of an
inmate, or "You know you cannot
hold an inmate responsible."
Is this teaching the inmate
responsibility? Is this adhering to the
unspoken mandate of the sentencing
judge that "You shall remain
incarcerated until you can become a
responsible citizen?" I think not.
Living beyond one's means in our
affluent society today is easy. It
becomes a real problem when a person
violates the law because of pressures
placed upon him in an attempt to keep
up with the Joneses. This is the lot of
many penitentiary residents. To
overcome this deficiency, we
apparently must become aware of our
problem and budget or abstain
accordingly. Simple enough.
I earn 35 cents a day working in the
plate factory, or $7 for an average
month. Half of this is set aside for
release and the other half is placed in
my spending account. Of the S3. 50
that I may spend, 75 cents must go for
club dues (or I will never be eligible
for a pay raise), 35 cents for
toothpaste, 30 cents for hair oil, 15
cents for soap (if I'm real conservative
and do not forget it at showertime),
$1 for postage stamps (that's only four
letters a week), 60 cents for shampoo
(next month is deodorant) and 30
cents for my one-fourth of the coffee
bought for use in the shop last month.
I guess I'll have to shave with bar soap
and use the same blades this month.
Smoking? If I cut from three packs
a day to one pack, I would still need
another S 1 0.45 this month, so I guess
I'll join the "I Quit" club. And now I
, really have a major decision-what do I
so with the nickel I have left when the
least expensive store item is a candy
bar costing eight cents? Decisions,
decisions, decisions.
There is a bright spot on the
horizon. It's something new, or at least
a new version of something old. It's
called Vocational Rehabilitation
Services and is an arm of the Nebraska
Department of Education. If this
program is administered properly, it
will be a real boon to the morale of
the inmates here. It's three-phase
program is: to teach you a trade that
you can actually practice after you
leave the institution; get you a job
before you leave here and counsel you
before you leave and during the rough
transition after release.
The areas covered are
comprehensive. They include
woodwork ing-cabinetmaking, graphic
arts, dental prosthetics, electronics and
welding. As part of the curriculum, a
person also has an audio-visual aids
training area and an individual
counseling service with two full-time
counselors and two part-time
psychologists or psychiatrists. And at
least part of the people have that one
commodity really lacking around
here-the "I care" attitude.
If Jimmy the Greek was laying odds
today on rehabilitation being a joke or
a promise, I think he'd lay it 70 to 30
on being a joke. But just a year ago it
probably would have been 90 to 10 on
being a joke. The odds, and our
chances of making it, are improving.
I Am Woman
(Vf i
If: . y
Jli :
8:00 P.M.
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475 6296
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9 AM -6 PM Saturday
Closed Sunday
thursday, april 26, 1973
daily nubraskan
page 9