I am a Farm and Dairy subscriber and an inmate in federal prison.
There was an article in your Jan. 22 issue titled “Millions behind bars at end of 2007.” One of the most telling statistics in that story read, “federal prisons operated at 136 percent capacity.”
That may sound efficient but a more accurate translation would be “overcrowded.”
I am a first-time, non-violent offender and I was sentenced to 125 months.
Despite two landmark cases giving federal judges the ability to sentence convicted felons outside previously mandatory sentencing guidelines, very few judges are straying outside what is now considered advisory guidelines.
In the current federal system, there is no parole and inmates are required to do at least 87 percent of their time with the remaining 13 percent being good conduct time.
Until our justice system begins to see the human side of every case and recognizes us as people with families, who have made mistakes, whose crimes, however disturbing, are typically symptoms of a larger dysfunction or social issue that needs immediate attention, this trend will continue and recidivism rates will not improve.
Our justice system simply lacks compassion and no politician, prosecutor or judge wants to appear soft on crime.
I am not saying everyone in prison received too long a sentence or we all belong on the streets. Many people belong here.
But long sentences, especially for first- time, non-violent offenders, are not the answer even if they do make taxpayers feel safer.
This culture of excessive prosecution is taking a financial toll on America and it’s getting worse every year.
Some of us feel very strongly our rehabilitation and recovery are our own personal responsibilities. We certainly have enough time to address our issues. Freedom and our waiting families should be incentive enough.
Statistics say inmates who correspond with people outside of prison have lower recidivism rates than those who do not.
That should give you an idea of what the influences are like inside these fences; too much time is as detrimental as not enough time.
If Farm and Dairy is kind enough to print this letter (because these are your tax dollars paying my room and board and most of us will be released at some point, so we’re all in this together) please do not harass them with letters and e-mails solely because they have given a convicted felon an opportunity to share his thoughts.
Feel free, however, to harass me personally (at the address below) or we can talk about more productive things.
Many inmates with rural plans and dreams are looking for mentors and correspondents in farming communities in order to better prepare themselves for eventual release.
It’s never too late to learn integrity, responsibility and compassion.
Thank you to those who make contributions to this newspaper every week.
Walter Terpack 26933-050
P.O. Box 6001
Ashland, KY 41105