Prisons are overcrowded, not efficient

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Editor,

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

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Walter for your letter. I have known for many years there are alot of fine people in the prison system and a victim of overly harsh sentencing. You should consider a career in sustainable , naturally grown agriculture when you are released. Make the best of your time and you will be rewarded.

    You should read this article regarding prison food. Soy Products Force-fed to Prisoners Causes Major Health Problems at http://wholefoodusa.wordpress.com/2009/01/18/soy-products-force-fed-to-prisoners-cause-major-health-problems/ If you subscribe, we will be able to correspond. You might want to manage a new project by informing your fellow inmates and working with prison food service to modify their menu and to eliminate soy products.

    You may also want to go here: http://www.farmingmagazine.com

  2. Augie,
    Did you happen to look up what this person did to be put in prison. I dont find someone thats into child pornography a fine person. This article should have never been in paper or online.

  3. I have gotten to know Walter as a human being and
    not just a name and number on a court document.
    Readers can surely see he has written a well-
    reasoned and sincere letter that deserves more
    than a gossipy tattle. The issues he addresses are
    very real. If this country had set a goal of
    having the number one school system in the world,
    we would probably be able to boast having the
    world’s lowest prison population too. Seems to
    me Jesus had right much to say on this topic-
    his last words on earth expressed care
    and compassion and forgiveness toward a
    dying convict…

  4. I have gotten to know Walter as a fellow human
    being and not just a name and number on a court
    document. His comments are well-reasoned and
    sincere. They deserve more than a gossipy tattle.
    One may recall that Jesus included prisoners and
    lepers in his circle. Indeed, his last good deed
    on this earth was to express care and compassion
    and forgiveness toward the dying convict at his
    side. Everyone deserves a second chance…

  5. I am sorry for the above statement. I let my emotions get the best of me. However I do not feel oversentencing is the main reason for overcrowding. My husband and I have worked in with the law for years and almost every inmate has complained that they have been sentenced for too long of a period. When you constantly hear that it gets very annoying. Maybe Walter has been renewed to a better person and I am glad for that. However He did wrong and does deserve to serve time. And I pray when he does get out he betters his life.

  6. I think people are quick to make judgments on people due to there criminal record and in alot of cases they should. But until you know all details of a case such as Walters you should not pass judgment or say that he is not a fine person. We have all made mistakes some of which are worse than others and I know that they need to be held responsible for their actions but there are alot of people in the system these days that are given sentences that are more harsh than they should be and I feel that is due to the Judges taking their own PERSONAL feeling towards theses individuals and/or their crimes and going above and beyond the sentencing guidlines and to me thats NOT FAIR!!!!

  7. Some of these postings are talking about mistakes. I understand people make mistakes. A mistake is forgetting to put the dinner in the over. A mistake is leaving the toilet seat up. However, Mr. Terpack’s “mistake” is actually a crime as defined by our legal system. A crime that involves children. His plea by his own admission was of one guilt.

    These children are exploited and whether you are the person who creates the pornography or the person who buys, trades, or views it, being in prison is where you belong. If you break a law, you belong in jail. As an adult you make a choice, either follow the laws that society has put into place, or not. If you choose not to, then you pay the consequences, which in Mr. Terpack’s case is 125 months of confinement. Mr. Terpack made a conscious choice, can we say the same about the victims involved in illegal CHILD pornography? Did the children involved in this material choose to be exploited? Were they of age to make a choice? No, they were children.

    Mr. Terpack may be well versed and written, but that does not change the fact that he commited a crime against children that is considered serious. Hence his sentencing. Perhaps he has gotten some rehabilitation, has sought forgiveness, has made peace within himself, however this still does not change the fact he committed a crime. He is in prison due to his own admitted actions.

    If he is serving time unhappily in an over-crowded prison than perhaps he should not have committed the offense that caused this punishment in the first place. I wonder if Mr. Terpack would be advocating this situation if he wasn’t directly affected. My guess is no, he would not.

    Mr. Terpack is well written and versed because he is an adult. He can make an argument, present a case, due to his maturity. What about the victims though? Being children, are they able to advocate for themselves? Who is speaking for them? And if they were as well versed as Mr. Terpack, what is it that they would be saying? How are THEIR lives going to be effected? Mr. Terpack is speaking of the adverse effects of an over-crowded prison, is that even remotely compariable to the long term effects on these exploited children?

    I knew Walter Terpack once upon a time, and he is everything people who advocate him for suggests. He is well written, versed, etc. However he is also now a felon. He is someone who broke a law and someone who decided being involved with child pornography was an acceptable behavior. CHILD. PORNOGRAPHY. Innocent, violated, exploited CHILDREN…Mr. Terpack is an adult. Mr. Terpack is and was intelligent enough to know what he was doing was illegal. Mr. Terpack is where he needs to be. What if it was your child? Would you have a different opinion? Would you really be worried about Mr. Terpack serving out a prison term in an over-crowded facility? Or would you be wondering how you were going to put your child’s life back together? Wondering how you were going to heal your child after being exploited? My guess is you would be worried about your child’s welfare, not Walter Terpack’s. Mr. Terpack is not the victim, the children he decided to exploit by being involved with child pornography are.

  8. If you feel the need to make a comment at least leave your name. People have a right to their own opinions but keeping your name anonymous is cowardly. The article doesn’t suggest that he shouldn’t have been punished for the crime so maybe you should read it again.

  9. I do not think anyone knows what happened during the court precedings in this case. I see chld porn as the crime. I definitely do not condone walter’s behavior, but I must say that I have personally come in contact with murderer’s who have served less time, potheads who have served more…and we have all heard of child MOLESTERS that have 5 previous charges before they rape and kill an 8 yr-old, and never served a day in jail!!! Our system is just broken all the way around. I do believe 1st offenses should be given some chance of rehabilitation, however multiple times should be given harsher punishments…

  10. I also knew Wally once upon a time. I am not afraid to leave my name. I am also a parent and feel that child pornography is a crime.
    Mr Terpack is well spoken and at his own admission, guilty. I think that the purpose of the article is to show that over crowding could be eased a bit with punishments that fit the crimes. I am lessoning his offense, simply pointing out that the punishment is not appropriate for the offense.
    I am sure that Mr Terpack is doing what ever he can to come back to society and be a part of the outside world again. He was and I am sure still is creative, caring and hard working.

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