tv Book Discussion on Mr. Smith Goes to Prison CSPAN October 11, 2015 9:00am-10:01am EDT
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>> this is our 999th program. i want to thank him at a want to thank all the volunteers who help us with each and every one of these programs. if i could ask if you would turn your cell phones and other electronic devices off. it tends to interfere with our equipment. and without making a plug, you all are now going to be a c-span audience. we have c-span here today covering this program. so we'll find out when it's going to be a c-span and maybe you can see yourselves, which will be a nice thing. to introduce our speaker today, the clinton school student high
school coach is a graduate of arkansas tech university in russellville, which by the way, is the fastest-growing college in arkansas i might add. she worked with americorps on programs for homeless youth. and as part of our clinton school project she's working with one of my favorite organizations, centers -- centers for youth and family and working on a plan to study a therapeutic, a therapeutic garden that would help behaviorabehaviora l health with young people in the state particularly interesting concept for a new community garden. so it's very exciting and she and her team are working on the. please welcome claire hobson. [applause] >> eleven years ago jeff smith
was relatively unknown political candidate from missouri trying to break into the political scene with a run for the u.s. house of representatives. thanks to highly successful grassroots campaigning, he rose to the top of the crowded 10 candidate field, narrowly losing to the former missouri governor son. the surprising journey was the subject of an award-winning pbs documentary, can mr. smith even get to washington even more? a question is answered one short year later when he won a heavily contested missouri state senate seat. and then in 2009 jeff smith found himself in a place he never thought he might be. after pleading guilty to campaign misconduct he found himself behind bars in the kentucky correctional facility. it was here he got his first and look into what it was really like to be locked up in america and he saw how race, lack of
education and cyclical poverty were factors that trap these people into a place that was backwards on purpose. earlier this year he published an account of his time in prison and his time in politics in a book titled "mr. smith goes to prison." he would like me to forewarn you that in order to ensure authentic was in office present book is kept the dialect and phrasing so he hopes that doesn't offend anyone. please help me welcome the professor of urban planning in new york city, and contribute right to politico and recovering politician website, professor jeff smith. [applause] >> thank you so much, claire,
for the generous introduction. thank you, skip rutherford, for the invitation down here and the welcome. i'm truly honored to be at the clinton school to be 999 speaker. apparently they're someone more important than the ability 1000, but i don't know who that is. who could possibly be more important? the first correctional officer that i met had two teeth. i couldn't understand a word that he said. manchester fci, federal correctional institution is tucked deep into an appalachian hollow in southeastern kentucky. and apparently the ceo had never left if you don't s&s vacates clang shut and we spoke on he sent me over to see a nurse. middle-aged heavy set woman. hot in weight? she asked me.
five-foot six, 120 our blood. educational level? ph.d, i said. she raised her eyebrows at that. last profession? state senator. we've got one to think they are jesus christ so you is -- so you'll fit right in, she told me last night she sent me over to another c.o. who was standing on a bathroom that didn't have a door. strip, he said to me. and i did. now let me see your prison wallet your i looked at him quizzically, not understand. open up your damn butt cheeks, he ordered me. that was my introduction to federal prison. six months earlier i had been a young up-and-coming state senator in missouri.
i was bounding up to see my attorneys one day. my heart was pounding and it had been mounting ever since earlier that morning when the feds have knocked on my door. the walls were closing in on me. back in 2004, five years earlier, i had run for united states congress. i've been in a race, it was an uphill battle. i run against a guy named russ carnahan. his father was a successful two-term governor of missouri who died tragically in a plane crash on the eve of the his u.s. senate election in 2000. his mother was a u.s. senator. his grandfather was a congressman and ambassador. his sister secretary of state. my dad was a golf coach and my mom worked with kids with special needs. so it was an uphill battle, but we ended up getting some traction. we had about 650 volunteers, most of them my former students.
and a few current students actually. i always joked some people thought young people are apathetic it is amazing how much you can motivate them if you're an inspirational teacher and you can offer extra credit. [laughter] but we came very close to winning the. we lost by just 1.6%, but there was a dark underbelly to the campaign that the documentary film to which claire eluded did not catch. about a month before the end of the campaign, a man had approached two of my campaign aides and told them that you want to send out a postcard about mr. carnahan's dismal attendance record in the state legislature. when my aides approached me to ask about it, i didn't say no, that smells fishy, let's not do it. i didn't even say why don't you look into his background a little bit more before you do something?
do you know what i said? is that i don't have any details. they said, to which we do wha bi said, did you have a? don't tell me anything, okay? the postcard came out that it was this tiny thing about this big. didn't really have an impact on the race at all. unfortunately a day before the postcard had come out i called a press conference on the steps of the federal courthouse in st. louis alleging, talking all about carnahan's attendance records of the day the postcard actually came out with that information, which lacked a paid for by disclaimer, that opened me up to a complaint that carnahan filed with the federal election commission. i lost by 1.6% as i said come and vent about a couple weeks where i went into my attorneys office and she is prepared an affidavit for me. the affidavit had 15 statements.
14 of them were completely true, but one was not. it denied any advance knowledge about anything involving that postcard. i thought about the pact i made with the other people, my staffers, who admit with a guy who did the postcard. i thought about whether or not the federal election commission would ever investigated this thing knowing there's 10,000 lakes like this filed every year. i thought about whether i could afford paying a big fine. and i thought about, ma pretty daily, my own political future. and i will my hand to the paper and i signed the affidavit. five years after that, fast-forwarfastforward to 2009,f the most successful session in the state senate and my best friend called me, and he says this guy who put out the postcard, skipped five years ago. the feds just picked in the. i said for what?
he said, legal weapons possession, drug institution of spousal abuse, mortgage, bank fraud, wire fraud, and abuse of the chief suspect in the car bombing of his ex-wife's divorce lawyer i wanted to win my first campaign so badly and was so desperate that i had let my aides deal with this monster. so my best friend and i, we spent weeks and weeks going back over it. what would we do? what is the feds knock on our door to ask, you know, what if the skip told them something to try to cut some deal? been the feds pursued us? and i said i've already signed an affidavit five years ago denying it. i've got to stick to my story. and little did i know that entire time, my best friend was wearing a wire. when i found out i drove to my parents house but it was five minutes away but it was the longest five minutes of my life,
and i told them to sit down. and i told my mom and my dad that i'd made a mistake five years earlier and is probably going to have to go to prison. and my mom reacted like probably most, most moms would at that point. she said, didn't i tell you not to go into politics? [laughter] a couple months later i pleaded guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice and was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison. as a senator i didn't focus on criminal justice reform. not for a long time but they caught a felony conviction and then had a month or so of jail
time and then when they came out found it nearly impossible to ever find meaningful employment. and i had worked hard to try to ameliorate their plight and change these penalties from felonies to misdemeanors and change the census from prison or jail to alternative instances where they could get vocational training and other services. but now the tables were turned. i was no longer making the laws that would affect people accused of crimes and affect the operation of the prison system. now the tables were turned and once the gates clang shut come it was at once to let all the power over me. it was the envy of the prisoners who knew the score and my education would be pretty rocky. i remember walking up the compound for the first time and despite what exactly like it is in the movies. you walk up the yard and there's dozens of people on both sides
screaming things that were incomprehensible to me. turned out they were asking, they were saying numbers, 075, 044, 163. didn't any of it meant. i would later find what it was those are the last three digits of your prison number, and the last three digits signifies the federal district court, the jurisdiction from which you hailed. and so people are calling out numbers to figure out who are the homies, who are the people that they will be compelled to protect if there is a fight. people were almost jubilant, slapping hands and knocking fists, catching up with people that they've known at other prisons. it seemed so in congress to me this white guy with a ph.d who is a former state senator. it was only upon reflection that i realized for many of these guys the way that they were acting almost as if it were a
reunion, it makes sense because they were never going to have a reunion they were not goin goino be at a high school unit on college reunion because most of them didn't have any formal education, had never graduated high school. i walked up and was introduced to my cellmate who was named was red because he resembled morgan freeman's character in shashank pretension. he said how much do you got? i said a year and a day. he said dan, i've done more time on this toilet and you get to it made me realize how lucky i was to get in and about 125 years at that point on a dizzying array of charges that one weekend i was awakened at 6 a.m. when the loudspeaker called my name in order to to go down to the admin building i was kind of excited. i thought it was one of two possibilities, either that i was going to have to sign mail regarding my signature, or that
my request to teach, i wanted to teach, i'd applied to teach civics or black history in the prison education department. i was hoping that one of those requests have been granted. i thought my cellmate was asleep at 6 a.m. but i heard him say something to me as i was walking out the door pretty probably noticed the bounce in my step and he said, he laughed at me and he said, he said look, cellie, they didn't call you down there to sign no mail. i was like, oh, yeah? he said they shares shit didn't tell you you'll be teaching a convict. not at 6 a.m. i walked down to the admin building. it was a heavy set man in a brown shirt and brown tiger it was the prison captain. if it were a private school he was elected dean at this month. he said, inmates smith, got a question for you, if i wanted to
know something about politics do you think would be better if i pop off like i knew something or if i listened to an expert such as yourself? i said it would not be be better to speak to an expert. so if you want to owe something about prison, d d. thank you to bed becoming like you know everything, or maybe to wait and ask some people who know something? probably be better to wait, ask people. look, because i've been working in prisons almost 20 years, and i've got some advice for you. because you ain't blending so well in these notes you taking, because i was taking notes on napkins, which became the book, and he said, this book you writing, you ain't blending so well, and you know what? i think you conducting a business out here in prison, and that's illegal.
i said, with all due respect, i have consulted the prison handbook and i saw the prohibitions on running a tattoo parlor out of her cell or selling phones or pornography come and the way i interpret it, i'm not running a business, i'm just taking a notes that might someday become a book. he said, iac, inmate smith. is that the way you interpret it? because i've got some news for you. this here ain't no standard and this ain't no supreme court. and if i think he was conducting business, you is probably conducting business. and if you ain't, we will throw you into shoe for six months while we figure it out. that she was solitary confinement, and that scared the hell out of me. the next day i was given my work detail. that was me as a politician that was me with my colleagues that
you can probably tell which one i am. [laughter] i worked in the prison warehouse at the loading docks moving about 35-40 pounds of food every in and out of massive freezers that were about as big as the room that we're in right now. why so much food? well, it wasn't that prisoners a that much food every day to it was that everything you moved food in, you got to move the old food from the back of the freezer to the front of the phrases we have to move the new food into the back and get to basically move everything three times when it comes than. the food in the back have expiration dates mostly in 2642007. at this point it was 2010. when i was a young one time i went off to basketball camp and i remember in the back of my shirt, i told my parents i thought my last name was
irregular because all my clothes were stabbed irregular. welcome in prison all the food has a similar stance, stand things like for institutional use only, or as one of the c.o.s told us, up until about a year earlier the fish had all been stamped not for human consumption. i mentioned office not to suggest that prisoners deserve at least the layman on am about to say that -- filet mignon -- the repulsive and spoiled food told us in no uncertain terms that we were something less than human, we were quite animals but we definitely were not human in the eyes of the prison. there's a lot of poverty in prison and people don't realize that the conventional wisdom is you get three hots an and a cot, you got me. it it doesn't work like that and here's why. we go into prison most people are broke. a lot of people have court fees or fines that they owe money on.
don't have any savings, especially in drug cases. ththe feds had seized all their assets and those of their loved ones as welcome if they can prove there's any connection to profits or proceeds from the drug trade. and yet when you get to prison you realize you have to pay for things on your own. so deal with it, shampoo, soap or most of the basics of hygiene, you have to go to the prison canteen and order them and they're usually marked up between 30-50% for much of me on the street. so people in prison are hustling all the time to give money to survive, that basic hygiene, or as a luxury, divide and's or pencils or papers or stand to try and stay in touch with their loved ones. this is just one reason that i will describe a white prison is why it encourages things are actually criminal both inside prisons and then upon reentry.
when i got to the warehouse, our boss, ms. horton, a lady with short spiky gray hair and a gruff manner, she promised us that she would feed as well as long as she never caught anyone stealing. i took that seriously. i had promised my girlfriend, my parents i would not break a single rule while i was in there. and the first day i remember everyone, all six guys i worked with, went home with chicken patties, saran wrap around their chest and green peppers and onions stuffed in all their pockets to go back to the yard and then trade for other items, or sell to get money for things that could make life a little easier in prison, such as money for phone calls.
about a week into my bed, under the pressure came to me and said, hey, look, senator, because i was my nickname. everybody has a nickname in prison. you can't fight it. you just have to accept it. although whenever other guys are calling the senator, she would say, she would say his name is smith. he ain't no senator. he's a convict just like all of you. another pressure came up to me and said, look, the guys are working with, they are about to plant one of them is about to plant will meet in your freezer jacket i said why? i didn't do anything to them. and he said look, just shut up and listen. iran meet its like as much trouble as you can get in. it's as serious an infraction as like inciting a riot. because if it's spoiled and it infects the whole compound was like e. coli, then people can just start dying.
so they are about to put in your freezer jacket. i said why? he said because you are not stealing. at the basically you're about to wrap them all out. i said no, no. i'm not going to do that. he said then you better start saving the i did not if this guy was a series and trying to look out for me, or if he was trying to set me up and bring me for stealing. so i started because i knew how serious the penalty could be for being caught with raw meat. it did feature a new charge, simplsent to a high security prn and put in solitary for a long time. i have seen guys that come out of solitary. they talk about the claustrophobic of the rage, the depression to it it's been described as slow-motion torture. and so one day i waited for ms. horton to back away out of the line of sight and i stuffed a bunch of green peppers into my
pants, and when i got back to the compound one of my fellow prisoners there saw me come at it took us some of the peppers, and he said, he said damn, he said the senator is a regular convict now. and there was no higher praise in prison. to anoint someone a convict in prison is like in dowling a professor. this did more than just keeping out of trouble. it taught me about a defining feature of prison life, ingenuity. the ingenuity i saw was unbelievable. let me give you an example. bj was a guy who lived on my cell block and he was one of many men i met with incredible entrepreneurial talent. he had big plans for the future. he had to passions.
beautiful redheads and luxury sports cars. and he figured out a way to merge these two passions into one endeavor. he appointed his 19 year-old son on the outside vice president for talent development, and they bought a domain, a website that exclusively featured beautiful redheads having sex on top of luxury sports cars. prison was teeming with guys like this. not all that business ideas without lowered. most of them wanted to start arbor shops or personal fitness biz or landscaping businesses. or home health care businesses. they all had big plans. they all understood intuitively how businesses work. they would not have been in the federal system if they've not been successful drug dealers, right? there's not a single concept that you could learned at harvard business school that you
couldn't learn in prison. territorial expansion, new product launch, quality control, mismanagement, supply chain management. every single one of these concepts i heard prisoners held it to come in somewhat different language you here at horton but the same concepts. but the sad thing is that there were no mechanism at all for prisoners to turn these plans into reality. the only course offered by whole time there, there was one short ged course and a course on hydroponics, how to grow tomatoes in water. nothing practical at all. upon release, every year about 625,000 prisoners come back to america's doorsteps. back to the same communities where they failed before, only now they have the added stigma of a prison record. two out of three will reoffend within three years, and the main
reason why is financial struggle. one way we can change that is prison education. many studies including a recent men's study by rand which looked at dozens of studies at different prison education programs have shown that the returns to prison education are huge because educational advancement while incarcerated is one of two things that's been shown to significantly reduce recidivism. but only when society stop dissing prisoners as societies throwaways an actual human beings of real potential will we start to i think spend money and make this important investment. a segue we know we can reduce recidivism is the helping prisoners stay in close contact with their loved ones. and yet right now prison does so much to actually make that harder. let me give you an example.
what does it cost to call long distance these days if you're calling landline to landline, like a nickel a minute or so? in prison because between one and $2 many. if you are making, i was making for full-time work in the warehouse $5.25, not per hour but per month. so that your monthly wage. and a five minute phone call takes up your whole monthly wage, and you have to provide your own deodorant for shampoo. how close i contact you think you'll be in with your loved ones? probably not very close. and, of course, that of a privatized so many services insider prison system, firms are making tons of money on the backs of people who can least afford it and whom are most volatile. that is impoverished prisoners. how can we change this? some would say this is a
democracy, why don't we vote is of course the problem is that prisoners can't vote, and people on probation in those states can't vote, and no one has ever lost an election by being too tough on crime, right? furthermore, the way that we reapportioned populations since most prisons exist in rural areas, we have taken people from urban areas and we put them in conservative rural areas where their votes are counted, where their votes are not counted but their heads are counted for representational purposes. it's kind of like a modern compromise. prisoners are counted except their counted zero when it comes time to vote, but counted when it comes to to abortion how many legislators different parts of the state will get.
and i tell you what. the other temple byproduct of this is that it places people further away from their loved ones. very few things i've ever broken my heart as much as watching guys who have $2 on the books make a phone call and try to start talking to a child or an ex wife or a girlfriend, and then have the phone be cut off just as they're beginning the conversation because they ran out of money. the only thing that compared with watching children cling to a father's leg when visiting hours were over. this whole system come in particular the transfer of prisoners to rural areas where there political power is captured by typically conservative republicans representation suggests that the system that operates and ensures, almost ensures high
recidivism rates is not broken. in fact, it's a well oiled machine. one final important way that prison is criminogenic is that prison has become a one off the resort for to as a training ground for rapists get estimates show that there are over a quarter million rapes every year in our prisons. and the consequences are severe. serious psychological trauma and much higher recidivism rates among those who are the victims of sexual abuse and sexual violence. tragically, because of the almost total lack of psychological services or therapeutic services insider prison, the untreated victims of rape often commit rapes upon their release in a desperate attempt to reclaim the man had that was violently taken from them, in their eyes during prison. when i got to prison they showed us an orientation to give you a
featured a guy, a white guy, seemed alike, could have been an accountant, he talked about his first experience going to prison when someone left a candy bar on this bill and inadvertently aided thinking that was nice, sort of like going to the hilton and someone leaves a chocolate on october the problem is that in prison it signifies your willingness to a cellie. everyone laugh at the video. i laughed, too. upon reflection i realized how not funny it was. and yet even though i saw frequent fights in prison, the one act of violence i did not c. was rape. actually i saw love. one night i saw, i saw a need to walk into our cellblock and he was staring into one so because two guys to one guy named shop, another guy named jt, were in
bed together snuggling. you know, it's hard to be gone for 15 or 20 years without any human contact. and this new feed was walking down the hall started to snicker. and then i saw one of the veterans, a real old head have been locked up a lot of and he just looked at him and he said, it ain't none of your mother freaking business what they're doing in there. after that, no one ever said a word and it spent every night, these two inmates, snuggling. anyone who's ever been locked up knows how dehumanizing it can be but what sort of inspired me is the way which, whether it was p.j. with this ought to put up a system this website idea, with cars and women, or whether it was some other prisoners who i tutored at night working on their ged as they learn to read, or whether it was these two guys
in bed. the human spirit triumphed even in the most adverse circumstances. and that should provide all of us that we should just write off 2.2 million people who are incarcerated in this country as if they were so much refuse. and, in fact, reminds us that every one of us can play a part in nurturing and helping redeem the souls that are incarcerated. i spent less than a year in prison at every single advantage relative to most of the guys i was locked up with the i have a ph.d from a top university. i had incredible family and community support to 300 people wrote letters to the judge on the half including the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the mayor of st. louis. i had the savings. i had a suit that i could wear to a job interview when i came out. the guys i was locked up with had none of that. those of the net as a said a ged
or didn't prison company that. that. that. they had no savings to which i work with some of them on resumes, they didn't have anyone they could list as a reference because they didn't anyone who is currently employed. and yet in spite of all the advantages that i had, i had a hard time getting a job when i can do. so imagine how hard it is for someone with none of those things, who was walking out of prison into a society in which nine out of every 10 employers conduct criminal background checks and most will not hire anyone who comes up positive, in which four out of every five house landlords conduct background checks and the government to someone who has a criminal history. imagine how hard it is when you come out still owing money and you've got a child that you're expected to provide for and just got to pay for your room and have to have ended that debate for your drug tests, and he got
to try to find the money to get decent clothes to go to a job interview when they send you home with a 10-dollar bill for a meal. it's not surprising when you see our recidivism rate are the only thing that is surprising is that only two out of three people we have been. barack obama did something pretty special when he visited the prison the other day. no american president has ever done that before but what i said i think was a more important he said i look at those guys that i thought about some of the mistakes i made growing up, dabbling in drugs is what is referring to. and he said i realized that could have been me. into our society collectively announced that world view that that could have been, that could be my cousin, my brother, my daughter, my son or me, we won't transform the way our prisons operate and the way we need to reduce recidivism, save millions of lives and human potential and
dramatically increase our public safety. so i hope that you will all consider visiting a prison, visiting someone you know, teaching in a prison of becoming a penpal to someone in prison, just one little thing. and i've been once you start, you will become as changed by it as i was by my year in prison. thank you so much. [applause] >> thank you, jeff. we now have some time for questions. please raise your hands and we'll get back to you. spiff jeff, i sure your document and may film class all the time. one of the things i want to ask you was com, i think you've alry answered it, is that how come
none of the candidates really talk about this is of course as you say it's better to talk about putting people in prison rather than getting that out but it's an important issue and i think we even knew that before you came. so why is that not on anyone's agenda so to speak what i haven't heard any of that this time around, that may be obvious given the situation. >> professor, what's your name? [inaudible] >> j. has told me about you. thanks for showing the documentary. i once got in if you ever wanted to step in to get in touch with me and i will talk to you soon. so why aren't people talk about this? some have tried. they're spending legislation, the redeem act, that is bipartisan in u.s. congress. cory booker is a democratically sponsor, rand paul is a republican lead sponsor the redeem act would do some great things that it would reduce come it would reduce mandatory minimum sentences.
it would both on the sensing side and on the reentry site it would go a long way towards doing some things we need in this country. and look at rand paul, he's kind of an example for maybe why politicians don't talk about it more. he was seen as a front runner for the republican nomination a year ago and then he started talking about ferguson and prison reform and things that affect minority voters in this country, and he sold us a different kind of republican who could reach out and relate to republicans, related minority voters. unfortunately what appears to have gotten more traction in the republican primary is someone who has mocked black lives matter protesters and vows to get rid of birthright citizenship and immediately erect a fence on our southern border. and so sadly it's hard, you
know, it's been hard to get traction with these issues. i'm hopeful things can change. every different major philosophical to the republican party has a reason to. they want to save souls. fiscal conservatives, nikki haley, close present reduce prison population, they want to do to save money. libertarian conservatives like rand paul want to the criminal is a trucks because they don't want big government in people's lives. altered major philosophical stance of today's republican coalition have a reason to support prison reform. and a lot of democrats are supported, not all because democrats in some states like california are to the holden to the prison guard unions which one of the most important political coalitions in california politics. it wasn't conservatives to push three strikes and you're out so much in california as it was the
prison guards union. there's no mystery why they want to lock people up longer. so i think, why don't people talk about it, there's a lot of people benefit from the system as it is. there's cards and there's a lot of vendors -- guards. we need to show how changing the system will save taxpayers tons of money if we actually operate our prisons more like scandinavia, which operates prisons or like a break from the site where you can get retrained we discussed make sure you will never come back. thanks for the question, professor. >> hey, jeff, my name is tyler pearson. undergraduate of the clinton school, graduate olestra. i saw your documentary when i was in school and it was very inspiring. after, rather than i graduate graduate i chose one for the arkansas state senate in
arkansas, and i ran a very progressive aggressive campaign against a very notorious and infamously addictive state senator in arkansas. while we were not successful in winning the election, i feel like we did have a big impact. i left very inspired, and i'm still involved and i still want to do more. in my campaign, prison reform and specifically the role of reform, played an important role because here in arkansas as you may know we had the fastest growing prison population in the country right now. 17.3% growth rates. that's after we were decreasing our prison population in 2011 we passed some reforms, started shrinking it. sentra tragic incidents occurred from your some knee-jerk reactionary policies that were put into place that completely reversed the trend. so my question to you is, if
they were apathetic young progressive candidate running for office, what could they do to connect this issue with the voters? is it an empty message? is it a fiscal message? what strategies do you have someone like that could use? >> that's a great question, tyler, and thanks, i'm glad you that you're still inspired after an unsuccessful campaign. i hope you come back and try to run again. so i think the fiscal item is probably the best one. i don't necessarily think that that is the most inspiring one. i think if you of certain types of voters or if you're going to a church to talk, and i think i would use a different message but i think most voters are moved by fiscal realities and the taxes that they pay.
and if you can talk to voters about the fact that the way we operate our prisons it's causing them every single day, because it's simply a revolving door that they are paying for, and you can talk to them about the importance of prison education and educational advancement, then i think talking from a two-pronged perspective, this is how we can save you money instead of continue to pay to lock up the same people over and over, and this is how we can make sure that you're not a crime victim. because the way the dehumanizing and brutal experience that so many prisoners have is what, again, facilitates client upon reentry. and lest you begin to break that cycle in the same way we talk about breaking cycles of abuse within families, then we're going to keep paying that price, fiscally and in terms of victimization. thanks for the question.
>> weight for the microphone. >> here's my question. i'm just a little confused or curious. based on your background and the nature of your offense, why were you in this facility as opposed to a federal cap? or in fact was this they can't speak with his was a camp, a work camp. it's 98% of drug dealers. the notion of like white-collar prisons, i think i was probably true in the '80s. i did a little research for my book but it doesn't exist anymore in so far as i know. maybe it does but i know i wasn't sent to one. they were like five other white-collar prisoners. >> so this was the lowest level speak with low security. >> i gotcha. >> harry weiss and sign. are you eligible to run for office again speak with you know, there is a convicted felon
in congress right now. and if we start showcasing actuators 435 of them -- [laughter] know, there's one to represent florida who was a judge that was convicted of taking bribes. i could run for so offices but not others that i could run for the missouri synod which is why once or. i could run for congress. i will tell you, gosh, probably show one of the picture, which is my life now with the girl back and she had moved into my house two days before i found out my friend was wired, and i told her that day that she should probably just get her boxes that had not been unpacked yet and leave because i screwed up to go away for a while. and thankfully she stayed, came and saw me in southeast kentucky, and you know, we are blessed right now with two children. but you asked about -- that's
why brought her up because the day that i go to the courthouse to file for office again i will run into are filing for divorce. [laughter] >> right there. >> you mentioned the problem of people from urban areas been sent to prisons in rural areas, anthe fact that when it comes to -- data counted in those conservative areas. [inaudible] at those meetings there was always a good they're trying to get the census bureau to change the way those people are enumerated i wonder if you're to move with the crew. i can't number the name it and if you done any work with them come if you think that effort that by getting people counted where they lived for when the prisons will ever be successful? >> that's a great question to what is your name? >> married nikki. >> thanks for the question. i have not come i've heard of efforts in that regard that i
haven't any work with them. i probably should because as a political scientist with a passion for this stuff it would make sense. i focus my advocacy since coming out of prison entrepreneurship. i'm on the board of a nonprofit which does an eight-month nba level curriculum inside out to texas prisons and over the last decade their graduates have a recidivism rate of just 6%. so less than one-tenth the national league that's an amazing organization, and another organization that is time to put a tablet in the hands of every inmate that has a full suite of vocational training and educational software. goes up in the two places i focus my efforts but i think i want to learn more so let's talk afterwards and we don't get a chance to catch up and i will google it and try to earn more because i have not heard of any progress in that area. >> yes, ma'am, right back year. >> you alluded to this but you
didn't really expand upon some asset you expand upon it. that when you went up against the card hands politically, ma their dynasty would appeal to call it, that may put a target on your back for this investigation. we heard this young man talk about going up against the powerful vindictive local politician. and so as a political scientist, have you looked at any of those types of situations where it might have been chilling effect on people who want to run but there might be some retaliation? >> that's a great question. i have not looked at any of that as a political scientist. a reporter who profiled my case years ago, he found that the federal election commission basically did nothing about, did almost nothing about the postcard for a couple of years after i signed affidavit, and then right after god elected to the state senate, then i think
there was some communication between the carnahan congressional office and the federal election commission. once i got to the state senate, since it has for your terms that would've been very easy for me to run for congress in like an off cycle for me. and so i don't know if i'd do if i was targeted. i know that i asked the card hands to drop the complaint a few days after i lost to him. i remember the meeting like it was yesterday. i told her i will endorse your compiler raise money for you but i will get my volunteers to help you. you think he would drop the complaint? because i knew. and they replied that the missile had already left the site of a. and so i think there is doubtfully a danger to candidates that take on the establishment, a take on powerful people. we have seen lots of instances
of this sort of thing, and when you go into public life, to some extent just accept that as, you know, one potential price. but the fact is i committed a crime and even though it was very great unusual for someone to do what i did ended up going to prison for it, you know, i can tell i'm not saying i was single, i mean, somebody is listening to be going to get caught. it's just too bad for me that it was me. >> we have time for one more question. >> fortunately i've never had exposure to the criminal justice system. but it has been my belief all of these years that a felony conviction automatically disqualified a person from the
majority of gainful employment which you allude to in your presentation. if you don't mind, would you talk a little more about what struggles you had getting gainful employment speak with sure. when i came out, i remember, i got a phone call from a guy who is active and but for the housing in missouri. and fights to protect our state low-income housing tax credit to andy colby. he said what are you doing now? i said nothing. i had just come over and he said, would you be interested may be working to help us because we're under assault in the state legislature to either have a lot of friends up there because half of my college had written letters on my behalf to the judge. he said, we need someone to help us raise money, build a
grassroots organization around the state and effectively navigate the legislature to keep afford the housing from getting a program that. and i said okay, how much are you paying? a decent look, jeff, i'm going to be honest with you. i'm about to tell you a number that is going to be pretty insulting. but let me tell you. the reason i'm calling you, he said i'm not calling you out of pity. i.c.e. agent, look, thank you so much reaching out to me because no one else had with each other as a thank you so much reaching a. he said, jeff, i'm not doing this for charity. i'm doing this because if i had hired you a year ago straight out of the senate, i would have to offer you about 20 times the number of about to quote you. i went to the interview, and the last question i got, a woman said, all your answers have been
greeted i think you do a fantastic job. but why should we be the ones to take the hit for hiring you? there's going to be ugly stories that you being a criminal and now affordable housing is affiliated with a criminal. why shouldn't we let some other group are you and then we will hire you once the stench is off? i don't know if it was, i don't know if it was the fact that i just had been locked up for you and isolate a christian from the experiences. i got in a lot of scrapes while i was in there. i don't choose just the reaction that children in prison to never back down from anything to show weakness. or i do know if it was just because i had fallen so far that i did have much further to fall. but i said to her, look, i told you what i can do and you can when someone else who can call the speaker of the house and had
the speaker pick up, who can raise money, but the background of raising me, who has a background of mobilize people at the grassroots, who can do all these things better that i can do for this saga, you hire them instead of okay? and i walked out. and that's another thing that makes i think hard for ex-offenders is questions that even when you know in your head you should probably react more diplomatically or thoughtfully. even though i didn't suffer any deep psychological trauma in a way that so many others do in prison it was hard for me to be spoken to like that and have my background preferred to as a stigma for the stench around me. so i am blessed. people like skip who have reached out to me afterward and talk about a job at the new school where i applied for and i
wrote in my cover letter, the first sentence was last week i walked out of federal prison. because i thought an age of google there is no reason disguising. the guy who ultimately hired me, he said i'm going to be honest with you, we got almost 1000 applicants for this job. and let's just say that your cover letter definitely grabbed me last night thank you all so much. i will be signing books afterwards. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
to understand what that means. there's lots of journalists, people take the washing and beyond. but again i'm not arguing the point about that seems a bit unusual i think it's unusual i'm writing a book that's not about politics or media are my time at nbc or the bush years. it's about to what is the larger journey of life which is asking questions, who, my time to become, and being on a path of strengthening our relationship with god. >> "after words" airs on booktv. you can watch all previous "after words" programs on our website, booktv.org. ..