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January 26, 2009

Towns Are Sad to See Their Prisons Leaving the Scene of the Grime

CHARLESTON, Maine  – One morning recently at the town hall here, Selectwoman Terri-Lynn Hall set out some fresh coffee, crackers and dip for the cleaning crew. “I also make ’em turkeys, bake ’em hams, and serve spaghetti,” she said — “with homemade sauce.”

One of the crew, Rex Call, put down his mop and helped himself to a piping hot mug of joe. “I’d rather be working here than sitting in the cell all day,” said Mr. Call, who — when he’s not out on work-release — is serving two years in state prison for car theft.

Although many people fight fiercely to block prisons from coming to town, Charleston and other communities are feeling an opposite impulse these days. They are fighting to keep their prisons from going away.

Many states, including Maine, Ohio, Washington and New York, want to close or consolidate prisons to save money. Here in Maine, Gov. John Baldacci wants to mothball part of Charleston Correctional Facility and relocate nearly 40% of the inmates, which would cut work-release crews.

But this farming town of 1,500 wants its criminal element to stick around. Town leaders say they don’t know what they will do without the free or ultra-cheap labor the jailbirds provide. “Oh my goodness, gracious, they are such an asset — they are our public-works department,” said Ms. Hall.

Last year, Charleston’s prisoners did 39,337 hours of community work, prison officials say, roughly the equivalent of 19 full-timers. Inmates maintain the five local cemeteries, set up election booths and hang Veteran’s Day flags. They built the log-cabin “snack shack” at a local park, and helped bust up beaver dams in a stream that runs along Bacon Road.

When a minimum-security prison was built in downtown Wooster, Ohio, a decade ago, “we took a lot of heat” from people who didn’t want it, says Capt. Charlie Hardman of the sheriff’s department there. But now that budget cuts could close the facility, he says, “People are concerned. Who is going to pick up the litter?”

Originally, Sandra Hull was antiprison. She heads Main Street Wooster, a downtown-revitalization group — and a building full of criminals wasn’t her idea of an improvement. “I didn’t really want them there,” she says.

‘Wonderful Neighbors’

Today, she wants them to stay. They turned out to be “wonderful neighbors,” Ms. Hull says. Among other things, prisoners shovel snow in front of local shops.

Closure is also being fought by city officials and the local Habitat for Humanity. Habitat’s truck driver, Jesse Smith, has a bad back, so he uses convicts to help him lug around fridges and other heavy items. Sometimes, he says, the inmates gripe about prison life. “I tell these boys, ‘Don’t get an attitude, you’re the one who done it,’ ” Mr. Smith says.

County Commissioner Jim Carmichael says closure is being considered because the prison isn’t profitable, and it’s not fair for cities and towns to get “free labor at a cost to the county.”

In the small city of Medical Lake in eastern Washington, Mayor John Higgins pleaded with his state representative to help keep the nearby Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women from shuttering. The state is thinking about closing the 350-inmate prison by 2010.

“We use the inmates to run our recycling center — four women five days a week, seven hours a day,” saving the city at least $150,000 a year in labor costs, says Doug Ross, the city administrator. “I don’t exactly know how we’re going to run it without the crew.” Female felons from Pine Lodge also split and stack wood for senior citizens.

Emily Echols, who is 35 and serving time for burglary, shovels snow at a center for disabled adults and doesn’t want to leave Medical Lake. “I’m not too happy,” she says. “I feel like I’m part of this little community,” referring to the town. In addition, moving means “more upheaval and trying to start over again in another prison.”

Inmates typically get little or no pay for their work, but they can earn reduced sentences. Depending on their job, they can also learn a trade, such as construction work or forklift-driving, “rather than just sitting and rotting in a jail,” said Jim Zecca, director of solid waste for Madison County, N.Y. His county is home to a minimum-security state prison that Gov. David Paterson is looking at shuttering to help close a $15.4 billion budget gap.

Mr. Zecca said inmates generate $200,000 in annual revenue for the county by rummaging through its landfill for copper and other valuable scrap. “I just hate to see it go,” said Mr. Zecca of the prison.

There’s a long history of putting prisoners to work. Inmates make license places in Colorado, mattresses in Louisiana and orange safety vests for highway crews in North Carolina. Typically, only prisoners from minimum-security facilities qualify for jobs outside prison walls.

In most instances, work-release inmates are nonviolent offenders who are already near the end of their sentences, giving them very little incentive to stray from the rules. Typically, work crews are supervised by at least one prison official.

Occasionally there is trouble. After all, “You are dealing with an inmate population,” Mr. Zecca says. Once, inmates clearing brush at a local park wandered away, but were eventually found because they got lost in the woods.

At Charleston’s prison, escape attempts in general are rare, officials say, partly because of the nearby wilderness. “If you escape, it’s almost like walking into ‘Deliverance’ out there,” says prison supervisor George Peterson, referring to the movie in which four friends get stalked in the woods by a toothless mountain man.

Once, Mr. Peterson says, an inmate fled and hid in a swamp, but was munched on by so many insects that when the guards found him, he was “screaming to go back to prison.” Mr. Peterson also says work-release inmates sometimes manage to persuade people in town to toss beers over the prison fence.

Some inmates use work-release to try to right previous wrongs. Andrew Sargent, 25 years old, landed in the clink in 2006 after breaking into a convenience store in Dexter, near Charleston. When Dexter’s tiny police department needed its station repainted, Chief Art Roy called for a prison work crew — but specified that he didn’t want to see Mr. Sargent on it, because he had caused trouble in town.

Determined to show he’d changed, Mr. Sargent wrote the chief a letter apologizing for his convenience-store break-in, which involved the theft of cigarettes.

“He had a new attitude,” says Chief Roy.

Mr. Sargent ended up being such a good worker that the chief says he now plans to give him a job reference when Mr. Sargent goes free this month.

Original article by Jennifer Levitz of the WSJ


October 27, 2008

Video: Obama’s ‘Closing Message’ – “In One Week We Can Come Together As One Nation!”

Yes we can!!!  This is the type of leadership America needs – someone who seeks to unite us not divide us!  Together anything is possible.  Yes we can!!!

October 4, 2008

Economic Pain: 159,000 Jobs Lost In September. Obama Will Be BEST Protector of Middle Class

 Can you or your family afford to lose a job next week or next month? Barack Obama will be best protector of our economy which is in the middle of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

“John McCain doesn’t seem to understand that this crisis isn’t two weeks old,” Ohio Governor Ted Strickland said earlier today in the Democratic Party’s address. “Maybe he doesn’t realize that we’ve lost jobs every month this year. He hasn’t said one thing he’d do to make his economy look any different than George Bush’s economy.”

Labor Department figures released on Friday shows that the U.S. lost 159,000 jobs in September, the most in five years! The jobless rate was unchanged from August at 6.1 percent but up from 5 percent as recently as April.
September’s unemployment data followed a 73,000 decline in jobs during August and showed that America’s economy – the world’s largest economy – may be headed for bigger job losses as consumers and companies cut back and economize on just about everything.

Obama strongly supports an economic recovery package. Following Friday’s jobs report, Obama said:

“Instead of Sen. McCain’s plan to give tax breaks to CEOs and companies that ship jobs overseas, I will rebuild the middle-class and create millions of new jobs by investing in infrastructure and renewable energy that will reduce our dependence on oil from the Middle East. I also call on Congress to pass an immediate rescue plan for our middle-class that will provide tax relief, save one million jobs, and save our local communities from harmful budget cuts and painful tax increases.”

McCain opposes a stimulus package for working families and did not take part in the Senate vote on the first stimulus bill last spring.

As bad as the new jobs data are, the underlying picture is even worst because the number of long-term unemployed workers (those jobless for more than six months and may have stopped looking for work) grew to 2 million in September, an increase of 728,000 over the past 12 months.

Senator Obama would create 2 million new jobs by investing in rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, roads, bridges, and schools, Strickland said. He would give tax breaks to companies that create jobs in America, he said.

Obama yesterday criticized Governor Palin for saying in the vice-presidential debate Democratic economic policies would “kill jobs.”

“When Senator McCain and his running mate talk about job killing, that’s something they know a thing or two about,” Obama said yesterday at a rally outside Philadelphia. “Because the policies they’re supporting are killing jobs every single day.”

Earlier in September, a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll showed more respondents said Obama would do a better job handling the financial crisis than McCain, and almost half of the voters said they believed he had better ideas to strengthen the economy than McCain does.

















October 1, 2008

Vote America! One Voice Can Change The World, One Voice Becomes Many

Democrats measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma. We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was President – when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.

We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job – an economy that honors the dignity of work.

The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great – a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.

Because in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton’s Army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.

In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree; who once turned to food stamps but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.

When I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed.

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She’s the one who taught me about hard work. She’s the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she’s watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well.

I don’t know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as President of the United States.

What is that promise?

It’s a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It’s a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.

Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves – protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who’s willing to work.

That’s the promise of America – the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper.

That’s the promise we need to keep. That’s the change we need right now. So let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am President.

Change means a tax code that doesn’t reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes – cut taxes – for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.


July 24, 2008

Thursday: John McCain’s BIZARRE Adventure in German Village, Ohio



 While Senator Obama readied himself for his speech in front of 200,000 people at the Victory Column in Berlin, Germany, Senator John McCain made his own little trip to Germany — sort of.  McCain lunched today at Schmidt’s Restaurant und Sausage Haus in the historic German Village section of Columbus, Ohio.



McCain ate a bratwurst (a highly seasoned German sausage) at Schmidt’s — making a point of noting that the eatery has no link whatsoever to Steve Schmidt, the aide he recently hired to run his campaign — and indulged in a chocolate cream puff for dessert. His dining companions included best pal Lindsey Graham, the GOP senator from South Carolina, and a group of local businessmen – where was crazy Lieberman?


July 2, 2008

Here Comes The Republican Fearmongering Ads!

  Earlier this week the National Rifle Association (NRA) announced that they will run a $15M smear campaign targeting Senator Obama.  Read article here https://letustalk.wordpress.com/2008/07/01/on-your-mark-nra-plans-15m-fall-campaign-targeting-obama/ .

Surprise, surprise!  Today the Republican National Committee (RNC) revealed that it has created an independent $3M spending campaign that will target Senator Obama.  They will run their first TV ads in crucial battleground states starting this 4th of July weekend.  Brad Todd, a consultant to the RNC’s independent expenditure unit said in a statement, “The RNC will first advertise this weekend in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, highlighting the issue of energy security, which is emerging as a defining difference in the race for president.”

It is legal for parties to set up an independent spending campaign as long as it operates independently and does not coordinate on content or strategy with the party. 

This is the exact reason Senator Obama opted out of public financing he knew these ads were inevitable; he knew they were coming. 

I believed then when Obama made the decision and believe even more so now that by not accepting public financing Obama made a brilliant strategic decision.  This is a competition he has to use all the advantages he has and disarm the republicans as much as he can at the same time.

And so it begins.  On this most patriotic of weekends – a time of family and togetherness – the RNC will begin running their ads filled with fear mongering and old-school hate mongering.


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