Prologue to “Supermax Prison: Controlling the most dangerous criminals

Larry L Franklin

supermax_prison (4).jpgThe ebook will be released on August 1, 2017, followed by the paperback a couple of weeks later.  I am sharing the prologue to the book at this time.

***

Prologue

Few residents can tell you that Illinois was granted statehood on December 3, 1818, or that the state animal is the white-tailed deer. Fewer still know that the bluegill is the state fish or that the monarch butterfly, painted turtle and pumpkin pie gained similar state recognition. But most people know about the place called Tamms.

In the mid 1990s, Governor James Edgar and the Illinois Legislature signed off on the construction of the Tamms supermax prison, built just a stone’s throw from the village of the same name. Small towns were sprinkled across the countryside with room for seasonal crops and native wildflowers that graced the picturesque bottomland of southern Illinois. Herds of cattle steadied themselves as they…

View original post 640 more words

Review from The Gazette-Democrat

supermax_prison (4).jpg

I received a nice review on my book, “Supermax Prison:  Controlling the most dangerous criminals,” from The Gazette-Democrat in southern Illinois.  Appreciate all efforts to get the word out.  If you like the review, please share.

http://www.annanews.com/news/author-shuttered-tamms-center%E2%80%99s-story-not-finished

 

Prologue to “Supermax Prison: Controlling the most dangerous criminals

supermax_prison (4).jpg

The ebook will be released on August 1, 2017, followed by the paperback a couple of weeks later.  I am sharing the prologue to the book at this time.

***

Prologue

Few residents can tell you that Illinois was granted statehood on December 3, 1818, or that the state animal is the white-tailed deer. Fewer still know that the bluegill is the state fish or that the monarch butterfly, painted turtle and pumpkin pie gained similar state recognition. But most people know about the place called Tamms.

In the mid 1990s, Governor James Edgar and the Illinois Legislature signed off on the construction of the Tamms supermax prison, built just a stone’s throw from the village of the same name. Small towns were sprinkled across the countryside with room for seasonal crops and native wildflowers that graced the picturesque bottomland of southern Illinois. Herds of cattle steadied themselves as they stood on the hilly terrain, and black vultures, sometimes called “shabby undertakers,” patrolled the two-lane highway just east of the prison gate, swooping down to devour the latest roadkill.

The Tamms supermax was the ultimate result of prison violence during the 1980s and early 1990s, when prison gangs mirrored the organizational structure and control of a big-city Mafia. Most inmates who entered Illinois’ maximum-security prisons had to make a choice between joining a gang that offered protection, friendships, financial rewards, access to drugs and other contraband, or surviving as a lone inmate in a dangerous, even lethal world. Some of the more violent inmates eventually sent to Tamms included Henry Brisbon, the I-57 killer; William Cabrera, sentenced for the killing of correctional officer Lawrence Kush; Ike Easley, who stabbed superintendent Robert Taylor to death; and Corey Fox, an inmate who strangled his cellmate. The Tamms supermax seemed to be the best way to reduce violence, protect the safety of staff and inmates and improve the functioning of the four antiquated maximum-security prisons in Illinois.

The Illinois Department of Corrections, together with architects, construction workers and outside advisers, were determined to create a state-of-the-art facility that would provide safety for inmates and staff, with a special emphasis on the mental health needs of a unique population. In 1998, Tamms opened with the certainty of success, and the assurance of jobs in a county that labored under the weight of 18 percent unemployment.

But time eroded public confidence in a facility that imposed long-term solitary confinement years beyond acceptable practice. What began as a high-tech facility became known as a hellhole of misery, a place where the sane became insane, the sickest turned crazier than before. News outlets, inmate lawsuits, scholarly exposes and human rights groups contributed to the demise of Tamms some 15 years later. Any counter arguments were like whispers in the crowded arena where gladiators ruled the day.

The strangulation of a $73 million structure is a story that needs to be told. Rakesh Chandra and Larry L. Franklin met at the Long Branch coffee shop in Carbondale, Illinois, to discuss the possibility of a book about the Tamms supermax. Chandra had been the Tamms psychiatrist over a seven-year period. Franklin had written two books on women sentenced to life in prison for murder, and had experience as an investigative journalist. Together, they began a journey of twists and turns that eventually expanded beyond their initial expectations.

Human rights groups were passionate in their criticism of the supermax; politicians were unwilling to provide adequate funding; scholars sometimes picked their favorite statistic to prove a point; inmates told unimaginable stories sprinkled with a measure of truth; and families shared stories passed on by boys who became broken men. But the quieter voices spoke of inmates who improved while at Tamms; mental health workers who were able to practice their craft; correctional officers who lived beyond their life expectancy; the orderly function of lesser-restricted facilities; local residents who spent a chunk of their life to bring the supermax to their area; and southern Illinois residents who brought home a paycheck every two weeks.

While there are stories of unimaginable violence, sadness and injustice, there are hues of happiness and hope. An abundance of literature addresses the perceived evils of Tamms. But any piece of investigative journalism moves past the obvious and seeks the information hidden within the unfamiliar. We discuss in some depth the treatment of mental illness in and out of a prison setting, the difficulty of providing correct diagnosis within a unique population and society’s moral responsibility in caring for the mentally ill. It is the authors’ desire to present the good and bad, the certain and unimaginable. The reader can choose sides on the issue, or embrace the broader story of Supermax Prison: Controlling the most dangerous criminals.

 

 

Ode to Billy Joe and the faceless manikins

I loved writing this post in 2015. Hopefully you will enjoy it as well.

Larry L Franklin

Tallahatchie_bridge-Hwy_7_MississippiIt was the other day, June 3, 2015 to be precise, when Paul Morris, a fellow MFA Goucher graduate, reminded me of Bobby Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe.”  Forty-eight years ago, on June 3, 1967, Gentry penned her masterpiece.  How could I allow decades to pass before revisiting the rhythmic, haunting lyrics depicting the day when Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the 220px-OdetobillyjoeTallahatchie Bridge?  Gentry and I had a reunion of sorts.  I began listening to a YouTube performance of her “Ode to Billy Joe;” over and over, perhaps twenty to thirty times.  It was as addictive as my Oxycodone pain-poppin’ pills that kept my back from breaking apart in the hills of southern Illinois, some five-hundred miles north of the Tallahatchie Bridge.  Maybe the passage of time has blessed me with a deeper understanding of Gentry’s lyrical gem.  Or perhaps years of therapy has graced my psychic with insights…

View original post 796 more words

Advanced Reviews for Supermax Prison: Controlling the most dangerous criminals

supermax_prison (4).jpg

Scheduled for release — ebook on August 1, 2017, printed book seven weeks later. 

Advanced Reader Reviews:

Supermax Prison is so vivid that readers will feel as if they can hear the cell doors closing behind them.  Larry L. Franklin and Dr. Rakesh Chandra have written a well-crafted and troubling book that raises important questions about the age old struggle between rehabilitation and retribution that a civil society faces when it encounters the so-called “worst of the worst.”  A brilliant portrait of hell.
Pete Earley, author of The Hot House:  Life Inside Leavenworth Prison

***

As a member of the FBI Swat Team that put down the Atlanta prison riot in 1987, I recognized the need to separate the average inmate from the violent prisoners quick to instigate a prison uprising as the killing of a fellow inmate.  Supermax Prison does a remarkable job of informing the reading public of an important and little known subject.  Highly recommended.
Jack Owens, Special Agent of the FBI (Ret.)  Author of “Pock Trilogy.”

***

Rarely does a book come along that truly shows the final point in the life of a violent criminal.  Supermax Prison does just that.  It brings the reader into the lowest depths constructed for human life in the United States:  incarceration for the human being too violent to live with others, even other convicts.  A must read for everyone interested in criminality, law and order, and well written books.
Terry Turchie, Special Agent FBI (Ret.) Unit Director of Unabomb Task Force, author of “Unabomber:  How the FBI Broke Its Own Rules to Capture the Terrorist, Ted Kaczynski.”

***

Supermax Prison is a splendid work.  The authors have captured how civil authorities have managed to separate the bad from the very worst.  This book captures the soul, if that is the right word, of a place in this world where those who inflict carnage on their fellow man are prevented from doing so again.  To the authors, I say “well done.”
John Monaghan, Capt. NYUPD (Ret.) Author, forthcoming novel:  “Head On:  NYPD Takes on ISIS.”

***

This book provides the rider with a history of the burgeoning growth of supermax prisons within the United States and an insider’s knowledge regarding many of the problematic inmates housed in such prisons.  The complex dynamics leading to the bizarre self-injurious behaviors demonstrated by a small but significant number of supermax inmates is explored in this well-written book.  The authors’ conclusion that the mental health treatment offered to inmates with a serious mental illness at Tamms was often better than the treatment available at other Illinois prisons, related to class action litigation, is ironic and concerning.

The authors attempt to provide a balanced review of the pros and cons of the supermax prison, which was largely successful.  A chapter entitled “Silent Voices” includes success stories of inmates who benefited from their stays at Tamms in contrast to the many other inmates who did poorly in reaction to “dark, blackness of isolation,” that was inherent in the Tamms environment.

This book will be very interesting reading to both staff working in correctional facilities as well as the lay public relasted to both its content and public policy implications.
Jeffrey L. Metzner, M.D.
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
University of Colorado School of Medicine

***

Supermax Prison is the best of Franklin’s books to date.  It’s a must-read for anyone interested in the US criminal justice system and its supermax prisons.  Franklin provides the historical context for the supermax and the philosophy behind it, the pros and cons, the supporters and detractors, and whether it can actually work in practice.  The supermax at Tamms, Illinois, is his case in point.  Covering its rise and fall, Franklin shows how local developers in Southern Illinois, one of the state’s most impoverished areas, convinced the governor to award the supermax to the village of Tamms, bringing with it hundreds of jobs.  Soon, though, it became a subject of controversy, lauded on one hand as a model of rehabilitation, therapeutic support, and security for both inmates and employees and on the other as a torture chamber.  Recognizing that there are no easy answers to the problem of what to do with the most dangerous inmates, Franklin gives a fair hearing to all sides of the supermax question, providing documents and interviews with Tamms inmates and their court appeals, guards, psychiatrists, therapists, the warden, and even the chaplain.  Though the story of the Tamms Supermax ends with its closing, Franklin draws on his research to imagine a prison of the future that might just work.
Elizabeth Theresa Klaver
Professor of English
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois
Author of “Images of the Corpse:  From the Renaissance to Cyberspace,” and “The Body in Medical Culture.”

***

This book provides a frank and fascinating look at life in maximum-security prisons.  It is both uplifting and depressing reading, and some parts are even difficult to read, especially those with graphic descriptions of heinous crimes.  While the main focus is on the relatively short life of Illinois” supermax prison named Tamms, after the small town in the southernmost part of the state where it was built, the story is relevant for all institutions of incarceration.  The challenge of balancing the safety of custodians and inmates with the goal of rehabilitating dangerous criminals to re-enter society as law-abiding citizens is immense indeed.  The book details both successes and failures and culminates with proposals to improve the chances of success.  In the end the prison was closed only after 15 years due to pressures from outside humanitarian groups, a terrible financial situation in the state, and other factors; however, the authors feel its ultimate demise was ultimately a political decision, one that they feel was mistaken.  Changing prison cultures from the traditional emphasis of punishment to preparation for a meaningful life requires many support programs, but especially those empathizing improving mental health.  Due to the trend to decentralize mental health treatment into the community, prisons today are defacto taking the place of closed mental health hospitals by having to house those who have such serious mental health that community centers can’t handle them.  But neither are the prisons adequately prepared to deal with this population.  The book ends on a high note with a hypothetical rebirth of a Tamms with the structures and procedures that provide secure containment for those unable to be rehabilitated and a path to mental health recovery for the rest.  It can only be hoped that the lessons learned from the past can result in a better future, and that the dream of such a Tamms can be realized as soon as possible.
William M. Vicars, Ph.D.

***

I finished the book and couldn’t put it down.  Loved the stories.  My daughter is one of the psychologists at the maximum-security prison in San Diego.  I am going to buy a copy for her when it comes out.  I am sure she will enjoy reading it.   My husband, Estus Hood, was a correctional officer at the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois during the 23-year lock down.

I am a big believer in reform, treatment and education of inmates.  I am very happy you wrote this story.  Can’t wait to see it in stores.  Great job.  I am proud to call you and Rakesh my friends.
Diane Hood

***

While it reads like a novel, this is a book of creative nonfiction with factual names, places, and events.  If you work at, administer with, or have anything to say about dangerous or mentally ill inmates, then this book is for you.

You will learn how the brain functions, how medications affect one’s mind, and the role of free will.  The court’s interpretation is discussed as well.  And finally, the authors examine the likelihood of “the prison of the future,” and how it could function within a modern-day society.
Father Leo J. Hayes, M. Div., M.A.
Author of “Evil in Mirror Lake, ” and soon to be published, “A Country Pastor Goes to Prison.”

***

Larry Franklin is no stranger to the world of prison inmates.  In his previous works, he documented the lives of women imprisoned for life.  Now he has chosen to give us a view into the lives of men whose crimes have been so heinous that they are confined within the most isolated conditions:  the Supermax prison.  Each of their stories provide a fascinating insight into the crimes they committed.  More importantly, he portrays how each is coping with the isolation and psychological stress of living within the Supermax environment.  It is a fascinating read.
Janet Coffman, Ph.D.
Psychologist

***

It was an enjoyable read.  I believe you did an excellent job of capturing the essence of life at a supermax for not just inmates, but staff as well.  Although it can’t be measured I believe that the work done there by mental health staff saved some lives.  I say this based on my experiences with the inmates there and a few that were full of hate and really only focussed on destruction and by the time we finished our work together they had developed not only a sense of self, but a true desire to do better and develop relationships with others.  I know some of my colleagues had similar experiences.

Now with that being said Tamms HAD to be closed because of the way it was run.  It was never designed to keep inmates isolated for multiple years.  This only created more of a sense of Learned Helplessness and a mindset of I’m never going to be given an opportunity to leave so I will let the hate and despair build and manifest into a person only focused on destruction.
Rocky Peppers, LCSW
Veteran’s Justice Outreach Coordinator

***

Supermax Prison:  Controlling the most dangerous criminals tells the story of men who were sent there through Franklin’s compelling and compassionate writing.  A special emphasis is placed on the treatment of mental illness throughout the prison setting.  The book concludes with an imaginary prison of the future.
George Nadaf

***

Supermax Prison gives so many different perspectives of the prison that was in the village of Tamms.  The stories from staff and inmates made this book come to life.  I loved the detail of everyone’s personal stories and what the prison staff went through.  The thought of using Tamms again would be something to see for sure.
Candace Stephenson

***

This comprehensive view of one supermax prison in Illinois is illustrative of the wider complexities of incarceration and society’s larger responsibilities to the humans locked in prisons.  The book features the prisoners’ hard-edge stories, the views of wardens and guards, the therapy needed from mental health professionals and what happens to men in long-term isolation cells at Tamms Supermax.  The book weaves a story of good intentions that were not fully realized due to the monumental task of discipline, treatment and care for men that many consider beyond help.
Margaret Collins

***

 

 

I ain’t no better than a dirty dime.

IMG_2256.jpgsupermax_prison-45.jpg

I was reading a story from Rolling Stone about an old favorite of mine, Kris Kristofferson.  While I don’t listen to him often, I’m drawn by his lyrics like a bee to honey.  I sat at my computer and let his music help me write my imaginary song.

I ain’t no better than a dirty dime

I’ve got the writer’s itch,
when words flow from my mouth
like grease droppings on a dirty floor.

Thinking about days gone by
as they skip out the door.
Hey little buddy of mine,
you’re ain’t nothing but my little whore.

All my writing, singing, and therapy stuff,
don’t change you a little bit.
I own you, he whispered that night.
You ain’t no better than a dirty dime.

Hey, Kris Kristofferson,
you old buddy of mine.
I’m turning you off,
‘fore the dark fog moves in.
Best you go away,
before I begin to believe,
I ain’t no better than a dirty dime.

New book, “Supermax Prison:  Controlling the most dangerous criminals,” is about to be released.  Please check it out.

 

That’s why I write.

I was moved to write this blog when a fellow graduate of a MFA Creative Nonfiction program wrote the following:  How much rejection can one take? or rather should take? I’ve been getting rejected from every single query, pitch, essay publication, poetry, translation, fellowship, residency and employment I’ve applied to since October.”  Why would someone spend time and money to prepare themselves for shit-hole rejection, you’re probably thinking?

I decided to google a bit, looking for some answers beyond my own experiences.  I must say, rejection on google is not the same as feeling it in your gut and a tinge of vomit in your mouth.  A more academic definition is the dismissing or refusing of a proposal, etc…  No that doesn’t do much either.  Further exploration revealed a study in Psychology Today.  Physical and emotional pain share the same pathway to the brain.  Studies found that if you take a couple of acetaminophen (Tylenol) immediately following the rejection you will experience a reduction in the emotional pain.  Now I know why writers tend to drink wine, a six pack, or straight from a bottle of hard stuff.  But if you drink too much, your pain is joined by physical and an out-of-your mind experience.  And that’s something that I don’t repeat too often.

In fact, I remember an episode of out-of-mind emotional meltdown when I was in high school.  There was a girl that I wanted to date but she wouldn’t give me the time of day. I’m reluctant to admit that I even prayed to God that she would become my steady girlfriend.  Well, God didn’t come through.  Come to think of it, perhaps he did.  Decades later I saw that same girl.  I realized that it was good that she didn’t become my steady girlfriend.  Back to my story.  Her final rejection was followed by a night on the town with a couple of my friends.  We got stone-dead drunk and my friends dumped me on the steps of my front porch.  Not a pleasant memory.

Every writer, except for famous and lucky people, has experienced different degrees of rejection.  I’ve experienced rejection that comes rolling in like a dark cloud and puts me into a fetal position.  As bad as it sounds, I began writing at a later age and was successfully employed in my chosen profession.  I wasn’t dependent upon writing income to survive.  Having said that, it still hurts like hell to be rejected.

So, what do we do about rejection?  For me, writing is more about the journey than the publishing aspect.  The journey of writing a book trumps most things.  I write a sentence, a phrase, a chapter and go through the multiple drafts.  A few days later I read it again, followed by a final draft.  Sometimes I experience what I call a “writer’s rush,” that’s better than any joint I’ve smoked.  It can be outstanding.  Each piece of writing has made me smarter, a better writer, and broadened my spiritual growth.  That’s why I write.

authorllfranklin.com

Investigative journalism — why this, why that, why not, why?

images.jpg
(Most likely a photo of group therapy in a supermax setting.)

Investigative journalism is to discover the unknown, the information that escapes the public eye.  As adults, we seem to have lost the inquisitive nature of childhood — why this, why that, why not, why?  Instead, we engage in the comforts of social media where like-minded individuals support our stationary beliefs.  Perhaps we need to rediscover our scientific nature where we question, probe, and examine the meaning of “whatever.”

In the pursuit of my most recent book, “Supermax Prison:  Controlling the most dangerous criminals,” the available literature is focused on the negativity of the supermax prison.  While there are stories of unimaginable violence, sadness, and injustice, there are hues of happiness and hope.  But any piece of investigative journalism moves past the obvious and seeks the information hidden within the unfamiliar.

One cannot explore the history of the supermax without asking if there is a better way. That’s when I discovered the 1935 writings of Frank C. Richmond, Director of the Wisconsin Psychiatric Field Service.  Sanford Bates, the first director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, gave a challenge to his friend, Frank Richmond.  “How can we devise a system that will be at once a present protection and still comprehend a program of sound humanitarian rehabilitation?”  In time, Richmond combined his imagination, creativity, and scientific truths to develop a blueprint for the prison of the future.  “It would be a scientific laboratory where the bodies, minds, and souls of the inmates would be subjected to the utmost scrutiny, and where every step known to modern science be taken to prepare the inmates to resume their places in the world.”

In Supermax Prison, I combine the writings of Frank C. Richmond with current scientific findings to show an imaginary place — the prison of the future — for the incarceration of violent inmates.  For the doubters, I suggest going back to the inquisitive-nature of our childhood.  Why, why, why?  Why not?

An indepth discussion on the prison of the future can be found in “Supermax Prison:  Controlling the most dangerous criminals.

 

Book Titles, Subtitles, and Blurbs

supermax_prison.jpg
When I finished my manuscript and found a publisher willing to take a chance on me, I thought the journey was complete.  After all, I had written a 250-page manuscript and was proud of my accomplishment.  I even had a title — “Maxed Out:  The birth and death of the Tamms supermax.”  It’s time to rush the book to press and make some money.  Not so fast, my publisher said.  Marketing, the part authors don’t like, is the name of the game.  Without marketing no one will read your book.

Been there, done that.  What a devastating thought.

I can’t tell you how many titles and subtitles we explored.  In the end, the publisher suggested the obvious, Supermax Prison.  Of course we needed a subtitle for additional information on the book.  I told the publisher that “control” was the original reasoning for a supermax, and that prisons were out-of-control.  Hence, the subtitle was born.  Controlling the most dangerous criminals.

Next we needed book blurbs from people who are smarter and better writers than myself.  It helps if they are experts on the prison scene.  We have three blurbs from writers familiar with the incarceration of violent inmates.

As a member of the FBI Swat Team that put down the Atlanta prison riot in 1987, I recognized the need to separate the average inmate from the violent prisoners quick to instigate a prison uprising as the killing of a fellow inmate.  Supermax Prison does a remarkable job of informing the reading public of an important and little known subject. Highly recommended.
Jack Owens, Special Agent of the FBI (Ret.) Author Pock Trilogy

Rarely does a book come along that truly shows the final point in the life of a violent criminal. Supermax Prison does just that. It brings the reader into the lowest depths constructed for  human life in the United States: incarceration for the human being too violent to live with others, even other convicts. A must read for everyone interested in criminality, law and order and  well written books. 
Terry Turchie, Special Agent FBI (ret)Unit Dir. Unabomb Task Force
Supermax Prison is a splendid work. The authors have captured how civil authorities have managed to separate the bad from the very worst. This book captures the soul, if that is the right word, of a place in this world where those who inflict carnage on their fellow man are prevented from doing so again. To the authors, I say “well done.”
John Monaghan, Capt. NYPD (Ret.) Author, forthcoming novel :  Head On: NYPD Takes on ISIS.
In the meantime, I’ve received some nice reviews and will include a couple of them in the Foreword.  Others will appear in various outlets like Amazon when the book is released on August 1, 2017.  Good or bad, the reviews serve as a learning experience for me.  Please keep them coming.  Let me know if you are interested in receiving an advanced review copy of the manuscript.
Many thanks to those who support my writing.
Larry L Franklin

 

Book Review — “Supermax Prison: Controlling the most dangerous criminals”

supermax_prison.jpg

A Review of the Book, “Supermax Prison: Controlling the Most Dangerous Criminals” by Larry L Franklin and Rakesh Chandra, MD, JD

This book provides a frank and fascinating look at life in maximum security prisons.  It is both uplifting and depressing reading, and some parts are even quite difficult to read, especially those with graphic descriptions of heinous crimes. While the main focus is on the relatively short life of Illinois’ super-max prison named Tamms, after the small town in the southernmost part of the state where it was built, the story is relevant for all institutions of incarceration.  The challenge of balancing the safety of custodians and inmates with the goal of rehabilitating dangerous criminals to reenter society as law-abiding citizens is immense indeed.  The book details both successes and failures and culminates with proposals to improve the chances of success.  In the end the prison was closed after only 15 years due to pressures from outside humanitarian groups, a terrible financial situation in the state, and other factors; however, the authors feel its demise was ultimately a political decision, one that they think was mistaken.  Changing prison cultures from the traditional emphasis on punishment to preparation for a meaningful life requires many support programs, but especially those emphasizing improving mental health.  Due to the trend to decentralize mental health treatment into the community, prisons today are defacto taking the place of closed mental health hospitals by having to house those who have such serious mental health problems that community centers can’t handle them.  But neither are the prisons adequately prepared to deal with this population.  The book ends on a high note with a hypothetical rebirth of a Tamms with the proper structure, procedures and support that result in providing secure containment for those unable or unwilling to be rehabilitated and a path to mental health recovery for the rest.  It can only be hoped that the lessons learned from the past can result in better results in the future, and that the dream of such a Tamms can be realized as soon as possible.

William M. Vicars, Ph.D.