Tag Archives: solitary confinement

A Book Blurb from one of the best.

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I feel honored to have received a book blurb from Pete Earley, best selling author and mental health advocate.  Earley has penned 17 books including 4 New York Times best sellers.  My excitement drove me to share this with my friends.  Check out Earley’s link — http://www.peteearley.com/

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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 

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My ebook is available online and the paperback will be available in approximately two weeks.

 

 

 

 

Review from The Gazette-Democrat

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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

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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.

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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.

 

 

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

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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.

 

Psychiatrist on the Colorado theater shooting case of James Holmes

 

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Jeffrey L. Metzner served as psychiatrist on the Colorado theater shooting case of James Holmes, ruling him sane and fit to stand trial.  Holmes was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the death of 12 and the wounding of 70 individual.

Pleased to receive a review from Jeffrey L. Metzner, M.D.

This book provides the reader 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 often 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 benefitted from their stays at Tamms in contrast to many other inmates who did poorly in reaction to the “dark, blackness of isolation” that was inherent in the Tamms environment.

 This book will be very interesting to both staff working in correctional facilities as well as the lay public related to both its content and public policy implications.

Jeffrey L Metzner, M.D.

Clinical Professor of Psychiatry

University of Colorado School of Medicine

Book Blurb for Supermax Prison: Controlling the most dangerous criminals

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I feel fortunate to have received a book blurb for “Supermax Prison:  Controlling the most dangerous criminals,” written by Terry Turchie, author of “Unabomber:  How the FBI Broke Its Own Rules to Capture the Terrorist Ted Kaczynski.  Special Agent Turchie is now retired, pursuing a writing career.

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, Speical Agent FBI (retired) Unit Director Unabomb Task Force

 

A book review to die for.

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A book review can provide a “writer’s high,” or reduce the author to a pile of rumble.  But when the words come from his mentor, the review is a big deal.

Elizabeth Theresa Klaver was a Professor of English at Southern Illinois University; my client when I had a financial planning practice, and a friend as I shared my history of physical and sexual childhood abuse.  Poetry was my means of expression. I shared my poems with Elizabeth, and what followed were months of private sessions where we worked on my writing skills. What happened, we never could have imagined.  My fourth book is about to be published.

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, therapist, 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wallow in the writer’s high

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The title of my book has been changed to “Supermax Prison: controlling the most dangerous criminals,” which is due to be released in mid-June. I decided to share some of my thoughts before writing this book.
***
Writing is a journey of twists and turns laced with uncertainty. Gone are the predictable warm summer nights in southern Illinois, or the haunting call of a whip-poor-will.  Perhaps I have a general idea of where the story might lead, but I never know how it will end.  That would not be investigative journalism.  No, that’s back-ass storytelling.

I have logged in countless hours of psycho-therapy and written about troubled minds with difficult pasts.  Things are not as they appear. Perceived reality is a combination of our genetic makeup and life experiences, and opens the door for misguided decisions.  An individual’s perception of right and wrong oftentimes differs from mine.  False judgements and bias are not permitted.  Knowing this, allows me to experience empathy, understanding, and a host of emotions.  Only then, can I find the “sweet part” of the story where creativity is unleashed.

It has been said that artists perform their best work when under the influence of drugs.  One could argue that a gentle high might unleash a degree of creativity, but when you are trashed, the work has a manic flow.  I admit to the occasional glass of wine to prime the pump, but I’ve found a better way.  Look to the free spirit of childhood and envision the swish and sway, the pirouette and tour en l’air of a child dancing to the beat and lyrics of a simple song; the free flow of unrestrictive creativity; an emotional rush that trumps the steady pull from your favorite weed or a glass of wine.

While emotion and creativity are the staples of powerful writing, it must be harnessed with a loose bridle, allowing a degree of freedom. Writing requires the use of the right and left side of the brain at the same time.  If I can harness my creativity, writing skills, a nonjudgemental mind, the strength of a lion sprinkled with a dose of love, I can wallow in the writer’s high.

The writer crawls from his cocoon.

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My last blog was written on October 30, 2015 when I had recovered from two back surgeries and swallowed my last oxycodone.  The pain was gone, my swagger was back, and the creative juices were flowing.  It was time to take that glorious trip I had taken on three prior occasions.  It was time to write a book, and leave the seclusion of my cocoon.

Nineteen months later, I have a signed contract with History Publishing Company
for my latest book, “Maxed Out: The birth and death of the Tamms supermax.” The projected release date is mid-June, 2017.  It seems appropriate to include the Prologue in this blog.  After all, this has been a major part of my life for the past nineteen months.

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 1990’s, 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 road-kill.

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 the 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 advisors 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 eighteen 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 fifteen years later. Any counter arguments were like whispers in the crowded arena where gladiators ruled the day.

The strangulation of a seventy-three million dollar 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 preconceived 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. I 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 author’s 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 Maxed Out: The birth and death of the Tamms supermax.