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Abusing Prisoners Decreases Public Safety –An interview with educator, author and former prisoner Shawn Griffith

4:39 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Abusing Prisoners Decreases Public Safety

–An interview with educator, author and former prisoner Shawn Griffith


By Angola 3 News


If given the attention it deserves, an important new book is certain to make significant contributions to the public discussions of US prison policy. The author, Shawn Griffith, was released last year from Florida’s prison system at the age of 41, after spending most of his life, almost 24 years, behind bars, including seven in solitary confinement. Facing the US PrisonProblem 2.3 Million Strong: An Ex-Con’s View of the Mistakes and the Solution was self-published just months after Griffith was released from what is the third largest state prison system in the US, after California and Texas.

Angola Prison

Angola Prison

This new book’s thoughtful analysis and chilling reflections on what author Shawn Griffith experienced while incarcerated is a remarkable illustration of why the US public must listen to the voices of current and former prisoners who have stories that only they can tell. Griffith writes that “by integrating my own personal experiences with statistics and examples from different corrections systems around the nation, I am attempting to discredit the general perception that the system is designed to enforce and protect justice for everyone. The U.S. criminal justice system is an economically and politically profitable enterprise for special interest groups in this country. The general taxpayer needs to understand how the abusive policies fostered by these groups worsen the U.S. prison problem and the debt crisis through wasted corrections expenditures.”


Florida’s state prisons are the book’s main focus because “the majority of prisoners are incarcerated in state institutions. As of 2010, the US incarcerated 1,404,053 prisoners in state correctional institutions. For that reason, and based on my own twenty years of experience… Florida serves as an especially relevant test case for the changes needed in the US correctional system for two reasons. First is the size of Florida’s prison population and some of the political causes of its growth… Second, Florida has enacted some of the toughest sentencing laws of any state, causing correctional budgets to soar while educational budgets have been cut repeatedly,” writes Griffith.


After reading about the many different ways prisoners are abused, the very notion that US prisons are designed to rehabilitate or improve public safety, can only be viewed as a sick joke. Griffith writes that “hidden behind the walls, huge numbers of human beings have their spirits broken daily. Secretly, many suffer false disciplinary reports, illegitimate confiscation or destruction of personal property, physical beatings, rape, and sometimes fraudulent criminal penalties. Substandard nutrition, indifference to serious medical needs, and policies that encourage laziness have also become common. These practices help to sustain rates of recidivism, which is defined as a return to prison within three years of release.”


“Indeed, the strongest factor in reducing the rate of criminal recidivism is education, especially higher education, the one correctional expenditure that federal and state politicians have slashed.  This course must be reversed,’ writes Griffith, himself an example of the healing power of educational programs for prisoners. While incarcerated he began his long journey to full rehabilitation, gaining his GED and then taking over 40 accredited college correspondence courses with an emphasis on criminal justice, psychology, and marketing. He has a 3.5 GPA from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. As a teacher in prison, he helped hundreds of inmates gain their GEDs.


Since his release in 2012, Griffith has lived in Sarasota, Florida where he founded Speak Out Publishing to publish other works of non-fiction that focus on tackling some of societies’ most pressing issues. Copies of Facing the US Prison Problem 2.3 Million Strong can be purchased directly from Griffith, through his website:, by mail: Speak Out Publishing, LLC at P.O. Box 50484 Sarasota, Florida 34232, or by phone: 941-330-5979.


Angola 3 News:         You write that this book “isn’t just a commentary on correctional problems and solutions…it is also to share the human side of the story.” Based on your experience of spending almost 24 years in a Florida prison, what is the human side of this story?


Shawn Griffith:         Sometimes I think people forget that prisoners and their families are people. The prisoners have committed crimes, but many of them come to prison with serious psychological issues, and they still have feelings like every person in this world. Most prisoners are not sociopaths, but instead human beings with more pain and trauma in their pasts than the average citizen. Committing crimes, for the most part, is a direct sign of their mental instability.


A good example was a murderer with the moniker, Arkansas. Arkansas was a real stand-up guy in prison. He was someone who kept his word, minded his own business, but had a violent father who instilled violent teachings into his head repeatedly during childhood. He would give a friend the shirt off of his back, but if you tried to harm him or get over on him, his training went into effect. He had some serious psychological issues that I saw him struggle with every day.

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Feb. 2: Michigan Journal of Race and Law’s anti-solitary confinement symposium w/ Robert King, John Conyers, James Forman, Jr. and others

9:38 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Solitary Confinement at Alcatraz

Solitary Confinement at Alcatraz


On February 2, 2013, the Michigan Journal of Race and Law is hosting a symposium at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, entitled “Inhumane and Ineffective: Solitary Confinement in Michigan and Beyond.” As described by the flyer posted below and the Journal’s website, the all-day event will be held on campus in Room 1225, South Hall. The keynote address will be given by James Forman, Jr.Please help us spread the word about this important event!


View the flyer here:

Announcing our 2013 Symposium!

Inhumane and Ineffective:
Solitary Confinement in Michigan and Beyond

February 2, 2013

Keynote Address by James Forman, Jr. Our 2013 Symposium page is now live.

For updates on MJR&L and our symposium follow us on Twitter @UmichRaceLaw
or Like us on Facebook at

Download our Symposium poster here!

In the fall of 1993, four third-year law students at the University of Michigan Law School resurrected the then-defunct minority scholarship reading group, calling themselves the Critical Race Theory Reading Group. The Reading Group gave its participants, individually and collectively, the opportunity to read many of the authors who inspired them and made meaningful their experiences in law school. The Reading Group also provided a forum—and even a home—in which to explore issues of racial inequality, issues that were pervasive in the minds and lives of the students, but strangely absent in the traditional law school environment.

By the following year, the Reading Group participants had come to recognize the monthly discussions of critical race scholarship as a necessary component of legal education. The students saw the need for a broader forum that would encourage open discussion of issues of race and law at the University of Michigan Law School and beyond. These students started by working with the publication center after-hours, putting in their own time and effort at first without official recognition. Students and staff at the University of Michigan came together to create the Michigan Journal of Race & Law, which officially debuted in the winter of 1996.

Since then, the Michigan Journal of Race & Law has been a platform for the exploration of issues relating to race, law, and Civil Rights. The Journal is recognized for publishing cutting edge scholarship on a wide range of Civil Rights issues from diverse perspectives. Race and law intersect in endless ways. This has allowed the Journal to cover a huge number of topics in-depth and with great effect, including topics such as critical race theory, law & economics, immigration, education, criminal law, and beyond. The Michigan Journal of Race & Law takes pride in the many perspectives it embraces, publishing the views of scholars, students, practitioners, and social scientists. Since the inaugural issue, the Journal has become nationally recognized as one of the leading Civil Rights Journals in the country. In 2010, it was ranked third by Washington and Lee University School of Law in the category of Minority, Race and Ethnic Issues Journals.

If you would like to learn more about the Michigan Journal of Race & Law, please feel free to contact us as directed on our Contact Page. We appreciate your interest, and encourage you to learn more by picking up a copy of our current publication.

Michigan Journal of Race & Law
University of Michigan Law School
625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215

Telephone: (734) 763-4421
Fax: (734) 764-6043

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