Write Charles E. Samuels A Letter, Jr. A Letter

The Feeling One Gets When Poofed

As you know on occasion I find some of the things the Boston Globe has done to be a little disconcerting. When I discover this I duly comment. However, like any living institution, sometimes it does things that have to be praised.  Here is an instance where it deserves great praise for an editorial it wrote on March 22, 2013 that I just discovered.

I urge you to read it. I then ask you to consider writing a short letter to Charlie Samuels asking him to cut Sal DiMasi a break. 

Charlie is the director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). He’s a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and has worked all his life in the prison system, rising up from being a guard to the guy in charge. As you know being guard can be a tough job but it is also a job that draws any ounce of sympathy for prisoners out of your body. We have to hope Charlie still has some of it left and will be moved if we write him a short line asking him to move Sal closer to home.

I called 202-307-3198 to find out how to write to him. I pressed extension #9 and talked with a man in the public relations section. I explained what I was doing. He was helpful and said anyone interested should write to Charlie c/o the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 320 First Street, NW, Washington, DC 20534.

A recent article on Sal in the Herald noted Sal’s been in for 18 months.  I don’t know much else it says because of the Herald’s system of pay-to-read financial distress relief  program but I gather Gelzinis who has no problem with John Connolly spending the rest of his life in prison has a soft part for Sal and wants him to do his time closer to home.

So why do I ask you to write for Sal. Full disclosure: I never had any legislative dealings with him nor contributed to or helped him in any way. I had some cases against him as a prosecutor in Norfolk where he represented bookies. His clients got what any others would have received.

While we waited for the cases to be called I ended up talking to him for a while.  I found him a very fascinating person with lots of good ideas. After that I happen to see him in Boston two or three other times and we’d end up talking for a half hour or so. I always liked the guy and was bothered that he got himself jammed in taking a bribe.

He ended up being convicted and is now doing 8 years. Perhaps he deserved all that. But that’s not the issue now. The issue is how do we treat people who are convicted of crimes who suddenly find they have something much worse to deal with.

I’ve heard tales of people in federal prison. The feds have a bus that drives prisoners around from place to place in conditions fit for cattle. There appears to be little recognition these people are human. They are treated more like UPS packages. Here’s an idea of what it is like to be a person closing in on 50 who lived a crime free life until his conviction and ended up in prison. His letter tells how his worst problems come from the people who run the place.

We need prisons to harbor hardened or repeat criminals to protect society. We need them  to send non-violent criminals to prison just to deter others from committing similar crimes. Both the protection of society and deterring of others are incorporated into the punishment that is meted out.

Yet just like we need humane prosecutors we also need a prison system that is humane. Not so much the humanity of a Judge Wolf who finds the state is committing cruel and unusual punishment in preventing a sexual readjustment transaction for a prisoner Robert Kosilek who complains he’s waited for 20 years and wants no further delays.  But one which recognizes prisoners in extremely difficult circumstances and is willing to change the conditions that alleviate them somewhat.

The statutory scheme devises the punishment for a crime. The person is turned over to the prison authorities to be confined. A humane prison would try to accommodate the prisoner in unusual circumstanced.  It seems to me that keeping Sal DiMasi locked up in Kentucky is such a circumstance. The guy has a severe case of cancer, is being fed by tube, and whether the cancer kills him or not over the next few years is not the question. It’s how to give a guy who made a bad mistake a few decent days or years near his family. What’s so hard about that?

And one other thing, perhaps you’ll want to tell him you’re a Crimson Tide fan.




12 thoughts on “Write Charles E. Samuels A Letter, Jr. A Letter

  1. Seeing as “there is nothing new under the sun,” I was attempting to draw a parallel between the actions of eighties pentitos, and, those of contemporary LCN turncoats, and, perhaps, Irish-American grass. Could such a comparison be drawn between the current crop of American rats, and, the Italian cheese-eaters who testified in the Italian Mafia trials? Might all this rolling, snitching, testifying, etc., somehow be deliberately organized in such a manner as to manipulate the justice system and deliver positive results for a select few, as it did in Italy?

    1. Khalid:

      All the Mafia guys learned it is better to snitch than to go away for long terms. You are right to note that the disease of squealing has come to America. It clearly did its job in Whitey’s case since all the Italians got good deals and the Irish guy ends up as the bad guys. The gang is called the Irish gang when two of its top leaders are Italians with Mafia connections. Yes, the pentitos came to America.

  2. Wallahi!

    Matt, do you remember the first big wave of anti-mafia arrests in Italy back in the late eighties? The Italian police picked up almost a thousand mafiosos throughout the country. When their cases reached the courts, instead of presenting their usual defenses, they all confessed, and, pointed the finger at each other. It made chaos of the Italian courts. In the confusion, many big fish slipped the net. The defendants who had confessed were popularly known as the “penitentes.”

    1. Khalid:

      I remember the mass sweep of the Mafia and recall reading about the huge number of people who were being tried at the time and thought that alone was enough to cause tremendous confusion. I like Italy and the Italians. They have a peculiar way of doing things. I believe some people were convicted yet many seemed to slip through the knots. I’m not sure of the long term results.

      I’m also not sure they are called “penitentes.” A Guardian article says: “In Italian mafia parlance, there are two different concepts – of a penitente, and of a pentito – the former begs forgiveness, the latter squeals on his former comrades in exchange for leniency in sentencing.” Wikipedia notes: “In some southern-Italian communities the Mafia is a significant presence, and in these areas becoming a pentito is tantamount to a death sentence. Indeed, the Mafia family of Totò Riina from Corleone habitually extended this sentence to cover relatives of the pentito. For example, all of Tommaso Buscetta’s family was killed in a long series of murders spanning many years.”

      Thanks for all the information.

  3. The Party had been battling fascism since the close of WWI. They were the only ones who had the experienced underground structure necessary to challenge the National Socialists. In addition, they were supported by the Soviet Union through the Comintern international revolutionary organization whose operatives included Ho Chi Minh, Tito, Chou En Lai, Andre Marty, just to mention a few.
    (Ayatolla Kahmenei, current ruler of Iran, is a graduate of the Lenin Institute, now called Patrice Lumumba People’s Friendship University, in Moscow, which furnished the recruitment pool of foreign students for the Comintern talent spotters)
    The Communists were so politically strong in France, and, Italy, that the newly formed CIA had to enlist both the Corsican Milieu and the Sicilian Mafia to suppress the awakened and militant proletariats in their respective nations.
    The Free French resistance organization of DeGaulle was a creation of the OSS and British intelligence. They were amateurs. The Gestapo and the SD crushed them. (see Jean Moulon/Klaus Barbie/Lyons). If you are interested in seeing what the Commies pulled off, see the battle of Vercours, a town in the massif central of France were the lightly armed Maqui fought a pitched battle against the SS. If you’ve seen the film “The Train,” starring Burt Lancaster, it was based on a historical event. The heroic engineer, and, all the other railway workers who assisted him, were Communists.

    Have you heard of Slavoj Zizek? He’s worth googling.

    1. Khalid:

      I understand the zealotry of the communist adherents it is just that don’t attribute the underground victories totally to them. I also understand their desire to fight the Nazi forces once their beloved Soviet Union and the Nazis decided to tangle with each other rather than splitting the spoils in a friendly manner as they had agreed. I can’t blame the CIA for forging alliances with the gangsters to fight the other gangsters. The CIA gangsters presented a lesser threat to America. The Free French resistance might have been amateurs but they eventually won. Reading some of the articles on Google about the Battle of Vercours I don’t see the communists played a significant role. But I don’t doubt yur premise that eh communists had a major role in the underground because of their affinity toward and orders from the Soviets.
      I Googled Slavouj Zizek. Not particularly my cup of tea. Seems bright enough but anyone advocating Communism, even a more gentle type, I find to be of little interest. It may be my knee jerk reaction to all things communist brought about by watching them go about their business but when people talk about it as some form of Nirvana in the face of what it actually was then they lose me.

  4. Compassion vanishes with the last crack of the judge’s gavel.
    When an inmate dies at a BOP facility, the corpse has to leave Federal property in hand-cuffs.
    Lenin said there’s no revolutionary worth spit who hadn’t done a few years in prison. This country will pay a stiff price for the incarceration era.
    Toynbee states that when a society spends more to repress its underclasses than to educate them, its, decline is inevitable.
    Regarding, resistance forces in Nazi occupied Europe, the Maqui in France, and, the Partisans in Italy were formed, primarily, of members of the Communist Party. The bourgeoisie would not fight. They preferred to collaborate.

    1. Khalid:

      As usual you provide good information. I don’t despair as much as you do with the idea there is no compassion left in the prison system. Although everything I know about that system suggests that is the case, I still prefer to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

      I’m not sure that now we’re spending more to repress the underclasses but the way we are moving with our police state that will soon be the case.

      Interesting point about the bourgeoisie which seems to ring true; all that is important is business and it doesn’t matter who is in charge as long as you can make a buck. But why the Communists? Surely there were others aside from them in the underground movements.

  5. Letter on the way much to this effect.

    Never knew the guy myself but was incensed “the system” did not also bring in the other side of that equation – the real $neaky culprits in it all; the businessmen that got away with offering the kickback$$ for contracts in the first place. In the interests of justice, those guys should have been prosecuted as well, splashing their names, pictures and families all across the news, sending them off to prison. Maybe then we can turn the corrupted markets and economy around. By way of analogt, The DEA doesn’t just go after the ones that buy the drugs right, don’t they really go after the dealers, the “cartels” behind it? Well, by analogy then, shouldn’t the feds have gone after not just DiMasi who bought into the deal, but the kickback dealers (the cartel of corruption) themselves? What also bothered me was what happened the day of his sentencing, September 9, 2011. A cluster of media hounds were outside the courthouse and therefore so too were a bunch of people hoping to get their face on the news. One mom in particular was flirting it up, doing the stupid hair-flip before the reporters, virtually “cooing” at David Boeri” in the shallow hope to have the camera pan across her face. In her vain attempts at fifteen seconds of fame she didn’t even notice that her two kids who were throwing a ball against the Moakley wall (disrespectful as that was) had run out into the street with on coming cars to chase after the ball. She left the job of protecting her kids to a stranger who got up from a nearby bench and another who also jumped up to prevent them from further running into the street. The mom however, was far more concerned about getting on tv, than with some officials’ life collapsing before the halls of justice. She was even more concerned with fame than her own children. The huge cop who stood up against the wall protecting the door did nothing but roll his eyes obviously annoyed at the mom and the kids; but then, that also indicated that he also arguably abdicated his sworn oath/duty to protect society’s most vulnerable citizens and those in imminent danger (the two little blond boys in this instance about to run into a street.) He could’ve said something to them, right? Or to the mom? Why nothing? Why not a word? Why did he just stand there and shake his head? Why did he leave the protection of the state’s children to a stranger when it was clear the mom did not care?

    Given what was transpiring at the very doorstep of the Moakley let alone behind those doors, the Sentencing of Sal DiMasi that day was a sad commentary on the general state of affairs for justice and for all. It spoke volumes about how we treat other people – people – be they officials, or apparently in some cases – our own children. It spoke volumes about the state of the world in which we live. I know all this because I was the stranger who got off the bench and protected those kids from running into the street. After I got up out of a natural, instinctual, knee jerk reaction to help the kids, I decided it was better to just keep on walking myself. The surrealness of it all stunned me. I actually went down to the little church a few hundred feet away and wrote a prayer for the world in the little prayer book just inside the door.

    When folks go to the Moakley soon, I sincerely hope that people read the inscription on the wall of the Moakley by JFK. It was so weird to have just read that as a tourist, and then to see what was transpiring a few feet away.

    Well, That is what I will always think of when I reflect back on “the lesson of the sentencing of Sal DiMasi”.

    1. Alex:

      Your story is one that would clearly remember an event. All of what you said happened unnoticed by pretty much the rest of the world. If the attraction of TV cameras and the fifteen seconds of fame is still with us, there should be a lot of neglected kids around Joe’s Hall (my name for the Joseph Moakley Courthouse or Halls of Justice.) There were over 1/2 dozen TV trucks taking up good parking spaces for the live broadcasts. I said to someone “well here’s the big day,” and she corrected me saying it really isn’t, Monday is the real start. Which is right, nothing much will happen today – the jurors will be called, questioned, challenged or not, and that’s it. I’m here to get the flavor and to strategize on my future plans.

  6. Sal should be so lucky to be treated as a UPS package, they have serious quality control procedures that ensure that fragile packages are given care, any rough or unusual treatment is likely to have consequences. What would Foucault think of subjecting a guy with these health issues to bouncing around in the back of prison wagon?

    1. Hopalong,

      Good point. Write a short letter to Charlie. See what if he says if he’s not off at an IRS convention.

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