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After 25 years in jail, the Internet blew my mind (salon.com)
250 points by l33tbro 1425 days ago | hide | past | web | 130 comments | favorite



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_G._Santos

While in prison, he divorced, got married, received a college degree from Mercer University in 1992, a master's degree from Hofstra University in 1995, began a doctorate, and developed programs and resources for inmates and their families.

well, you can say he got a lot of time for that in there, but still, wow.


The whole time reading this article, I thought, sounds good, but having spent 25 years in jail he must have done something pretty bad.

Then I read that Wikipedia article and it turns out he was caught selling cocaine in his 20s...

Man, say whatever you want for drugs being bad, but that's kind of a BS reason to rob someone of their youth like that. For 25 years I thought maybe he'd killed a guy.


There are many people, mostly drug mules that weren't necessarily even aware of what/how much they had been assigned to carry, that are serving life in prison. It's all based on how much they had on them and what type of drug, and much of it is arbitrary. For example, until 2010, the sentence for simple possession of a single gram of crack carried a mandatory minimum of five years, whereas someone found with 100 grams of powder cocaine would likely face probation.


Yes, that's all I could focus on as well when reading the article. What kind of non-violent crime deserves 25 years in prison: Cocaine dealing? Where I am from, selling cocaine on a grand scale (huge amounts, running an organization, smuggling etc.) would put you behind bars for maybe 6-10 years, although in theory you could receive a 16 year sentence.


Back in the 80's the punishment was deemed appropriate.


If you watch the video embedded, you'll see that he actually ran a large network that smuggled cocaine from Miami to Seattle. A little more serious than the kid who sells an 8-ball to his college classmate.


I don't know what the right punishment is for that, but the original sentence of 45 years seems too steep. As does 25.


Cocaine use was a major problem in the 80's, which also gave rise to the crack epidemic which was even worse: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crack_epidemic

Santos was considered a "King Pin" under the law, which essentially meant that he had several people working under him and was also dealing with very large financial transactions (this by his own admission in the UC Berkeley video).

By today's standards the punishment may seem harsh, but at the time it was probably appropriate.


So patronizing.

I was born in DC; I don't need the Wikipedia article on the crack epidemic.

You really think locking people up is what solved that problem?


Didn't intend to be patronizing. Not everyone has witnessed the problem with their own eyes. They're left with the cartoon version of crack, the version they witness on shows like Dave Chappelle. Do I really think locking people up is what solved that problem? Short answer NO, but does cutting out the supply help? Yes. And in conjunction with treatment programs it's/was a start.


The first two sentences in this comment add nothing to the discussion. Is this kind of thing ok on HN these days?


I felt the comment was talking down about the crack epidemic. It's probably a function of age and location, but for some people (such as those with a history in the hardest-hit cities) it isn't that distant, as if to be something you'd look up on Wikipedia because you've never heard of it. I don't think that's all too unreasonable.

Your comment, on the other hand, does nothing but say that my comment is worthless.


The community here has shifted it seems. Comments like mine that questioned the way in which we argue used to be encouraged.


So patronizing. I was born in DC; I don't need the Wikipedia article on the crack epidemic.

Put that on your profile so next time this topic come up we know. Seriously. I didn't know that about you and time and time again posters post something from the past to give context.

Context might explain why the "tough on crime" politicians pushed for mandatory sentences even for minor amounts.


I would say that playing to populist fears explains just about everything related to "tough on crime" politicians. It's also curious that the same "tough on crime" politicians seem for the most part surprisingly uninterested in the root causes of crime, such as poverty or lack of access to education.


Are you really sure that if there were no poverty and everyone had lots of education that there wouldn't be that kind of crime? Where are your real-world data to back up that idea?


Draw a map of drug-related violence. Draw a map of poverty. Same map?


No, actually, and you would readily observe that fact if you did just what you are suggesting that I do.


Correlation != causation. Come on - you're not even trying.


Probably appropriate? Is there a measure that can be used to show this? You get less time for murder where I live.


Arguably more damage is done to society from a mass distributor of cocaine than a single murderer.

I'm not saying that selling drugs is equal or worse than murder, just that there is a lot more to what happens when you distribute drugs than just moving around white powder.


Cocaine isn't that bad - I've watched it being administered to patients in hospitals prior to pituitary surgery. It does good him this situation. It's not that dangerous a drug. What it's bulked out with might be bad, but the real damage comes from it being (mostly) illegal.


I agree, but that also depends on the offender.

In a way, you could make an argument that prison should not have timed sentences, but rather that it should be "you stay until it is deemed that you will not offend again, and that you can be a productive member of society."

After all the word "corrections" implies that something should be corrected, not that somebody should be punished.


Do you really want prison times to be completely flexible? There is a lot of potential for abuse there.


I had this reaction too, but if an offender is given opportunities to become a more conscientious and educated human being through hard work, it seems reasonable that we would want them released (and contributing to society in a positive way) sooner rather than later.


That already happens. "Released early for good behavior", early parole, etc.


Federal time is different. It is day by day. Only way you can get time off of your sentence is by going through drug classes.


Parole exists, which makes prison times extremely flexible, The exception is mandatory minimums, which are generally only for murder and for handling drugs that non-white/rich people tend to be disproportionately involved with.


I was thinking about maximum times, not minimums. There is no opposite of parole to extend their sentence, that I know of.


It's partially deterrent and partially corrections.

If it were only for corrections, then it would cause all kinds of problems. The most obvious one is that you get one "free crime" to commit.

There's also a fairness (and rule-of-law) argument: if two people steal $100 each, why would one person be let out earlier?


>There's also a fairness (and rule-of-law) argument: if two people steal $100 each, why would one person be let out earlier?

If that's your justification then the horse has already left the barn, developed space travel and colonized Mars. Look at the number of factors that go into sentencing -- or just the definition of the crime, like what was stolen (distinct from its market value) and how (e.g. on a computer vs. in person vs. in a conspiracy with accomplices), then there is a lot of flexibility for the sentence itself (most sentences are "up to" X penalty) with a whole list of mitigating and exacerbating circumstances in the sentencing guidelines, subsequent parole for good behavior in prison, etc. etc.


I wasn't justifying anything. The person to whom I replied ignored a few obvious and valid arguments, and I was filling that void.

Even if prison was entirely intended for corrections, it is punishment (a denial of freedom). So there is a fairness argument that if two people do reasonably similar crimes that they should get comparable sentences. That is just one argument though, and fairness (as always) is weighed against other arguments.


until you see the many lives destroyed by drugs. from mothers abandoning their children, to ending up homeless and alone, to deaths and murders.

Sure he's just one cog in a giant machine, but he's also responsible for death and hardship as a result of the drugs he moved.

Society in general also carries some of the responsibility, as do those involved in his upbringing. But I know that if my child came to any harm as a result of the drugs he supplied for his own profit I'd want him to be behind bars for that long - or until he was rehabilitated.

"In 2004, 17% of U.S. State prisoners and 18% of Federal inmates said they committed their current offense to obtain money for drugs." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug-related_crime


"until you see the many lives destroyed by drugs. from mothers abandoning their children, to ending up homeless and alone, to deaths and murders."

And we'd have a hella better handle on it it it were legal. Right now, I can drink myself to death; or get piss-end drunk and smack my partner around; or get piss-end drunk again, hit a ball game and start a fight in the stands - none of these actions would gain me 25 years in jail (though I'd be dead cause my partner would shoot me - and rightly so. :) ).

I can smoke cigarettes which has had one purpose - to addict me (oh and kill me in the process) but I can't smoke a joint in my own home without running a risk that some a-hole walking by will smell the pot and call the cops.

Utterly ridiculous.


Cigarettes would not be legal if they were invented today. I've seen first hand what years of pot smoking does to people, it's not worth it.

Drinking to excess is a growing problem and one that should be tackled.

I can't really understand what point you're making, is it that you think class A drugs should be legalised?


Yes. All drugs should be legal. What I do in my own house to my own body is my business.

Not to mention, most of the violence caused by the illegal drug trade wouldn't exist.

My point is, in America it's legal for me to smoke cigarettes, carry weapons of mass destruction in my pocket, drink liquor (anywhere I please) but it's not legal for me to smoke a joint.

That's my point.


and my point is that smoking should not be legal, carrying weapons should not be legal, pot should not be legal.

Drinking is difficult because there are reported health benefits as well and most of the world does not drink to excess.

You may think that doing those things in your own home, with your own body is nobody's business but yours. That, however, is naive. Let's say you overdose on cocaine or you get lung cancer from smoking, that is not a burden only you will carry, that is a burden on society.

Money spent on your treatment could be better spent elsewhere. This isn't about personal freedoms, it's about being a responsible member of society and unfortunately talking about it on the personal scale is totally different to talking about it on a national scale.


"... there are reported health benefits as well and most of the world does not drink to excess..."

Ahh when was the last time you been to a football game in Europe? Or heard about a fight breaking out in the stands? Trust, they aren't smoking pot. So yes the rest of the world does abuse alcohol.

Oh and by the way, cocaine and pot also have health benefits. In fact, cocaine is still used today. And I doubt anyone will debate the health benefits of marijuana today.

"Let's say you overdose on cocaine or you get lung cancer from smoking, that is not a burden only you will carry, that is a burden on society..."

Let see; drunk driving; domestic abuse, liver damage, kidney failure - on and on. So don't give me this BS about the "burden on society". Go tell that to the many mothers against drunk driving.

"Money spent on your treatment could be better spent elsewhere. This isn't about personal freedoms, it's about being a responsible member of society and unfortunately talking about it on the personal scale is totally different to talking about it on a national scale."

There are more folk in treatment for alcohol abuse than drug abuse. And yet alcohol is legal. More people are shot by people drunk than people high. And yet alcohol is legal. More deaths are due to cigarettes than drugs (and alcohol). And yet cigarettes are legal.

And if we did end the drug war - over right the deaths in mexico would end. It's just that simple.

There is no reason to maintain the drug war except that every cop, every firefighter; every city, town, and state shares in the drug war pot. It's become a revenue stream. And the "war" part the the "Durg War" was lost decades ago.


so a legal drug like alcohol is actually causing havoc in society, as you so vehemently point out... and you are advocation MORE drugs be made legal?

Really look forward to a night out when a bunch of people are buying heroin in one bar, cocaine in a another and ecstasy at the club - sounds awesome!

I am from Europe, yes I've been to those games. No doubt alcohol is a problem. Comparing pot to alcohol is just dumb, they have complete opposite physiological effects. I've seen what long term pot smoking does to normal people, with normal jobs and normal lives - it's not harmless.

I have not seen any studies on the health benefits of pot or cocaine as part of a regular lifestyle - can you enlighten me? I've seen reports of pot and ms or cocaine used by doctors for procedures, but I never heard of them being recommended for regular consumption as a way to improve health.

And, again, point out the draw backs of some drugs (alcohol) does not mitigate the problems associated with other drugs (pot).


> so a legal drug like alcohol is actually causing havoc in society, as you so vehemently point out... and you are advocation MORE drugs be made legal?

Yes, because making alcohol illegal actually made things worse in the very same ways strict drug prohibition creates vast revenue streams for organized crime and incurs a great deal of violence.


More people are injured by horse riding than MDMA. Under your regime, will you ban all risk taking including sports?

How about starting a startup? That often results in elevated stress and could impact health. Let's ban that too.

How about we take the ridiculous amounts spent on the drug war, regulate supply and tax products for potential harms, then use that to educate people on safety and provide support to people that get in trouble.

Not all drug takers have a problem with drugs. I know successful and effective CEOs, developers, prolific scientists, government policy analysts, and many others that take drugs. They are often more effective than any other people I know. So please check your stereotypes.


You make it sound like your children don't have a choice whether to take drugs or not.

You could argue similarly by replacing drugs with anything (legal) that could harm your children. For example, do you blame motorcycle vendors for being responsible for deaths and hardship among the families of motorcyclists?

Drugs and motorcycles are certainly different, but it's a bit too easy to blame drug traffickers or dealers only without taking into consideration the parents and the social circle of the children.


Unlike recreational drugs, motorcycles are a useful tool that enables society to go about its business.

Knives also enable me to prepare dinner and surgeons to remove my appendix.

I don't think that class A drugs carry the same risk/benefit ratio, do you?

Also, I think you missed the part where I said that society and family carry some of the responsibility for that child taking drugs, but then you were too busy arguing the point you wanted to make rather than actually tackling what I said directly.


Class A drugs actually have a range of benefits, from curing addiction(!), depression, PTSD, migraines, and inspiring people creatively. This is not for all drugs, and some also have associated risks, but they are not by nature "bad".

Unfortunately, these drugs often are unpatentable, so it's safer to make them illegal (class A so that law says they "have no medical purpose"). Then big pharma can find less effective substances, sell them for more, and it's all under the guise of safety.


In modern society it is implied, that person taking drugs is losing their free will and requires guardianship. Whether it is scientifically correct is a question.


> In modern society it is implied, that person taking drugs is losing their free will

If that was really true, we wouldn't hold them criminally responsible for their actions.


Doesn't change the fact that the person, in most cases, had to make a choice to start taking the drugs.

It's not as if you wake up one day, and you're now instantly addicted to cocaine and are destroying your life. You had to make the choice to start using the drugs.


All people make small mistakes all the time, and usually can recover. Few of them involve falling into an abyss, but tasting meth or heroin or maybe crack are among them.


It's not like the second you've had meth or heroin for the first time you're instantly and irrevocably addicted to it. There's definitely an ability to recover from that.


>until you see the many lives destroyed by drugs. from mothers abandoning their children, to ending up homeless and alone, to deaths and murders.

Until you realize that most of those destroyed lives are because drugs are illegal in the first place, which makes them:

1) expensive, 2) reason to get fired, 3) of unknown quality and ratios (hence overdosing), 4) related to gangs and violent crime, etc etc.


And how many lives and families have been destroyed by imprisoning or killing people involved in using or selling drugs?

There is a very strong case to be made for the War on Drugs being far, far more harmful to society than drug use itself has ever been.


Please, give some details on that case, I'd be interested to read more.


> until you see the many lives destroyed by drugs. from mothers abandoning their children, to ending up homeless and alone, to deaths and murders.

luckily there are other fun and legal substances like alcohol that never cause such damage. oh, wait.


your sarcastic point doesn't change the fact that drugs destroy lives. Alcohol also destroys lives, so thanks for pointing that out.


The reason why federal inmates say they committed their current offense to obtain money for drugs is because they get their sentence reduced for going to drug classes while incarcerated. For example, if you get arrested for a kilo of cocaine, you get a 5 year federal sentence. If you say you are a drug addict, and attend drug classes, you get 2 years of your sentence.


I completely disagree with you. Think how many lives he destroyed by hooking people to cocaine. I have a friend who became a cocaine addict by falling for a nice guy who turned out to be dealer. She's still struggling, but she'll never get last 10 years of her life back. Now, multiply that with 30+ people he was dealing to, and you get much more than 25 years. Punishment should be hard unless we want to see more and more people doing it. It's all about perceived risk and profit, after all and if risk is higher there would be less people doing it.


However, the dealer is not wholly to blame for that. It's the person's choice to use the drugs in the first place, and, sometimes with help, you can quit.

A gun store is not blamed for someone dying at the hand of a gun they sold.


I don't think I agree completely with your second statement. You are comparing the drug dealer with the gun store, while in fact you should be comparing a drug store to a pharmacy, in the sense that both sell stuff that can be misused but has lots of other uses, and where both have a code they are expected to adhere to.

A drug dealer, on the other hand, has a business model based on addicting his customers to his product (unless there are dealers who advice their customers to stop buying and try and keep their addiction in line, as it is hurting them and their loved ones).

A better comparison, I think, would be a drug dealer and an arms dealer selling AK-47 on Irak.


A drug dealer, on the other hand, has a business model based on addicting his customers

It's clear you haven't known many (or any) drug dealers. Drugs are taken for pleasure, and drug dealers (who are often primarily also users just trying to make ends meet) sell pleasure to people who are gladly buying it.

What the criminal did in this case is no different at all from what major supermarkets do all the time with alcohol, with the sole exception that it's illegal because society has some very naive and stupid laws.


It is not inevitable that if your significant other deals drugs you will do drugs. Some would say that unless coercion of any kind was used, the user is fully responsible for their own actions.


Taking cocaine does not imply you'll become an addict and it will control your life. Many high functioning drug users never get in trouble with drug use, but we never hear those stories.

People can become alcoholics, and some people are more susceptible to it, that doesn't make everyone an alcoholic.

A much more effective strategy is education and regulated legal supply. People require licenses to sell, and potentially to use, and tax the harms in order to provide health resources for the people that do get in trouble.

It'll be cheaper, and fewer people will die.


And making it illegal have helped how many?


If you're interested in drug policy you might like a recently released documentary called "The House I Live In": http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2125653/


I thought the same thing then thought it's the US so maybe drugs, yup.

With such a large cocaine network in the 80s, especially in Miami, I doubt there weren't some deaths directly connected to the operation.


This is a problem mentality. Obviously the sentence was not harsh enough, because he still ran a huge cocaine smuggling operation. I wonder if the penalty for running a cocaine operation was death (like in lowest crime rate Singapore) if he still would have done it? If he did, Id bet the next person would not have.

It is impossible to predict the murders and overdose deaths that a drug kingpin ultimately causes. Also we have robberies, scams, shoplifting, assaults, Law enforcent and legal system costs, children who follow same the vicious cycle ETC...

The mindset someone of saying that a sentence like this is too harsh is weak, new age, wussified emotion (as opposed to sound and proven logic). Do you think that being a drug kingpin is something that you could ever do by accident? He made a conscious choice. A decision, over and over again until he was caught. His benefit outweighed the risk in his mind. If anything, the punishment should be heavier.

Look at a country like Singapore, they have the lowest crime rates on the earth. Crime has fallen every year for the last 20 years. Why? They are harsh on crime unlike us wussy western nations. Many Asian countries share a similar story.

It is clear if you listen to any of Santos' speeches, that he is playing a victim. He never takes responsibility for his actions. All he can do is take jabs at the legal system. He remains a deviant. I bet that if his money dries up and his wife leaves him that he will go back to a life of crime. He has done a lot to help prisoners become successful, and I agree with a lot of what he says, but I think that he is sorry for being caught, not for his crimes.


I agree. Sentencing is the problem! All those "ghetto kids" whom are born into destitute poverty (where the only people they're familiar with whom seem to have any wealth are the drug dealers) would be discouraged from selling drugs too if the punishments where higher!


Clearly they would. See Singapore - far more poverty there than here.


>His benefit outweighed the risk in his mind.

Why are you assuming he made a conscious decision? Why are you assuming he even knew what the penalties were, or contemplated being convicted, before taking on the endeavor?

>Look at a country like Singapore, they have the lowest crime rates on the earth. Crime has fallen every year for the last 20 years.

Crime rates have been on a gradual decline world-wide over the same period. Moreover, this is a good overview of the research into the cause of the decline: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-li...

TL;DR: It wasn't "tough on crime," it was phasing out leaded gasoline which had been causing neurological damage to children on a mass scale that was causing them to be irrational and violent as young adults.


>Why are you assuming he made a conscious decision? Why are you assuming he even knew what the penalties were, or contemplated being convicted, before taking on the endeavor?

I am not assuming anything. I am basing what I say on facts that are easily available.

>Crime rates have been on a gradual decline world-wide over the same period. Moreover, this is a good overview of the research into the cause of the decline: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-li....

TL;DR: It wasn't "tough on crime," it was phasing out leaded gasoline which had been causing neurological damage to children on a mass scale that was causing them to be irrational and violent as young adults.

Cool story, but I am talking drug abuse violations. These have quadrupled in the US over the last 25 years. http://bjs.gov/content/dcf/enforce.cfm while steadily dropping in Singapore over the same time period. The deviation clearly began when they got really insanely tough on drug crime.

So what does this have to do with lead?


> Obviously the sentence was not harsh enough

What? Does this mean that the death penalty isn't harsh enough because people still murder?

> It is impossible to predict the murders and overdose deaths that a drug kingpin ultimately causes.

A problem mentality indeed. The claim that a drug dealer "causes" overdose is just as ridiculous as the claim that a car salesman "causes" car crashes.

> Crime has fallen every year for the last 20 years. Why? They are harsh on crime unlike us wussy western nations. Many Asian countries share a similar story.

Correlation does not imply causation.

> The mindset someone of saying that a sentence like this is too harsh is weak, new age, wussified emotion (as opposed to sound and proven logic). Do you think that being a drug kingpin is something that you could ever do by accident? He made a conscious choice. A decision, over and over again until he was caught. His benefit outweighed the risk in his mind. If anything, the punishment should be heavier.

I cannot see where logic plays into any part of this argument. He knew he was dealing drugs and therefore should be punished exactly X amount? Being complicit in a crime is certainly more damning than being an unknowingly participant, but no part of your analysis uses "sound and proven logic" to derive a 25 year prison penalty.


>What? Does this mean that the death penalty isn't harsh enough because people still murder?

Most murders are not pre-meditated. It people were allowed to cool down for 12 hours somehow, right before they comitted a murder, the murder rate would drop by 80%. All drug dealing is pre-meditated. You are not comparing similar things.

>A problem mentality indeed. The claim that a drug dealer "causes" overdose is just as ridiculous as the claim that a car salesman "causes" car crashes.

Selling safety approved cars is not illegal. Cars (unlike street drugs) are actually meant to help society. Your logic is sadly misplaced. if I you build a car from scrap metal in your garage and sell it to someone that dies in it because the brakes fail though, you'd better believe you are going to prison (as you should). This is a better example of reality than your attempt at misdirection.

>Correlation does not imply causation.

Correlation? we are talking about 15 countries with billions of people here. Sorry, there is no bigger "study" that could ever be done. In Singapore or other Asian countries, this fellow would have been executed - no question about it.

>I cannot see where logic plays into any part of this argument. He knew he was dealing drugs and therefore should be punished exactly X amount? Being complicit in a crime is certainly more damning than being an unknowingly participant, but no part of your analysis uses "sound and proven logic" to derive a 25 year prison penalty.

It is every citizen's responsibility to know the law. Sentencing is publicly available information. He could have found out with a single phone call exactly what penalty he would be looking at. What I am saying is, he is no victim. He chose to convince himself that he would never be caught. The heavier the punishment, the harder it is to convince yourself that it is worth the risk. Asian countries have proven this quite sufficiently. The problem is that our wussified system deems harsh punishment to be "mean" and so enables far more people to suffer in the long run.

If anyone here is married and is raising children, they know exactly how this wussification has penetrated into the fiber of our society so deeply. It is from women gaining power and influence. Women will not punish kids appropriately, they are too emotional and not logical. They allow their emotion to prevent them from seeing the big picture. Punishing your child today is difficult. it requires a lot of effort and requires putting a lot of unhappiness on your kids and yourself, but if you let everything go or don't give a fitting punishment (severity and approach to be 'fitting' varies from child to child), you are enabling your kids to become worse and worse. Eventually they get so rotten than you may decide to put your foot down. It MAY not be too late at this juncture, but one thing is for sure, if you had only taken care of business at a much earlier stage, It would have required less effort and pain for everyone involved.

Furthermore, women are the reason for the crippling level of political correctness that exists today. Women have instilled so much of this that the media, politicians and any other person who is in a position of any influence is paralyzed. They cannot place blame for anything out any group without risking a huge backlash.

Women are the reason for such high unemployment. 50 years ago, people were told, you don't work - you don't eat. Now we give people unemployment then disability for the rest of their lives (Not to mention that there is less jobs to go around now because women don't stay home to raise their own children).

Same with illegal immigration blindness, Social programs spending and waste skyrocketing, over sized government, invading foreign lands to "help those poor citizens", Illegal drug tolerance, poor educational system, Day care raises our kids now for crying out loud. No wonder this country is going to hell in a hand basket. Most parents shouldn't even be allowed to have a cat let alone children. Most moms of young kids are at work for 10 hours during the day and watch 1.7 hours of TV at night. What the hell are the kids doing during this time? The worst part is that (western) men are just standing by and letting this thing go. They are being subjugated slowly. Wake up men and lead your family like your ancestors did. You yourself will not be an ancestor if you keep on this way.

I fear that the west will eventually will fall because of this. Left will be Asia and Africa.


Don't blame women for your insecurity and inability to function in this world.


> It is impossible to predict the murders and overdose deaths that a drug kingpin ultimately causes. Also we have robberies, scams, shoplifting, assaults, Law enforcent and legal system costs, ...

These are problems with drug prohibition, not drug use. This is like blaming whiskey for Al Capone.

Children follow the vicious drug cycle because of genetics. Most personality traits are fixed at the time of conception.


>These are problems with drug prohibition, not drug use. This is like blaming whiskey for Al Capone.

You are partly correct(except for on overdose deaths). If illicit drugs were legal, they would be a lot cheaper - thus less crime to obtain them. But there are plenty of Alcoholics today who do these same things for LEGAL alcohol.

The real problem though lies in what would happen if illicit drugs were accepted and available in society. Drugs are bad. What good comes of them for normal healthy people? How will they improve society? By letting people forget about their problems for a while rather than deal with them? I don't understand how they would make things so great.

>Children follow the vicious drug cycle because of genetics. Most personality traits are fixed at the time of conception.

Whose almost always end up in prison? Lifer junkies kids, or reformed junkies kids?

I have known two sets of identical twins (genetically identical) where one became a junkie (went to prison, homeless, etc) after falling in with the wrong crowd, and the other twin became a very successful person. The difference? one twin was convinced that it was OK to use illicit drugs, the other was not.

Do know that Native Americans are almost all ore-disposed to alcoholism, yet there were none before America was colonized by Europeans?


While in prison, he divorced, got married...

Wow, even prisoners get more life progress than I do lol



In all seriousness how does one date in prison?


You've not heard of the Conjugal visit? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conjugal_visit

This guy was publishing his writing to the public during his sentence. And of course you can still have pen pals using snail-mail.

Its not impossible to see how romances start from that. How they make them work long term remain a mystery to me, nevertheless it does happen. I can imagine that someone on the inside would really value the companionship of a partner with indisputable sincerity. That must count for something.


When the 20th reunion of Shorecrest High School, class of 1982, rolled around, Santos was in a low-security institution at Fort Dix, N.J., and unable to attend. But Carole Goodwin, who organized the event and had known him since fifth grade, tracked him down through his website.

Divorced, living with two kids in Lake Oswego, Ore., she had been aware of his criminal past but that didn't stop her. "I was drawn to him from the second I saw his picture," she says.

As he puts it, "She went to my website and wrote me a letter. That led to a correspondence and then a romance, and then we got married in a prison visiting room in 2003, at Fort Dix. I still had 11 years to go."


It takes all types. Women who like men in prison is a pretty well know phenomenon. It's no more bizarre than worldwide romances started via email with physical contact. If you're prepared to forgive someone for whatever landed them in jail in the first place, then it's just like any other long distance relationship.


the wiki references 'got married' to this article http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Inmate-shares-prison-s... (haven't read it yet)


Females like badguys :)


The story is amazing. But what continuously went through my head was how different our world will be 25 years from now. It'll be 2038...what will technology be like?

If you take a second to realize what it was 25 years ago, what it is now, and then ask yourself what it WILL be in 25 years...well shit, I was left speechless.


There will be no complex digital technology in 2038. Unix time will have ended. If you are particularly well-prepared, you may be able to trade 37 bushels of unhulled oats for a hand-cranked shortwave radio receiver. An even, disembodied voice on it will remind you to remain indoors.


Old joke...


Still got a good laugh from it.


My great-aunt remembers the time the first car arrived in her village in the 1800s. She lived to fly across the Atlantic in a jetliner, and see the moon landings.


She remembers? Wow. That's amazing. How old is she now then?


She passed in the 1980's. She was born in 1890 or so.


You surely mean 1900s, right? Or 1890's?


The latter is unlikely, as the oldest person still alive was born in 1897.


Except for computers and the internet, science and technology have been stagnant for the past 50 years. Our civilization is in decline. In 25 years, we will only have slightly refined versions of what we have today.


"science and technology have been stagnant for the past 50 years."

Exactly, especially the continued use of old drugs, lack of modern genetics, continued use of Bakelite and iron instead of aiming to develop newer materials such as composites and carbon fibers and modern alloys is appalling. And we still don't know how old the universe is, if there are planets at all outside the Solar system at all, we still have to wait for the images of outer planets, nobody really knows how to fight cancer, people around the world are starving because the green revolution has never happened, treating complicated medical cases is difficult due to the lack of X-ray tomography and MRI, sailors still navigate using a sextant because a global satellite navigation is completely inconceivable and innocent people rot in jail even though DNA evidence could prove their innocence at least in some cases.


"So, other than that, how did you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080803233506AA...


http://youtu.be/A1mhhtpmXfo -- last mile in Norway.

Instead of condemning inmates, rehabilitate them.


It was Sweden (with a similar system to Norway) where Frank Abagnale[1] (Catch Me If You Can) spent some time and spoke highly of the penal system of the Scandinavian countries. I think he mentioned they were paid a fair wage, able to take real college courses (not just correspondence) and made other attempts at real rehabilitation.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Abagnale


The Swedish system tries to rehabilitate prisoners using various evidence-based methods. For some types of prisoners it works very well.

Prisoners are paid but only a few cents per hour. They generally spend it all on buying cigarettes.

The punishments are much lower in Sweden than in the US. Drug smuggling offences and murders carry the longest penalties. I would say on average penalties are a factor 5x or 10x lower. This seems to be good for both criminal and society. Prisoners know they will have a life again after prison so they want to rehabilitate and prepare.

However, the last 10 years of very high immigration from the muslim countres of middle east and north africa is rapidly filling Swedish prisons. The chief of Kumla maximum security facility was recently in the news saying that 80% of his prison are muslim. Politicians don't want to touch the subject out of fears of being branded racist, but it's vividly discussed on the net in forums such as flashback.net


Wow, thanks for the insight. I didn't realize things had changed so drastically in Sweden in the past decade.

So just statistically speaking, has the overall crime rate gone up drastically in Sweden throughout the past decade or is it more of a slight bump? Just wondering if it has gone up enough that the average person notices in their daily lives or if it's more of a news report/sound bite for politicians? I'm not an expert by any means on Sweden, but I always thought of it as having a progressive legal system and low crime rate.


Crime is up.

Statistics are complicated and there's no simple truth, but the number of reported crimes have risen dramatically since the 1950s (when immigration started). [1] As soon as you start discussion why there is an increase you're holding a very hot potato. For example, if you look at the armed robberies in 1987 and compare with 2011, the number of armed robberies by Swedish citizens are constant, but the number of armed robberies in Sweden by foreign citizens have quadrupled in absolute terms, or relatively speaking, the percentage of armed robberies have gone from 40% to 70% foreign citizens. From 1975 to 2006, violent crime is up 200%

Some say Sweden's crime rate is out of control [4]

Mind you, I still perceive Sweden as a land with a low crime rate. It seems international crime statistics are very hard to compare. For intentional homicides, the rate in 1997 was 1.77 for Sweden, 0.54 for Japan, and 6.80 for USA. For major assaults, the rate in 1997 was 37.93 for Sweden, compared with 20.91 for Japan, and 382.31 for USA. For rapes, the rate in 1997 was 14.71 for Sweden, 1.31 for Japan, and 35.93 for USA. For robberies, the rate in 1997 was 75.04 for Sweden, 2.23 for Japan, and 186.27 for USA. [5]

[1] Wikipedia has a trend graph : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_Sweden

[2] Robberies graph, blue citizens red foreigners: http://affes.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/ran_1987_1999_2011....

[3] violent crime graph: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anm%C3%A4ld_misshandel_197...

[4] http://cavatus.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/sweden%E2%80%99s-cri...

[5] http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/rwinslow/europe/sweden.htm...


Immigration of large numbers of poor, unassimilated people is a problem, as much as European countries are loathe to admit it. I don't have evidence to prove it, but my hypothesis is that much of what makes the scandenavian countries work historically is a homogenous population with a strong sense of community.


>"Maybe prisons in the US should be paid on rehabilitation rate and not incarceration rate."

Credit: http://www.reddit.com/r/worldnews/comments/196pe7/norwegian_...


I don't think I could handle a quarter century in prison. That's just insane. Had his sentence been closer to 30 years, he would have served his first term the year my dad graduated from college, and he would have been released the year I intend to graduate. Crazy. 25 years is longer than I tend to think. It's from, like, black-and-white Beatle-mania to the Apple Macintosh. Or, in this case, from the Macintosh to the iPhone.


What kind of idiotic policy is it to keep prisoners from using the internet, computers, or electric typewriters? Are they trying to make it so that prisoners have no options but crime once they get out?


I'd believe that.


It would be harder to monitor inmates. Prisons have to monitor written letters, phone calls, and visits. As a taxpayer, would you want to allocate more of your hard earned money for computers for prisoners?


>As a taxpayer, would you want to allocate more of your hard earned money for computers for prisoners?

Yes. Helping prisoners build skill sets that allow them to get jobs outside of crime prevents recidivism. Considering that computer hardware becomes obsolete at a breakneck rate, the ROI of throwing old hardware at prisoners is pretty high.


Another page about the exact same thing was here the other day. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5593659


I KNOW! I am a bit surprised that people are talking about it again. Well, it is an amazing story...


Don't get me wrong, it's a good read, and Michael should be so proud of what he's achieved within those 25 years and be excited for the future. I wish him the best of luck.

I'm just amazed that this story is being regurgitated by an audience who will probably visit HN every day.


Yeah, OP here, didn't think people would even click this .. but you always never know with HN.


   "Staff members oversaw policies that placed enormous barriers between the 
    people inside boundaries and society. In the prisons where I served my 
    sentence, prisoners were even prohibited from accessing electronic 
    typewriters. They had their reasons, I suppose, but blocking people inside 
    from using technology did not go far in preparing them for success upon 
    release."
They have a very good reason actually. Any mechanism for communication will let people on the outside order people they know on the inside to murder other people they know on the inside. Prisons have to go to great lengths to prevent message passing and compartmentalize prisoners from each other. Quiet a few are just itching to kill each other, apparently.


Well, they could work harder on the 2nd part and relaxing the first.

Prisions have a LOT of wrong things with them, which vary from country to country.

In my country there's so much overcrowding that Human Rights people aren't exactly clamoring for Internet access - there was an atrocious fire a while back which killed a lot of inmates, there simply aren't enough prisions.


I cannot imagine how shocked he must have been to have such immense amounts of knowledge at his fingertips. Coming out of prison and seeing new incredible technologies would be amazing. When I was a teenager I worked at a grocery store and I was washing my hands in the bathroom. The faucets were motion activated. A man walked up to them and looked at them and then looked at me and said, "How do you turn these on?" I told him that you just put your hands underneath and they turn on automatically. He said, "Wow, I've been in prison for a while."


This is awesome. I doubt it'll get much attention on here, but this guy has done something amazing from an otherwise terrible experience and made a difference.

If anyone wants to dig a little deeper, there are a lot of organizations working with prisoners for success stories like this. Check out http://thelastmile.org, and http://startupnow.org.uk


I had a recent post about how this guy got married in the jail: http://www.quora.com/Prisons/How-do-you-nurture-and-maintain...

I think the story was a bit too good to be true. If it is completely true, it is just too amazing!!!


He writes as a man who is grateful to enjoy the freedom of outside life again. I posted the article to my Facebook wall with the tagline, "He really appreciates what he was missing."

Since the big comment subthread here is about the author's criminal history and what that means to society, I should probably comment on that issue too. I've lived in east Asia, and once upon a time, I thought that there was a generation of Americans who had all heard of the Opium Wars and understood the historical context of why several countries in that part of the world want nothing to do with their common people having access to most drugs. Harsh drug laws in some places--including the death penalty for what seems to Americans like dealing rather small amounts of drugs--is a reaction to a historical experience in which whole countries were ruined by foreign drug dealers (British imperialists trading in opium) and their local agents. I'm not personally in favor of the death penalty for all drug dealers, but I can empathize with (for example) a parent of a child who started using drugs who would want the child's dealer in prison for the rest of his life or even dead.

Of course we want to look to other countries for historical examples too. In Europe, where the historical experience was different, there has been some decriminalization, but very little "legalization" of drugs.

http://www.holland.com/us/tourism/article/dutch-drug-policy....

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/03/dutch-dr...

http://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/time-to-end-the-war-on...

I am tentatively convinced that a national drug policy that focuses mostly on keeping users from harming other people and on helping users to stop using is perhaps a better national drug policy than harsh criminal penalties for dealing in drugs--in countries that have already established a drug-using culture. But east Asia, with very harsh drug laws and a culture of limited use, is doing well in human progress,

http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/08/15/singapore...

http://www.economist.com/news/21566430-where-be-born-2013-lo...

so that policy choice has to be put in the mix too in evaluating what will work well as the United State reforms a national drug policy that everyone seems to decry.


I was under the impression that the Opium Wars were not primarily about opium, but rather imperialism. The British wanted control, so did the Chinese. If it hadn't been opium, it would have been, god knows what, silk or pepper.

> I can empathize with (for example) a parent of a child who started using drugs would want the child's dealer in prison for the rest of his life or even dead.

I can empathize too, but this runs counter to the idea of justice. I'd want to have the hand chopped off the guy who stole my bicycle (actually, I'd want to do it myself), but justice must separate the passion of the victim from an objective measure of the damage the crime did to society.


Smearing every substance that happens to be illegal in a certain country at a certain time with the pejorative label "drug" both unfair, ignorant, and counterproductive.

Good arguments could be made for considering alcohol, coffee, and cigarettes "drugs", and yet most people don't think of them in that way.

In fact, in some societies alcohol, coffee, and tobacco were outlawed -- even to the point of instituting the death penalty for their posession or use.[1][4] In some societies, the posession or consumption of alcohol is still forbidden; while in others it's quite commonplace and not considered a big deal.

Coffee drinking has been accepted nearly everywhere as a virtually harmless or even beneficial activity. But look at the fear and outrage it generated in earlier European society as evidenced in Bach's humorous Coffee Cantata,[2] or in the Middle East where for a time it was made illegal.[4]

Perhaps one could argue that opium is worse than coffee, alcohol, or tobacco, and so deserves to be called a "drug" and made illegal. But counter arguments have been made that at least alcohol and tobacco are actually worse, and should be made illegal if any of these substances are. Alcohol actually has been made illegal in the US in the past and that hasn't worked out so well.[3]

And where does all this leave psychedelics, many of which have been shown to be far less harmful than opium, alcohol, and tobacco? In fact, many studies have shown the benefit of psychedelics when used constructively for therapeutic purposes.[5] There's also a long history of psychedelic and other currently illegal substance use in religious ritual, and of the belief that these substances are sacred.

Should people go to jail for helping themselves and others, for peacefully practicing their religion, or for seeking to expand their minds and awareness through these substances? Should these substances be called "drugs", "sacraments", or "tools"?

Advocates of the so-called "war on drugs" often will not accept or even acknowledge the possibility of constructive, positive currently illegal substance use. They tend to smear all such use as drug abuse.

Yet much of what society values: music, art, literature, religion, technology, science, and medicine has been positively influenced by currently illegal substance use.

To take one relatively uncontroversial example: odds are that much of the music that most readers of this post listen to every day was inspired directly or indirectly by these substances. It might not say that on the album cover, but dig in to it a bit and you'll see that either the musicians who made the music themselves used these substances to inspire their music, or the musicians who strongly influenced them did. The same goes for a lot of art and literature. This leads to another important point: much of the good that currently illegal substances do is unacknowledged because there's a stigma against admitting that you use or approve of them.

If you look at the history of mind-altering substance use and the reaction of socieites to these substances, a clear pattern emerges where it is usually new mind-altering substances that are feared and made illegal, while mind-altering substances that have had a long history of use in that society are tolerated or even considered sacred (as in the wine drunk during Catholic rituals, or coffee's use by Sufi mystics[4]).

Another feature of drug prohibition is that there are often religious, moralistic and puritanical aspects to reactions against certain substances. Some altered states of consciousness achievable through the use of these substances are considered to be "impure" or "derranged" in some way, and their users are considered immoral, depraved or wicked. Anti-drug crusaders often adopt a moralistic, "holier than thou" attitude towards users.

Racism and xenophobia are other common features of the drug war. Substances which minorities choose to use (like crack used in black ghettoes) are stigmatized, while substances which the dominant majority chooses to use (like cocaine use in white suburbs or on Wall St) are effectively tolerated.

Political opportunism plays a huge role, as does the eagerness of politicians to appear like they're being "tough on crime".

Finally, there's the economic aspect -- where the prison industry, police, lawyers, judges, and the Drug Enforcement Agency benefit from arrests, imprisonments, and asset forfeitures. The alcohol and tobacco industries, and arguably the pharmaceutical industry also stands to benefit from keeping certain substances illegal.

[1] - Just one example of many: "c. 1650 The use of tobacco is prohibited in Bavaria, Saxony, and Zurich, but the prohibitions are ineffective. Sultan Murad IV of the Ottoman Empire decrees the death penalty for smoking tobacco: "Wherever the Sultan went on his travels or on a military expedition his halting-places were always distinguished by a terrible increase in the number of executions. Even on the battlefield he was fond of surprising men in the act of smoking, when he would punish them by beheading, hanging, quartering, or crushing their hands and feet . . . . Nevertheless, in spite of all the horrors of this persecution . . . the passion for smoking still persisted.'" - http://www.trivia-library.com/a/history-of-legal-and-illegal...

[2] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee_Cantata

[3] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prohibition

[4] - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22190802

[5] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychedelic_therapy



It's a good talk. He's very confident, has a good message, and really doesn't like the CCA. His argument seems spot on, but changing a 750 billion dollar won't be easy. He needs a few more incarcerated "disciples" to come good after following his program or methods, to learn behind bars and emerge from prison all knowing. Proof other than his own story is what's needed, because not all education is equal. You can call a dusty old library with crappy books "education" and get the green tick at "prison education audit time".


This guy is dangerously naive. He seems to think (with ardent passion) that regimes in the middle east fell because "Twitter made that happen."

Okay, sir. Time to settle down and reel that nonsense back in.

He speaks emotionally about things that aren't necessarily tethered to reality and his facts aren't precise, and maybe he has the amnesia of a politician.

His message is that prisons are bad, and that we should rethink the manner of punishment we exact on people. His passion is very obviously motivated by personal experience, and that doesn't invalidate his message. Essentially, I agree with him. But. I'm not drinking his kool-ade about "OMG INTERNETZ."

Yes, I'll entertain his notions about prison being an inefficient and destructive practice that mostly leaves inmates as damaged wrecks, and possibly transforms many into more terrible criminals than they might've been without jail time. But I'm going to take his message with a grain of salt.

When I say dangerous, I mean it. He is too new to the internet, to extoll its virtues. In the same talk in which he absolutely RAILS against the privatization of prisons (which is an evil all its own, and yeah I'll agree with his points on that) his next words advocate just haphazardly dumping absolutely anything into the hands of large, corporate, profit-driven nigh-monopolies like Facebook. There's a cognitive dissonance in those two concepts that he very obviously hasn't thought deeply about (and to be fair, maybe he hasn't been given the time yet).

Which is surprising, I might add, considering that he's a man who had his mail read by prison staff, his phone calls monitored, and was displaced across 19 prisons during his time served.

He needs to acclimate himself with some of the debacles of the recent internet over the past 5 years in particular, and maybe familiarize himself with personalities like Julian Assange. If he can bring himself to understand certain realities about the internet, and how it can enable evil as well as good, maybe he wouldn't be so quick to proclaim that it's some kind of universal salve, which can cure all our ills.


In a hundred years from now, they will look at the war on terror end the criminalization of it as one of the most useless and primitive forms of legislation ever made.

Tens of thousands of innocent people gets killed every year, because we don't want people who have made far more conscious "choices" to become heroine addict.


This article has been posted so many times now... c'mon people...


At this moment it's in first position, I guess that's because most of HN readers (including me) haven't read it before, so the repost is totally worth it.


I agree but I think, as a general rule on HN, that any repost - or maybe any article dated earlier than the current date - should include the date in the title.


I thought I had seen it on HN as well, but I just searched around and realized it was a Quora post from 3 months ago that I was thinking of by the same guy. Apparently Santos went from knowing zero about technology to being a viral marketing master.


It's not surprising with his unique story...sensationalism sells, especially when it's true.


first time I've seen it. thanks OP


OP here. Honestly, hadn't seen it posted. On HN multiple times per day. Very surprised at the traction of the article, given it's a month old story. Whatever, it's a great narrative for people.


Hmmm... it is on the top of HN (maybe again); whats the problem?




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