Contributing recovering politician Jeff Smith, who spent a year in federal prison for lying to federal authorities about a minor campaign finance violation, offers advice to his fellow pol/prisoner/hoopster Richie Farmer, set to spend some time in the can for public corruption charges. Here are excerpts from Smith’s piece in the (Louisville) Courier Journal:
Use your basketball skills to help others. Running the point and making your teammates better may be an effective way to build alliances.
• Be careful on the court. Some people who have it out for you may exploit the opportunity to try to hurt you on the athletic field and not get in trouble for it….
Don’t break prison rules.
• This may seem contradictory. The last rule suggested that you should tolerate prison rule-breaking — and you should. But try not to violate rules yourself.
• Don’t gamble. If you lose, you’ll be in debt and you do not want to be compromised like that. If you win, someone will be angry and may figure out a way to get his money back — a way that might leave you unrecognizable.
• Don’t “hold” anything someone asks you to hold. Even if it looks innocuous, it’s probably got contraband inside of it…
Don’t look for trouble.
• Don’t change the TV channel. There is a stringent seniority-based regime when it comes to TV watching, and your celebrity does not entitle you to alter it in any way.
• Don’t stare. There is generally no reason to make eye contact unless someone says your name.
• Don’t eat the Snickers. During orientation, you’ll watch a mandatory sexual assault prevention video featuring a guy warning you not to eat the Snickers bar that may be waiting for you on your bed in your cell. (The actor ate the one left under his pillow, unwittingly signaling the predator who left it for him that he was ready and willing.) All the guys watching the video will laugh. But take the video’s message to heart: Don’t accept sweets from anyone.
We’ve all seen it, a politician’s life derailed by scandal or personal crisis. While in years past that meant retirement from public life, nowadays we’re just as likely to see these individuals re-emerge to campaign another day.
On Wednesday’s Up to Date, we look at crisis management with Jeff Smith, one of the contributors to The Recovering Politician’s Twelve-Step Guide to Surviving Crisis. A recovering legislator himself, Smith relates his path from the Missouri statehouse to prison. He reveals how the lessons he and others have learned in handling their crises can be beneficial even to those of us who live much more private lives.
Jenji Kohan, the creator of Netflix’s new hit series Orange Is The New Black, had to grapple with a pretty serious conundrum: How do you make a compulsively watchable series about a milieu whose defining characteristic is boredom? And yet, the show’s writers have pulled it off.
Of course, they have had to take some liberties; the series is based on Piper Kerman’s memoir but is highly fictionalized. So what did they get right about prison life, and what did they miss?
Though my year in federal prison was quite unlike Piper Kerman’s — largely on account of the differences between men’s and women’s prisons — here’s my assessment of where Orange nailed it and where it missed the mark.
Here’s what they get right:
Small things can have outsize consequences — in positive and negative ways.
By Jonathan Miller, on Wed Aug 14, 2013 at 2:30 PM ET
MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” talks with Piper Kerman, the real-life inspiration behind the series, “Orange is the New Black”, and Jeff Smith, a former Missouri state
senator who read Kerman’s memoir while in prison on campaign finance violations, about the prison system in the U.S. and AG Holder’s recent remarks about mandatory prison minimums.
They call themselves “recovering politicians”—political figures whose careers and dreams have come crashing down because of scandals. Two of them are Missourians.
State Senator Jeff Smith was a rising star in the Democratic Party when he went to federal prison for a year for lying to federal investigators about a minor campaign finance law violation. Former Speaker of the House Rod Jetton was looking at a lucrative career as a political consultant when he became entangled in a one-night stand of rough sex. He avoided prison by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge. But his political career, like Smith’s, was ruined.
Smith knew as soon as he heard that an associate had been charged with a series of non-campaign crimes that he was political toast. “In just a few moments of weakness in that first campaign, I now realized that I’d thrown away everything that I’d worked for all my life,” he told county officials last November.
And Jetton realized as soon as his incident became public that he could not avoid admitting what he’d done—to his father, a Baptist minister. “That pretty much strips your pride away,” he has told us.
Their book is called “The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis.” Smith and Jetton are two of about a dozen former office-holders whose lives have taken new directions since their falls from grace. Jetton now is in private business and is president of a political newspaper that covers the Capitol. Smith now is a political science college teacher in New York and has written several political articles for national magazines.
The book: The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis, …
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The first Correctional Officer (CO) I met was straight out of Deliverance. I came in with a young black guy who mumbled and a middle-aged Chinese man who spoke broken English, but at least I could decipher their words. The CO was harder to understand. Manchester, Kentucky is tucked in an Appalachian mountain hollow, and he had apparently never left. When he sauntered into the austere, concrete holding room and asked the Chinese man his name, the man replied, “Shoi-ming Chung.”
“Sesame Chicken?” replied the CO; laughing uproariously and then repeating it twice as if it were the funniest thing he’d ever heard.
He sent me to a heavyset nurse for a battery of questions.
“Height and weight?” she asked.
“5’6”, 120 pounds.”
She examined my slight frame and frowned. “Education level?”
She shot me a skeptical look. “Last profession?”
She rolled her eyes. “Well, I’ll put it down if ya want. If ya wanna play games, play games. You’ll fit right in – we got ones who think they’re Jesus Christ, too.”
Another guard escorted me to a bathroom without a door. He was morbidly obese and spoke gruffly in a thick Kentucky drawl. “Stree-ip,” he commanded. I did. “Tern’round,” he barked. I did.
“Open up yer prison wallet,” he ordered.
I looked at him quizzically.
“Tern’round and open up yer butt cheeks.”
“Alright, you’se good to go.”
Read the rest of… Former State Sen. Jeff Smith: From Politics to Prison — AN EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis
Jeff Smith spent a year in prison. But what he discovered inside wasn’t what he expected — he saw in his fellow inmates boundless ingenuity and business savvy. He asks: Why don’t we tap this entrepreneurial potential to help ex-prisoners contribute to society once they’re back outside? (From the TED Talent Search event TED@NewYork.)
Many have written eloquently about Jesse Jackson Jr.’s sad fall. But now it’s time for Jackson to focus on minimizing his penalty and reputational damage in order to preserve future opportunities for himself and his family.
In his letter of resignation from Congress, Jackson eschewed the defiance of Rod Blagojevich, suggesting a guilty plea is likely. Jackson also said he is cooperating with investigators.
But cooperation has a legal meaning far stronger than its common meaning; a defendant can be “cooperative” without cooperating in the legal sense. That is, a defendant may promptly fulfill most of a prosecutor’s specific pre-indictment requests — detailing his crime(s), resigning from office, declining interviews, etc — but that won’t be enough to receive an elusive 5K-1 letter, the government’s reward for defendants who help them make cases against others. A 5K-1 letter is the best way to persuade a judge to depart downward from federal sentencing guidelines.
The public typically associates politicians with ambition. But many investigators are similarly motivated. Law enforcement officials know that people who prosecute Joe Sixpacks aren’t first in line for promotions. The chosen — and those who write books, appear on TV, or even seek office themselves — are investigators who pursue the biggest scalps. (See Congressman-elect George Holding, the prosecutor who indicted John Edwards and then resigned to seek office before the trial.)
Therein lies Jackson’s problem/opportunity. He is surrounded by possible high-value targets: his dad, the famed civil-rights leader who runs Operation PUSH; his wife, Sandi, a prominent Chicago alderwoman; his brothers Jonathan and Yusef, businessmen/activists who own a lucrative beer distributorship purchased after their father had organized a boycott of the brewery’s products; dozens of high-level public officials with whom he mingles.
Sun-Times columnist Mike Sneed reported Friday that Jackson is, in fact, “singing with the voice of an anxious canary” and that the feds are interested in all he knows about a “powerful dem femme” who is not an alderman.
Read the rest of… Jeff Smith: Should Jesse Jr. Cooperate with the Feds?
As our regular RP Nation readers know, contributing recovering politician and former Missouri State Senator Jeff Smith spent a year in a federal prison due to circumstances relating around a campaign finance violation. His pieces about his political rise and fall, and his observations about sex in prison have been this site’s most popular reads — by far.
A few months ago, he gave some helpful advice to former Governor Rod Blagojevitch upon the beginning of his prison term.
Today, he answers the question on the minds of many Americans: What can the nation’s most infamous pedophile — former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky — expect during his life term in prison. It is certainly not what the mainstream media has reported:
Last week, the Washington Postran an AP story about what ex-Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky can expect in prison.
I’m not sure if they ran such an airbrushed version out of naivete or because it’s a family newspaper. But in case anyone is curious, let me see if I can shed a bit more light.
If prison were India, there would be two classes of untouchables: snitches and pedophiles. Child molesters try desperately to blend into the population. However, the most famous pedophile in the nation right now is going to have a hard time blending in.
1) According to the Post, Sandusky “will be able to watch college football, including Penn State, when the games are broadcast on ESPN or another major network.”
If the television set in the common area is tuned to the Penn St. game, then Sandusky just might be able to watch it. But if it’s not, and Sandusky – or any other newbie – walks up to try to change the channel, the result will not be pretty.
2) The Post notes that cards, dominoes, and board games. are popular prison activities in which Sandusky could participate.
No one will want to be seen playing cards with Jerry Sandusky. From the minute Sandusky walks onto the compound, he will be targeted, and anyone who voluntarily and publicly associates with him will immediately be suspect.
3) The Post writes that Pennsylvania prison cells are designed for two people, but it’s possible he could end up in his own cell or in a small dormitory.
It’s not just “possible,” it’s overwhelmingly likely. Given the fact that he will be in danger from the moment he arrives, I imagine that he’ll start out in isolation until emotions surrounding the case cool. If not, anyone Sandusky is placed with would have to fight Sandusky in order to preserve his own reputation, which would lead to the removal of one (or both) from the cell. The problem would likely continue for as long as Sandusky is placed in the general population.
4) According to the Post, Sandusky could be swapped in for an inmate in another state.
It’s possible, but it probably wouldn’t change anything for him: his face was ubiquitous around the country, not just in Pennsylvania.
5) Inmates, noted the Post, generally spend an hour in the yard, which might entail playing softball, though the bat has to be tethered and secured to the backstop.
The bat being tethered to the backstop would not prevent it from being used on anyone standing (or dragged to a location) near the backstop.
Read the rest of… Jeff Smith: What Sandusky Can Expect in Prison — And What the Washington Post Doesn’t Understand