Summary of “Matthew Cox: The True-Crime Writer in the Prison Yard”

Updated on July 19, 2019 at 5:05 p.m. ET.Last April, I received an odd email from a man named Matthew Cox.
It called Cox and Hauck “The Bonnie and Clyde of mortgage fraud,” deemed Cox “a master con artist,” and detailed his and Hauck’s “Six-state crime spree.” As he read on, the story grew uglier.
The self-published book, Once a Gun Runner, has been the subject of protracted legal battles among all three men, with Cox suing Diveroli and Reback, Reback and Diveroli suing Cox, and all of them suing Warner Bros.
Once word got out that there was a writer in cellblock B4, other guys would sidle up to Cox in the yard, urging him to tell their story, or their buddy’s story.
They’d meet in the library, or in the prison yard, or over tater tots in the chow hall, and Cox would ask probing questions, taking notes in his own ersatz version of a reporter’s notebook: a sheaf of loose-leaf paper stapled to a rectangle of cardboard.
Cox could conduct phone interviews only in the 15-minute increments the prison system allowed, and then only if the person accepted his collect call.
At the 2013 sentence-reduction hearing, Cox’s public defender said that Cox had “Done more, given more information to the government, than any case that I have ever had in 20 years.” He’d cooperated with the FBI; given newspaper interviews about his dealings with a corrupt member of the Tampa city council; and contributed to a fraud course that was used to help mortgage brokers and loan officers spot criminal activity.
“There’s all these girls on YouTube that have done literally 45-minute videos on their favorite podcasts about true crime,” Cox told me, his eyes widening.

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Summary of “How Norway turns criminals into good neighbours”

What is the point of sending someone to prison – retribution or rehabilitation? Twenty years ago, Norway moved away from a punitive “Lock-up” approach and sharply cut reoffending rates.
“We are prison ‘officers’ and of course we make sure an inmate serves his sentence but we also help that person become a better person. We are role models, coaches and mentors. And since our big reforms, recidivism in Norway has fallen to only 20% after two years and about 25% after five years. So this works!”.
The architecture of Halden Prison has been designed to minimise residents’ sense of incarceration, to ease psychological stress and to put them in harmony with the surrounding nature – in fact the prison, which cost £138m to build, has won several design awards for its minimalist chic.
“We start planning their release on the first day they arrive,” explains Hoidal, as we walk through to the carpentry workshop where several inmates are making wooden summer houses and benches to furnish a new prison being built in the south of Norway.
Once every three months, inmates with children can apply to a “Daddy In Prison” scheme which, if they pass the necessary safeguarding tests, means they can spend a couple of nights with their partner, sons and daughters in a cosy chalet within the prison grounds.
She tells me how shocked she was, when visiting a prison in the UK, that prison officers told her it was dangerous to stand in certain places around the building as the inmates might throw things down on her.
The smaller prison population means that at Halden prison each officer can be given three individual prisoners for whom he or she will act as a point of contact.
There certainly is drug dealing at Halden, he admits, but these are not drugs like heroin and spice that have been smuggled into the prison from outside, they tend to be medications – opiates and painkillers – that inmates have been prescribed by prison doctors.

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Summary of “How Private Equity Is Turning Public Prisons into Big Profits”

It’s hardly an aberration; rather, it is just one of the most flagrant examples of private companies taking over core services in the United States’ publicly operated jails and prisons.
Hadar Aviram, a legal scholar, calls this phenomenon “Piecemeal privatization.” She warns that, while the problems with privately operated prisons have been well documented, “Focusing on private-prison companies misses the fact that public correctional institutions are also, essentially, privatized.” Fully private prisons hold less than a tenth of the nearly 2.2 million people incarcerated in America.
“The big draw was rumors of free cold soft drinks in the chow hall. If you’re locked up, the amenities of life are pretty few, so that’s remarkable.” Two years later, he was sent to Tennessee’s South Central Correctional Facility, run by the corporation CCA. Once he arrived, he said, “I figured it out. Soft drinks are just sugar syrup and water, and thus cheap,” allowing private companies, he speculated, to meet state caloric requirements at little cost.
Some commissaries are state run, but estimated revenues suggest that HIG’s correctional food company likely profits off of more than half of all prisoner spending nationwide; it is clearly the largest commissary company that has ever existed.
When Bianca Tylek was sifting through the 3,100 companies in her Corrections Accountability Project report, she noticed a peculiar trend: “On a systemic level, the thing that really emerged is how active private equity has been in shaping the prison-industrial complex and how many of the biggest actors in the field are owned by private-equity companies.” She paused.
Tylek said private-equity-brokered roll-ups-deals like HIG’s that bundle fragmented regional players into national conglomerates-have profoundly reshaped the correctional-services industry; “Without PE shops, these companies could not have become as big and as exploitative as they are today.”47.
After seeing my research, Howell said, “There are definitely parallels here.” In both cases, she pointed out, the government serves as middleman between company and consumer-via federal loans in education and via state contracts in prisons.
Less widely known is that the same food, health-care, commissary, and financial-services companies that dominate America’s jails and prisons also profit off subcontracts with ICE detention centers, such as the notorious processing facility in Adelanto, California.

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Summary of “New York inmates beat Cambridge University in a debate about nuclear weapons”

As members of a storied debate team, they had competed the world over but never in a place like this – a stripped-down hall in a maximum-security prison in Upstate New York that looms among the Catskill Mountains like a medieval castle.
The inmates were going up against one of the oldest and arguably the most prestigious debate teams not just in the nation but the world – a 200-year-old institution that has hosted speakers the likes of Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Stephen Hawking and the Dalai Lama.
Could the three incarcerated men, from a six-year-old debate team with no access to the Internet or to the world beyond their prison walls, outsmart the Cambridge team, ranked among the top teams at this year’s world debating championship?
Chatman tried to play it cool as he thanked the Cambridge students for coming all the way to Upstate New York to debate his team, “For taking us seriously,” he said.
His favorite debate topic before debate became his sport: the NBA, with Chatman deftly arguing in favor of the New York Knicks and why Carmelo Anthony is “Not as bad as they say he is.”
The prison debate team has lost only two of 10 debates so far, but beating the storied Cambridge team mattered to Chatman.
Most debate teams would be able to Google that number on the spot, but the inmates have access only to the books in the prison’s library, to digital encyclopedias in the prison’s computer lab and to each other.
He said, the entire prison supports the debate team as though it were their version of a football team, with the 20-member debate team and other Bard students engaging in impromptu practice sessions while lifting weights in the gym, playing basketball, eating lunch in the mess hall as the rest of the inmates cheer them on.

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Summary of “The Dangerous Dregs of ISIS”

A few days before the collapse of the Islamic State’s caliphate, I visited one of the new “Pop-up prisons” that had been hastily converted to hold thousands of surrendering ISIS fighters in Syria.
More than five thousand ISIS fighters surrendered in the final month of fighting alone.
Between December and March, another sixty-three thousand family members of ISIS fighters-wives enveloped in black niqabs that cover their faces, and bedraggled young children-also poured out of Baghouz, the last ISIS redoubt in Syria.
Some don’t want to reveal their identities-or their roles with ISIS. I interviewed three of the prison’s foreign detainees: a middle-aged misfit from Chicago, who was lured to Syria by ISIS propaganda; a Moroccan who, as an “Emir of morality,” acknowledged witnessing at least ten stonings of women accused of adultery and the burning of some forty Yazidi women who were put in a cage, covered with fuel, and set on fire; and a lanky Turk with a prosthetic leg, which was his souvenir from a U.S. air strike.
The camp for the dregs of ISIS in al-Hawl was one of the dreariest places I’ve seen over forty years in the Middle East.
In mid-February, as ISIS fighters started surrendering in droves, President Trump tweeted a demand to European allies, notably Britain, France, and Germany, to take back more than eight hundred European fighters captured in Syria.
Gathering sufficient evidence to detain, try, or imprison any of the ISIS fighters is an enormous challenge-unless, as one Western official told me, they were depicted in social-media videos actually beheading people.
“All of these people still believe in the ISIS ideology. We are forced to solve this problem with the countries that they belong to. If we don’t, it’s going to be dangerous for all of our futures.”

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Summary of “Operation Varsity Blues: Meet the pricey consultant preparing accused parents for prison”

The lawyer wanted to know whether Paperny – a federal prison consultant and felon who prepares people for life behind bars – was available to discuss the case.
While the college admissions scheme captured the public’s attention last week, temporarily uniting the left and the right in disgust, prison consultants such as Paperny went to work.
“There’s a million questions that go through people’s minds in the beginning,” said Paperny, who helps clients organize their finances and find job opportunities before they go into prison, as well as after.
As a former Bear Stearns stockbroker who spent 18 months in federal prison for conspiring to commit fraud, Paperny is uniquely qualified to discuss ethical failings when he visits the university.
A decade after his release, his eight-person firm, White Collar Advice, has become a go-to resource for wealthy criminals preparing for prison.
To aid them in this process, Paperny asks some clients to film YouTube videos in which they recount their illegal behavior, such as one he filmed with Jonathan Schwartz, a former business manager who was sentenced to six years in prison for embezzling millions from singer Alanis Morissette.
The unregulated prison consultant industry, which is full of ex-convicts, has long been a controversial one.
Paperny served as a bulwark against the chaos, Shelley said, offering guidance that has been well worth the thousands of dollars he’s spent on prison consulting.

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Summary of “To end mass incarceration, cap all prison sentences at 20 years”

It’s time for a radical idea that could really begin to reverse mass incarceration: capping all prison sentences at no more than 20 years.
A cap on prison sentences wouldn’t on its own end mass incarceration.
How a 20-year sentence cap could work Capping prison sentences at 20 years – an idea that I first heard from Sentencing Project executive director Marc Mauer – is a really consequential policy change that could affect the lives of up to hundreds of thousands of people.
20 years in prison is still a very long time, so people sentenced at the cap would still suffer.
If the US capped all prison sentences at 20 years, it would be forced to recognize a new reality: Just about everyone put in prison will, at one point, be free.
This is far from the only solution to mass incarceration, but it’s a good model to aim for If America were to implement a 20-year cap on prison sentences, it would not end mass incarceration.
The cap wouldn’t address the sentences for the majority of those 2.1 million people, who are in jail or prison for fewer than 20 years for anything from shoplifting to violent crimes.
It leads to more systemic questions: If a prison sentence for murder is now a maximum of 20 years, can we really justify sending someone to prison for burglary or drugs for 10 or even five years? If someone is going to be released from prison eventually, shouldn’t we ensure that person has support both in and out of prison so he can transition back to society safely? If prison isn’t the end-all, be-all for stopping crime, should we not take other approaches more seriously?

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Summary of “The Redemption of MS-13”

There are up to 60,000 active gang members in El Salvador, according to the International Crisis Group, with another 500,000 people in the country connected to the gangs.
Arias’s tale of getting wrapped up in gang life and later finding an exit through the Church, echoes what I’ve heard from nearly every former gang member I’ve interviewed.
There are certain highlights that arise in the stories of every gang member turned Christian: a poor family, a rough childhood, and acceptance into the gang at a young age.
Many gang members, like Arias, speak of joining the gang as if they were searching for a family, of some sort of structure.
As Pastor Arias explains to us, “It’s the only way out of the gang since the gang has only three exits: One is prison, two is a hospital, and three is death. The only way out alive is through God, and the gangs know perfectly that there isn’t another way.”
A frequent complaint heard from former gang members is that there are little to no options for gang members once they are released.
“Being in the States and being Salvadoran, not knowing the language or the culture, it put pressure on me, and I found a way to fit in or to belong or to feel part of by having different types of friends. That’s how I initiated friendship with gangs and gang members and girls that sympathized with gangs.”
Reformed gang members can still be targeted by rival gang factions and on occasion even by members of their own gang who are upset they have left too abruptly or think that they have converted to escape a debt or internal punishment.

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Summary of “South Koreans lock themselves up to escape prison of daily life”

HONGCHEON, South Korea – For most people, prison is a place to escape from.
“This prison gives me a sense of freedom,” said Park Hye-ri, a 28-year-old office worker who paid $90 to spend 24 hours locked up in a mock prison.
Since 2013, the “Prison Inside Me” facility in northeast Hongcheon has hosted more than 2,000 inmates, many of them stressed office workers and students seeking relief from South Korea’s demanding work and academic culture.
Clients get a blue prison uniform, a yoga mat, tea set, a pen and notebook.
Co-founder Noh Ji-Hyang said the mock prison was inspired by her husband, a prosecutor who often put in 100-hour work weeks.
South Koreans worked 2,024 hours on average in 2017, the third longest after Mexico and Costa Rica, in a survey of 36 member countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Noh said some customers are wary of spending 24 or 48 hours in a prison cell, until they try it.
“After a stay in the prison, people say, ‘This is not a prison, the real prison is where we return to,'” she said.

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Summary of “The Eternal Life of the Instant Noodle”

Doritos, instant noodles – the processed food favourites he used to rely on in prison.
He’s the one who declared something that US prisoners have known for ages – in the past few years, instant noodles have come to replace cigarettes as the most traded item in US prisons.
“If you’re in prison and you want or need more food than you can get from the chow line, then you have to buy it yourself. The costs of nutrition have shifted to the prisoners themselves. Instant noodles are a go-to because they’re cheap.”
Now she’s out, she writes about prison life, including why instant noodles are so valuable on the inside.
Coss Marte says things can get violent when instant noodle debts aren’t repaid.
“There are all types of hustling inside the system. People juggle. Juggle means you get, like, a 200% mark-up. If you give someone two ramen noodle soups, you get four [more] ramen noodle soups back within a week.”
In the instant noodle museum in Yokohama, there’s a cardboard cut-out of him.
As long as there are people living in dormitories, or shopping in convenience stores, or concocting meals in prisons – the instant noodle will live on.

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