We are criminal defense attorney/former judge, and an ex-con with 18 years of experience in a Nevada prison, answering your questions about what it is like inside prison, and going through the Criminal Justice System.
I am Tony Abbatangelo, a former judge and a criminal defense attorney in Las Vegas. I have decades of experience in the Nevada court system on both sides of the bench. I have sent people to jail, and I have saved people from jail. Lucas is an 18-year veteran of the Nevada prison system after a DUI manslaughter charge when he was 18 years old. We are answering questions about going through the criminal justice system, the ins and outs of daily life in prison, and the cold realities of the prison system in America.
We will be answering questions here on Reddit and will be live-streaming our answers on our Facebook live starting at 12:15 pst as well.
Edit: Thanks for joining us everyone, Tony and Lucas have to get back to work now.
Lucas: I never went to trial, I turned myself in for the crime. But there is a general respect/connection to everyone in the court system. Cops, lawyers, convicts, jurors, they understand what you are saying and you can say things to them you couldn't say to others.
Tony, what is your opinion of community-based sentences as opposed to prison time? Do you believe such a system could effectively change the way crime and punishment works in the US?
Lucas, do you think a community based reparation system would work better than prison? Would crime rates drop if people were forced to make reparations to the community and those directly affected by their crimes?
Lucas: I don't know what the alternatives would be, but I know some of the guys shouldn't be inside prison. Some people aren't hardened bad people. There is victims to be sure, but is throwing someone into prison to develop a drug habit helping anyone? Especially me, who was so young, I thought this is forever. It really messes with your head. You take someone into the big leagues, and it changes them. Prison doesn't rehabilitate, you are well fed and ill prepared.
Tony: there aren't programs to teach them, they aren't coming out better than they went in. If you don't have skills when you get out, you go right back in. You don't have credit, can't get a job. People fall back on their prison buddies and right back into crime. Stuff has to change because it is a cycle. Taxpayers should ask themselves what their taxes are going to into a prison? Steel bars, bored inmates, where is the tax benefit.
My questions goes to Lucas: what was the hardest thing entering the prison system? How adaptation process feels in retrospect to someone who spent almost two decades imprisoned?
t two decades imprisoned?
Lucas: I was a special case, because I was mixed race. I could interact with the other race based groups, they didn't know what to do with me, who I was going to ride with. The first 30 days is in holding, bureaucracy asking questions about gangs and enemies. You only come out in chains to shower, the rest of the time is in the "fishtank". Everyone watches the guys in the fishtank. Once you get assigned a cell, you get your unit and pack up and move (with your stuff in a trashbag). Your cellmate should be the same race as you because race is so big in the system. I had some problems at first. The basic interactions were fuck (cooperate with whoever is demanding of you) fight (stand up for yourself) or hit the fence (run away or avoid the situation). The inmates judge you pretty quick, are you a rat? A molester? There are signs they look for in terms of your rap sheet. Adaptation is nuts. If you have never been in, you think of the movies, and honestly it is kind of like that. There is a lot of anxiety. You don't know what to expect, but once you learn the rules of the road, it gets easier.
Thank you for your reply. Just one more question if you don't mind: are gangs really that prevalent in prisons even today?
Yes. If there are gangs on the street there is going to be gangs on the yard. People separate themselves into factions, and after decades it can evolve. We are friends, we call ourselves this and it grows.
Lucas, have you seen the movie Shot Caller? If yes, what would you say your opinion on it?
The reason I ask about this film because it starts out with a man who went to prison after his friend died due to drunk driving accident.
Tony, when you look at the current prison system being more focused punishment than rehabilitation, do you see a for coming day when there is a paradigm shift within the country where we try to lower recidivism?
I see that even though a person does their time the individual needs a support group once out to prevent them from falling into the same situations that put them in prison the first time.
Lucas: There is no rehabilitation in prison. Tony: They call it programming, "jobs" in prison. Lucas: They pay you and take out room and board (I made $6 an hour, it was chump change afterwards). In the state prison you don't do a day for a day, you can work to get time off your sentence (12 days off per 30 if you play by the rules). Cooking, yard labor, stuff for people to do. Its better than doing nothing. There are no councilors (for non juveniles) you can get a GED. Tony: Surprised to learn there isn't counseling. They aren't teaching trades, there are a few college classes (101 classes) you aren't getting a degree without money to pay for it (classes aren't free).
Ever feel a jury got the verdict wrong?
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