Randy Kearse

Motivational Speaker www.randykearse.net,

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Mass Incarceration: Who is REALLY the blame?

You would think, me of all people would be screaming "Stop Mass Incarceration" to the top of my lunges, being I have spent almost 15 years of my life in federal prison, snared in the "War on Drugs".

But and that's a big BUT, before I heed to the emotional temptation to use "Mass Incarceration" as a reason and/or excuse for my long incarceration I have to ask myself one simple question, who is REALLY the blame for my "Mass Incarceration"?

Invoke racial discord, speak of injustice and it's very easy to get people to fall in line for almost any cause.

I sold drugs, I carried guns, and by 21 was knee deep in drug trade. I lived that lifestyle because I chose to, not because I was FORCED to. So again, who is REALLY the blame?

I have heard lots of arguments about the causes of Mass Incarceration and there's only one that rings true for me and that is, the police do police the black community more aggressively. That I know, but a lot of the other arguments fall short for me.

As a criminal, you know the risks involved in your behavior. You accept that. But you can't cry foul "victim of Mass Incarceration" once you find yourself locked up for a crime you feel doesn't fit the time. Nobody promise you it's going to be fair, once you break a law you leave yourself open to the consequences no matter how severe.

Now if you're TOTALLY INNOCENT that's a different story.

Here's the thing, I have friends who grew up in the same environment as I did, and some in worse homes, but not all of them sold drugs, carried guns, went to prison used drugs, dropped out of school, or became teenage parents.

Mass Incarceration: Who is really the blame? The choices I made back then were my own. The choices I make today are my own, Author, TV Talk Show Host, Speaker, Successful Ex-Offender.

The Devil Tempted Adam with an Apple. Once he bit the Apple Adam couldn't turn around say "Hey that's not fair."

By the way, I quit a job to sell drugs.

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    Feb 5 2014: Congratulations on learning from your experiences and making a new life for yourself. It sounds like you have a commitment to help others learn through your experiences so they may not need to go through everything you did.
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      Feb 6 2014: Absolutely! Through the greatest of tragedies one can find purpose.
  • Feb 8 2014: This is a headscratcher for me like a lot of the questions posed here at TED. The things listed by Steven Why surely are factors, as well as others, like greed, anger, frustration, self destructive tendencies. I look back at all the things I've done (and was lucky enough to get away with and to get away from) and its hard for me to understand that person. I was a sharp enough kid and I knew what I was doing was harmful to myself and everyone around me but that didn't stop me. I was raised in a pretty closeknit family but things happened that caused me to become disillusioned and angry. I convinced myself that all the positive things I had been told and raised to believe in were BS and for the weak and weak minded. I felt like I had been lied to. So I dove headfirst into everything that was the complete opposite of these things and barely survived it. Friends died, friends and family went to jail, friends got so twisted on various drugs that they were like different people. After about 12 years or so I pulled my head out of my ass and decided to change my ways. It was the simple commitment to not force my parents to bury me that helped me change direction. I agree with what you seem to say in your opening statement. I was and am responsible for my choices. There are a number of things that our society , schools, educators, and parents could do to help steer kids away from this path. I have had some serious talks withmy brother on how to keep his boys from following uncle jake's path. Ultimately though we are responsible forour own actions.
    • Feb 8 2014: Jacob, I couldn't write the whole list :)

      but your story, and I glad you wrote it, still follows that same pattern, of reflection, and accepting and understanding ones part. And it is a part, it's not the whole.

      And that reflection is your acceptance of your role, " It was the simple commitment to not force my parents to bury me that helped me change direction."

      Yet too you equally accept there are a number of things that society can do, and thus implicitly there lays their guilt.

      No man is an island.

      Which I am so very happy that you've realized and taken action on, with respect to talking to your brother, because you not only have been on a journey - you've learned from it, just like Randy.

      And in doing so, it really does make you the hero. Because that's what hero's in books and film's all do - they go on a journey and they learn from it.

      Happy trails :)
      • Feb 8 2014: Fair points sir. You are sure right about society's influence and that no one is an island unto themselves. I think though if more young people were convinced of the ability and power of personal choices coupled with the responsibilty for the consequences, society's influence would be somewhat lessened. The fact that I cant let go of these days is that we all have the power to think and choose whether we acknowledge and/or use it or not.
        • Feb 9 2014: Which is why Jacob, I say that we are ALL guilty, because you've correctly said that society has an influence, but if society, as per examples, it looks the other way, then we as a society are all guilty.

          It's as I've said about crime and punishment before, you can't as many politicians do, swing hard one way or the other, it's no good having jail terms if you don't try to help the person, because you're then not really changing anything, just temporarily removing the problem.

          I do agree that we should emphasize, as you said indirectly, the young people by actually giving them more responsibility, and let them see the outcomes of choices, learn by doing, then paraphrasing we realize the power we have is to think before we act. Yet that too is not solely within their domain, which is why I said, the education system and the parents have to take some guilt in not doing this, and so some responsibility.

          I would add that unfortunately I can see with mainstream media, it's portrayal of drug and sex scene, media induced celebrity culture is as a curse for society and parents. As the role models of celebrity culture we give to youth is rather an unfortunate choice, as those people too are often trying to find themselves. But for them, rehab or minimal jail time seems to be the order of the day, whereas for everyone else that probably would not be the case at all. Far too many fall into the emulation trap.

          I love Randy's summation, it really explains what I'm saying in such a succinct way, I only illuminate on it, because I think only someone like yourself and Randy can see what it means, you're been down that road, of acceptance of personal guilt and so responsibility, so know the outcome. Rather generously both of you are trying to help other too, which is extremely laudable.

          I'll include Randy's quote again just because I love his understanding...

          "To be able to appreciate your comment one has to first accept he/she plays a role in his/her incarceration, First."
  • Feb 5 2014: To be honest with you - we are all guilty.

    As you admit you were guilty, but know the guilt is not only with you.

    Does the government fund both sides in the drug wars - then they are.
    Do educational establishments accept and allow that all are not educated equally - then they are.
    Do parents not fail and not care for their own children - then they are.
    Do others not manipulate you for their own purposes - then they are.
    Do law enforcement, have differing sets of rules depending on your status - then they are.
    Do we sometimes look the other way at something we know to be wrong - then we are.

    And that list goes on and on.

    Aren't "we the people" ultimately responsible in all of those scenario's? - Yes we are.

    I can only hope that your knowledge and experience is shared, and that you in your efforts can uplift others. Change start's one person at a time.
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      Feb 6 2014: Great distribution of guilty parties. Thank you. To be able to appreciate your comment one has to fist accept he/she plays a role in his/her incarceration, First.
      • Feb 8 2014: Thank you for you kinds words Randy...

        I glad you too have the understanding, "To be able to appreciate your comment one has to fist accept he/she plays a role in his/her incarceration, First." ... If only because when you have that understanding - only then can one reflect and look at one's part and in so doing, enable real and meaningful change to come about.

        But as we both well know only too well Randy, that's one mirror unfortunately most people just don't want to look into.
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          Feb 10 2014: It's easier for ppl to blame them others or external influences then to take account for their own actions. WE ALL HAVE CHOICES.
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    Feb 5 2014: Well, Randy, when you were committing crimes how did you think about getting caught? Did you think you would never get caught, that you were too smart to get caught? Or did you think it was inevitable that you would get caught? Or perhaps you were somewhere in the middle, you thought you might get caught but you might be able to avoid it?
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      Feb 6 2014: Getting caught was an abstract thought cause i was too busy building my "business" and making money, getting caught happened to other guys, not me. You can do wrong for so long, you can forget it's actually wrong. As time goes on though you begin to think how the end will come, not when. So live a life where you try and stay one step ahead of your competition and the authorities. When someone you knew personally goes down, you start to realize you number will come up eventually. Prison is only the second worse thing to worry about in that life style, staying ALIVE is your number concern.
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        Feb 6 2014: Well, when you did eventually realize you would get caught, how did that impact you, Randy? Going to prison didn't seem miserable? When you eventually did go to prison, was it miserable, or not (maybe it's not, I don't know, I haven't been there.)

        You say you were more concerned about staying alive than going to prison. But you would agree that you could have stopped doing crimes and you wouldn't have died, you would have found a way to stay alive, right?

        I remember going on a tour of a police station because they opened the station once a year. A police officer was leading the tour and talking about the people he catches. I said to him that one of the main reasons I don't commit crimes is because I am afraid of going to prison. He said it is the same for him, that one of the main reasons he does not commit crimes is because he is afraid of going to prison.

        Why would the police police the black community more aggressively, as you say in the explanation to your question?
        • Feb 10 2014: Because we live in a racist society. It isn't that complex. Read "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander.
  • Feb 12 2014: The War on Drugs itself is to blame. You lost 15 years of your life because some Capitalists figured out they could make money off of putting you in jail. Because Nancy Reagan said 'Just Say NO'. Because of lies and propaganda from our governement convinced people that 'Reefer Madness' was a documentary.

    The greatest harm from Marijuana is the fact that it is illegal. You may have quit a job to sell drugs, which just makes you a good Capitalist who saw a better opportunity, but I doubt you were ever HIRED into a job after that! You had to create your own jobs, which is something most people cannot do or fear to try to do. Others fall into a life of crime because all other routes are now closed to them.

    Remove the illegality of the drugs you sold, then look at what you did as a business. Sounds to me like you found a need and supplied it, creating wealth and jobs in the process. Unfortunately another 'business', called the Prison Industry, placed laws in your way which made you a product to be profited from. They were able to create many jobs, all funded by the fearful taxpayer, such as lawyers, judges, police, prisons and drug testing labs. Everyone piled on for a slice of the Fear Pie: Insurance companies made money by demanding workplace drug testing then invested in drug testing labs. Police hightlighted (not Stopped, you notice, just shined a light on) violent acts where drugs were involved and then asked for more funding while auctioning the assets of those they busted. Conservatives pointed at you and called your customers lazy and addicts while buying stock in Private Prisons.

    You were a Worker Bee, collecting pollen and depositing it in the Hive. Then the Beekeeper came along and scooped you and all of your profit up because it created profit for them. None of that is the fault of the Pollen.

    I don't know if you committed other illegal acts while dealing. Violence in defending market share is very Capitalistic. Wars are fought over such.
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    Feb 12 2014: Randy congrats on making changes.

    You might want to consider the water you swim in as having a lot to do with your situation.


    The US incarcerates more people than any country in the world.

    Why are drugs illegal in the first place? Al Capone would not have existed if not for prohibition.

    Prison guards have a strong union and make sure that their jobs are in demand.

    Not that I would recommend the blame game as it puts them in charge renting space in your head and you being the effect.
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    Feb 11 2014: Hi Randy, congratulations on reform…Were you possibly driven with greed or even hatred (towards authority) and do you believe the prohibition of drugs is working, is legalization the right way forward? Hope you don't mind me starting a conversation within your topic, I am interested to see what anyone else might say and I didn't want to jump into my own separate 'new' conversation at the moment.

    Hi All,
    It costs £46,000 a year per prisoner in the UK to incarcerate, whilst, average earnings (of the '99'%) are well below this level, hence, is the world of work and unemployment, a greater form of incarceration than the world of prison? Should the working free have a greater societal annual financial worth than the criminally incarcerated?

    Does economic stagnation induce the criminal capacity to overcome obstacles (laws) to succeed in an opportunistic environment split between scarcity and abundance? There has been a 19% increase in rates of petty crime (shoplifting) during the economic downturn and austerity measures against poorer members of the public. The increase included many first time offenders, mainly single mothers stealing to maintain a standard of scarcity for their children.

    To what extent does financial discrimination in the world of work and unemployment, contribute to the attractiveness of crime to achieve the illusive dream of a few and to what extent is the survival instinct a driver of crime?

    If egalitarian societies like Denmark are achieving lower levels of crime and incarceration compared to societies with large inequality gaps, is that model the right way forward, in terms of justice for all?

    If you had £46,000 per year, per individual available to rehabilitate each criminally prosecuted individual…what method, idea or combination of methods and ideas, would you utilize to rehabilitate, given many people leaving prison re-offend?

    Also, are lower paid humans inferior beings?
  • Feb 10 2014: Everyone should read "The New Jim Crow' by Michelle Alexander. It will open your eyes to the stark reality of the injustice in this country.
  • Feb 10 2014: Hi Dear Randy,I think it isn't not only you to be blamed,your parents,people around you,the society you live,all over the world everyone of us more or less should be blamed,If you must mention of'BLAME'.

    Forget and forgive the pass,focus on Now to take care of self and as well as others,that's good enough.
  • Feb 10 2014: Everyone is to blame and each must take ownership of their responsibilities and actions.
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    Feb 6 2014: KUDOS TO YOU RANDY and welcome to TED conversations!

    When I was volunteering with the dept. of corrections years ago, there was a guy (a lifer), who started a program called "Get a Life", which was GREAT! He talked with high school and college classes, and other various groups about his life. The program grew to include a guided tour of the prison, and it also started to pull in other offenders to tell their stories about crime, and how it was to live in a prison.......all very effective!

    No one can tell the story, or give advice like someone who has lived it! I am SO proud of you, and grateful that you turned your life around:>)