His mission now is change

From article in New Lisbon Newspaper
His mission is change, prisoner says
Man who killed four in chase-related crash promotes effort to improve inmate attitudesBy DAVID DOEGE
New Lisbon — Patricia James oversees 250 impris­oned men in her job at the New Lisbon Correctional Institu­tion, and the one who most im­presses her these days is a man who took four lives. Ramiah A. Whiteside went to prison 11 years ago with the same attitude that made him try to outrun police in a stolen Cadillac, a wild flight that ended when the car plowed in­to a bus stop, killing three by­standers and a young relative riding in the car.
There are 36 years left on Whiteside's sentence, but James sees a changed man de­termined to positively influ­ence anyone who'll listen in the 1,000-bed prison. "It's like he's on a mission," James said. "The guy stays motivated sev­en days a week." Whiteside, who was 19 when he went to prison in 1995, insists that James isn't mistaken. "I am on a mission," he said. "The only way that I can make amends from in here for the wrong I've caused is to try to influence others not to make the same kinds of choices I made." Whiteside, now 30, was sen­tenced to 47 years in prison on four counts of second-degree reckless homicide and one count each of second-degree reckless injury and operating a vehicle without the owner's consent.
When Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David A. Hansher gave Whiteside the maximum sentence, he said he wished he could have imposed more time. "What I said at the time of sentencing, I meant," Hansh- er said. "To me, a sentence to prison is not only to rehabilitate, but to protect the public and to pun­ish," said Hansher, who cites Whiteside's case to defendants in fleeing cases. The bystanders killed in the crash on April 24,1995, at N. 64th St. and W. Silver Spring Drive were Clifton B. Wallace, 20; his girlfriend, Kimberly Carr, 18; and Roger D. Kirk, 36. A passen­ger in the stolen car, Payton Ashford, 15, also died. Authorities said that before the chase began, the stolen car was traveling erratically and twice jumped a curb. Once an officer tried to stop the car, it sped wildly away through yards, down the wrong side of a street, hit two parked cars and roared through a 6-foot-high chain-link fence before reach­ing the bus stop. The car crashed into the Westlawn pub­lic housing complex after it plowed through the bus stop. Whiteside, who was rescued from the burning car by a police sergeant, tried to run but was taken into custody. Police tried to rescue Ashford, Whiteside's cousin, but were driven back by intense flames. Whiteside was routinely in trouble with the law in those days. He was on parole at the time for a marijuana trafficking conviction, had another adult conviction for driving a stolen auto and was prosecuted as a ju­venile for stolen auto, firearm and armed robbery charges. "I manipulated people," Whi­teside said in a prison inter­view. "I used people." He made similar choices the first five years into his current sentence and regularly wound up in segregation for disruptive behavior.
He changed, he said, during 22 months in the Cogni­tive Group Intervention Pro­gram at the Waupun Correc­tional Institution. 'Program opened my eyes' According to corrections lit­erature, the program teaches violent offenders to identify and change "the personal thinking patterns and underlying beliefs that support their criminal be­haviors." Inmates meet in group sessions to discuss those thoughts and habits. "I got rid of a lot of beliefs and attitudes that made me make the wrong choices," Whiteside said. "The victim impact part of the program opened my eyes. "I finally saw the pain vic­tims feel." Whiteside wrote a four-page letter to Gov. Jim Doyle prais­ing the program and helped found an aftercare version for program graduates after he ar­rived at New Lisbon last year.
"He was instrumental in get­ting it," said James, who has been with the state Department of Corrections for 23 years. "He really gets down on the guys if he thinks they don't try, and he really doesn't care about in­mates coming after him for tell­ing them what he thinks." Whiteside, who sees the pa­role board for the first time in April 2007, said he realizes that he has detractors who figure he's trying to spruce himself up in hopes of getting an early re­lease.

He insists it's no act. "I'm going to try to do what I can in all of their memories," he said of the four people he killed 11 years ago. Whiteside, who says he has answers to questions now that he didn't have when he was sentenced, has written letters to the families of his victims, but state law prohibits violent of fenders from initiating contact Whiteside's letters remain on file in the event the families contact corrections officials to establish contact with him. In Milwaukee, Clifton Wallace's mother said she was heartened to hear of White side's changed attitude. But Lucy Wallace Farris said his transformation; as well as the passing of 11 years, can't undo what happened at the bus stop "He is the same age as my son would be now," she said. "I hope 1 get to see Ramiah be fore I leave this earth. There are things I need to hear from him to see him say."Then I'll know if he's truly rehabilitated."

Below,a letter of support and congratulations from The man who defended Ramiah, Click to view full size.

letter to sentencing judge

September 17, 2007
Dear Judge William W. Brash III:

In a recent Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in which you asked a key question as you sentenced Stanley Daniels Jr. for killing 13yr. old Candace Moss. You asked:
"It doesn't seem, from my perspective, that
there is a de-escalation, detente if you will, with regards to this. It's almost as if you're a walking, talking blueprint of hundreds of young men who find their way into the justice system, thousands of young men... You'll go, and you'll spend your time, and you'll get out,and then what?"
Unfortunately Your Honor, this young man, along with many of the other thousands, will not receive the treatment or rehabilitation they need while they are incarcerated. This is largely due to the severe overcrowding the system is currently experiencing.
My name is Ramiah A. Whitaside and I have been incarcerated for going on 13 years. Unless you as a Judge specifically sentence an offender to take certain programs, they run the risk of being warehoused, and to answer your question of "...and then what?" they will be released unprepared and destined to return. Sadly, I nave witnessed it time and time again. It is true that each individual makes their own choices, but sometimes we need a lot of help learning to make the right choices. When you sentence a defendant, you expect that defendant to receive treatment and programming prior to their release. The system is so overcrowded that this does not
always happen. It is society who ultimately pays because they pay taxes to be protected and the currant overcrowding only ensures their future victimization. "And then what?" The cycle continues.
Thank you for your time.
Ramiah A. Whites

on gangs

Dear Ms. Gena Kittner:
This letter is in regards to a story you just wrote on the budding gang issue in Stoughton. The reason your story is of interest to me is because I have been lobbying to get some kind of dialogue going between former gang members and different communities which are battling full-blown gang issues, and budding ones. Since I am incarcerated, getting people to even listen to my ideas or proposals is worse than pulling teeth, but because of where I am, that is to be expected. The sad part is, the gangs do not have to wait for any bureaucratic red tape to clear before a decision is made. In fact, speaking from experience, we prey on indecision. We play on the publics' naivety. We like it when people go into denial and refuse to admit that gangs are a reality because then we can operate with impunity.
If you are interested in discussing this matter further, please get in touch with me at the address listed below. Although I realize your livelihood is in reporting this story or that one, I am not interested in a story; in fact, it is better that my name not be printed in the context of any story. It is not a matter of shyness, it is more a matter of safety for myself. Hopefully I will hear from you. If not, good luck.
Ramiah Whiteside

Good Enough

After almost twelve years of incarceration and some intense de-programming along with programming, I find myself feeling as I did when I was a young-impressionable child. Since I am of mixed ethnicity, I never felt "Black," or "White" because I am both. So, as a child, I never connected with or fit in anywhere. Try as I might, I was never "Black" enough, or "White" enough. Wow, years later, a similar feeling has emerged.. As a convicted felon, doing time, will I ever be "good enough" to return to society?

Over the years I have discovered just how dysfunctional my upbringing was. Sure, my family did the best they could, my teachers did the best they could, and I am thankful that they did. However, I now wonder if the very blueprint they started off with was dysfunctional in & of itself. Society is built on a system of checks & balances. If one area of the system is a little or a lot off, the rest of the system is out of balance. The choices I made, which put me where I am, did nothing to help balance the system. My choices only helped de-stabilize the system even more.

There will never be a shortage of people to point out what the problem is. There will probably never be a long line of people who admit they are part of the problem. Sadly, there are probably many people who do not care either way. In spite of any of these possibilities or realities, here 1 am pointing the finger at myself, because ultimately, I made the choices that I made.

As a result of the choices I made, the ripple effect has been, and continues to be, not only intense, but sometimes overwhelming. After reflecting on the sheer magnitude of the ripple effect from my choices, and my own journey to heal, I have developed a sense of urgency as I have never known. This sense of urgency pushes & pulls me to not only make changes in my life, but to help others to make changes in their lives. Knowing just how connected we all are inspires me to do a little bit more and a little bit more, and a little bit more to help others.

In conclusion, I am not crusading to change the world, just to change myself. Whether I am incarcerated or free, I am still a part of the world-global community. If the changes I make to help perpetuate a new (positive) ripple effect in here, out there, now, or later, I ask, is that good enough? It is not just me who asks this question. Many other men & women in prison would like to know if all their efforts to change & rehabilitate themselves is enough. If not, then, what is..., good enough?

Dear Oprah

April 16, 2006 Dear Oprah:
My name is Ramiah Whiteside. This letter is in regards to a tragic event which took place exactly eleven years ago to the day on this coming April 24, 2006.

On the night of April 24, 1995, I fled from the Milwaukee Police Department in a stolen car. The chase ended when the car I was driving want through a busy intersection on a red light, was hit by other cars, spun out of control, demolished a bus shelter killing three people, and then slammed into an apartment complex and exploded killing a passenger in the car.

Recently, a Mother of one of the victims made a statement to the effect that she would like to meet with me and speak with me. (Please see enclosed article)
As-of-right now, I am still incarcerated and probably will be for a few more years (at least.) More than anything, I would like to give this Mother the opportunity to meet with me. She no doubt has many questions, and maybe I won't have any answers, but she deserves a chance to ask them. Over the years, I have enjoyed your show because you generate so much hope and sometimes you seem to be the only person willing to address certain real-life issues. You care. The whole world knows you care.

Mrs. Lucy Wallace-Paris is the Mother of Clifton B. Wallace. He was killed while waiting on the bus stop with his girlfriend and sweetheart Kimberly Carr. Also killed was Royer D. Kirk and Payton Ashford. Recently your show aired the meeting between a young man who killed another man's family. After viewing this show and reading what Mrs. Wallace-Paris said, I thought of you- Please consider my request. If I can help this Mother find some more closure or get some answers. I am willing to try.
Thank you so much for your time.
Ramiah A. Whiteside

Summary of Movie Crash

Summary of Movie: CRASH
By Ramiah Whiteside
The movie CRASH is a much-needed reminder of race-relations in America today. Although, as a Nation, we have made strides in the right direction towards tolerance and diversity, unfortunately, racism, bigotry, prejudice, and the like, are part of a cancer which still plagues us as a society. CRASH is a reality check, if you will, because sometimes, people will avoid the truth, or choose to deny reality. The reality is, the truth is, race-relations here in America, the leader of Democracy for the FreeWorld, sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. It depends on what side of the spectrum you happen to be on.
Kudos to the producers and the cast of CRASH for having the fortitude and courage to depict such a film. The adage that "seeing is believing" applies here because if people do not see the day-to-day situations, or are not made aware of them, they tend to deny or refuse to believe that they exist. We all know that the mere denial of a problem or thing does not and will not negate the fact that it is what it is, or does exist. After viewing CRASH, people, perhaps, say to themselves,
"Is it really that bad?"
Unfortunately, yes, and in some situations, maybe even worse. However, the fact that more people are made aware of the situation is a big step in the right direction towards addressing the situation/problem.
From my personal perspective, I know how humiliating it can be to be "punked" by the "establishment," or the "man." Sometimes I would get so angry at the sheer unfairness of it all (society, my demographic, the codes, the rules, the protocol...etc), that I would lash out in various ways, like, carrying a weapon so that no one else would "punk" me like "they" did; so no one else would humiliate me like "they" did; so no one else would trample on .my beliefs, my dignity, my honor, and my self-respect like "they" did. So, when the Black movie producer jumps out of his SUV the second time he was pulled over and begins to snap; I could relate to him 100%. I could feel and understand his anger/ his frustration, his hopelessness, his utter recklessness, his feeling of being trapped, and his disappointment. He was so fed up and so tired of the way things were. It is at these crucial times that individuals need the guidance of CGIP.
When things are going well, everyone is happy. These times are not the measure of a man, or the measure of a woman, or the measure of what works (program-wise). The measure of these such things is what happens when things do not go our way, when life is shitty and we feel we have run out of good choices, when we are at our wit's end; it is at these moments when we find out or discover what we are made of, or what we are not made of. It is at these moments that we find out, hey, the program really works. CGIP is like the umbrella to life for us. When it really starts pouring, you would much rather have that umbrella than get all wet (ruin your life).
As a tool for the application of CGIP concepts and skills, I recommend CRASH because it is so close to reality of the New Millennium.

A long way:proposal for forum

To: Warden Lundquist : ,
Since my arrival here at NLCI 1 have been speaking with various Administration staff about putting together a video and/or a panel/forum.

The video or video series, would target various audience covering various topics, providing vital Information specifically for that particular audience. For instance, the parent section or video would cover what various warning signs parents should be aware of. The school section or video would cover what teachers, counselors, and other school officials should be aware of, or what they should look for. No kid just wakes up one morning and says, "I want to be in a gang..." or, "I want to do drugs today." There is a process involved; there are many warning signs to look for.

The panel would consist of selected-approved inmates who would field questions from an audience of DOC officials, school officials, community officials and parents. Topics covered would include gang affiliations, drinking, drugs, violence, and individual experiences from the participating inmates. These sessions would be relatively brief, but- effective and candid.

It is our hope that the Awareness from such a panel and video, that communities, parents, and other officials will be better prepare to recognize the warning signs if & when youth begin to experiment with drugs or drinking or start gravitating towards an affiliation or gang. This Awareness leads to Prevention.

Shane Urness and I have been working diligently over the past eight months trying to get this project going. Enclosed, you will find some of the feedback we have received in regards to this proposed project. Please consider our proposal. If you have any questions, or need more information, contact Shane or myself. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.
Ramiah A. Whitesidte,
Shane Urness

A long way:Proposal for Debate Team

Since my arrival here at NLCI/ various competitions and/or tournaments have been held (volleyball/ basketball, handball/ etc). The majority of the tournaments are physical competitions, most-of-which require more physical conditioning versus intellectual or academic stimulation. The key factor in any of these competitions is one's physical abilities, and not so much one's intellect outside of trying to out-maneuver or out-think one's opponent within the context of the particular game/sport being played. Unfortunately, there are some individuals who are less physically inclined or simply not as interested in physical competitions.

Therefore, it is my sincere hope that a debate team/ club/ tournament would be at least considered. As it is a fact that the majority of individuals re-integrating back into the Community will not go on to become professional athletes, their ability to communicate constructively becomes all-the-more essentially important.

Out in society, if an individual can average 20pts and 10 rebounds per game, or has a nice "kill shot," this will probably never be the deciding factor which gets them hired for legitimate employment. However, being able to communicate will inevitably give them a better chance. A debate club or league would teach individuals how to debate in an organized fashion, and how to assert themselves verbally rather than aggressively (physically). Perhaps, via a debate club or league, the dysfunctional use of violence as a means to express one's disagreement will become less prolific.

In the Animal Kingdom, lesser forms of communication are used to convey territorial disputes and the like. Seeing-as-how the ability to communicate verbally and express ourselves with words stemming from our ability to THINK, is what separates us from the Animal Kingdom, any activity which further bolsters this capacity within us should at least be considered. The brain is like any other muscle within the body. A debate club or league exercises the mind. The ability to communicate/ the Art of Verbal Pugilism, and having the ability to agree to disagree and convey one's position/ or opinion without the use of expletives or degrading-disrespectful language are all ideals or concepts instilled within an individual from their exposure to a debate forum.

At the end of the day/ what is more important/ one's ability to shoot free-throws/ or one's ability to communicate?
Thank you for your time. Ramiah A. Whiteside

memo from Warden : Just give up

State of Wisconsin Department of Corrections
Waupun Correctional Institution
200 South Madison Street
P.O. Box 351
Waupun, WI 53963-0351

August 25, 2003
TO: Ramiah Whiteside #243376 AC 2-48
FROM: Gary R, McCaughtry, Warden

Your correspondence of 8/14/03 regarding programming and your idea to set up a panel of inmates to speak with young teens or adults has been received and your comments have been noted. We only do this for professional groups. It requires a lot of staff resources and research indicates that directing efforts towards at-risk individuals does not work. Thanks for your offer and efforts, however.

project H.O.P.E.realized at New Lisbon

The Hope Program
The group consist of 12-15 carefully selected prisoners who meet and talk with kids for 11-19 years old from all over Wisconsin, Sparta, Tomah, La Crosse, Eau Claire, Racine, Milwaukee, Mondovi and on.

Kids come with their school counselors or teachers or principals. The Challenge Academy brings the most kids, over 100 per year, sometimes more. We talk to the kids and listen to them for 2 hours, sometimes more. There have been many , many success stories.

Below, picture of one student’s letter to Ramiah after attending H.O.P.E.Read Transcribed text below

Dear Ramiah,
My name is Sylvester. I am a student of Ms. Kelly. About two weeks ago someone tried to rob me. The man pulled out a knife, stabbing me in my back. While I was bleeding I fought him off and made it to my car. When I got to ER my boys was there telling me that they knew who had stabbed me and that when I got well they was going to take care of him, I mean hurt him in a bad way. Instead, I asked who did it and when they showed me where he was I said I want to do him myself. My boys asked me was I sure. I said yes just start the car.

When I approached the house I called the police from my cell phone and they came and arrested him. When I got back with my boys to maintain my cool I said he was lucky the police saved him. The reason I am writing you is to thank you for the letters because they make me look at life differently. Without your life encouragement that man would have been dead as a doorknob. PS/WB

Questions asked to participants before sessions. Transcribed text below picture.

NLCI H.O.P.E. Program
Questions to answer prior to your visit:

1.Ask yourself "What if I am confronted with...peer pressure, peer approval, drugs, gangs?"
• What would / did you do?
• Why would / did you do it?
• How would / did it make you feel?
• List two things you can do or would do differently.
2. What are some of the boundaries set by your parents?
Why do you think they set these boundaries / rules?
3. What are some of the boundaries set by your teachers?
Why do you think they set these boundaries / rules?
4. What are some expectations your parents and teachers have for you?
Do you agree with them?

Cadet followup letter:

project H.O.P.E.

Proposal for H.O.PE.

Helping Others thru Preventive Education
November 18, 2008
To Whom it May Concern:
My name is Ramiah A. Whiteside and I am writing to you in regards to a program at the New Lisbon Correctional Institution. The program is called "HOPE." It stands for:
H elping
0 thers thru
P reventive
E ducation.

A select group of inmates are screened and then allowed to participate in the program. This selected group of inmates volunteer to share some of their experiences with youth from all over the state. Some of the youth are at-risk and some are just beginning to experiment with getting into trouble with alcohol, drugs, gangs, and other behavior issues.

These youth come from many different walks of life, but they all have the same or similar experiences. These youth represent our past and we represent their future if they choose not to change their behavior. This is an essential element of the HOPE Program. We try to help prevent the youth from making the same poor choices that put us in prison.

The majority of the youth we talk with truly relate to our experiences. It does not matter if they come from the CHALLENGE Academy/ Reedsburg, Racine, or from an alternative school, once we open up and share some of our lives with them, they do not hesitate to share some of their lives with us. These are not bad kids and with a little guidance they can beat the odds and still go on to become successful citizens.

After over three years and talking with over six-hundred youth, the experiences the youth share with us still hits us hard (emotionally). They all have similar experiences that those of us in the HOPE Program have had. Some of them are physically/ emotionally or sexually abused as children or as teens. They share their pain when they open up to us and for a blink in time, they have hope again. They have hope that things will get better. They have hope that things will settle down at home. They have hope that when tomorrow comes, they will not hurt so much on the inside. It is our hope that they will turn their lives around, not end up like us, and go on and accomplish they set for themselves in life.

All of the men who volunteer to participate in the HOPE Program would like to do more, but there is only so much that we are allowed to do from the prison setting. Once the youth leave the institution, I wonder who will be successful and who will end up in prison or worse. It is difficult for me to not wonder how they turn out. Will some of them still join a gang? Will some of them still end up in prison? Will some of them still end up hurting themselves or someone else? Will some of them still throw their futures away? Staff always remind us that we cannot save them all, and I always respond, "We can try."

After over three years of talking with youth from all over Wisconsin, it is sadly clear that communities abroad are experiencing the growth of a new paradigm. Many youth today see going to prison as a rite-of-passage. They do not fear going to prison, they look forward to it. Wore and more youth are joining gangs and doing all kinds of illegal/violent acts. More youth are using drugs and selling drugs. There is no longer a gender or color or age barrier. Girls and boys are throwing their lives away at an alarming rate. As the schools empty out, the prisons fill up and overcrowded conditions become the norm.

The youth that I have talked to over the years are not afraid of prison. They are not afraid of the consequences of using drugs or abusing alcohol. They are simply not afraid of failing in life. All they are concerned with is fitting in, being cool, and living for the moment.

Long after the youth have left from the institution, I often wonder if they will be strong enough to resist the ongoing peer pressure and temptation. It is hard for me not to think of them. Will they fill yet another bed here or in some other institution? Will they be another homicide statistic? Will they victimize another man or woman or family? Will they come to prison to earn their G.E.D. or H.S.E.D.? Will they watch their family suffer from a cell? Will they help the cycle of incarceration continue to perpetuate itself?

Sometimes people tell me that I should not take things so seriously. The youth make their own choices/ they tell me. There is only so much that anyone can do/ the youth have to do the rest. Whatever the case may be/ I always think about what I can do to help the youth of today. The odds are against them, and maybe that is why some people give up on them so easily.
Some people tell me I should not care so much because there is nothing more that I can go. It is difficult for me to only care so much. That is too close to giving up.

All my life I have known how it feels to have people give up on me. The youth need someone to believe in them. The things they get into are calls for help/ but everyone is burned out and it is much easier to just give up. Each day that I wake up and experience the ongoing monotonous routine of hopelessness/ I think of the youth who are on their way here.

It breaks my heart because these youth deserve better. The young women deserve more than being some perverted adults sex slave. They deserve better than to be pregnant as a teen and having to throw their high school years away. The young men deserve better than to sacrifice their dreams just to belong to one dysfunctional group/gang or another.

The communities deserve better than to be besieged by gangs and violence. When I look at some of the people around me/ it is hard not to lose all hope because so many of the people around me only intend to return to their community and destroy it some more. It makes me wonder what kind of community am I going to return to. Will the drug houses outnumber the churches? Will the gangs have more power than the citizens? Will gunfire still be so "normal" that people barely even blink when they hear it?

Will hopelessness and despair overrule hope and happiness? These are some of the things I think about when I talk to the youth and when I look at the people around me. One thing that has stuck in my mind, over the years is when a young man from a two-parent family that was doing okay/ said to me/ Prison doesn't scare me. You guys are safer in there than I am out here." still blows my mind, not just because it came from a young man/ but, it came from young man with two parents who lives in Adams-Friendship, not some high crime area of an inner-city.

I will close by asking you,
"Is it better in prison than in the community?"
Thank you for your time.
Respectfully, Ramiah A. Whiteside
cc; • Governor Jim Doyle Rick Raemisch/Secretary DOC
Alfonso Graham/Chairperson Parole Commission
Danielle LaCost/Parole Commissioner
Honorable David A. Hansher Barbara Toles/State Representative
Eugene Kane/Milw. Journal
Mayor Tom Barrett
Effie McGhee/Parole Agent
United States Representative Gwen Moore
Lena Taylor/State Representative
Tamara Griysby/State Representative
Rosalyn D. Washington/Director Washington Foundation
Amy S. Mondloch/Executive Director

Prison LIfe: a letter to the community

In this post are the three pieces.
Directly below you may view them in pdf form. Below that they are pasted:

a letter to the community in pdf format : this is a power letter answer the question: How's life in prison? with How's life in Americas inner cities? Highly recommended!!!!

"I'm just saying" in pdf format : WISDOM offers support against giving up hope

Senator Lena Taylor on Governor's Walkers slashing of funds for programming:


October 24, 2014,

To the Community

My name is Ramiah Whiteside and when I was asked to write about what prison life is like on any given day, my initial Reaction was “crap-eating-grin” like the cat that has the helpless mouse hidden away for its enjoyment and enter­tainment later on as no one and everyone looks on.

What is it Like inside America's prisons? That is a loaded query. There are many sides to America's prisons; the social side,the political side, the economical side, the spiritual side, the emotional & mental side and the physical side, among the sides that everyone can see or fathom. There are other sides to America's prisons that people do well to ignore ... on purpose. So, which side do you wish to hear or read about?

My experiences within America's prison system are fairly common. Life in America's penal system is reflective of life in America itself. The same things that go on in "free" American society today are the same kinds of things that go on within the bowels and crevices of America's prison system. A snap-shot of America proper is its prison system. Take away the barbed and razor-wire fences and the guard towers and the permanent mean-mugs and there is not much left for one to be able to differentiate between America proper and America's prisons. The two are interchangeable. They are connected on so many levels that the lines often get blurred or disappear altogether.
If society in America is corrupt, so too are its prisons. If parts of society in America are immoral, debased, clueless or indifferently-ignorant, so too are its prisons.
America's prisons enable America to be '" to the world and that is why so many people have the some crap-eating-grin on their faces when asked about America's prison system. It is like people are incredulously asking, 'Are you serious?" I have been in the Wisconsin prison system for over 20+ years all together, including over 19 years straight. Unlike some of the East Coast, West Coast or Southern prisons, Wisconsin prisons are more emotionally, mentally and spiritually taxing on a daily basis. The physical side is not as prevalent. Sure, fights and other physical altercations do occur, but it is not the norm as much as it is in other prison systems. Why? This is due to the fact that Wisconsin prisons are like "honor plantations" if you will, where the slaves or 'inmates”police themselves and oversee each other.
The American prison system is about money and the Wisconsin prison system' echoes that sentiment. The difference with the Wisconsin prison system is the amount of money spent to pacify the prisoner population to deter it from bucking the system and also why the physical element is less of a factor. The end result is, less fights, less stabbings, less riots, less killings and less prisoner-to-staff altercations. However, there are more suicides. This speaks for itself..
Since the Wisconsin inmate cannot or will not fight each other or “them”, there is a point where the will to fight at all (live) completely dissipates. Hopelessness breads death. I do not advocate violence in any form, but I do advocate a strong stance and a protection of what is right or inherently righteous. Life within America's prisons is hell, Wisconsin included and therefore I am utterly  and completely against such a pained and strained fashion of life. It is not ethically or morally right to "punish' people as America punishes its very own citizens. Prisoners are still American citizens, but it is far easier to wrong them under the label of ”inmate.”
During the years I have been incarcerated I have witnessed the degradation of human beings on an unthinkable scale, but I have also witnessed the resiliency of the human spirit. Just like the Irish did, or the slaves, or the Natives, or the Jews, or the Japanese, we (prisoners) survive, perhaps not all of us, physically or emotionally, but enough of us to tell the story and enough of us to inspire those after us. Maybe I am an "old soul" because I still believe in the greater good of people despite the unfairness, the injustice, the racism and the cruelty of this life the American prison system forces upon ma. The ideals, beliefs and concepts that helped build this country are the only true defenses to the failures of this country. I love America though she seems to hate me . Is "hate “ too  strong a term?
What else could it be called when a person is forced to live in a storage closet or dog kennel for years and years away from their families, sway from love and compassion end away from any humanity?
America cleanses itself by purging its "wrongdoers from its society, If America is hard and tough on crime then it holds in-tact its glorious and illustrious reputation and image. The harder America is on its delinquents, the cleaner its per-caption to the world is or becomes. However, cats like me know the deal, thus, the crap-eating-grin again. The world community is beginning to awaken more and more as well and it is pointing out the fact that the Emperor has no clothes on.
Why the grin? because I know that all of the political rhetoric, all of the puritanical hypocrisy and all of the half-hearted efforts of 'rehabilitation" will change nothing and the public is non-the-wiser. Life within America's prisons reflect life in America: we do what we gotta do to get by. We clique up, mob up and knuckle up to survive. I reiterate, the lines get blurry.
How is life in America's prisons?
How is life in America’s inner-cities?

Man, we ain't happy here. We busted and disgusted, on lockdown and wanna be, but can't be trusted. We want better things in life, but have to settle for whatever we can get or take. When people read about or hear about the plight of the Jews, Gypsies and others during World War II, their conscience and their hearts are stirred with compassion. Take similar conditions within America's prison system and no one blinks because Inmates deserve what they get because of what they did. People often say, "Don't like it, well don't go to prison.' This is well good Until they and up in the joint and they wish they had one.

Life inside America's prison system is barbaric. t'3e s                                                                                            supposed
to be a civilized society...., there goes that crap-eating-grin again. In this New Age, one would think we could do better, but that is the price one pays for thinking outside the box. 

Life inside America's prison system is hell, an unnecessary hell.

Thank you for your time.
I'm just saying..
The main reason I support efforts like the 11 x 15 Campaign is not so much about me, so much as it is about who comes after me. At least the 11 x 15 Campaign is trying. I wish more people would at least try to do something. Prisons are some seriously messed up places. Some people say, if we can't do the time then we should not do the crime. To them I say this,
what if I was your son or daughter or husband or wife?
I had a life before I came to prison. Things were not perfect, but I have some good memories to go along with all of the not-so-good-ones too.
I went to Rufus King Highschool in Milwaukee. My freshman year was full
of all kinds of people and experiences that come or go along with highschool. It was like a crossroads for me. I met people from the Dominican Republic, rich people, other poor people like me and some really, really smart people too. I had some very good teachers who did care. I played sports and all that, even though my mind was preoccupied with surviving after school. I made it to my senior year, but by then I pretty much gave up on myself. I guess when everyone else gives up on you it is only a matter of time before you follow their lead. I hate that I gave up on myself.
After almost twenty years of incarceration I now find myself fighting to keep my head above water. It is like de-ja-vu and I struggle with giving up again. My family struggles out there without me. What kind of Husband or Partner am I? What kind of Father am I? Who am I? Am I just a number?
The 11 x 15 Campaign gives me hope that one of these days people will wake up and realize there is a better way than this. Anyone that knows me knows that not a day goes by that I do not suffer because of my past poor choices. I support the 11 x 15 Campaign because it is the only option I have for any
kind of REDEMPTION. Being warehoused in some psychological gulag is just torture.

I'm just saying...
Lena Taylor to Ramiah on his complaint that he cannot get



similar cases, unequal treatment-Ramiah's case sparks debate

Gina Barton , Corrections reporter for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, did an investigative report comparing Ramiah's Whiteside's lengthy time in prison with the short sentence of his Truth-in -Sentencing Roommate. Both committed generally the same crime. She exposes what is happening to many prisoners sentenced before 2000. Although judges gave lengthy sentences before truth -in -sentencing, they fully expected them to be release after serving one fourth the sentence if they behaved well, which was the law at the time. And here Ramiah still sits after 20 years!

read in PDF format and it is pasted below or

click here for link to MJS online article

FFUP is preparing a compassionate release package for a few inmates with cases like Ramiah to present ot the parole commission in hopes to secure their immediate release. Learn about compassionate release and the joint effort of WISDOM and FFUP to open up the very stuck process.

At left, Ramiah Whiteside stands on the grounds of the Fox Lake Correctional Institution. After 19 years, he still doesn't know when he'll get out. At right, Shane Urness speaks about drunken driving to a high school in Cornell, Wis. Urness, whose offense was similar to Whiteside's, served five years in prison and was released five years ago.

By Gina Barton of the Journal Sentinel
Nov. 29, 2014                            
When Ramiah Whiteside saw the flashing red and blue lights in his rearview mirror, he drove faster.
He was behind the wheel of a stolen Cadillac. He was on probation. At 19, he already had a lengthy arrest record and had served prison time for selling marijuana.
Careening out of control, the car plowed through a Milwaukee County bus stop shelter, killing a teenage girl and two men waiting there. Then it crashed into a building and exploded in flames. Police pulled Whiteside from the vehicle, but his 15-year-old cousin was trapped inside and burned to death.
That was almost 20 years ago.
At a 1995 hearing, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Hansher sentenced Whiteside to 47 years — the maximum — and said he would order more time if he could. For years afterward, Hansher told Whiteside's story to other young defendants, using it as a cautionary tale of what can happen when a joy ride goes bad.
Nine years later, Shane Urness sped down a curving road in western Wisconsin's Buffalo County. Headed home from an alcohol-fueled party with his best friend at 3 a.m., Urness tried to go around a slower vehicle in a no-passing zone and smashed head-on into an oncoming car. His friend, just 22, was killed. So were two men in the other car. Two others were seriously injured.
At 20, Urness had never been in jail, never been in trouble. He sobbed as Buffalo County Circuit Judge Dane Morey — calling it the most difficult sentencing of his career — handed down a prison term of five years, far less than the maximum of 87 1/2.
Whiteside and Urness shared a prison cell for more than six months. Theirs is a story of redemption, both behind bars and on the outside. It is also a story that reveals how Wisconsin's truth-in-sentencing law doesn't necessarily mean more prison time for a similar crime — but in the state with the highest rate of African-American incarceration in the country, being black just might.
Urness, who is white, was sentenced in 2005 under truth in sentencing, which took effect in 1999. As a result, he had to serve every day ordered by the judge. As he left the courtroom for prison, he knew the exact date he would be set free.
Whiteside, who is black, was sentenced under the old parole system. Prisoners like him become eligible for parole after serving 25% of their sentences. In most cases, they must be paroled after serving two-thirds of their time.
That means Whiteside could have been set free after about 12 years, and will likely have to be released after about 31. He has served nearly 20 so far. His is a sentence of uncertainty, of never knowing when he will get out of prison and no specific standards he can meet on his own to make it happen.
Whiteside is among some 2,700 people incarcerated in Wisconsin whose sentences allow for parole, but who remain in custody. All of them were sentenced before truth in sentencing took effect.
Like Whiteside, 45% are black, compared with 6.5% of the state's population and 43% of all male inmates. Like Whiteside, more than half committed their crimes in their teens or 20s. The cost of keeping them locked up is about $100 million a year, paid by state taxpayers.
Parole grants have decreased dramatically in recent years — from 1,146 in 2005 to 152 in 2013.
Inmate mentor
Urness was a recent arrival to New Lisbon Correctional Center when he met Whiteside nine years ago. Urness had no idea what to expect from prison or how to survive there. What's more, he had broken both arms, both legs and his neck in the crash. His muscles were still weak, and he walked with a limp.
Whiteside, by then, had spent some of his time behind bars studying to be a personal trainer. In the prison gym, he devised exercise programs to help inmates deal with conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Urness started working out with him. Once they got to talking and realized they were coping with the same guilt and loss, had the same need to atone for starkly similar crimes, they slowly forged a friendship.
"He was a lot of help," Urness said. "He was somebody to talk to, whether it was about family or because of the issues I was going through. ...Over time, I realized he was somebody I could trust. The more I got to know him, the more I realized he actually was somebody trying to better himself."
Whiteside pushed Urness to participate in the Hope Program, in which two or three inmates spent time with small groups of troubled kids, aiming to lower their odds of future incarceration by listening to their problems and sharing life experiences.
"In my heart, I know Whiteside is a good person," Urness said. "I know he would be a contributing factor to society, getting a job, working with troubled teens or even troubled adults. Whatever he chooses to do, Whiteside would put it 100% forward."
Today, Urness has been home for five years. He's married with a child. Working. He's got five years left on supervision. His sentence calls for him to do at least three speeches a year about the dangers of drinking and driving, but he does more, sometimes 15, sometimes 20 — largely inspired by his participation in the Hope Program, which has since been discontinued.
He will always, he says, do more. He has a deep need to help other young people avoid the pain he caused.
"I hope it helps somebody," Urness said of his presentations. "It's the best way I know how to say I'm sorry to everybody I hurt, to better myself and better the people around me."
Urness isn't the only one who believes Whiteside has a similar capacity for good.
Hansher, the judge who sentenced Whiteside to nearly 50 years behind bars and wished he could have ordered more, now sees him as proof that people can change.
"We exchanged letters, and I was just impressed," Hansher told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "If rehabilitation is the goal of prison, he's been rehabilitated, and we're warehousing him at the moment."
But Hansher's letters in support of Whiteside's release on parole were of no help. In fact, they had the opposite effect.
When Whiteside's girlfriend sent a copy of one of the letters to the parole board, Commissioner William Francis promptly filed a complaint with prison officials, accusing Whiteside of forgery. He was sent to solitary confinement for three days while the allegations were investigated.
Whiteside said his June parole hearing with Francis was perhaps the worst moment of his two-decade incarceration.
"Even with the support letters I had, it made absolutely no difference," Whiteside said in a phone interview after his release from solitary. "He asked me what happened at sentencing. He went back and said since Judge Hansher made those comments on the record way back then — and whether these letters were legitimate or not — he was going to go by what was said at sentencing."
A recording of the meeting obtained by the Journal Sentinel confirmed Whiteside's statements.
Francis could not be reached.
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Joy Staab, who also is responsible for the parole board's media relations, said the temporary change in Whiteside's prison housing was "a non-punitive status" and that Whiteside was released from segregation "once the documents were authenticated."
Like the parole commissioners before him, Francis gave Whiteside no indication of when he might be released on parole and no road map of what he could do to help his chances. Francis simply decided Whiteside's request for release would be considered again in a year.
Parole Commissioner Steven Landreman has said commissioners rarely decide to release someone on the spot, and they never set a specific future date for release.
His statements came during a Feb. 19 meeting between officials from the parole board and the Corrections Department and a group of faith leaders and activists known as WISDOM, an audio recording of which was obtained by the Journal Sentinel.
"I can't just come into a hearing and tell an inmate, 'Well, you've got two more years to do. We'll let you out in two years.' That's not how it works," Landreman said at the meeting. "There's a lot of factors in considering how much time an individual needs to do based on all of the factors with that inmate and his situation."
Another roadblock Whiteside faces is that he must complete a substance abuse treatment program before he can be released. But an internal program review committee at each prison decides which inmates to enroll in counseling.
The number of inmates who need treatment far outweighs the number of spots available, and truth-in-sentencing inmates almost always get priority. As a result, parole-eligible inmates such as Whiteside are constantly shifted to the back of the line.
"I don't know how many different ways they can say, 'Not now, but we're not going to tell you when,'" Whiteside said. "You think you're making some inroads, doing better, getting closer, and then they basically pull the rug out from under you."
Urness, during his five years in custody, saw Whiteside and other inmates sentenced under the old law return from their parole hearings with the same sense of hopelessness.
"I'd see grown guys coming back bawling," he said. "It's a huge mind game. Truth in sentencing sucks, because you didn't have a chance to get out early, but you knew when the day came, you're done. You're out the door. With these guys under parole, they don't know."
Not discouraged
Whiteside, now 39 and already nicknamed "Old School," said he refuses to remain discouraged for long. He, too, has a deep need to help other young men avoid the pain he caused. If he can't do it back home in Milwaukee, he'll do what he can for guys like Urness who join him behind bars.
"I have a legacy, or a ripple effect, from what I did, and I can't change that," Whiteside said. "It makes me want to do everything I can to say, 'I'm not the person who is selfish anymore.' I don't have that chip on my shoulder or that attitude. That guy grew up. This guy realizes my choices impact people I don't even know."
Whiteside, who had some behavior problems in prison early on, credits the 22 months he spent in the Cognitive Group Intervention Program with helping him change his thinking. The program's goal is to teach inmates how to make better choices and to empathize with their victims.
After finishing his session, Whiteside helped start a program in which participating inmates could continue to support each other.
In 2007, Whiteside became eligible for parole.
A year later, an evaluator from Manitoba House, a community-based residential treatment facility, offered him a bed, saying he was "unlikely to reoffend if monitored and treated in an intensive fashion."
"The offense of which Mr. Whiteside was convicted is directly linked to his addiction," the report says. "This serious misconduct certainly demands punishment, but also calls for a disposition that recognizes Mr. Whiteside's positive growth and redirection since the offense occurred."
Research shows the likelihood of committing a violent crime decreases dramatically after people reach their mid-20s. More than 99% of the men awaiting parole in Wisconsin are 30 or older.
Whiteside was 33 when the Manitoba House evaluation was done. By then, in addition to completing the cognitive intervention program, he had earned a high school equivalency degree and 30 college credits as well as completing programs in anger management and domestic violence prevention, among others.
"It would seem that Mr. Whiteside has finally reached an age and maturity level at which he is able to accept the mandate of sobriety (and) make positive changes," the report says.
That was six years ago.
Last month, Whiteside was transferred to the Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution, where he's told there is finally a space in a drug and alcohol counseling program for him.
Urness was released from prison five years ago, at the age of 26.
Some of his victims' loved ones think his sentence was punishment enough, Urness says. But some, he knows, will never believe that.
"In my situation, there are probably people who still wish I was in there from now until eternity," he said.
As for Whiteside, the same dynamic is at play. His aunt, whose 15-year-old son died trapped in the fiery car, has found a way to move forward with the help of anti-depressants and her church, she said in a letter to the parole board.
She has seen the changes in Whiteside and believes he deserves a chance to live out in the world again.
"Ramiah loved my son, Payton Ashford, like his own brother," she wrote. "Ramiah is very loving, caring, respectful, and thoughtful. I know he never meant for any of this to happen or turn out this way. I know he has suffered a great deal also."
But for Paula Kirk, whose uncle, Roger, was struck by the stolen Cadillac and killed while waiting for a bus that would bring him home from work, it's not that simple.
"He should not be able to enjoy his life and move on, because he took so many innocent people," Kirk, 52, said of Whiteside. "I had to take my path through my church and I forgave him because God said I should, but I don't want him roaming the streets."
Perhaps Whiteside could help people on the outside, she mused, mentoring young black men from her neighborhood to keep them out of jail. But she doubts he or anyone in his situation could overcome the virtually insurmountable obstacles to achieving that goal.
"Even if you served all your time and got out, you want to get a job now and live your life decent, but people don't let you. This society we have is constantly judging people. If you won't let the person go straight because you're still judging them about their prison record, they go back and do what they did before. They have no reason to do good," she said.
"If he wants to do good, he should do it in prison."
David Liners, director of WISDOM, believes it's society's obligation to give prisoners who have been truly rehabilitated the opportunity to prove themselves back home.
"At what point is a sentence doing more harm than good?" he asked. "It's the American ideal: You've paid your debt to society, now you can start over. But it seems in many cases, we've lost sight of that fact."