Sharpe James, Bernie Kerik attack 'dehumanizing' criminal justice system

By Terrence T. McDonald | The Jersey Journal
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on April 02, 2015

Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, left, and Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James are two of the speakers during the 2nd Annual Prisoner Reentry Conference at St. Peter's University in Jersey City on Thursday, April 2, 2015.

 

JERSEY CITY -- Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James and Bernard Kerik, a former New York police commissioner, appeared at the city's prisoner re-entry conference at Saint Peter's University this afternoon to speak out about the horrors they experienced while incarcerated in federal prison.

The two men called on officials to reform the criminal justice system, saying there are too many people being sent to prison, which they said is as violent as life on the streets and where inmates learn nothing but how to lie, cheat and steal.

"Prison is like your pet dog on a leash," said James, 79, who spent two years behind bars after being convicted of fraud charges in 2008. "If he does the right thing, you reward him with a can of Alpo. (He) does the wrong thing, you kick him, yank, take a stick ... or put him in a cage. That's what prison life is all about."

He added: "Prison life is hell, don't let anybody tell you different ... It's dehumanizing."

Kerik, 59, who spent three years in prison after pleading guilty in 2009 to eight felony charges, including tax fraud, blasted people who joke about "country club" prisons. Life inside even minimum-security facilities is "not a joke," he said.

"Going to prison is like dying with your eyes open," Kerik said.

The two men were some of the featured speakers at the all-day conference, sponsored by Mayor Steve Fulop and former Gov. Jim McGreevey. McGreevey runs Martin's Place, the city's prisoner re-entry and jobs program.

McGreevey said today's event, the city's second annual prisoner re-entry conference, was organized to develop advocacy for "fundamental change" to the criminal justice system, including more addiction services and job training for ex-inmates, and prison diversion.

"The damage that we do through incarceration actually makes people worse," he said. "It is expensive failure."

Both James and Kerik today did not sound hopeful that any amount of post-incarceration can help without major changes in the criminal justice system.

"We have to rethink what we're doing in this country today," Kerik said.

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commented 2015-04-05 05:45:53 -0700
Not only Bernard Erik but Martha Stewart came home and they allowed her to resume with tv deals and marketing that brought her millions..
commented 2015-04-05 05:45:26 -0700
Not only Bernard Erik but Martha Stewart came home and they allowed her to resume with tv deals and marketing that brought her millions..
commented 2015-04-04 06:08:14 -0700
I WISH I COULD DO SOME THIS TO HELP THIS CAUSE! I HAVE A SON IN FEDERAL PRISON AND IT IS VERY DEHUMANIZING, DANGEROUS AND ONLY MAKE SOME OF THE PRISON MORE BITER .