Thursday, February 18, 2010

#48 Prison Talk: To praise or criticize (retro)

Prison Talk: To Praise or Criticize

So my Lakers will be in the Conference Finals…cool. I am split on the Spurs and Hornets, but since I was born in New Orleans, and Byron Scott was a former Laker player, I want to pull for the Hornets.

By the time I finish this blog, the game will be over, since there is about 8 minutes left, and last I checked, the Spurs were up by 11. But the Spurs have collapsed several times in New Orleans, so we’ll see how it goes.

Before I continue, I remind you to continue to email me and ask me about prison issues. I will also be mailing out my “Grades of Honor” books to those who ordered them at the end of the month, so if you have not requested the books, please do so as soon as you can. It allows me time to prepare everything I need to send at one time, rather than every other day or so.

(and if you don’t mind, I am gonna keep my eye on the game too, with Spurs up 9 points with 4 and a half minutes to go..)

Today I saw a site called Outlaw City, the Medium which appears to come from the New York Daily Times. It looks like a blog section from it, and there was a blog about PTO, Prison Talk Online, and the owner David Frisk, also known as Fed-X.

The original blog seems neutral but seems to side a little bit on the affirmative, and after the first blog there were 91 comments afterwards. I read some of them and saw a lot of comments that were in absolute confirmation of PTO…although I might suggest some are kissing butt. Not all of them, but there are those who look for attention rather than sincerity.

But not all of the comments were in the affirmative. There were a lot of very strong and negative comments about how the owner has scammed people out of money and how people get banned for very flimsy reasons. There were in fact a lot of angry people who have no good words for PTO or their owner.

In addition, there were also a lot of very negative comments about how some ex con is still conning people by starting a prison support site. There are a lot of people who felt that what “Fed-X” is doing is only a scam.

I read through a lot of those comments and decided to make my own. I made an improvisation post and added mine to it. It took awhile, but it was added to the growing list of ….

(Hold on, Spurs up 5 with 40 seconds left…)

Spurs win…interesting. (hey, it IS a blog, isn’t it?)

As I was saying, I added my comment to the growing list of comments, which I wanted to share with you:

I am split on the issue, being both an ex offender and two, being a former writer that was asked by the staff to become a moderator. When I first started writing for PTO, it was one of numerous other sites that was doing the same thing. Anyone who has been there can easily look up my two names, Nolaw97 and masonik4, to find my contributions.
There is no doubt that there is some credibility in what PTO does, but the downside of it is that in actuality it has almost no credibility as far as contributions from the real sources, that being ex offenders.

I was absolutely amazed at how much this so called prison support site has turned into a gossip column for women who are addicted to thugs or their “man” and so many posts were inches away from porn.

I was also very discouraged in how many of these moderators acted like prison guards, lording over members and ready to ban at a moment’s notice. It also puzzled me how people rack up thousands of posts by simply copying and pasting simple sentences like “hi and welcome to pto” or “I am so sorry about your situation”.

The idea of the site, and others like it, is supposed to be about prison support…not a pity party. When I joined several years ago, the goal was to talk about prison from one who has been there, not someone who heard from someone else. If a person is going to get help, they must hear it from ex offenders who can speak on experience and still be encouraging.

This is barely found at PTO, or any other site, not that the effort is not worth anything. I was very discouraged that there actually were more people acting like cackling hens than people actually looking for real help.

I broke off from the site and started prison blogs and wrote prison books, none of which was supported by PTO…odd, because many of my posts there had people asking me if I ever wrote a book, or that I should write one.

Sadly, I was banned by PTO when another member spoke for me and argued why members at PTO would praise a prison book by someone who never shared a post in their life, but would turn their backs on an in house writer who answered thousands of emails on the site. Some of the PTO moderators didn’t like my blogs so they banned me from PTO, but continued to make very nasty remarks on my blogs.

Prison support? Barely, which is unfortunate because there are thousands that need help… and get nothing but a pity party instead.

I realize that inside of a day or so there may be 5 or 10 more comments on it. 10 comments were made since the beginning of April, and the comments range from absolute support of PTO to absolute belief that PTO is a scam. So what do I believe?

This is important because it IS about prison issues, and the credibility of any site to sincerely help those looking for help. There has to be a true foundation about prison support, and that must be shown in the fruit of the work.

So, am I here to praise Caesar, or to bury him?

Before I offer that, let me first establish some form of credibility. If you have been following my writings, then I should not have to describe it, but if you are new to my blogs then I should share some of my background in the realm of prison writing and prison issues.

I am of course an ex felon myself, and I kept a lot of journals on my experiences while in prison. Odd, I never did it with the idea of writing a book or anything else, it was something I picked up while I was in college. Sometimes writing a journal helped me to see where I was, and where I was going.

After I got out in 2001 I happened to find a church ministry, and started writing there, and from there I found other prison support sites. Prison Talk Online was not the first, but it was one where I did a lot of writing. Anyone can check the site and look up either of my pen names to see what I wrote for the site, and the HUGE number of people that read and appreciated my posts.

I have also written for at least 20 other prison support sites and eventually started my own blogs and wrote prison books and the like. I also realize that I am one of a very, very small number of people who actually contribute to prison support sites that has actually BEEN in prison…not as someone who heard from someone else.

Having written for PTO for a few years, and even asked once to become a moderator (of which I turned down), I think I am credible enough to speak on the efforts of PTO. But remember this, what I share is just like any one else’s words…it is opinionated.

But however opinionated it may be, a person who kisses up to a site has no credibility, and a person who just assumes that every con is out to con again has no credibility. That sets my tone on what I think of PTO and the owner.

First off, any comments made on that site about “you can’t trust a con”, or “what do you expect, he’s a con artist”, is absolutely stupid. People like that are completely ignorant and foolish and prejudiced because they assume that every person who has done time is evil and can never be trusted.

Yeah right, like our politicians are any better.

When I read a comment about someone criticizing the owner just because he is an ex con, that ticks me off, because it can be a direct shot at me too. It implies that no matter what you try to do after you do your time, all you will ever be is a criminal, and you cannot be trusted.

Those are words of a pure jackass.

It’s too extreme and all inclusive, so it has no validity. But the same goes for any member or moderator of PTO that is “blowing sunshine” about the site.

I think it borders on the realms of fanatic, or a cult following, when people will “swear” by Prison Talk Online, and make the owner seem like a god. Even when I was writing my posts for PTO and at the time made positive comments about it, I still saw problems with the site. Granted nothing is perfect, but I am not going to kiss anybody’s butt over their site.

I know there are lots and lots of people who appreciate what PTO does, but I will discredit any moderators who are kissing the site’s butt. Just as one side can be too extreme in the negative, there can also be an extremity in the opposite direction. Personally speaking, I think those in that area are delusional, and blind to a lot of factors that prevent them from seeing the positives and negatives of the situation, and thus have no credibility in the argument either.

Where I stand is somewhere in the middle. As I said, any person that judges the site or owner simply because it is run by an ex con is an idiot, but at the same time I will call any moderator the same who is that fanatical about the site.

To me, they’re both idiots.

There has to be a balance, one in which there is neither criticism nor praise, yet ironically there must also BE both. So this is what I believe.

As far as any opinions on the scam, I cannot honestly comment on that. I read about it on a few sites, and I know a lot of people are really hot about that, but I myself have no dealings with any fund raising for the site. Heck, I even offered once to tag PTO in my “Grades of Honor” books, and I even sent a few moderators a free copy when I wrote my first book, hoping they would at least give me a nice review on the site… but they never did.

Funny, whenever a new prison book comes out anywhere else, PTO allows members to push it like there is no tomorrow, but a guy who shared hundreds and hundreds of pages of posts to help members can’t get the time of day…ironic.

Still, as for the scam, I cannot say anything on that, since I only know what I have read on the sites. But what I CAN comment on with some level of authority is the true sincerity of the site. And on that idea, I can do two things at the same time. I can praise the site… but criticize the members.

The site in itself is only a shell of the effort, it takes people to determine what it actually does. Prison Talk, by the organizational theme and foundation, is about prison support. That cannot be argued by anyone because the ideology is simple; to help those with loved ones in prison.

But the problem is that it really isn’t prison support. It’s a gossip cafĂ©.

The startling thing about the site, and all the others like it, is that it isn’t really about finding answers to problems…it’s about embracing problems. So you ask, what’s the difference? A lot.

Many people go to PTO with problems, but when people do this, it is to get one of two things…either to find a solution, or to get sympathy. If you are there to get an answer to your problem, you are looking for true prison support, or help, or aid, in a situation. However, if you are there to get sympathy, you are not there to solve a problem, you are looking for people that are hurting just like you so you can have something in common with them.

Support: “To keep from falling or sinking, to bear the weight of, to give strength to”

Sympathy: “a feeling of pity or tenderness towards one suffering pain or grief or trouble; sharing another’s emotions”.

See, this is where thousands of members are missing it. They are there to share in others grief, yet they think that is helping someone. But if I am a mom with a son in prison, I don’t want to come to a pity party, which is what sympathy is, I want to find answers, I want to find hope, I want to be able to cope with a loved one in prison.

Lots of people at PTO have completely missed that incredible piece of information, and there is a very credible reason for this: Their information is not first-hand. In fact, many people on PTO are sharing information that isn’t even correct, because they heard it from someone else.

This is a very critical problem with prison support sites; there’s almost NO ONE there to validate the info about prison. If you think going to the DOC website is going to make you an expert, you are fooling yourself. There is a whole WORLD of information about prisons that most people at PTO are not even aware of, because they have no venues to hear it.

The reason for this is simple: there are almost no ex felons who write at PTO. If there are almost no experienced people to share first hand knowledge, then the masses are not working with the best information to begin with. If for example there are 50,000 people at PTO, I will wager you that less than 50 are ex felons who contribute consistently. That’s about ½ of a percent, and I am being generous with that.

This is the criticism I have with the site, that the TRUE measure of prison support is not just giving sympathy, it’s about giving answers and hope. There might be 1000 die-hard fanatics of PTO that might not like what I say, but not ONE of them can argue at the validity of my posts there. When you read my works, you can tell that not only was I there to share personal experiences, I was also there to give you solutions. I didn’t spent time saying, “hi and welcome to PTO” or “I am so sorry to hear about your loss”.

If you are looking for prison support, you are looking for strength not just to make it, but to also find answers, to find solutions and resolutions to your problems. You’ll get sympathy and “support” that derives from OUTSIDE the wall, but until you have information that comes from the inside, you are only fighting half the battle.

Has anyone told you how canteen works? Has anyone told you about the grievance procedure? Has anyone told you how you can write effective letters to the prisons to help your loved one? Has anyone told you what it’s like being in the hole? Has anyone told you what the food is like? Has anyone told you what work release is about?

I’m not talking about intel that some wanna-be moderator shared, that info can be distorted because if that person was never in prison, they do not know what they are talking about. It is amazing how many people on PTO and sites like that can declare themselves “experts” when they have never set foot in prison except to visit someone.

This is a major problem with PTO, because without the voices of ex felons, it really isn’t prison support. You cannot understand prison until you hear it from one who has been there. And if you do not hear their words, then you can be giving false information to people who are clinging to some words of encouragement.

I have seen this with every prison support site I have written for, lack of knowledge is why people are not getting the answers they need. And lack of answers leads to lack of hope. Until more ex felons talk more about their experiences, the masses will continue to be misled about how to help a loved one in prison.

THAT is my major criticism with PTO…that and terrible moderators, but that supports my point.

As for fund raising, I think an idiot would assume that all charitable efforts require no money. I make it very clear that if a person wants to support my writings, they can always send me a gift. I don’t lie to you in that I will certainly use it to buy ink and paper and hopefully a new computer and printer, but I will also spend it at McDonalds, or Ruby Tuesday’s or buy a shirt or even a video game. Your support allows me to do that, but it also reinforces to me that I must give you my best when I blog, because you deserve that. Further still, I have books available, as well as prison cards and other items, so if you want to support me but want something tangible, I have that too.

I don’t care if PTO raises a million dollars, if he treats the members fairly and gives them his best, then he deserves it, even if his costs is only $10.000. Too many people are so stuck up about an ex felon making money, as if he does not have the right to earn a dime without some jerk thinking it was conned money.

But I also make it very clear that I do not support PTO in any fashion anymore; they are not allies of mine for the way I was treated by some foolish members and moderators. There are lots of people who still follow my writings, but still go to PTO. Hey, that’s cool, I am not condemning everyone for going there. You have to get the help wherever you can get it.

But I have no more ties with PTO, nor any allegiance to them either. This actually was a reason I was banned, because I blogged here about my feelings of the site. Apparently Fed-X and PTO owns my blogs and I was prohibited from saying anything negative about their site on my own blogs.

One comment on the Outlaw City site implied that members that were banned were done so by the rules…there is no rule that PTO can create that restricts me from speaking freely on MY own blog. None. But that is why they banned me, based off a friend who stuck up for me.

So, do I praise or criticize the site? The site certainly helps people to find others that are suffering like they are, and it succeeds in providing a place where horny women can talk about their man publicly and show info and give specific info about those guys. It succeeds in connecting thousands of people who are concerned about guys in prison.

But it fails in the very reason they were brought together…to understand the very nature of prison, so they can be better equipped to help the people they love. I don’t care what the owner, or any moderator or the site says, if there are virtually no ex felons contributing, then all you have is a pity party. Many are comfortable with that, just being around others who are suffering, but if you are comfortable SUFFERING, then I hate to tell you this…you’re losing the war. Or maybe…

You’ve already lost the war.

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