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PLN associate editor profiled in local TN article about criminal justice issues

Murfreesboro Post, Jan. 1, 2008.
PLN associate editor profiled in local TN article about criminal justice issues - Murfreesboro Post 2008

Hank Haines: Editor makes amends for this teenage robbery

HANK HAINES, Post Columnist

Posted: Sunday, September 7, 2008 8:17 am

Look, can we get this out of the way right here? When a teenager, Alex Friedmann pulled an armed robbery, got into a shoot out, was wounded, tried, convicted then spent 10 years in the pen. Unlike the rest of us, he made some mistakes when he was a teenager.

“I can’t provide any reasonable explanation. I was stupid. I was greedy. In addition, I was a terrible criminal and was caught right away.”

That was in ’87. “I was young, but there are a lot of young people out there who don’t get in trouble.”

He’s aware of maybe a debt he still owes. “I’ve tried to make amends. The experience led me to become interested in criminal justice issues,” he said from his Nashville office where he is associate editor of Prison Legal News (

He’s also vice president of the non-profit Private Corrections Institute.

Friedmann, who spent the usual college years—18-26 – behind bars, is an articulate spokesman for prison reform.

“Look, we have 2.3 million locked up now and the number’s going up, and 95 percent of them will be released back into society. They’ll be given 50 bucks and shoved out the gate. They’ll go back, most of them, to their old neighborhoods that probably are crime infested. They’ll have trouble getting a job. Sixty percent of them will be back in prison sooner or later.”

“We’re not preparing prisoners to be released. Drugs are a problem, OK, but many crimes are the result of alcohol.”

Friedmann, a graduate of both types of prison, is solidly against privatization of prisons. “I have moral and philosophical objections to the privatization of prisons. Now, I want to be very careful not to imply that our public prisons are great. They aren’t.

“But the privately run prisons are operated for one reason: profits. That’s a poor excuse to be in the prison business.”

He points out that our “corrections system” fails to correct.

“And I have a big gripe that we think institutionalizing is the only punishment. Most of the nation’s prisoners are not murderers or bank robbers. They are into drugs, drinking, fights, stealing, fraud, and they can be punished by drug and alcohol courts, fines, community work service, weekend incarceration, electronic monitoring, counseling, treatment. All this is cheaper than prison and will increase the chances of bringing about corrections in behavior.”

Friedmann likes drug, alcohol and mental treatment courts. “Most of our citizens want less crime, less victimization. These measures will generate some correctional behavior.”

Friedmann drew regional attention in mid-August when he led a fight to derail a federal court nominee.