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COACH Faith Based Prison Ministry

Reinforcing our Commitment

COACH assists inmates and their families before, during and after their incarceration. Reverend Willie G. Dixon has been involved with the Abe Brown Prison Ministry (Prison Crusade Ministry) since 1979. Rev. Dixon travels weekly to the Zephyrhills Correctional Institution to teach a two-hour Bible Study Class. The purpose of the class is to bring about a mental and spiritual change in the lives of inmates and their families. This helps the inmates make a smooth transition into society and become productive citizens.

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The Hidden Rules of Plea Bargains by Rev. Willie G. Dixon

Op Ed
The Florida Sentinel January 14, 2022


Why Are So Many Black American Men in Prison and Cannot Vote?

Why are so many Black American

□men in our state and federal prisons? This question brings great
concern for Returning Citizens and their family members. According to the Marshall Project,
"taxpayers invest over $80 billion to incarcerate millions of prisoners. Family members of inmates
spend an additional $ 2 to $8 billion dollars in telephone calls, and prison visits to make prison life
bearable for their loved ones. Many women work two and three jobs to assist their loved ones and
pay their house hold bills." Based on the data, it appears that prison is a booming business used to
support the judicial and penal systems and employ residents of rural communities. One private
prison threatened to sue the state of California due to the dwindling number of inmates in their
private prisons. It bears to reason that “someone” must go to prison to support the prison
complex financially.
On November 20, 1979, there were only 13 prisons in the state ofFlorida. Irecall the date well, as
it’s the day I was released from prison. Today, there are 67 prisons in Florida, mostly located in
rural communities. Additionally, 30,870 or 33.2% White males are in prison, while 39,874 or 45.4%
Black Americans are in our Florida prisons, according to the Florida Department of Corrections
2019-2020 Annual Report.Black Americans comprise a majority of the prison population. Why
are so many Black Americans imprisoned, and how does it impact the democracy process at
large?
Florida leads the nation in people serving a life sentence under the “two strikes” law formally
called the Prison Release Reoffender law. In addition, “almost all state prosecutors seek to
enhance the sentence of all eligible defendants.” according to the MarshallProject.An example of
such flagrant action is evident in the Tampa Bay area. Hillsborough County had 3,405 eligible
cases and chose to enhance 1,828 or 54% of their cases. Pasco and Pinellas County had 5,486
eligible cases and enhanced all 5,486 cases. This means a defendant often received more
time.
It’s an odd scenario considering the accused are supposed to be advised of the direct
consequences of a guilty plea by the judge or his attorney as mandated by Florida Rules of
CriminalProcedure 3.171 and 3.172 (j).80% to 90% of the Public Defenders cases result in a plea
bargain. One wonders how many current incarcerated citizens and Returning Citizens
understood the impact of taking a plea bargain.
BlackAmerican men make up roughly 7% of the Florida population, yet over 45%are incarcerated
and stripped of their voting rights. Votes that could shift policies if Black, Brown, and poor
individuals were heard at the ballot box.
In an effort to reduce the well-known “school to prison pipeline” and create a uniform plea bargain
system that is equitable for all residents, returning citizens and their families must speak up
and use their voices for change.

HOW CAN YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE? 
COACH Foundation, Inc. is requesting a copy of the Plea Agreement of currently
incarcerated people and Returning Citizens who were not advised they would be unable to vote or
complete their sentence until all fines, fees, and court costs were paid in full.
We are working to promote a more uniform plea bargain system.
Comments and questions are welcome and can be emailed to wdixon2558@aol.com or mailed to
COACH Foundation, Inc.PO Box 310747Tampa,FL 33680.

Please note: the intent of this article is not to give legal advice. Please seek the help of an
effective post-conviction attorney if you have a legal question or the judge did not inform you that
you cannot vote or complete your sentence until you paid all your fines, fees, and court cost.

 

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FLORIDA SENTINEL PRINT

Download the original Florida Sentinel newspaper print article

Please Bargain Survey

Download and complete the attached Plea Bargain Survey and submit to wdixon2558@aol.com or maile to
COACH Foundation, Inc.PO Box 310747Tampa,FL 33680.