Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hello everyone, and welcome to the 145th episode of the Atlas Society asks, my name is Jennifer Anju Grossman. My friends call me Jag. I'm the c e o of the Atlas Society. We are the leading nonprofit, introducing young people to the ideas of Eran in fun, creative ways, like graphic novels, animated videos. Today we are joined by Michael Lebowitz. Before I even begin to introduce our special guest, I wanna remind all of you who are watching us on Zoom, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or YouTube. You can use the comment section to type your questions. Go ahead, start adding them to the queue. I'll remind you later as well. We'll get to as many of them as we can. Now, our guest, Michael Lebowitz, is an author prison reform advocate and objective who spent 25 years in prison before turning his life around and dedicating himself to advocating personal liberty. He is the host of the Rational Egoist YouTube channel and co-author of the book Down the Rabbit Hole, how The Culture of Corrections Encourages Crime. That book offers a unique perspective on why corrections more often than not, fail to achieve their stated goals. There it is on the screen, and we'll put the links in there as well. Michael, thank you so much for joining us,
Speaker 1 00:01:34 And thank you so much for having me.
Speaker 0 00:01:36 So we usually like to start with the guest's origin story, and sounds like you have one of the most, uh, dramatic and unusual ones so far. Tell us your story. How did you end up spending 25 years in prison and how are you able to, uh, use that setting to put your life on a better path?
Speaker 1 00:02:02 Well, I'm always hesitant to talk about, as you call it, my origin story. The reason being is cuz it's, it's not pretty. I didn't have a very good upbringing and I never want to come off as if I'm using that as an excuse for why I turned out the way that I did. There's plenty of people who have been through far worse than I've been through who excelled in life. I didn't. And for whatever reason, I I, I can't ultimately pinpoint that. I just know that as I got older, it was a function of my choices. And if I had to put two things together that would explain why I ended up in prison, I would say one, I had serious abandonment issues. And those abandonment issues stemmed largely from when I was a kid. My mother overdosed a few times. Uh, she was very neglectful of me, so I was always fearful that I was gonna lose my mother.
Speaker 1 00:02:53 I was always fearful she was gonna die. And then when I ended up having girlfriends, I should sort of projected that onto them, and I was very jealous, very possessive, very, uh, afraid I was going to lose them. So I attempted to control them. On the flip side of that, growing up, um, my father had a reputation for being somewhat of a tough guy in my neighborhood. Everybody knew him. They, people looked up to him and I wanted to be like him. So I had these two things where I wanted to be a tough guy, where I valued violence and I had insecurity issues. So now when you project that, when I was 19, 20 years old, I had a girlfriend and I did, like I said, I tried the controller. Uh, I had a lot of, well, I'm not gonna say fights. I assaulted a lot of people, um, that were guys that were friends with her, that took an interest in her.
Speaker 1 00:03:41 We ultimately broke up. She had a new boyfriend. I couldn't handle it. I arranged for three of my friends to break into her house. They beat 'em up, they stabbed him. And I got 27 years for that. And I had six years for other offenses as well, ranging from assaults to possession of narcotics with intent to sell. And that's how I landed in prison. And I'd be happy to answer any other questions about it. Like I said, I just normally don't like to go into too much detail because I never want to come off as if I'm blaming my parents or the neighborhood or anything else.
Speaker 0 00:04:13 Yeah. You know, I mean, when I think of it, you're 19 years old, 25 years in prison. We
Speaker 1 00:04:20 Look at 21. I'm sorry, I I went to jail when I was
Speaker 0 00:04:22 21, 20, 21. Well, still, yeah, very young. You know, you, you look at the headlines today and people are in for extremely violent crimes and they just are bounced back out and they go on to commit, uh, you know, other crimes. What, was there something different about the legal system back then, or, you know, it just seems like a, did you make more trouble when you were in prison or, you know, it just seems like an awfully long time.
Speaker 1 00:04:55 N no, I entered the legal system at a sort of a perfect storm. Connecticut, where I'm from, just w was in the midst of, its get tough on crime policy. So they had changed the parole requirements from 50% to 85%. They did away with good time, and they were given out harsh sentences on top of that, I was in a court that was specific. I mean, uh, specifically that court was tough on criminals and that were in front of them. So all that was sort of the perfect mix for me to get hit with far more time than somebody else in different circumstances would've gotten. And again, I I, I do think that objectively speaking, like if I look at other people who did the sim the same or similar things and what they got, I got too much time, but at the same time, I put myself in that situation. I did horrible things. So I mean, who am I to complain about it?
Speaker 0 00:05:50 So, uh, and now that's a very unique part of your story. Uh, and we were talking about this a little bit before, because when I was saying that some of the ways that the Atla Society tries to distribute its graphic novels and pocket guides, um, we send them to prison libraries, but that is not how you discovered Iram. So let's talk a little bit about that. When was that and how was that?
Speaker 1 00:06:15 It's a, it's a very interesting story. I, I was reading a book called The Triumph of Liberty by Jim Powell, and it was 64 mini biographies of people that advanced the cause of liberty throughout history. And she was one of the biographies. And the story of how Atlas Shrug came to be written really grabbed my attention. And at the time I was reading a lot of magazines from the Foundation for Economic Education in there. They had the address for LA Fair Books. So I wrote to LA Fair Books for a catalog. They sent me the catalog and they had a box set. And in that box set were Lu Van's Human Action, the Atlas Shrug that the Discovery of Freedom, I think Our Enemy, the State by Al Albert j Knock, and one other book that I'm not really, oh, uh, maybe it was the God of the Machine by Isabel Patterson. So I bought the box set and I read Atlas Shrugged and was just blown away by it. I mean, the, the book just, it offered a complete philosophy of life. A lot of people that I had talked to seemed to think it was just about politics or economics, but of course it's far more than that.
Speaker 0 00:07:27 Uh, yeah, you know, talking of Isabel Patterson and your podcast earlier, we recently had on the show Timothy Sanford with his new book on Freedom's Furies, which was writing about Isabel Patterson, Rose Wilder Lane, and Iran during the age of, of F D R and the New Deal and all of that. So that would be another person to add to your list. Um, so you went from at, was Atlas Shrug the first, and then what did you go on to read? And in retrospect, what is Atlas Shrug still your favorite or the non-fiction or the fiction, or what surprised you the most?
Speaker 1 00:08:08 Non-fiction, certainly it's my favorite. Uh, it, it brought the philosophy to life and it brought terms like self-interest or selfishness into my vocabulary, of course, reason in reality as it is, and the admiration of heroes and people that achieved in life. So it was great. But then I read the Virtuous Selfishness, which is a non-fiction collection of essays, and that advanced my thinking even further. But I have to say, I think if I had to put it on any one book that really changed the traject trajectory of my thinking, it would have to be introduction to objectives, epistemology, because the epistemology is the foundation that teaches you how to, to think, how to reason and, and how to assess things. So after reading that and then being able to apply it to an abundance of books I was reading or arguments, I was hearing the news, everything, it was just immensely helpful. And from there, I, I mean, I read the ob Objectiveism, the philosophy of Ran by Leonard Poff Capitalism, done an Ideal and probably everything else or damn there, everything else Rand's ever written. And a few by Leonard Poff as well, and Nathaniel brand. And, you know, the whole, I've run the gamut on my objectivist literature.
Speaker 0 00:09:28 Now, when you were reading all of this, this was during your time, when did you get out of prison?
Speaker 1 00:09:33 I just got out of prison four months ago yesterday.
Speaker 0 00:09:36 Wow. Okay. So we have one question here actually from Facebook. Jackson Manira asks, were you in prison during the Covid lockdowns? If so, what was that like?
Speaker 1 00:09:48 Yes, I was, um, I was a very vocal critic of the way the Department of Correction in Connecticut handled Covid. I was in the news, I was in the newspapers. Um, it was horrible. They seemed to not know what they were doing. I mean, there were mandates about wearing masks, but then correctional officers wouldn't wear the masks. There was mandates about social distancing, but then that wasn't followed. They would lock us down for, you know, the first time I think we were locked down five days without being able to exit the cell at all. Not even for a shower, they finally let us shower. But that was outside where the showers were cold. And that was in, you know, late March, early April, I think it was early April. And this sort of thing just continued. I mean, it was just a charade of nonsense.
Speaker 1 00:10:31 I mean, there was times, for instance, when they told us we could only walk in the hall five at a time, and we had the social distance. But while we were waiting to go outside, we were packed in the block Lake sardines, not even a foot from each other, probably, you know, 150 inmates, or when they tested us for the first time, we had to go out, you know, only a couple at a time and had to keep social distance. But while we were waiting, we were packed into a crowded stairwell and that type of thing just went on and on and on and on and on through the entire thing. And is probably still going on to this day. I don't doubt it is.
Speaker 0 00:11:05 So, uh, 21. When you got in, um, whe about how far into that trajectory did you discover Ayn Rand and, and did you have anybody else there that you could, uh, discuss with? Were you able to share the books with anybody? Would I, I don't know how strict the policies were if you were able to, uh, at, at some point, you know, communicate more with the outside world?
Speaker 1 00:11:33 Yes. In 2001, I met Brent McCall, my co-author for Down the Rabbit Hole. And he's actually, I would describe him as the senior author of the book. And he got transferred and then he came back and we ultimately ended up in the same block together in 2003. I had already discovered Rand by then and I started loaning the books to him, him. So we read them together, and through that we were able to read them together, debate the issues with each other, what, you know, various things meant, what the implications were. We were both ordering the books and it, that helped tremendously to have somebody to bounce the ideas off of. He was bouncing 'em off of me because, you know, when you're reading something alone, you, you can draw conclusions and whatnot, but it's always nice to get somebody else's vantage point, what they think, cuz they may be able to point out errors that you're unaware of.
Speaker 0 00:12:24 Interesting. Um, well, and we're gonna dive into the book in a little bit, but, uh, we're getting a couple of more questions that are coming in, uh, from Twitter, and I want you to encourage all of you who are watching on all the different platforms, go ahead and type those in. Um, Twitter marks Alex Solos asks, what is the key distinction between state prison and private prisons, which is better.
Speaker 1 00:12:48 I've never been in a private prison. I've only read about them. I will say this, that the private prisons in America are not run the way I would think a private business would ever be run. And what I mean by that is they're remunerated by the state that they're in or by the federal government. If they're federal prisons, I'm not even sure there are those, but if they are, there are, they would be remunerated by the federal government, but they're paid based on the amount of inmates that they house at a given time. So the incentive, if there is one, would be to actually keep guys in prison, not to rehabilitate them. I'm not suggesting that's what they do. I'm just saying that's the incentive structure. Now, in a free market, it's very important that you have the incentive to make a profit. That's what governs the entire system.
Speaker 1 00:13:31 So if you were to do that with prisons, you would remunerate staff based on results. And those results would be, for instance, stopping inmates from escaping, keeping fights to a minimum rehabilitating the offender population. That's not what we currently have. So, uh, I don't know that there's much of a distinction between the way private prisons currently are structured in America. And what in the state prisons that are in America, there is a corporation that runs outta the United Kingdom called Serco. And I have, every time I mention 'em, I say, I'm not endorsing them. I don't know enough about them. But they do run private prisons in New Zealand, the UK and in Australia, and they do remunerate staff in the form of bonuses based on reductions in recidivism. And it seems to be successful, although there's critics of them also.
Speaker 0 00:14:20 Now you've mentioned, um, having read among it seems quite widely, but including, uh, Nathaniel Brandon and his work, the psychology of self-esteem, uh, as having had some impact on you. Did it give you any insights into, uh, criminal behavior, how people get involved in, uh, making bad decisions and ending up in jail?
Speaker 1 00:14:48 Uh, yes. The psychology of self-esteem is one of the most powerful books I've ever read. His, the idea of facing, I'm gonna say demons, he didn't use the that term, but having to be honest with myself and face things about me that I'd rather not face, I got from him. And always being willing to test against the evidence and use reason. I found it to be a, a tremendous book at. And it's funny, when my friend Brent first read it, the, the book so upset him, he got mad at me for loaning it to him, <laugh>. And I said, you know, I didn't write the book. I don't know, because it was also making him face things. I've reread the book, I don't know, maybe 30, 50 times I brought it home with me. I absolutely love it. I think it's fantastic. As far as criminals, I would say criminals have very poor self-esteem as defined by Nathaniel Brandon.
Speaker 1 00:15:41 The reason I emphasize that is because there's a movement or a, a school of thought that thinks that by raising the self-esteem of prisoners, you're going to transform them. Their concept of self-esteem is vastly different from that of Dr. Brandon. So it doesn't work to rehabilitate offenders. What you end up with is criminals who feel better about themselves. That's what the evidence shows. And I, so I just wanted to distinguish that concept of self-esteem from Dr. Brandon's, which I believe he actually got the, the basics from a Rand the idea that self-esteem is a combination of self-confidence and self-respect. I think she originated that, but, um, not positive.
Speaker 0 00:16:20 Now, was it primarily almost this self-therapy and this working with this, um, fellow inmate and, uh, friend and, and later collaborator, uh, that helped you to turn your life around? Were there other resources in prison that helped with that, or
Speaker 1 00:16:41 What? No, I would say no. The programs in prison go very counter to what evidence suggests works, uh, to rehabilitate offenders. The prison environment, the way that rules are enforced is very counter to what would work to rehabilitate offenders. I happen to be very fortunate that I did find a good friend who at the same exact period in life decided to, you know, embark on the same journey that I, I decided to embark on. And then I had another friend, Carlos, and he also, uh, you know, loved I Rand's books. So he got involved so that with those two, I was able to really grow tremendously in a way I would not have been able to had I been relying on the Department of Correction.
Speaker 0 00:17:24 Interesting. Well, that kind of feeds into another question that we're getting here on Instagram from 10 0 9. Incapacitation, punishment, deterrence, rehabilitation. Why do prisons fail at all? But the first incarceration?
Speaker 1 00:17:42 Okay, it's incapacitation. Those are the four goals of, of corrections. The reason is largely because their philosophy is ill-informed and they have very little interest in actually implementing it. So obviously when I say that incapacitation is the only thing they really succeed at, I'm not saying prison's not uncomfortable, and it's not a punishment in and of itself. Obviously, being locked away from society is a punishment. I'm saying punishment as effective punishment that's actually going to deter behavior and inspire or incentivize. Rehabilitation is nonexistent. And here's why. If you go into a prison and you want to just go with the flow, you want to gamble, you wanna play video games, basketball, argue with your pals, joke around with the correctional officers, whatever, you can live a fairly comfortable life. The rules are, for the most part, not enforced unless they're serious. Those that are enforced are very inconsistently enforced. So the, the, the punishment cannot be effective in order for punishment to be effective. It has to be clear why you're being punished. It has to be consistently meeted out, and also good behavior has to be rewarded. Whereas in prison, good behavior is often punished, not intentionally, it's not, you know, they don't say, we're gonna punish you now cause you did the right thing. It's just what happens as a part of the way the culture is.
Speaker 0 00:19:08 Scott on YouTube is asking, how did race relations in prison change during your 25 years? There? I I was talking with you earlier. They
Speaker 1 00:19:18 Didn't, they, they really didn't. Yeah. Is
Speaker 0 00:19:19 It, is it still pretty much, it's kind of a tribal,
Speaker 1 00:19:23 Not in Connecticut. I've heard of that taking place in other prisons, but I've never experienced it here. So I, I can't, I don't, I can't comment on other places. But in Connecticut, no, that was never an issue.
Speaker 0 00:19:36 Um, Doug Mayfield, it's joining us on ut on, uh, zoom here is asking if you are familiar with the work and books of Dr. Stanford. Same now,
Speaker 1 00:19:48 Dr. Stanton Samo is, I would say along with Iran, the key to my rehabilitative efforts. He has done more to inspire my thinking on the subject of prison than any other author. In 2004, Brent McCall and I read his book Inside the Criminal Mind in Reading, it was like reading a blueprint to the way that we thought, wow, it was, he was just dead on with everything he said. And he said that for a criminal to change, he has to make a commitment to total integrity, which was perfectly in line with a Rand's idea of moral perfection. So the two, they complimented each other very well, but he was specifically addressing criminal behavior. He also, we al ended up getting his book, well, actually a three volume set called The Criminal Personality that he had written in the seventies with Samuel Kelson. And he lays out 52, they laid out 52 criminal thinking errors. And again, very, very helpful, uh, in, in the rehabilitation process. And I am absolutely honored, uh, by Dr. Samo actually wrote a review for our book Down the Rabbit Hole, how the Culture of Corrections encourages Crime. And that might be one of the many highlight of my whole experience to have one of my heroes writing a review for a book that I co-authored. So yes, I'm very familiar with Dr. Samino.
Speaker 0 00:21:10 All right. Well, let's maybe put those links in the, uh, the comments as well so people can go and check out that work and see if we can get, uh, Dr. Sam's review of, uh, of Michael's book as well. So let's
Speaker 1 00:21:22 Talk about, it's on Psychology Today, just so that I can tell you that
Speaker 0 00:21:25 Psychology Jay. Okay, thank you. Um, so, uh, you co-authored, as you mentioned down the rabbit hole, how culture, the culture of corrections encourages crime. When did it come out? How much research could you do in prison? And, uh, yeah, what inspired you to write it? How much is based on personal experience?
Speaker 1 00:21:46 Um, it, we published it in late 2017. We did a tremendous amount of research on the book. I've done a tremendous amount of research since we wrote it, which has largely confirmed the, the things that we wrote about. The way it came about is very interesting. We actually were gonna write a book called Ayn Rand and the Rehabilitation of Criminals, because we felt that, and we had learned a lot from our experience in prison. And we thought by applying Ayn Rand's philosophy to basically Dr. Samos Samos ideas, we had discovered something, especially for those inmates who were above average intelligence, who might be looking for something more challenging than what was being offered. What ended up happening was Brent and I had previously designed the program called the Imprisoned Program, that we were able to facilitate at McDougal Correctional Institution for four years. And a constant complaint of the inmates taking the program was, but the staff are unethical.
Speaker 1 00:22:46 But what about the staff? What about the staff? And we used to tell 'em, and I still think rightly so, the staff behavior has nothing to do with you. You need to worry about yourself. But after a while, I mean, you have to admit it's having an effect. You can admonish people to take responsibility for their lives all you want. The bottom line is we are influenced by other people. And when the, the inmates see correctional officers using their cell phones that they're not even supposed to have in the building when correctional officers are sleeping on the job, uh, you know, abusing their power, you know, talking to inmates about how they're having sex with female correctional officers, or putting female correctional officers business, you know, out to the inmate population or talking to inmates about gambling, not enforcing the rules. Inmates look at this and say, look, everybody's like me.
Speaker 1 00:23:36 I just happen to get caught. Whereas they don't. And that, that it creates a tremendous obstacle to the rehabilitation process. And so Brent ultimately got sick of it and said, we can't write this book about Iran because rehabilitation can't take place in this environment. We need to write a book on corrections. I didn't want to do it because I was afraid. I knew that the cos would get upset. I knew the inmates would get upset, and I knew we would likely be separated from one another, all of which happened, right, <laugh>. But Brent was my friend and he wanted to do it, so I went along with it and I'm very happy that I did, I knew he was right. I was just scared of the, the consequences of, you know, putting it out there and wasn't actually in our interest to do so.
Speaker 0 00:24:24 Well. Well, can you give any examples of what happened, what the reaction was? Any negative blow back or,
Speaker 1 00:24:30 Well, Brent was transferred. They, the, the rationale was that Brent was in danger because of what we had written, but they left me in the prison for a year. So if Brent were in danger, it would only stand the reason that I would be as well. Uh, you know, we don't, we weren't advocating for prisoner rights. We were telling the truth about the correctional system, and oftentimes it rewards inmates doing bad things. And so the inmates of course, weren't happy about that. It didn't help that the staff members were telling inmates lies about, was in the book there, you know, telling 'em they were mentioned in a derogatory fashion when in actuality they weren't, not that, none were, we did call two, two inmates in particular we called sycophants, which actually we call them totes, which is a synonym for, for sants, which I stand by, because that's what they were. And so, you know, inmates got upset, staff got upset, and, you know, there was a lot of retaliation going on until a state senator came to visit me. And after that happened, the staff largely stopped with what they were doing. I would hear comments from time to time, especially once I became a regular guest on a radio show. I would hear little snide remarks, but nothing like what happened when the book book was first made known to them.
Speaker 0 00:25:45 How did that, uh, come about that you teamed up with Todd Feinberg and, and started being a guest on that show? It's so unusual.
Speaker 1 00:25:52 Well, the, the aforementioned state senator Len Suo, you know, I was so happy once he came to see me, I said, okay, we're gonna start making traction. That was in July. Then in November, he lost his bid for reelection. So now I'm like, oh my God, now we have nothing. But to Senator Len's credit, he, uh, stuck with it. He really cared about the issue. It wasn't just about politics for him, and he was pushing for a variety of people to have me on. And Todd, in the end, was the only one that did. And I thought it was gonna be a one shot deal. I'm going on the Todd Feinberg show, I'm gonna get to promote this book. I better make it count because I may not get another shot. And after that first time on the show, Todd invited me to be a regular guest, and I said, yes, and I've been on ever since. That was four years ago.
Speaker 0 00:26:40 That's amazing. So, I mean, I don't usually, I, as I mentioned, I've had a friend in jail and he certainly would not have been able to be on anybody's radio show. Did, uh, over the course of these 25 years, did your privileges change or improve or just a different kind of system? No,
Speaker 1 00:27:01 You get what you get. I mean, they have rhetoric in their directive about privileges will be earned, but that's not true. It's the default position you get there. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you get to order a television, radio game, boy, now you're given a tablet and none of that has to be earned. Now, they can be taken if you really act up and they decide to enforce the rules, but those privileges aren't, aren't earned. And actually, when my level dropped and I was transferred to Osborne Correctional Institution in summers, now, I thought McDougal was r run like a, you know, a a a zoo. But Osborne, this was like a, I can't even believe this place is still open. I mean, the building itself is sick there, there's mold, there's asbestos that they don't remove. There's broken windows, there's mice running around the place. The, the showers, you have to shower with other guys in a closed room that's out of the line. Or, you know, the, the site of staff. There's broken windows in the shower and the way the place is configured, there's no glass or plexiglass in the windows. So guys are screaming out of their doors all night and day. They shake the doors when they're at rec, they're making a commotion. It's really a rough place. So as your time, you know, when you get your level drops, instead of going to a place that's gonna be more conducive to rehabilitation, it's actually less so.
Speaker 0 00:28:18 All right. I've got a question here from Instagram. Aside, ca Karina Dew is asking, aside from failures within the system to rehabilitate inmates, do you think the stigma by society makes it hard for reintegration?
Speaker 1 00:28:35 I would guess yes. I don't think it makes ipo it impossible. I think if somebody gets outta prison, wants to work and is willing to do so, I know plenty of guys that have been able to get out and have a job in are, are doing well. My case is a little bit different as far as the stigma goes. I mean, I've been on the radio for four years. A lot of people know who I am. I had a good friend that was willing to let me live with him. So I didn't face a lot of those challenges, but I mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I would assume they exist because I know there was a lot of hostility to me being on the radio. So I can't imagine you, you know, the broader society, I would guess they have that as well. I've just never personally dealt with difficulties in being able to prosper out here.
Speaker 0 00:29:17 And, um, on YouTube asks if you got criticism from correctional officers on your book, but I think you addressed that, that
Speaker 1 00:29:25 <laugh> Yes. I, I was told by one, I read your book and it sucked, and another
Speaker 0 00:29:31 Correctional officer, and you said, I didn't know you could read
Speaker 1 00:29:33 <laugh> <laugh>. I was tempted to be say something a lot worse than that, but I decided against it. Another correctional officer wrote a review of the book on Amazon where he said we were guilty of slander and liable. Evidently, he didn't understand that you can't commit slander in writing and the word is liable, not liable. So I, I thought that was kind of entertaining, funny. And I've been offering since the beginning to debate anybody in corrections that wants to have this discussion with me. Nobody's taking me up on it. One ex correctional officer, or former cor retired correctional officer had me on his podcast and he, he took issue with me saying that there's no good correctional officers. And I shared an anecdote with him. I said, well, I asked a, a guy who had 20 years on the job, said to me, and I had a very good rapport with him, he said, leave, come on, you've gotta admit there's good guards.
Speaker 1 00:30:22 I told him, okay, name five. And he couldn't do it 20 years on the job, couldn't name five good correctional officers. So now this former CEO that's interviewing me says, well, he was probably terrible, yada, yada. And I said, well, let me be clear. I'm not saying they're bad men, I'm saying they're bad at their job and here's why. There's specific directives that define what they're supposed to do. So I asked this former correctional officer if he ever swore on the job. He said, yeah, of course, all the time. I said, okay, right there, there's one. You're breaking the directives, you're not doing your job. I said, did you ever turn in a fellow officer for his unethical behavior? He said, well, I've pulled them aside. Uhuh, the directive says, your duty bound to report unethical behavior to superiors. If you haven't done that, then by definition you're not doing your job. There's two examples I've just given you where you have not done your job, and that is endemic within the correctional facilities. And so I stick by my statement that I've never met a correctional officer that actually did his job according to the directives
Speaker 0 00:31:22 Question for you. So you're saying it's not that they're bad people, it's just that they're bad at their jobs, but they would think, you know, that maybe the kind of people that are attracted to that job. Is it possible that it, you know, uh, attracts people who are looking to, to have power over others or who maybe, you know, sistic or lazy?
Speaker 1 00:31:44 Yes, yes. You know, yes. And, and, and my experience, it's the last thing you named more than any other. I mean, it's a cushy job. You get to sit around and get paid. Of course, you, you know, you face the, the danger that sometimes comes with the job, but for the most part, you sit around, get paid for it, you've got cushy benefits. When I say, let me just be, I wanna say, when I'm talking about, when I say they're good people, I'm not saying that they're moral exemplars outside of work. What I'm talking about is they're nice guys. When you talk to 'em, they're not jerks, they're not tyrants. You know, I could have a discussion with 'em about sports politics or, or whatever. That's what I mean. And I'm just being, I'm, when I use good guys, I'm speaking colloquially. I'm not passing an actual moral judgment and saying they're good people.
Speaker 0 00:32:27 Got it. Alright. Um, well, kinda along those lines of the cushy jobs on Instagram, Xcel, Tom is asking thoughts on prison unions.
Speaker 1 00:32:38 <laugh>, I think the only way to fix the prison system is to smash the unions into a thousand little pieces they need to go. The, the idea that you have somebody with a job where they, uh, basically cannot be fired regardless of how inept they are, is absolutely absurd, especially when they're getting paid by taxpayers.
Speaker 0 00:33:01 All right. Uh, and then on YouTube, a Welch asks, do you have any thoughts on background check reform that would help those who have done their time, uh, find work when they get out? Seems like this difficulty contributes to repeat offenses.
Speaker 1 00:33:17 I actually, in Connecticut, I believe that you can't be asked the question if you were ever in prison any longer. I think they've changed the law, and it might actually surprise people that I think it's perfectly legitimate for a private business owner to look into somebody's past. It's his business. He has a right to hire who, whomever he pleases, and he has a right to do his research on that person. I don't see any problem with that. Ultimately, it's, I put myself in the predicament to where people weren't gonna trust me. That's my fault. And it's my job to prove myself. It's not anyone's responsibility to give me a break. I hope they will. And I think it's certainly as a, you know, people in society, if they want to thrive and have a thriving society, ought to be willing to accept reform offenders that, so don't, I don't wanna be misunderstood. I'm just saying that nobody has a duty to do so.
Speaker 0 00:34:07 Okay. Well, speaking of getting a break, uh, it, if I'm correct, you were recently appointed spokesman for the Libertarian Party of Connecticut. Is that right?
Speaker 1 00:34:16 That is correct, yes.
Speaker 0 00:34:18 How did that come about? And uh, any thoughts on, you know, libertarian objectivist, old splits, or is it high time to move beyond that?
Speaker 1 00:34:33 I think it's high time to move beyond that. I'm not saying that an objective, first of all, it seems like people have this idea of libertarianism, that it's an all-encompassing philosophy. It's not, it's a political viewpoint. Objectivism is an all-encompassing philosophy that ha has a moral code and epistemology all things that libertarianism does not have. So that, that's the, the, the first sort of thing. Secondly, all libertarians are not Murray Rothbard. They're not, or we are not all anarchists. Murray Rothbard was. So what, you know, the libertarian party has more than just anarchists in it, and the majority are not anarchists. And it just seems to me aran herself advocating, advocated voting for Richard Nixon. She attended when Alan Greenspan was made an economic advisor to Ford, she went to the White House with him. She counseled the voting for Republicans. She was friends with Lu Van Mesis, who was a subjectivist to his core.
Speaker 1 00:35:30 And she was friends with he Henry Haslett, who was a utilitarian. To say that I'm somehow betraying my values because I'm aligning myself for the political party that for the most part supports my views is ridiculous. And where else are you gonna go if you think the war on drugs is a mistake? If you think taxation is unethical, if you think the economy should be deregulated, if you think the welfare state needs to be abandoned, if you're against these endless wars that we're into, where else are you gonna go? You're gonna go to the Republicans, you're gonna go to Trump with his tariffs or Biden with, well, everything else, there's just no other place for someone to go with my views. I'm a, I'm a hardcore capitalist, a disciple of Iran, and I joined the Libertarian party because it's the best vehicle for my ideas. Doesn't mean everybody there has to agree with me. I certainly don't agree with everybody there,
Speaker 0 00:36:22 <laugh>. Well, as, uh, David Kelly likes to say, if we are, uh, right, we have nothing to fear. And if we are wrong, we have something to learn. So always good to, uh, to be willing to discuss and debate. So, uh, I actually wasn't aware that it was so recent that you were, uh, let out of prison. Maybe it's because you were actually so productive, uh, while you were in in prison, particularly the last, um, few years that said, you know, you were on radio shows, you were writing, published a book. Uh, what was it like, what was the first rush of, of freedom? Like any odd experiences adapting to new technologies or pretty much did you have all of that already in the jail?
Speaker 1 00:37:11 I didn't have the new technologies, but I was aware of 'em and I was ready to, for the, the challenge. And I'm by no means it's, you know, tech savvy at this point, but I haven't found it to be overwhelming either. And I'm not mechanically inclined, so I doubt I ever will be extremely tech savvy. I wouldn't have been if I had never went to prison. But yeah, working on myself in prison certainly prepared me to, to be released, prepared me for the challenge. I've also got an excellent support system. I've got friends, I've got my, I've got a girlfriend, I've got a sister. My friend Subby, he, uh, Sebastian Subby short, he let me, lets me live in his house rent free. He's been incredibly supportive. So that's been wonderful. One thing I did love doing when I first got out is I love introducing myself to people and telling him I had spent 25 years in prison. <laugh> it was, it was very interesting to see the response. The funny thing was a few times I got the response, oh, are you the guy on the radio <laugh>
Speaker 0 00:38:07 Really,
Speaker 1 00:38:08 Who kinda backfired him because they already were, were aware of the situation.
Speaker 0 00:38:13 Uh, have you seen the Mayor of Kingston?
Speaker 1 00:38:18 No. What is that?
Speaker 0 00:38:20 Interesting. Well, I got very into Taylor Sheridan because he's the writer behind Yellowstone, uh, which is a series on, uh, streaming that's very, very popular. And now there's this preschool. Is it any
Speaker 1 00:38:34 Good?
Speaker 0 00:38:35 I I love it. People
Speaker 1 00:38:37 Keep telling me I need to watch it.
Speaker 0 00:38:39 I, I, I really enjoyed it. I enjoy his writing in particular. Um, so I decided to go back and watch some of the other things that he, uh, has helped to write or to produce. And, um, anyway, I mentioned the Mayor of Kingston because it is about somebody who is, uh, on the outside dealing with the correctional system, dealing with the prison. He's kind of a peacemaker on the outside, on the inside. And, uh, anyway, you'll have, you'll have a very unique, um, unique perspective on it. So, uh, let's talk a little bit about criminal justice reform. Um, your focus is, uh, the correctional system. What are some of the other priorities, uh, and are you tuned into the current criminal justice reform debate? And the perspective?
Speaker 1 00:39:34 To me, a lot of the stuff that they talk about is largely irrelevant. I, I think that the war on drugs needs to end. I think if the war on drugs, which very few people are saying needs to end, if you end that you kill a lot of the problems that we have, a lot of the people that are in jail for simple drug possession wouldn't be there. People that have to steal in order to support their habit. If drugs are legal, the price plummets. You no longer have to steal to support the habit. It's still not a good habit to have, just like alcoholism's not a, a good habit, but very few alcoholics are sticking up, liquor are sticking up banks in order to pay for their, their liquor habit. It's cheap so they can just go buy it. So I think that's the key, if I were to say anything other than prison reform, is you've got to stop this insane war on drugs.
Speaker 1 00:40:19 And I gotta tell you, I heard Ted Cruz today, and he was going after the, uh, head of the Department of Homeland Security. And I frequently hear conservatives make this argument that by having open immigration, you're letting fentanyl and drugs into the country, you're killing people. They don't seem to grasp that. No. What's killing people are the fact that there's a war on drugs that they support, that leads to people not knowing what's in the drugs that they're using, because the, who knows who's cutting them and who's what the no, what the, uh, potency of the drug is, and people overdose. If drugs are legal, you don't have that problem. So I, it's just, it's a bit rich for the conservatives because they hate immigration to try to, you know, use that, the overdoses as a reason to further put restrictions on immigration. And then they have the nerve to call themselves the party, a small government, which, you know, whatever. It's aggravating to me. That's all. I'm sorry, <laugh>.
Speaker 0 00:41:13 All right. Uh, Doug Mayfield, uh, has ordered your book, Michael.
Speaker 1 00:41:18 Awesome. Great.
Speaker 0 00:41:19 Uh, you just ordered it hasn't read it yet, but he's gonna get it, and I wanna encourage others in, in our audience to do that. And also, Michael, if you're interested in having it converted to Audible, uh, an audio format, we, we have a cheat sheet on how to do that. That, um,
Speaker 1 00:41:33 Oh, I'd love to see that. Cause I don't know how to do that.
Speaker 0 00:41:35 Sure, yep. Absolutely. We can help. Uh, that was when I was recruited to run the Atlas Society, um, and there was a lot to do, and I, and they had published a lot of books, and there were still, uh, well, there probably wasn't any Ayn Rand book I hadn't read, but I hadn't read it for a while. So I was like, I just went on an audible tear and I made sure that first priorities, we got all of our, our books at, at Atlas Society on Audible. So we've got it into a groove, and we're gonna share the blueprint with you. But, um, getting back to Douglas, he has a little bit of a long question here, but he says, uh, seems to him that the, for purposes of the prison system far away, the most important is to protect the public from people who are dangerous. How does one approach improving rehabilitation while not placing the public in danger?
Speaker 1 00:42:24 I actually agree a hundred percent with them, that that is the point. And that's what I've been trying, trying to convey to people is that 95% of people that are in prison are getting out. It's in society's interest to rehabilitate people. There's never gonna be a perfect thing. No, you're never gonna rehabilitate everybody that's in prison. Some people just simply aren't interested in, there's nothing you're gonna do to make 'em interested. But there is an abundance of evidence for what works to rehabilitate offenders. There are assessment devices or that have been shown to be fairly accurate. They have to be implemented, and they have to be used correctly. I mean, I suggest, or I recommend to people that are watching, look up criminogenic needs, look up risk, need responsivity model of corrections, look up core correctional practices, look up the level of service inventory assessment tool. If you, if you look into these things, you will find out that they're cost effective and they're evidence-based and absolutely should be implemented. I don't think that in the way that prisons are currently constructed, any of those things could be implemented adequately, mostly because of the unions. I'm not saying that's the only thing, but that's largely it.
Speaker 0 00:43:40 All right. Wyatt five 16 on YouTube asks, did you have any trans prisoners in the population? If so, did everybody get along reasonably well? Yes. So there's, you know, a con controversy now, um, in California, uh, a a man male criminal who gets convicted says, I'm just changed my mind. I'm a woman. He can be, uh, housed in female prison.
Speaker 1 00:44:09 So, uh, well, in Connecticut, yes, there were trans people in the prisons. I mean, they're, you know, they're a minority, certainly mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but yeah, I, I've seen more than a handful over the years. And for the most part, they get along. I, I mean, they, they weren't really in my circle, but, you know, every,
Speaker 0 00:44:28 That women, biological women who are trans men,
Speaker 1 00:44:35 So no, no, no, no. I They're not in men's prisons. No, no. Okay. Biological men who want to be women are in the, the men's prisons.
Speaker 0 00:44:44 Right. Which is where they should be. And not in women's prisons. Yes, in my opinion.
Speaker 1 00:44:48 Mine too.
Speaker 0 00:44:50 Okay. Um, alright, so, uh, Scott is, I, it's kind of, I think keying off of what you had asked earlier, um, uh, or you were talking about earlier in terms of the drug, the war on drugs and, and needing to add that as the biggest thing that we can do to, uh, to improve, um, incarceration. He's asking is, are, are that many people in jail for simple possession anymore? Well, or is it not that it's that drugs are expensive and people are, you know, because it's, it's not regulated and it's, it's not a free market. People are, um, well,
Speaker 1 00:45:34 You, you have crimes, a lot of things. You have people that are in jail for possession, people that are in jail for possession with intent to sell, people that are in jail for committing crimes in order to support their habit, and people that are in jail for violent acts and drug wars and, you know, gang wars over drug territory and whatnot. So you've got, you know, a variety of things. I don't know the exact numbers of p just possession, but I do know that the war on drugs fuels a large portion of our incarceration that we have in this country.
Speaker 0 00:46:07 What do you see as some of the better re approaches for reducing recidivism?
Speaker 1 00:46:14 I think that a cognitive behavioral therapy addressed the criminogenic needs that I talked about earlier, would be most effective. That's what the evidence shows. I mean, they've done meta-analysis after meta-analysis that demonstrates that those are the programs that actually reduce recidivism if they're implemented correctly. Because you could have the perfect philosophy behind a program, but if the person running it doesn't implement it as designed, then you know, you, you get nothing. So that's what does it, I mean, you, you implementation, implementation of core correctional practices, effective modeling by staff members, consistent rule enforcement, rewarding good behavior. All these things are necessary for if you're really gonna make a dent in recidivism. And like I said, the evidence is that these things work.
Speaker 0 00:47:03 Let's talk about your podcast. Okay. Being a rational egoist, uh, how did it get started? What's the focus? Where do we find it and how can we help?
Speaker 1 00:47:16 Okay. Uh, my goal coming outta prison has been to become a talk host. That's what I want to do with my life. I discovered that in prison from being on with Todd Feinberg. And it's something I think I'm good at and I have a passion for it. I love talking, I love discussing debating ideas. And so that was my plan was to get outta prison and eventually, you know, start a podcast, maybe get a job at a radio station. And my friend bought me this microphone. It, you know, it hooks up to the computer here. It's nice. And I, I just was looking for something and I ended up meeting a woman from Australia who has some knowledge about how to get podcasts up and running and, you know, uploaded to wherever they need to be. I still really don't know <laugh>, but, and, and she and I teamed up, and ever since then, she came up with the idea for the title, which I thought was great.
Speaker 1 00:48:06 And so I've been making the episodes and to my utter disbelief, I've been reaching out to people and just saying, Hey, you want to come on? And people that I've been reading about for years while I was in prison are like, yeah, I'll come on the show. And it's like, wow. What, like, what a moment for me, like I, I, my first interview was with David Friedman. His father is the first person that ever got me interested in economics. So to be able to interview him was a, a great experience. Even though I disagree with him, you know, about a lot. He's still a very bright guy and, you know, has a long history of promoting freedom. I know there's gonna be people out there that say, well, no, anarchy's not freedom. What, what, whatever, I'm not gonna gonna quibble about that <laugh>. But nonetheless, it, it was great. And I've had on, uh, Robert t Brazinski from the Atlas Society, Michael Munger, another libertarian, uh, Murray Saburn. So it's been just a absolutely wonderful experience. Uh, Jim Valiant, who's not from the Atlas Society, but is an objective, he was a, a great guest that I had, and I'm really enjoying myself. I think we're putting out very good episodes and will continue to do so.
Speaker 0 00:49:10 Well, I'm really excited for it. And, uh, as I mentioned, uh, whatever, whatever we can do to, to help. So, uh, another question here. Gary, spin Nova Twitter, thoughts on other third party political groups? Have you heard of the American Capitalist Party?
Speaker 1 00:49:31 I have not heard of them. I, I've actually got involved with the Libertarian party. Todd Feinberg and I were gonna start a party on our own. We were, you know, I, he's fed up with the Republican party. I've not favored the Republican party for ever since they got Trump as their, their guy. And somebody actually said, you know, you already have a party in the state that supports most of your views. So we looked into it, we contacted them and uh, you know, we proposed that they make me their speaker, and they, they agreed to it. So that's how I got involved in them. But no, I've never heard of the American Capitalist Party, but there's a, there's a lot of different parties out there. I think that for my ideas, the libertarian party is the, the best and the most viable. And so that's why I I went that route.
Speaker 0 00:50:18 Yeah. So, um, the American Capitalist Party is something that Mark Hallo, uh, has put together. And he's been, he's an objective and an actor, and he was a guest on this show, and I bet with a little nudge we could get him to come on your show. So, um, so we will, we'll do that. So you came outta prison wanting to be a talk show host. Uh, yes. What else is on your bucket list?
Speaker 1 00:50:49 I have a goal where I want to bring together, and I know how hard it is. I'm not, you know, I'm not paying glossy in here. I'm just saying that I want to bring together people that favor individual liberty. It seems to me, and I've been noticing this on Facebook more than anywhere else, the amount of fighting between people who agree on 95% of the things but are arguing about stuff like the Libertarians are arguing with objectives, and it's bitter over whether or not self ownership comes first or the right to life comes first. Meanwhile, they agree on the conclusion that you have a right to your life. And the, the, the purpose of government is to protect it. And it just seems to me, if we've got people that agree on that, that agree that the right to life is paramount and the only purpose of government is to protect life, liberties and properties all the rest, I mean it fine argue about it, debate it, but vitriol, vitriolic and oh, it's horrible,
Speaker 0 00:51:45 Nasty, right?
Speaker 1 00:51:47 Yeah. And I just think that if, if we ever have a chance of having a free society, we need to come together and put aside those disagreements. So that's part of my goal.
Speaker 0 00:51:58 I'm amen to that. You know, I, uh, did not spend, I spent most of my career in the private sector, some of my career at the White House. So I've only been at this gig seven years and two weeks. Um, and, uh, it's been interesting. You know, I thought I would be attacked and vilified by socialists, which I have, um, or those on the left, which I have. But the most like bitter, hysterical criticism that I've gotten, it's not even from libertarians, it's been from fellow objectives. And I'm like, guys, I think we kind of agree on a lot. So I call it the narcissism of, um, of small differences. And so I'm, I'm all for seeing what can be done to, as I like to say, you can't be objective if you don't have some perspective. And I think a bit of fresh perspective, which is certainly what you can bring, uh, given that you're, you know, what, what you've been up to for the past 25 years. Okay. Couple other questions and then I'm going to hand the floor over to you, Michael, uh, for anything else that you'd like to say that we haven't gotten to, um, Amanda Taper on Facebook is asking, do you think ideological schisms are real or hyped up by media?
Speaker 1 00:53:18 I don't even know how much the media in general is aware of the ideological schisms within the Liberty movement movement. Um, I previously only read about them in liberty based books. Since I've been on Facebook, which has only been two months now, I think, or a month and a half, two months, I've seen this overwhelmingly where people just are vicious to one another over slight disagreements. And it just seems like you, you were never going to get anything accomplished that way. We have to come together. But I do think, I think they're real, and it's okay to have differences with people. That doesn't mean I have to hate you because you have a difference of opinion or be here. Even if it's not an opinion question. You, I could be wrong. You could be wrong, but we don't have to kill each other over it.
Speaker 1 00:54:05 I think our time far better spent fighting against people that are for an all powerful state, or even the state as it currently is, is constructed. Like I said, Republicans are out there and they're, you know, so much against immigration, don't let Im immigrants into the country. There are, you know, the left wants to tax everybody to death. To me, those are the things to fight about. Those are the, the, the issues to argue about not over slight ideological differences that have no policy implications. The policy. I'm not saying that ideology doesn't matter, but, uh, for purposes of working together, I think the policies are what should be paramount.
Speaker 0 00:54:47 Tim Whittle on Facebook wants to know, does the death penalty have a place or should it be outlawed nationally?
Speaker 1 00:54:54 I am not a proponent of the death penalty, and it's not because I think it's an injustice to execute somebody who's taken a life. I think one, there's a very real risk that you execute an innocent person, and that would be absolutely awful to have happen. But more fundamentally is, as somebody who doesn't trust government, I just think that that is too much power to hand over to any government. The, the power to so deliberately take somebody's life. I'm just not willing to do it. I, I just know, I, I don't think that there should be the death penalty. I don't think people are evil for believing in it. It's not something I'm very passionate about. I just, if, if I have to vote on it, I would vote no.
Speaker 0 00:55:44 So, uh, we've got just a couple of other minutes here. Um, sounds like you're on Facebook so people can find you there. Where else should be people be
Speaker 1 00:55:55 Following you? I'm, I'm on TikTok and Instagram. I, I put out videos every night. I missed last night cause I was sick, but I made sure to make up for it this morning. Uh, Michael Liebowitz on, uh, TikTok and Instagram, that's Michael Leitz, but my little nickname is the Rational Egoist Facebook, Michael Leitz, Twitter. If you look up Michael Leitz, you'll get me too. I, I'd really like the followers. Follow me, you know, give your comments, ask your questions. Let's debate if we have to, but if we're working toward the same goals, let's work together and try to get a free society.
Speaker 0 00:56:32 I love it. All right, Michael, well, we really appreciate you, uh, appreciate what you're doing and, um, wishing you all the best of of luck and we'll be, we'll be trying to help you along the way. So thank you very much. Uh,
Speaker 1 00:56:48 Thank you very much.
Speaker 0 00:56:50 Absolutely. I wanna also thank everyone who asked all of these great questions, uh, very informed questions. Uh, if you enjoyed this video or any of the other materials or content that we put out at the Atlas Society, please consider making a tax deductible donation atlas society.org. And then next week, um, hope you'll come back and join us. I'm going to be interviewing Gabrielle Bauer. She is gonna be our guest on the Atlas Society. Asks, we're gonna talk about her book, blindside is 2020, reflections on Covid policies from dissident scientists, philosophers, artists, and more. She should have included you, Michael, in that book. We'll maybe look for the reprints. So thanks everyone. We'll see you next week.