Greener Prisons

The prison system is a very inefficient system.  Society and laws are set to bring nothing but a vicious cycle and unnecessary waste. Prisons should be the worst place on earth. I’ve heard of people going out of their way to get in trouble just so they can get a free meal and have a place to stay.  A free ride for criminals is the last thing prison should be. I’ve heard that prison is hell on earth. I think prison systems are interesting, I think the prisoners are interesting, all of it I find quite interesting, so I watch shows about it from time to time. They say it’s the worst place on Earth, yet they keep coming back. I have a “but” coming next time I post, but for now, I have this “but” some people go back just because it’s the easy way out. That shouldn’t be happening and if it does it shouldn’t be supported by the taxpayer’s dollar. It’s prison not a vacation. They shouldn’t have any luxuries. If they do, they should be the ones that pay for it. They shouldn’t be a burden to society. They should be working to pay off their debt to society (I’ll be talking more about this on Monday).

In 1975, it cost a taxpayer $200 to cover their part of the criminal justice budget. Now it cost $1,200. In 2007, states spent more than $49 billion to feed, house, clothe, treat and supervise 2.3 million offenders, the Pew Center on the States reported this year.

Partially, we can thank the war on drugs. I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard a lot stupid things came from this ‘war.’ I won’t go into all of them, but the enforcing of these laws takes money. A lot of it and this extra money often come from social programs that do more good than prison. I don’t doubt for a split second that these drug related offenses shouldn’t have some kind of punishment especially for those who sell to kids, but also for those who sell or make them and even those who use them. But non-violent offenders shouldn’t be put with violent offenders. It creates a whole array of avoidable problems. If we ever want to solve a problem that arrangement has got to go. Whatever it cost to put them in the government’s custody, whatever the cost of damage should be what it cost them to get out. Instead of putting them in jail or prison to soak up more money they should have to work off the cost. Drug dealing, stealing, anything like that is usually just a way that people can make easy money. For whatever reason, maybe they couldn’t find a decent paying job or maybe they just didn’t want to have to work harder, they turn to crime. Making them work would show them A, they can make the money if the work enough, B, it may give them a new skill set that they use next time they need work, and C, they should stay out of trouble because they don’t want to have to do that kind of work again. The intensity of the work could depend on the seriousness of the crime.

Some studies are suggesting that environmental issues, not the nurture from the nature vs. nurture part of the debate, effect crime rates. It’s been pointed out several times about the poorer neighborhoods often having more landfills, pollution pumping factories, etc. The pollution is now being pointed at for because the toxic chemicals coming from these places may be responsible for learning disabilities and behavior problems.

The fact is that with our current system no one is winning. I used to think that it was their choice and it landed them in prison. Was that my problem? No. At least it shouldn’t be, but our society, all of us, is having a hand in creating this problem. Making criminals be responsible for their own actions seems like a reasonable answer, but it’s condemning them to a vicious cycle.  Society helped them give in and now we have to get them out.

The overpopulation of prisons is a social problem, but their extreme waste creates environmental ones, too. Alabama is one of the states that have had waste management issues. Their overpopulated prison generated twice as much waste than the local water treatment plant could handle. The results were extremely high levels of toxic ammonia, fecal coliform, viruses, and parasites into local streams and rivers. When raw sewage hit clean water, it sucked up the available dissolved oxygen to aid decomposition. That led to asphyxiation of aquatic plants and animals that depended on that oxygen.

California has had a host of problems. Since 2000, eight of California’s 33 prisons have had major water pollution citations.

The disgusting list goes on and on.

We can’t fix the social or environmental problem in a day, but here are some systems that are working to fix their environmental problems.

This article features Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Washington. It talks about their compost, they compost 100 percent of their food wastes, raise bees, grow organic tomatoes and lettuce and recycle shoe scraps and have it turned into playground turf.

A convicted murderer is pictured turning the compost, a former drug addict and attempted robbery convict is in charge of the bees.

Cedar Creek, in the heart of a forest, feels more like an outdoor retreat than institutional lockup. Most of the 400 inmates are in a work program, putting in six to eight hours a day.

Cedar Creek uses 250,000 fewer gallons of water a year, saves $6,000 to $8,400 annually on garbage bills and avoided a $1.4 million sewage treatment plant upgrade.

Indiana Department of Corrections installed water boilers that run on waste wood chips, and built a wind turbine at one prison that generates about 10 kilowatts an hour and saves $2,280 a year.

North Carolina’s Department of Corrections switched to chemical-free cleaners and vegetable-based inks. This summer, because of a water shortage, inmates converted 50-gallon pickle barrels into small cisterns that capture rainwater.

Under a state mandate to reduce energy use, the Oregon Department of Corrections replaced old appliances with energy-efficient ones, installed solar water heaters and used a geothermal well to heat water. It also modified washing machines so they could reuse rinse water to wash about a million pounds of clothes a month.

At Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton, Ore., inmates recycle scraps from old prison blues to make diaper bags for women’s shelters and dog beds for animal shelters.

Some prisons are alternative energy collection with solar and wind power.

Although most of these changes are being made to save money, I’m still thankful for all these improvements. Would I rather there be less people in prisons? Yeah, I would. I don’t think that change is even close to being made yet, so for now I’ll be content with these. I also think that we could be doing a lot better.

Flash Mobs

Mothers truly are the best and I am truly best to have a wonderful mother. She still listens to me complain, makes me feel better when I am sick and makes the best French Silk Pie, chocolate chip cookies, granola bars, and the like. When others would have kicked me out or sent me to a farm, she stuck with me and loved me no matter what. She has had lots of life experiences and somehow she always has a story that will make laugh and feel better about my own predicament. She knows everything one could ever know and she never gets half the credit she deserves, nor does she ask for anything in return. I hope all the mothers and children out there had a wonderful Mother’s Day.

I found some hope this weekend. Believe it or not, I do actually like hope. I don’t like to be dragged down by the weight of the world, humanity and its pollution. I like joy, dreams and aspirations just as much as the next person. I find it harder to accumulate than some others, but when I do it was well worth the bumpy road. I don’t know where you find hope, but I find it in others who have passion, goals, opinions, in people who care more about others than getting the latest electronic or the most money. People are working to make the world a better place, small acts of kindness, and a lot of random happy things, people who can make us stop and think about something other than ourselves, those are the people and things that give me hope. Sometimes hope is a bad thing. It allows us to think that we can keep going as freight train, destroying everything in our past or it will allow us to kill ourselves trying to obtain something that can’t be obtained. It keeps holding on when we should only be letting go. Hope just by itself can destroy you, but right now I don’t feel too destroyed, so I’m going to share my hope with you.

Flash mobs. A flash mob (or flashmob) is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression. I know what you’re thinking. Flash mobs? Really? Yes. I don’t know why, but everything about them screams that it’s just going to be okay. These people go out on a limb, put their self-esteem on the line and just give us something to focus on besides our problems and the weight of the world. I don’t know about you, but I get so bogged down with negativity. I don’t think negativity is a bad thing. Discontentment is the first step. You have to be discontent with something in order to come up with an idea to make it better. The world would be stuck in its suckiness if there was never anybody being discontent. It’s a good thing, but sometimes I need some relief and some hope that it won’t all be for nothing. Besides, there are so many people walking around hopeless. I read an article about global warming. It talked about how people had this naïve and pathetic way of imaging that if we just stick our heads in the dirt that the world would just get better, that we could continue tearing down everything in our path thinking we won’t suffer the consequences. It said that we are definitely digging our graves and we were killing ourselves in them by believing that and for it to change we must become hopeless. We must believe that there is no more light at the end of the tunnel in order for us to finally change our ways.  That is my paraphrase, of course. There is still too much hope and pretty soon it will be too late for us. Sometimes though, people just need a little hope. Just enough to know that someone is on your side, to know that someone out there cares and all they want to do is a put a smile on your face or to focus on the bigger picture and not get so bogged down with the irrelevant things in life and again, to know that all of it won’t be for nothing.  It may be lame, but that’s what they mean to me anyway.

I’ve never seen one in a real life and before I stumbled onto through other searches, I had only seen that AT&T commercial where the guy with a non- AT&T service breaks out into a random dance and then after he realizes that he’s alone he gets a text message saying that the flash mob will start later. That’s the first and last time I had ever heard of them till now, but I have become pretty obsessed with them and I appreciate the people who do them. Since I don’t have the add-on to be able to have videos, I’ve have just put the links to my favorites down below. I’ll give a brief description of each one. This one is the first one I watched. It has the Copenhagen Philharmonic playing on the subway. It’s pretty amazing and the people’s reaction is my favorite. They look peaceful, even if for just a second, before they go on with their crappy day. More than 200 dancers were performing their version of “Do Re Mi”, in the Central Station of Antwerp. I don’t think this is a flash mob, it seems planned, but it’s inmates dancing to a Michael Jackson song. I think prison should be the worst place on earth. If people are doing things just so they can live on the taxpayers money and get a free ride in life then it’s not bad enough, but I also think that they should be rehabilitated and after they do their time, instead of condemning them forever, we should help them if they can be helped. I think stuff like this can be therapeutic and while it seems a bit too fun, I would rather them work on this than beat each other’s heads in. One of the first professional symphony orchestras ever Copenhagen Philharmonic did a flash mob at Copenhagen Central Station. They played Ravel’s Bolero. I just like this one. There wasn’t much information about it like what it was called or anything. It was in Georgia, Tbilisi and I think the song maybe Jesus is a Keeper or something.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed and it made your day a little brighter!

Chapter 3: Walking the Walk

Previous Chapters: one and two.

Chapter 3: Walking the Walk

                        Last night, Angus went knocking on Death’s door and he was welcomed with open arms. The struggle had gone on for weeks, but finally Angus has been relieved. Since there is nothing left of his red body, we’re having more of a ceremony than a burial. Where would we even bury a body anyway? Any place here would be a disgrace. Most around here deserve better than that.

Hardly anyone showed because they are tired of being confronted by what they are trying to avoid. Ever since I had met Angus in the dumpster, he was bitter about the end he knew would come. He lost his hope of being rescued when he left the city. I realize that I have lost hope. The trash around here has tried to convince me that it’s hopeless and I have let them.

Fiona was at the funeral and afterwards she comes up to me.

“Hey. I haven’t seen you around in a while,” I say.

“Yeah, I’ve been doing some thinking,” she responds. “You were right. Not about people coming to get us because that is obviously never going to happen, but about being such an optimist. We shouldn’t accept our fate. We may not be rescued by someone else, but we can still rescue ourselves. We can go to the recycling center. We can have a new life. Angus’ death helped me realize that I don’t want to die here. I would rather die trying to get out then to die here.”

“Wow, I didn’t see this coming,” I pause to consider the idea, “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

“Are you kidding? You would rather putrefy in this God forsaken place then just take a chance? If you stay here you will die. You talked to Polly; no one comes here. If you want to get out, you have to get yourself out,” she says, each word getting louder.

I consider what she has said then shake my head.

“I can’t. For me it’s the opposite of what you’ve said. I’m only a spoon. I’m not smart like you. I know that if I try to get out then I will die, but if I wait someone could come.” I say still hopeful.

“God. If you would take some of that belief you have in other people that care nothing about you and invest it in yourself, you could be a lot more productive. But whatever, it’s your choice. I’ll be leaving for the recycling center in a couple of days, so when you decide to stop being a coward come and find me,” she tells me.

She leaves me stunned and all I can do is watch her go. There was no point in me chasing after her, so I just went back to the bag I had found and started to live in. She is right. I am a coward and she probably is also right about no one coming to save me. If I want a chance then I’ll have to fight for it because no one else is going to give it to me.  That’s all life has been shouting at me since the day I was made. She is right. The question is will I have the courage to do anything about it.

I look across the mountain of waste that is viewable from my bag; most of it is lost forever. I still have the ability to change my situation, but in a few months I’ll be so broken I won’t even be able to turn my head from the mountain. I realize now that I would much rather be dead than being a miserable rot. I won’t give myself time to second guess, but there is something I need to do first.

I start to ascend the mountains on the way to the island that Fiona had brought me to a few weeks ago. At the peak of the mountain, I immediately spot Polly who now looked so much worse. She may not be able to decompose, but she is now broken into many more pieces. Even as I stand before her, she doesn’t look up.

“Polly,” I say quietly.

Her eyes rise slowly and lock with mine. They are lifeless.

“Fiona and I are going to try and escape. We’re going to the recycling center. I want you to come with us,” I say, still quiet.

She says nothing and she gives no indication that she will even consider my proposal.

“We may not make it. We probably won’t. But I would rather die out there with hope than die in here like we are right now,” I say.

I stop to let what I’ve said soak in. She gives no response.

“We’ll be leaving tomorrow morning. I desperately hope you will meet and come with us,” I say and leave her to consider my offer.

I wake up to the sound of birds crying. Sometimes I wish they would cry for justice for us, but even if they were, no one is around to hear them.  I groan in contempt for what I hope is the last time. I don’t have to walk far before I see Fiona; even from far away I can see her screen beaming with delight. I rush to her and hug her as if my life depends on it. It does depend on her.

“Is Polly coming?” I ask hopefully.

Her face fell. “No. This morning some more trash trucks came in and the island was buried. She is stuck. There is really no hope for her now.”

She saw the guilt covering my face.

“You tried to get her to come. She had already made her decision then. If she had already decided to come then she wouldn’t have been on the island anyway. There is nothing you could have done,” she says pulling me toward the entrance of the landfill.

Miles stand between us and our destination.

We are now almost there, but it’s about to get far more dangerous. We hear a horrid screeching of a trash trucks coming our way. We start to run, but it is already too late. We get thrown to the ground, pounded into the top layers of trash. The sound is deafening; it’s like being at the bottom of hundreds of waterfalls. Fiona yells something at me, but I can’t hear her. I feel like I’m being broken in half. An eternity goes by, but finally, it’s over. Fortunately, I’m not packed in the trash and I can start to wiggle my way out. When I reach the top, I see Fiona standing. I am thoroughly relieved, but I am noticing a crack splitting her face.

“What happened?” I ask rushing to her.

“Well, I managed to stay on top by wiggling my way up layer by layer instead of waiting and letting trap me at the bottom. It came with a price because it all fell directly on me instead of letting the upper layer take some of the blows,” she cackles from her microphone.

“Come on we need go before they come back.”

As we walk, she has to continuously wipe the chemicals off because they’re blinding her only eye as they poor down her face.

We have made it outside the gates that have surrounded us for all this time. We are met with deserted land. Spaceless, timeless, but we hear the noise from the busy streets even as they are so far away. We run towards that noise as if its energy is what will keep us alive; the noise guides like the North Star. I stop just before we are within the drivers’ view.

“Wait! Won’t they thinks unnatural for us to be up and walking around,” I ask with sudden panic.

She, once again, bursts into laughter. I’m really tired of that.

“You’re still so pathetic. Haven’t I convinced you already? No one cares about us. All that,” she waves behind her, “what we just came from, the pollution, the smells, the health problems, all of it has been happening right under their noses. They haven’t noticed and if they have then they don’t care. They’re busy. They have no time to care about anything, but their own problems. I assure you, they’re not going to notice a couple of pieces of ‘misplaced’ litter.”

That settles that. Once again, believing in people has made me an idiot.

Cars are backed up, bumper to bumper and the traffic is going nowhere. We choke on the obnoxious fumes. It’s deafening, but we decide that it was the best time to move since the cars weren’t moving. We walk across the lanes of cars, slowly, but somewhat safely. The light turns green and it doesn’t take much to realize that we’re out of time. I quickly move to the middle of the lane, so that I won’t be stuck where the tires were. Fiona was not as lucky though. I turn in horror to see just as a set of tires roll over her and I hear her frame crack.

“Fiona!” I cry running to her. I barely escape my own set of tires, but I get to her and drag her to the middle of the lane. We can wait until the traffic dies down and get across safely.

The light turns red which is our only chance we have to make it. I haul her to the curb where we both collapse. I have never been so afraid in my life. The recycling center is only 50 feet away; its sign is a beacon. Fiona is not in good shape, but I know we can make it.

“It’s not too far. We can get there. Come on,” I say as I gather all my courage and strength to get both Fiona and myself there.

I knew she couldn’t make it without my help. We limp towards the recycling center; with each step it seems to get farther and farther away. People crowd the sidewalks and we can’t go fast enough to avoid meeting the bottom of someone’s shoe. We move over and hug the wall that lines the sidewalk.  Fiona hobbled nearest to the wall and I was closest to the dangerous elements. Almost there. Five feet away, but Fiona has to stop. She’s leaking everywhere. I move over to let her have some breathing room which is the biggest mistake I could have made. Someone steps on me. Fiona was right. I don’t even think they noticed and I know for sure that they didn’t check if I was okay. I look back and realize that my handle is hanging on by a thread.

“You have to go. You have to make it,” I tell her.

“So do you! We’re almost there,” she yells trying to be heard over all the ruckus.

“Alright, come on,” I say pulling myself up.

Fiona makes it and I feel a wave of relief and I give myself permission to stop. One of us made it. That is good enough. I lie down and close my eyes. I feel pressure and a rush as I am picked up. My eyes jerk open and I find myself being put into a receptacle full of trash.

“No!” I start to yell and thrash with new found energy.

I made it all this way and it was all for nothing. Even until this moment I was naïve enough to believe that people would care.  I fall on a pile of plastic. Not unlike the dumpster, the smell was overwhelming; I feel just like I did then. It’s the worst feeling, knowing I was wrong.

“What’s happening?” I ask disoriented.

“Welcome to the recycling bins. It’s where you go when someone realizes your potential,” said a plastic bottle.

I sigh with relief. I am home.

Food, Inc.

I woke up because something in my brain told me that Cheerio was in the bed and I felt a little pressure like a cat was sleeping there, so I was kind of wondering how he got there. There was no cat, but it’s too hot to go back to sleep and plus I can do more useful things with time besides sleep. Like running the risk of sounding like an idiotic, raving lunatic by writing this post.

Over the course of this past week, I have come into contact with quite a lot of ‘interesting’ information. I think as I’ve started this blog and learned other ‘interesting’ information, it has slowly prepared me for what I know now. For part of it I’ve told a less gruesome version and for part of I still have to do research and write it in a way that will convince someone to listen. From here on out, it will get a little repetitive.

I watched Food, Inc. the other day and while I talked about a certain aspect of the meat industry, I talked about it with a fanciful image in my head compared to what I can see now.  As I watched the movie, I saw animals being abused in such a horrible way. They were crying out and no one was there to save them or even care. Some couldn’t even walk or didn’t have the energy to cry out. Not only did it talk about that, but it talked about the food industry as a whole. The things we’re letting them get away with are despicable. The worst part to me, is how far we’ve let them go. It’s amazing how much power they have. We’ve become insects. A nuisance to be squashed if we get in their way.

When did it get this way? When did we stop paying so much attention? When did we start being so indifferent? When it stopped being convenient? When it became cheap?

I don’t even know what to say about it because there isn’t any way that I say anything that will even compare to what they said or what they showed. Every time I see something like that or something ‘insignificant’ like the turtle I saw get run over, I go through such a wave of emotion. First, I feel sad and just stricken, sad because I can’t understand why people do the things they do. Why don’t they care about the workers? Or even us? Why don’t they see or even care about how horridly they are treating these animals? Why are they not grieved by the cries of the animals? I don’t except people to react the way I do, with such strong emotions, but why don’t they care at all? Although, my bias for animals seems unwarranted for some, I think I should point out that the mistreatment of animals is only where it starts. If people saw the worker conditions are proof in this video or if people knew the disrespect that they show us then I think they would feel a little differently.

Frustration is my second emotion. Because I probably will never be able to talk to someone in any kind of leadership role, someone who can make a change, but chooses not to. Instead, I can only sit here and run my brain into a wall trying to figure it out. I understand that people are in it to make money, but why do they need so much? Why is it so important that they have to give up every moral just in order to have it? Why do they need it all?

Then comes anger. Frustration, for me, is just anger without the judgment. I still understand that people can’t always afford to do the best thing, so they do what they have to to survive. But, now all the understanding gets thrown out the window, I start thinking about everyone who lets them get away with this crap. The government, you, me, the workers (who only get treated a little better. They’re abused in their own way) and everyone else who has power to stop it, but won’t out of convenience or because they’re getting paid not to (the government). I’m angry because there is absolutely nothing I can do except talk about it and encourage my family and you to put our little few dollars to somewhere else. These huge companies took on several farm owners and the only person who confronted them and got out without their whole lives being destroyed was Oprah, who isn’t even a farmer, but they sued her because she said something about it on the show.

The thing about anger, at least for me, is that it doesn’t go away. It sits in my chest and in the back of my brain. I can’t confront my anger about too many things because it’s usually on something I have no control over. Sure, I can yell at my best friend when she makes me mad. She’ll apologize and we’ll go on, but this I can do nothing about, so my anger builds and builds and I can feel it. It’s always back there waiting for me to do something stupid just so I can let it go. No amount of working out, writing, talking, laughing, praying makes it go away. I can’t just not care either. How much easier my life would be if I didn’t care, but it’s not in me. I don’t have an off switch. It’s exhausting and sometimes I would rather not care at all because then I could get some peace. It would also be different if I had someone who was just as angry as I was, so that I would feel as if someone else understood, but most people don’t want to live like that. I wouldn’t either if I could help it. And not to say that no one cares, or that they’re not working hard enough, just sometimes when you don’t see immediate results, it’s hard not feel frustrated. I care way too much, I’m way too sensitive when it comes to that of animals, but I can’t help it and I’m starting not to care if people think I’m crazy or take it too seriously or too anything else because there is no reason for animals to get treated that way with no one to fight for them. If it has to be crazy nuts like myself or PETA, whatever, but there isn’t any excuse for it.

Anyways, I’m going ask you to watch this documentary.

“In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won’t go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.

Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield’s Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms’ Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.”

These links are to a couple of sites that have the commercial

This little snippet doesn’t do justice to what goes on behind all the closed doors. I  ask that when you watch this documentary (which I know you just can’t wait) and if you get to the parts that make you want to turn off the T.V. that you don’t. Don’t reach for that remote. Don’t even think about it. Why? Because that is what it takes. Being horrified, being disgusted, being angry, that is what it takes to change. If you turn off that T.V. right before that final moment, that final moment that will change your life forever, then you’ll never change. You’ll still be able to be in denial and push that knowledge to the back of your mind. Watch it. All of it. Whether it’s the animals, the workers, how weak our voices have come, something about this should disturb you. If it doesn’t disgust you watch it again and again and again, until you feel something. Anything. Contempt, anger, bitterness, happiness, fear, guilt, whatever. What you should not feel is indifference.

Former Governor Goes Undercover As Homeless Man

(Reuters) – A phony beard, a fake tattoo and clothes dragged through grass and stained with coffee were all it took to transform former New Jersey Governor Richard Codey into a homeless man looking for shelter on a frigid night this week.

His self-appointed undercover mission to spotlight what he calls discrimination against men by shelters took about three months of planning before Codey stood at the door of the Goodwill Rescue mission in Newark, New Jersey at 8 p.m. on Monday, asking to be let in.

Codey, 65, who is a state senator but disguised himself as a homeless man, had already been denied admission to about 25 other local shelters because he was not receiving welfare or other government assistance, he told Reuters on Wednesday.

“We called and I said, ‘My uncle, he’s homeless, we want to find him a place at night to sleep.’ Each time I was told, ‘Does he have SSI? Welfare? Disability?’ When we said ‘No,’ we were told there was no room at the inn.”

Codey, frequently mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor, plans to take his findings to seek more federal money for the homeless. The National Alliance to End Homelessness said more than 636,000 people were homeless in the United States in 2011.

He is particularly concerned with single men and those with mental health issues, who he says are unfairly shut out of the shelter system. He said women and families have far greater access to emergency housing.

When Goodwill agreed to take him in, offering a thin bedroll, a blanket and a spot on a linoleum floor with 20 other men, he thought he’d finally found a haven.

Then came the shower call.

“I was terrified because I knew if I had a shower, my makeup was coming off,” said Codey, whose undercover team included a makeup artist who spent nearly an hour transforming him, painting tobacco stains on his teeth and drawing broken blood vessels and dirt on his skin.

By avoiding eye contact with the worker rounding men up for showers, he managed to slip by.

Sitting on the hard floor, he eyed chairs that were stacked nearby but declared off-limits to men in the shelter.

“No one is allowed to sit in them. You are strictly there to lay down,” Codey said.

WrestleMania blared on television for two hours until it was lights out at 10:30 p.m.

Codey said he drifted off for about an hour, his hip sore from sleeping on the uncomfortable floor. In the middle of the night, he struck up a conversation with another man and asked him what he would do when he left the shelter.

“He told me ‘I’m really lucky’ and explained that he had a bus pass so he could ride and keep warm,” Codey said.

The man, better dressed than Codey, said he was out of work and had hoped to stay with a friend but it didn’t pan out.

“I’m laying there, thinking about how good my life is and he says he’s lucky. Wow. That really puts it in perspective,” Codey said.

Codey, who served as acting governor of New Jersey for two years following the 2004 resignation of Gov. Jim McGreevey amid a sex scandal, has been a longtime advocate for the mentally ill. Government statistics show that a vast majority of homeless people suffer mental illness.

In 1987, in his early years in the state Senate, Codey went undercover to help expose flaws in care at a state-run psychiatric hospital.

This week, Codey said he was admitted to Goodwill shelter on the condition he register for federal assistance in the morning but he left early and avoided it.

Ron Schober, the shelter’s executive director, said help signing up for benefits is offered to shelter residents but not mandatory. He also said residents are welcome to use the chairs before the shelter closes at 6:30 p.m. but since Codey was taken in after hours, the room was being prepared for sleeping.

On a wintry Tuesday morning, Codey stepped out of the shelter and headed back to his work at the New Jersey statehouse. He rejected any suggestion that his undercover mission was politically motivated.

“My goal is to get homeless people a room at night and to speak with the federal government about getting the money to do that,” Codey said.

Asked whether he plans to run for governor, he said that was a decision he would make after the November presidential election. Political pundits say there could be a vacancy in the New Jersey governor’s mansion as Governor Chris Christie is often mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate.

(Although I find it tad hard to believe that this wasn’t politically motivated by some degree, this guy did an amazing thing. How many other government people are coming down to where the people are except to give us to their stupid speeches and false promises? I’m sure this guy has issue, but the fact that he cared enough to walk in the shoes of people considered the lowest on the totem pole in our society. I woke pretty tired and in a rather crabby mood, but now I’m feeling quite refreshed.)