Speech by Bob Allston, delivered March 23, 1998, at the University of Florida.

The text of the speech follows. The left most paragraph numbers are the paragraphs of the speech. The numbered paragraphs that are indented with the first paragraph preceded with the words "COMMENT", contain my further comments.

  1. I wish to thank the sponsors of Hunger and Homeless Awareness week for inviting me today; for it is a special day for me.

  2. On this date, March 23, 1994, at 57, I had never before been arrested, never seen a mental health person for anything, and was involved in many community activities in Fort Myers, Florida.

  3. Thus when I delivered a paper accusing the Lee County Attorney's Office of lying to me about the law on a real estate matter, I had the hope at least that they would address the issue.

  4. However, for my trouble, I was arrested, jailed, falsely accused, and falsely smeared in the press as a ranting criminally insane lunatic threatening to blow up the Lee County Attorney's Office. Even now, exactly four years later to the day, and much water over the dam, they still haven't addressed the issue.

  5. Lee County Government's objective in this was to destroy me financially, socially and psychologically and thus discredit me, to neutralize my accusation of wrongdoing.

  6. Thus after ten months in jail without a trial or even being offered a plea bargain until the end, which I refused, I was dumped out into society having lost all but a few faithful friends, lost all my business relationships, lost a net worth of 1.3 million, and I was penniless and deeply in debt, with nowhere to live.

  7. Thus for three years, I was among the homeless stigmatized as a criminally insane ex jail bird. And that you may be assured is exactly what the government and legal system had planned for me. And that is what happened.

  8. But, due to the fact that I had attended this great institution so many long years previously, it was not the only socio-personal dynamic that ensued. For it was my education at this institution that lead me to the conclusion that the principal cause of the growth in both the homeless-jail-drug population and the militia movement was the legal system.

  9. As a result I have been able to build a Web site on legal reform that enjoys a top ranking worldwide among many of the most popular search engines. And I look forward to employing my Web site in further efforts at legal reform to address the problems that are causing this increasing loss from mainstream population into the homeless and militia populations. For of course if mainstream population continues to lose population to these others, a progression of social disintegration can only result.

  10. So, as I stand upon this same ground that I stood upon so many years ago having no idea that I would return in the far distant future to relate this story to you, I hope I may pass on to each of you a sense of the wonderful nature and value of the education you are receiving here, not only for navigating the vagaries of your personal lives far into the future, but for understanding your relationship with the state as well.

  11. And I thought it appropriate to share with you today the little story of how my Web site came into existence; for it is entirely the product of my homeless world and perhaps it speaks for many others in the ranks of the homeless as well.

  12. When arrested, it took about three days to process me before assigning me to a jail cell block. I got little sleep because of the noise. When my fellow inmates asked "Pop, what are you in here for', I would reply "I'm accused of threatening to blow up the County attorney's office." To this they would roar with laughter, and indeed rather than having to be fearful of them, I found myself a minor hero in their eyes.

  13. When I was assigned to a permanent cell, I walked into the 16 man cell block confused, bedraggled and dragging my sleeping mat behind me. There were eight double bunks and I found the only empty one, a top bunk, and was struggling to get up to it. A tough looking Puerto Rican suggested one of the other men give up their lower bunks for "Pop" and he did so; for which I very gratefully thanked him.

  14. The noise was terrible. The TV went on from eight in the morning to 11 at night and 1 am or later on weekends. Often I drifted in and out of a fitful sleep to the sounds of screaming women, sirens and gun shots to the cheapest TV programs known, chosen by the inmates. Noisy card games went on any hour of the day or night. Inmates would scream at the top of their lungs to friends in other cell blocks far away. The noise reverberated throughout the 20 by 60 ft. cell block with no dampening, being all steel and concrete.

  15. I stuffed wet toilet paper in my ears and lay down in my bunk all day long with a towel wrapped around my head in a vain attempt to escape the noise. Soon my ears were itchy and infected with fungus, so I learned to live with fungus and keep the wet toilet paper out of my ears for a certain length of time each day so they could dry out.

  16. As time went on, I was increasingly isolated from the outside world. The media who had falsely smeared me refused to accept my calls or respond to the pleas of my few remaining friends to straighten the story out.

  17. If you had no funds you were allowed two stamped envelopes, 4 sheets of paper a week and a stick pen once every other week, assuming you properly signed up for them and nothing else went wrong.

  18. The stick pens would typically quit writing very soon, leaving you without anything to write with. Once after complaining about it many times, I filed a declaratory action asking the court to declare that I had the right to have stick pens that work. My recollection is that the action wasn't heard but the pens got better.

  19. Getting the guards to make copies of legal documents was often difficult. Often I made copies of things by hand.

  20. Even though I was in the racial and ethnic minority, I had little problems with violence except for mentally disturbed inmates, which I later attributed to the macho culture's respect for older people.

  21. There were no rules restricting either noise or fowl language. Thus noise and language that was legal in jail was not legal on the outside. I remember the fellow who upon release from jail was drinking beer and watching a TV ball game by himself in his mother's trailer and got banned from visiting his mother any more-- for jail house language while watching the ball game. He got despondent and tried to steal a TV to get drugs winding right back up in jail within a week.

  22. The clash of cultures in jail translates into enhanced racial antagonisms after the inmates are released.

  23. My Puerto Rican friend who had assisted me in getting the lower bunk, told me once that as a child he had placed an ant's nest in a jar and was fascinated by how it assembled itself into a coordinated functioning nest in the jar.

  24. He told me that if he was released from jail he was afraid he would kill himself with crack.

  25. He knew other inmates and guards everywhere and assumed a leadership role in the cell by no apparent procedure. I was to learn that this invisible process was the rule in most cell blocks.

  26. I never saw anything voted on except on very rare occasions and when it happened, the result was almost always disputed.

  27. If a candy bar was stolen and the miscreant were identified, all hell would break lose. On the face of it, strange behavior for a bunch of pickpockets and thieves.

  28. I learned that people cycle through the system endlessly at $40/day to taxpayers. If they happen to have any work ethic they get lazy and lose it preferring welfare that is thrown at them upon release.

  29. People learn from jail their lives are worthless and therefore everyone's life is worthless. Next time you hear of a senseless murder, check how long the accused has been in jail or prison.

  30. Because of the dynamics of the jail living environment, jail inmates inevitably leave jail more anti-social and crime prone than when they arrive.

  31. For the entire time I was in jail, I never heard of any social scientists visiting the jail other than the standard very light mental health staff nor do I recollect ever being requested to fill out a questionnaire of any kind having to do with any of the things I have discussed; or anything else for that matter.

  32. I tediously wrote a letter to the people of the county signed by all the thirty inmates in my cell explaining many of these things and sent it to the media, all of whom ignored it.

    After seven months in jail, my life in shambles on the outside, I became fascinated with explaining what appeared to be the gross stupidity of the criminal justice system and the legal system in general; a seeming incongruity considering my background as a computer nerd.

  33. Although its not something I have given thought to prior to preparing this talk I want to describe to you the best I can how this happened, for it is a part of me, the education process, and this great institution.

  34. When I think of all the courses I took at UF, the one that fascinated me the most was one that I took somewhat on a whim dealing with the foundations and fundamental concepts of mathematics. From it I didn't learn much math but I did learn what a mathematical system is, being a perfect world without contradiction, to which all other earthly systems can only aspire. And I suppose I have had a lifelong fascination with "systems" of one kind or another ever since.

  35. In retrospect, I think six months down the road in jail, this life long fascination for systems clicked in; the system now being the legal system. Simply how stupid and full of contradiction it was. Indeed, for the life of me I couldn't figure out how anything could be so completely and utterly stupid and out of balance with the world.

  36. Under the proposition that corrupt social structure generally follows from stupid and dysfunctional social structure, if I could figure out why it was so stupid then I might know why it was so corrupt.

  37. In November of '94, I went on a hunger strike trying to get authorities to let me have the charges against me. I knew of course that it was a bomb threat but I didn't have the formal charges, which I had the right to have. Subsequently, I got the charges just before I got out of jail and learned that they were obviously withholding them from me because they had been falsified.

  38. However, about four days into the hunger strike, for some reason my mind was racing along and I was thinking about the problem. I'll leave it to you psychologists to explain how. A dentist inmate in jail once said he thought it was that the fat cells had been removed from the blood vessels in my brain thus improving the circulation.

  39. Much went on in the 19th century in math-- moving away from the rigid classical world of such static axiomatic structures like Euclidean geometry, into dynamic things like simultaneous equations and normal distribution theory.

  40. This provided the framework for many new disciplines designed in this mold dealing with what can be loosely called dynamic feedback structures-- the other end of the spectrum from static axiomatic structure. Psychology, sociology, anthropology to name a few. Capitalistic economics is a little older but is designed the same way. As well older disciplines such as education and medicine converted. Where would education be today without the bell curve?

  41. Anyway, I was thinking about the 19th century, and it dawned on me that legal systems and religious systems were highly vertical and static in nature. Thus the supreme court and the lower courts administering the emperor's or legislature's law and the Pope and the lower church hierarchy administering God's law. Law, as a control mechanism had no built in capacity to change based on the reaction of those to whom it was applied as it would have if law were a dynamic feedback structure. It was a problem I was indeed surrounded with. The same stupid laws did the same stupid things day in and day out; and nothing changed based on this experience.

  42. If the legal system had been designed as a dynamic feedback system however, all this would change dramatically.

  43. This revelation hit me like a bolt of lightning. There it was. Due to its ancient dogma of the immutability of God's and man's law the legal system had simply refused to convert to a dynamic feedback system when all these other disciplines were doing so. It was an anachronism still trying to pretend it was operating in the static feudal agrarian world of the past, still trying to impose an otherwise long abandoned ideology on the dynamic changing world of the 20th century; making a total mess out of things in the process. The classic round peg in a square hole.

  44. In short, law was a science and should have converted to a science 100 years ago as all the other disciplines had done.

  45. In January of '95, as a condition for leaving jail, the good old boys tried to get me to sign a plea bargain admitting to four bomb threat charges with five years of community service and probation which I refused. Then they demanded I leave jail which I refused. Then they threw me out of jail on a court order in February of '95. There I was their mad bomber out in society with absolutely no conditions on my freedom. I could go right back up to the county attorneys office if I wished. But of course I didn't.

  46. Being penniless and homeless, I spent the next several years living on the streets, Salvation Army and sometimes with friends. I engaged in civil disobedience arrests in which I was arrested many more times. In the process I was Baker Acted three times, in which, while telling me I was healthy, papers were passed around stating I was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. In another interview with a psychologist, I was diagnosed as self destructive.

  47. I went to trial with a public defender chosen to make me lose. Instead of losing, it resulted in a hung jury. Even with all this I still couldn't get them to admit to anything at all of their crooked dealings. Their standard response to accusations of wrongdoing was to Baker Act me, labels of psychiatric illness and smears in the press.

  48. Throughout this entire period I was avoided by many because of the labels the legal profession was branding me with.

  49. However my legal reform interest remained top priority on my mind and I had one more issue to address before I would feel comfortable with law as a science. And that was simply-- from the standpoint of the philosophy of science, could law be considered a science? I was worried about ethics. Did the fact that law addressed ethics disqualify it as a science?

  50. There was nobody down in Fort Myers that I could put this question to so when I got the offer of a ride with someone going up I75, I jumped at it and came to Gainesville. I saw several very helpful faculty in the philosophy department. And no that wasn't a problem. I saw some very nice faculty in other areas as well. Rather predictably, law faculty were adamant that law wasn't a science but faculty in other areas liked the idea. I believe it boils down to age old legal dogma.

  51. Along in this time, I went to the Alachua County Library and noticed four computer terminals. On enquiring what they were, I was told they were hooked to the web. Having been in and out of jail for the past three years I knew nothing about the Web but they kindly gave me a run down of it.

  52. As the kind librarian talked to me of long familiar things like alphanumerics and megabytes I was somehow transformed to the distant past and the familiar world of UF and computers I had known here so long ago. Immediately, when I heard the words "5 megabytes" for a Web page, I knew this was my medium. So I decided to stay in Gainesville.

  53. I immediately sat down to learn the system and shortly I began to build a Web site on the subject of law as a science; and you know I have never looked back since. And from that day to now I have become a permanent fixture at the library terminals. And the librarians have all been just wonderful.

  54. Since coming to Gainesville, I have been involved with a number of wonderful churches, the Humanist Society, and St. Francis House has been no end of help and assistance as well as the Salvation Army and We Care which helps with medical problems. For the past eight months I have lived with a very wonderful retired faculty member from the history department.

  55. And although I have remained penniless, I have refused all welfare such as food stamps to avoid becoming dependent and stereotyped by it. And gradually I have pulled out of the mold of the penniless psychiatric welfare bum the legal profession had planned for me.

  56. Last summer, I was arrested outside the library and transported down to Ft. Myers and the bomb threat charges were dropped. Even this they had to do in a characteristically crooked fashion.

  57. Before ending, let me have a few words about law as a science.

    1. COMMENT: The following discussion is a bit more specific than I feel entirely comfortable with. For I have no background in such relevant subjects as either psychology or sociology; and would readily defer to those knowledgeable in these and other areas. At the same time, I can't very well eschew something in such general and theoretical terms that no one is going to understand it without investing a great deal of time and thought.

    2. For, the implications of law as a science are a little like the implications of biology as the product of mutation and survival of the fittest. The core concept frames and implies much of the entire structure of the discipline wherein of course biology has had since 1859 to develop the discipline whereas law hasn't started yet.

  58. Only a moment's thought should convince anyone that we have the capacity to have the best legal system man has ever known-- and by a wide margin-- if the present legal system would allow us to have it. That is of course a great problem for university faculty who might work on such a project, as much or more than anyone, for such a project would cost legal jobs and billable hours and as my experiences with criticizing the Lee County Attorney's Office demonstrates, the legal profession has no end of underhanded ways of defending its territory.

  59. Many disciplines from the universities of this state, psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, linguistics, education, philosophy, history, and more could sit around the table and design a legal system for the modern world from the ground up. As one of the legal system's own studies in my Web page demonstrates, the public has had it with this antiquated system. Give them a decent alternative and they will go for it.

  60. Such a system would be built around a plain English user friendly legal database available to and understandable by all, that is moreover the final legal authority. No more sifting through endless statutes and case law. Rich, poor, corporations, and individuals alike would enjoy equal access to the law.

  61. The legal system itself would function like any other control mechanism in a dynamic feedback structure. Commands, ie laws, issued by the control mechanism, ie, legal system, would change dynamically depending upon the sampled response from previous commands.

  62. In effect, all new statutes would be monitored as to their effectiveness in sociological meaningful terms from the time they are first installed; and would come up for review on a systematic basis. If they don't produce the desired results they get changed or removed.

  63. Thus social scientists would be in the jails, prisons, dysfunctional neighborhoods, courts and every segment of human endeavor obtaining that sampled response and thereby changing the laws and the legal system itself dynamically under broad statutory and constitutional authority to optimize socially desirable goals. And this feedback loop would continue indefinitely.

  64. That is precisely how the modern world works except, that is, for the legal system. That's how the Federal Reserve System controls the business cycle. That's how generals fight a war. That's how doctors fight disease. That's how foresters manage forests.

  65. Judges would operate under broad statutory and constitutional authority backed up by a thorough education in the substance of the issues before them and most of all be responsible for and follow the results in sociologically meaningful terms of their orders. No longer could they dish out mindless statutes and case law all day long without a care as to what they are doing.

  66. Mindless irritating government-in-your-face micro-management of every conceivable aspect of human behavior through never ending more masses of statutes and case law would be out and self responsibility and respect for others would be in; and this would apply to the legal profession too.

  67. The emphasis in the entire legal system, civil and criminal, would shift from finding justice and its abstraction equal justice with their punitive connotation to problem definition and solving.

  68. The emphasis of divorce court would be on placing the litigants and their children back into society in the best possible psychological, sociological and economic condition; rather than pursuing any abstract or punitive ideas of justice.

  69. The criminal justice system would convert from a high cost punitive incarceration oriented operational philosophy to a low cost identify and fix the behavioral problem operational philosophy.

  70. And of course, surely one of the stupidest of all criminal laws-- the open container law-- the source of no end of anti-social behavior and class antagonism between the homeless and mainstream society, would find no place in such a system.

  71. Jails and prisons would be vastly reduced; no longer mindless assembly lines for anti-social and criminal behavior.

  72. Tune into my Web page and if you find anything of interest, I would enjoy hearing from you.

  73. Thank you all. I've enjoyed being here and giving this talk.

FEBRUARY 2003 UPDATE: I am happy to be able to say that my personal situation has improved vastly since this speech was given. For many years life was very difficult; but sticking to my middle class roots, I avoided welfare of any nature such as food stamps or public housing. Now, in addition to my legal reform interests, I lead a modest but full life teaching English to international UF students/faculty and am the assistant manager in an apartment complex with predominantly international scholars, all of which I enjoy very much.

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