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Clark: Running schemes behind bars shows impressive business sense

Doug Clark
Doug Clark

I hear cynics complaining that America has lost that good old-fashioned knowhow and ingenuity that once made this country the land of the free enterprise.

To which I say, “Hogwash!”

Call me a naïve patriot, but I believe this here US of A still produces some of the brightest business brainiacs around.

Trouble is, some of them are chasing the American dream from the confines of their cell.

Forrest E. Amos, for example.

Police say the 30-year-old Centralia, Wash., man ran an extensive drug trafficking ring while locked up at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, Wash.

A news report said the investigation “led to the seizure of prescription medication valued between $49,000 and $66,000” along with 156 marijuana plants.

Whoa. That’s a lot of weed.

What’d this guy think he was, the Washington Legislature?

And how about Mark Brown?

Armed with an electric typewriter and with no access to the Internet or outside accomplices, Brown is said to have fleeced corporations and companies to the tune of $64,000.

Brown deposited the ill-gotten gains into his prisoner trust account at Orofino’s Idaho Correction Institution.

I don’t know a whole lot about con games, but I’m betting most Amway hawkers never strike it that rich.

Now, I don’t want to sound like a guy who would tolerate criminal behavior.

There’s enough of that going on in the White House.

Still, you have to marvel at the ingenuity it would take to operate a not-so-free enterprise.

Legit businessmen and women worry themselves sick about profit and loss and supply and demand.

Convict capitalists would have all that plus so many other details, like, say, rubbing out an occasional snitch now and then or bribing Bubba the Guard to look the other way during a cavity search.

Amos and Brown shouldn’t be punished.

They should be let out every now and then to give pro-capitalist speeches to Rotary groups or DECA clubs.

Sure, they’d have to act real remorseful about what they did.

But I doubt that’d be a problem.

I’ve yet to meet a felon who couldn’t turn on the ol’ waterworks during a sentencing or parole board hearing.

But this entrepreneurial insight could be invaluable.

According to the Internet, the chance of a new business succeeding is about the same as Justin Bieber ever regaining his innocence.

Law-abiding citizens shake their heads in disbelief when hearing about savvy cons like Amos and Brown.

Part of the problem comes from the misconceptions about what goes on inside a prison.

Most people think inmates serve their time pumping iron or maybe getting their knuckles tattooed with “l-o-v-e” and “h-a-t-e.”

But that’s just in the movies.

Many modern prisons have legal libraries with more bells and whistles than what you’d find in the biggest downtown shyster firm.

There are color televisions, too, and weight rooms and libraries and free health care …

What with the exorbitant cost of tuition these days, cash-strapped parents might consider skipping Eastern or Wazzu and sending their college-age kids off for a four-year business degree at Coyote Ridge or Orofino.

They can pack their iPods.

Tell Bubba that Clark said to look the other way.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at


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