STAYING FOCUSED

Okay, so this is my new normal. That’s what the counselors are saying and the pastor here is echoing. In other words, get used to it. They say I will get out (eventually) and have to stay focused to keep out of trouble and pass the time. If I give up or get off track, it will just add to the time and misery, they counsel, so stay in the game. Well, to some extent I have.

And not. I am in a four man room with the ‘lead’ man being Arthur, a lifer who’s been down 26 years. I cannot imagine going through that much in here with no real idea if or when I might ever get out. He seems to take it well, but then what is his alternative? He reads the Bible daily and I see him praying. He also snores, as does one other in the room which I am not used to as yet. Worse, he plays his radio all night. Yep, all night. It’s one thing to fall asleep to soft music, it’s another to wake up to it and not be able to get past it and fall back asleep. He has said he would turn it down but I hear no difference. A couple of times after he falls asleep and I lay there awake, I go turn it off while he snores. Ultimately in the morning when I roust for count it is usually back on. The pressure I feel being in this situation is mounting I feel. “Pressure bursts pipes” says Arthur. Sooner or later he is correct.

He has taken me to the Protestant worship on Sunday evening which is truly wonderful. There is singing, praying, sharing and a good message usually from the pastor. When the Spanish band takes over the music really gets you going. The messages seem to center around Jesus accepting us where we are and forgiving ourselves so we can move forward, a familiar theme it seems from those who have counseled me. Again, easier said than done. I want to believe that God has forgiven me, I just cannot forgive myself for all that I have done.

So church is wonderful, but it is not something that makes me feel ‘normal’ yet. It’s different from what I am used to, and while I get into it and loose myself for the time I am there, I don’t forget I am in prison. The only thing that truly does that for me is basketball.

I’ve been blessed to have been able to play my whole life and do it better than some but not as good as many. When I first got here, I immediately went to the outside court to play and shoot around. Surprisingly, no one else had checked a ball out and I found myself shooting alone many afternoons. I practiced many shots, ran like a crazy man full court and enjoyed myself for the almost hour I had there. One day it was even sprinkling as I did this but I was not deterred. Even the uneven concrete where grass grew up did not keep me from loosing myself in two on two or three on three when I was lucky enough to get games. At first they left me out, thinking what’s this old geezer doing out here. But once in, I was able to demonstrate some good reasons for picking me up earlier.

I also did something most did not do very well – pass the ball. But I did lose myself in those games, sorely hoping they would never end as it truly was something I knew and could get lost in. I may as well have been in any gym or outside courts I’ve played on because my mind kept me focused.

I was also fortunate enough to get put on a team in the summer league that was still going on when I arrived. It also turns out some guys were watching me from their windows as I played alone and word spread about an OT (old timer) who played and had a pretty good shot. The league is a trip too. Well, a literal trip as I rolled my knee running on that uneven concrete and am out for a couple of weeks with what I think is torn cartilage. Nevertheless, I so love the game it keeps me mentally away from the heartache I am living and gives me something to look forward to everyday. I shoot off to the side and am taking it easy right now, hoping to get back soon, and staying focused on being focused in the moment.

I went to the infirmary when it first happened and learned what most already knew. Don’t bother. A couple of ibuprofen is the treatment for just about everything in here. Just getting to the doc is difficult to accomplish, but we were luckier than many facilities as there is a hospital here with real doctors and nurses. In fact my roommate Arthur comes here three times a week for his dialysis, something he’d have to continue for the rest of his life it appears. (But he can’t get parole because he might abscond. Where would he go between dialysis appointments?)

But getting any type of wrap or knee brace is out of the question right now. Guess they think I’ll hide weapons in it. I can order one to be sent in but by the time it arrives I will be better anyway. I cannot have my wife send in one of the ones I have from previous tweaks as it has to be brand spanking new. So I’ll take it easy and see how it feels. At least that is the plan.

Reading can also keep my mind occupied. My work is easy and leaves a good deal of time for me to do other things, so getting lost in a good book helps. My grievance office is right next door to the library and I am getting to know the staff there pretty well too. Mostly non-fiction right now. Hey, I am living what I consider a fictional life, certainly unreal to me. Only new books can be sent in to us from the outside, so I’ll exhaust the library for now.

Whatever I do to pass the time never seems to make it go fast enough save the basketball games. Those 4 quarters pass so quickly I truly rue the final horn, win or lose. Concentrating for those 32 minutes really takes my mind off the figurative chains I have here. If you’ve never been involved seriously in some type of sports you may not comprehend what I mean.
So between work, church and basketball I am managing to survive in my Jumanji world by just staying focused on what I am doing.

Praise God!

THE DANCE FLOOR

How ever do I interpret what happens in here and what my “real” life was on the outside? As much of a toll that this train wreck has caused me I see some of the damage when my family comes to visit.
When at the maximum security facility, where you can have a visit at any time, I was drugged up much of the time that it wouldn’t have mattered if anyone came or not. As I was weaned off them I only had one visit, My pastor’s husband was in the area and scheduled a visit. It was good to see him though I honestly do not remember what we talked about and remember doing a great deal of crying. Just the whole visit procedure was scary. Escorted by a guard from my dorm down the maze of hallways to the visiting room. Strip searched going in to make sure we were not smuggling something out I guess. Then sit looking at the guard with legs fully under the table, hands resting on it at all times. Not knowing anything different, I made the mistake of initially sitting in the wrong spot and immediately was yelled at to move. Then the wonderful strip search with the mandatory bend and spread on your way out, the escort back to the dorm and resume “normal” life.
When I was moved to this medium facility it is much easier though maybe not for visitors. Only on weekends or holidays are visits scheduled, and then only as room allows. There is an outside courtyard with tables and chairs and real grass, mainly where the smokers go. Once I received the call from my dorm CO, I would make my way unescorted down the halls and outside walkway to the visiting room, or “dance floor” as inmates have for some reason dubbed it. The same preparatory procedure applies to the inmate as before when we prepare to see our loved ones.
I had to contain myself as I went down through the whole procedure and waited patiently to get in and see my family. During this time, I would attempt to prepare and “suck” up my emotions as others had told me to do so as not to have them think I was not being treated okay in here. They were also going through a very rough time without me and it was better, I was counseled, not to unload on them all that went on and all that was happening to me. So I “put on a happy face” and did my best which usually during this time wasn’t all that good. Kleenex were in short supply but required when people came to see me. Nothing was mentioned about fights or near misses or CO’s who unloaded on me or others close by.
Here I was in prison because I was pretending everything was all right in my world on the outside and it was seriously not. Now I am on the inside, again pretending everything is all right when it is not. How is that progress? I had felt such an unburdening when I confessed to God, clergy and counselors my crime and arrogant, self centered actions, freeing myself from the chains of the secret life I had led. A huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I felt the relief even in my chest.
Now I was again hiding from my family my true feelings, acting as if I was simply “away” from them for awhile, in what my daughter aptly named a Jumanji World, soon to return and wasn’t it great to see you again? We have to keep playing the “game” in order to get out. And like that story, we have to put up with all sorts of craziness along the way. What was wrong with this picture? Dare I tell them of the horrors I feel and had seen, how scared I often am or man’s inhumanity to man that I witness almost on a daily basis and have to look the other way? Or the grievances which I preside over that made my gut wrench because I know there must be some truth to them? After all, not all of the complaints against authority can be written off as bogus especially when the same CO’s names keep popping up. But I am not to get involved, not my job.
That certainly was not my nature. I was more like the good Samaritan who took pity on the downtrodden and helped those in need in whatever way I could. But in here I was another person, inmate 07AVW1651, not really myself. Would that ever change and I become a really free man? I am not all that good I admit at totally hiding my emotions down here in the dance floor though that too was at my own peril. Maybe that is how the name came to be, as everyone “dances” around issues with their visitors – as well as the guards who patrol there.
For you see, any weakness is sooner or later exploited in here by someone, inmate or guard. Inmates will cozy up and feign friendship to get something. Some threaten if you do not comply. Others use your weakness, showing fake compassion again in order to obtain something even if it is over the long haul. Others know far better than I that we will doubtfully ever see one another again so take all you can right now. Guards use it as a control measure and to keep us weak, especially against each other. It makes their job easier if we are fighting one another rather than turning our rage against them. Weakness displayed is like blood in the water to sharks. It attracts them and makes them a little crazy. That certainly is the case in here.
So I guess I let down too much at times, on the phone, in my bunk or on the dance floor. Heck, we could easily wash the floors with the water we shed when my family gets together. I try with limited success as did they, trying to hold it together, keep feelings in check, wear our masks and trudge onward. But the schlepping is difficult, for me and for them, so we talk of old times and what they have been doing and how I yearn to be out with them once again.
I do not have frequent visits because of the distance – about 5 hours from home– but I am grateful for what I get. My son is closer, about 2 hours. I was all ready last weekend for his planned visit, waiting for that call, in the dorm rec room looking out the windows as if I could will him there. Hurry son, before count or they shut off visits for about 45 minutes while the count is verified and no one has escaped.
Well, soon I reasoned, the train up may have been delayed or he had trouble getting through clearance to get in, often a lengthy process. I waited, waited and waited. I am still not used to waiting but am getting more and more used to it having to do that in here all the time. Was I going to have to write my own grievance because I could not see my son? I waited. Only one hour left but I would cherish any time with him. He was going to be traveling away soon and not be available for several months. So I waited till the end had come and gone and no trip down to the dance floor.
Late that night I was able to connect with him on his land line that he had installed just for me as we are not able to call cell phones. Turns out he lost his wallet on the train ride up and only realized it when in the taxi to the correctional facility. He had a harrowing experience, trying to figure things out and get home. Far worse than mine and the phone call gave him an outlet to express his anger, disappointment and hurt. I was hurting too but I masked it best I could.
I work at staying positive and looking at the bright side. For him I am sure it is difficult. It was for me too, but at least I didn’t have to fake it for him, strip twice for guards to peer at me and “dance” on the dance floor. Progress I guess.

GRIEVANCE

So everyday I headed down the half mile or more on the outside walkway to the building where programs were held and signed in at the grievance office. We, the three full time guys who worked there, were a very fortunate bunch I must say as we were pretty much on our own. And we actually had an old radio to play while we worked! We all enjoyed music from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s too.

My job was to schedule grievance hearings, then preside over them. After running my own business outside, being a teacher and presiding over Chamber of Commerce, Board of Education and other Community meetings I thought this would be a breeze and not that much different. Well, it was something different.

This procedure and department came about over the years after word got out that abuse was rampant inside and something had to be done. Similarly the inmate Law Library was started after the Attica Riots so jurisprudence was readily available to those inside as well as outside. We even had a Sergeant stationed right in our offices although he wasn’t always there.
The two other inmates were basically advocates for the abused and researched the grievance to see if it had merit. Sometimes it was already resolved, like a missing package or lost item. Many times the accuser was “indisposed”, in the box (solitary confinement) and would be unable to attend the grievance hearing. Part of my job was to preside over the grievance hearing, read the grievance and get the inmate’s side of the story. Although I had no vote on any outcome and tried to make that clear at each hearing, guys looked to me, I found out, as determining the outcome.
I also had to take hearing notes, type them up and then file each one to be kept for a number of years in case something happened down the road or a similar case came up. I took it upon myself to make up forms to use for various functions rather than recreate them by hand each time. Since I was a fast typist, the director gave me additional work to do in my spare time. We only had typewriters there and I told her of how computers would really streamline the process, but to no avail. At least I had something to do and didn’t get bored.

The hearings were held twice a week so I actually had a good deal of spare time. During those moments, especially when the head was gone, we inmates would work on personal things and helping others. One project one of the other grievance guys came up with was called Straight Talk and was a place and time inmates could come together to grieve and grumble amongst themselves only. I joined this effort as well as typing letters for myself and others. I even managed to do a mock up brochure he could take to the program committee to try and get backing to make it happen.

At the hearings, the Sergeant, the two inmate reps and a rotating member of the facility faculty sat in. Many times, especially at first, the head grievance lady came in though I later found out that was really against the rules. I would begin the meeting addressing why we were there and that the decision of the board would be binding. Decisions were by a majority vote of those present other than me. I then would read the grievance and ask for any additional comments or corrections from the inmate bringing it. He could have testimony from others if deemed pertinent, just as in a court of law on the outside. When he felt his case was fully voiced, he was dismissed and the panel discussed and voted on the outcome. Later I would have to type the results and make copies for the inmate as well as a couple of records for the state. It was during this copying time we inserted some of our personal work we wanted copied, projects we were working on. Ms. Stone, the civilian who headed grievance would look the other way at those times.

As with any legal system, there were certain “frequent fliers” who seemed to file grievance after grievance though sometimes with good cause. After a while you maybe begin to believe this particular inmate was targeted by certain CO’s who’s names kept popping up. I personally could attest to that and I had to give the inmate reps a great deal of credit for holding back sometimes when they knew more than they could share, especially with a Sergeant present.

Again, this was all foreign to me. At times I thought I was on a set of some dark movie hearing some of the things that were brought up. There was nothing “normal” about many of the cases and certainly nothing normal about the outcome. I don’t know what percentage but a majority went in favor of the state regardless of his testimony or of others. I learned first hand how the “system” was run and maintained, hearing such platitudes as “if we find for him on this, we open the doors for ….” or “what good would it do if he won” or “I don’t see how he could be telling the truth, you know how inmates lie” and numerous others.

What happened to the truth? So my world, already turned upside down by so much of what went on in here was further set in turmoil. When the Sergeant pulled me aside once after one controversial and lengthy case didn’t go well and asked if I wanted an escort back to my dorm I knew things weren’t okay. Not knowing any better but going with my gut that such an escort would heighten the tension, I declined. He then cautioned me not to travel in secluded stairwells where there were no cameras or in the yard, etc. What had I gotten myself into? I just wanted to go to work, keep busy and do my time so I could get out and not get shived (stabbed) because of something totally out of my control. A job in Transitional Services or even a porter gig didn’t look so bad right about now.

This nightmare inside corrections couldn’t get over quick enough, radio or no.

GETTING A JOB

It is difficult when on my own inside corrections. To put it mildly, I don’t know what I don’t know, so I don’t know. Strange sounds, smells, people. I will probably never see anybody from in here again once I leave – if I ever do. Oh, I feel better about that now than I did though it still feels such a long way off – two years till my parole hearing and then it is up to a three panel board. I do see guys leaving for other facilities and hear of some going home. Mostly this place seems like a wait station for other places rather than a jumping off spot for home.
I try to get my head around this new normal but it is so strange. I think I can tolerate it without my meds, then I get a visit from wife, son or other family and friends and that seems normal, even though the “dance floor” as the visiting room is dubbed doesn’t seem like the greatest place for it. At least here we can go outside to a courtyard and sit at picnic tables or on the ground which also feels more “normal”.
But I find myself actually pretending to be normal, that things are okay and will be fine when I know they aren’t and never will be again. The guilt and shame still hover even though I feel the hope of Jesus. I have to be honest and say that hope is for the future – especially after I die when I’ll see my maker face to face. The right now doesn’t seem to have a great deal of hope in it.
I get up for count, go en mass to breakfast, wait in line and sit with my dorm, then return and prepare for going to my morning activity, which is work for me. We go to out at around 8:00. If you are not in vocational training program or education, everyone has a job to attend even if it is only a “porter” position – custodian of some area. Since I was educated and didn’t need school and didn’t qualify for trade school because of my college education, the counselors suggested when I arrived and was housed in the reception dorm that I apply to Transitional Services, the school, or grievance departments for a job where they might use my talents. Since I have an education degree and taught high school for seven years I immediately applied as a teacher’s aide. (By the way, I found out that less than two percent of the over 60,000 inmates in here were college educated.) I heard right back and was interviewed, but I think I scared the lady with my credentials or something as I got the distinct impression she did not want me around. Or maybe it was my crime. Whatever, I never heard from her again despite my notes to the department.
My letter to the Transitional Services department also received an immediate response. When inmates interviewed me, they really wanted me aboard but there were presently no openings. They said they made the decision not the civilian counselors so hang tight and something should open up soon as guys were being transferred all the time. That job, helping guys transition in and then out of prison sounded very interesting as well as the courses offered while doing their bids appealed to me. But alas, nothing seemed to develop. You only are in the reception dorm for about a week and need to get something going and not just stay in the pool of porters that filed daily down to take care of general clean-ups throughout the main areas – mess hall, hallways, etc. where dorm porters did not go.
My letter to grievance also received an immediate response but I put that third on my mental list not really knowing what it was all about. I knew what grievances were but not in the context of prison and how they would get resolved. The head lady repeatedly called and I finally sat with her for an interview. She wanted to hire me on the spot. When I said I was waiting to hear back from Transitional Services and the Education Departments she said they may not hire “someone like me” which I took to mean with my crime history. When she called reception a day later and asked me to at least fill in till I heard, I gladly accepted if only to get out of mopping floors for a real jerk of a CO.
During your reception stay at this facility you file every morning down for work cleaning that building. You stand in line and get your orders for your work that morning. Usually it is nothing strenuous but definitely needed to maintain such a large facility. The CO in charge after a couple of days seeing me and sending his favorite inmates to spy on me and my work called me in to ask my crime and why I was there. I was concerned when he invited a fellow CO in his makeshift office that we were going to go around like my previous “dance” with officers who didn’t like me or my crime. He asked what I was in for and said he would find out anyway and it was better that I tell him now. Having been cautioned about discussing such things previously from counselors I debated quickly what I would say. I finally told him the truth and was sent on my way. No beating, no harassment, I thought it was over.
Two days later after having been sent to grievance to work, I was hoping never to see him again. However he also was a lunch monitor and when I went through the line, he yelled out “Hey I know what you did, I know who you are” which, to put it mildly, caused me great unrest. Everyone in earshot heard which could be a dangerous thing. Did that mean another beating as before? It turned out he was buddies with the main CO of the reception dorm and joined him as he prepared breakfast there. All of us could smell the fresh bacon and eggs being prepared and glanced at the parade of men coming to devour them before they themselves went off to their post. That CO again accosted me and said he knew why I was in there and I’d better watch out. I was so glad to be transferred out to another dorm and my grievance job that same day. Thank you Jesus!
The reason I was wanted in the grievance office was because I had an education and the job required a bit of that. The previous fellow had been there two years and had done a good job at his work as well as courting a particular female CO. When caught in the back stairwell in a compromising position, he was immediately sent to the box at another facility and she was transferred to another parish, er sorry, prison. So the opening was to head up all the grievances that come in at the prison, from CO abuse to missing packages to inmate problems of all sorts. To say I learned a great deal about the system in a short amount of time would be an understatement. But more on that later.

PASSING THE TIME

You might ask what do we do all day. So often in here one can simply be drawn into their own world and not interact with others. Thinking or daydreaming is always available.
Some pass the time by sleeping all the time, or acting like they are. Now I can understand that as no one bothers you, save the CO’s when it’s count time. (yeah, they count us 4 times a day to make sure we are all here – that despite the double perimeter 15’ high fences, sensors, cameras and constant patrols around the outside) Then it’s back to bed many times with a blanket, sheet or coat pulled up around their head, a sure DO NOT DISTURB sign. It is easier to do all that, even when not sleeping, than to answer a stream of questions or make small talk with someone you do not know and probably do not want to know and will most likely never see again after you leave.
Others hide by reading. Even trashy novels seem better to them than conversation with real characters – and there are sure real characters in here!! Again, it passes the time, and depending on how long your bid is, can expedite its ending. When not into the books they are pursuing new ones at the library, which also serves as a genuine destination and can make you feel almost “normal” because it is similar to any such facility anywhere in the country – periodicals, books of all kinds, even computers to use for looking up selections.
Some are tubers – constantly watching television, depending of course, on which facility you are in and what the dorm rules are for having the idiot box turned on. Most have certain hours for viewing, and then it’s consciences’ viewing. Of course to most guys in here, the what is not so much a concern as to something that can take their mind off their surroundings and away from here.
I’ve seen others in constant litigation, against a) the system, b) their charge c) some perceived (or actual) slight done to them either before or during their day here, or d) a combination of any of the above. They become “legal eagles” even if only in their own eyes, walking authorities on Article 73’s or Habeas Corpus or 440’s or whatever, spending every waking hour in the Law Library, if they do not already work there. (called ‘frequent fliers’ by the law library workers) Nothing against these types of folks, as much has changed in here for the better because of some of their findings. It just is another time passer for those particular individuals.
Some are physical fitness junkies, whether basketball, running, or weight lifting in the gym or omnipresent weight pits. It seems to occupy every waking moment so that they are either doing it, planning it, talking about it, watching it or getting ready to do it yet again or coming down from it. Some really have something to show for it, with muscles on muscles. I wonder what will happen to these gentlemen when they get out.
Now do not get me wrong , I am not judging but simply reporting some various diversions of those here inside. There are others – the suck-ups, the isolationists, or ones bordering on real or feigned mental instability – that I have witnessed in one form or another. Me? I mix a variety of many, but am quite focused on staying focused on Christ, putting Him first so that when I get out I’ll have a template to follow in my daily life. Maybe I can lead by example, though that is not why I do it. Jesus is my role model and it is important to me to follow the many examples He gave to me through His life deeds and word. To date I have a long road ahead of me to emulate The Master.
I was not always this way, definitely not before entering here. Oh I claimed the Lord and worshiped Him, especially on Sundays. I acted as a Christian most of the time, especially when someone was looking. Was I always filled with love for my fellow man? Hardly. Did I return anger with anger? Absolutely. I sure did not want someone getting the better of me or “one upping” me, eh? I guess I was like so many others that talk a good game, especially on Sundays, but then forget my walk much of the week. I also let the liberal media and viewpoint taint my ideas on what is acceptable and would be pleasing to my Lord. As my friend’s song says, “On Sunday I was shouting for revival, but on Monday could not find my Bible.” Basically I was a fair weather religious person, lukewarm, or a smorgasboarder – picking and choosing what I wanted to believe and do depending on my mood and attitude, not on His word.
So now I read and study the Bible to ensure I know what is wanted by Jesus. I attend studies and discussions of it many times a week which really ingrains it in me and reminds me I am not alone. That one book – the constant best seller every year and of all times – offers great examples of what to do when happy, sad, hurt, tempted, humiliated, sinning, giving and everything in-between. Where? Everywhere. I am finding references now for what I believe. It definitely is Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth.
In fact when I return, get out of corrections, though I will never be free of the need of inside corrections, one of the many plans I have is to make a line of greeting cards with specific verses and references on them for such occasions – when you are feeling left out, overwhelmed, down and out, or grieved in some way for example. So you’ll have to watch for those “spirit cards” as I think I call them to come to a store near you – or maybe an e-store by then. But I digress.
Or maybe I don’t. Anything that keeps me on track on my path to follow my friend Jesus is putting me right where I am supposed to be. I’ve had to make several inside corrections, a shift from my self-centered and arrogant ways and away from the direction in which I was headed. It is no wonder I had a train wreck. (and everyone loves to look at a train wreck, just not get involved or too close to one) Now my direction is clear, and hope is alive. And that is such a change from a couple of months ago.
Hallelujah!!

ON THE MOVE

So, finally the day comes when they tell me to pack it up. “25 out” the CO calls. When I report up to the bubble – the thick walled room that houses the CO on duty behind bullet proof glass – I am told I am on the draft. That’s prison lingo for ‘you’re moving’. She tells me to pack it up and be ready.
I am excited. I am not sure why because it is not like I am going home or anything, not even a visit, just moving. While the move here from county seems so long ago and fuzzy, I am quite excited to get out of this single room. I am not sure what to expect or where I am going, but I can easily pack my belongings in the one white mesh sack they provide as I do not have very much stuff. The little commissary I could afford easily fits on top of my state issue clothes and my Bible, the only thing they let you carry with you that you came in with and which they will not take away. I was counseled early on to write my addresses in the back so I would always have them with me.
So I am ready, let’s go. But in here, it is the old hurry up and wait. I still do not have that down, the waiting thing. Nothing is fast and everything involves waiting.
So I wait. It is lunch time and I go but I still wait. Evening comes with dinner and I still wait. Then I am called out and am led through a different maze to a room that looks familiar as it is the room we came into when arriving. I shivered at the sergeants door but fortunately was not called in though he was there glaring at anyone who passed. There were two other guys with their sacks also going somewhere. After the obligatory search of our property – what, I am sneaking something out that wasn’t mine? – and the shackling, not to anyone else this time, we are led to a van for transport to our new home.
The reason it is so late when we go and it’s a small van told the more experienced guys with me we were not going far. Turns out it was almost across the street to a medium B facility next to a female medium facility. Now there would be 15’ high fence with barbed wire on top with another similar but a tad lower fence 15 or 20 feet inside it as opposed to the 20 foot barb wired topped concrete walls of reception. There were cameras all around on the poles in between and sensors on the ground. Not likely anyone would make it through or around all that and get away.
Reception was one at a time and we waited in a large room once again joined by a couple of guys from another facility. Other inmates helped take our stuff to the inspection area where a CO roughly went through it before telling me to follow him upstairs to the reception dorm.
I was assigned a room with another guy, fortunately a single bed. There was a small locker for my stuff and I was in my new temporary home. Soon there was count, then rec time in an open area where most guys just milled around. There is an old television with a very bad quality picture showing Wheel of Fortune. Even the episode looks like a rerun and probably is because everything else in here is old.
I was told some of the things I could look forward to in the coming days most of which had to do with getting familiar with the facility. I was told I would get five free letters per week with the state providing the paper, envelopes and stamps. Hallelujah!! The excitement of this news refuels me and I start my writing. I have to be careful to put on a happy face in my letters as counselors and others have told me I have caused enough heartache and pain so not to burden family with more in my epistles. Makes sense I guess, so the game begins anew.
I will go though orientation prior to finding out my new work and schedules but know that for the first week I will be attending meetings most of every day. Beats sitting in a solitary cell. At least I am with other guys though none seem too friendly at this juncture. I hope I will sleep tonight as my head is still swirling with all the new around me. Much to look forward to and as well as much to fear.

ON THE DRAFT

My counselors mentioned I now am available for the “draft” list. That is a list of guys to be moved for whatever reason. I am now ‘available’ I am told because I am off the meds. So I now will be transferred to another State facility not too unlike this reception one. Hopefully it will be soon, as I wish to get on with my “bid”, the time I was sentenced to and need to complete prior to release. In my case it is a minimum of 2 1/3 and a maximum of 7 years. It is real difficult for me to think of being in here all 7 years, so I do not go there.

I am starting to anticipate things now that my mind is clearer from meds. I was moved to a new dorm too but maintained cell 25. Kind of neat I guess. The “dorm” I am in is set up similarly, with pods of five cells set in a semi-circle, with a total of 30 cells per dorm. I now know commissary is every two weeks, partly because guys try to get me to buy them things and partly because I like getting out of my cell to go anywhere other than staying locked up and look forward to ‘the buy’ as it is also called.
We have a lady CO who is our normal daytime officer and I ask to help with cleaning or anything that would get me out of my one-man cell. To date she uses other guys who do not go to religious services or have the medical treatment background I have I guess. She treats me well. But do not cross her as some smart alecks have tried. She sure has a temper, and carries a night stick with her that she is not afraid to use – as others I have seen use as well. No thank you.
Mail call is right after our evening meal, so we line up outside our dorm and await the names being called. What a joy to receive anything, and I do receive a letter or two over the time I am here. Usually it is from my friend Jack, my pastor’s husband, or friends who manage letters or encouraging cards now and then. A real treat.
Other than that we are confined to our cells except for about an hour twice a day when we can be in the ‘day’ room which is really not very large for all of us. That is where the phones are and when we are allowed to use them. I am much better now though I am not always able to get through to my wife, the only person on my call list for now. So I write letters for guys and manage to play a little chess though I am so bad most do not want to play me. Also it is because I do not bet on the games as I do not have anything I can afford to lose – flags (stamps) rollies (cigarettes) or other things. The television is on, but the programming most watch leaves a great deal to be desired and reinforces the idiot box label. I did mention to the weekend CO about the “fastest two minutes in sports” which intrigued him. We then were able to watch the Kentucky Derby which dwindled to an audience of two – me and the CO.
So I guess I wait to go on the draft and continue the next segment of my new journey inside corrections.

HOW ARE YOU DOING?

How are you doing? I mean really doing? Anyone ever ask you that? My counselors do in here. My former wife asked me that and I wished I would have thought about it more and given her an answer – or at least been more real with her when she queried.
Inside corrections you basically do what you are told. People do not care how you are feeling. What would it matter anyway, you still end up doing what they want and tell you to do. Hey, that could be why so many fail once they get out. They are so used to not thinking for themselves, being told what to do, that they are not used to thinking past the next hit, drink, fling, buzz, hook-up or whatever. Not much place to hide anything in here. You also do not want to ask what some guys are up to, and most of the time you really do not want to know what they are truly thinking. Of course that doesn’t stop some guys from doing things they ought not to do.
Like the ones who make hooch from old apple juice or anything else they can lay their hands on. Or the ones who make tattoo guns from radios or other electronic gadgets. Or the ones who find ways to bake things without an oven. Or cement things together without tools, super glue or duct tape. In most all cases, you would never even know this type of thing goes on till someone goofs up, tells the wrong guy or gets caught somehow. If this country really wanted to get things done they’d ask inmates to solve the problems. Not only would they get multiple responses, they’d also get it done cheaply. But I digress.
What I was up to was no good when my wife asked that question prior to my incarceration. I just didn’t want her or anyone else to know about it. So, like others in here, I kept secrets and didn’t let anyone know lest they try and stop me, which I didn’t want because I was enjoying myself too much even though I wanted to stop but couldn’t on my own. Hence, if I really answered that question, I would have had to look at the ugliness of what I was doing and stop, which as I said I wanted to do, though deep down I needed help to do it. Understand? Probably not, unless you have been there before. How could I risk so much, my wife, family, job and career for lust? Why indeed.
One reason was because I could. Being my own boss meant no one was supervising me or overseeing me as almost constantly occurs in here (yet they still misbehave!!) Another reason was because it gave me a high, a satisfaction, a sense of being needed and wanted even though I knew it was fake, contrived and wrong. Because I felt unworthy, the guilt pushed me to feel better about myself. So I acted out, which made me temporarily feel better till the guilt returned and the cycle started again. The time between those cycles grew shorter, and the need to act out grew stronger, a fatal mixture for sure. Fortunately, in here most times, I see the cycles getting broken before they go around – at least much of the time. As with most secret activities, one has to observe very closely or be close to someone to know when anything out of the ordinary is occurring.
So now, when someone says “how are you doing?”, I can answer with a clear conscience. Not having to lie or conjure something up is actually a big relief and feels quite liberating. I truly had a huge load lifted from me as a result of being so transparent as they say, though a little too late. Of course in here one never knows who is lying or telling the truth. After all, 99% are innocent, right?
My hope and prayer is that whenever someone asks that question they a) really care and mean it, and b) no one covers up anything or shifts in their seat because of being exposed. I am learning again how my God sees it anyway, no matter how much we try and hide. Just like Adam and Eve in the garden couldn’t hide from their sin, no one can. Even me. My joy comes from being able to share everything at all times as I work to keep my life in the light.
As you know or come to know if you are reading this, it was not always so with me. I made a good living, unfortunately living in the dark – or at least the shadows. I was no where near this lucid before on things that matter, only things that didn’t matter or have consequence, except to me. Hence my self centered behaviors.
As you read on, and I hope you do, you will get a sense of what I went through when my world, my flesh and the devil collided with the world of God and required inside corrections.

LETTER TO PASTOR CHERYL

(Editor’s note:  Pastor Cheryl was the pastor at the Presbyterian Church I attended on the outside)

Dear Pastor Cheryl,
I am sure you have been exceptionally busy in this Lenten Season, plus having Peter home. Hopefully it was as wonderful as I imagine it was, even with this strange weather.
I wondered if you could share the enclosed with the congregation via the newsletter if you feel it appropriate. This “bazaar” life I am leading does have a purpose, one I am working to unravel. One thing I do know is that it has and will change me and many of my beliefs and thoughts. I certainly have lots of time for reflection and meditation here, and who knows of the future for any of us.
Peace & love to you and all your family,
Van

Hello to all.
After a very difficult transition, I find myself in a reception area of a maximum security prison in Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill, New York. Although the timetable is unclear, I hope to be relocated to where I will do my “bid” (one of the many new words I have learned) or sentence in the next week and a half. If you have never been incarcerated, let me explain that this facility is as you might see on T.V. or in the movies or maybe read about in the papers. Tight rules, strictly enforced by overly aggressive c.o.’s ( correction officers) in a cold, sterile environment where each has an individual cell, approximately 8’ x 8’ or thereabouts, complete with a paper thin mattress on a cold steel frame; toilet and sink combination, one fluorescent light and half a locker for your state issue green clothes. The food is, well, nothing like I am used to in my health conscious life. Mostly starch, carbohydrates, overcooked vegetables and, if lucky, once a week, fruit. But then again, as I am constantly reminded, I am in prison. (Complete with high walls with strands of razor wire on top.)
We recently celebrated Easter. Happy belated Easter wishes to everyone. I wanted to celebrate the resurrection so I again went to a service here in a small “chapel”. It was a Catholic service as I had previously attended a protestant one which I will relate at another time. The priest was a wonderfully happy man with origins in South America and truly had the blessings of God shining through him. He spoke of a time of rebirth, reawakening, starting over and leaving the past behind, and going forward with new life filling our hearts with joy of forgiveness, and asked each of us how we would “feast with joy on this festive day.” It almost felt like he was speaking only to me. How am I going to share this joy of the resurrection? How COULD I? Me, the sinner, who has disrupted so much, hurt so many, thought only of himself? It brought up again all the pain I had been experiencing. But I felt an honesty in his eyes, his words and his ways that told me I too could be forgiven. I broke down. As I finally gathered myself, pushing my soaked sleeves up to join hands in the Lord’s Prayer, I knew I had to share this joy of rebirth with you all. I now have hope where formally there was only despair because of what Jesus did for me and us all on that cross: dying, being buried and rising on the third day to conquer death and sin. The eggs that little children seek on the Easter days he said represent hope of the future, that there indeed will be a future for us all, so we must carry on knowing if we so chose, we can be a part of it with Him.
So I now carry this joy with me as best I can in here, hoping that no slap happy guard, no fence, no bars, no restrictions of rules or orders will take away. It’s a process, but at least I am on the road and moving in a better direction. This is what I wanted to share with everyone this Easter season. Peace be with you. And hope.

Van

NO MORE MEDS

I know time has passed because my meds have decreased. One reason is the counselors say so and the other is I do not swallow them anymore. Yes, the same rebellious attitude which helped cause my fall is now being used for positive effects of leading me mentally out of this hole – at least cerebrally.
I noticed little yellow and orange debris outside the dispensary and learned guys would hold their meds in their mouths in such a way as to hide them from the omnipresent C.O.’s who have to check in your mouth and under your tongue to prove you swallowed them. Guys would then depart and deposit them on the bare trodden earth outside, mainly to the right of the concrete walk, something in which I also learned to delight. I could feel the difference physically and mentally after a couple of days, though emotionally I was still iffy. With my counselor’s final permission, I was able to wean the system from giving me any, though that also took time. Even after her approval I had to go three straight times and refuse the meds, protocol for such situations, relieving the facility of any liability I guess. So now one charade ends while another – that of me pretending to be all right – continues.
How could I be? I was in prison, yearning for my old life of family and friends around whenever I wanted. I longed to eat and drink what and as much as I pleased as well as to play basketball again. I was afraid things would never return to those days and was more correct than I knew. The latter wish was partially filled on a half court indoor court during twice a week rec times. Fortunately, though time had passed, my court skills had not. Many a young buck was led to the slaughter by this “O.T.’s” hand. Even the C.O.’s took notice, which gave me a little leeway, which I later exploited, having not outgrown my selfish ego of pushing the limits – another trait that landed me here.
Other than that precious half hour on the court, much of my time is still spent thinking of thinking and working at controlling thoughts. I often fail at that as well, adding that disappointment to the seeming endless list of items which keeps the downward spiral close at hand. Is this all I have to look forward to, a continual repetition of this negative cycle? (with a little b-ball thrown in to tease me?) Is it worth it to be off the meds?
One way I plan to escape other than reading – I devour books here – is to write. I now need to carry out new actions to replace old, move forward in my turn from negative to positive, do something good rather than bad, stop pushing the limits and stay within guidelines and make a mark for others to follow, especially in this darkness. More importantly I need to give up the reins to God, something I never have really done before. Even though I acted like I did, I was what I now call a ‘smorgasbord’ Christian, liking this and this but not that or that, believing what I wanted rather than His Word. True discipleship, my Christian friends tell, me does not work that way. Too many in here continue on the same path. They return through prison’s revolving door to a system that welcomes them back on a new “bid.” (that is a whole separate chapter) Unless something new is presented which they can accept and adopt, they will continue the cycle away from the light.
I now can more clearly see my desire to do whatever it will take, to move toward the light and out of continual darkness. That arrogant attitude of entitlement, with a dash of selfishness coupled with a pinch of impulsiveness and recklessness that brought me here is a sure recipe for disaster, sure to lead me back or in some alternate world of hurt for me and everyone around me. It all starts with a thought, then moves to action and resulting consequences.
For myself as well as future generations and anyone willing to read I will continue to pour out my inner thoughts from the inside. Who knows, it may serve to aid someone else besides myself which is in itself, a new and delightful thought. How clearly I can think now that the fog of meds has cleared! A huge weight gone. That is another step in my recovery of a thousand steps. The only way I can correct is from the inside, with God’s help.
So here I go.

DOG DAYS OF PRISON

Today was a Sneaker day. We couldn’t go to the gym/library and spent most of out time locked in our cells. I am not sure what was going on to cause it as they didn’t consult me or other inmates.
To say that things are tough would be an understatement. Some days are better than others, but all a dull gray. Weaning off the meds doesn’t seem to help my mood as I thought it would. Father Domido, whose visits have diminished, says the only thing that will sustain me is Jesus living in me through the Holy Spirit. Right now I do not know anyone who would want to live in or near me. I don’t even want to. How could He forgive me and accept me after all I have done and the wreckage I have caused to so many?
Yet life goes on, even in here. Count, breakfast (or some facsimile thereof), cleaning, another count, lunch (ditto) maybe rec and library time, still another count, dinner (more of the same) then rec and bed with yet another count thrown in there. Hey, they wouldn’t want any of us getting out through double locked doors, through locked hallways and outer doors and over the high walls with wire on them would they? Some days it is different, broken up by counselor or priest visits or a call out but I cannot recall details of when. I don’t really care. That old darkness of ending it all still looms over me. Then I think of my kids and that is replaced by further sadness and shame, most of which I have to hide from others around me so as not to be taken advantage of by the vultures in here. Any weakness shown is like blood in the waters around sharks, so either act tough or like nothing is bothering you.
Phone time, if I can manage to get to one and actually catch my wife and have her press 3, (to accept the call) is another challenge. With about 30 guys in here for two phones I get maybe one try per night if lucky. I try to remember when she said she would be available but it is foggy in my mind, clouded also by the fact I want to talk with her all the time. That is odd too because I wasn’t much good at talking before I imploded and much of the time I am crying and telling her how sorry I am and asking her to forgive me. It must seem like a broken record for her. I really do not have anyone else to talk to. Father says pray and talk to God, but I think He is too busy for the likes of me right now.
I don’t remember who suggested it, my counselor I think, that we set up a word or phrase that would tell those I call how I was doing since we don’t really want to broadcast it to the inmate population – as if they didn’t know when they see and hear a sniveling old guy banging the wall and wailing into the receiver. A phone booth would help but these phones are just stuck here on the concrete wall.
So my wife and I came up with code words, not like we are hiding anything or spies. After all, the calls are all monitored and even recorded so I am sure the Gestapo has already figured it out. We use dog names to tell of my moods. Sneaker, our old Golden Retriever who was aptly named because he ‘sneaked around’ as the kids used to say, became code word for a bad day. Yogi, our present Golden, who by the way is my best dog ever and I miss terribly, is used for good days, or at least tolerable ones. It goes without saying that there have been more Sneaker days than Yogi days. Even our best day in here is worst than anyone’s bad day out there.
I’m not really sure why we play this charade or if it is even healthy. Hiding my feelings and pretending it is a Yogi day when it really isn’t doesn’t seem right. I know why I was cautioned to do it, because of those inmates around me who will ask for everything and anything that we have, which isn’t much because we are in prison! That doesn’t seem to hold them back even when I am on the phone. “Hey, ask your old lady to ……” or “can you get…” or some such. Money, phone calls, letters information are just some of the things requested. Or they’ll sidle up and feign concern only to later ask something of you especially if my commissary buy is coming up.
Of course mentioning my dogs name sets me off in a way too. Sneaker is dead, buried in our acreage behind the house. But he was a good dog and fun. Then we got Yogi Bear, aptly named because he was roly poly like a baby bear who became my prize even though the kids were supposed to care for him. My daughter did some, especially when she dressed him up in people clothes and took pictures. I trained him in sign language and to run along side of me on the bike so he would get enough exercise. All the people in our small town knew Yogi as I took him with me all over. The Post Office workers, who would feed him treats when we visited, caused him to wander down there sometimes on his own if left loose for too long and I was not around. Right now I hear Yogi isn’t doing well since I left, kind of mopey like his master I guess. So bringing up their names just as when my kids names are mentions can adversely affect me as well.
I know I must deal with all of this and I guess I am as I am still here. Yep, still here and rotting away on the inside having Sneaker days.

WRITE IS RIGHT

I do not think I will ever emerge from this dismal place. I so desperately want to, but in here my desires go unheeded. It feels like I will not get out. I will never see another sunny day on the outside or take a walk on a path in the quiet woods again. Those great days will be all used up. I will not get the smell of the forest, of wood, or feel the moss on the side of a tree. No more sailing or lapping waves to lull me to sleep. No more sunsets. No more full court basketball. No more edible food let alone wine or beer. Just dark and emptiness amongst all these sad people.
To write, ah that seems to be my only answer. My old teacher instincts are there in glimpses. Write. Journal. Write how? To whom? (Or is it who; no definitely whom as the old grammatical rule says it would be them, so add the m.) It seems fruitless regardless, especially from someone in here with my crime. Who would ever want to read it? My kids may not even want to ever see me let alone hear from me again.
Maybe the best thing to do is for me to simply write to someone I do not know, someone who does not know my past so they could not hold it against me. Start with a clean slate so to speak. Tell them my testimony, my story with my true feelings since I have no more secrets. Everything is laid bare in here. (literally) No holds barred, consequences be dammed. What further damage could I do anyway? So much hurt has been handed out. Maybe I could aid someone in a similar position to NOT do what I did thereby preventing future pain. Just let my inside out from the inside place I now find myself each day.
How did I get to this point? Things are a dull gray rather than black or white, though still not a desirable state. I see the darkness though now at a distance, there but at bay. My reduced meds still help keep it that way. The counselors help. They say I am keeping it out of reach, taking the necessary steps to my recovery and a better life. The priest says I am headed toward the beginning of a new path, turning things around as needed, making that u-turn that is required if I want to have anything of value in the future. Hard to visualize any future from inside corrections having any value to me or anyone.
It is not easy, at least for me. The shame and guilt still surround me even amid other’s feelings like “At least you didn’t….” or “Many act on those feelings as you did..” do little to abate the hatred I have for the person who did my crime. I am guilty and am paying the price to, as the judge told me in his sentencing, “even the scales of justice in my case.” I cannot at this point quite see or believe that will happen, but am learning to pray it is so.
Strange yet familiar are the words of Father Domido. He is a welcome sight as I enter his office when called out to see him or when he visits here. It is also difficult to believe his words meant to encourage me. Why would his just, holy and compassionate God allow me to trespass so on another? On so many? Then how could He forgive me for doing it despite my knowing better? Such arrogance. Such lust. Such deception. Who could ever forgive me? Maybe God can, as Father tells me, but I do not know how my wife or kids can. I cannot.
There is something that tells me I need to write this down, let people in, and not bottle it up. I try to inspect the source, as I have had feelings or hunches before on things, and look where that got me! The difference my counselor, friends and priest tell me, is that it would be helpful, especially for me now as well as later. It seems clear at times, then so cloudy at others. No wonder so many guys simply curl up and sleep their time away. What’s the use? Things are definitely irrevocably changed, seemingly for the worse.
I guess that is what is to be done. After all, I know keeping busy helps, and time will pass. Write it all down, journal, sort it out later. Letters from inside I guess.

SOUNDS

It is interesting how sounds – and smells – can trigger our memories and thoughts. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sound of the metal doors clanging shut as we entered our cells. It was a low and ominous sound and grew to have finality in it. No getting out, that’s for sure.
This was at the maximum security prison when everything was new. Out of all the things I don’t remember, that sound is one I definitely do. It echoed in the concrete hallways as it offered little hope, locking me in a concrete box that offered little respite from the aching I was feeling. Not physical nor emotional pain, as the meds took care of those. Just a pervasive sense of loss that would haunt me once those doors clanged shut and the electronic locks click, indicating I was told, that the light on the C.O.’s panel went off for my cell signaling indeed our doors were securely shut and locked. The small, glass-less window in the door covered with metal bars only teased us of what lay outside in the curved hallway of five cells. Each cell also had an outdoor window of extra thick glass that only opened slightly with a crank only the CO’s possessed. It seemed to give us the only natural light we would see once shut inside on those long days and tormented us of the green expanse outside. Most views didn’t extend very far, however, as strategically place mounds or buildings hid most views lest we plan our get-a-ways.
The sound of the click of our doors being unlocked was also I sound I will remember, a welcome sound, sometimes unexpected. We normally would be waiting for the click prior to lining up for the march to meals – chow as they dubbed it. I had refused in my mind and verbiage, after muddling through my drugged stupor, to call it that, reminiscent of the dog food I fed my faithful Golden. It was fine cuisine for him but not something I cared to think about for me to ingest, though some meals appeared to be a close facsimile to it. So I banned the word and encouraged others to do the same.
It also was the welcome sound when unlocking for rec and library times twice a week. Those 45 minutes were such wonderful times even if the gym and library were small. It was less than half a gymnasium and housed an old weight machine and basket with no net which we shared with the handball players. I always tried to cajole some guys to play rather than just shoot around. I never tired of it and it would provide a great escape for that short time and throughout my state enforced time out, a God-send in getting me through my bid – length of my sentence inside, buying me safety and even respect along the way. Praise God for the benefits of movement on the court. ( I may not have at first, but surely did later)
The best times of hearing that door click unlocked were the unexpected ones. “25 out.” I had somehow procured a cell with one of my favorite numbers – I remember moving to it before I was even told to go to it, I just knew it was mine. When that shout came, I was supposed to rush to the bubble for further instructions. (the bubble was the bulletproof glass enclosure that held the CO on watch) I started to vaguely remember how I had done it for med calls when the “meds” call was sounded and all were herded to the dispensary for their dose.
That click sound, when sudden and out of the ordinary, could get an excitement aroused in me. I had no idea what it was for but it meant a few moments of enlarged freedom where I could walk and maybe even catch site of the outdoors, sky and maybe even the sun or moon. Maybe, I would dream, it meant they had made a mistake and I was being pardoned, set free, given another chance and being sent home, maybe ….. Usually it was the psyche lady making sure I was getting “better” whatever that meant in this place with me looking at more years of incarceration. Maybe it was commissary where we were able to buy things every other week. Maybe it was another counselor. Or the priest. I was not Catholic but had enjoyed their Sunday morning service more that the protestant ones, mainly because of Father Domido, a Peruvian priest who “saved” me from thoughts of further self destruction and gave me hope in Jesus Christ which ultimately led me to be born again.
So when I would hear that click and my number called, my heart would begin to race as I never knew the reason. It might be a counselor call out, or maybe, I hoped, it would be Father Domido again, calling me out to visit him for a short chat. It never came from him enough, but just hearing that sound gave me the hope that he started in me, the hope that I would later cultivate form the source of all hope, that of Christ our Lord, our true Father.

TIME PASSES II

Time continues to pass. I find myself more able to remember, though if I go too far back I slip into the way. The way is the quiet solitude that recognizes what I did and rips at me to the point of physical and mental sickness. So, as the counselors and wise ones have instructed, I again attempt to look forward, or at worst, at the now. The thought of ending it has slipped into the past where we all hope it stays. My jury is still out on that, but I agree with them in spirit.
Now I am writing a letter for a guy who cannot functionally read or write. I have to read his girlfriend’s letter to him and am now scribbling his dictated words back to her. Word has spread of my ability and willingness to do this, so my services are in demand. I could write anything I wanted, tell her to go take a flying leap or send me money. Some scoundrels do, oddly enough. Not I however. I am working on rebuilding a lost integrity. There is no shame among the downtrodden I guess.
It passes the time if nothing else. Half the inmates have no high school education and one third, according to DOCS own statistics, are illiterate. It is a very sad state of affairs in a no child left behind mentality to have over 20,000 men who cannot read or write, and as a result usually cannot get, let alone hold, a job of meaning. How genuinely saddened I was when I finally coaxed one such author to explain why he didn’t sign his name to the letter I wrote. He could not even write his own name! Actually I could identify when, oddly enough, I could only spell it phonetically myself.
More time passes. Some of us observe the geese outside our windows who have migrated back and are now nursing their eggs. A proud mother sits endlessly on her nest, oblivious to our plight inside. The hatching is amazing to watch, though not my first exposure to this as with others. Many of us mark their progress in family development hardly noting the days passing. The hawks are also noticing, awaiting an opportunity to lessen the numbers while satisfying their own needs at the expense of a stray youth waddling behind mama goose. The symbolism of their greed is not lost on me, though their motives are natural and nobler than my feeding off an unsuspecting teen.
While difficult, I know I must go on, continue with my transition forward rather than back, turning away from the lurid temptations and selfish desires that brought me inside. Time doesn’t seem to heal this wound, only scab it over for me and others to pick at when they feel like it. To lessen the pain I was counseled to generalize my crime to others to save the beatings and taunting – picking at the scab – that would occur when others found out my crime. Still, ingenious inmates call someone on the outside to look up our identification number to learn the crime and history of anyone they want. For me, just calling home is an ordeal, let alone with an agenda.
Setting up the collect call system, by the way, was another hurdle to overcome. It is surprising how much the anticipation and simple joy of hearing the voice of someone you know and love on the other end of the phone can bring. Or the resulting sadness and despair when it is not set-up properly or when no one answers. Then getting to one of two pay phones for 30 guys during rec time was another problem. Catching someone at that sacred time became an almost overwhelming task. Then when I do reach my unbelievable supportive wife who I hurt beyond repair and she does press three, I generally am so overcome with emotion I cannot speak. The disappointment either way is so difficult – anticipation, not getting through, or being unable to capitalize on it. I long for it to end, for someone to yell “cut” and all goes back to before, yet I know it will not happen and there is a long time to go. That end is unfathomable though out there and seems too distant to accept.
Yet time goes on with me with it. The letter writing helps, and I exchange the work for lessons in chess, which also helps. Right now I am pathetic at it – and dislike the contact chess methods often exhibited inside. Since when is a board game a contact sport, slamming pieces down or knocking captured ones out? Time continues to pass, minute by minute, day by day. The flicker of light is there, sometimes growing, sometimes hardly distinguishable in the darkness of guilt and humiliation.
A priest at Easter time tells me God forgives me since I repented, that I now need to forgive myself. I doubt the former and cannot accept the latter. The wound is festering all over again and does not seem the type any God would want to heal. So I bandage it with chess, letters, reading and this writing, tears, more tears and carry on. It may not be healing, but at least the bleeding has stopped.

TIME PASSES

Time passes slowly, but it passes and I can see it going. They tell me it is mid April. I note the changes, the details in the day. From the early stirrings in adjacent cells, I hear the early functions of bodies waking and I add to the chorus. Then the early count comes, a preparation for others not yet awake to “rise and shine” and get ready to march to breakfast. That we literally do, march: in speechless pairs, dorm by dorm, through concrete hallways, outside between buildings, more hallways and a maze of tunnels to a dining hall which I could not find again if paid a million dollars. The thought humors me, but I must stifle the mirth as noise of any kind is verboten.
We get our food with 10 minutes to eat, with the clock starting when we hit the dining hall. It doesn’t matter how long the line is, it is 10 minutes, unless we get lucky and our C.O. gets caught up in conversation that gives us a precious minute or two more. I learn to eat with little chewing and no conversation, though most of the food is overcooked anyway and requires little mastication and delivers similarly few nutrients. Woe to those who linger after being told to “pick it up,” or the hungry sole who attempts to take back to his cell more than the allotted four pieces of white styrofoam type bread.
It’s tomorrow again and I meet with a second counselor at the same time. Two for one. They ask me how I am getting along and how I am adjusting. I hope they do not see my swollen eyes or straggly beard that I cannot seem to take care of at present. It is difficult to shave in a tin mirror – all that is in my lovely new digs.
I explain I am coping, to which they agree is progress. What’s the alternative I wonder as I do not think I verbalize it to them though they do kind of stare at me. When they do this my gaze automatically goes down and the shame returns.
They mention I seem to be adjusting according to the CO on my dorm. Translation is I am not causing any trouble and play well with others. Not only do I have no choice but I am medicated and do not feel like doing much of anything. The regiment of count, chow, dorm time, count, chow, activity, chow and count seem to normalize anyone I would think. I think the meds have evened out or maybe I am just getting used to them. Thinking is still hard, or at least weird and I am choosing not to go back very far and cannot go forward which leaves me in a not very good place – here inside corrections. I find myself able to function and observe, though my mind is still muddled in the horror of my crime. The darkness is there but at bay presently. It appears Satan had replaced whatever goodness was in me with selfishness and his egotistical ambition (on which I eagerly bit) to rule my own world. Adam all over again. The results aren’t so different. Both of us suffered shame and humiliation that will affect future generations and haunts us on the journey. Both of us need inside corrections.
The silhouettes on the hall wall as we silently parade past an open courtyard window on the way to and from meals echo the darkness that still resides in me and wants to come forward. There is light behind me obviously to create the shadows. I need to somehow bring that light forward and keep it there. The walking silhouettes remind me three times a day of the little progress I have made in that dealing. I am still bogged down in a mire of self-loathing and pity. It does not seem anyone will understand the depths to which I fell and from which I am now trying to emerge – if it is worth it at all. I see and hear others still in his grasp, conniving, lying and secretly pushing their way to and past boundaries – something I know all too well and previously mastered. Will their present transgression come to light as their past ones have? Do they not feel the remorse and shame I am living with, or are they singularly coping with it in the only way they know? What will prevent me from joining them again? Those necessary corrections could prove too difficult, inside or out. Maybe the struggle, the endless turmoil between darkness and light, yea good and evil and the resulting consequences are what keep me awake at night after lights are out. Is there to be no end to this? No cure? No hope?
A general fatigue aided by drugs and a nightly sob session seem my only escape to the few hours sleep I get. Then it all starts again as time passes.

JUST BREATHE

I have to breathe. It is very difficult to remember such a basic thing in here. How could I forget? I can hardly speak. There is so much chaos. So much terror. I find myself holding my breath. Then the sobbing. It is so difficult. Just breathe she says. Her voice is soft, smooth, gentle. I remember that voice from somewhere but not in here. Everything here is harsh. Difficult. Threatening just getting to the phone. Breathe, she encourages. Breathe. How could I forget? It’s all so bleak. Dark in so many ways. I do not want the dark, but it’s all around me.
At first I did not know how to do all this phone connect stuff. Wait. It’s not your turn. Why am I holding my breath? Have to wait, it’s not your turn. This is not normal, I know. Nothing in here is normal. I do not know my way around, especially the phone call issues. There’s an echo. Voices. Then hers comes through. Breathe. I can’t stop sobbing. I’m sorry, oh so sorry. Help me. I do not know what to do. My chest is tight. My head throbs. Just breathe she says gently.
I waited so long. Then my turn. Dial. It’s finally ringing. Please pick up. Press 3, oh please press 3 to connect the call. Can you hear me? Yes, my wife says, I am right here no need to shout. I didn’t realize I was shouting. I am so sorry I say again. I love you. I can’t go on I sob. Breathe, she repeats. There are too many people. I am afraid. Terrified actually. What did I do?
Breathe. Easy to say, difficult to do. I’m out of control. I cannot even speak. Is this a dream? No, it’s real. Are you still there? I’m so alone. Surrounded closely by men but so alone. I’m numb. End it please. Yes, she says, right here.
You have one minute the voice tells us. Don’t leave me. I’m sorry. I love you. Help me. Just breathe she tells me, it’s alright. But it isn’t all right. It’s all wrong. I’m here. You are there and I am sorry. Gone. She’s gone. Twenty minutes and she’s gone just like that. The line is long, no calling back. It’s over. Back to my cell. It’s dark. No help. No relief. I have to breathe but find it hard. Is this what death is like, a panic? Pounding head, pressure on my chest? Why is it so hard?
Just breathe resonates through me like that song. Is this another dream? I follow the herd back to our cells after the phone goes dead. I find I am still sobbing. I stumble and someone I do not know helps me. I am weak, reeling. Just breathe she had said, I am here. How do I do that? Meds soon. They help calm me. Follow the herd. Line up. March to the room where relief comes. Just breathe till I get those pills. Somehow my rubber legs carry me there and back. Why am I still crying? How did I get on my bunk?
It’s easier now. The calmness settles over me but I know the storm will come again and there’s nothing I can do. Just breathe. Did she say that or am I here dreaming? Will I wake out there? Will this chaos never end?
No. Noise, chaos, meds. The calmness comes if I just breathe. I don’t want to. I want it all to end or get better. I know this is all wrong, very wrong. It’s dark and loud. Echoes in this concrete building. All so foreign. Nothing to hang on to. Nothing I can do. Just breathe.

TOMORROW

It must be tomorrow because I am sitting in front of her again. Or maybe I never left, as I do not remember much in between. She asks me again how I am doing and I just look at her. Other questions get more of an answer, though the only ones I remember are ones about me hurting myself. It is not one I have thought of either in a while, or at least not directly. She writes and looks at me. She seems to care about what I am feeling and says she will be one of my counselors while there. She doesn’t ask about my crime for which I am very thankful. It is hard enough to even look up at her as I am now used to looking down so as not to catch anyone’s eye – inmate or CO – lest I aggravate them by doing so.
I feel numb is about all I can tell her. There does not seem to be any reality, at least none that makes sense to me. I am sad, but it difficult to express that. I am lonely, out of place, and tired, but these are difficult concepts to explain to her or to understand myself. I later wonder if I even said anything to her or only thought it.
All of the sudden I realize I am crying; crying and sobbing so hard I did not know I was doing it. I had heard similar noises coming from an adjoining room. Now I added to the din. I do not remember what caused it or when it started. When I finally looked up, she pushed a Kleenex box to me and just nodded. There was no contempt in her eyes, no judgment, which I could not understand. I was a despicable person who had harmed many, even another female like her if only in thought and there she was quietly wanting to help me. It didn’t make sense. Nothing in here did.
Somewhere in our silence and her conversation about things I remember hearing I would see her again tomorrow. How does one get to this point? Where do you give up everything for something, nothing really, and do it so completely you lose everything? I am one of such people that overflow this place. How did this happen so fast? I cannot seem to wrap my head and thoughts around it nor understand the finality of it all. Maybe it’s the meds. Is this what the rest of my life will be like? No meaning?
It’s a wonder I am still breathing, though I sometimes think I am not. I feel in a timeless void with images passing by me that speak a different language I do not know. I stay on my bunk but cannot read. My mind finds it difficult to focus even when someone yells to tell me I am being called for meds. Why didn’t they just call my name rather than the bed number? I do not know my bed number though I am told it is very important to remember it. Guess I will be defined by it in here.
Is that really me being called? Didn’t I have a family? I thought I had a dog, what was his name? I think I worked, but cannot remember as everything now seems a gray blur. There is a hum in my head too, low but constant which I lose now and then till I do not expect it and it returns.
I awake not even knowing I went to sleep even though I am sitting. Is it morning? Is this over now? The pain in my stomach is still there though that could come from not eating. Or trying to digest the unusual food. No highs. No lows, just constant nothingness. That’s all there is or will be till tomorrow.

WELCOME TO DOWNSTATE

I’m talking to a young lady. She is asking me how I am getting along here at the New York State Reception Facility called Downstate. I do not even know how I got to her office save by the CO escort. I do not know why she is asking me that anyway as I am not getting along. This is prison and it stinks. Do all the guards hit you like that white shirt guy did I ask her? No, she answers after closing the door. The last time someone did that I got slapped, so I tense. She says she has heard of it before, but no, it is not right.

No it is not. I could not do anything and had no idea what was coming. I had been staring at the floor, feeling how my new clothes felt when I was awoken from my stupor and led to the white shirt’s office. The white shirt told me to stand against the wall with my hands behind me, which I did. That is when one of the two very large blue shirted CO’s with night sticks closed the door and stood with their back to me. I knew that was not good. Then I heard their boss say something to me before he slapped my face. Then again. I could not believe what was happening. Then once more. I was told to put my hands on the desk where he proceeded to hit them with a very large book, a dictionary I think. How many times? Eight or ten I think but was lost in the thought that this was really taking place. The blue shirts were just waiting for me to react. My instincts wanted to fight back, but the meds dulled my reaction thankfully. He told me to stand as before, yelled at me some more and then punched me in the stomach a couple of times. Then he had me sign a form, saying that I did not want to go to PC. (protective custody) I did not know what he meant but did as he instructed out of fear.

Later others went into his office. One did not return. I do not know why. Many, like me, were teary eyed returning, sitting alone and staring at the floor. Is this what I can expect in here? This young lady, a counselor I was later told, says no, it is not normal. Honey, nothing inside corrections is normal for me. She just said we would talk again tomorrow.

ON THE MOVE

My beard has grown. When did that happen? Time must have passed. I’ve talked to people but I do not remember. I think it is March. No, someone said it’s April.
Now I am in a small room with several guys, wearing my own clothes. No more brown jump suit that was way too large. Did I do that or did they do that while I was asleep? I don’t remember sleeping, at least not much. I am eating baloney and cheese sandwiches, something I have not had since I was in elementary school. When was that? It is difficult to eat with these handcuffs on my wrists. Is this some kind of twisted dream? I notice I am also chained to another guy who is ravenously eating. Do I know him?
We walk as best we can through a dark tunnel and are put on a bus. It is difficult with one ankle chained to my new partner. It must be night as it is cold and dark. It is cold in the hard plastic chair I finally manage to fall into beside my chain mate. The bus finally moves. Now I can see the sun. Was it always there and I missed it? It is cold. The only windows are up front or the small ones up high that I can see out of when I stand. Now I see the sun come up and we are headed into it. Then we stop so the guards can eat. We do not eat. I smell the grease of fast food and exhaust smells of the bus and get a queasy feeling in my stomach. There is no talking. My body hurts, so I stand, or try to stand as the bus motion and leg chains make it difficult. Most are sleeping. I try but it is now so hot it is difficult. Suddenly we are ‘there’ and told to leave. That is new being chained to a guy, but I adapt. I am reminded of the sack race I once ran with my son. Wish I was back there now. Did I dream that or this? I can’t tell.
We rise and file out to a tight room where a guy in a white shirt is yelling at all of us. “You eye ballin’ me?” hangs in the air. I do not know what is going on as I stare at the floor. We are finally unchained and told to ‘feel the wall’. Then we wait.
We are directed here and there. In and out of cages where some are left behind and the rest of us parade single file further to wait. We are again in different clothes, clean ones at least this time. I remember getting my head shaved and given a cup of something and told to put it on my hair and shower. But you shaved my hair. There is only cold water and a very small hand towel but I manage. This must be a mistake. This must be a dream. The new clothes are clean, pressed and folded this time and a forest green that will become a familiar shade.
Again we are moved like sheep from one large caged room to another, usually one by one. It seems we do a great deal of waiting. Get used to it I am told, lots of it in here. Where is here? Is it for long? Is it over?
Then a group of us are moved to another building though yet another tunnel. At least there are no chains this time. With a sarcastic tone we are told we have reached our new home inside corrections. Hallelujah.
Now what?

COUNTY VISIT

March is almost over when my pastor comes to visit.  How could that be?  It is light outside when I am awakened by the guy who sleeps under me.  Then I am led to a place where glass separated us.  She talked and I listened and tried to understand.  For a few moments I did and it was like other times.  Normal.  It was good to see someone I knew.  It was great she came, though I felt we were in a play and just acting.  Unfortunately I did not know the scene or setting.  Most of all I did not know my lines.

Then I said good-bye and was led away and had to strip.  Why? The CO’s looked me all over as if I was smuggling in something under my penis or up my rectum.  Is this part of the play?  Does everyone have to do this?  Then I am back on my bunk wondering if anything really happened or it was all a bad dream.  Good and bad.

Then I am eating though I cannot identify what.  I realize my teeth hurt and I need to floss.  When I got my meds I tell the med lady that my teeth hurt and would like some dental floss, but she just laughs at me.  Again, it seems like a play.  Others are chuckling too.  I can hear her laugh all the way down the hall.  “He wants dental floss!!”

Is that a joke?  Did I say something funny?

COUNTY LOCK UP

For some strange reason I sometimes think this is temporary. How can it be real? All freedoms taken away. Isn’t this America, the land of the free? This must be a test.
Well, you have done wrong my mind then corrects me. You ain’t never getting out of here it taunts. People like me and those around me deserve to be in here despite their protests otherwise. What was it one of the arresting officers said; “this is just a speed bump in your life.” Funny, it feels more like a train wreck. The worst thing is I caused it.
Since I have never been in county lock up – any jail for that matter – I wonder if all places are like this, with smells of urine being exchanged for vomit. People talking to no one but themselves. And often. Fights with no one stepping in except the Correction Officers (or CO’s as they are better known), and that not right away.
And little to no movement or exercise. There is a gym that is open for play twice a week they say. But I can’t play in this jumpsuit and it is difficult to focus right now. No outside availability, no fresh air. It feels like that will never happen again.
One television for 40 guys is a disaster. The other one is on the fritz they say, though some say it is by design as no one comes to fix it. Why would incarcerated men want to watch COPS or other Crime Stopper shows, where guys always get caught doing stupid things? Things like the crimes that brought us here. I saw my first ever Jerry Springer show and I was not impressed.
This is just all so strange. My crime seems so long ago yet in reality it was not. There are old magazines in here from two years ago but I know I have not been in here that long. Have I? My brain is oatmeal, so anything could be true I guess. They tell me it is still March, though what does it matter. I just cannot fathom in my medicated state any end to this journey through prison. Guys repeatedly tell me I will be going “upstate” or to a State facility very shortly, so I guess there will be some change.
The smell and taste of overcooked and unnutritious meals almost makes me sick. My bunk mate says it is amazing what they can do with soy these days. I eat, or try, remembering what real food tastes like. This cuisine and meds sure have done a number on my body. Little wonder. The bathrooms can attest to that with such heavy odors that make you want to gag.
I guess it really hasn’t hit me what is ahead though I feel like the kid in the car asking his parents “are we there yet” when hardly getting far from home. For sure this journey is like none I have experienced with all my travels around the globe. The counselor says I am still in shock, even denial which I tell him isn’t true. I just feel numb.
After lights out I too attempt to sleep but end up looking and counting ceiling tiles. The sound of muffled cries can be heard at times, muffled by the thin, flat pillow they gave us. At times it seems to get loud, like it is right next to me. Then I realize it is me and I find I don’t even care.

NOWHERE TO GO

I remember back after I got bailed out and moved out, before this jail madness started, I lived alone and there seemed no where to go with strange thoughts enveloping me. Not heavily medicated at that time, I remember thinking then ….

…. my grief is so difficult to bear and I know others see it too. I do not want to be alone. I do not want to be with people. I do not want to be with anyone. I am afraid. If I am with other people they will know my shame. I do not want their pity. I do not want the questions. I did wrong. I deserve anything I get. I do not want to be with anyone. I do not want to be alone because the darkness comes. I try not to face it but it is there. I am afraid. I am afraid I will welcome it this time. Drive into that semi. I am afraid I will not be able to not enter the darkness. I am afraid to be alone lest I succumb to that shame and humiliation that I caused.

I hide in the darkness wishing it would take me.  At least then it would end.  Not being with people.  Not being alone.  Not being with anyone.  It would be still and dark and painless.  No more grief or tears or shouts or rampages.  No more pretending or secrets.  No more emptiness or indecision.  Just calmness.  Silence.  It is too loud with others.  Too quiet alone.  I do not want to be with people and I do not want to be alone.

Nothing makes sense anymore. I cannot read. Words are a blur. I try to work and do “normal” things but do not succeed. Everything is a blur.  Nothing matters. It is all gone, ruined. I did this, which makes it worse. I was the selfish one. Soon the judge will bang his gavel and announce the verdict: Guilty. Then what? I cannot even think of what I don’t know.  Nothing seems real.

But it doesn’t matter now. Nothing does. End it. Something quick. If I was with people I wouldn’t do it.

But I cannot be with people. They know. They look at me and they know. They are as disgusted with me as I am. I cannot be with anyone. There is nowhere to go. Somehow I went on.

And now here I am locked away and still nowhere to go.

GOING INSIDE

How  did I get here on this top bunk anyway?  There must be 40 guys in this room.  Where are the bathrooms?  Do they even have showers?   Is this what my life inside corrections is going to be like from now on?  Doesn’t look too promising right now.  So little hope for anything.  Guess I am not as in control of my life as I thought not so long ago.  Or was it?

I remember the five or six months between my arrest and now.  It really went by in a blur.  Right after the arrest I moved out of my home and got an apartment and a new office instead of one in my home or new cramped digs.  I felt shameful and guilty and more lonely that ever.  In control?  Right.

I know I did wrong, but this?  Having no idea what to expect now I was really hoping I did not know anyone in here.  Of course everyone in this jail is innocent or framed or in the wrong place at the wrong time.  “If only I had done this or that” they lament or “next time I will” they quip as if their time in here is temporary.  Of course for some it is.  But me being sentenced to 2 1/3 to 7 years?  Come on.  Guys admitting to raping young girls get 2 years.  How is that fair that my sentence is so long?  So what if it was an election year and the DA needed notches in his belt.  Guess this old guy with the high profile case played right into his hands.  Or maybe it is a sign of the times.  And my high priced lawyer did me no favors, especially emptying my bank account of over $10,000 without even a trial.  I definitely felt there was some backroom dealing going on, me worth more than a few little fishes.

What made me even think about meeting this person, an under aged teen anyway?  I should have know better, and I really did, stopping several times on the way to the mall, a public place to meet so there could be nothing hidden.  No secrets.  But I pressed on, somehow embolden by my recklessness and ego that said I was in control and doing nothing “wrong” in simply meeting her, a person I had chatted with for over a month and who wanted to meet.  She even picked the spot, an ice cream store in a mall I had never been in.  My arrogance was overflowing.  But there were hidden things, including the 4 or 5 undercover boys taking hold of me, placing me in handcuffs and then the back of their unmarked car out back.

I remember being booked and photographed in the city jail after being arrested– an awful shot of me crying later pasted on the front page of local newspapers.  The officer doing intake was all over me about not just the charge of “attempted dissemination of illicit material to a minor” but arranging a meeting.  That’s when I said something about it would be better if I had never been born.  Well that set off the bells.  I was made to strip off everything, even my shoe laces in my sneakers, then placed in a short (very short) gown of some itchy material like burlap and led to a glass cell in front so all the guards could keep their eye on me.  Look at the jerk in the cage, the moron who chats with young girls then tries to meet them.  To say I was scared would be an understatement.  I was numb.

That night grew as did my panic.  After I lost that day’s meals I worked on the previous day’s.  My system was starting to abandon me.  How would I ever get out of there?  Would it always be like this?  I was so terrified I couldn’t even think about what I had done but only wanted to get out of there.  There were screams and fights, with officers and medics running this way and that passed my glass house where I felt so exposed to everything.  Funny thing was, nobody seemed to notice or care about me.  It was a good thing they did confiscate my laces as the thought of ending it crossed my mind a few times.

I finally was let out to make my one phone call to a traumatized wife who agreed to come and bail me out along with our pastor who, unbeknownst to me, had been at our home since my arrest when several policemen searched the house and office.  Nice.  No secrets in the neighborhood either I guess.  After the call to her I was led back to my cell to wait.  Nothing was normal, nor would it ever be again in my life.  The night ended with a shrink visit, meds, then out for temporary freedom.

And now this, top bunk inside corrections where there is no hope for anything.  The gavel was struck, my sentence pronounced, and I was taken inside where justice would be served when I completed my bid, evening the scales of justice the judge had said.  County lock up.  Direct to jail.  Do not pass go, do not collect $ 200.00.  Only got this ugly brown jumpsuit in exchange for my clothes. What happened to them anyway?  Will this panic that the meds temporarily abate ever go away?  Time is passing very slowly.  But right now, I only wanted everything to go away.  Even my life.

PRISON FOR DUMMIES

Yes, prison is for dummies.  Any smart criminals in prison?  Hardly.  It was my original intent to scribe a brief manual on this topic for the betterment of those going through it for the first time – newbies if you will.  Why write such a depressing book?  Well, it’s purpose is to give dummies like me a heads up about what inside corrections is all about before they step foot in one

So I wrote to a couple of publishers, even the black and yellow book publishers of “__________ for Dummies” and, you guessed it, nada.  Guess it wasn’t such a great idea, or maybe only in my head.  After all, I was in the one percent according to New York State Department Of Correctional Services (DOCS) statistics – the small number of college graduates who go to prison.  I am sure it is similar in most states.  People who are educated get jobs, move up, know people and stay out of trouble – or know how not to get caught, or when they do, they know people.

Me?  I didn’t.  I was just a regular dummy, an old egotistical, self-centered, reckless individual who could not control himself and thus ended up inside the upside down kingdom. (more on that later)  At times it sure felt like that, like I had fallen down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland’s world and I kept thinking someone would yell “cut” or “smile, you’re on candid camera.”  Never happened though, and life just went on cause it was real. As they say, “do the crime, gotta do the time.”

Since through my journey I did learn so very much – about prison, the corrections system but more importantly about myself – I wanted to document all I learned about inside corrections in an effort to help others teetering on the edge between right and wrong, good and evil, lawful and unlawful.  Maybe it would at least cause them to stop and think about their actions before it continued to the train wreck that awaits such actions, changing forever life as you know it for you and those closest to you.  Maybe they then wouldn’t have to lose their lovely spouse, home and business as I did.  Maybe it would lead, as it did in my case, from thoughts of suicide to a face to face meeting with their creator so they might question Him as well as their very existence.  Then again, maybe my hope in penning these letters was that some good might come out of this abysmal crisis I created with such mindless actions.  I did have that meeting with Jesus, made inside corrections and came out with another life changing event.  But I digress.  If you continue to read, time and you will be the judge on that I guess.

So, most definitely prison is for dummies.  I attempt here to balance the scales just a bit so everyone can go forward a little easier into this new world formerly called the penitentiary, where you will find, as I did, a whole culture that is not really underground but alive and well above ground in the “Correctional Institutions” in a state near you.

So I will do it, write that guide, from one dummy who has earned a PhD from inside corrections.  Look for it here and let me know your thoughts.

ONCE UPON A TIME

Once upon a time there was a guy who became addicted to internet pornography. It was a gradual process, first exploring out of curiosity, then more out of desire and the need for satisfaction he “sampled all her killing store” to borrow a line from A.E. Housman in his aptly named poem, “Terrance This is Stupid Stuff”. (cause this definitely WAS stupid stuff) Nothing serious, this guy believed, as he continued to peer more and more. Nothing he couldn’t control he reasoned. Nothing he wanted to share he decided.

So the secret loomed. It grew. The darkness inside him grew. His ego, arrogance and sense of entitlement grew as well as he fed his growing addiction which he easily justified in his mind as he searched for acknowledgment and sense of worth from others. Chat rooms, which were
relatively new at the time, played right into his realm and he flourished there. It was supposed to be fantasy, but it was in this so called make believe but oh so real world that he found what felt like true acceptance. Behind the veil of the monitor he was accepted, loved, even idolized by unseen women who actually wanted him and said they needed him to talk with them. What could be wrong with this simple yet fulfilling diversion from life’s dreariness and relational problems? If someone gave him an
attitude or rejected his advances, there was always the block key and thousands of others who seemed to desire him unlike the one he chose as wife some twenty years earlier.

So he continued, addicted to the “high” he received and learned to long for, despite short stints of abstinence. He couldn’t rely on others who might try and stop him; he could only rely on himself. After all, he was in control. Women responded or not, and he viewed them not as people but agents of fulfillment with no real personality or life other than to please him. This attitude spilled over into his real life, how could it not? It was a train wreck waiting to happen, and was only a matter of time til his recklessness of chatting with any respondent would get him into trouble. The “winner” was a supposed under age teen who met all the requirements – interest in him and desire to talk to him and arouse him – but in reality was part of a sting operation. As the old adage says, “he bit hook, line and sinker” sacrificing his whole world as he knew it. He couldn’t control things his way as he had thought. It wouldn’t stay hidden, in the dark. Was it fair? Was it right?

Would this virtual fairy tale have a happy ending? How could it?

Since I am “that guy” , I will tell you the journey through inside corrections and how it unfolded.