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.

IN THE BEGINNING…

in the beginning…..

One can go either way when you hit the crossroad between good and evil, right and wrong, up or down, life or death. What makes one chose that one? Why is it sometimes so clear? Is there any way of knowing, of feeling the best answer ahead of time?

A crisis seems to bring out these black and white situations, making them clearer to see when exposed in our busy daily lives. A sickness, prognosis, incarceration, death, some fall from a pedestal which knocks us into a survival – or not – mode where decisions can become crystal clear. What makes for such a difference in people?

I maintain it is the hope the Holy Spirit brings, if we can embrace it. I feel it is there in us, waiting for us to act on it in any way we chose, hopefully in a manner befitting its pressure and urging. Some feel it as a grip in the stomach. Some call it their conscience talking to them. Some may even hear voices.

From whence does this hope arise? From the very core of our being, from life itself, from the beginning of creation by God I maintain, manifested in His son Jesus, who carried our sins to the cross to set us free. It has a home in all believers, awaiting its opportunity to shine forth and carry us toward the light, away from the darkness that could engulf us, just as a shoot pushes up from the deep, dark soil to the sun.

Not all seeds germinate, choosing to stay beneath the surface in darkness, struggle free, dying, never to experience the light, true bliss and life. Some grow but then wither when struggles, tests or hardships develop. I do not feel it is so much God allowing it as it simply is a matter of having free choice and a result of consequences. (This is aptly described in Jesus’ parable of the sower in Luke 8:5-8.) So too, not all people get it the first time and need to understand their need, because of their sin, for Jesus Christ to save them, not just someone or something.

Then why do some still choose the darkness while others come to the light? Good question. From my experience it is very easy to, when faced with overwhelming odds, trials, tragedy or adversity to choose darkness.

This is the story of why I chose light, which, while not easy, enabled me to work with the hope God and his son Jesus gave me.