Monthly Archives: April 2015

THE CONCERT I DIDN’T REMEMBER

In the seventies, I missed a lot in my life because the lights were on but no one was home: drugs, massive quantities of drugs fed into my brain had that effect on my intellect and cognitive functioning. Several people have filled in the blanks for me with statements like, “Oh, hell yeah, we had a great time,” or “That’s why everyone is pissed at you.” My recollection process experienced technical difficulties. Sometimes it was better that way, other times it made me angry that I didn’t remember anything about what had happened. One experience I regret failing to recall was a concert.

Me and my girlfriend went to see two hard rock groups perform at the Atlanta Stadium, around 1973-74, I believe. Drugs people, drugs, lots of drugs, that’s why I can’t remember the exact time and place; too many drugs and mind-altering substances for one mind to handle without experiencing technical difficulties, at least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The bands playing that we went to see were Ten Years After with Alvin Lee, and their opening act, Golden Earring. Ten Years After faded away while Golden Earring soared with a series of hits in later years, hits such as “Radar Love,” “Lunatic Fringe,” and “Twilight Zone.” Out of all the songs in history for speeding-while-driving, “Radar Love” probably holds the record for songs played while acquiring speeding tickets in America. Sammy Hagar accumulated his share of speed victims with his hit, “I Can’t Drive Fifty-five.” The rhythm and lyrics always drove my foot down harder on the accelerator, like some demon had done jumped into the foot and took control. I am sure others experienced similar things while cruising along the roads and highways, with or without a joint burning and music blaring from their sound system. Put me in a car right now and pump up the volume on either song, and I’d most likely do it again, as I sang out, “Last car to pass and here I go. … The line of cars go down real slow.” Or I’d scream out “I … Can’t … Drive … Fifty-five,” when looking in the rear view mirror and seeing the flashing blue lights of a police car.

Smoking a joint while driving and speeding along the highways wouldn’t be an option for me these days, even if pot is legalized, as it should be because alcohol is legal and is much worse than pot when it comes to impairing judgment and causing health problems. And, most importantly, because research shows marijuana may treat or provide people with relief from certain health problems, but smoking dope just isn’t for me anymore. When I smoke weed, it makes me cough and then ignites the aphrodisiac response, and then I want to have sex, of course, but the increased sexual desires aren’t the problem. One thing leads to another with me and drugs, so, in time I know I would eventually revert to some of my former drugs of choice. Anyways, that part of my life went up in smoke years ago. Back to the songs now. According to Wayne, those two songs hold the records for the American song-related, speeding-tickets.

Ten Years After didn’t have a lot of songs to hit the pop charts because, in my unprofessional opinion, they were ahead of their time. A popular song of theirs was “Rock and Roll Music to the World.” I liked it but it didn’t compare to “Choo Choo Mama” and “Good Morning Little School Girl,” both of which contained sexually explicit lyrics that most radio stations prohibited from being aired during those days. Some college stations gave them air time, but most didn’t.

Before we made it to the concert, I ate ten hits of Tab-T, named so in relation to Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, gungi, pot, or whatever you want to call cannabis sativa or cannabis indica. THC occurs in many variations, with the most active form being delta-9-THC. The seedless, female marijuana plant (sinsemilla), is one of the most preferred brands I am familiar with that pot connoisseurs like to smoke, which probably contains exceptionally high concentrations of delta-9-THC. On the other hand, Tab-T does not contain any THC. I’m sure that the Tab-T salespersons did not intentionally mislead people into believing it contained a variation of THC, such as cannabinol, a psychologically inactive crystalline cannabinoid. The thought of what Tab-T contained did not enter most drug-driven-minds, I’m sure of that, too; mine in particular. Since most who sell drugs aren’t chemist and there aren’t any quality control processes involved in the production of illicit substances, I doubt if anyone other than the chemists knew PCP was not a THC related substance. Years after I stopped using it and my brain activity increased enough to properly formulate a sentence in my Southern accent, I learned that Tab-T was actually Phencyclidine hydrochloride; commonly known as PCP, a veterinary anesthetic with psychedelic effects when used illicitly by humans. No wonder I acted like an animal during periods of my life.

Oh, I forgot to say that I also used to smoke a lot of pot and do lots of acid (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide). Perhaps that had something to do with my wild behaviors and occasional issues with the memory recall process? Purchase my essay collection and read some of them and you will see just what I mean by behavioral issues, especially those I wrote about in “The Price of Change,” “An Airport Ate the Neighborhood,” and “No Sympathy.” (ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN is available from Straight From The Pen.com (http://www.straightfromthepen.com). You can purchase some of the essays individually or the collection as eBooks. I later posted “No Sympathy” as a blog so people may read it for free without having to download the eBook (https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com and http://waynedowdy.weebly.com).

As for the concert ….. Well, truthfully, after twenty-years of abstinence from mind-altering substances, I don’t have a memory problem. Actually, I have an excellent memory and recall process, even after all of the drugs and all of the years of my existence, but I still cannot remember anything more about that concert. I know I enjoyed it, though, from out in the ozone or wherever my mind was at when a fellow tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Is your name Wayne?”

“Uhh, yeah, I think so,” I said.

“Man, your girlfriend has been looking for you all night.”

She came running over and wrapped her arms around me and then gave me a barrage of kisses, before she began a series of sentences that flowed from her luscious lips so fast that I couldn’t keep up with what she was saying. My mind still wasn’t functioning at normal capacity when she arrived. What had I been doing? Before the tap on the shoulder brought me back into reality, hanging on a fence set up around the stage, with my hands held high as I clapped and shouted, “More, More, More.” Everyone was gone. Only a few people remained in the venue where I had no conscious remembrance of the concert I had waited months to see. I don’t remember a single lyric played, any note strung on a guitar, or any reverberations generated from the pounding on drums. Gone. That part of my life gone. Gone without warning. I paid a reasonable sum for those concert tickets and missed the whole show because of getting a little carried away with the PCP. The story of my life! Not necessarily because of PCP alone. I used mass quantities of other drugs to take my mind to other places I do not know and cannot recall. One time I was the first to try out a fresh batch of PCP. The chemist warned, “I didn’t have time to cut it. Don’t put it out on the street like it is.” I shot it and my mind was gone for a few hours. I watched myself spiral down a revolving room into the carpet of a motel room. What can I say? I did it to myself. No one else to blame.

Anyway, how did we get separated from each other? I don’t know the answer to that one either. My girlfriend said, “You went into the bathroom and didn’t come out. I asked one of those guys to go in and check on you. He came out and said you weren’t in there, so we left to look for you.”

Wayne was missing in action, lost in a sea of faces. I must have went down the toilet with a flush and popped out near the stage. I have no idea how I got from the bathroom, without my sweetheart, and migrated to the front of the stage, only to miss hearing one of my favorite bands jam away throughout the night. I suspect that the ones who helped her search for me may have intentionally mislead her into believing I wasn’t in there, with hopes of taking her home with them. She was an absolutely beautiful young lady with long, blonde hair, perfect teeth, and a perfect body. She was also a good Christian girl determined to help God save my wicked soul. If that was their plan, it didn’t work. I kept my girl, even if I didn’t know where I was at or where she was. Her love for me kept her faithful enough so that she did not abandon me.

When we left the concert, we bummed a ride with strangers and had a car wreck. Either the driver of the vehicle we were in or the one driving the other car, run a red light. The other car broadsided the car we were in. The impact busted the windows and glass flew all over us. Me and her got out of the car and got the hell out of Dodge before the cops arrived. I couldn’t stand a shake down (drugs were in my pocket). I remembered all of that, and that I had to call my dear Mother at 1:30 AM to come rescue us from the streets of downtown Atlanta. I was about sixteen-years-old, a wild child. I never got another chance to see Ten Years After or Golden Earring. My loss. So much is life. You snooze you loose. I wasn’t snoozing but I may as well have been, because I honestly couldn’t recall anything about the night once the drugs kicked in and my mind kicked out. Drugs, people. Drugs. They robbed me of my life. They definitely stole that night. Damn it!

One thing I learned in writing this blog is that it is easier to take drugs than it is to figure out how to spell their names. To the contrary, learning how to stop using them is the opposite–I could have gotten a few doctorate degrees in the time it took me to figure that one out!

Follow me on Twitter: @DowdyFromThePen
Leave comments or email me about the topics you would like to read about in relation to prison or anything else. If I know the subject I will consider writing about it in a future blog. Sign up on WordPress (https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com) to follow my blogs and have them sent to your inbox when I post them. Thanks!

Contact info: waynedowdy@straightfromthepen.com
Wayne T. Dowdy, #39311-019, B-3
P.O. Box 725
Edgefield, SC 29824-0725

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Teaching Cons New Tricks–Creative Writing & Q.A. Apprenticeship Program

(Reprint Permission Granted by the Author)

Teaching Cons New Tricks–Creative Writing & Q.A. Apprenticeship Program

THE ART OF CREATIVE WRITING CLASS:  When a person is searching for a theme for an article, short story or novel, some writing professionals suggest that writers take a real life situation and ask “What If?” For instance, what would the U.S. economy be like now if President Obama had been white and his Congress had approved the same economic plan to rebuild the economy, as that of President Roosevelt’s, whose plan Congress endorsed to bring the Nation out of the Great Depression?  What if an impoverished person sat in a creative writing class, inside of a prison classroom, and then wrote a million seller, and never returned to prison after release? Miracles happen!

What if that person simply learned to do something constructive that changed the direction of his or her life? That would be priceless! That is my hope for the students who participate in the Art of Creative Writing class, held for two hours, one night per week, in the education department at the Federal Correctional Institution, in Edgefield, South Carolina. This is the same education department I wrote about in my essay, “Fighting for Rights to Write”; published by PrisonEducation.com in Feb. 2014; posted on straightfromthepen.wordpress.com in March 2015. I was poised and ready to battle in federal Court to defend my First and Fifth Amendment rights to occupy my time constructively by using an AlphaSmart word processor to type my manuscripts for publication, and other forms of writings for reasons other than sending documents to a court, as other federal institutions permit. (Another battle may be looming in a similar fight to write.)

A fellow writer and friend, Jeffery P. Frye (aka Professor Frye), initiated the class by working with the Supervisor of Education. Once the class had been approved, then he invited me and another friend and budding author, S.G. Garwood, to sit in and offer assistance to the aspiring writers. Garwood is nearing completion of a historical fiction novel, The Last Confederate Coin, which is already receiving praise from Civil War buffs (view his writing samples and his magnificently designed webpage at http://www.thelastcharlestonconfederate.weebly.com).

The results of this adventure are yet to be seen, but I feel confident that everyone in the classroom will benefit, including me. As a fellow prisoner and someone who is concerned about the insane recidivism rates in the United States, my hope for everyone involved in the class is for them to be blessed with freedom and success, whether that success be as an author, or through some other method where the discipline learned through becoming a writer assists them in their quest to live a better life and not return to prison.

To succeed as an author requires discipline, something most of us lacked before coming to prison, and may lack now. Maybe writing will become more than just putting words on paper. Personally, I wrote my way into learning how to live a new life by journaling on a daily basis, so I know from experience that reading and writing has the power to change lives. Words pack a punch, whether written or spoken, words have the power to change or destroy lives. I choose my words carefully and hope the ones I select affect a positive change.

Professor Frye blogs about the Art of Creative Writing class on bankblogger.weebly.com and murderslim.com/BankRobbersBlog. He labels me and S.G. Garwood as Adjunct Professors, and wrote in his #creativeconvicts (blog), “Wayne (aka Adjunct Professor Dowdy) was challenged on the proper use of an adjective in relation to a plural verb. Wayne claimed he was right, while the other guy claimed he was wrong. Things got a little tense there for a few minutes, and as they had a spirited debate, I wondered if Adjunct Professors carried shanks. Wayne finally went to the library and found a GED textbook to prove his point, and to show that he was right. He was. That’s why he’s my adjunct.”

Professor Frye is a gifted writer who tells a great story and is one who usually makes me laugh anytime I read what he writes, especially his blogs. He also types faster than a woodpecker pecking on a tree, which pays off when paying five-cents per minute to use the Corrlinks computer system we use to email these blogs to someone to post on our behalf. I type slower than he does, but still love to write, and have my own style of writing: I’m a more serious, in-your-face type of writer, who often writes on topics to inform, inspire, motivate or educate, more so than to make readers laugh or cry, even though I sometimes do that too. In the classroom setting, as well as in my personal endeavors, I “seek” to find the truth, and usually succeed, whether that truth concerns a historical fact; the proper use of a word; discussing a verb that becomes a present participle after adding “ing” (e.g., “break” versus “breaking”); so that the ex-verb then functions as a noun, not-so-commonly known as a gerund.

Either way, I always want to know the correct answer and will sometimes go to extremes to find it; whether I do or don’t, I still want to find the answer and will continue my quest to do so, long after the thrill of debate has gone. I am also known for calling it as I see it, politically correct or not. I am not. That’s just not me, even though I do try to be considerate of another person’s feelings, I am not one who sprinkles sugar on a pile of poop to claim it is ice cream.

Please pardon my frankness, and my bizarre metaphor, but this is Straight From the Pen, not the Pentagon, and my use of that metaphor certainly paints a picture to stick on a wall, not soon to be forgotten. Perhaps the students in the Art of Creative Writing class will be more selective and less aggressive with words; however, since we are in prison … some may be more vicious with words than an overzealous prosecutor in a murder case. We’ll see.

QUALITY ASSURANCE APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM:  As I wrote in my “Vacation In Prison” blog on April 10, 2015, I work for the Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR). I am a tutor in their Quality Assurance Apprenticeship Program, and have been since its inception in 2006. None of the graduates released back into society have become recidivists. That deserves recognition by all standards. I mainly teach Grammar & Writing Skills and other education-related fields of study, as well as helping the students to learn certain aspects about the Quality Management System, which meets the required standards for certification under the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), 9001: 2008 Requirements.

The Quality Assurance Manager realized its importance for the students to learn. He put an emphasis on teaching these students more about ISO principles than the previous students had to learn before becoming certified Quality Assurance Inspectors, who may be able to get out of prison and obtain a position as a Q.A. Manager by going to college to take a few more associated courses. One inmate who learned ISO in prison got out and got a job as a Project Manager for a reputable company. Dreams do come true.

The Apprenticeship program recently expanded to having six students enrolled. I create tests that all of them hate but learn more about the subject by the time they complete their assignments. As in Kindergarten, the only grade I give anyone is an “S” or “U” for satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Basically, the students are given course material and then turned loose to learn all they can. If someone fails to earn an “S” … I take the time to help him learn what he is missing or failing to understand about the procedure or process being taught.

Essentially, one has to refuse to do the assigned task to receive a “U,” which is then up to the Q.A. Manager to decide on where to go from there. Most apply themselves to learn what is being taught. This is a voluntary program, and the only one with anything to loose is the student, so each of them usually does what is required, even though some do complain about the level of difficulty in my tests. I give them tough love because I care enough to challenge their intellectual capacity to get them used to using their head for more than plotting crimes against humanity or for storing effects from illicit substances.

If the person doesn’t want to learn, I tell them not to waste my time. For the eager ones who really want the prize, I offer to teach them “Advanced Grammar & Writing Skills.” In that part of the program I teach the apprentice technical writing so that he will be qualified to write instructional documents; e.g., manufacturing & inspection instructions, quality manuals, policies and procedures. In other words, something more than simply inspecting a product. Technical writing is a very lucrative craft, which I have years of experience at doing in UNICOR. In 1997 I began writing job procedures for constructing missile cables, remote area lighting systems, power distribution boxes, army tank wiring harnesses, and other military products. I literally earn pennies in comparison to what I would earn doing so as a freelance technical writer in society, but at least I have obtained enough knowledge at doing it to share the wealth with others who may one day get to use those skills for the betterment of society.

A FIGHT TO REDUCE RECIDIVISM:  Education is a proven method of reducing recidivism, as  shown in my essay, “Education, the Prisoner, and Recidivism”; published by PrisonEducation.com in May of 2013; posted March 2015 on straightfromthepen.wordpress.com. For both subjects above, writing is an instrumental process, and is one that allows participants to occupy their time in a constructive manner, instead of running around creating drama by plotting on how to get out to commit more crimes and continue to feed the American Mass Incarceration Machine.

Shouldn’t prison administrators want their inmates to be learning something to prepare them for successful reentry into society? Don’t the designated keepers owe it to the public to provide prisoners with needed tools for preparation of release back into society; especially, those who want to learn something so that they can increase their chance of success upon release? Who wants prisoners to reenter society and collect new victims? Don’t we owe it to each other to help the disadvantaged transcend to another level? I feel we do. I do my part, and am sad to say that I often struggle to get support from the staff to do what needs to be done to help my peers get out and not return. That includes having something as simple as regularly held Twelve-Step meetings, or having ample time to use educational tools or equipment needed to help prepare the prisoner for the challenges that lie ahead. Read “No Sympathy” posted on straightfromthepen.wordpress.com for some staggering statistics on recidivism to grasp the seriousness of the situation. I am sure it will leave you wondering why a prisoner must struggle to help others avoid becoming a recidivist.

The looming battle concerns the possibility of the education department not allowing writers and inmates to use the AlphaSmarts for creative and other forms of writing, other than preparing documents to mail to the courts. The use of such a device that has the potential of preventing some prisoners from becoming a recidivist seems worthwhile. If possible, many of us prisoners would buy or rent AlphaSmarts or other similar products to constructively occupy our time and attempt to learn a skill to rehabilitate ourselves. I suggested the same but it fell on deaf ears. Imagine that!

The cost of an AlphaSmart word processor and the associated costs of supplies, cannot compare to the cost of a recidivist. On March 9th, 2015, the B.O.P. Director reported in the Federal Register that the FY 2014 Annual Determination of Average Cost of Incarceration was $30,619.85 per year/$83.89 per day. Based on those numbers, the cost of providing educational tools and equipment is a cost effective measure–money well-spent–an investment far less expensive than re-incarcerating a person for multiple years or possibly for the rest of their lives. The cost of recidivism is human lives.

Follow me on Twitter: @DowdyFromThePen

[Update:  AlphaSmarts were removed for the general population two-years later after the Supervisor of Education changed.  This section modified and address removed due to release from prison on August 28, 2018]

Email:  waynedowdy@straightfromthepen.com.

Purchase my books & essays from my book page on https://www.straightfromthepen.com or https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy or from your favorite bookseller.

Vacation in Prison

I am on vacation today, a paid vacation, in prison; just one day, but one day needed to compose my thoughts and celebrate having lived to see the age of fifty-eight. I earn one-day per month but I don’t take too many at a time because of my position at work with others who rely on my vast amount of knowledge that I obtained through years of experience. 🙂 At any rate, as a child my Mother and others used to tell me I would never live to see the age of sixteen if I didn’t change my ways, then their prediction on my life expectancy went to eighteen when I proved that one wrong, then it went to twenty-one, and then they gave up. My personal predication of my life expectancy was thirty-years-old, and so I was wrong too. Life goes on.

My primary position is as the document control clerk at the UNICOR factory in the Federal Correctional Institution, Edgefield, South Carolina. UNICOR, which is the trade name for the Federal Prison Industries, Inc., provides various services and products to their customers. Those customers used to be military and other government agencies, but now a pilot program called the Repatriation Act allows UNICOR to provide goods and services to private sector companies who would otherwise be sending the work overseas to a labor market UNICOR can compete with, whereas American companies cannot due to the differences in pay scales. In 2012 I wrote an unpublished essay titled “UNICOR & SOCIETY” and gave a copy to the Associate Warden of Industries & Education and told him I didn’t care what he did with it, to use it any way he could to help UNICOR. In it, I showed the beneficial value of society having UNICOR factories to provide federal prisoners with marketable job skills in order to prepare them for release into society, so that the prisoner can become a taxpaying citizens, rather than another tax liability. I also showed how UNICOR competed with overseas labor rates such as China paying its apparel workers up to $0.80 per hour, and companies in countries like Bangladesh paying their apparel workers a measly $0.22 per hour. I compared that to UNICOR starting its inmate workers at $0.23 per hour, and allowing only a limited few to progress to the hourly pay rate of $1.15 to a maximum of $1.65 for those who have worked there for seven years or longer and qualify for what is known as Premium pay, which I do not get paid due to the political aspect of the grading system at this particular facility. Nevertheless, only a few receive the upper figures for hourly pay–most work for incentive pay, which is where pay is based on production numbers. No production, no pay, unless the inmate performs some task approved by their supervisor to allow them to be paid at the hourly rate. For the overseas labor rate numbers, I relied upon Ken Silverstein’s article in Harper’s Magazine, January 2010, “Shopping for Sweat – the Human Cost of a Two-Dollar T-Shirt.” Now the factory I work in makes T-Shirts for the military and the Federal Bureau of Prison, but the T-shirts cost much more than two-dollars.

The cheap overseas labor rates allow American companies to buy goods and services from oversees companies and still make a substantial profit after paying the shipping costs for the goods to come from across the oceans or borders. In my essay I wrote, “One argument against UNICOR is that it takes jobs away from American citizens, which is partially true, in the sense that if inmates were not performing the jobs, someone in the free society could be. On the other side of the equation, UNICOR workers are American citizens, because illegal aliens being deported are prohibited from working in UNICOR by law and policy. Furthermore, inmate labor can compete with overseas labor rates in the textile industry, whereas American workers paid minimum wage cannot.” Now, whether or not my essay ultimately sprouted the Repatriation Act does not matter, even though the facts do suggest that it did, since UNICOR had never mentioned the idea until about six months after I had given the A.W. my essay. Whatever the case may be, I am just glad to see some work now staying in America to provide me and my peers with an opportunity to learn marketable job skills.

The Post-Release Employment Project (PREP) study on inmates who worked for UNICOR showed a 24% reduction in recidivism, compared to those who did not work in UNICOR. In my opinion, those statistics justify UNICOR’s existence and should have stopped the politicians from complaining about UNICOR and trying to shut it down, but it hasn’t. (For the Bureau of Prisons actual report, see http://www.bop.gov/resources/pdfs/prep_summary_05012012.pdf). UNICOR does have its faults and flaws, since it essentially became a “good-ole-boys fraternity” that wastes millions of dollars through poor management principles, such as targeting inmate pay and run-hours to reduce deficits instead of focusing on the larger more obvious issues, but even if a private company was to come in and take over the reins, that would be a better alternative than closing the doors, as has happened at several UNICORs across the United States, thus putting prisoners in the unemployment line. UNICOR is supposed to be an Inmate Work Program, so why are doors being closed on factories that fail to generate profits? Read more about my employer at http://www.unicor.gov.

Personally, I’ve learned to operate wood working machinery; how to manufacture electronic cable products; how to write instructional documents (technical writing); how to perform numerous office related skills, including how to audit procedures and processes in an ISO (Internal Organization for Standardization) certified factory. I help this factory to maintain their certification by being knowledgeable in the ISO 9001: 2008, Quality Management System requirements and by performing internal audits, teaching others how to do the same, and by participating in external audits performed by the National Standards Authority of Ireland. As a result of obtaining that knowledge and in learning those skills, my chance of obtaining employment or of starting a successful business upon release has increased significantly. Upon release I will be a productive member of society by using the skills I have learned while working for UNICOR at slave labor rates, and will become a taxpayer instead of a tax liability. I say slave labor rates because inmate employees have not had an across the board raise since 1990. However, the State of Georgia doesn’t pay prisoners for working, so I am grateful for what I do earn, which allows me to take care of my personal needs. It is amazing what one can do earning $1.45 per hour compared to zero.

Read my essay, “No Sympathy”, free on this site or you can download for free by going to my website (http://www.straightfromthepen.com) and clicking on the Smashwords.com link. You will see that you are reading the writings of a million-dollar man, who may not have cost the American taxpayers so much money if he had not become a recidivist. If I had learned marketable job skills while in prison and learned how not to shoot dope in the process (not mentioned specifically in my essay), I would have stayed out of prison, but I didn’t learn how to keep the needle out of my arm. In prisons as a young adult, I learned how to commit more crimes, and then became a recidivist after I got out and failed to succeed as a so-called, career criminal.

Anyways, let me explain to you from where I live and write. In my April 3, 2015, Blog post (“My Life in a Prison Cell in an Overcrowded Prison” at https://www.straightfromthepen.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/life-in-a-prison-cell-in-an-overcrowded-prison and waynedowdy.weebly.com), I gave a general idea about the bathroom where I live with another man. To be more specific, the particular bathroom in which I live, is about ten feet high, twelve feet long, and eight feet wide; has a white porcelain sink and toilet, a stainless steel mirror that is virtually useless due to being scrubbed with abrasive cleaning powder, thus making it user unfriendly. Inside the cell is an array of battleship gray items: small table with a swivel seat in the rear of the cell, one bunk bed, two storage lockers adjoined by a shelf, all mounted to dull-white walls or bolted to the floor to attempt to deter the vandals from destroying them; two sturdy, hard plastic foot lockers, stored underneath the bottom bunk. Other than those foot lockers and two small bulletin boards on the wall, everything else is concrete and steel. If you walked in the cell, which I hope you don’t, all but two wall-mounted lockers, table, and a large fluorescent light are on the left side. The cells to the right of me have opposite fixture configurations. I could complain about living conditions, but I know I am not in a Five-Star Hotel. I’m in prison; furthermore, I realize that many state prisoners have it much worse, so I won’t whine, much.

The administrative color of choice around here is battleship gray. Maybe it is preferred because of its dull and gloomy look, like fog, or maybe it is to give the place the feel of a war zone. I failed to mention the battleship gray door; steel plated, equipped with a vertical observation window and a bean hole for guards to push food and other items into the cell during lockdowns, when prisoners can’t come out to play or battle with each other. Also in the rear of the cell is a screened window so course that one could use it to sand concrete. Three, thick, tubular bars enhance cell decor. Each cell has two powerful water sprinklers capable of filling the cell within minutes with a black, foul-smelling, oily substance mixed in water. Each cell also contains a duress button for medical emergencies that many refer to as a Panic Button. If someone is trying to kill you, or if you are in need of prompt medical care, don’t expect to be saved. You’d die waiting for rescuers to arrive.

So much is the life I live. Myself, I have never depended on prison staff to protect and keep me safe. I am a man and know how to survive in the insane world of incarceration, and believe me, it is an “Insane” existence at times. Fortunately, I get along with most people because I treat them the way I want to be treated, staff and inmates alike. Reading my essay collection (Essays & More Straight from the Pen) will give you an idea about my life inside of prisons. Medically speaking, I bought several hundred dollars worth of medical books over the years so I could keep the medical personnel at various prisons from killing me with malpractice. Seriously, the medical knowledge I obtained has kept me alive. A pharmacist once put a medication in my hand that could have killed me if I had taken it, and that was after I had told the prescribing Physician’s Assistant that I was allergic to it. And even though my file is labeled as so, that pharmacist still handed me a drug that could have ended my prison sentence in 1991 when it happened, but, that wasn’t what was meant to be. Anyway, that incident started my survival crusade and has saved me numerous health-related problems that would have occurred if I depended totally on my keepers. It’s a miracle I didn’t succeed at killing myself with self-induced-abuse. My essays contain lots of incidents to prove we only leave this world when our time is up, and that bell just hasn’t rang for me, at least, not as of today. Maybe it won’t for a long while so that I can keep you covered with my life straight from the pen, even upon my release.

In my next post I will write about the Quality Assurance Apprenticeship program that I am a tutor in, as well as a writing class a friend asked me to set in on to help teach other prisoners the Art of Creative Writing. Stay tuned. Post comments or contact me if you like and I will answer all questions. Thank you. Let me get back to vacationing, now. Unfortunately, I can’t go to the beach or lake, out on a date with a lover, or go out to eat at a steak house, because my keepers would miss me if I were gone. Hopefully, by 2018 I will be able to do all of the above without having to worry about hound dogs chasing me down. 🙂

Wayne T. Dowdy, 39311-019, B-3
P.O. Box 725, FCI
Edgefield, SC 29824-0725
E-mail: waynedowdy@straightfromthepen.com
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From Where Do Writers Root

From where do you root?  Many people want to know the roots of their family, evidenced by the success of such websites as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. For authors who write autobiographies, biographies and other nonfiction genres, having correct, verifiable data, enhances their reputation with editors, and incorrect data may ruin or damage it.  Who wants to waste time reading something written by an author who has proven to be unreliable?  Even people who read fiction expect accuracy from the author writing about historical events or scenes based on actual places. Because of that, I added an “AUTHOR’S NOTE” to my novel (UNDER PRESSURE-MOTIVATIONAL VERSION by Mr. D.). After reading part of it, a prison guard said to me, “That is not correct. The B.O.P. does not have TASERs, and SORT wouldn’t have been the one to respond.”  He then went on to explain which emergency response team would have responded to the situation I wrote about in a scene using my literary licenses. (Please go tohttps://www.smashwords.com/books/view/353812 to read my definition of literary licenses in the Author’s Note, which I only use when writing fiction.)

 RESEARCH:  Researching is important in any form of writing for publication. Using numbers and statistics to support a position or hypothesis makes a paper appear authentic and often keeps a reader interested: Writers get the numbers and statistics through research. When an author uses accurate data, the reader becomes more assured that he or she can trust and rely on what the author writes and that the author knows the subject matter.  As most people should realize, all sources of information are not reliable; especially, the volumes of information now available at the touch of a few keystrokes on a computer. Numerous blogs and other forms of media contain incorrect information from unreliable sources, even some websites that the “Curious” frequent for medical information. Reliable sources are vital for a writer to succeed in the highly-competitive, nonfiction, magazine market. For instance, some editors will reject an article if Wikipedia is the source of information, since credentials are not required and a person may post information believed to be true but is not. (Wikipedia does contain a lot of good information for researchers to use.)

 Seasoned writers search various sources to determine which information to use to effectively relay the message they want to convey to their readers. Several methods exist for finding information on most topics. Old School tactics include interviewing those with personal expertise in a field of study, or going to observe a process or event as it is being conducted, rather than sitting at a computer screen surfing the Deep Blue Web. By an author interviewing someone qualified to speak on the subject, or by watching and listening to learn, they may observe or detect something not mentioned in a written document or other source. Nevertheless, other methods of information gathering comes from reading reference books (almanacs, good dictionaries (biographical and geographical sections), encyclopedias, yearbooks, etc.), or books written by those knowledgeable on the subject; searching for related articles in periodicals (e.g., magazines, journals, newspapers); going to a library to speak with a librarian, or going online to search on-line catalogs and other on-line databases. The majority of librarians can offer additional advice on navigating the web or other sources for collecting information to use.

 The Internet has become the main source of information in today’s world, but writers must beware of the source and check to see when the site was last updated, and whether anyone claims authorship and lists their qualifications for writing on the subject. Equally important is the domain name in the URL (the address of the computer). The domain name in the URL indicates the purpose or origin or the website. Here is a list and brief explanation of some meanings:

1) “.com” is commercial, usually trying to sell something;

2) “.gov” is a government site, which may help to update or inform people about events or activities, like bills pending in Congress, or other public information;

3) “.org” shows it is a non-profit organization (an NPO may be wholesome, or may not be, as some scams are operated under the guise of providing something worthwhile or for the betterment of society); and

4) “.edu” for education (probably the most reliable for information overall).

 Even researching for family history can be difficult and misleading. Author Christina Hamlett makes a valid point in an article she wrote about researching, which mentioned obtaining information from Ellis Island Records: the information listed is based upon the interpretation of the port authorities who may have had to guess how to spell the name of an immigrant, and that some immigrants may have intentionally listed false information; e.g., changed names, marital status, or from where they came. She lists several valuable websites for authors to further the search beyond the typical websites that the majority of people will go to when searching from where they came. These sites allow anyone to dig deeper to find family roots or information about a person of interest:

 Census Finder:  www.censusfinder.com

Census Records:  www.censusrecords.com

Cyndi’s List:  www.cindislist.com/categories (select Genealogy)

Dead or Alive:  www.deadoraliveinfo.com

Death Records Online:  www.myheritage.com

Ellis Island Records:  www.ellisislandrecords.org

ObituariesHelp:  http://obituarieshelp.org

SearchSystems:  http://publicrecords.searchsystems.net

United States Vital Records Information:  http://vitalrec.com/index.html

 “Consider the Source:  Fact-Checking” by Christina Hamlett, Writer’s Guide 2014, $23.95, Writer’s Publications,www.writersbookstore.com. (Most links used in this article come from her well-written article.)

 She also lists several websites for checking facts and historical data writers may want to use to verify the accuracy of their primary source of information for an article, blog, book, or essay.  She cautions, “Whenever you decide to incorporate recent or historical dates, never rely 100 percent on your own memory.” Great advice! Memories fail and all human brains malfunction on occasion when storing and retrieving memories. Try these links for verifying data accumulated during your research:

 FactCheck.org:  www.factcheck.org

Politico:  www.politico.com

Snopes:  www.snopes.com/politics/politics.asp

ScamBusters:  www.scambusters.org

The Fact Checker:  www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker

PolitiFact:  www.politifact.com

For history:

Historical Timeline:  www.historicaltimeline.com

HyperHistory:  www.hyperhistory.com/online_n2/History_n2/a.html

Animated Atlas:  www.animatedatlas.com/timeline.html

This Day in History:  www.history.com/this-day-in-history

 ROOTS OF WRITERS: Perhaps the roots of some writers run all the way back to Moses and the Ten Commandments and writers of the best selling book in history: the Bible. “The Gutenberg Bible … was the first major book printed in the West using movable type. It marked the start of the ‘Gutenberg Revolution’ and the age of the printed book in the West. …. Written in Latin, the Gutenberg Bible is an edition of the Vulgate, printed by Johannes Gutenberg, in Mainz, Germany, in the 1450s.” Wikipedia.org, updated 10/22/2014 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gutenberg_Bible). A copy did not reach North America until 1847; available for public viewing at the New York Public Library. The last sale of a complete Gutenberg Bible occurred in 1978 for $2.2 million, and is now kept in Stuttgart (Clausen Books Gutenberg Bible Census (http://www.clausenbooks.com/gutenbergcensus.htm). The estimated value of a complete copy ranges between $25-35 million. The author of that one has bragging rights! Too bad he could not stick around to see the fruits of his labor manifest into something so valuable and miraculous.

 For another notable piece of history about the printed Word, according to the Dictionary of Modern English, Wordsworth Edition, 2005, “[t]he edition of the Bible known as the Authorized Version ([was] first published in 1611 under the aegis of King James I) ….” Lots of readers prefer the King James Version of the Bible, or other variations of it.  Going back farther than that, Socrates (ca 470-399 B.C.) and Plato (ca 428-348 (or 347 B.C.)) also made their mark in history long after they had lived, with their volumes of published philosophical ideals taught in the academic arena to this day.

 The devoted and meticulous writers are a special breed of writers. All writers are not created equal: It takes an internal overdrive and determination to produce exceptional prose. To quote Brandon Royal from THE LITTLE RED WRITING BOOK, $16.99, Writer’s Digest Books (2004), “Most people hate reworking their writing. It is human nature. The pressure and agony of writing is one reason why alcohol has been humorously dubbed ‘the occupational hazard of professional writers.’ It is not the writing per se, but the rewriting and redrafting process that can drive a person to drink. Worse is the reality of knowing before you began to write — no matter how well you write — your writing will require revision.” For instance, before I began writing this little piece of writing, I knew it would take revising several times to get it “close” to the way I truly wanted it before submitting it for publication. What I did not know was that I would be revising it for at least twenty-times (I lost counts days ago), long past the date I had planned for its completion. If I had not stopped drinking many years ago, so I could grow up and become somebody, I would have probably gotten drunk and clicked to send several days ago, rather than to continue to wrestle with the words on this computer screen. Knowing I will never get it to the level of perfection I prefer, I will eventually just say well-enough, and click send to be done with it so I can move on to the next project. So much is the life of the writer. We write and write and write until some of us run into the occupational hazard known common to our craft. Jack London was one of the best writers around, but history tells that it was that occupational hazard that lead him to his end; therefore, I need to keep a clear mind so I can write until I can’t write anymore. I’m a work in progress.

 To wrap this collection of words back around to the same line of thinking that it began, as I learned writers should do, I conclude with this: Writer or not, does anyone truly know from where their roots run?  In particular, all of those writers who write in the many different styles and genres, which include so many ideas and topics that no one could ever effectively count them all before something new popped out of some writer’s mind and onto the pages of a book or computer screen. Anyway, maybe some writers came from another planet or from some place far away; especially, in considering the plots and stories in books and movies these days that stretch the imagination. Who knows from where they came? ANSWER: Only those with a reliable source.

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Wayne T. Dowdy was first published under a pseudonym in 2003.  Later on he decided to become a professional writer.  He then took a college-accredited writing course through the Long Ridge Writers Group where he graduated in 2008.  He has since been published numerous times in magazines and newsletters, mostly under a pseudonym.  His most recent major projects include ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN (https://www.createspace.com/5040976), and the novel UNDER PRESSURE-MOTIVATIONAL VERSION by Mr. D. (https://www.createspace.com/4325313).  Get the paperback versions at Amazon.com, CreateSpace.com, and other online and offline bookstores.  For a limited time, purchase an eBook of the essay collection by using Smashwords coupon code SP43N for a 75% discount off the $9.95 list price.  Visit his author’s page at Smashwords.com (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy).  Read more of his writings by adding “Wayne T. Dowdy” in your favorite search engine.

The Truth About Incarceration, Part II

Prisoners for profit, human lives a commodity? Imagine that. My life of crime made lots of politicians and investors very rich:  it robbed me of life with my loved ones, including a wife and two children, not to mention the financial ruins caused by my actions. When I am released in 2019, I have to start all over at the age of sixty-two. My living quarters consists of a cell designed for one, housing two. Essentially, I live in a bathroom with another man. That is not exactly the way I planned for life to be, but it is what it is. I put myself in this situation by making bad choices. It didn’t have to be this way. According to a psychologist, who had reviewed results from a battery of aptitude and psychological test that I had taken for Georgia prison officials to determine my intellectual capacity, I could have been a doctor or lawyer. Maybe I could have been a politician capitalizing on prisons being built and by voting to be tough on crime. A lot of people profit from the Incarceration Industry in America. Thousands of men and women serve longer prison sentences because of the Corporate greed and the desire to increase the bottom line at the expense of other humans.

NO SYMPATHY: I am fifty-seven years old as I write and have spent most of those fifty-seven years in prison. On August 18, 1988, I began serving this 35-year federal sentence for driving a second getaway vehicle in an armed bank robbery and associated charges, one being “Abduction of a Person to Facilitate Commission of an Offense.” In a personal essay titled, “No Sympathy,” I wrote about certain aspects of the crime; however, that essay serves a greater purpose. I want the public to see where billions of their tax dollars go. I use my story to show the effect of incarceration and recidivism. ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN is my essay collection that contains several essays about various topics and experiences, but when I wrote No Sympathy, I wrote it with the hope of helping to somehow change the failed criminal justice system.  Due to its purpose, I asked the publisher to make it and a few other ones into separate eBooks for $0.99 each. (Purchase it from my author’s page athttps://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy.) The essay shows data and parts of my history to prove you are reading writings from a man who the government has invested well over one-million dollars in.  If you are an American taxpayer, you help pay for my incarceration. Maybe some of the politicians who have lined their pockets with cash by investing in prisoner commodities will reimburse you. I would if I could, but I am broke so suing me won’t do any good either. Sorry!

RECIDIVISM:  From August 28, 1978, until August 1, 1985, I served state time for robbing three drug stores at gunpoint and stealing a car. While in, I picked up additional charges for escape and mutiny in a penal institution. I wrote about those events in “The Price of Change,” also in the essay collection.  Four of those years were spent at the Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, GA. The feds said it was the most violent prison in the United States in 1982 while I was there. I witnessed prison staff creating racial trouble in an attempt to win a lawsuit (Guthrie v. Evans).  Prisoners died as a result of their games.  Guthrie had filed the lawsuit because of the racism, brutality, and unconstitutional living conditions at the prison before I arrived. The guards created the racial issues in an attempt to convince the courts that we were animals and that they needed their guns and batons to control us. I know because I was privilege to legal documents due to my status as a representative in the lawsuit. I have also seen staff use the same plots in the federal prison system while I was at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta (also deemed to be the most violent prison in the United States while I was there) and U.S.P. Pollock in Louisiana. The point being that prisoners are no more than pawns in their games. I made it over three-years before I was arrested in 1988–to be exact, three-years and seventeen days after my release from a halfway house in Atlanta, Georgia. By staying out over three-years, I dodged being one of the typical prisoners caught in the more common 3-year recidivism studies. A different study came out in April 2014 that covered a five-year span: it revealed staggering statistics on recidivism from 2005-2010. [1]  An alarming rate of 82.1% of property offenders, 76.9% of drug offenders, and 73.6% of public order offenders returned with new charges within the five-year study period. The numbers make clear that previous (and current) methods of punishment and practices have not yielded favorable results, that is, except for those who profit from high-incarceration rates: things couldn’t have been or be better for them. Because of the explosive prison population caused by draconian sentencing policies and increased punishments for crimes, pushed by those with an ulterior motive, the situation got out of control.

RE-ENTRY & RECIDIVISM: Former Attorney General Eric Holder began taking action to reduce the prison growth rate and population: 1) he changed prosecution policies that slowed the flow of federal offenders into prison, and 2), he pushed the agenda for re-entry initiatives to relieve the financial impact of incarceration through a reduction in recidivism. Focusing on providing prisoners with re-entry services should reduce recidivism by helping ex-offenders find employment, and by helping them receive treatment for drug, alcohol, and or, mental health issues. From my observations, very few prisoners receive help for such issues while in prison and that alone increases recidivism. I have not seen many prison administrations truly concerned about providing prisoners with opportunities that increases their likelihood of success upon release.

DETAINMENT FOR PROFITS:  Sadly, for-profit-prison lobbyists spread millions on state and federal legislatures to keep prison populations high, or to otherwise defeat bills introduced to lower the mass incarceration rates in America. “Detainment is a lucrative trade.” [3] The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) members and for-profit prison representatives write bills for politicians to introduce that increases prison sentences through techniques such as changing sentencing guidelines, increasing criminal penalties, or creating new laws. Those actions counter any initiatives introduced to decrease prison populations by giving prisoners more time off for good behavior; re-instating federal parole, or any other bills that, if implemented, would reduce the profits of those with a vested interest in high incarceration rates.  ALEC members sometimes provide alternative bills for their supporters. “Whether the issue is guns, tort reform, immigration, sentencing guidelines, or private prisons, ALEC provides a legislator with a committee-ready one-size-fits-all bill and a playbook to pass it.” [2]

GUIDELINE CHANGES: Other measures taken to undo the effect of previous political actions came from amendments to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines to reduce sentences for drug offenders; especially, crack cocaine related offenses. The Sentencing Commission is a bipartisan committee whose recommendations stand unless Congress stops them.

POLITICAL INFLUENCE: The funding for the cost of incarceration comes from the taxpayers so why should politicians be concerned about its cost?   Especially when their votes for “Tough on Crime” bills gets them re-elected and fills their pockets with cash. And, not just their pocket, the pockets and purses of those who invest in the Prison Industry (companies who build prisons; those who provide goods and services for their operation, construction, maintenance; those manufacturing or selling security items; e.g., fences, electronic gadgets, weapons, riot gear, and other tactical equipment pushed for security to protect the public from approximately 2.3 million prisoners held in the United States, alone).  Private prison companies grew by convincing those in power that it was more cost effective to house prisoners in privately ran prisons than it was to house them in public prisons. The data did not always support their claims. [6]  In order for private prisons to profit, corporate owners reduce the number of staff, the amount of staff training hours, and pay lesser wages and benefits to their employees. In 2011, compared to state correctional officers, Correctional Corporation of America (CCA), required an average of 240 less training-hours. The less-trained staff salaries were 50% less than those of typical state correctional officers. [3] The lack of staff and inadequate training sometimes resulted in deaths of prisoners and guards, which the 2014 Office of Inspector General report noted in reference to the privately managed Federal Bureau of Prisons (B.O.P.) contract facilities. From other things I have read, only a minimal amount of conditions were required for those private companies to gain lucrative contracts. Since the latest finding by the O.I.G., B.O.P. Director, Charles Samuels, Jr., who is changing things, approved a program statement to govern such facilities. [4] Personally, though, I cannot believe that political connections have not influenced the number of contract beds the B.O.P. uses to house its prisoners. That seem apparent by the fact that in 1980, 12-years before former B.O.P. Director, Michael Quinlan (see next para.) went to CCA, only 2% of the B.O.P. prisoner population was kept in contract facilities. Now with two B.O.P. directors into private prisons, two-percent grew into nineteen and a half percent.

CORPORATE INFLUENCE: “ALEC is a corporate-funded corporate bill mill cross-dressing as an association of state legislatures.” [2] In 2011, ALEC claimed 250 corporations and special interest groups as private sector members. “According to ALEC promotional material, each year member lawmakers introduce an average of 1,000 … pieces of legislation nationwide, 17% of which are enacted.” [5] One member corporation being CCA–the nation’s largest for-profit private prison company (GEO Group is the second largest for-profit prison and is also an ALEC member). [8] Two former B.O.P. Directors went to work for CCA after leaving the B.O.P. under unfavorable circumstances. Harley Lappin “retired” from the B.O.P. after his arrest on a Driving Under the Influence charge in May 2011. He is CCA’s executive vice president and the company’s Chief Corrections Officer. J. Michael Quinlan “retired” in 1992 after a male B.O.P. employee filed a lawsuit and claimed Quinlan had sexual assaulted and sexually harassed him in a motel room during a business trip. He settled the lawsuit out of court. He works as CCA’s senior vice president who oversees CCA’s quality assurance program. Other government officials have equally migrated to private sector companies and carried insider-information with them. [7]  I’m sure that “insider-information” and political connections helped such companies flourish at the expense of the millions of Americans confined in jails and prisons.

Some people have profited from laws and policies that increased prison sentences, many others like me have stayed in prison longer than we would have without those governing factors, which were based on the “bottom lines.” In the meantime, though, I still hope to one day have a healthy relationship with my children, but the miles of highways and barbwire fences that separates us makes it difficult. Things will change. Look for another article on “The Truth About Incarceration.”

                                                                                     BIBLIOGRAPHY

[1] Durose, Matthew, R., Cooper, Alexia D., and Snyder, Howard N.  NCJ 244205, Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States: Patterns from 2005-2010. U.S. Dep’t. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Statistics, April 2014.

[2] Dubose, Lou. How to Pass Bills and Influence Legislators. The Washington Spectator, May 15, 2011.

[3] Handley, Joel. Divesting From Private Prisons. IN THESE TIMES, August 2011.

[4] Program Statement 7740.02, Oversight of Private Secure Correctional Facilities. November 21, 2014.

[5] Hodia, Beau. Publiscopy Exposed. IN THESE TIMES, August 2011.

[6] Austin, James and Coventry, Garry.  NCJ 181249, Emerging Issues of Privatized Prisons, Bureau of Justice, Feb. 2011.

[7] Anti-Private Prison Group Rips Revolving Door for Federal Employees After CCA Hires Former BOP Director, Prison Legal News, July 2011.

[8] Hodia, Beau. Corporate Con Game. IN THESE TIMES, June 21, 2010.

The Truth about Incarceration, Part I

Prison can be rough: It can also be a positive experience for those who seek and receive help for the issues that lead to prison, which does not occur often. A cast of personalities comprise the abyss of prison. From some spring enlightenment, displays of moral fortitude, exemplary characteristics; others demoralization, sexual perversion, denigration, solicitude, debauchery, the darker side of humanity. The truth is that many aspects of prison are degrading and humiliating to those who have maintained their dignity and self-respect; however, prison is not always as portrayed in books and movies. A “snap shot” will not reveal the whole picture. Even documentaries on prisons leave a false impression about the whole of prison life or the prison experience. I know. I have lived most of my life behind steel bars, concrete walls, and fences layered and lined with row upon row of razor wire to separate me and my peers from the civilized society. I write this to assure the youth that there is nothing glamorous about incarceration, since I have read and heard how some juveniles and young adults give props to those who have been to jail, prison or “juvvy,” for having survived the experience.

In some segments of society those returning form prison are given a favorable street-status: a reputation of being a “tough” person, a Gangster who may have had to fight daily to make it out alive; someone solid who rode hard, did not “rat” and did his or her time without taking down the neighborhood. Some may have did similar things and been all of that, but for the most part, very few have that experience. But, with the State of Georgia prison system having thirty-two prisoners and one guard murdered since 2010, it proves that prisons can be a dangerous place. Statistically, though, and in actuality, the vast majority of people who go to prison never have a physical altercation. In relation to “riding hard” and not taking out the neighborhood, an over-whelming number of criminal defendants plead guilty to shorten their sentences; only a small percentage of which do not assist the government by implicating others in crimes in order to get the reduced sentence. (See note below for clarification about guilty pleas.)  Some who testify and make deals are worse than Judas in the Bible who betrayed Jesus Christ and got him executed, because they lie to get a deal. Numerous criminal defendants fabricate higher drug quantities and exaggerate other committed criminal acts so that the prosecution recommends a larger sentence reduction for providing “substantial government assistance.” Personally, I do not see that as honorable, or something that is worthy of praise or favorable recognition.

I have seen several televised documentaries over the years about “Jail House Rats” conspiring and fabricating evidence against people for time reductions. The unscrupulous conspirators do so by collecting information through conversations with the quarry/prey and others to “create” drug or criminal conspiracy cases. In conspiracies, the testimony of others is enough to send someone off to prison for decades or the remainder of their life. In drug cases, it is called “Ghost Dope” because no actual drugs exist, only the testimony or conversations between parties that ultimately lead to the conviction. Even with prosecutors knowing defendants lie and fabricate stories to get more time off, the prosecutors still do not hesitate to use the testimony (and may even encourage the fabrication of evidence to help them have more ammunition to get a plea from their target). A small number of prisoners exist who lure potential victims into conversations about past criminal activities to collect information to send to prosecutors in an attempt to get a sentence reduction. Many will lie or exaggerate to make the information seem more important. I personally know of one person who provided information to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police about the murders of an elderly couple whom the murderer bragged about killing while he was in a U.S. prison. The murderer later received two life sentences in Canada; the prison informant complained to a mutual friend that he only received a two-year sentence reduction. He had expected to be released for providing the information that lead to the Canadian’s conviction.

Most prisoners are not so scandalous as to create crimes to get deals. Though many may make deals with the devil to get time off, only a few are so morally deficient that they create crimes to get the deals. To cooperate with the prosecution is one thing, and maybe it is what is needed to protect society–telling lies against another person for a lesser sentence is an entirely different matter.

Cases like the one against former mob boss, John Gotti, seem to violate ethical codes, when the prosecution uses testimony from a serial murderer like “Sammy the Bull,” who confessed to almost twenty murders for a five-year plea deal to testify against John Gotti, who received a life sentence and later died in prison.

NOTE: Not all who plead guilty make a deal to testify on others: some just do it because of the evidence stacked against them and the unlikelihood of winning if going to trial.  Either way, though, the prosecution makes a deal for a shorter sentence to avoid spending the time, money, and resources necessary for taking a defendant to trial. That fact proves something a lot of criminals in prison hate to admit–pleading guilty is helping the state or government. Ninety-six percent of federal defendants plead guilty: state court plea bargain averages are probably the same. Unfortunately, many of those who plead guilty actually take a plea on charges they are not guilty of committing because it was part of the deal with the prosecuting authorities to “clear the books.” Throughout the years I have met a few who pled guilty to multiple crimes as a package deal for a reduced sentence.

PRISON POLITICS:  As reported on a televised documentary, even though John Gotti was a powerful figure on the streets of New York, prison predators zoomed in to make him pay for protection. No one is guaranteed amnesty from prosecution by those enforcing silent prison codes written by unknown authors: Not even a mob boss when left to fend for himself.

Someone sent to prison for murdering someone may actually be a coward and be victimized while in prison. It is easier to stand fifteen feet away and blast someone with a gun than it is to go toe-to-toe in a knife fight or other forms of hand-to-hand combat. It does not take a lot of courage to gun down defenseless or unsuspecting people. It takes a lot of courage to deal with a combatant on equal terms. Please do not misunderstand what I wrote. That is not applicable to everyone in prison for such crimes. Some prisoners are notorious and extremely dangerous; however, most of those find themselves locked in a cage twenty-three hours per day, often after assaulting or killing another prisoner or prison guard. Nevertheless, very few prisoners have to physically defend themselves while serving time in the vast majority of American prisons. The point is, everyone does not have to be skilled in hand-to-hand combat to survive in prison. If such skills were required for survival, only a few would make it out alive. In general, survival in prison depends more upon the personality of the person and the nature of their crimes that lead to prison, more so than it does upon their size or combat skills. A petite person with a strong personality, who the more dominant prisoners respect, may get out of prison unscathed, while a larger, ostracized person with a weak personality, becomes prey to the predators. Truthfully, a larger person is more apt to be physically challenged than someone not so large. Prisons are filled with staff and inmates suffering from a “Napoleon’s Complex” (an inferiority complex rooted in insecurities and the lack of physical stature, which leads to the afflicted going to extremes to prove that he or she is “tough,” and do so at the expense of others).

As shown with Mr. Gotti, powerful people may be preyed upon by the unknowns of society. On the other hand, an unknown may become recognized or powerful inside prison for a variety of reasons: being a “Stand Up” person (not informing on others, standing their ground in physical altercations, fighting for what is right, standing behind their word); being ruthless, yet honorable, reliable; maybe even for changing their lives, helping others, and ironically, by staying out of the mix. To become powerful in prison requires getting involved in the mix (running drug and or gambling operations, participating in prison politics (determining who can stay in general population, who has to go, who gets “hit” (piped or stabbed or both), or by organizing prison disturbances (food or work strikes, violent protest against prison administrations, etc.), behaviors which carry major consequences). But, in my opinion, no matter who they are, what they have done or claim to have done, every prisoner deals with degradation and humiliation. It is the nature of the beast. All prisoners have to get strip-searched (must remove all clothes at the command of a guard who inspects and views private areas to look for hidden items); get told when to go to the chow hall, when to stand for security counts, who can visit or who they can call on the phone and for how long they can speak. Many prisoners are stripped of far more than their clothes (pride, dignity, integrity, self-respect ….).

A prisoner may be recognized in society and prison by writing a book, or by doing something constructive, such as creating or teaching programs to help others, or by learning and teaching life skills to help others become better people. The press never hears about those prisoners because the press goes to prisoners who cause trouble or who get out and commit horrendous crimes, and thus become poster-children for the politicians who push “Tough-on-Crime” bills. Those bills are often written by members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose contributors include officials from the private prison industries that profit from high incarceration rates.

In Part II I will write about the influence of the private prison industry on prisoners and the politicians who vote to push the agenda that assures high incarceration rates in America.

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For a limited time, download ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN for 75% off of the $9.95 list price of my eBook. I write about various topics, including personal experiences in the insane world of incarceration, as well as about parts of my life as a free citizen. The eBook is available at all major eBook distributors; however, the discount is only available through Smashwords.com by using Coupon Code SP43N at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy or athttps://www.smashwords.com/books/view/483307. In November of 2014, the paperback will be available at Amazon.com and other online and offline book sellers, Midnight Express Books, $17.95.

My Life in a Prison Cell in an Overcrowded Prison

An average day for me is not the same as the days of an average person, because I live in a very unnatural environment. My day often begins with a flashlight beam bursting through my eyelids, penetrating the brain, disrupting the sleep cycle. Or with the sound of metal-on-metal from a guard jamming a quarter pound, brass key into the keyhole to free me from the confines of a prison cell, designed for one, housing two. Quite frankly, I live in a bathroom with another man: a bathroom that may substitute as an office, bedroom, den, dining room, kitchen, living room, gym; one with the potential of becoming a boxing ring, miniature sports arena, war zone, crime scene. Under such confined conditions, having an attractive female as a roommate would make life much better. Unfortunately, that is not an option, so I remain more celibate than some priests. If I had a choice I would live alone, since I can’t have a female; due to prison overcrowding I live as I do. So much is life on the inside.

To clarify life on the inside, most people who come to prison straight do not go out gay, as “asserted” by Dr. Ben Carson. I learned in Psychology about Projection, which is where a person projects their actions or feelings into someone else. For instance, a person who cheats on their spouse may come home and accuse them of being unfaithful. Could that be related in some absurd way to Carson’s statement?  Who knows?  Why use defenseless prisoners as an analogy that homosexuality is a choice? I started serving this sentence almost three decades ago and haven’t changed my sexual preference yet. I don’t knock anyone who prefers to have sex with others, whether bi-curious, homosexual, or whatever they choose to be, who also decides to have sex with someone of the same sex; or what anyone else does with his or her life, but I will write that many prisoners are homophobic. Homosexuality is not socially acceptable in most prisons, especially in the federal system compared to some state systems. Most of whom I know do not choose to have sex with someone of the same sex. I have known men who were raped who still chose not to continue to participate is sexual activities with other men. Some of my peers asked me to clarify that what Carson said was not true, and so I have.

On a blog sent to me from CNN’s website, posted as Comment 97 by Philip Bump, March 4th, 2015, Bump wrote, “In an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday morning, likely 2016 presidential candidate, Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon, stated his belief that homosexuality is a choice. His evidence for the claim? ‘A lot of people who go into prison, [they] go into prison straight and when they come out, they’re gay.'”

Bump continues with a profound quote from Dr. Helen Eigenberg. “‘The fundamental assumption of the analogy he’s using is insane,’ said Helen Eigenberg, professor of criminal justice at the University of Tennessee, who has been studying sexuality and incarceration for about 25 years. ‘I don’t know of any research that substantiates the [claim] that men go to prison and come out gay. There’s no data to support that claim,’ she said.” I commend her for her frankness and agree 100%. Maybe I will send her a complimentary copy of my books (UNDER PRESSURE-MOTIVATIONAL VERSION by Mr. D. and ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN) to help her in her studies relating to incarceration.

The reality of life on the inside is far from what is shown on television. Most prisoners do not run around looking to rob, rape, or physically assault their peers. Some do, of course, but most of them end up caged in a cell twenty-three hours per day, alone. Prisons vary. Prisoners vary as well. More will be revealed. Stay tuned.  I’ll post more about my Life Inside real soon.

A Spiritual Journey

A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY
by
Wayne T. Dowdy

In April of 1995, I began a sober journey into a different life that has continued to this day: a spiritual, not religious journey. Part of that journey included having faith in a power greater than myself, whom I was willing to turn my will and life over to His care, “as I understood him.” I had one concept of God before then, as I was raised Southern Baptist, but, today, I am not so sure about the “Him” or “His” part. That is because I know all such references in the Bible and other spiritual books were written during a time of extreme sexism (which I will continue to use in this writing for illustrative purposes, not beliefs). For instance, in Christianity and some other religions, a woman did not have many rights, not even a right to preach from the pulpit; certainly not the right to be referred to as part of a deity, as being part of a Godhead, except for maybe in something like Greek mythology or non-mainstream, non-traditional religions. The God of my understanding does not have to be of any sexual orientation, even though I do believe in the same God primarily used in Christianity, only with a twist, since I do not accept lots of the dogma and doctrine I have read and learned about throughout the years.

To me, God is God and is a far greater entity than my little mind is capable of grasping or of completely understanding. Scientifically, and perhaps in the beliefs of many humans, there are those who will argue that everything has to have a beginning and an end, but the obvious to me is that something was just “here,” long before mere mortals entered into the equation of life. The first atoms, molecules, or whatever got things started by grouping together to form a mass, had to have came into existence by some other means, and I believe God is the one behind it all, who probably sits back laughing at some of the stupid things that we humans come up with in an effort to make sense out of what we see and have learned along this minute of our existence. Some scientist debate whether we are here by Intelligent Design or through Evolution, but to me, there is nothing to debate. I do not care either way. All I know is that I am here and so are you. How we got here is irrelevant to me. Maybe both are true, in part. But, what I do know from seeing His work in my life and in the lives of others, is that there is a God, a divine being, something much greater than us humans.

My outlook on the deity of Christ, is that if God wanted to come down to Earth, manifest Himself as a human, and walk around to see how people would treat Him, He could do that. It is not difficult for me to grasp, since God, the Creator, has the power to give or to take life or to create a Universe, and at the same time, to be a part of everything. Most of us believe in what someone taught us through our respective religious gatherings or with books written by someone else, whether God inspired or not, so who am I to say who is right or who is wrong? I do not know. I do feel that everyone has a right to believe as they wish, but not the right to kill, harm, or injure someone else because their beliefs do not coincide with theirs, such as often happens with religious sects. When I think of such things I am reminded of the song, “What if God was One of Us.” Isn’t Easter about celebrating the resurrection of the son of God, whom Christians call Jesus Christ, whom died on the cross so that those who believe in Him could have ever-lasting life, whom man nailed to the cross because He professed to be the Son of God? That is what happened when He was one of us!

EVIDENCE IN THE BLOOD

Here is something to think about when wondering if there is a God. In the Merck Manual of Medical Information, 2nd ed., 2003, I read the “Biology of Blood.” I found it fascinating to learn how the proteins and blood cells work in our bodies; especially, the many forms of white blood cells. The Neutrophils kill and ingest bacteria and fungi, while some ingest foreign debris; Lymphocytes have three types, T lymphocytes and natural killer cells help protect against viral infections and can detect and destroy some cancer cells, which are essentially cells that have turned on their peers and multiply until they destroy life; B lymphocytes develop into cells that produce antibodies to help us fight off invaders. Eosinophils kill parasites, destroy cancer cells, but do not ingest them. They are also involved in allergic responses, as are Basophils. Monocytes ingest dead or damaged cells and help defend against many infectious organisms. Perhaps they come behind the Eosinophils to clean up their battle ground, since they don’t eat what they kill, like some humans who kill for entertainment, or with a purpose. Some white blood cells cruise around in our blood streams, while others cling to blood vessel walls, others penetrate walls to enter into tissue. When a white blood cell encounters a problem, such as a parasite or other invader that the white blood cell needs help with defending its territory against, it releases a substance that attracts more white blood cells to come to the rescue. Our white blood cells are our Army and fight to keep us alive and healthy.

Between the red blood cells that work with proteins to deliver oxygen from our lungs to remote areas of our bodies (through the force produced by the beating of our hearts), and the work of the white blood cells, which work in conjunction with our other blood components (plasma and platelets) to assist in all of the functions of our many bones and organs, we are able to have life. That is only one tiny example of the intricacies of our bodies. To me, the fact that the human body keeps on working and reproducing life, proves you cannot just put things into a box, shake it up, and then out jumps a living, breathing, human being, or other form of life.

Maybe there is random selection amongst living organisms: perhaps God does the selecting for all that is to come. It is possible. No doubt in my mind, that there is a God and that all I need to realize is that I am not it. I am a mere mortal and am grateful for that. I have a hard enough time managing my life and don’t have the time or patience to manage the world and far beyond the parameters of existence that my little mind just can not grasp. smile emoticon