Monthly Archives: January 2019

Early Warning Codes

Prisoners shout various Early Warning Codes to forewarn others.  I recently learned that at some Georgia prisons, the Early Warning Code is “Twelve,” which I learned on Quora.com.  At one prison, other men used Top Rock or Bottom Rock to indicate where the staff member walked (top or bottom tier).

The reason an inmate may shout that (12) is because, for instance,  that a correctional officer or staff member enters a living area at the “12 O’clock” position, or that “12” is just one of the many “Early Warning Codes” used.

Staff may exhibit the same behavior, after getting used to prisoners using the Early Warning Code to let others know they’re on the prowl.

http://www.tattnallcountyga.com/georgia-state-prison.cfm

In the early Eighties I was at the Georgia State Prison (GSP) in Reidsville (The Great White Elephant), where the first version of “The Longest Yard” was filmed that starred Burt Reynolds. We used “Fire in the Hole” as our Early Warning Code to forewarn others that a correctional officer or staff member was entering the cellblock/living area.

Several staff members would walk in the door and shout, “Fire in the Hole.”

That may be because, in 1982, a federal monitor said that the Federal government had declared the prison as the most dangerous prison in the United States. Vincent N., the Federal Monitor appointed to monitor the prison for compliance with a Federal lawsuit (Guthrie v. Evans), made the claim of which I still challenge as factually incorrect.

I was an inmate representative in reformation process, voted in by my peers to represent the Whites for mediation during racial and legal disputes (to help resolve issues without killing each other and to help get the prison in compliance with the court orders).

I said, “How can we be the most violent prison when more people got killed in the New Mexico prison?”

“That was during a time of riot,” he said. “We’re talking about a time of non-riot. During a general run of the prison, y’all had thirty-five inmate-to-officer attacks, fifty inmate-to-inmate attacks, and six-murders.”

I suspect that because of the extreme level of violence, most staff members did not want to walk up on prisoners doing something illegal or unauthorized, which would require an un-favored response that may result in another staff assault.

In the past, one correctional officer had been robbed and killed by prisoners.  One prisoner removed a watch from his arm as he lay dying on the floor from a heart attack.

During my four-year stay at GSP, a male correctional officer was raped by a prisoner, of whom the prisoner had put a knife to his throat and pulled him into the cell, where the unthinkable happened.

The era of violence at that prison ended. Reorganization resulted in the reduced violence, as the more dangerous prisoners are more closely monitored and controlled.

But I am sure there are still those who will shout whatever the trending “Early Warning” signal may be for a staff member entering the area.

https://www.quora.com/In-prison-inmates-yell-12-to-alert-other-inmates-when-an-officer-is-present-Why-is-the-number-12-used-when-they-alert-each-other-or-does-this-only-happen-in-Georgia-prisons/answer/Wayne-T-Dowdy

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Read ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN ($8.95 USD) to learn more about the life that lead to prisons.

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Truthfully Speaking by Wayne T. Dowdy

While writing a response to a question posed by a reader on QUORA.com, a forum I love because participation makes me think and revives my creativity, I was asked, “Does the rule ‘snitches get stitches’ apply in psychiatric hospitals?”

Her question prompted the idea for posting this blog, so I will use it to let others know what the truth is in regards to prison and the process that led most to prison after their arrest (pleading guilty to avoid staying in prison longer than most men or women deserve).

Read my other Quora posts at https://www.quora.com/profile/Wayne-T-Dowdy

“Does the rule ‘snitches get stitches’ apply in psychiatric hospitals?”

The truth is that the “Snitches Get Stitches” rule doesn’t apply in the Criminal Justice System to the extent that it did decades ago.

The majority rules and based upon statistical data, “The overwhelming majority (90 to 95 percent) of cases result in plea bargaining.” https://www.bja.gov/Publications/PleaBargainingResearchSummary.pdf, and in the practical sense, to get a deal for a reduced sentence that majority cooperated with prosecuting authorities.

Not always but the majority agrees to cooperate during the plea negotiation process, who may then be required to return to court later to testify against another person so they can get a reduced sentence. That includes going back to court to testify against events inside prison to get a sentence reduction.

One of the many Quorans who work in Criminal Justice can supply the statistical data on prisoners who cooperate after conviction, but from my experience, sixteen years of which was spent in four different federal penitentiaries, most prisoners known to have cooperated do not get stitches or otherwise harmed.

However, some do, and some get stabbed or bludgeoned to death, but those are the exception, not the rule. I am not sure about the differences in psychiatric hospitals, but I will share my personal experience on similar issues.

I sponsored a man who was in a United States Federal Penitentiary with me who had a severe psychiatric condition. He gave me a book to read about the condition so I would know to get him help if he began to display certain behaviors that could lead to the harm of himself or others.

To do what he wanted of me could have led to me having to go to prison staff, a violation of the old, strict prison conduct rules (Don’t tell on anyone or talk to staff), a violation of which could have gotten me harmed or ostracized by my peers, if they lived by the old code of conduct. Most do not.

In a psychiatric facility, I don’t think it would be much different; however, if a patient gets reported by a staff member for saying something to them in private and then that trust got betrayed, in my opinion, it may make treatment more difficult unless the therapist established the ground rules from the start, and the patient could think of the situation from a rational perspective. But even under those circumstances, I doubt if the patient would be willing to resort to violence because he or she felt wronged.

A lot of people will harm those who tell on them to the authorities or to someone else about something meant to be kept confidential, but an overwhelming majority will let it go because they don’t want to get more time or don’t think they can get away with resorting to violence, or just accept that what they did was wrong and just let it go.

On a personal level, many years ago, I would have harmed someone for testifying against me in court, but once I got clean and started looking at things from a rational perspective, I accepted that what I did was wrong and let go of the hate and anger I held toward him for betraying my trust. I owed him an amends for my role in putting him in that position.

In other words, I changed my beliefs and became a different man. Now, how does that apply to your question? I used my personal experience to show that there are no hard-fast rules anymore when dealing with tales of prison life or life inside any facility where men and women are restrained or even where they are not. The game changed decades ago and most of the real killers are kept locked in a box once caught and taken off the street. [End quote]

Read ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN to learn more about the life that lead to prison.

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Guilty, No-Plead Guilty Anyway by Wayne T. Dowdy

I suspect that typical American citizens doubt someone faced with going to prison would plead guilty if not guilty.  It is a fact that some defendants do plead guilty to crimes they did not commit and then go into court and tell the judge they are guilty.  Why?

If the defendant does not dance to the agreed upon tune by professing guilt or otherwise throwing themselves at the mercy of the court, he or she will not receive the agreed upon deal made between the parties.  A criminal defendant may not even receive the expected sentence because the final decision falls upon the judge, who may or may not accept the plea agreement.

At the end of this post, I list the link to where anyone may go to read numerous responses from attorneys that verify men and women do walk into courtrooms and profess guilt to a crime they did not commit, as horrendous as that may seem.

https://www.quora.com/profile/Wayne-T-Dowdy?share=1
Revised Response to “Why do some lawyers settle for a plea bargain when they know their client is innocent?

I cannot say for certain that a lawyer would settle for a guilty plea if he or she knows their client is innocent, because I haven’t experienced it, but I do know that people will take a plea to protect loved ones from prosecution. That happens often! At least, many legal cases exist where people try to withdraw from a guilty plea because of such claims.

I have also known a few men who pled guilty for that reason: Most regretted it after living in prison for a while and then wanted out. Legal Beagles (inmate lawyers) sell pipe dreams to convince them to challenge what most often proves to be a hopeless case.

The law is complex and complicated. A person may read a statute or procedural rule that shows the defendant has available relief or at least an avenue for his or her case to be heard. Things are not as it appears.

The law has many standards and procedural rules that are hidden in thousands of cases and places a novice knows not where to look, and thus misleads another person into believing a claim exists that the courts dismiss.

Legal versus Factual Innocence: In my unprofessional opinion, as I am not an attorney, legal and factual innocence are not the same. In federal court, one may be legally innocent but still not be able to satisfy the legal standard needed to succeed if they file a Writ of Habeas Corpus; Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence, or the most difficult, a Second or Successive Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence. All three have narrow pathways to prison gates.

The difference in legal and actual innocence is that a person may be legally innocent if the government did not have enough evidence to prove every element of an offense. But if the person pled guilty during the plea stage, he or she admitted to guilt during what is known as the plea colloquy, which is where a judge asks the defendant a barrage of questions to determine if the plea is entered intelligently and voluntarily, before accepting the plea.

The plea may be entered based upon a lack of knowledge, and or, the lack of proper advisement by the lawyer, but that doesn’t always matter. Thus, comes many claims of ineffective assistance of counsel that fail when brought before the court. Some do succeed but most will fail because of what transpired during the plea colloquy. At least, so I have found to be true from thousands of hours spent researching the law.

Actual innocence means the person did not commit the crime, regardless of technicalities, and that no reasonable trier of fact would have found the defendant guilty.

Then after landing in prison that person who pled guilty regrets taking the plea; sometimes after finding themselves living in a concentrated environment of dangerous or psychotic men or women and wanting out.

When wanting to withdraw the plea and get back into court, he or she finds a jailhouse lawyer (legal beagle) who claims freedom is knocking on the door. A door that most often will not open until after the person has served the sentence imposed by the court, unless sentenced to life without parole as thousands of men and are, because withdrawing from guilty plea is difficult, even when claiming innocence.

Another opinion I’ve heard about charging officials who charge someone with a crime they did not commit, is that the charging official believes the criminal committed other crimes anyways, so it doesn’t matter how they got them off the streets. That happened to me.

INNOCENT BUT CHARGED: I was charged with possession of marijuana found in my mother’s house when I didn’t live there. My older brother (now deceased) did live there and did own the marijuana but was not charged.

Stanley had gone to school with the lead detective involved in the drug raid.  The detective said to Stanley, “I know that doesn’t belong to Wayne but he’s a psychopath and needs to be taken off the streets.”

(No factual basis existed to support his belief that I was a psychopath: I just wasn’t known to cooperate with law enforcement.)

NO DEAL: I didn’t plead guilty. The prosecutor offered three plea deals. After the third attempt, I told my lawyer, “Tell him I said to Kiss my Ass. I am not pleading guilty to a crime I didn’t commit.”

The case was dismissed, after I had set in jail for months without compensation. That’s the way things work because defendants are guilty until proven innocent. Otherwise, why are they punished with a jail cell until they go to court?

Even if able to post bail, that’s still punishment, because non-refundable fees come out of the defendant’s pocket, unless allowed to post a property bond that has its own legal complexities. Besides that, bail is not always a choice, so the person sits in jail until disposition. I am not bondable because I’ve escaped.

I have known men who claimed to have plead guilty because they got tired of sitting in jail, and because of being told they couldn’t win their case, guilty or not. Many claimed to be innocent of the crime and told their lawyers, who still said they’d be convicted and suggested they take the plea.

That’s how many of the legal versus actual innocence claims get brought into legal arena. Sitting in prison often makes one regret volunteering to be put there without a struggle.

[End Quote]

Many great answers by attorneys are posted in response to the above question.  Read them at https://www.quora.com/Why-do-some-lawyers-settle-for-a-plea-bargain-when-they-know-their-client-is-innocent?share=1

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Purchase the writings of Wayne T. Dowdy on the secured website, StraightFromthePen.com (https://www.straightfromthepen.com/) or from your favorite bookseller.

For best prices and free eBooks, go to his authors’ page on Smashwords.com (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy).

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prisoner entering prisons in America

Prison Life by Wayne T. Dowdy

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The following post originally appeared on Quora.com in response to the question, “How are new inmates treated when they first come to prison?”

In less than twenty-four hours the response has gotten 3.6k views and ten upvotes.
https://www.quora.com/How-are-new-inmates-treated-when-they-first-come-to-prison/answer/Wayne-T-Dowdy

Prison Life

Prison life has a lot of variables. The older cons often keep a new prisoner at a distance until they learn more about them, such as their criminal history and certain characteristics (e.g., depending on the old-timers, most want to know if they’re a rat, sex offender, coward, drug user, rich or poor).

If the new prisoner gets accepted, he will be looked out for and provided things people need walking in the door with nothing but a blanket roll (e.g., in the federal system: sheets, blanket, mini-care packet with a small packet of soap, deodorant, toothpaste, and a tooth brush).

Then there are those who will befriend a new prisoner to use and take advantage of, while others will truly befriend the new arrival by treating him the same way he wants to be treated.

Most new people are greeted by other prisoners, who will ask questions, with the main ones being, “Where you from?” “Who you run with?” or some variants, thereof, and if accepted, will provide the new prisoner with needed items, such as cosmetics, a few soups, maybe even a radio and headphones, if he has impeccable credentials for life inside prison.

If rejected or from the wrong area or gang, he’ll get run off the compound or carried off after suffering more physical abuse than he may deserve.

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Purchase the writings of Wayne T. Dowdy on the secured website, StraightFromthePen.com (https://www.straightfromthepen.com) or from your favorite bookseller.  For best prices and free eBooks periodically, go to his authors’ page on Smashwords.com (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy).

Atlanta’s Less Known Site

AUTHORS NOTE:  This post corrects an accidental post of misinformation in “Burning Bridges”:  https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/burning-bridges

I apologize for the inaccuracy reported in Burning Bridges, April 2017.  Wayne T. Dowdy.  The misinformation was that,Sherman spared the mansion because of the hospitality shown to him and his soldiers by Mr. Peters.

Please visit the original post of this blog at https://www.quora.com/profile/Wayne-Dowdy-2?share=1

Response to Quora.com question, “What are some lesser-known sights to see when visiting Atlanta, GA?”

One lesser known historical site is the Edward C. Peters House (Peters’ Mansion), located at 179 Ponce DeLeon Avenue, Atlanta, GA.

The house takes up a whole city block, other than a small corner on Myrtle Street and Ponce DeLeon.

A false tale once told claimed General Sherman showed mercy and spared the mansion from his torch because Mr. Peters showed Sherman and his soldiers some Southern hospitality. The problem with the tale is that the house did not get built until 1883, eighteen-years after the American Civil War ended. The mansion did escape the Great Atlanta Fire of 1917. Edward C. Peters House – Wikipedia

A lesser known fact is that that house was once where staff and residents of Chrysalis lived for a brief period. Chrysalis was an adolescent drug treatment program. Between 1972–73, I lived in the Mansion as one of the first five Chrysalis residents, who moved in and helped to restore the magnificent building. That took some work!

Then Dante’ (the owner of Down the Hatch in Underground Atlanta at the time), bought the house for 1.5 million dollars, I believe, and Chrysalis had to move its location.

Before the deadline for Chrysalis residents to move, I had walked out of the six-month program, two months before completion, a behavior that lead me to have a history with the historical site that follows this photo:

179 Ponce DeLeon Ave., Atlanta, GA
Edward C. Peter’s House

Others may want to see the United States Federal Penitentiary on McDonough Boulevard, where many infamous criminals lived and died. Why? Well, why do people watch historical presentations about old prisons? Curiosity, maybe?

U.S.P. Atlanta Federal Penitentiary
United States Federal Bureau of Prisons, Atlanta, Georgia

Many men died behind those walls. I learned to live while there between June 1, 1993 and October 31, 1996. On April 5, 1995, I changed my evil wicked ways and stopped using drugs and alcohol, which gave me a life worth living and made it possible for me to complete my 420-months sentence. And for that I am grateful.

Wayne T. Dowdy (https://www.straightfromthepen.com)