Moving slowly back into society, one day at a time. Nine months ago today, I walked out of federal prison after having served thirty-years and ten-days.
Today was a hot one that I was happy to enjoy as a free man, physically able to walk around, alone, without assistance, and without chains dangling from my wrists and ankles.
Before leaving a Twelve Step meeting today, I shared with a man I sponsor that, when I find myself disgruntled about my circumstances, I try to meditate on my favorite saying: “I complained of having no shoes until I met a man with no feet.” Then I become grateful for what I have and stop complaining about what I don’t have but want. I have all I need to survive, so Life Is Great!
Yesterday I roamed the streets of Atlanta, Georgia, on a hot and sunny day. The sun, heavy backpack, and the day’s events wore me down. I was exhausted by the time I returned to my place of residence, emotionally and physically drained, parts of my body sore from toting a heavy load. My mind on overload from keeping rational thoughts in the driving seat of actions.
I did not have a
wonderful day, per se, as I was denied financial aid by the Finance department
at Grady Memorial Hospital, because I couldn’t honestly provide a Fulton County address. I could have lied and got
what I wanted but I must live by certain principles if I am going to stay out
Irrational thought process: I snapped at one point when things weren’t working according to Wayne: “That’s why so many people go back to prison. They get tired of dealing with all the BS when having to deal with these kinds of places.”
The lady politely reminded me that I hadn’t been doing what I was told to do to obtain the approval. True. I’m guilty.
This is a short video clip from part of my day, and if you notice the expression on my face, it does not show being thrilled and happy to be here.
Damn the Torpedoes!
I lived to fight another day and will be okay. The medical conditions that I sought financial help for their treatments are not life threatening, today, so life is good. I am a survivor and will survive.
If I believe that everything happens for a reason and that things work the way they are supposed to, which I do, then I must accept that just because the world doesn’t work according to Wayne, does not mean that it is BAD.
What is GOOD or BAD is a matter of perception. For Me To Still Be Alive and Kicking … is Great!
[Note: this blog post contains a sensitive and possible offensive issue to some people. Click to read other of the many blogs on this site or click to go elsewhere if expecting political correctness. Thanks for stopping by to visit this website.]
Patrick Henry, Second Virginia Convention, March 23, 1775
“In March of 1775, the Second Virginia Convention met at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, to discuss the state’s strategy against the British. It was here that Patrick Henry delivered his most famous speech, ending with the quote, ‘Give me liberty, or give me death!’”
Patrick Henry referred to slavery in his famous speech to unite the movement of men, women, and children to stand and fight for independence from the British. When his peers debated whether to work out peaceful arrangements or to use force against the rule of Great Britian, Patrick Henry spoke words heard today:
“Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? … Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
The photo of Patrick Henry’s statue came from the Town Square of McDonough, Georgia. Fifty yards from where it stands, a memorialized Confederate Soldier stands tall amongst the trees, the McDonough Soldier.
American Civil War Confederate Memorial
The McDonough Soldier has a right to stand in the Town Square, as he is a part of History. Though he may represent an unpleasant part of history, it is history, and that statue represents the relative of someone who fought and died in America’s most gruesome war. He deserves to stand where others deemed appropriate many years ago.
Patrick Henry may have waved the Gadsden Flag during battle, another flag that some have claimed represented racism because the designer, Christopher Gadsden, was a slave trader and owner of slaves.
Personally, I don’t see the relevance of what the designer of the flag did, as making the flag representative of slavery or racism, no more than I see the Confederate Flag representing racism because racists use it in their rallies. (Read more on that topic in the excerpt to follow.)
If you want to know about racism, watch the news because race-related issues flood the news channels and flourishes in many cities today, all across the World; it’s not just an issue in America.
An Excerpt from Southern Pride-Waving the Confederate Flag.
CIVIL WAR: I raise the Confederate Flag in this blog to rebel against all of the politically correct BS in the news about issues surrounding Southern Heritage. Some politicians want to stop the celebration of the Confederate Memorial holiday, and to remove from state buildings and grounds: Confederate flags, monuments, statues of Confederate heroes, and other remnants of the American Civil War (1861-1865) because some people find those things offensive. I find it offensive when people lie about history to support their agenda, such lies as the main reason for the Civil War being slavery.
Was it slavery or was it the economic edge Southern plantation owners had over competitors in Cotton markets, due to the slave labor? Economics. Was slavery more of an ideology used by the Union to get the poor to fight their battles? If the Civil War was fought over slavery, wouldn’t President Lincoln have signed the Emancipation of Proclamation to free all slaves before the war began on April 12, 1861, instead of on January 1, 1863? Weren’t the slaves used by the president to fight off Confederate forces who had proved to be a more formidable force than expected by slaughtering his troops in numerous battles? Yes, is the most logical answer based upon the facts and history of the rich using the poor to fight their battles.
I find it offensive for politicians to use the Charleston Church Massacres that I wrote about in “Love and Evil Are Color-Blind,” as justification to remove evidence of the bloodiest and most gruesome war fought on American soil. The war where smaller bands of Southerners held their own against larger troops of Union Soldiers, until the advent of the repeating rifle, which tilted the war in favor of the Northern troops who had more food, guns, ammunition, and other supplies, because of the economic embargoes placed on the South. The North won the war but never defeated Southern Pride. The Confederate flag is a reminder of that, rather than slavery, as has been used to manipulate the masses to take down the flag.
Six-hundred thousand Confederate Soldiers fought against 2,213,363 Union Soldiers.* The southeastern states were the last to fall. When the war ended with the surrender of the last Confederate troop on May 26, 1865, there were 646,392 Union casualties, with 140,414 of those casualties being battle deaths, compared to the 133,821 Confederate casualties, 75,524 of which were battle deaths. After their imprisonment for their part in the war, another 26,000-31,000 Confederate personnel died in Union prisons. With my long history as a prisoner of such forces, I suspect that most of those died due to disease, lack of medical care, mistreatment, and overall poor living conditions.
REBELS WITH A CAUSE: Rebels, those Confederate Southern Soldiers were called, the proud label worn by those who refused to conform to ways established by a government not of their choosing. Rebels, a part of Southern history and Southern Pride for those who died fighting for a cause; not because of slavery or why the politicians decided to fight the Civil War. It was about fighting to keep what was theirs, fighting those damned Yankees who come down to take their land, who raped their women, murdered their children, and burned their homes in the name of Justice–the same as had been done to Native Americans by several Union troops.
Most Confederate soldiers who fought in the Civil War never owned a slave and most likely never knew why they had to go out and fight, other than to defend their land and heritage. Firing a gun, running through the woods, and working hard to survive came more natural to the Southern man who grew up hunting and fishing to survive, than it did to the Union troops. You can believe that when Union forces heard the rebel yell and saw those southern soldiers waving the Confederate Flag and charging like bulls, that it made adrenaline and cortisol levels soar, instilling fear in everyone’s heart before the battle began with a brutality not known to the men and boys who stood fighting for their lives. Early into battle, Union troops learned to retreat or die when overran by Confederates who fought with a passion to defend their land against the invaders.
Each day I devote, or at least attempt to devote, part of my time to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Quora.com. Most often I fail in two or three of those areas.
Most of my posts and online activities relate to prisoners, prison reform, and or criminal justice reform, as well as posting excerpts from the life and times of the infamous Wayne T. Dowdy. Sometimes I address other social issues to let my voice be heard.
I’m a returning citizen, who had never used a cellphone until August 28, 2018, and yet, now I am working at having four websites live before June 2019 arrives. I’m determined to make a difference in the lives of others by doing what I do.
I always want to write my blog posts for straightfromthepen.com and waynedowdy.weebly.com. I just run out of time each day and come up short. 😦
Oh, I forgot, working on revising and writing my books to learn the formatting process to help those caged behind walls, bars and fences and others be published, and as part of one of many planned business adventures.
The point in all the above is that I am a man with a mission who wants to make a difference and to let his voice be heard.
I often disagree with viewpoints expressed by others on penological and social issues. I want to believe that change is possible, and that society has became more humane since the Romans ruled the earth. The following debate is one such social issue I posted as an answer and then replied to on Quora.com:
believe that prison should be tougher for the inmates, since there are too many
luxuries awarded at the expense of taxpayers. Is being in prison as good as
people think it is or worse than people could imagine?
The people who believe that prison should be tougher for the inmates, since there are too many luxuries awarded at the expense of taxpayers, need to sign up for a prison stint to learn about FAKE NEWS. Prison life sucks!
Prisoners learn to tolerate and accept the conditions of prison
life, regardless of those conditions. Humans adapt to their environments.
Rehabilitation versus punishment has been on the table for decades. Better results come from providing programs to help people change their lives, as is evident by the passage of the First Step Act, which requires the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons to create and provide more evidence-based programs to reduce recidivism.
None of those programs will include having prisoners chained and tortured until they decide to repent and change their evil, wicked ways.
The punitive aspect of prison is removing the person from
society; inhumane treatment leads to psychological damage (being in prison
under decent living conditions may still lead to the development of psychiatric
Most prisoners return to society. Which is best: to have men and women confined in an environment that breeds more illness than it treats or cures, or to provide an environment where those men and women learn to change behaviors so that they exit the system in better shape than when they arrived?
An experimental prison program in Connecticut (Prison Reform Progress), which is modeled after those in Germany known to provide more humane living conditions, are showing positive results; meaning that perhaps America will change its failed criminal justice system so that men and women who go to prison will leave and not return, but I guarantee that would not happen if society reverted to the days of torturing and mistreating its prisoners.
Most people on the outside believe that
EVERY PERSON INCARCERATED should NEVER get out of prison and that is a fact
that is 99% true.
I’m sure a lot of that is true, which is of course, is based on
ignorance of the law and crimes that lead to prison. Stereotyping others also
If those who believe in such a way would attempt to investigate and were intelligent enough to comprehend the complexities of the United States criminal justice system, then they’d know how easy it is for someone to go to prison.
Everyone who goes to prison is not a serial
killer, rapist, murderer, robber, or child molester.
I met many men in prison who said, “I never
knew I could be put into prison for doing that.”
How could any rational legislature vote for a bill that would result in some men and women going to prison for 25-years-to-life for crimes as simple as shoplifting or stealing pizza?
If those people who feel everyone who goes to
prison should not be released knew of such laws, would they feel the same?
Then again, the Romans and many Rome citizens
thought it was okay to feed Christians to the Lions for entertainment, so … has
society digressed from what was learned through history about the evil nature
of some in power, to endorse such practices as keeping someone in a cage for
I hope not and know that most do not feel in
such a way, or else the legislatures would not be voting different these days.
Even though you make some good points I stand by my post. Watch any YT video about trials and read the comments of the ignorant and ill-informed if you doubt my thoughts. People get charged with offences such as you mentioned and then get acquitted, but it doesn’t matter in the court of public opinion. You are charged – you MUST be guilty. Lock ’em up and throw away the key. Another “win” for the prosecution!!
YouTube and television programs
only represent a small portion of the population. The editors of the program
controls content to express their views on the issues, or to be what needs said
or shown to get higher ratings.
Even politicians fall victim to
the Editor’s Choice, when the politician says many things during an interview
that the editor cuts to shape into the program’s viewpoint.
I knew several people in prison
who felt the same way as what you state, but they were the same ones who, for a
lighter sentence, helped the government put other people in prison.
As I wrote, a lot of the public opinion is based on ignorance. Most continue to sit in front of a television and watch programs designed to increase viewership through sensationalism, ignorant of what is the truth. Ignorance exists because of a lack of information. 🙂
Google Search Result Deemed Delay in Posting Blog and Justified Revision
Before I posted this blog, I checked to see where the photo image might show up, since I had used it a few years ago in a profile, and on the waynedowdy.weebly.com website, as well as on Facebook.
I never knew me and Bond, James Bond, looked similar, but Google Search apparently thinks we do. 🙂 You Go, Google!
Ironically, during the period of this photo, I thought of becoming a model and went to an interveiw with the PIZZAZZ Modelling Agency, who was advertising its search for models.
The agent gave me a contract to review, sign, and return with my portfolio. I chose to do cocaine instead of signing the contract to pursue a career in acting, modelling for catalogs, and commercials, by rationalizing that, “They just want to get in my pants, anyway.” Sick!
Who’s that dude wearing my three-piece suit? He looks like he thinks he’s on top of the world, standing up there at that podium with the pretty lady beside him, giving his speech before 500-plus at the Hilton Hotel in the Big City of Atlanta, Georgia. A Big Shot!
The World of Work program trained him and the other participants to be entrepreneurs, how to succeed in the business world, and how to perform during job interviews.
Though he was a convicted felon, he landed his first job at one of the Top 100 Atlanta companies; within two-years, he received seven promotions, and increased his salary by fifty-percent.
During that infamous speech at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Atlanta, he was the last of the graduates to give a presentation.
He spoke a few moments to express gratitude for being allowed to take part in the World of Work program, then concluded by saying,
“Nine out of ten released prisoners go back to prison.”
The audience stilled. His words captured their attention.
He paused and then said, “I am the one who won’t!”
The audience erupted with cheers and a standing ovation. Pride engulfed his demeanor and spirit, as he returned to his seat on the stage for the closing of the graduation ceremony.
He lied! Not knowingly at the time he made the statement, but he did because he became one of the nine instead of the one to not become a recidivist.
Recidivism: a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; repeated relapse into criminal or delinquent habits. Recidivism: a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; repeated relapse into criminal or delinquent habits.
This may not be the typical answer in response to the question, but it does relate, and it’s my story so I’m posting in on here and as a blog on one of my websites:
After leaving the halfway house for my first adventure into the free society, three decades later, on a timed-pass for my first trip to downtown Atlanta, I paid $2.50 to ride the bus to the train station (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority).
I was shocked having to pay $2.50 for the bus fare that used to be much less.
The bus arrived at the train station. To enter the train terminal, I attempted to go through a turnstile that wouldn’t open. I looked at a MARTA employee and said, “It won’t work.”
“You need to buy a Breeze card,” she said.
“I gotta pay to get in here?”
She nodded. I turned took a few steps and glanced around the terminal. I didn’t see a store or anywhere to buy it from, so I said, “Where at?”
She pointed to an area where I saw several machines embedded in a wall of the terminal. I stood and gazed at one of the machines and tried to figure out how to use it: Too many buttons and features for a mind that had been exempt from using most technological-creations for the last thirty years!
For a few moments I continued to stand and stare at the machine, stressed out and overwhelmed because I couldn’t figure out how to operate it (My stress level had more to do with that than the actual technology involved).
I was in a rush because I didn’t want to be late. I had to call in to the halfway house every time I arrived at an approved destination, or risked being put on escape status and being sent back to prison.
I didn’t have time to figure out how to use the Breeze Card Machine, so I looked for help. I saw a man who worked for MARTA and walked up to him and pointed at the machines and then asked, “Do you know how to operate those?”
“Sure,” he said and began walking toward them with me.
“I’ve been in prison for thirty years and need help.”
Moments later, I was on my way to board the train and before the day was over, a woman at another downtown MARTA train station asked me if I knew how to operate the machine so she could buy train fare.
“Sure,” I said and then shared the wealth and we were on our way to our separate designations.
I’ve adapted well to most technology, as is evident by me having several websites now and my using the cellphones I had never used until August 28, 2018, but that darn Breeze Card Machine was just too much for me to comprehend when feeling like a caveman running around in modern society.
Update: I appreciate each response to this answer, all of the upvotes, thousands of views, and a request for permission to translate.
The word “Gratitude” doesn’t express the magnitude of my emotions attached to this experience.
For those who visited my listed website (straightfromthepen.com) and viewed some of my post, most of which were done before my release, please know my publisher created the blog for me, because I had never been online until I went to the halfway house on August 28, 2018.
Wayne T. Dowdy writes with a unique voice. He writes to entertain his many readers. a writer of many genres, including technical, legal, fiction and non-fiction, but regardless of what he writes, writes with the hope that readers find meaningful content.He writes to make people think, feel and dream. Thanks for reading his writings, many of which have appeared in literary journals and magazines as diverse as THE SUN, THE ICONOCLAST, CONFRONTATION and the SAVAGE KICK.
Updated June 21, 2020: I wrote this essay to show why state and federal governments should focus on providing prisoners with resources needed for treating conditions that lead to prison-the root cause behind their imprisonment. I use my past to show the cost of not doing so: The cost of recidivism is greater than a dollar value, but people understand finances/money. I prove where I’ve cost taxpayers over a million dollars. I’m just one man: One man who hopes to be a catalyst for change.
I don’t look for sympathy. I made the choices that put me in federal prison for thirty-five years, without parole. I’m sure most people couldn’t care less about the life of any prisoner until they become the victim of one who escapes or gets out. To reduce crime rates and the national deficit, some would prefer to behead those who ran afoul of the law, rather than to pay the cost of incarceration. Punish the bastard! Feed ‘em to the lions! they chant. Sadly, such people as those haven’t considered that most prisoners were once normal citizens who made poor choices. Many prisoners are people with addiction problems, and according to a 2002 study, many have an underlying mental disorder. Punishing them hasn’t yielded favorable results. Perhaps treating conditions leading to prison would reduce recidivism by returning the prisoner to society as a productive member. However, if prison growth rates declined, those depending on prisons for financial security would feel threatened. Prisons are cash cows to many: investors in private prison industries, companies providing goods and services to them, prison employees and their powerful unions. My concern is the cost to humans by not reducing recidivism: recidivism often has terrifying results.
I’m a recidivist in prison for driving a second getaway vehicle in an armed bank robbery; never accused of wielding a gun, or of kidnapping anyone. My conviction is based on conspiracy laws. I’m responsible because another recidivist (co-conspirator) took a car from a woman at a cemetery, which wasn’t something planned, and is something I wish hadn’t happened. During trial, I learned he had led her into the woods and fondled her. He would’ve probably raped her had I not blown the horn and threatened to leave with another recidivist. He left her taped to a tree. He was supposed to have his girlfriend contact the cops and say where he left her. He didn’t. Fortunately, she freed herself and found help.
If someone did to a family member of mine, what he did to her, I am not so sure that I wouldn’t seek vigilante justice, shoot ‘em going to court or even in the courtroom. It would be difficult for me to step to the side and let Lady Justice have her way, because she may be kinder than what I would feel such a malevolent person deserved. Maybe I could withstand the temptation of playing Judge, Jury, and God, but I honestly don’t know. I would like to think that I could avoid behaving that way, because acting so bizarre would make me just as evil as the person I would want to execute for harming my loved one. Anyway, I hope the lady has since been able to forgive us, but not for our sake, for hers. Why? Because someone once wrote that harboring resentment is the same as drinking a poison and expecting it to kill the other person. I don’t want her suffering like that: she never did anything wrong to me. Many times, I have wanted to contact her to make amends but was advised by a psychologist that it probably wasn’t a good idea: I would be opening an old wound. Even though I did not physically harm her, and in a sense, protected her from further harm, that does not relieve me of responsibility for what happened to her. What happened to her was very wrong. I regret not stopping it from happening, or to have at least made sure the authorities were notified to free her from where she was falsely imprisoned.
This is the first time I have ever written about that aspect of the crime.
In another published essay, The Price of Change, I wrote about the hate and rage I felt toward Codefendant Two for testifying against me; my defiant demeanor during trial and sentencing; previous legal issues indicating my insanity, though no court has ever found me to be insane or incompetent to stand trial; but not about any of the victims. And, it wasn’t because I didn’t think about the criminal behavior and its effect on the victims. I did. I am ashamed of what happened. Emotionally I dealt with those feeling many years ago. It is the event that led to those feelings that is a chapter of my life I wish to close. Only a few know the truth about that day in 1988.
Codefendant One wanted to put bullets in Codefendant Two’s brain after the robbery so he couldn’t tell on us. I convinced him not to do it by saying, “He’s not going to say anything because he knows I will kill him or have him killed if I can’t get to him.” (Both ended up telling.) Seven years after our conviction, I had a partner in the same prison with Codefendant Two. My partner sent word through the grapevine asking what I wanted done. I responded, “Tell him to send me an affidavit admitting he lied for the government.” Later, Codefendant Two contacted someone to let me know he would say what I wanted. I thought about it and aborted the mission, because I figured if he lied for them one time, he’d do it again. Before my friend contacted me, I had started seeing a psychologist. This is the reason I asked for help.
For several years I had devoted most of my energy toward getting high. I was on the edge of insanity; a dangerous place; a place I hated. Massive shots of cocaine stopped working; all it did was put me near cardiac arrest without the desired euphoria, and yet, I kept doing it. The Bureau of Prisons has a Special Investigative Security team (S.I.S.), who had searched my cell while I was at work.
In the chow hall, Joe blurted out from a neighboring table, “I heard you saw S.I.S.”
I stood and snapped at him. “I will kill you, mother fucker, if you ever say something like that again.”
Then I grabbed my half-eaten-tray of baked chicken, put it in the Tray Room window, and stormed out of the chow hall. I thought he had insinuated that I was a rat. With me serving 35-years because I wouldn’t cooperate that is something, I find offensive. To me, it’s nothing to joke about, even amongst friends, because, though we may be joking, a bystander overhearing the conversation may not know that. In the prisons I’ve been in, if someone calls you a rat, child molester, or fagot, others assume it’s true if you don’t defend yourself, which can lead to big trouble.
Shortly thereafter, I sat on the extended table of the sewing machine I worked on, replaying the event and feeling something wasn’t quite right about the way I had reacted. Me and Joe had been friends for years. He had never said anything out of the way to me; always treated me with respect, kindness. Three minutes later, he walked toward me with his hand out. “Wayne, I’m sorry, man. I didn’t mean to offend you. Billy had just told me that S.I.S. had been in yours and Billy’s cell all morning,” he said.
“I know. I’m sorry, Joe. I came back and thought it over and know I took it wrong,” I said. We talked a little more and when he went to his area, I went to ask my supervisor to call the Psychology department to get me an appointment to see someone, because I felt I needed to be put back on medication. Throughout the years I had taken various psychotropic medications for brief periods, especially after landing in jail for some crime spree. My mind and central nervous system would be so sizzled that I had to have something to help me get sleep and regain control of my thought process. I was terrible about pointing pistols at people because I thought they intended to rob me. Fortunately, on this rare occasion, I was able to recognize that I was “out there” and sought help before doing something stupid. Historically, I screwed up first, and then sought help.
Today I feel fortunate and grateful that I reached out and received help beginning in 1993. Very few prisoners receive the much-needed psychiatric care because of the small number or psychiatrist and mental health professionals employed or utilized by prison administrations. At the time I was at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, which had an internship program for aspiring psychologist. For over a year I saw a psychologist but continued getting high on drugs and alcohol, even though I had often tried to quit. I finally succeeded on April 5, 1995. Thus far, that was my last day of using a mind-altering substance; something else I am grateful about. Now I will have a chance to succeed in life when released in 2019.
After being in prison over thirty-years by then, providing I out-live this sentence and walk out the door, rather than be carried out on a gurney, I’ll experience “Culture Shock” (feel like an alien for a while, out of place).1/
I’ll need help with acclimation. I’ve been in prison so long that the Internet and cell phones are foreign to me. I looked in a magazine at a Droid cellphone and tried to figure out how one would use it to call anyone, since all I saw was a keyboard and display screen. Many things about modern day society I don’t understand. Intellectually I do, but that’s different from experiencing a missed call because the cell phone lost its signal. I envision such a crafty device as a phone you tote as working anytime you decide to use it. (Removal from society has weird effects on intellect.)
From a different perspective, with a phone on you at all times, one can’t escape the pestering ring without turning it off or leaving it behind. I understand agitation. Being unable to reach my son after repeated attempts lead me to envision, a “Cell Phone Zapper.” The one calling could fry the circuits of the other person’s phone with a zap to teach them a lesson about not answering the tenth call of the last hour. Oh, what a cruel and insensitive thought. Something tells me I’m not alone in thinking about devious devices during moments of extreme frustration. Then again, some people probably don’t want to miss a call. Not even during sex, which I somewhat understand, since I am guilty of surrendering to the aggravating sound to eliminate it and return to action.
This is one way my last prison sentence affected me. I was released from the Georgia prison system to a halfway house in the Spring of 1985. For seven years I’d worn loose-fitting, white button-down shirts with a centered blue stripe, and white baggy trousers with a blue stripe down the outside of each leg. My sister brought me some clothes. After putting on straight-legged blue jeans and a pullover shirt, I stood sweating as I looked at myself in a full-length mirror. I asked a roommate, “Is this how people look out here now?”
“You look fine to me,” he said. “Like anyone else out here running the streets.”
That is partly what I mean by Culture Shock. The style of pants people wore before prison in 1978, were bell bottoms and flare legs. The shirt I put on was red with horizontal thin white stripes and snug-fitting sleeves. The Levi’s were like any other pair of blues jeans. The difference was in having clothes that were colored and that fit tightly. I realized at that point how much things in Atlanta had changed while I had been in prison. Change in prison is slow and gradual, whereas, in society, everything changes at the speed of the latest computer chip. Stepping out of prison after having served a long sentence is the same as if you step into the rapids of a river and try to stand still. The current pulls you under as you wonder what is going on. The current is the change.
Other things had changed, too, including women. When I toured the city, I noticed that some buildings had been replaced; some street names had changed, other streets rerouted. Before prison, MARTA had just begun cutting paths through the city for the Rapid Rail System. After prison, trains were running across the city. The physical structure of Atlanta was not all that had changed. So had the attitudes of many women. I used to have to be the one to make an advance to get laid or to initiate a relationship. After prison, several women made advances toward me; some successfully seduced me, some scared me.
While in prison I had heard about the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), spread through sexual contact and intravenous drug use, both putting me in the high-risk category because I had been a whore and a dope fiend for years. I didn’t want to increase my chance of acquiring AIDS with sexually promiscuous behavior, so, I was selective about who I jumped in bed with. Quitting drugs was out of the question. When a woman approached me, I irrationally wondered if she acted the same with everyone, thus increasing the risk of exposure to it. Of course, I would give in and take chances occasionally, scared or not. My desire to have sex overpowered my fear of AIDS. As it turned out, most women I wanted didn’t want me, and vice versa. Perhaps the ones who rejected me did so for the same reason I rejected others. The old cliché rang true again: What goes around comes around. Maybe I wouldn’t be so picky if released this time, since I am later in years and would not be considered the prize catch, I was back when I was a young stud.
You may wonder what lead to my criminal behaviors. I don’t know. I have my suspicions, but that’s all I have. I have wondered about that one for most of my life. I can’t blame it on anything. Not that I didn’t deserve them, but I did receive numerous beatings from my mother when I was a child, and know I felt deprived, like life owed me, but realistically, I was deviant and disobedient from the start. I rebelled against parental authority and anyone telling me what to do; grudgingly doing what I could not avoid, intentionally screwing up whatever I was made to do. My mother said when I was a tot, if she put something on my highchair tray, I didn’t want, that I would throw it or push it over the edge. The older I became the more defiant I became.
When I was fourteen-years-old, I was 5’ 10” and weighed 146 lbs., and on this occasion, in juvenile for a drug charge, I believe (that was years ago). We were supposed to get up every morning and make our beds. One morning I laid in bed until the guard came in yelling.
“Get up and make that bed,” he said.
I laid still.
“I said get up and make that bed.”
I laid there and heard him stomping across the floor. My heart pounded with fear, but my defiant demeanor would not allow me to give in and follow his order.
“I said to get up,” he grabbed my ass, “out of that bed.”
“You’d better get your goddamn hand off my ass,” I snarled.
He let go of my cheek and growled once again for me to get up and make my bed. Clayton County Juvenile only had four cells for boys (two eight-kid-cells, and two four-kid-cells). I slept in a four-kid-cell, which had two steel bunk beds. Me and a friend were the only two in there, but I slept on the top bunk anyway. I jumped down from the bed and walked to the Day Room where we watched television or played pool. During the day we had to be in the Day Room after cleaning our cells and making our beds. I sat on the pool table, another prohibited act, with arms crossed, stewing hate and rage.
He screamed his order again. “I told you to make that bed. Get off that pool table and go do it, now.”
He was one known to physically abuse the children in there; just a mean and nasty, hog-jawed, gray-haired, old man with a stooped walk and a bad disposition. I never liked or respected him. I was an ill tempered, blonde-haired, blue-eyed-devil with a bad disposition.
I slid off the pool table and walked into the first eight-kid-cell. He followed behind, screaming. I stopped and turned to face him.
“I said for you to get back there and make up that bed,” he said as he reached for my long hair.
I socked him in the face at about the same time he grabbed my hair, trying to force my head down. I grabbed him by the legs, lifted him off the ground and slammed his back against a bunk bed, and started pounding him wherever I could connect until my friend pulled me off. The guard looked as if he were about to have a heart attack. Other than the loss of some hair and some bruised knuckles, I had fared well. Afterward, my face was probably redder than a ripened beet; my eyes shooting sparks sharpened by rage, but I was okay. I had taught him a lesson about messing with me, the crazy white kid with a bad attitude.
My punishment: solitary confinement in the four-kid-cell for a month; no smoking (we could smoke with parental permission, which I had), and a restricted diet (half rations). None of it mattered to me. The other staff did not even enforce most sanctions: some brought me extra cigarettes and food when the one I assaulted wasn’t there to snitch. Because he mistreated us, the other staff didn’t care for him; most did like me because I treated them with respect. I enjoyed working and volunteered to sweep, mop, and empty trash cans, so I could sneak cigarettes and cigarette butts back to the cell. On visitation day people would leave cigarettes hidden in places for me to pick up.
The other children respected me for defying authority. My friend looked out for me by doing things like sliding books or matches under the door. I would have been put in isolation if my parents hadn’t caused trouble when I had spent two weeks in it for beating up another kid, and if I had been put there, no other kids could have gotten near me.
The isolation cell was on the opposite end of the building. It was the equivalent of a refrigerated mop closet with a steel slat for a bed, speckled with drilled drainage holes; no mattress, sink, toilet; nothing other than the steel slat and a noisy speaker in the ceiling that disturbed me with its static. I fixed it. The fight had happened near noon. When fed something like meat loaf, potatoes and gravy that evening, I used my stainless-steel spoon (an item from days gone by) to take out the speaker cover screws. I promptly poked holes in the speaker, disconnected its wires, and reattached the cover. No more bothersome static when trying to sleep inside a refrigerator.
As I mentioned, there was no toilet in the modified mop closet. I kicked and beat on the door; screamed and yelled for someone to come let me out to urinate. No one came. I could hear them banging pots and pans in the kitchen area, so I knew they had to have heard me. The more I kicked and screamed the angrier I became. I hate being ignored. The door had a lower section with thick steel slats, which I peed through, since no one came to let me out to do it in a toilet. Sometime thereafter, the guard came by whom I wrote about assaulting. He wasn’t happy with the golden puddle on the floor.
The following morning, I was fed five-saltine crackers with a cup of hot water.
When my parents learned about the mistreatment, my mother filed a complaint and testified before the grand jury on my behalf. The Grand Jury ordered that the Juvenile officials not put any child in there for more than four hours and only then if they were a harm to themselves or others, which explains why I didn’t go there for more abuse after assaulting the prick who thought it was funny to feed me saltine crackers and hot water. I thought it was funny when I returned bigger and stronger and kicked his ass. He stayed away from me after that. Like most predators, he prayed on those he viewed as weaker.
Maybe it was those types of incidents that lead me to becoming as violent as I became. Not that I ever became a psychopath who tortured and mutilated people, because I didn’t, but I wasn’t nice when I demanded something that wasn’t given to me. I never hesitated about resorting to violence to get what I couldn’t get with charm. Sex was a different matter. I didn’t have to resort to taking it, though, I probably am guilty of using coercion. I usually just dealt with the rejection when told NO by someone I was interested in, although dealing with it did make me want to get high to forget about it, which still isn’t rational behavior. I used to blame my actions on drug and alcohol abuse, until I realized I was screwed up before I started getting high. Drug and alcohol abuse did exacerbate my condition, whatever the condition may have been, but, the drugs and alcohol were not the issue; only a symptom of more in-depth problems.
Perhaps the mystery condition formed because I grew up across the street from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, enraged by the constant noise generated by jets flying so low that their thrust made tall oak trees bow. Perhaps I had deep-rooted psychological issues and needed professional help my family couldn’t afford. My parents did carry me to the Clayton County Mental Health Center when I was eight-years-old because of my unusual behaviors (stealing, isolating myself by hiding, being destructive, fighting with my brothers, etc.). The psychiatrist said I suffered from sibling rivalry: that must be something really bad, since I have been locked up for most of my life, and, keeping me locked up has cost near a million dollars with the cost of incarceration estimated between $20,000-$32,000 per year. No wonder the United States is broke! Perhaps the psychiatrist misdiagnosed me. (In 2004 I angered a psychiatrist who then diagnosed me as having an anti-social, personality disorder.)
In December of 2002, USA TODAY published an article “Study: treat addicts’ mental illness,” by Marilyn Elias, 12/02/02, USA TODAY newspaper. According to Charles Curie of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about one third of drug and alcohol abusers have an underlying mental disorder. In a Pennsylvania state prison study around the same time, researchers determined that 85% of Pennsylvania prisoners had addiction problems, with half of them (42.5%) having an underlying mental disorder. Mr. Curie stated in the same article, “That’s typical of prison systems nationally. And we know if these inmates recover from the disorders, they’re unlikely to repeat crimes.” Think about that statement: “inmates …, unlikely to repeat crimes.”
Those were high numbers to ignore for those wanting to reduce recidivism, considering that reducing it would decrease state and federal deficits. Of what should be of greater significance to policy makers is helping other human beings to become productive members of society. With it being 2019, over a decade and a half has passed since those numbers were released: extraordinarily little is done to treat federal prisoners with co-occurring (dual) disorders. And given the difference between state and federal finances, I doubt if states have done much, either (some progress has been made since I wrote that). The Federal Bureau of Prisons still only has one facility for treating those with dual disorders, located in Lexington, Kentucky. As I’ve written, I am one of the fortunate ones who received treatment for both disorders while in prison, long before the authors released the study.
My success verifies the study findings. I have been a model prisoner for several years, who behaves in a constructive manner. I help others learn how to succeed as law-abiding citizens upon release by practicing Twelve Step principles in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. If released, I would be a productive member of society by applying what I have learned in prison. Usually the opposite occurs: applying what we learn in prison causes us to return by listening to novel ways to commit new crimes and trying them out upon release. Gullible prisoners fail to realize that someone in prison who was caught for committing crimes doesn’t have impressive credentials. Another factor that increases recidivism is learning to live by prison codes to survive in prison, and then attempting to live by those same codes in society, which does not work because many such codes encourage illegal behaviors.
Recidivism: a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; repeated relapse into criminal or delinquent habits.
Studies on recidivism shown in 1997, that 67.5 percent of prisoners released three years earlier were re-arrested, amounting in a five percent increase from those released in 1983. The re-arrest rate for drug offenders rose from 50.4 percent in 1993 to 66.7 percent in 1994, and now those numbers have grown to 76.9 percent.
In April 2014, the United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Statistics, released another study: NCJ244205. “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010,” by Matthew R. Durose, Alexia D. Cooper, Ph.D., and Howard N. Snyder, PhD, BJS Statisticians. 2/
The study expanded to include statistics for a five-year period, compared to the typical three-year studies. The five-year study showed that 67.8 percent of prisoners released had been arrested for a “new crime” within three years of release, and 76.6 percent within five years.
Due to all the political drama concerning new plans designed to reduce prison populations, which excludes violent offenders, what I find astonishing is not the staggering numbers on recidivism, but that the highest percentage of those arrested again were not violent offenders. The statistics do not support the violent offender exclusions. These are the latest numbers:
82.1 percent were property offenders (burglary (81.8%), larceny/motor vehicle theft (84.1%), fraud/forgery (77.0%), other (83.6%));
76.9 percent were drug offenders (possession (78.3%), trafficking (75.4%), other (78.1%)).
73.6% were public order offenders (weapons (79.5%), driving under the influence (59.9%), other (77.9%)).
Ironically, violent crimes made up a terribly high-low of 71.3% for re-offenders (homicide (51.2%), murder (47.9%), non-negligent manslaughter (55.7%), negligent manslaughter (53.0%), rape/sexual assault (60.1%), robbery (77.0%), assault (77.1%), other (70.4%)).
Not so favorable for me, statistically, is that the second highest recidivism rates for violent crime types, were for robbery (the category armed bank robbery would fall within). Favorable for me, is that the lowest recidivism rates for those released in the age-related category, were “40 and older,” of which I will be when released. However, those numbers do not concern me because I know I fall within the minority category of prisoners who received treatment for the underlying cause of what lead to prison: drug addiction and mental illness. Had all of those released prisoners who had dual disorders been treated for such issues (an estimated 42.5% of well over 2,000,000 prisoners), those numbers would not be so staggering.
Let us assume that what Mr. Curie said is true (“[W]e know if these inmates recover from the disorders, they’re unlikely to repeat crimes”). Hypothetically, if ten percent of those released inmates had received treatment for dual disorders, which resulted in them not committing more crimes, then the money saved by the criminal justice system would amount to lots of dollars. Those savings could be applied to cover the cost of revamping correctional systems with additional psychiatrists, psychologists, and addiction specialists needed to help solve part of a major problem in this nation: Mass Incarceration.
Ponder that concept! People going to prison and being helped to become productive members of society when released, due to treatment received for the problems that lead them to prison, rather than them becoming another tax liability when they commit more crimes and ultimately return to prison or die.
In considering the number of prisoners in the United States, using 2,000,000 as a base figure, and $25,000.00 as the cost of incarceration to accommodate for the lower cost of housing healthier prisoners in state and privately owned prisons, if 85% of the 2,000,000 prisoners have an addiction problem, that is 1.7 million prisoners. If 42.5% of that 1.7 million have an underlying mental disorder, then that would be 722,500 prisoners who suffer from an addiction problem and an underlying mental disorder. If twenty percent of that 722,500 asked for and received treatment, that would be 144,500 people who were treated and would be “unlikely to repeat crimes.” If Mr. Curie is correct, and I believe he is, the following numbers that I use would be much higher and would amount to more savings for taxpayers (additional funds to apply toward associated cost for providing treatment).
Again, using a modest $25,000.00 as the annual cost of incarceration, if ONLY ten percent (72,500) of the 722,500 of prisoners with dual disorders were treated, released, and did not commit other crimes; taxpayers would save $1,806,250,000.00, each year. And that doesn’t include all the money saved from not having to pay for re-arrest, jail time, and prosecution of recidivists, or any other hidden costs of incarceration. The money saved would pay for thousands of psychiatrists, psychologists, and drug treatment specialists. As a bonus, hiring treatment personnel would reduce unemployment figures. Nor do the numbers put a dollar value on citizens spared the expense of becoming a victim of the recidivists.
If ten percent (14,450) of the twenty percent (144,500) suffering from dual disorders, completed treatment and stayed out of prison, that would be $361,250,000.00 saved annually. If that same twenty percent (144,500) stayed clean after release, that would be $3,612,250,000.00 saved. That does not factor in prisoners, without an underlying mental disorder, who would seek help if more help was available. State and federal deficits would decline quickly. More importantly, thousands of citizens would not fall victim to those released from prison in worse shape than when they arrived; another recidivist or death statistic in the making. Nor do those figures factor in the decreased need of hiring more law enforcement personnel; not having to pay for more buildings and equipment and resources, including not having to build more prisons to warehouse the prisoners. As another added benefit to those who do not invest in the prison growth rate and deter legislatures from passing laws to reduce it, such as the private prison industries, crime rates would drastically fall in proportion to the decrease in recidivism, since most recidivist commit multiple crimes before being arrested again.
I am just one of the vast numbers of people in U.S. prisons. In 2014, I think the count is now close to 2.2 million prisoners in the United States; as of June 2014, almost 217,000 of those are federal prisoners. That number exceeded 219,000 last year, counting those sentenced and held in jails, halfway houses, etc. The Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced earlier this year that the average cost of incarceration is almost $30,000.00 per year. The ill and aging prison population cost much more than that.
Residual Cost of Crime: On this one crime spree and resulting conviction, the State of Georgia, local law enforcement, and the federal government, spent far more than a million dollars on me when you consider related-factors(cost of law enforcement solving crimes, manhunts leading to arrest of me and my codefendants; judicial cost for jury trial, appellate process, post conviction relief efforts, cost of incarceration).
It didn’t have to be that way. Not to mention the harm my actions caused the victims; effects that cannot be priced or measured, there would not have been any victims in 1988 if I had been accurately diagnosed and treated as a juvenile and young adult. (The fields of Psychiatry and Psychology were not as advanced then as they are now, so I do not fault the system for failing to discover my embedded issues; especially, since I was unable to open up and be intimate with professionals to allow them to help me, before I got on the road to recovery at U.S.P. Atlanta).
As my penance to society, I plan to fight to change the beast from within, “Straight from the Pen.” In 2005, I reached out through social media outlets and sought assistance to start a website with changing the system as the objective, but no one accepted the challenge (and still hasn’t to this day, June 21, 2020). I have not given up on the idea.
1/ I was released from prison on August 18, 2018. I am fighting now for Criminal Justice and Prison Reform.
2/ A 9-Year Follow-up Study showed recidivism rates were over 83% between 2005-14. The federal cost of incarceration is over $36,225 per year.