Information concerning the coronavirus fills the media all throughout the day and night so I won’t waste words explaining what it is or what it does. To learn more about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and what you can do to prevent contracting it, please visit the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which contains volumes of information on COVID-19 and its status in America and abroad. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html
Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Prisons
Many Prison administrators across America have taken action to avoid the spread of the coronavirus inside the prisons, and for good reason: it kills and most prison systems do not have the best medical care available. The effect of the virus in such a closed environment would be devastating to staff and inmates (prisoners).
Though I did not at first find any message posted on the national website (www.bop.gov), I discovered what I knew by clicking on the links for various institutions spread across America: the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons suspended visitation privileges for its inmate population. (The link to the federal bureau of prisons contains the plan for dealing with COVID-19.) https://www.bop.gov/resources/news/20200313_covid-19.jsp
Other sources reported that the administration is taking other precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus inside the prison system, such as restricting the access of other individuals into the living units and theoretically, checking staff members for symptoms of the virus who come into the prisons.
Some prisons are on Lockdown Status, which means that prisoners are confined to their cells or immediate living areas. One institution is feeding its inmates cellblock-by-cellblock, and then supposedly sanitizing the food service area before allowing another cellblock to enter, in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If a prisoner in one cellblock has the virus, then the virus cannot spread to another living area via the dining hall; however, that is only if the dining areas are actually being sanitized and no worker carries the virus.
Prisons often have policies and procedures on paper that are not adhered to in practice.
All prisons do not have cellblocks and use dormitory-types of living quarters to house its prisoners and that would make controlling an outbreak of COVID-19 more troublesome.
The above ends this blog post in relation to prison, per se. The following comes from my experience and strictly based on my unprofessional opinion.
I walked through the grocery aisles of a Walmart in McDonough, Georgia on March 14, 2020, and was surprised to see so many shelves emptied, even though I had viewed another person’s post on FaceBook that showed the same in another grocery department. Panic in America, I thought.
Not that the Coronavirus isn’t serious and the threat of contracting the virus should be ignored: It is real and kills people. Everyone should take precautions to avoid contracting it, if at all possible.
After corresponding with a friend about going out into society in light of the coronavirus-threat, I mentioned a home remedy I knew worked to help eradicate viruses from the throat. Then I decided to do a post on Facebook to share the information with others with the hope of it helping someone to avoid coming down with the coronavirus or other respiratory illnesses.
This roots from that Facebook post and also contains religious beliefs/views. If you find that offensive, please don’t read any further. Thanks for reading my writings.
(This is not intended to be taken as medical advice: I am not a doctor or health professional. I am an opinionated writer and blogger.)
Based upon all I’ve read on the coronavirus, it is my opinion and nothing more, that I don’t believe everyone should hide in a cave and hope the threat goes away. Use common sense.
I do take the same precautionary measures as I do to avoid or minimize the effects of the flu, common cold, or any other health issue due to the spread of germs (wash my hands after contact with surfaces or possible contaminants before touching my nose, eyes or mouth with unclean hands; take extra vitamin C to keep my immune system strong).
Of most importance, at the first sign of a sore throat, since the coronavirus supposedly starts in our sinuses or mouths to migrate into the lungs through our throats, then I’d do what I KNOW kills any virus in the throat by creating an environment too hostile for the bugs to survive due to acidity:
Gargle with one teaspoonful of lemon juice in a cup of water as hot as you can stand it, two to three times per day to kill the virus before it multiplies and migrates into the lungs.
I learned about that home remedy from a Reader’s Digest book on Home Remedies that Work, and doing as suggested has proven effective EVERY TIME I used it at the onset of throat irritation. The same is true for many others who used that remedy after I shared it with them.
For me on a personal level, I believe that if it is meant for me to contract an illness or to experience an accident or misfortune, then that is in the will of my higher power, whom I chose to call God, and that it will happen regardless of what I do or do not do.
If something like that is not in His will, no need for me to worry. I KNOW and faithfully believe that God has my back and has for a whole lot of years. If not, I’d have died decades ago: I survived many incidents without serious damage that science would claim to be impossible.
For those who read or have read the Bible, doesn’t is say that with God all things are possible? I also think it says something along the lines of a believer not being harmed if bitten by a poisonous snake.
I was the snake bitten by itself but I am here to tell about it.
Anyways, it is wise to use precaution and to avoid high-risk situations. Just don’t worry yourself sick. This too shall pass!
One year ago today (March 8th), I walked out the doors of Dismas Charities in Atlanta, Georgia, as a man freed from the custody of the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons. I wrote Electronic Chain about that experience. https://straightfromthepen.com/electronic-chain
Life hasn’t gone according to the World of Wayne since my release, other than that I have remained a free man and have continued my pursuit of a better life.
Life is good. My plan remains to make it Great!
In many respects my life is great. I have remained clean and sober and chose not to return to the life of crime as thousands of formerly-released men and women have done since August 28, 2018, when I walked out the doors of a Federal Correctional Institution, thirty-years and ten days after my arrest on federal and state charges.
Throughout the years, I wrote a lot about recidivism, of which may be viewed by searching “Recidivism” or by using the dropdown menu to select the Recidivism category on this site. The May 2018 study numbers are the latest released (83% of state prisoners returned within the nine-year study referenced to below):
“2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism: A 9-Year Follow-up Period (2005-2014),” NCJ250975, May 2018, a follow-up to the 5-year study relied upon for comparison by the ex-director (“Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010,” NCJ244205, April 2014).
“The 83% recidivism rate revealed in the 9-year follow-up study shows the seriousness of recidivism in America and the need for a magic elixir that does not exist. Until financial incentives end for politicians who continue making policies and laws that fuel mass incarceration, positive change will be slow: It is time to stop state and federal funding for private prisons.”Breaking News, June 18, 2018
I refuse to become one of those who return to the system so many vow to hate but continue to return to make it grow bigger and stronger!
On a Personal Level
Since my release, I found a job, even though it took me eleven months of actively seeking one to succeed in that endeavor. On that job with Goodwill of North Georgia, I made Employee of the Month in October 2019, and was then selected for the Employee Spotlight in the following month.
Then on March 2, 2020, I began a different position in Goodwill of North Georgia and increased my salary by over thirty percent. More will follow!
I have a nice vehicle that gets me where I need to go, which a loving person blessed me with after she bought herself a new SUV.
For other aspects of the reentry process, is finding a new place to live and maybe even getting in a meaningful relationship if a special lady comes along.
Before my release, I joked with my peers that I was going to get a fat butt girl with a pecan tan and a Mercedes Benz, but maybe I need to revise that, because that’s being too picky. What I would like is that special lady who loves me the way I will love her and then perhaps I will perceive my life as great.
What was I thinking? I am free and alive and well! Life is great!
In conclusion, what I didn’t know during the time of the photo posted above when I was about three-years-young, with me with my hands on those toy guns, is that I would make bad decisions in life that would lead me to putting my hands on real guns to commit crimes and to spend most of my life in prison.
I wrote a lot about my life in Essays & More Straight from the Pen to show the power of change, and that, just because I was a recidivist, does not mean I have to be one now. I chose freedom. Thank you!
Jeffrey P. Frye never fails to deliver well-written and entertaining stories from his life. His unique background in the legal and illegal professions gives him writing credibility that keeps readers wanting to see what he produces next.
Bank Robber Stories contains humor and a variety of mixed-emotional avenues for readers to experience. A great read for the curious minded about life on the inside of the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons and what might lead a person to change professions from the legal to illegal.
Mr. Frye is now in the process of returning to his natural state before his fall from grace. He will confess to “Not Thinking” if asked, “What was you thinking?” Reading this book proves it!
~ Wayne T. Dowdy, author of UNKNOWN INNOCENCE, and ESSAYS AND MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN.
It takes a special kind of person to turn their adversities into success; their sadness into joy that’s used to entertain others.
And it takes a person with tenacity and depth to continue to seek the sunshine when all you’ve ever known is the rain. And it takes a person with natural talent to be able to write a story under these conditions that’s captivating and that you don’t want to put down.
Wayne T. Dowdy is such a person, and UNKNOWN INNOCENCE is such a story.
In UNKNOWN INNOCENCE, Dowdy takes the reader into the lives of his protagonists, Bobby and Nicole, and tells the story of how it all went terribly wrong. How the forces of bad luck, helped along by a crooked FBI agent and attorney, conspired to take Bobby behind the walls of the United States Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas. Using a pen along with a vivid and epic imagination, Dowdy draws upon his life in the free world, as well as his nearly three decades of walking the line in some of the roughest federal pens in America.
Moving along at a steady pace, UNKNOWN INNOCENCE tells the story of Bobby’s wrongful conviction. Sent up the river for life without parole, Big Bobby never gives up hope though. The one thing that has eluded him for most of his life is the very thing that turns out to be his salvation. Love. UNKNOWN INNOCENCE is a riveting tale that transcends genres. It’s a mystery and a thriller, with a love story woven through its fabric.
Wayne T. Dowdy is a writer for the masses whose voice has purpose. It tells the World, “No matter what happens to me, I will not give up.” This voice takes the broken pieces of a life and combines it with raw talent to bring forth a beautiful mosaic. It’s a voice that says, no matter how guilty I may be, there is still unknown innocence in each and every one of us.
Jeffrey P. Frye
September 9, 2015
Edgefield, South Carolina
The following excerpt comes from the second book written by Wayne T. Dowdy, under the pseudonym of Mr. D, which he self-published with assistance from Midnight Express Books, to inspire and motivate aspiring writers. The Story Behind the Novel contains links for writing tools to help other writers.
THE STORY BEHIND THE NOVEL
[Updated August 14, 2019: This novel was published while I was in prison and most content remains the same; however, on May 8, 2019, I was released from the custody and control of the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons. I removed some of the original content from “The Story Behind the Novel” because it became outdated.]
The story behind the novel may surprise you because I wrote it while serving a 420-month federal prison sentence. Mr. D.” is the pseudonym I used for my first book to avoid any confusion associated with my writings. I am a writer of many genres and am aware that some readers are “profanity-sensitive”; I don’t want anyone to be confused when purchasing my books, essays or short stories. Though not used frequently, profanity is often necessary to capture the personality of a character or to make a scene or setting more realistic; especially, when writing about prison life. A person allergic to profanity may safely read most of my personal essays (inspirational, political, creative nonfiction), but may break out into a rash or go into anaphylactic shock when reading what I write as “Mr. D,” a pseudonym I chose based upon the song, Dancing with Mr. D., by the Rolling Stones, and because my last name begins with “D” and some people call me Mr. D.
Why should the reader find motivation by reading this? It came from the confines of a prison. If I wrote this from inside, without an electronic data storage system, and without access to the Internet, someone “out there” with all of the available technology and resources can really work some magic. This is the story behind the novel:
I am a federal prisoner serving a lengthy prison sentence; to be precise, thirty-five-years, without parole, for armed bank robbery and associated charges. I started on August 18, 1988. I have never used the Internet or seen a cell phone, other than in magazines or on television. I’m somewhat prehistoric, a relic.
In prison, our movement and activities are limited. For instance, I only have until 7:45 pm, Monday through Thursday evenings, to type at the library, which does not begin until my living unit gets released for chow (usually by 6:00 pm). At the library, I use a dumbed-down, AlphaSmart, word processor to type with until the library closes [AlphaSmarts were removed from the library before my release and replaced with the worst typewriters available, with no memory recall capabilities].
Normally, a writer using an AlphaSmart would have an interface cord to connect to their PC to upload what they typed on the AlphaSmart, and would then make modifications to the text in their PC; e.g., change line spacing, font size or style, underline words, or adjust margins. I don’t have a PC to upload what I have typed and cannot modify what I have written, other than typical editing functions, such as copying and pasting, and using spellcheck to correct misspelled words (program does not check grammar or punctuation). Fortunately, the presets include double line spacing, one-inch top, left and right margins, and a 12-pt Times New Roman font. If I want to add an underline to a word or a case cite when doing legal work, I have to create a separate file, count spaces, and then use the underscore key to create an underline. Then I have to run the original document back through a low-quality printer to complete the process.
That gives you an idea of what limited capabilities are when writing and typing from inside a prison (and I am fortunate to be able to do what I do). Some prisons only have ancient typewriters, with no memory storage capabilities. (I authored Under Pressure on such a primitive device.) The only other day I have to work on my writing is on Saturday because the library does not open on Sunday or holidays. During the morning I skip going to eat to type from 7:30 am (or whenever the door opens), until 9:15 am. Then I have to return to the cellblock to be counted. Yes, all of us men must stand up and be counted at 10:00 am, 4:00 pm, and 10:00 pm on weekends and holidays. The 10:00 am Count is a special event: we don’t have one during the week. I often use the break for count to proofread what I’ve written, or to prepare for what I will write.
Once the count clears and the prison staff begin feeding the noon meal, I often skip chow to go type some more. I am usually typing by 11:30 am until I have to turn in the AlphaSmart at 3:15 pm. Fridays and Sundays are my days of forced rest from typing at the library: the only place I can type personal projects.
Where am I during the week when not at the library? Working. I work as the document control clerk in a textile factory of the Federal Prison Industries, Inc., trade name UNICOR. My meager MONTHLY salary averages near $200.00. I used that income to pay for my enrollment in the Long Ridge Writers Group on January 8, 2007. The course is outlined for completion within two years. On July 7, 2008, I graduated. During the same time that I was taking their writing course, I wrote the short story, “Under Pressure.” I attempted its publication by submitting my 6,158-word manuscript (typed on the ancient typewriter mentioned earlier), to various magazines, college literary journals, and entered it in PEN’s Prison Writing contest. It didn’t win. Then on January 1, 2012, my ambition was born to convert the short story into a novel, the hard way, almost five years from the date of when I enrolled in the Long Ridge Writers Group to learn how to write and market short stories and essays. One year after I decided to turn the short story into a novel, it was available worldwide.
My biggest problem in getting started with converting the short story into a novel came from not having any way to electronically store data. When I finished typing at the prison library to return to the cellblock, everything I had typed was deleted according to policy. I knew having memory storage would ease the pain of the revision process (some pages I retyped up to five times to correct a typo, verb tense, or to replace or to add “one” word). I solicited help from my family and friends to have my manuscript scanned and stored on a disk or CD as a word.doc format for the manipulation of data. One of my two sisters, who was not real computer savvy, did go to different places attempting to find what I needed, but the best she could find was someone to scan and save it as a pdf file, which I didn’t think would allow her to alter the text back then (now converters are available that allows a person to modify Portable Document Format files).
I began the conversion process in light of the troubled waters ahead before I learned about the publisher, Midnight Express Books (MEB). Approximately six months after I had surrendered the idea of finding an easier, softer way to write the novel, I discovered MEB through an ad in the Education Behind Bars Newsletter (EBBN). EBBN ran an ad in Prison Legal News and asked for submissions. I submitted an essay and began receiving complementary copies of the newsletter. In the last issue I received, I noticed an ad for MEB, whom works exclusively with prisoners seeking publication [the publisher retired].
At that point, I had decided to go the traditional publishing route, so I passed along the information to another aspiring writer. MEB sent him a brochure. He asked me to read it and asked that I give him my opinion. I was sold when I read about MEB’s optical character reader and computer program for scanning manuscripts, and then being able to digitally alter the text. I immediately added their contact information to the system provided for e-mailing and recording addresses (TRULINCS & http://www.corrlinks.com). Thus, began the correspondence that lead to MEB helping me publish my first novel.
On January 14, 2013, CreateSpace.com released UNDER PRESSURE for sale to the public as a print-on-demand book. [Note: Amazon closed CreateSpace, which was a self-publishing division for paperback books. Now authors must use Kindle Direct Publishing and pay Amazon twice the amount of commission for books sales.]
The following day Amazon.com posted UNDER PRESSURE. Now it is available worldwide upon demand through the following sources:
Smashwords is an eBook distributor who distributes eBooks in various formats to eBook retailers for use on e-readers like the Barns & Noble Nook, and the various applications through Apple products and the Apple iBookstore. When I write other books, essays, or short stories, I will have them posted on my SmashWords’ Author’s page:
Maybe one day I will find out. For you, though, if you are an aspiring writer or just a reader with ambitions, apply yourself to the task and reach for your dreams: they may be closer than you imagine.
Wayne T. Dowdy aka, “Mr. D.”
I welcome all comments, and will respond to all questions as soon as possible, which may vary according to the number received, but I will respond.
E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Mailing Address: Wayne T. Dowdy, P.O. Box 2608, McDonough, GA 30253
This is an essay I wrote in 2010 in response to the Gulf Coast Disaster and my environmental concerns. Read more of my writings from my author’s page at Smashwords.com (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy), or by searching online for “Wayne T. Dowdy.” Though this essay is more critical and much different than most of other essays about my beliefs and life experiences, I included We Are the Cancer in Essays & More Straight from the Pen because of the seriousness of the topic. I hope you enjoy it and find something meaningful in the words I write.
WE ARE THE CANCER by Wayne T. Dowdy
Innumerable oil particles gushed into the emerald green waters of the Gulf Coast, after the Transocean Deepwater Horizon oil rig catastrophe on April 20, 2010, where eleven men lost their lives working to extract oil from the bottom of the ocean for British Petroleum (BP). The tiny particles arrived in masses to penetrate the shores and seep into the marshes, killing living organisms along the way and upon arrival. Waves of the slippery substance overcome marine life, reptiles, amphibians, and mammal alike, by either depleting their oxygen supply, poisoning their systems, or causing them to die from malnutrition by poisoning their food supply. Some of the life forms that the oil didn’t kill, the Corexit did (Corexit is the chemical dispersant that BP used to hide oil beneath the surface).
In David Quammen’s essay, “Contagious Cancer – the Evolution of a Killer,” Harper’s Magazine, April 2008, he wrote about a “parasitic cancer” killing Australia’s Tasmanian Devils (cancer spreads through bites incurred during battles and mating rituals–the process for creating life ends it by spreading cancer). He defined parasites as “[a]ny organism that lives on or within another kind of organism, extracting benefit for itself and causing harm to the other.” And then on cancer, “Cancer differs also from heart disease and cirrhosis and the other lethal forms of physiological breakdown; uncontrolled reproduction, not organ dilapidation, is the problem.” Cancer cells divide and replicate until their mass overcomes their host.
We humans are the parasitic cancer of the Universe: not a pleasant thought or concept to endure, but the facts support my hypothesis. With Earth hosting the human organism, it is our rapid reproduction, along with our desires to prosper and enjoy the luxuries and comforts of life that results in damage to our host. Our rapid replication creates the need for more oil and other natural resources, which leads to our robbing Mother Earth of what we need to be pleased. On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground in Prince William Sound, AK. It lost 10,080,000 gallons of oil that devastated the marine and wildlife of the affected areas in Alaska. If the Earth was human, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill an injury, the injury would have been akin to a slashed finger that leaked a little blood compared to the Gulf Coast Disaster. The Gulf Coast Disaster, caused by BP’s failure to adhere to safety standards, was more like a freshly amputated limb that gushed blood for months. Estimates of the amount of oil spilled have varied, and with tactics used that appeared to obstruct the measureable amount of oil, who knows how much oil flooded those emerald green waters. The long-term effect on the environment is yet to be seen: predictions are not very promising; devastation to coastal life; more deaths and reduced births of wildlife; damage or death to the deepwater corals, crustaceans, snails, bacterial filaments, and tubeworms in the deep Gulf of Mexico waters, which may affect those further up the food chain. The disaster upset the Earth’s delicate balance of life.
Oil extraction and related accidents are only one example of humans “extracting benefits for [themselves] and causing harm to [earth].” The by-products resulting from processed oil is another example: Green House Gas Effects, water and air pollution, and the destruction of natural resources by companies driven by corporate greed, which capitalize on human desires at the expense of the environment. According to Woody Tash, Founder and Chairperson of the Slow Money Alliance, “[i]ndustrial agriculture is one of the most polluting activities on the planet.” [The Sun magazine, June 2010] The more we eat mass produced vegetables, commercially processed fish and meats, the more we assist in the contamination of the air and land by the spread of poisonous pesticides and toxic substances. It takes oil to operate the machinery and equipment (cultivation and transportation vehicles, pumps, generators, etc.).
To make the machinery, equipment, and a variety of apparatuses used for processing, storing, and transporting the goods generated to appease our needs and desires, is another matter; no less harmful to the environment because it divests the earth of natural resources, such as iron, copper, aluminum, and many other metals and minerals. Mining causes water and air pollution, soil erosion, and as often happens, the death of humans who must work for oppressive companies in order to survive. The same processes are required to appease our inquisitive side, which contributes to our damaging effect expanding into space: our space junk (satellites, rocket parts, and a variety of other things we leave behind) litters the Universe; exhaust emissions from space vehicles eat holes in the ozone layer, the same as all other exhaust emissions from carbon producing engines. Besides that, when humans remove all of those substances from the earth, especially oil, what becomes of the space previously occupied by those substances? It seems to me that it would have to affect something. Could that possibly increase the risk of earth quakes? In my unprofessional opinion, I say it does, even though I am far from a specialist in the field.
As the oil escaped Mother Earth, I wonder if BP officials were more concerned about the loss of profits, or about the “Little People” (as I seem to recall one BP official referring to those who do the jobs necessary to get the oil from the ground), who lost their lives while generating profits for them. From what I understand, Oil companies are fined based upon the amount of oil that escapes from accidents, and the estimated cost of cleaning up the damage caused by the accident. Maybe that explains why BP officials used the Corexit in the Gulf of Mexico to sink the oil, with no regard for the marine life and environment. The experience with Corexit at the Exxon Valdez oil spill had provided evidence of its damaging effect on life forms and the environment. If not for wanting to protect profits, why else would BP officials have ordered tons of Corexit to be spread over the Gulf Coast to sink the mass of oil seeping to the surface from the manmade hole in the ocean floor, which resulted from the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig? Let us hope that the eleven lives lost were not in vain. Maybe their sacrifices will lead to changes that will prevent reoccurrences of such catastrophes, and lessen our damaging effect on the environment.
Perhaps we will go into voluntary remission before we annihilate ourselves by critically damaging our host in our struggle to survive and enjoy life. For those fortunate enough to do so, maybe we can walk or cycle more instead of driving vehicles; eat less commercially produced food; buy more locally produced products, and grow more food in gardens; live modestly on necessities, instead of lavishly on luxuries. Mother Earth may bless us and our future generations with longer life spans and better health. Our grandchildren and their children may one day thank us.
[Since I wrote the original version of this essay, the movie AVATAR came out and became my favorite, even though I do not watch a lot of movies these days, especially those from the fantasy category. (I have watched AVATAR several times because I love the visual effects, the characters, and the correlation between its plot and what happened with the early European settlers and Native Americans.) One of the things I really liked was when the Marine in the AVATAR body prayed to the Tree of Souls and asked for help. The Tree of Souls was a spiritual source for the natives because it connected them with their ancestors. As the pending battle loomed on with the alien invaders, he said something like, “They killed their planet and they will kill this one, too.” In the end, Mother sent all of the creatures to help defend their planet from the alien invaders, who came to take one of their natural resources-a precious metal, located under their Mother Tree, which is where many natives had lived before the aliens blasted it with missles to destroy it. Essentially, the alien invaders made the natives their enemy to justify killing or massacring all life forms to take the precious metal they wanted, much as we have done to others, because we are the cancer.]
1) Special thanks to David Quammen and Harper’s Magazine for allowing me to use the quotes from “Contagious Cancer – the Evolution of a Killer,” copyright 2008 by Harper’s Magazine. All rights reserved. Reproduced for the April issue by special permission.
2) The Sun magazine, and Woody Tash of the Slow Money Alliance, for more insight.
3) Julie Whitty, Environment Correspondent, Mother Jones, September/October 2010, in writing the informative “BP’s Deep Secrets.”
4) Tom Junod, Esquire, September 2010, in writing “11 Lives,” for giving a face to the eleven men who died on April 20, 2010, aboard the Deepwater Horizon: Donald Clark, Gordon Jones, Adam Weise, Roy Kemp, Dewey Revette, Jason Anderson, Blair Manuel, Shane Roshto, Stephen Curtis, Dale Burkeen, and Karl Kleepinger.
There are many other answers to the above question and to following question that people may want to read at Quora.com.
In response to a comment written about my answer to the question, Are Jail-Prison Inmates Treated Differently Based on the Crime they Committed, I wrote:
Thanks for the comment, Annie. Nature drives curiosity, and I am sure that leads to many prison staff doing what is forbidden by policy, in the case of investigating criminal histories of inmates. For case managers, though, it’s necessary to know the criminal offenses of an inmate on their caseload. I am sure that the criminal histories of some prisoners are so terrible that most case managers feel the need to discuss what he or she saw in a case file (jacket).
For me, when I lived a different life, I sometimes suggested to prison staff (and my peers) who offended or challenged me, to “Read my jacket”; MR EGO at large, like, “Don’t you know who you’re messing with,” as if I were a notorious criminal, when in truth I was not, even though my “jacket” didn’t look so nice because of several violent crimes (armed robberies, mutiny in a penal institution, escape, assault on staff, etc.).
Federal prisoners were once allowed to keep their Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) that listed criminal histories and personal characteristics used by the court to determine a defendant’s sentencing range.
In about 2003, the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons made a rule that prohibited prisoners from having their PSR because of sensitive information contained therein, such as financial information and criminal histories and whether that person testified against someone else for a sentence reduction. The prohibition was due to some inmates being assaulted, murdered, and or extorted because of PSR information.
After I changed my life, during a scheduled review, a case manager placed her hand on my extensive file and said, “The person I see in here is not the person I see sitting before me.”
I smiled and said, “Yeah, I changed a little.” 🙂
Since my conversion, I have written about my life and many parts of my criminal history, a lot of which I am not proud of, but write about to show the power of change. People who know me now would never guess that I once lived the Thug life because I am a different man.
Before my release, I gave my case manager a copy of Essays & More Straight from the Penby Wayne T. Dowdy. He, too, had seen my file and knew from years of being my case manager, that the man who sat before him no longer behaved the way he did before. In response to reading my book, he said, “Part of it makes you laugh, and some of the stories make you want to cry. There’s a lot of wisdom in it. It was a great book to read.” And then he thanked me for letting him read it.
In my case, my previous behaviors and history kept me safer in prison than most. I was not an informant, did not testify or cooperate with authorities, and had shown to be someone who would stand up and fight. For most people entering the prison systems across America, that is not the case and their histories or personal characteristics may make them targets for abuse. In rare cases, staff members will manipulate prisoners to retaliate against another prisoner who offended him or her or is just someone they do not like. Though rare, it does happen.
What happens in prison if you don’t get along with your cellie and it is a dangerous situation? Can you request a new cellmate or a transfer to a different cell?
In the federal system, on most occasions, a person could request to be moved to another cell and usually was, but not always. Some staff would just say, “Work it out.”
In critical situations, a cellmate refuses to go back in the cell and seeks protective custody or does something stupid to be removed from the situation, may even stab or use a combination lock or weapon to assault the cellmate.
In 2002, at the United States Penitentiary in Pollock, Louisiana, an older white man who the whites had run off the yard at the U.S.P. Lompoc, because he was in prison for crimes against children, was given a choice to leave the yard at Pollock or suffer the consequences.
He went to the Segregated Housing Unit (SHU) seeking protection by the staff. No whites allowed him in the cell with them inside the SHU.
A friend who was in the cell next to a black man, who the guards were forcing the older white man into the cell with, told me he heard the black man tell the guards, “If you put him in here with me I am going to kill him.”
The guards opened the door and pushed the older white man into the cell.
The older white man was carried out of the cell on a gurney the next morning. He had been beaten and strangled to death.
The black man said to the guards, “I told y’all I was going to kill him if you put him in here with me.”
Typically, though, that’s not the way it works. Most men work out the issues or a counselor or lieutenant approve for one of the cellmates to move, rather than to force them into living with each other.
There are always exceptions to the rule. Sometimes cellmates just have to fight and go to the hole (SHU) to resolve the issue which doesn’t always end there: it may result in the death or severe injury of one or the other when he arrives at another prison. That’s life inside. 17.6k views
A proudly posted photo of the drug screen results as seen on Facebook, along with the following caption:
Living Clean and Sober has its Benefits. Those tiny bottles once caused me lots of stress! They also lead to me going to the hole (segregated housing unit) on more than one occasion, over 25-years ago.
I am grateful for the life I am blessed with living today that does not include the use of mind-altering substances, unless a person wants to include caffeine into that category. I do drink coffee but that’s better than other substances I used to think I could not live without.
Today I am free because I gave up my former behaviors that kept me locked in cages away from the civilized society.
If I can do it so can anyone else who makes the decision to change their lives, one day at a time.
While I was at the United States Penitentiary in Pollock, Louisiana (2001-2004), a member of Twelve Step programs wrote me and said that he had also learned that he did not have to return to prison, one day at a time. True.
We, those of us who have been in prison, usually have a choice to make that will allow us, as returning citizens, to remain in the free society.
On October 29, 2019, I received a request to sign and post a petition prepared for a man wanting support for his desire to be released from prison for a crime he committed as a child, and responded as you may see below.
“I signed the petition because I do believe that, we, as humans, make many mistakes in our youth that do not define the man or woman we become as we age. Others are welcome to click the URL to sign too.”
As you may see, I posted the link to his petition but did not post the requested petition as I am now doing because I thought of all the mistakes I made as a child and young adult, and of all the many poor decisions I made that had lead to me living the Thug Life, a life I do not live now and do not care to live again. The point is, I know from my experience that people do change. Trusting the process when dealing with others is always a risk, but … so much is life.
For those reasons, here is the petition for Ezekiel Thomas, whose actions while incarcerated strongly suggest that he, too, has changed his life and deserves the chance to prove himself. This petition was created and posted by Deb Fillers on behalf of Ezekiel:
Re-evaluating these inmates who were charged as juveniles with lengthy prison sentences. Studies prove that the brain does not completely mature until a person is in the mid-twenties. But there are inmates that were under age 18 and convicted of their crimes violent or nonviolent and sentenced to lengthy, or even life sentences. People change, people mature, over years everyone changes. So, its time these inmates who have fallen under the criminal justice system as youth and given these horrendous sentences need looked at. Ezekiel Thomas who this petition is about is currently 44 years of age and has been incarcerated for 27 years for a crime that he committed at the age of 16. Everyone deserves a second chance. If you agree please sign this petition.
I would like to share my personal story:
My loved ones story begins back in the 90’s. Mr. Ezekiel Thomas was a distraught troubled teen, coming from poverty, racism, years of physical, emotional, mental and sexual abuse. He committed his violent crime at the age of 16.
Undoubtedly the years of physical, mental, and emotional trauma contributed to Ezekiel’s criminal actions I feel as many others that had Ezekiel received the support, therapy and emotional guidance that he needed prior to committing his crime his life story would have had a different outcome. But as an adolescent faced with the challenges of poverty, abuse and racism he had no one else to turn to but himself. However In spite of a troubled past Ezekiel never the less found the path to redemption. I feel that people like Ezekiel who have made leaps and bounds on self transformation and rehabilitation deserve a chance to prove to others that they are worthy of a second chance. Ezekiel takes full responsibility for his actions and has dealt with a lot of remorse for the trauma and hurt inflicted. He turned his bout with lengthy solitary confinement stays, and all the negative things that happen to a youngster in prison into a positive outcome. He has accepted what he did was wrong and he has overcome the demons that have troubled him .Once he sorted out his young life it gave him insight to become a better man and help other men fix their problems. On his journey to rehabilitation he has completed his GED, as well as 13 other secondary academic Diplomas and certificates. He has completed a six month sex offender course, He has received a favorable psychological eval from the renowned James Garbarino PHd. author, professor child psychology. Ezekiel has written self-help books he now uses in programs that he has created to help inmates find atonement and redemption, he has become a role model, and a leader. He is a facilitator, a teacher in the re-entry program. Hence Ezekiel who has never been released in 27 years is helping prepare his fellow inmates for release everyday. Ezekiel created the program called the A.D.A.M. Project that he uses daily for his classes, this program is supported by Jeff Hilton of the Lancaster County Police Department. He published his first book, Healing the criminal mind, is now also available on Amazon.
Ezekiel is an amazing guy, very intelligent he is a writer, an artist, a motivational speaker, program creator, coordinator, prison reform activist. Upon his release he wishes to continue his prison reform work. He has a loving home, several job opportunities awaiting him. Ezekiel is a lover of people and God. I believe he deserves a second chance at life.
In 2020 Ezekiel will again appear in front of the parole board. With the help of the public we are hoping he will be granted parole. Please sign this petition to help us get him released.
On December 3, 2019, I read an article from The Marshall Project about racial disparities in the length of time served in prison by minorities compared to whites. I posted the following comment on Facebook and invited comments and offered to post a blog in response to any viable answers to create a positive change in Criminal Justice and Prison Reform. I received a comment posted on the Contact page for StraightfromthePen.com, which I will post after the following:
“In reading this article on the length of time spent in prison as being greater for African-Americans than white-defendants, with me being white and being caught in the same statistical-data sentencing-factors as ethnic minorities (criminal histories), I find the given reasons as being legitimate. The color of my skin didn’t get me a lesser sentence. Many people with different skin tones received and served a lot less time than I did, because of my criminal history and behavior characteristics. However, I am not saying that people of color do not get targeted and may be arrested and go to prison for crimes others may not: it happens.
“I have witnessed racial profiling so I know it happens, and it may be those types of events that lead to African-Americans spending more time in prison (being watched more and giving incident reports for minor issues whereas others may get a pass). For the most part, though, what happens after an arrest and going to prison depends on behavior. I learned to be responsible for mine, even when I felt I was targeted or suffered more severe consequences than other similarly-situated people did. The question is, what can be done to create a positive change in criminal justice and prison reform? Send me viable answers and I will consider posting a blog on StraightfromthePen (https://straightfromthepen.com).
“In response to the question of what can be done differently in our criminal justice system. I saw a prison on a documentary that is in Norway I believe. They have an extremely low repeat offenders I believe it is due to the approach. They focus on having as much as a normal life without freedom to go off the grounds. They had individual apartments jobs and even a grocery store in there if the prisoner didn’t get up and go to work then they were locked in. The focus was changing the mind set of the prisoners teaching them self discipline and structure. Treating them with dignity the officers Shook their hands and was respectful. The documentary was on Netflix under world’s toughest prisons it was the last season last episode.”
Reply by Wayne T. Dowdy
“Thank you for your comment. You are correct. Norway treats its prisoners different and thus has the world’s lowest recidivism rate (people released from prison and returned after committing crimes or violation of parole terms, etc.). Germany also has a lower recidivism rate than the United States of America, as do many other countries. In “Experimental Prison Project” (July 16, 2019), I voiced my opinion on why America has such a high recidivism rate: money, people profiting from high incarceration rates, driven, in part, by the staggering number recidivists. Please read “Experimental Prison Project” and blogs referenced to therein, especially, “Prison Reform Progress” (April 5, 2019), where I write about a prison experiment in Connecticut that is modeled after a prison in Germany, and covered by Bill Whitaker on 60-Minutes. Thanks again for commenting.”
Feel free to voice your opinion on this issue and I will consider posting it if suitable for public viewing. wtd
The politically correct phrase these days is Happy Holidays, I reckon. That’s okay. If that makes one happy, then that’s fine, but being the rebel I am at heart, I refuse to conform and will continue to wish people Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, or whatever, unless I know that doing so offends that particular person, then I will say Happy Holidays or nothing at all.
I can do that! That’s my right that I take the privilege of applying when my feelings conflict with what may now be deemed socially unacceptable by a group of others who decide how everyone else should live, think, feel, and conduct their lives. I do not wish to offend anyone, but …. I stand my ground!
This morning I remembered where I had been and decided to send a message to those trapped inside the federal prison system who need to know they are not forgotten and that there are people who still love and care for them, even if they have fallen from grace. My hope it that the words I wrote will help someone “out here” to realize all that they have in their lives to be thankful for, even if things are not going the way they prefer. Life goes on and there is always hope for better days! May you find it today.
The following message is what I sent into the prison system through Corrlinks.com, an email system provided to federal and some state prisoners, for a fee. When on the Inside, I spent hundreds of dollars to type and communicate with others and to post the blogs before my release on August 28, 2018.
Happy Thanksgiving to each of you who celebrate. The main thing I always tried to remember was my favorite saying, “I complained of having no shoes until I met a man with no feet.”
Here’s a blog I wrote that some of you may have already read, but it is just as true today as it was when I wrote it, other than I no longer have to deal with having walls and bars to keep me away from society. Today I am free and hope that each of you will one day be able to say the same, even those of you serving excessive sentences. Miracles happen! Never lose hope.
STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN
Topics From Inside For Change
GRATITUDE AND MORE, December 19, 2016
Last year on December 23, 2015, I posted “Plot to Stop Santa by Mr. D.” to add a little humor to the holiday season (read it on straightfromthepen.wordpress.com or waynedowdy.weebly.com and check out Santa’s militarized sled). This year I am writing along personal lines and will share some previous messages I sent out to those on my Corrlinks contact list. My hope is to create a sense of gratitude.
12/25/2011: On Christmas Day, I sat in my cell reading my favorite magazine (THE SUN). “Chow time,” the guard shouted.
I rushed to the chow hall. Inside, I sat at a rectangular table of four with three of my peers. One person stood to leave. Each of us exchanged Christmas greetings, wishing him a Merry Christmas before a 27-year-old youngster sat down to take his place.
The one who sat to the right of the youngster had just complained how the Cornish game hen was small. I had previously tried to maintain the attitude of gratitude at the table by commenting how it was good, though, it was smaller than those we had had in the past. It was still tasty. I simply agreed with the other guy about it being smaller than usual. I labeled it as a “Cornish Game Chick.”
That’s when the youngster sat down. “There sure are a lot of complaining people at this prison,” he said.
His words filled me with guilt. He had once told me that both of his parents were still in state prison. I realized his parents were probably doing worse than all of us at the table.
The youngster’s comment helped redirect the nature of our conversations toward what we were grateful for.
I shared my favorite saying by an author whose name I do know to give him or her their credit due (“I complained of having no shoes until I met a man with no feet.”).
I continued to express gratitude for the well-prepared meal; knowing we were all fortunate to have what sat before us, as we compared our plight to others incarcerated in state and other federal prisons, who probably wished they could eat as good as we were.
This is what we had to complain about: a Cornish game hen, black-eyed peas, which were really good; collard greens, rolls or wheat bread (I chose wheat bread); an individually packaged cherry pie, chocolate cup cake, and some other stuff I probably forgot. I ate my fill.
Each of us walked away feeling more grateful for the meal we had been blessed with because we had stopped for a moment to remember the less fortunate in life. Not only do I have two feet and nice shoes, I have a fat belly filled with gratitude. I hope each of you have a wonderful Christmas meal and feel fortunate for the freedom you share in a less than perfect world.
Along the same theme as above, I wrote this on America’s Turkey Day:
THANKSGIVING DAY 2016: Happy Thanksgiving Day to each of you. If you feel like you don’t have much to be thankful for because of the hardships life has thrown at you this year, stop to think of all you have to be grateful for; perhaps you have food to eat; two feet, two arms, shoes on your feet, and clothes to warm your body, a place to stay and be safe. Feel fortunate.
When I find myself disgruntled for having to wait for an hour in the commissary to purchase a few items, I try to stop and remember those who wish they had my problems, financially able to shop for a few items needed to maintain a decent level of living inside this prison. That makes me feel grateful for the opportunity, rather than disgruntled and agitated for having to wait as I listen to loud mouths shouting to the man next to them, disturbing the peace, killing the sound of silence.
Upon remembrance of the less fortunate, I find myself grateful for the simple things in life I often take for granted. Be thankful for those you have in your life who love and care for you. Happy Thanksgiving!
For those of you who follow me through other means of social media, you may have read the message below that I wrote after losing one of my brothers, Larry. I once had a mother, father, three brothers and two sisters. I am now down to one brother and two sisters.
In 1978 I lost Stanley, my older brother. In 1982 I lost my father, and then in 2016 I lost my younger brother, Larry, after having lost my mother eight months before him.
The loss of two loved ones in the same year was why I wrote what I did about “the hardships life has thrown at you this year”; including myself in the equation. I write to show we still have things to be grateful for in light of the hardships we experience as the cost of our love for others.
Some people lost their whole family and suffered tragic loss of limbs and even more severe health issues. That makes me grateful to still have family members who remain in my life. I am also grateful for my less-than perfect health.
The families of some prisoners abandon them because they go to prison. My family has stood behind me, even though my actions were unacceptable to them; my actions that landed me in prison. I am fortunate!
September 18, 2016: One of my two younger brothers moved on to the next phase of existence around 3:00 PM today. Larry was the most gentle and innocent of the four sons birthed by our Mother. Not that he was innocent; he wasn’t, but he was not driven by hate or anger and he never intentionally harmed anyone that I know of. Him and Jeff, the youngest of us, were never the rowdy type, whereas me and Stanley were hell raisers.
Larry was a kind and all around good person. It hurts like hell to know he is gone, but I do rejoice in knowing he no longer suffers from his illnesses. He lives without pain in some other place we all must go one day. Maybe he fishes from a rainbow, catching a few rays, as he surfs the ocean in pursuit of eternal peace. I hope he catches an abundance of love and happiness during his journey. No doubt, many here on earth loved and will miss him.
Ironically, he passed away on my ex-wife’s birthday. Our Mother passed away on the birthday of our son, Jonathon. For those of you who believe in God, please keep the family in prayer as we go through a difficult time. Thanks! Wayne
December 18, 2016: Yesterday my remaining siblings came to visit me. We had a good visit. Though each of us are grateful to still have each other in our lives, I sensed the emptiness from the unspoken loss of our loved ones.
Loved ones fill a space in our hearts that no one else can replace. God made that spot just for them, whether our memories and feelings are good or bad, that space is theirs. I am grateful to have been blessed with the love given to me by those, whom that power greater than myself, put into my life.
I am also grateful for my eyes* and other physical features that I use to write and send my words beyond the walls and barbwire fences that surround me at this juncture of my life.
Prison only confines my body: I refuse to allow it to consume my sense of being, or to rob me of my dignity and integrity. I am a man first and a prisoner second.
My mind and spirit are freer today than when I roamed the streets in 1988 before my arrest. God gave me a life worth living.
Better days are on the horizon. When I walk out of these prison doors, Straight From the Pen will come alive, more like straight from the keyboard.
In an upcoming blog, I will share a former prisoner’s inspiring story. Brandon Sample is one who proves people can leave prison and succeed in life, by beginning to build the path toward a better life while inside doing their time.
Miracles happen. Have faith and never lose hope. Hope keeps the world going.
I have an essay titled “Eyes” that I wrote in gratitude of my eyesight that I am fortunate to still have. It is an inspirational story available in ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN.
Purchase UNKNOWN INNOCENCE ($10.95 USD) and ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN ($8.95 USD) while the prices are low. Available in paperback at Amazon.com and other eStores, and as eBooks at Smashwords.com, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.Kindle, and other eBook retailers. Visit my Smashwords authors page today https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy.
Thanksgiving Day in America always reminds me to be thankful for all I have in life today, which often involves remembering the not-so-good times in my life. That makes me grateful for today.
Today I am okay, even if life is not the way I imagined it would be for me by this time, when I sat in prison thinking of the day I would walk out the prison doors and into my new life, doing all I could to build a better one, as I started life over at the age of sixty-one.
One part of life I chose not to forget is the decades I spent behind bars and how much I disliked the prison experience. Because of that, I choose not to forget those who are held inside jails and prisons and other forms of detainment, all across America and abroad, whose situation helps me remember where I’ve been and will not return because I live a different lifestyle than I did before I went to prison in 1988.
When I am at work and feel disgruntled about the pay I receive versus what I feel I should receive for the hard work I do, I stop to remember the days I helped dozens of other Georgia prisoners dig lakes/ponds by using shovels, picks, and wheelbarrows, while a Dragline excavator* (heavy duty equipment) sat on a hill, unoccupied, and not used until the Health Department was coming to perform an inspection.
Health Department officials and auditors always give Prison administrators an advance warning of upcoming inspections.
During the last several years of my incarceration, I wanted to improve my education by going to college, but Congress had suspended the PELL grant for prisoners, and I could not afford to pay for a college correspondence course, while paying for having my books published, website built, and blogs posted.
The other day, I received a message from a Corrlinks client that helped me to remember what it was like on the Inside and how important it had been for me to continue my interpersonal-development by staying focused on doing positive things, such as continuing to learn; paying for a professional writing course that an education supervisor claimed was not educational (really), and thus refused to sign off on a grant approved by all other approving officials in the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR).
I made sacrifices to pay for the writing course, with my inmate pay of $0.76-$1.45 per hour for doing various tasks; in later years, performing tasks a free citizen would earn six figures for doing. Anyways, ….
After reading his email, I wrote to request his permission to share it with the world. To me it is important for those on the “Outside” to know that many of those on the “Inside” seek programs to help increase their chance of success upon release from prison, so, here is one who does, Mr. Carter:
“On Friday, November 22, 2019, two days shy of the twenty-eighth-year anniversary of the day I was arrested and never saw freedom again, I got the second most exciting news of my life. I am beginning my journey through college for the first time. The Second Chance Pell Grant program being offered through UW-Milwaukee Area Technical College has accepted me as an eligible student to work toward a two-year associates degree in sciences or arts. For me, a man who has been locked up since he was 19 years old, this opportunity is next door to getting released. During my incarceration one thing is obvious to me; education is the foundation of change. People who know better, usually do better; usually. I have always wanted to better with myself since I was a little kid, but I never felt as though I had a real opportunity to do so. There were many opportunities when I was younger, I just never saw them through the storms in my life. Now that I have done everything possible to be a better person, better father, better son, better brother, better man, the storms in my life have subsided and I see life much clearer. I not only know who I am as a person, but what my passions are and what I want do with my life; higher learning is a key part to all that. This is an opportunity I will make the best of and enjoy doing. I just wanted to share this with all the important people in my life. Thank you all for being supportive, motivational, and inspirational. In one form or another you helped me get here. “
“Ivy Carter, @ Redgranite C.I.”
My best wishes for a bright future go out to Mr. Carter as he continues his pursuit of a better life and success upon release.
Throughout the years I learned that gratitude and happiness were an inside job. Today I keep that in mind and continue to be grateful for all things, even pain because the pain reminds me that I am alive. My faith helps me to believe that the pain will go away one day and that all will be well as I rejoice in the absence of pain as I drift into the next dimension.
Today I will relax and be thankful that I no longer have to dig in the dirt and mud while a shotgun boss stands guard waiting for someone with rabbit in their blood to take off into the woods and blast them.
Today, I do not have to sleep in the woods or try to outrun hound dogs in hot pursuit of me as I run for my life to escape the indignities of prison life, as I once did (I escaped from a Georgia prison in 1981, which I have written about **).
And so today, I am grateful that I don’t have to live like that anymore, and can enjoy life, even when the world isn’t working according to Wayne.
* Dragline excavator
“A dragline excavator is a piece of heavy equipment used in civil engineering and Surface mining. Draglines fall into two broad categories: those that are based on standard, lifting cranes, and the heavy units which have to be built on-site.” Wikipedia
“Fence Rows and The Price of Change” come from the writing collection, Essays & More Straight from the Pen, available in print and as an eBook. These essays captivate the readers attention to carry them through movie-worthy-events.
“Fence Rows” first appeared in the ICONOCLAST magazine, as did “Fences,” included as part of the essays in Essays & More Straight from the Pen.
Inside of “The Price of Change,” read about the event published by the ICONOCLAST, which concerns exciting scenes from a prison escape and other events behind the walls of prisons. Parts of this gripping essay may help the reader to see the devastation of addiction and yet give one hope of living to see a better day. The change came many years later at a heavy price.
Available ebook formats: epub mobi pdf rtf lrf pdb txt html