Category Archives: Prison Living

RAIN, BLOGS, FROGS & POLITICS by Wayne T. Dowdy

Rainy-Day2

Rain falls as I run on my catch-up mode.  This is my first blog since I posted “Frog Napper Returns” on October 1, 2015.  I planned to write at least two blogs per month.  I did not do as planned.  Legal matters and other obligations pulled me from my plans.

BLOGS:  I worked ten days overtime last month in the Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR), where I am the document control clerk and an internal auditor in an ISO (International Organization for Standardization) certified factor.  I also help keep the factory ISO certified by participating in external audits conducted by the National Standards Authority of Ireland, and by writing or editing technical documents used for administrative and instructional purposes.  On overtime I earn $2.60 per hour for all hours in excess of 7.25, of which I earn $1.45 per hour ($10.51 per day for regular pay).  If working in a similar position in the free society, I’d earn a five to six figure salary.  I will write a blog in the future on UNICOR & SOCIETY.  I wrote an unpublished essay on the topic several years ago that I will extract data from to update.  Anyway, the overtime alone occupied lots of time and kept me too tired to be blogging, after going to work at 7:30 AM and getting off at 8:30 PM, only to work on other pressing projects until bedtime.

To consume more of my valued time, I worked on a “Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence, Pursuant to 28 U.S.C., Section 2255” (2255) for a young Native American with an unconstitutional sentence.  The court sentenced him to 180-months imprisonment for a crime that carried a maximum of 120-months.  A recent United States Supreme Court ruling (Johnson v. United States, June 26, 2015), opened the door for him and hundreds of others erroneously sentenced for crimes captured with the “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act.  The residual clause was a “catch-all-clause” prosecutors used to classify any crime with a “potential” for violence as a violent felony.  Three prior violent felonies increased a 10-year statutory maximum to 15-years to life without parole, for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.  In addition to that 2255, I completed another one for a friend with the same circumstances, which I worked on for six weeks before volunteering for the second one.  Every now and then I am a nice person, even in prison.  🙂  Honestly, I am a nice person on most days of my life.  At any rate, I do apologize for my delinquent blog posting.

RAINY DAYS:  In addition to the above, I planned to write a blog on October 10, 2015, about a “Rainy Day in the Pen,” and then became distracted and thought about writing on “Mass Shootings in America.”  Rain dampened my plans on “One Rainy Day in the Pen,” after this area experienced torrential downpours that caused dams to rupture and floods that killed people, while I sat in prison complaining about getting soaked to go to the chow hall in anticipation of a pastry and dry cereal, only to find a pastry and cream of wheat I do not eat.  I’m a Southerner.  I eat grits!

This morning (11/01/2015), I  went out in the rain again for a pastry and dry cereal.  This time I succeeded at getting milk, low-cost corn flakes that turn gluey after moments in milk, and a cheese danish, all worth the five-hundred yard trip to the chow hall in the rain.  At least no one locally has drown in floods while I enjoyed the privilege of having food to eat and a roof over my head, something many free-citizens do not have, something I write with sadness.

While pondering the ideas for that blog, I listened to CNN News about an idiot who had walked into a college in Oregon and massacred nine innocent people and shot several others.  The only good part of the story being a man with courage who challenged the gunman, rather than lying down to wait for his execution.  He survived five gunshot wounds and his heroic actions saved others.  He is an American soldier who deserves a world of praise, since most people cower when faced with such danger, which usually results in death.  If you see an idiot with a gun walking around shooting people, why stand and wait for him to shoot you?  I wonder if people think the shooter will run out of bullets or suddenly be filled with kindness and compassion and decide to spare them?

Under those dire circumstances, in my opinion, I think it is best to stand and fight; to take a bullet for a cause, maybe that will allow others to live; may even be the event that causes the “herd effect,” where others follow in the charge to defuse the situation.  A passive stance will most likely lead to being shot with the other victims.  Killers aren’t compassionate people.  Such acts of cowardice only offends a psychopath with a gun or weapon.  One mass murderer in the state of Georgia, once wrote how the people laid there like cattle and waited for him to execute them, that they weren’t even willing to fight for their lives.  Me, personally, I would not wait.  Shoot me, he may do, but it would NOT be as I sat trembling waiting to be executed.  I might be trembling as I charged or found something to throw to distract or injure him, but I would not be shot while waiting for my turn.  Shoot me next.  If all else failed, I’d run like hell.  Anyway, for that blog I needed more factual information to write on that topic, so I added it to my Blogs To Do List.

FROGS:  And then I ran into the infamous Frog Napper Frye, who had just made bond for his crimes against living creatures–Frog Abduction.  Not really.  Really, that I ran into him, not really for why he was thrown into a custom-designed prison cell the day after I had last saw him, transporting a frog in a bottle.  I learned that he had freed the frog I helped abduct.  And then he delivered his bad news:  after his arrest, frog lovers freed his captive frog, Shorty Morgan; a small arboreal amphibian named after someone who had confiscated the frog-nappers’ relocated (stolen) onions and bell peppers.

I was happy to learn that both frogs had found their freedom because all living creatures want to be free.  I wrote along those lines in my blog, “#Nature:  Frogs, an Octopus, and #Escapees.” [1]  Well, my friend disappeared again.  The rumor mill (Inmate.com) has it that he was rearrested for his blog, “Embracing the Chaos”; that may or may not be true.  It could have happened, or his arrest may have been for some devious activity, but he felt that it happened because of the blog.  I read the blog and didn’t feel it contained any information worthy of casting a prisoner inside the Segregated Housing Unit, but, …. what I think doesn’t always coincide with what prison administrators and politicians think.  More will be revealed.  Read his blogs at bankblogger.weebly.com or murderslimpress.com/BankRobber’sBlog.

POLITICS:  I delayed writing that blog because the situation reminded me of the political attempt to silence the pen of a prisoner in the Pennsylvania prison system, who was involved in a “controversial case of killing a police officer.”  I needed more information to write that one:  I found it and so here I am, fingers on keys, but not the keys to my freedom, only the keys I use to exercise my freedom of speech that the United States Constitution says I have under its First Amendment.  The Pennsylvania Legislatures squeezed the life out of that Amendment by passing “The Revictimization Relief Act.”  A federal judge deemed that law “manifestly unconstitutional.”  The Honorable Christopher C. Conner, United States Middle District Chief Judge.  “‘A past criminal offense does not extinguish the offender’s constitutional right to free expression,’ Conner wrote.  ‘The First Amendment does not evanesce at the prison gate, and its enduring guarantee of freedom of speech subsumes the right to expressive conduct that some may find offensive.'” (Pennsylvania Law Limiting Speech of Prisoners Struck Down, by Andrew V. Pestano, [2015] upi.com.)

The Supreme Court relied upon the Free Speech principle in deciding on a case dealing with Hustler Magazine and its owner, Larry Flint.  Some people found the content of the magazine offensive, but the Court still protected his right to publish it.  Flint’s lawyer basically posed that if it protects those people who others want to silence or restrict, then it protects the average American citizen even more.

Prisoners only have so much freedom of speech.  Some speech can lead us to being handcuffed and then confined in a small cell without a phone, typewriter, or severely-crippled-computer, such as the one upon which I type.  There are those who will still fight for what is right, regardless of the price our actions may demand.  Most allow fear or lack of knowledge to stop them from challenging unconstitutional restrictions.  Read my blog, “Fighting for Rights to Write” [2], for an example of fighting for others who may not have the skills, as well as for my personal interests and liberties.  That is one of many incidents I fought and won.  I succeeded at convincing the administration of its error in trying to implement a process that would impede my ability to exercise my freedom of speech.  Not all prison administrators, or politicians, or judges, are bad people; however, some are more evil and devious and sinister than any prisoner executed on death row for their crimes against humanity.

At the end of the day, we are all human beings trying to find our way through the life experience.  We do what we feel is right or wrong and then worry about the benefits or consequences when the time comes to reap the rewards or pay the piper.  I have paid dearly throughout my life for making poor decisions, but now I reap the rewards of having becoming a good human being.  If you read ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN by Wayne T. Dowdy, it will allow you to see life from a different perspective about the cost of a person’s actions for being an outlaw.  After reading it, you will want to share it with a friend, especially if you have one travelling down a road headed toward destruction.

The rain continues to pour, many Southern states flooded again.  Good day for bullfrogs, and a good day to blog about frogs.

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[1]  read full text at https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com or http://waynedowdy.weebly.com

[2]  first published at http://www.prisoneducation.com in February 2014; reposted March 2015 on https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com and http://waynedowdy.weebly.com

[3] Go to http://www.straightfromthepen.com to purchase my books; or for my eBooks, essays, and short stories, to my author’s page at Smashwords.com (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy) or Amazon.kindle.

FROG NAPPER RETURNS

by Wayne T. Dowdy

On a warm autumn evening another frog went down. This one less than an inch in length, green with black spots; nothing unusual, long muscular legs and toes for its torso, hopping along the same sidewalk that all the other victims had before falling victim to frog predators.

The frog hopped along as it dodged dozens of feet rushing back to where they lived in the rush hour traffic. One prisoner stopped to direct traffic around the frog to protect it from harm, and then the frog nappers moved in to take control of the situation. One tall with close-cropped blonde hair and aqua-blue eyes; the other more squat with more sinister features, brown hair, beady brown eyes, and ruddy cheeks; both on the high-end of middle age, that is, if you consider the fifties to be in that category. Okay, maybe to some they’d be more along the ancient-line of ages, either way, though, old they may be, but slow they were not. They snatched the slippery frog off the sidewalk and ran with it. Well, not in that exact manner. This is how it went down on the prison walkway in front of the education, chapel, and psychology areas.

The frog napper had an accomplice this time. He usually works alone. The shorter of the two reached for the frog as it hopped toward a grassy area in an attempt to escape its abductor. The tiny arboreal amphibian dodge the snatch of that napper and then reversed its direction, only to fall into the hands of the taller of the two perps, who chased the little creature across the sidewalk until he cupped it under his palm, before grabbing it between two fingers. The small frog kicked and squirmed as it tried to escape. The cool and slippery skin failed to aid the escape plan when the defenseless frog couldn’t slip through the grasp of the abductor, who then turned his catch over to Frog-Napper-Frye, a man with a history of napping little frogs.

The last timfrog in pill bottlee I saw the tiny creature, it sat inside a small, orange pill bottle with a white cap on; the bottle, not the frog. Frog-Napper-Frye headed south with the napped frog in tow. He mentioned putting it in the pen with another frog he’s had for one-year.

“I’ll let this one go if it doesn’t get along with Shorty Morgan,” he said.

Shorty Morgan is another frog that he affectionately named, which he goes to great extremes to keep fed, year-round, with a variety of insects he captures inside pill bottles. One day Frog-Napper-Frye reported that he returned to the cell to find Shorty Morgan floating on a piece of paper that hadn’t flushed down the toilet bowl. A federal agent had zoomed in and discovered Shorty Morgan sitting inside his custom-designed pen, all bug-eyed looking, and then the bitter agent attempted to rid society of another dangerous felon by sending it down the river for life. Fortunate for Shorty Morgan, the villainous federal agent failed to wait and see if he survived the flush. Shorty Morgan must have tricked him by swimming back up into the toilet bowl, after being dragged down by the current, deep down into the plumbing pipes, before resurfacing once the coast was clear. Read more about Shorty Morgan on the murderslim.com blogspot I referenced in my June 16, 2015, blog post (“#Nature – Frogs, an Octopus, and #Escapees”).

Local law enforcement officials may have put an all-points-bulletin out to arrest Frog-Napper-Frye. The night of the abduction was the last time I saw him. I’ve heard he’s in federal custody. If they did catch up with him, he’ll probably get another five-to-ten for abduction of frogs, in violation of the federal code for the Amphibian Safety Act.

I confess. I was the accomplice in the frog-napping crime on the sidewalk. I found myself torn between loyalty to my friend with a thirst for frogs, and my desire to let the tiny creature go free after relocating it to safety, as I would have normally done. Loyalty to my friend won. It did make me feel better when he said he might let the new frog go free. Maybe he did. One day I hope to learn what happened to him and the frog he nabbed on that warm autumn evening.

Please follow my blogs and visit the website at http://www.straightfromthepen.com for more of my writings, and to purchase my books, essays and short stories. Thank you. Contact Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616; e-mail: MEBooks1@yahoo.com), if you prefer not to order online.

Vacation in Prison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wayne T. Dowdy, 39311-019, B-3
P.O. Box 725, FCI
Edgefield, SC 29824-0725
E-mail: waynedowdy@straightfromthepen.com
Follow me on Twitter: @DowdyFromThePen