Tag Archives: Prison violence

Quora Posts

These Top Three Posts have the highest number of views on Quora.com, where I’ve had a total of 105 K views (all content) since I began posting answers on December 16, 2018. https://www.quora.com/profile/Wayne-T-Dowdy

Most viewed posts within the last thirty days (01/25/19-02/25/19):


Answered: January 26, 2019, by Wayne T. Dowdy

How are new inmates treated when they first come to prison?

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

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

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

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

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

You Gotta Go!

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

21 k Views, 39-Upvotes

(Photo by Lynn Pelham/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Can you survive and stay healthy on food provided to you in prison? Is the food clean and nutritious enough, or do you need to order out like the rest of the inmates?

Updated: February 19, 2019, by Wayne T. Dowdy

I can only write about my life while serving time in the Georgia Department of Corrections and in the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons. This is what I wrote, in part, on December 19, 2016 in “Gratitude and More”:

“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!” [End Quote] GRATITUDE AND MORE

[2017–2018]: The recent federal budgets reduced available funds to prison administrators. When a warden saves money by operating under the approved budget, he or she may receive a bonus. At the last federal institution I lived at, the warden received hefty bonuses by reducing the operating cost.

Thousands of dollars saved came from her reducing food service expenditures and by reducing staff, much like private prisons operate to theoretically save taxpayer dollars.

Many times I sat eating and feeling regret for those who could not afford to have food in their locker to supplement the meal; however, overall, the food was well-prepared and most of the staff allowed inmates to go through the line twice, because they knew the meal was less than what the menu required to meet dietary requirements for adequate nutrition.

State prisoners are probably fed less but could survive with what is served. Though they could survive, that does not mean they would not walk away hungry and suffer from health-related issues due to dietary deficiencies.

5.1k Views, 15-Upvotes

Bad Day Way To Start a Day

When does the day start for inmates in federal prison?

Answered: February 4, 2019, by Wayne T. Dowdy

From my experience, when the day starts for federal inmates varies according to the prison and the employment position held by the prisoner. For most of the prisons I was in, which included four United States Penitentiaries and one Federal Correctional Institution, the doors opened by 6:00 am under normal circumstances.

In the lower-security prisons, certain prisoners assigned to food service (chow hall) may leave the unit for work as early as 4:00 am, whereas the majority who work in the chow hall won’t leave until approximately 6:30-7:00 am.

Those schedules and processes vary according to the security rating of the prisoner and institution. For instance, high-security institutions that house inmates assigned as Max. Custody, may not allow those inmates to work in certain positions where more readily-available weapons or tools may be used to aid in an escape plan, or during high-risk periods (when visibility is reduced, such as when foggy or before sunrise or after sunset).

For thirteen of the thirty-years, I was a maximum custody prisoner which required that I stay in a high-security institution; however, the only consistency in management techniques to control me was inconsistency. The way I was managed because of my custody/security rating, varied according to the Captain of the institution.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons’ program statement for Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification (P.5100.08), approved 09/12/2006, and other referenced documentation, establishes security protocols for management of its prisoners.

In the Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR), where I worked for most of the thirty-years I served, we reported to work at 7:30 am. The cell house doors opened at 6:00 am for the general population to begin their day.

2.8k Views, 11-Upvotes

If I add in the fourth, the previous champ comes in with 18.4 K total views and 84-Upvotes.

State versus Federal

How does serving time in a federal prison compare to serving time in a state prison?

(Question Modified) Answered: December 26, 2018, by Wayne T. Dowdy

When I first began my sentence, an old-timer said, “The states control you physically and the feds do it psychologically.”

I found that true. The feds use incentive-mechanisms to control its prisoners (gives prisoners something to lose, recreation privileges, more freedom of movement, better living conditions; something authorities take or restrict access to for misbehavior).

The typical prisoner mentality in the federal system is milder, less violent than many state prisoners. Again, an old-timer gave me a few words of wisdom:

“The federal system lulls people to sleep because it’s more laid-back, and there’s not as much violence every day, so guys forget where they’re at because they get away with so much. And then when one of them does something stupid to the wrong person, he gets stabbed or killed.”

I behaved better in the federal system than when I served time in the State of Georgia, where violence dominates every day activities.

My published writings show the difference between the young knucklehead I was while serving time in Georgia where I didn’t have much to lose, in comparison to the responsible man I become, due in part to the aging process and having programs available to help me change. Read The Price of Change by Wayne T. Dowdy, Midnight Express Books, for an example of the differences in my behaviors in the State versus the Federal system.

Being paid for working in the Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) made a significant difference because it allowed me to take care of myself, rather than to burden my family for support, and that made me feel better as a human being.

The difference in my behavior illustrates the effectiveness of incentive programs, as well as the difference in the life of a prisoner serving time in a federal or state system; however, prisoner experiences vary.

__________________________________________________________
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Truthfully Speaking by Wayne T. Dowdy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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prisoner entering prisons in America

Prison Life by Wayne T. Dowdy

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

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

Prison Life

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

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

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

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

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

______________________________________________

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ONE MORE FROM THE ROAD

one more from the roadMy favorite version of Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd, is on ONE MORE FROM THE ROAD, recorded at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA, one block from my birthplace.  This Freebird en route to Atlanta got one more lockdown in for the road.  More will be revealed.

 

The 35-year sentence that I began on August 18, 1988, has finally reached its end.  Well, at least, close to its end.  When I leave August 28th, as it now stands, I have 192-days in the halfway house and 5-years on supervised release, following satisfaction of the 420-month term of imprisonment imposed by the court.

 

This blog contains mixed topics; some written from a positive perspective, others from a not-so-positive perspective.  I’ll tell some of what my last month has been like living in an institution ran by the most absurd federal prison administration I’ve ever lived under for the last thirty-years.

 

DEPARTING:  I’m leaving behind many friends, a lot of good men, and a lot more defeated by an over-abundance of suboxene and bug poison (K-2/Spice) that flooded this compound within 6-months of this warden taking command.  Based upon statements made by inmates at the last institution she ran, the same thing happened there:  she reduced alcohol consumption that resulted in an increase in demand and availability of K-2 and suboxene.

 

Concerning wardens that Washington officials began referring to as Chief Executive Officers (CEO), because of, in my opinion, the federal prison system becoming a business-venture, more so than a place to help its men and women become law-abiding citizens.

 

The Congressional budgeting system allows wardens and executive staff to take home hefty bonuses by cutting operating cost, often at the expense of the safety and health of staff and inmates alike.

 

Throughout the years, I’ve met many good men and women who worked for the BOP, a few of whom helped save the lives of myself and others by offering their time to provide needed services to help prisoners learn life-skills; especially, for those in programs designed to help addicts and alcoholics learn to live life without the use of drugs and alcohol.

 

JOURNALING INTO A NEW LIFE:  This time 23-years ago, I was writing in journals about my newfound way of life (living without using drugs and alcohol, and working on becoming a better man who lived by different spiritual principles).  Here’s two excerpts I hope will inspire others:

 

August 23, 1995:  “This new lifestyle is a lot more simple and easier to live by in this environment, because I don’t have to worry about getting a U.A. [urine-analysis], going to the hole for being stupid, or having to try so hard to get by.  I used to have to hustle to support my dope habit, but not anymore.  I never had food in my locker, but kept the lockers of dope men well-stocked.  Now I have food to eat, good shoes to wear, and can afford to send money to my family as gifts or to buy other things I want or need.  I have time for Wayne and I care about Wayne.  Wayne deserves to be cared for, because he’s a worthy human being, and really is not a bad guy, so I’m no longer trying to destroy him.  I’m trying to ‘set him free.’  He deserves that!”

 

September 13, 1995:  “I have began my pursuit of freedom, which could end up being a fruitless search from me on the legal angle, but if God wants to see me free, I will be free.  If not legally, in spirit, which is most important.  I would like to be legally free, because I know I can make it out there now, and know I have a lot of valuable experience, wisdom, and knowledge to offer certain segments of society.  For that reason, I deserve another chance.”

 

LEGALLY SPEAKING:  The legal pursuit of my freedom proved fruitless and a waste of time, energy, and thousands of dollars, but it did keep me occupied and I learned a lot.  If you consider the success I had getting my halfway house date changed and the knowledge gained, it was beneficial.  I also helped free others.

 

During the legal Pursuit of Freedom process, I damn sure learned that what the law says doesn’t matter:  If the courts want to follow the law, they do.  If not, they use their power and ignore the law.  After I build straightfromthepen.net, I will post court documents from my case and others to prove what I just wrote.

 

ALONG SPIRITUAL LINES:  I know everything worked out the way it was supposed to, and that if the courts had followed the laws passed by Congress, and the court decisions I relied upon during my direct appeal process, I would not be alive today.  I had a bad drug problem and ill intent for several years after my conviction.  Today I don’t have either and will live the rest of my days in peace, clean & sober, and, for the most part, healthier than when I arrived in 1988.

 

LIFE NOT ACCORDING TO WAYNE:  Most of these last few days of my life in prison have not went according to my plan.  I planned to attend the last few A.A. and N.A. meetings; to quit my job on August 17th, and then spend some time outside on the recreation yard to exercise and tone up my body, and to work on my suntan in preparation for all the fat-butt-girls waiting to chase me.  😉

 

The warden closed the recreation yard over three weeks ago and spoiled my Suntan Plan.

 

RECENT EVENT:  The warden’s closure of the recreation yard indirectly resulted in a clash between two ethnic groups in the Chow Hall on Sunday, August 12, 2018.  When tension builds amongst an inmate population, and one ethnic group gets punished and suffers because of an action by another group, a tender box is born; complements of the warden, captain, or other prison official, who implemented unnecessary punitive actions in response to an issue, such as is the case at hand.

 

(Read “Politics & Prison” (11/07/16) where I wrote in response to this warden’s use of group-punishment techniques, and show how it creates conflicts in a prison population and is thus not a rational correctional-management tool for all situations:

 

“MORE ON BLANKET PARTIES:  If certain prisoners are given a blanket party or ‘sanctioned’ by their peers for failure to comply with rules or regulations, it may lead to extreme violence; therefore, the ideological control mechanism for military men and women does not work on prisoners, or otherwise has adverse effects; that is, unless the prison administrators really want prisoners to clash.  Many administrators have ulterior motives.”)

 

THE CHOW HALL FIASCO lead to 5-prisoners suffering injuries severe enough to justify a trip to the local hospital for treatment.  I was inside the chow hall during the fiasco.

 

NO OUTSIDE RECREATION:  The reason for closing the recreation yard was because staff found homemade wine buried beside an area known as the “Boom Boom Room.”  Prison staff have known about the problem for years, including the whole period of this warden’s stay (about 2-years).

 

Staff have probably dug as much as 50-75 gallons of wine out of the same spot, and yet, instead of being intelligent enough to use available technology (posting surveillance cameras in the area as most competent prison administrators do in problem areas), the warden/prison administration, chose to close the recreation yard to tear down the Boom Boom Room.

 

The recreation yard is a place where men go to exercise or relax, to relieve anger, stress, and tension associated with prison life or just to stay healthy.

 

TINDER BOX:  The closure of the recreation yard created a Tinder Box because a few members of one ethnic group is responsible for its closure, as is the warden.  That put targets on the backs of everyone of that nationality.

 

THE CATALYST:  A inmate who worked the a.m. Food Service shift, stole fruit and hid it in a Dish/Tray Room, where prisoners use a dishwasher to wash food trays, utensils, etc.  When he returned during the next shift and learned his stolen-stash was stolen, he attacked a member of the other ethnic group, known to bury wine.

 

Several members of the latter group attacked and beat down the aggressor and that lead to retaliation by members of the aggressor’s ethnic group.

 

FIASCO RESPONSE:  The staff who responded got medical attention for the aggressor who received minor injuries, and then escorted him and four of his attackers down the walkway toward the medical department and segregated housing unit.

 

I sat at a table near where the ethnic group of the four attackers often sat.  After the incident in the Tray Room, I went to the opposite side of the chow hall and saw those escorted out the rear door of the Tray Room.  I returned to the other side and let my peers know of the events racial nature.  Then myself and most other non-participants moved out of the area to get out of the way of what was sure to follow.

 

Upon leaving with the offenders, staff locked the chow hall doors with approximately 150-200 inmates left alone inside with one food service staff member.  After 5-to-8 minutes of the racial situation brewing, the aggressor’s ethnic group attacked anyone who looked like they may have been of the other ethnic group, thus creating a racial riot inside the chow hall.

 

For approximately 3-4 minutes, food trays soared across the chow hall, injuring those hit; weapons of various types were used to batter opponents; fists and feet used where possible.

 

The food service staff member ran and locked himself in an office inside the chow hall.  I suspect he radioed for assistance, but I never saw him come out of his hiding spot into the Battle Zone, evidence of being a true coward.

 

According to what an associate who stayed in the Battle Zone, one staff member came in through the rear door of the Tray Room, ran in and began spraying all aggressors with Pepper Spray.

 

Two staff members made the wrong turn and came to the non-participant side.  One pointed a camera at us and said, “Get on the ground.”  And then later, “Turn and face the wall.”

 

I knelt down on one knee but did not turn to face the wall.  An injured Hispanic participant had came from the Battle Zone with blood running down his head from different angles and dripped blood on the floor in front of me.  The violence was still in progress twenty-five feet away: I knew not to expose myself to flying trays by turning around when the two dummies did not even notice that those of us standing against the wall were docile.

 

The other staff member who made the wrong turn, used profanity directed toward one man and threatened to spray him with pepper spray.  During this time, you could hear inmates attempting to rip pipes from their fixtures to use as weapons in the Battle Zone, while those two knuckleheads wasted time messing with us.

 

Finally, one of the guys standing against the wall shouted out, “We aren’t the one’s fighting.”

 

The camera man turned and then moved to where the action was going.  The dummy with the pepper spray turned and followed him.  Another staff member came in and said, “Y’all just get down on one knee.  I’m trying to look for injuries.”

 

He pointed to the injured Hispanic and said, “You, get over there.”  Then he said, “Is anyone else injured?”

 

Maybe ten minutes later, the crowd dispersed toward a door and began to exit on the opposite end of the chow hall.  I followed.  We returned to the living units and was locked in our cells for about a week.

 

GOD’S WILL VERSUS MINE:  I also planned to mail out some of my property on Thursday at R&D Open House.  We can only mail outgoing packages, after approval by unit staff, and then during Open House on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

 

A sign on the door showed “No Open House Today,” but if you were to ask the Warden or one of her officials, you’d be told that Open House is opened during all schedules periods; a lie I have been told before.

 

Well, that’s where God’s will versus mine comes to play.  I believe that whenever I’m faced with such obstacles that there’s a reason for it and that it’ll work to my good.  In the past it always has and this time is no different.  The delay gave me more time to sort through my ton of property to lighten my load as I set out to travel the Road to Happy Destiny.  🙂

________________________________

More to come from this author at https://straightfromthepen.com  Email:  info@straightfromthepen.com