On one of my adventures in downtown Atlanta, after my release from serving a 420-month federal prison sentence, I captured the photo of this beautiful bus while walking around the city snapping photos using a smart phone. Only Dumb Phones existed before my 1988 arrest and conviction. But at least you could find a phone booth to pay with coins or by calling collect on such a device, instead of having to pay a lot of money for a smartphone and phone plan.
Ad: Speaking of Phone Plans, here is my promotion for Tello.com where I earn 10 Tello Credits for referrals who use my referral code (P3RHP9H9) to purchase a low-cost plan.
Since these posts are read world-wide, I am certain that those in different countries without all of the available technology used in America may wonder how a phone booth looked. Though this photo is of a much older phone booth seen in 1988, this photo does show what would now be a dumb phone, if one could be found somewhere, when compared to a smart phone that I can use the camera of to walk around town taking photos.
Moving on to a different theme, when I first began writing this blog my intent was to post this brief message to refer readers to my page on Quora.com, where I may also earn a commission for those who use my link to sign up for Quora+
Anyways, for a quick blog post with a punch, I am re-sharing a popular answer on Quora that continues to receive a lot of attention because it relates to the technological challenge many returning citizens face upon release. Please be sure to follow the comments in the thread. In particular, what I wrote in response to a comment to help the returning citizen protect himself from scammers:
“Along the lines of security, adding two-factor authentication to an important account is best; especially, if you can use an Authenticator App, such as the one offered by Google or Microsoft. SMS messaging is better than not using any additional measure of security, but that may also be compromised. A lot of SPAM calls may leed to that becoming a security threat.
“Using a credit card versus a debit card is also best, since using the credit card does not require adding your pin number.
“For additional security, in the Manage Account settings on credit or debit cards, add a notification for any transactions done for the lowest amount available so that you will be notified of any transactions posted, and if not you, you can turn off the card immediately and change all associated passwords.” WTD
Shane, who is a returning citizen like me who wants to make a positive contribution to society, provides a link at the end of this post from his Space on Quora.com that may be of interest to anyone who has served time in prison or who has a loved one or friend who has been on the Inside.
WHY I CREATED THE SPACE, “THE PRISON AND JAIL FORUM – DECADES.” PLEASE READ BEFORE CHECKING OUT THE ANSWERS ON THE SPACE OR IN MY PROFILE!
First, I want to thank all those that have supported the space with their posts, views, and commentary.
I created the space with the goal to gain credibility to launch much loftier goals I have of preventing juvenile delinquents from making the decisions I made and ending up in prison. Incarceration and recidivism rates are way too high in our country. The devastating consequences affect everybody that live here in the United States. The majority of the people in our country that are in prison will be going home someday. I believe that the way our current criminal justice system is set up that the goal of rehabilitation is not being realized. I would like to think if I asked anybody that lived here in the United States if they want a person that is in prison or jail to come out of prison or jail a better person than they were when they went in that their answer would be yes. That is my goal here. That, and preventing them from being in prison in jail in the first place.
The reason that’s DECADES is in the title of the space is because I only solicit contributors that have at least 10 or more years experience in the criminal justice system. I made this decision because I want the answers on the space to be as accurate as possible and come from real experience. You’ll see some posts are from people that do not have 10 or more years in the system because I allow anybody to request to post something, and after reviewing it, I post it if it is appropriate. I solicit contributors that are not only male and female ex-convicts but also police officers, parole officers, correctional officers, probation officers, defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges, human rights advocates/activates,family of incarcerated, and even sex offenders; in the hope the space will not be biased. I encourage those that meet these prerequisites to apply to be a contributor. I also encourage anybody that would like to collaborate with me, with the goal of preventing juvenile delinquents from ending up in prison, to message me.
Also, far too many people are in prison that are innocent in the first place. You can see evidence of this through the fact that more than 300 people have been exonerated and found to be innocent of the crimes that a jury had found them guilty of, due to the development of DNA technology. That is more than 300 people that the sperm or blood, that was found in heinous rape and murder cases, was found not to be the perpetrator’s blood. Imagine all the people on death row right now that don’t have DNA in their case to prove their innocence, many of which will be executed by our government. The average law abiding citizen believes in our criminal justice system; that it is fair and just, that we don’t put innocent people in prison here in the United States. It isn’t until you have a real encounter with the system that you come to realize that it is broken. The jury pool is pulled from voters. Voters believe in the system or they wouldn’t vote. When the accused sits at the defense table, it is only natural for the person serving on the jury to form an opinion, before any anything is ever said, by their appearance. A large percentage of those jurors are automatically biased because they believe in the system and believe policeman wouldn’t arrest someone for nothing, so there’s already a presumption of guilt even though the accused is supposed to be assumed innocent until proven guilty. Public defenders don’t have adequate resources to protect their clients from injustice due to the high cost. The focus is on plea bargaining when the focus should be on coming to the truth. Prosecutors will fight to keep someone in prison even after they have been shown to be innocent from DNA evidence, contrary to their oath office they swore to uphold.
I watched a 2020 special one time where they took mock jurors and held jury trials. They used the same witnesses, asked the same questions, the same prosecutors, the same defense attorneys, with the only different factor being the person sitting at the defense table. A clean cut individual was often found not guilty, whereas someone who did not have the quintessential look of an innocent person was found guilty. I also watched another 20/20 special where they would have someone, with the stores permission, go into to a store, snatch something and run out the door. Then they would show mugshots to the people in the store that were shopping at the time. People would pick photos in the mugshot lineups and say that that was the person they saw snatch the item that was snatched and it wasn’t even the person. This is literally within 20 minutes of seeing the person that snatched the item. Many of these people said they were certain it was the person when it was not. This also shows how eye witness testimony, which is often taken as fact by jurors is flawed. I hope if you’re reading this, and you serve on a jury, that you will remember this blog and it will lead you to have an unbiased opinion of the accused and will prevent innocent people from going to prison.
I think of all the tens of thousands of juveniles in the system today. I believe if someone just took an interest, an actual sincere one on one interest, in each and every one of them, that a significant percentage of them will never make the choices that will ultimately land them in prison one day.
Incarcerating people has a high social and financial cost to our society and is devastating. Our inner cities are being destroyed. Children are growing up without their fathers. People are leaving prison angry, lost, and worse off than when they went in. Many don’t realize that it is not the prisoner alone that is serving the prison sentence but also their children, their parents, and other loved ones that count each and every day with them, suffering , to the day of their release only to be disappointed to find many of them broken and damaged, instead of rehabilitated. Many, myself included, as well as correctional officers, and others that work in the prison, suffer from PTSD due to the violence. Upon release from prison I thought I was going insane until I found out that everybody that did a lengthy period of time like me suffered from the same symptoms and that it was a normal result and consequence of the environment I lived in. There’s actually a mental health label for it called Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS). PICS, not only affects the person that is suffering from it but all those in society that that person comes into contact with due to the behavior they exhibit is a direct result.
Update APRIL 10, 2021: Many things in my life have changed since I wrote Electronic Chain over two years ago after I finally completed a 420-month federal prison sentence. That day was a long-time coming and one I often wondered if I would live long enough to see as a free man.
When I look at the photo that I took of Dismas Charities in Atlanta, Georgia, on the day of my release, I am reminded of the times I had to have permission to walk out the doors and through the gates to walk down the street to catch a bus to go to an approved location, such as the Georgia Department of Labor to continue my fruitless job search, or to Grady Memorial Hospital or to the Mercy Care Clinic for health-related issues.
Free at Last, Kind of
The first time I got a pass to leave the premises, when I was kind of free at last for a few hours, I remember standing at the end of the street at a bus stop, feeling like a dog must feel when freed from its leash.
It had been thirty calendar years since I had walked in the free society without a chain strapped around my waist, handcuffs on my wrists, and leg shackles biting at my ankles as I tried to act normal while wearing such unfashionable jewelry.
Returning to Dismas Charities was not always as bad as what one may think for a man who spent decades of his life bound by chains, who lived behind concrete and steel walls, with the outside perimeters decorated with row-upon-row of razor wire designed to slice the flesh of anyone crossing over it into a different world.
Sometimes it was a relief to walk back inside the gates of the halfway house, after walking up a long hill in one of the less-favorable neighborhoods of Atlanta, where the prostitutes and dope fiends hustled the streets to meet their needs for survival in a cruel world.
For me, returning to the boundaries of Dismas Charities was a relief because I was back into a more familiar atmosphere, where I didn’t feel like an alien or caveman.
Behind the gates was where I was supposed to be until told I could leave and not return; the day I longed for but somewhat feared because of the risk of returning to a jail cell if I failed to meet the expectations of the United States Department of Justice or any of the many local law enforcement agencies in Metro Atlanta.
I thank God daily for me not having to live in that environment anymore, where my activities were governed and regulated by program statements and policies, often interpreted by people who lacked the required intelligence to grasp the concept behind broadly-written words.
However, to be fair, I need to clarify that not everyone in authoritative positions lacked intelligence or abused their authority because the policies gave them the power to do so.
Some were good men and women who did all they could to help me and others to walk out of the prison doors and to become better individuals.
I am grateful for several staff members who fell into the latter category, as well as for the ones I have dealt with since my release, none of whom have shown any ill-intent toward me and have helped me to successfully reintegrate into society.
LIFE ON THE OUTSIDE
Today, I live and eat well and don’t have to do a lot of walking to go to and from desired locations. That is because I own and drive a vehicle; work 40-hour per week, have automotive, life, medical, dental, and vision insurance. The walking I do is by choice, or necessity, not because it is my only option.
I am ending this update with a few photos to show that life is good and with the hope of inspiring others who have been released from prison to never give up and to work towards finding a better way to live out here, even when times get rough.
It took me eleven months to find a job, more so because of my age than criminal history, but I never gave up or thought about reverting to my old behaviors.
The God of my understanding has bigger plans for me than being in a cage, and for that I am grateful.
The Night Before I Lose An Electronic Chain
Anticipation may be one word to describe what a person experiences in knowing he or she awaits the finish line of a challenge that took thirty-years, six-months, and twenty-two-days, to reach.
MY DAY: March 8, 2019: On the day of my total release from the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons, my weary mind recalled sleeping from about 1:00 am until 3:30 am.
My eyes popped open and refused to close, so I succumbed to the pressure and got out of bed to begin a day I had awaited; a day I didn’t think I’d ever see after my arrest on August 18, 1988.
Miracles Do Happen!I believed I would die in prison or be killed escaping. I was wrong!
When I went to sleep on March 8, 2019, I slept longer than I had in years, maybe because of having completed my 420-month federal prison sentence. Being relieved of the pressure from carrying a heavy burden for three decades of my life, lightened my load.
Not having to worry about getting up to charge an ankle monitor helped me sleep better, too, I’m sure.
(I viewed the ankle monitor strapped to my ankle as an electronic-chain, which I had to wear to go on home confinement. If I had not agreed, I would have had to stay at the halfway house (Residential Reentry Center.))
That morning I signed some papers and a staff member at Dismas Charities removed the electronic-chain. From that point on I was technically freed from the custody of the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons, an agency I spoke out against for years while under its control.
Leaving Dismas Charities, a loved one invited me to a celebratory meal at a Waffle House. I accepted! He treated me to steak and eggs, with hashbrowns smothered and covered.
And high-dollar coffee, in comparison to the cost of a cup in 1988!
I was shocked to learn a cup of coffee cost $1.50 at a Waffle House!
[Breaking News: On March 13th, I drank coffee at a Waffle House in downtown Atlanta and paid $2.00 for a cup. My brother-in-law said the previous cup was $1.90, not $1.50] Much cheaper than StarBucks!
Then the next day, I ate even better. I’ve been treated so well by family and friends since my release, it’s hard to say when I ate the best. I have eaten a lot of tasty food, at a lot of high-dollar-restaurants, none of which served better food than what I ate during family gatherings on Thanksgiving and Christmas Days.
March 9, 2019: Food-wise, I liked the food at a couple other restaurants better than what I ate at an Outback Steakhouse, where we celebrated my return to the family, but I enjoyed the experience tremendously.
That is because of the time I spent with most of my loved ones, and without me having an electronic-chain strapped around my ankle.
Having an electronic-chain strapped around my ankle, embarrassed me when it showed while I was out in the public; however, I preferred dealing with embarrassment over the alternative (sitting at the halfway house or in prison).
Family Time Made Everything Wonderful!
From FaceBook: I am blessed to have a family who still loves me. This Yummy, Great American Cookie was the final part of my special night out at an Outback Steakhouse to celebrate having closed one chapter of my life and for beginning a new one.
The evening meant a lot because it was the first family outing I experienced in decades without an electronic-chain strapped to my ankle.
There were other loved ones who couldn’t attend for various reasons, but I do want to say that the Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings were really special to me because I got to meet relatives I had never met and to just really experience the gratitude of love.
God blessed me with a wonderful family and I love ’em all!
Roaming the Streets Without an Electronic-Chain
UNLEASHED: My day in the Big City without an electronic-chain
Leaving the Waffle House, my brother-in-law carried me downtown to the Grady Memorial Hospital for medical appointments.
“Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Ga. is rated high performing in 1 adult procedure or condition. It is a general medical and surgical facility. It is a teaching hospital.
“Rankings and Recognitions
“To help patients decide where to receive care, U.S. News generates hospital rankings by evaluating data on nearly 5,000 hospitals in 16 adult specialties, 9 adult procedures and conditions and 10 pediatric specialties. To be nationally ranked in a specialty, a hospital must excel in caring for the sickest, most medically complex patients. …”
Grady Memorial Hospital held the Top-Spot for U.S. Trauma Centers for decades, and still does, I believe.
The above I wrote because of how impressed I’ve been with the level of health care provided at Grady, where I had to go upon release from prison because I had health issues and did not have insurance and could not afford it. I still can’t afford insurance because I’m unemployed!
[My experience at Grady does not coincide with other patient ratings. August 7, 2019: Since writing this post in March 2019, my opinion of Grady has lessened but I still give it props for the greater good the hospital serves to the Atlanta area.]
Though my brother-in-law was willing to wait, I did not want to hold him up as I went about my scheduled affairs. Leaving Grady I needed to check in with the United States Probation Office.
I left Grady Memorial and walked to the Richard B. Russell Federal Building. Many things changed in society since 1988.
Going into the building I ran into a metal detector, with several government officials guarding its entrance. I had to surrender my possessions, including my SmartWatch, SmartPhone, and backpack filled with a variety of items I knew I needed to venture into the Big City.
Once I cleared the metal detector, all of my possessions were returned, except for the cellphone, which I had to leave with the staff members guarding the entrance. I was given a numbered-token to hold in exchange of my phone until I was ready to leave.
As it turned out, I wasted my time going into the Richard B. Russell Federal Building, because I learned I had to report to another office on Monday, in another town.
While in Atlanta, I gave a urinalysis, but still had to give another one at the correct United States Probation Office. It’s all good, though, I’ve been clean and sober since April 5, 1995.
At the Atlanta office, I did get to speak with the most beautiful probation officer I’d ever seen.
Iplanned to attend a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous that night, but I was so tired by the time I got home at 6:30 pm, after having run around the city and walking over five-miles, that I didn’t even do my typical social media activities.
Maybe all the walking lead to me sleeping as well as I did, without the burden of that electronic-chain and all of the associated factors strapped around my mind and my ankle.
[I posted this on Facebook to share with the world so I am sharing it here, too. Another associated blog that I wrote last year is Master Number 33 by Wayne T. Dowdy. Though I do acknowledge that I attend Twelve Step programs, I do not represent any such programs. I am simply a person who loves to show others that miracles do happen, one day at a time.]
April 5th, 1995, was the last day I used a mind-altering substance, the day a true miracle occurred since I have remained drug and alcohol free ever since. Someone once said that if I ever decided to play the lottery that I should play it on April 5th (I stopped smoking 9-years later on that day, too).
Driving to work in the rain that morning, about ten yards in front of me, a car in the right lane decided to cut across the left lane to make a left turn (from the right lane). I swerved sharply to avoid being hit in the right side of my car.
Another miracle occurred on that day when I avoided a collision. I didn’t even blow the horn, just kept on driving to my destination and thanking God for His continued protection of me.
Before the night was over, eBay notified me that my Peter Rabbit collection sold (the first item that I had listed). I shipped it today and have maintained my Five Star Rating.
The moral of the story is that miracles do happen, and even though I refuse to see myself as a miracle, I do acknowledge that I am evidence that miracles do happen. I hope that a miracle happens in each of your lives, every day, as they do in mine when I live to see another day with all body parts intact and still working.
“Time goes by fast when having fun” is an old cliché I use often. For me, it seems I spend most of my time spinning my wheels procrastinating at times.
Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com!
You registered on WordPress.com 7 years ago. Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging.
Revising a Life in Progress
Seven years ago when I began this website/blog with the assistance of my publisher at Midnight Express Books, I was sitting in the only Federal Correctional Institution that I was ever in during the thirty-years and ten-days that I served on a 420-month federal prison sentence.
My primary purpose was to use Straight from the Pen as a way to promote my books and to stand up and fight against the system that held my body but could not contain my mind and spirit. For evidence in regard to fighting the system while on the Inside, please read my blog, Fight for Change, and notice the copies of my letters written to the then BOP Director, Mark S. Inch, and Congressperson, Trey Gowdy.
What I became more successful at was fighting the system, which I continued after my release on August 28, 2018. My plan was to continue the fight with the help of concerned citizens who were willing to fight a worthy cause. Unfortunately, I stood alone when it came to financing the projects, as well as providing the content to elicit additional support.
People are quick to complain about public issues but very few put forth the necessary energy or time that it takes to do something about it, or to at least make an attempt to change what is troubling to them. That is true even when it comes to voting against the ones who lie to get a political seat, only to deceive those who voted to put them in office.
And so the story goes. At the end of the day, my most important goal was to keep from returning to the system I professed to hate. To accomplish that goal, I refused to live my life in a manner that would result in being wrapped in chains again, literally. Because my criminal history and tendency to slip away from confinement, I qualified for the Black Box Special during transportation, via the United States Marshall Service.
Those who qualify for the Black Box Special line of treatment, are escorted with a belly chain (large linked-chain heavier than what is used on most dogs) wrapped around their waist, with the handcuffs encased in a black box designed to make it more difficult to escape. To compliment the arrangement, shackles are secured around the legs near the ankles and often induce pain when walking.
So, as I type, I continue to accomplish the goal to be Free from Incarceration. The Revised Life I now live does not include committing crimes or doing things I shouldn’t be doing if I want to remain a free citizen, a Returning Citizen to society, not to the prison system.
Some of the other things I do are to provide content on Quora.com for my profile page and my space, Life Inside and Out. I am coming up on 1,000,000 views on Quora, and for Google Maps as a guide, over 24,000,000 views.
Right now, though, I need to work on getting some sleep so I can get up and do my good deeds at Goodwill as an Environmental Service Technician.
Feel free to make a modest contribution in the blocks below. I thank you in advance.