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
Afraid of Hell comes from ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN.
AFRAID OF HELL
Suicide seemed the solution to end the torment ravaging my soul when I was thirteen years old.
A quarrel between my mother and brother triggered the episode of depression that made me want to die. I don’t remember what the argument was about, only that it ended with my brother slamming the door after he and his wife stormed out of the house, vowing never to return. The incident pushed me over an already frazzled edge.
At the age of eleven, I had begun doing LSD (a hallucinogenic drug), and then started selling it and other drugs to stay high, including phencyclidine, commonly known as PCP. I had been doing a lot of it for a couple of weeks when the above incident occurred. The particular batch that I had been using and selling was extremely potent. As a drug addict; I took advantage of people without giving it much thought. It wasn’t anything personal, just what I had to do to stay high, which I did on a daily basis, whether from alcohol (the oldest drug known to man), or some other drug.
From shaving pills with a razor blade and storing it in a pill bottle, I had accumulated the equivalent of maybe fifty pills. I was in the living room when my brother and his wife left the house. As soon as they were gone, I began to cry and then ran to my bedroom where I kept my drugs and syringes hidden in a coat pocket. I prepared a large shot and injected it into my arm, and then ate the remainder of the PCP in the spoon and pill bottle. Numerous people had died from far less than what I had taken.
My parents had raised me as a Southern Baptist, so I had a concept of heaven and hell in my mind, and I did not want to go to hell for sure, which is where I was afraid that I was heading just as soon as I died.
Well, I went to school with a girl named Sherry, whose father was the pastor of the Riverdale Church of God. They lived three blocks down the road from my parent’s house.
As I recall, as soon as I had eaten the remainder of the PCP, I jogged down the road to their house. I jogged so that I could get there in a hurry, because I believed that I would die when all of the PCP that I had swallowed was absorbed into my system. Since I did not want to go to hell and was afraid that I was going to die quickly, I had to get there fast. I made it to their house and banged on their storm door. The preacher’s wife opened their heavy oak door and looked at me through the safety of the storm door.
“What do you want?” she asked. (I was the neighborhood hoodlum, and she probably thought that I was there to rob or steal something.)
“I want Brother Price to pray for me, because I have taken drugs to commit suicide, and I don’t want to go to hell,” I said. I believed that his prayer would stop me from going to hell, where I had been told that I would be going for the last few years.
“Bingham, someone’s here to see you,” she yelled.
All I remember after she called for him and he came to the door, was repeating what I had told her, and then him opening the door to invite me into his home. I lost consciousness when I walked across the threshold.
When I came back around, Sherry was sitting across from me at a foldout table with a Monopoly game between us. “Are you going to play?” she asked.
“No,” I said, and shook my head.
“Well, you said that you wanted to play,” she said. Then she asked if I wanted to go outside and sit in the swing, which is what we did. I remember telling her that I thought I had damaged my brain, because everything was moving so slow inside my head. Trying to formulate a sentence was difficult for me.
It took some time, but I eventually recovered and went right back to my insane ways for the next twenty-four years. In 1995, I finally stopped using drugs and alcohol by going through three years of therapy to address the personal issues that made me want to drink and use, and then by getting involved with twelve-step programs to learn the spiritual approach. Today, I do service work at the meetings and by sponsoring people. I remain willing to do God’s will in my life by helping others recover. I feel that I am blessed with each day that I wake up, and especially when I see the lives of others transformed through God’s love and power, as was mine.
I am grateful to have survived my suicidal tendencies. I hope and pray that if someone thinking of suicide reads this article, that they change their mind, because suicide is not the solution. Feelings come and go, good and bad ones alike, and if God was able to save me and give me a life worth living, then He will do it for them too.
I realize that it is only by the grace of God that I am still alive and have a brain that works.
I am thankful that the prayers of Brother Price and his family were more powerful than the mega dose of PCP that I had done. Today, I am glad that I was afraid of hell because if I hadn’t been, I would have stayed in my bedroom and waited for the inevitable.
UNKNOWN INNOCENCE consumed my first novel, UNDER PRESSURE by Mr. D, and part of my second book published by Midnight Express Books (UNDER PRESSURE–MOTIVATIONAL VERSION). What separated the second novel from the first was the addition of “The Story Behind the Novel” and the addition of the first two chapters of UNKNOWN INNOCENCE.
After writing the sequel, I decided to give readers a better value by allowing the sequel to consume the original novel.
For this blog post, I’m providing a peek into the most important part of the Motivational Version (The Story Behind the Novel ), and one randomly selected chapter that shows one aspect of prison life in some of the more dangerous prison settings, Chapter #6, Let It Go.
Warning: Not Politically Correct! Contains Violence, Profanity
Let It Go
Months later, on a cool spring morning, Stan
and Bobby returned from the yard and took their showers before being counted at
10 A.M. Shortly thereafter, they went to eat Spanish omelets, oatmeal, biscuits
and gravy for brunch. That afternoon, Stan sat near the center of the TV room
watching VH1. The TV room was on the walkway at the rear of the cellblock that
joined the tiers. Terry, Jake, and three of Jake’s friends were huddled in the
back corner. Two Jamaicans, who were acquaintances of Stan, sat closest to the
only door, talking. Stan lowered the volume on his Walkman to hear Jake and
Terry’s conversation. A few minutes later his suspicion was confirmed: Terry
still planned to involve Wendy.
“She’s coming over the holiday weekend in
July and I’ll talk her into bringing in the package,” Terry said.
Stan stood and turned to face all five in
the corner. “Keep my sister’s name out of your mouth,” he said.
“Keep out of my business, boy,” Jake said.
Him and his three friends stood. Terry stayed seated.
“Don’t try fucking with this boy!” Stan said.
Terry stood. “I won’t let anything happen to
her, dude,” he said, his voice a high-pitched tone, almost a shrill.
Rastaman stepped out the door and cleared
the corner of the tier to get Big Bobby. At the same moment, Bobby walked out
of his cell to go get some hot water. Rastaman saw him and yelled in his
Jamaican accent. “Yo, mon, Stan need you.” Bobby slung the cup in his cell.
One of Jake’s partners positioned himself
near the door by the other Jamaican, who sat looking toward the television with
a know-nothing stare on his face.
“You’re damn right you’re not because you’re
not going to pull her into your shit,” Stan said. “Find another way to feed
Jake’s other partners tried to position
themselves behind Stan, who turned to put the wall behind him. Jake moved
closer to him and said, “What’s up? You want to get this out of the way, right
“Smash that punk!” the one by the door said.
Terry edged closer to the door. “Y’all cut
this bullshit out, dudes,” he said. “We’ll all go to the hole.”
Jake moved within arm’s reach. Stan shoved
him in the chest with both palms. “Get off me, punk,” he said.
Jake stumbled backward. He regained his
balance and rushed back to get in Stan’s face. “Want some of this,” he said,
and pushed him back.
“Don’t take that from that cunt,” another
yelled. “Hit him!”
The one by the door pulled a shank from his
waistband. “Let’s stick this bitch,” he said, his back a foot from the door.
Everything changed fast: Big Bobby barged
into the room. The door smacked the doorman holding the shank, knocked him into
Terry, who shot to the wall near Bobby.
“Hey,” the doorman shouted, as he turned to
see who had hit him with the door. His face paled when he saw Bobby. He hurried
beside Jake, faced Bobby.
Jake had moved to the corner when Bobby
rushed into the room. “What’s up?” Bobby said, his voice coarse.
The two who had surrounded Stan moved with
Jake. Terry stood against the wall with his arms crossed. Bobby moved within
striking distance of the doorman.
“Let it go, man,” he said. Rastaman had
followed him into the room. The other Jamaican stood and positioned himself
beside his partner and Bobby.
Stan eyed the two who tried getting behind
him, and then he moved near Bobby and the Jamaicans. He looked at the one with
the shank. “Put that up before I stick it up your ass,” he said.
“You got the easy part done,” the doorman
“Cut the bullshit,” Terry said.
Still winded from rushing down the tier,
Bobby said, “All of you need to put this on ice. Nothing good’s going to come from
us going to war over whatever the hell y’all got going on in here.”
Jake took a step closer to them. “Tell your
boy to keep out of my business, big guy.”
Bobby started to speak. Stan pointed at
Terry. “I’ve done told that idiot I didn’t want him involving my sister in your
business, buddy,” he said. “If you can’t respect that, we’ve got big problems.”
“You’ve got big problems with all that
mouth,” the doorman said. Seconds earlier, he had slipped the blade of the
shank in the front pocket of his pants and covered its handle with his hand.
“Look, man, my problem’s not with you but we can make it that way if you don’t back off,” Stan said. He moved closer to him. “I don’t give a damn about you having a shank.”
Bobby stepped between Stan, Jake, and the
doorman. The Jamaicans stayed in the background, propped against the wall by
the door where Terry stood. The doorman jerked out the shank. Before Bobby
could stop him, Stan maneuvered around him and grabbed the doorman’s wrist
holding the shank. In a continuous motion, he twisted it behind the man’s back
and yanked it to the base of the neck, as he forced him against the rear wall. “What
you want to do now, bitch?” Stan growled, keeping the pressure on the back of
Jake advanced toward Stan. Bobby grabbed him
by the shoulders and slung him against the wall, and then turned his head to
glance at the other two, making sure they weren’t getting involved. “Stay out
of it!” he said.
The Jamaicans, who were much larger than
either of the two they faced, had moved between them and Bobby. Both Jamaicans
had their arms spread, angled toward the floor, palms opened, inviting war or
peace. “We don’t want no trouble,” one of the other two said.
After he had failed to free himself from Stan’s hold, the doorman dropped the shank. It clanged as it struck the floor. “All right, man. You got it,” he said, his voice strained from stress.
Jake stayed still against the wall; fear
written on his forehead: Bobby’s massive chest six inches from his nose.
Stan used his foot to slide the shank to the
far side of the room. Then he released his hold and stepped away from the
doorman. “Let’s all let this shit go and get the fuck out of here before the
hacks come and slam us in the hole,” he said.
Everyone exited the television room; their
eyes darting one from another, sweat dotting their foreheads. Stan waited until
last to leave, motioning for the doorman to get his shank and go. He did so
silently, his head held low.
Five minutes after leaving the TV room, Stan
had told Bobby all that had gone down before he walked into the drama. They sat
in Stan’s cell with their arms crossed, sodas sitting on the floor by each of
their legs. Neither one uncrossed their arms except to take a sip from their
“What you think about it?” Stan said. “You
think they’re going to let it go or what?”
Bobby cleared his throat and repositioned himself on the toilet bowl where he sat. “I’d like to think they’ll let it go and leave us alone, but you know how things go in these places. They may claim a truce only to gain an edge for an attack. I’m going to keep an eye on ‘em, for sure.”
“You know I’ll keep an eye on them. And if
Terry and Jake don’t leave Wendy out of their plans, they’d better keep an eye
on me,” Stan said, and then got up from the edge of his bed. “I’m telling you,
man, if they don’t, it’s going to be bad. Wendy may become a widow before it’s
over with if they don’t.”
“Well, … we’ll just have to play the cards
dealt and play the game well. Let it go if you can,” Bobby said. Then he rose
and patted Stan on the back. “Gotta go, Pal. Keep your eyes open. Yell if you
need me, okay?”
“Okay, man. I’m sorry I got you into this
“Don’t sweat it. It’ll all work itself out
however the hell it’s supposed to turn out.” Then he ducked to leave the cell.
He stopped on the tier.
“See you later,” he said and threw up his
hand before walking back to his cell.
The Story Behind the Novel
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.]
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.
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:
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,
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
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 the count to proofread what I’ve written, or to prepare for what I will write.
Once the count clears and the prison staff begins 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.
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
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 complimentary copies of the newsletter. In the last issue I received, I noticed an ad for MEB, who works exclusively with prisoners seeking publication [the publisher retired].
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.]
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:
[THE POINT IS] If the product in your hands (or before your eyes) came from inside a federal prison, with the assistance of MEB, imagine what you can do “out there” with all of the available technology.
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.
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.
IF you prefer to read more about Labor Day, select the link/URL below. I write this blog to honor a loved one and to share my first experience at a memorial service in over thirty years, as a free citizen since my release from federal prison on August 28, 2018.
“What is the meaning of Labor Day?
“Do you get weekends off work? Lunch breaks? Paid vacation? An eight-hour workday? Social security? If you said ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you can thank labor unions and the U.S. labor movement for it. Years of hard-fought battles (and the ensuing legislation they inspired) resulted in many of the most basic benefits we enjoy at our jobs today. On the first Monday in September, we take the day off to celebrate Labor Day and reflect on the American worker’s contributions to our country.” https://nationaltoday.com/labor-day-2019/ [errors corrected by this author]
America celebrates Labor Day in honor of the working men and women who make America great. I will work today at a Goodwill of North Georgia store in McDonough, Georgia.
The work I do does not compare to work done by those who serve in the military, in America and abroad, as well as the emergency responders and all others who serve and protect the public. Pro-war, anti-war, anti-government, or whatever, in my opinion, those brave men and women deserve praise and to be honored; especially, the fallen men and women we celebrate on Memorial Day who gave their lives.
My personal Memorial Day began on August 17, 2019, when a loved one took that flight to a special place in the sky, high above the clouds. I had awakened during the early hours and knew his day had come, so I sent him a text message and one on Messenger to say my farewell to Bob, my brother-in-law, and friend of over fifty years.
He moved on to another life within twelve hours.
Bob P. served in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam Era. He left the United States en route to Vietnam, and then a miracle happened: President Richard Nixon began the de-escalation of troops in Vietnam to end the war, so Bob went to Korea and, then later, to Japan instead of Vietnam.
He fought many health battles after his return, many illnesses which were caused by exposure to chemicals used during that period. He survived cancer and then had his first heart attack at the age of thirty-nine, likely caused by drugs used to treat cancer developed from exposure to the chemicals.
The Air Force honored Bob at the Memorial Service. I fought tears and lost several battles during the service, but when the soldier began playing the Taps, the streams began to flow.
Many men and women trapped inside prison walls cannot attend funeral services. Some can but many cannot. I was one who could not because I was viewed as a security risk.
While in prison, I lost my mother and one of my younger brothers. From inside prison, though difficult to deal with the loss of loved ones, whose funerals I could not attend because of my security level, I was somewhat shielded from the emotional effects of death. I wanted to go to their funerals and to be there for them, but couldn’t because of the mistakes I had made decades before.
I had never attended a military funeral but suspect Bob’s won’t be my last. Military or not, I do not like attending such an event; however, I love the survivors enough to deal with my personal discomfort to be there to support them with love and compassion.
The ones I loved and cared for, whose services I attend, have left the body or remains and may be watching and wondering, “Why are they crying, don’t they know I am free and at peace?”
Life on the outside sometimes feels as if I am walking through a tunnel, deep into another time zone, right into another life. Well, I reckon that’s what I am doing, straight from the prehistoric era into modern society, acting civilized, not like a pimpin’ caveman.
Since my release and learning how to capture images with the camera (cellphone), I enjoy walking around and taking photos of anything that catches my eye. Some things I do resist, of course, as it’s not nice to snap a photo of an unsuspecting person, especially as she walks down the street. 🙂 I do respect privacy and am considerate of others on most days.
I have developed a nice collection on my View Bug profile page and have won some awards, even if I do have duplicates because I don’t know how to delete photos I upload, but hey, I’m still in the learning curve for technology. Here’s the link for ViewBug: https://www.viewbug.com/member/WTD4U
Imagine what I could have done if I had had a nice camera to use during those adventures. My favorite shots are often of tall buildings and structures or nature. I love insects, animals, flowers and trees, and not having to get film developed!
For all of you youngsters, once upon a time people had to carry a roll of camera film to Kodak or Fuji to have it developed or otherwise use a Polaroid camera, something else from the prehistoric era.
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The fight continues to free Pastor Eric Payne from the Georgia Department of Corrections. I initially wrote about this situation in Criminal Injustice and Pastor Eric Payne. https://straightfromthepen.com/2019/07/10/criminal-injustice-and-pastor-eric-payne/ This blog is a follow-up that includes correspondence from Pastor Eric Payne and his loving and carring wife, who continues to fight for the freedom of her husband.
Please pay attention to the minute amount of cocaine used to sentence him to 15-years. I wrote about a similar situation in Freedom for Another Friend, where a friend was serving life without parole, in part, due to a prior conviction for small amount of cocaine, used to enhance his federal sentence. https://straightfromthepen.com/2016/08/09/freedom-for-another-friend/
Pastor Eric Payne
By now you’re aware of what my attorney did to us in taking our money, NOT doing a thing, at the last minute dropping my case. Further, I’m sure you know about the “cruel, unusual, unjust, unfair, and sadistic punishment and game” the parole chief and State recently played on me and my family.
But I DO have some things to say about receiving 15 years for the victimless and nonviolent crime of Felony Possession of Cocaine (.001 gram/residue).
It was a bad decision, but I went back to “hustling” after a series of unfortunate financial struggles in my personal life, businesses, and church. I felt that I was suffocating and everywhere I turned I received no monetary assistance.
Once arrested I received “no bond” for the first 90 days and then a “$190,000.00 bond” afterwards. My Public Defender consistently expressed that he could not understand why the Chief Asst. District Attorney who handled murders, robberies, sex crimes, and all violent crimes was assigned to prosecute. I couldn’t understand it either especially since prior to this case (2013) I had not been in trouble with the law since 2002 in another state. In fact, I had not even had so much as a “Pedestrian Warning” or traffic ticket in GA!
My Public Defender even tried the slick move of claiming I had a drug problem. I paid to be interviewed by two separate residential drug rehabilitation programs and was accepted. Yet the prosecutor refused to agree with the recommendation. Thus, the judge would not consent to me being sent there in conjunction with long-term probation.
After 10 1/2 months sitting in jail working on various details, never receiving any discipline referrals (write-ups), being a role model inmate, and speaking to youths brought in for speeches, I pled to the mercy of the court.
I had a host of letters, pictures of me doing community service through my church, certifications, my pastor’s license and ordination papers, my church charter certificate, and everything needed to validate the launch of my own church presented to the courts yet it wasn’t enough to sway the judge’s (an African-American who preaches in south GA and who has a son with a history of criminal activity, drug involvement and drug addiction) decision to sentence me to 15 years in prison.
Even after the judge’s decision over 30 Detention Officers signed a petition asking the judge to reconsider because I had worked for them for nearly a year and they witnessed first-hand my character, behavior, and work ethic. The judge ignored their request, turned the petition over to the Sheriff, and all 30 officers were suspended and some prevented from advancing or becoming a deputy.
I was wrong for selling drugs and being in possession of the .001 gram (residue) of cocaine. But I felt then, as I feel now, that my charge was ridiculous, and my sentence was/is excessive. I’ve seen men who were in possession of WAY more drugs than myself and who were actually caught selling or trafficking drugs receive much less jail or prison time (including house arrest and/or probation) than myself.
I had (and STILL have) a valid, proven, and verifiable history of being an asset and positive contribution to my family, church, community, and society. Whether through personal contact or through Social Media, I’ve been a “plus” in the lives of those I’ve come in contact with.
Daily my wife, 4 minor children, family, friends, and church pray that someone will finally “listen” to us and begin the process of releasing me. At worst, we hope and pray that someone will listen and bring attention to the changes that need to be made on behalf of those in Sates custody and not just Federal custody (where it’s obvious that all of the “breaks” and opportunities go).
My family and I hope someone will help us.
Thank you for listening.
Theresa Payne Speaks Out
My husband was paroled
to Palm Beach County FL (by approved Interstate Compact) in October
2018 then snatched from our family in February 2018 due to a “clerical
error” between the GDOC and Parole system. He worked hard, was active in
our community, and committed no new crimes, had not old/active warrants, and
violated no conditions of his parole.
Me and my children have suffered due to this unfairness, injustice, and cruel
and unusual punishment. My husband has suffered as well.
On July 23, 2019 I received a call from Chief Hawkins (Albany/Dougherty County)
stating my husband had a TPM (Tentative Parole Month) of July 31, 2019. From
July 23rd thru July 25th I had several conversations with chief Hawkins and he
repeatedly stated and confirmed via his computer that my husband’s TPM was set
for July 31, 2019. Again, Chief Hawkins initiated the call to me with the news
of my husband’s TPM.
I notified my husband, shared the fantastic news with our four minor children,
told many family members (including my husband’s 95 year old mother), church
members, and friends and proceeded to make plans and arrangements for my
husband’s return home to West Palm Beach, FL.
I confirmed through the GDOC website and through Counselor Palmer (Montgomery
State Prison staff member) that my husband did NOT have a TPM – only a PED for
July 2020. Further, my husband personally spoke to Senior Counselor Youmans a
(MSP) and Counselor Palmer (MSP) whom both confirmed that my husband did NOT
have a TPM whatsoever. Yet, Chief Hawkins persisted and remained adamant in
saying my Husband’s TPM was July 31, 2019.
On the afternoon of Thursday, July 25, 2019 I spoke with Chief Hawkins who then
changed his statement now saying my husband in fact did NOT have a TPM at all
and that, all along, my husband on had a PED for July, 2020.
Chief Hawkins has added additional stress, pain, and suffering to our family’s
already sad and horrible situation. How can I fully explain this to our
children? How do I share this devastating news to our family and friends? How
is my husband expected to deal with yet another unwarranted shock and letdown?
We did not ask for this unjust treatment.
It’s clear that Chief Hawkins actions have treated me, my children, and my
husband with even greater cruel and unusual punishment than we’ve already been
experiencing since February 27, 2019. Again, we did not ask for any of this
emotional roller-coaster, mental anguish, harsh treatment, nor, frankly,
this cruel “game” being played on us at every point in our travesty.
We also had 2 lawyers
that advised us that they could help us and within a matter of months, both
have dropped the case leaving my husband without any legal
Who is left who has any type of compassion?
[Mrs. Payne attached a character reference letter from the Mayor of their town that I cannot post until receiving his consent.]
I remember, back when I was a young impetuous adolescent. Me and my girlfriend were arguing at each other. Then I angrily shoved her by her face. I had instantly regretted putting my hands on her and thought how foul that would be if the females of my family would have seen that, and on top of that her response to my action was so profound and disturbing. I would never forget it! She said, “Nigga, don’t put your hands on me, you don’t love me!”
Now that I am grown, I see other grown men and women alike with that same mind frame, as that impetuous adolescent had all those years ago. Grown people being controlled by their emotions. As opposed to acting like they are grown and controlling their emotions! Yeah, I know that is a radical idea. But, bear with me? As kids and small children, we lack the mental tools of working out problems, and/or being self-reliant. So, they cry and throw tantrums! Any way to act out, because they need the love and guidance of adults (grown people)! And I find it very disturbing to see grown people acting as if they are kids and small children.
So, ‘we’ as grown people are unable to understand the simplest and purest aspects of love. So, we distort it, control, and abuse it. We become dictators and place every imaginable condition on love, until it is unrecognizable. No wonder we believe that there’s a thin line between love and hate. Please think about it for a moment. If love was supposed to hurt, trap you emotionally, mentally scar you, or to take advantage of you then why would you need enemies?
On the contrary, love is supposed to make you fly! It releases your greatest potentials. There’s not a thin line between love and hate, there is an ocean between the two. You cannot stifle love by placing conditions on it! Because love is supposed to breathe and flourish. Love is simply this, in its truest form, giving and asking for nothing in return. So, when our hearts and minds allow this then we have truly found that ever-elusive LOVE! Then and only then would we stop acting as kids – allowing our emotions to control us – by throwing violent tantrums in a fit of jealous rage! All in an effort of controlling our significant other. As if we had the authority to control and bully others.
Yes, we must grow up and release that impetuous adolescent that’s within. Then we can start to release the true power of love.
Based upon showing a positive difference in my behavior due to more humane living conditions in the Federal prison system, compared to my behavior in the Georgia Department of Corrections, a reader commented on the viability of each state creating a pilot program of prisons to mimic the more humane conditions in the federal system, to see how that affected recidivism. Well, maybe not in those exact words, but the gist of the suggestion is the same.
Thanks for the
comment and feedback. In my opinion, yes, if the powers that be wanted to, it
would be simple to do as you suggest, to create experimental/study group prison
projects to study recidivism reduction, through Prison Reform/Improvement.
That’s what it’s all about: Money. The mighty dollar! The penal systems in America make a lot of politicians and investors in private prison companies, and in the goods and services provided to the prison machine, a lot of money.
Proven prison systems exist to reduce recidivism by treating people differently during their incarceration, and providing necessary resources/tools to help them transition into a new life.
To prove a point that change in the American Criminal Justice system is possible, I refer to an experimental program in America that is designed after a particular prison in Germany, where prisoners are treated more humanely and are less likely to return to prison after release. Prison Reform Progress
In Prison Privatization and Recidivism, I show how the interest of private prison companies and society may join to reduce recidivism while the investors continue to profit through prison privatization.
My concerns and interests are in returning citizens coming out of prison in better shape than when they went in, and being able to function in society upon release, so that each person may experience a better quality of life and hopefully will pass it on by helping others.
Change is up to each individual. Living under more humane conditions helps to encourage positive changes; opposite of the status quo in most prisons, which explains why more than eighty percent of released citizens return to prison with a new charge within nine years.
An Excerpt from Breaking News
“EVIDENCE OF MORE RECIDIVISM: Last month the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a new study (“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.”
Military Police ﬁnds Roger Johnson slumped over the
steering wheel of his Mercedes Benz, a bullet hole in his head. State Senator
Leroy Johnson wants swift justice for the murder of his son. The military turns
the case over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Special Agent Ward
promises Senator Johnson he will ﬁnd the murderer.
Big Bobby Sanders drank too much the night of the murder.
Lost in a blackout when the murder occurs and unable to prove his alibi, DNA
evidence put him in jail for killing his friend. An exotic dancer knows the truth. She gets
forced out of town after telling her story to attorney Zachariah Zambroski.
Under pressure by Agent Ward to
close the case, Zambroski convinces Sanders to plead guilty to avoid the death
penalty. In prison he befriends a man who ultimately introduces him to the
lovely Nicole Anderson, a former dancer who ﬁghts to free him.
“UNKNOWN INNOCENCE is a riveting tale that transcends genres. It’s a mystery and a thriller, with a love story woven through its fabric.” Introduction to UNKNOWN INNOCENCE by Jeffrey P. Frye, author of “ONE CRAZY DAY,” Murder Slim Press (www.murderslimpress.com).
Guns, Drugs and Thugs: Drug Store Spree by Wayne T. Dowdy
Buy now for $4.95 instead of $6.50
When I pulled in front of his rundown, Georgian Revival style house, with a hipped roof, panel door, and yellow gutters, I noticed curtains and drapes covering all windows. That made me feel uneasy, so I popped the hood and then got out to tinker with the breather for a moment, slammed the hood and walked to the trunk. That is where I kept lots of money and drugs that other dope fiends and thugs drooled at when seeing. Many of whom I knew would take it from me if given the opportunity. I stashed more money inside a secret hiding spot I made. Then I walked around the car, stopping to tap on each tire so I appeared to be checking their inflation. I hid the trunk key inside the fender well, on top of the rear tire, away from view of those inside. Then I eased toward the front door of the house. The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd played on a sound system. I knocked. Leonard opened the door ….
Essays & More Straight from the Pen by Wayne T. Dowdy
Sale ended. Now Priced at $10.95
eBook reduced from $1.99 to $0.99
Essays and More Straight from the Pen shows the power of
change, gives hope to readers wanting a different life.
The well-written essays take readers deep inside the life of
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life of drugs and crime.
The stories inspire and motivate people to not give up or
lose hope, and to fight for a new life.
Purchase these books today. You won’t be disappointed.
Ad Free Content Relapse: The removal of ads must not mean much to readers and followers, or else people think everything associated with a website is free. Perhaps no one cares either way.
I’ve continued to pay the bill to operate this blog without financial assistance. To be paid for the previous $13 earned from WordAds, I must get the balance up to $100. At the previous earning rate, I’ll have it by 2021.
WordAds Return: On an experimental basis, I am reinitiating WordAds. If doing so creates loading difficulties or slower speed, I will remove WordAds again and continue to pay the cost of operating this blog for your viewing pleasure.
Notice: the following paragraph is all that remains of the Ad Free Content post. What changed is my perception of the value of ad free content for those who visit this site; therefore, I cancelled the plan to go ad free until November 1, 2019.
Unless something changes, for at least until November 1, 2019, the only advertisements will be mine or ones that I approve and control, which will not disturb people while reading and viewing content.
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