When the year 2020 began, I believed it was going to be a wonderful year, and as in other things, it is a matter of perception of whether it has or has not been a wonderful year. For me, I lived to fight many more days and continue to be thrilled and happy to be “here,” with here meaning Alive, alive and still Kickin’ after all these years, which is a miracle, indeed. For that I am grateful. Some things I wished to have been different but … I am not in control of life. I am happy to be a part of it.
I am Blessed by the Best!
Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate the holiday, and to all of those who do or do not, please take a moment to reflect on the positive aspects of life today. Personally, I begin with the obvious, my health, including all body parts that remain intact and fully functional; especially, my Eyes to See and Ears to Hear, as well as my mouth and fingertips to express what I want the world to hear and read.
The most import is Love
Of all things I am grateful for, the most important is LOVE, love from above and love from my many friends and the few loved ones who remain alive and in my life. Should I list all things for which I am grateful, this blog would take more time to write than I have before posting it in time for people to read before Thanksgiving celebrations begin in America.
I’m late according to my schedule but on time spiritually.
FROM THE INSIDE
Two days ago, I received a Corrlinks email from a person who shared his feelings on the holiday. Here is what Chuck wrote, who is serving an excessive federal prison sentence:
“I wanted to wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving, and to remind everyone that this time of year is an excellent time to reflect on family & friends, as well as community and the world. We are in challenging times now and can often not see the beauty in others around us because of our situations. To be thankful for what we have, as well as what we have learned about those closest to us are experiences that should not be overlooked. To see the trivial things that we otherwise might have missed because of the daily hustle and bustle of our hectic lives is reason enough to give thanks during this holiday. Those smiles and conversations that arise out of the extra time that we spend because of our closeness are opportunities that may only come once. So, embrace them and cherish them … give thanks for them and the people that they originate from.
Note: if you would like to correspond with the author, his address is as follows:
CHARLES R DENNING, # 21317-045
USP TERRE HAUTE
P.O. BOX 33
TERRE HAUTE, IN 47808
In the original draft of Too Late for Torrick, I began by using the dictate function in latest update for Microsoft Word 2016. Two reasons kept me from including a section titled, Positive Note; the first being something that a friend once said about using the talk-to-text function for sending emails.
He wrote, “I can’t get it to understand Southern.”
The second reason related to the amount of time it would take for me to decipher the convoluted dictation, and my deciding that it would be best to wait to include the positive perspective of the Corrlinks correspondence in a separate blog and that proved to be a better idea because of the events that followed.
My plan was to include the convoluted dictation as humor; however, I will spare my readers and conclude with the blog my friend sent and authorized me to post on his behalf. I also sent his blog into the prison system and received several favorable comments from those Inside who needed to read good news.
The devastation caused by COVID-19 from inside the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons did have a positive side, in that the courts intervened and ordered the release of hundreds of prisoners that the prison officials refused to release on their own initiative after given authorization to do so by the United States Attorney General.
A person who I have known for years and who wrote an Introduction to Unknown Innocence, recently wrote that he was granted his release because of the Court’s intervention related to his request for Compassionate Release because of the threat of COVID-19.
He sent me an email and wrote, “Thank you for all you have done for me recently. The daily stats helped me present my case.” That made me feel great and assured me that the time I take from my schedule to provide information and meaningful content to those on an approved Corrlinks contact list, is a worthy cause, for which I am grateful for being able to do.
On Monday, November 30, 2020, Jeffrey P. Frye, will be released because of his having a competent public defender who assisted him, and a federal judge who granted his motion and ordered his release.
Miracles happen! Never lose hope.
Leaving Shawshank (last blog from prison)
Jeffrey P. Frye
In June 2020, two months into the national lockdown in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, I made a strong cup of coffee and took 10 sheets of paper and I sat in my cell and penned a Motion for Compassionate release to the court in Charleston, South Carolina. I cited the COVID-19 epidemic and its devastating effects on the inmate population, especially for people with my medical conditions of COPD, asthma, and hypertension… However, for somebody with my history, and given the fact that I was given 20 years for robbing seven banks (w/out wearing a mask), and given the fact that Judge Norton had actually whacked me with 7-20 yr. sentences (one for each bank), I figured it a stretch. But time and pressure sometimes make a jailhouse lawyer…so I fired off the motion anyway. And in what has turned out to be the smartest move I made, I sent a copy to the Federal Public Defender in Charleston, Ms. Ann W., to ask her if she would represent me on this filing.
After about a month I had still heard nothing back from the court or the Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) on my case. Nor had I heard from the public defender’s office. I found this to be odd, because usually at least the AUSA would deny my filings in short shrift. I waited, all while the outbreak back here for worse and people started dropping like flies. I have a friend named Wayne T. Dowdy who had started sending me daily reports from the BOP’s website (bop.gov) of which institutions had cases and how many people had died. When we came out for our hour on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I would write these down. It was sobering. The numbers were climbing all while the BOP told Congress and the media that it was getting better.
Enter Ms. Ann W, Esq.
The judge appointed her to investigate the validity of my claims. I kept piping her info through snail mail, and filing addendums to my original brief, and asked her to amend these to my pro se filing if she thought it relevant. In America, a lot of defendants have an incorrect assumption about public defenders. They assume that they are the bottom of the barrel or lawyers who are just on their way to something better. They also mistakenly believe (at least in federal court) that if they hire a high-priced lawyer that they’ll get a better deal. Maybe these opinions have at least a little validity in state court but not in federal court. In the feds, the public defender’s office is the best one to have because all they do is federal law, day in and day out. Subsequently, they are the smartest lawyers in the pack; the best to have.
Ms. Ann W. is the cream of the federal crop.
After sending her a second addendum telling her how bad things were, she filed an amazingly excellent 20 page brief that used recent reports from the Department of Justice’s Office of The Inspector General (OIG), and from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that refuted the BOP’s claims. She blended this with my medical history, my new-found career as a writer, and a couple of character letters the info on the place I would live if the motion were granted (this is paramount). Then after she’d threw all these things into the pot, she stirred it using her own narrative of me and my life. I have often commented that writing is like making sauce in that you throw in a bunch of different things and stir, hoping that the reader loves your creation. And much like feeding people and the ones you love; you hope that the reader likes your sauce. We, I am here to tell you that Ann W. makes a damn good sauce. She also included something else that I found to be pretty cool.
She included you guys. My blog readers for the last eight years and the people who have purchased my books. How cool is that? She also attached letters penned by the two people who have been great friends to me and that have been instrumental in my career to this point. Steve Hussy, Owner of Murder Slim Press and Jonathan J. (a.k.a., Alexius Rex), creator and pilot of my website bankblogger.weebly.com. Two people who have been very kind to me over the last eight years, and who, strangely enough, that I have never seen in person or even spoke to on the phone during these years. At the end of The Love Fest section of her sauce, Ms. W. listed my transition from the genre of “Hey look at the dumb criminal,” to the mainstream by mentioning The Life of Riley Book 1 (now available and seriously underpriced on Amazon). But in spite of her awesome brief (I’m almost out of stupendous adjectives to describe her work), there was still no word from the judge. Until two days ago.
I was standing on the inside of my cell door staring out into the abyss of abject criminal nothingness while practicing what I refer to as “Anti-social distancing.” This involves me strapping on my MP3 and ear buds and pretending that the music is playing, even though it’s not. This tactic prevents me from having to talk to my psycho cellie, the one whose face, head and neck are completely tattooed; the one that I have had to fight at 5am three frigging times in the last three months.
As I stood in my door feeling every bit the Nowhere Man living in my nowhere land, staring into nothing, while listening to absolutely nothing, I spied the back area of the staff offices open up and watched as my case manager hustled towards my cell with a sheaf of papers in his right hand. I found this to be extremely odd because most days, I couldn’t find this dude with a search warrant. He walked up to my house and opened my cell door, and said, “The judge has granted your compassionate release and commuted your sentence to Time Served. We have up to 14 days to get you out of here and on a flight to Chicago, all we’re waiting on is Probation in Illinois to verify your release residence, then you’re out of here.”
And just like that…this 12-year nightmare is over. I’m going free.
Now it’s two days later and what should be extended joy and elation is only fear. I have no money to speak of; No clothes; and until I can get to the food stamp office like a good liberal, I don’t even have any food. At least here at Shawshank I had Cheeseburger Day to look forward to every Wednesday. I was the guy who could write about Cheeseburger Day. Now I don’t even have that anymore. But in a few short days, you know what I will have?
Freedom. A brand-new beautiful life. A chance not to die here.
So, very soon I will be sitting in a terminal at Orlando International waiting to catch a flight To Chicago, where I will be met by my sister and brother in law with love. I will have on my lap all of my possessions; a mesh bag with the hand-written copy of The Life of Riley Books 1-4, and two other books I have penned and not decided what to do with yet. Ironically, I will be wearing a mask. Go figure.
I am not sure where my cool new beautiful life will take me in the coming years, but I do know one place that it will not. To a bank. Ever. From now on, I will be doing all my banking online.
Jeffrey P. Frye
The Ex-Bank Robber’s Blog
Though this post begins different than some of my others, it does relate to life after release by showing my adaption to the technological advances made since I walked out the prison doors on August 28, 2018.
A walk in the Park on a cool and cloudy, Southern day. What a pleasure it was to see a great blue heron spread its majestic wings and soar across the water. Had I not been trigger-happy on my smartphone, I would have left the park with a nice video of it flapping its wings to lift itself above the water to fly off into the trees after I disturbed its peace by walking too close for its comfort.
When I pressed the spot on my phone to start the video, I didn’t think it worked so I pressed again. The second press stopped the video that had slowly started, so I got a one-second video and another slightly longer one that tracked it as it neared the trees, too far away for a good image.
SMARTWATCH WITH PHISHING LINK INCLUDED
Two weeks ago, I ordered a smartwatch online that has the capability of connecting to the camera in my smartphone. My plan was to use the smartwatch to take a selfie or group photo with me in the picture without having to hold the phone in my hand.
When my smartwatch arrived from China, I scanned the QR Code on the miniature user’s guide to connect my smartphone. Not just any smartphone, a real smartphone with the latest technology. The Android 10 update removed bugs and improved security.
No Connection: I aborted the download when Google Chrome and my security system warned that a phishing link was detected in the app: “IhzI666.com/fundo/download.html Phishing Website” (actual URL).
I contacted the company that I bought the watch from and told them that the watch, simply labeled as SMARTWATCH, came with the phishing link in the QR code and should be removed from inventory and that the company should contact and warn all customers who purchased that brand.
Fortunate for me, a couple of days before my devilish smartwatch arrived, fully loaded to catch a phish, I checked my phone for updates and saw Android 10 was available. Had I not have taken the time to update my phone, my finances may have dwindled, even though I do use two-factor authentication to protect access to anything I use with important information contained therein.
ALWAYS BE ON ALERT FOR SCAMS
Within a month of my release from prison, I ran into a scammer who posed as a hiring manager for a company offering a work-from-home opportunity. A little too late (after giving personal information), I figured out what was going on, but kept the person on the wire for over a week playing games with him, her, or IT, because I had already done what I could to protect myself and didn’t have anything of value to be taken, other than my fine name associated with a long history of criminal convictions.
ALERTED: The email address ended with @gmail.com. The company he, she or IT claimed to represent, came before the @gmail.com. Any official business will use their company email account, not gmail.com, hotmail.com or anything other than something like @amazon.com or @straightfromthepen.com.
I immediately contacted the credit reporting agency, Esperian, and froze my credit reports and alerted the FCC about the Scam-in-Process. After letting the idiot think for a week that a phish was online, I sent a text and revealed what I had done and said, “You need to find you a real job. I’ve been in federal prison for thirty-years and don’t have anything for you to steal. I’m out here starting my life over. Find something else to do that is more constructive before you end up going to where I just left.”
He, she, or IT was one of many scammers that I have dealt with since my release. Because of my popularity as an author, blogger, photographer (Google Guide-almost 4,000,000 views of my photos in Google Maps), etc., my social presence makes me a target.
Before my release, and afterwards, if I had not taken the time to learn about security, and the advancements in technology, my life would be different than what it is today.
To repay my debt to society, I use those negative experiences to help others avoid being caught in the same traps by forewarning them and posting blogs like this to enlighten others because life out here isn’t always a Walk in the Park.
But life is good, especially when I am blessed with seeing the beauty of God’s creation as it spreads its wings to fly into the sunset or across a body of water.
Life After Release means more than some may see when reading this blog. I am a fraction of the true gravity that these posts represent by concept, a mere example of the thousands of returning citizens who reenter society each year who face unimagined circumstances.
Today I’m at a local park enjoying the cooler weather as Fall approaches.
I was blessed with seeing a deer crossing the paved path upon which I walked snapping photos and taking videos on a device that did not exist before my arrest on August 18, 1988, a smartphone.
Yesterday, I learned not to trust or depend on Air/Vac machines to work. At $1.50 each attempt to check and inflate my tires, and at three locations, I succeeded at getting three of my four tires properly inflated.
I ran out of quarters!
One definition of “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
Well, I must be a little off in the head because I could have pulled into a Goodyear or PepBoys and not have dealt with thieving Air/Vac machines, but I chose to do it, not once, but three times before pulling into a Goodyear shop to get air in the fourth tire, and it was free. 🤠
More will be revealed. Right now I need to ZOOM-IN to a Twelve Step Meeting on the other side of the United States.
Isn’t life grand with so much technology? Speaking of the such, now I am doing affiliate marketing on WonderfulThingsDone.
Please check out my latest review at https://wonderfulthingsdone.com/review-proven-weight-loss-supplement/
Thanks! 😷 No mask required to enter.
My past I leave behind as I churn my way into a brighter future, but I cannot forget from where I came because it consumes too much space inside my head. How can anyone forget decades spent inside a cage with thousands of other men, all living in the Insane World of Incarceration in the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons?
Never Forget: September 11, 2001, is a day America cannot forget because each year the media reminds its citizens of the day terrorist used jets to attack the World Trade Center in New York City.
Cannot Forget: I cannot forget because I walked the tiers at the United States Federal Penitentiary in Pollock, Louisiana when the attack occurred, which is the way my brain works (by associating events with my location at the time of occurrence).
Positive Thinking: Though I cannot forget such events and my life inside the prison system, I choose not to allow those thoughts to influence my behavior in a negative manner. I prefer the positive. Had I not been sentenced to prison for the crimes committed on June 21, 1988, I would not be alive today or would have committed even worst crimes if not arrested and put in a cage, which I wrote about in The Price of Change, an essay in one of my books.
In Fence Rows and The Price of Change, I write about a person those who know me today does not see because I am not the same person because I changed my life seven years into a 420-month federal sentence for armed bank robbery and associated charges. Both essays are in the eBook and paperback sold on Amazon and other online booksellers, Essays & More Straight from the Pen or separately as an eBook at Smashwords.com, originally published by Midnight Express Books.
Excerpt from The Price of Change
I started this sentence in 1988. The fear of prison had left many years before I decided to change. After a while one becomes accustomed to the insane ways of incarceration and the depravations included in prison life. Shutting down emotions helped me cope with the murders and acts of brutality I was exposed to as part of being in prison. I continued to shoot dope and live a miserable existence until 1993 when I sought help through the prison Psychology department at the penitentiary in Atlanta. I had to learn how to be intimate with others. Trusting others was difficult because so many people proved themselves untrustworthy, so I built walls to keep people out. To recover, I tore down the walls and shared the secrets of the soul. It took over a year of therapy for me to make noticeable progress, but I ultimately succeeded in learning how to live with myself without using drugs and alcohol, which I have done since April 5, 1995.
Today, I use my experiences to help others recover and can accept myself; character defects included and have come to terms with my past: it’s overdone with. I can’t change it. I can be a better person by treating others the way I want to be treated, and not the way I may feel they deserve to be treated. If I’m being judgmental of others, which I often am, I think about the biblical parable of the adulterer whom some wanted to stone, and Jesus Christ saying, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” and I know I cannot throw any rocks. My ego says I am better than those I wish to judge, but reality says we are all the same—flawed human beings. By accepting others, I can accept myself, flaws, and all.
Another process was praying for people I resented—without making suggestions about what I thought was deserved. Then I became willing to make amends to those I had harmed as suggested in twelve-step programs, and then to forgive others and myself. In a sense, the way I live my life today is one way I make amends to those I cannot make amends to for whatever reason prevents it. An example of my living amends is in this: when I was at a penitentiary in Lompoc, California, I stole loaf bread and bought Ramen Noodle Soups to feed the birds. Some of my friends would come by and joke with me about feeding the birds because of the process that follows feeding them. I often said, “I’m making amends to the ancestors of birds I killed when I was a kid.” And then I would laugh, but I was serious; furthermore, I enjoyed feeding them, as I enjoy the relationships often restored as the result of making amends.
I wish I could honestly write that I no longer experience resentments or anger, but I cannot. I’m still human. However, whenever I experience anger or resentment, I know what to do to find relief: look within myself as I write in my journal. When appropriate, I share it with another person, and when the situation requires it, take the right course of action that coincides with living my life in harmony with the Universe. As a result, I rarely have conflicts.
I am now a model prisoner with a good reputation amongst most staff and prisoners alike. More importantly, I’m loved by my family and friends and am a good human being, which is a priceless gift that I never thought I deserved. People actually like me these days. The price I paid to get here was tough, but it took what it took. And by the way, “here” means alive, not in prison. Prison is just the place my body resides for the time being.
Speaking of prison, as a matter of principle, I really should not be in prison, but the law is such that if a person fails to jump through the hoops at the proper time, any violation of the law made by the government no longer matters. They call it procedural default to avoid addressing issues in the name of the administration of justice, and since habeas corpus laws changed drastically in 1996 to make it more difficult for a person to obtain relief without satisfying extremely stringent standards, very few ever succeed at obtaining relief through the courts. Spiritually though, I know I am right where I need to be. Had I have won my case, I would most likely be dead by now; therefore, I am grateful for the way things turned out, mostly.
The Price of Change by Wayne T. Dowdy
My worst enemy looked me in the face every time I looked into a mirror.
In Breaking News, I wrote about a variety of issues related to reentry, including recidivism, and the lovely Kim Kardashian standing beside President Donald Trump in the Oval Office inside the White House, after she had assisted Alice M. Johnson with having her federal sentence commuted.
To prepare myself for release and to do what I believed would assist me in obtaining employment upon release, I took a program called WorkKeys that gauges a person’s ability to apply textbook knowledge in the workplace. In other words, a GED or High School Education or College, gives a person a knowledge base.
From my limited understanding, WorkKeys tests a person’s ability to take that knowledge and to apply it in practical situations, as well as to demonstrate his or her ability to solve problems by comprehending written or implied instructions to accomplish a goal. Whatever the case may be, I first scored Gold Certification and then returned to be retested because Gold wasn’t good enough for me.
I wanted and received Platinum Certification!
My certificate verifies that Platinum certification shows that those who receive it have “Skills for 99% of the jobs in ACT’s extensive database”; however, when I walked out of the prison doors with a plan to secure employment by demonstrating my vast amount of accomplishments and skill sets, and a high Grade Point Average in college, none of the things I had accomplished meant anything in regards to getting hired.
On June 17, 2017, my publisher posted my blog, Seeking a Real Job. I wrote it to help others find employment, with a firm conviction that I would not have a problem finding a job because of my education and skill sets. I was wrong!
Since I walked in the prison doors at the age of thirty-one and out of the doors in my sixties, I failed to understand that Age was my enemy, a factor beyond my control.
I posted my resume online with several job sites (Indeed, Monster, LinkedIn, Jobcase, Career Builder, etc.). Job recruiters called often. Many of the recruiters literally hung up the phone after I responded to questions relating to my age.
My criminal history never entered the equation.
During the job seeking process while at Dismas Charities, a Residential Reentry Center in Atlanta, an employment counselor at the Georgia Department of Labor suggested I dumb-down my resume and said I was overqualified for most jobs available through them, and that I should start my own business.
Eleven months later, Goodwill of North Georgia hired me as an Environmental Service Technician, which is a long name for a janitor or custodian.
Three months after being given a chance, I was Employee of the Month, and then on the following month, I was featured online in the November 2019, Goodwill Employee Spotlight.
The pay was not providing what I needed to survive on my own. I liked my job because I saw it as a way to help keep customers and employees safer by keeping the environment sanitary.
But on a more personal level, I NEEDED more money to prepare for my future. A few months later, I saw an internal job opportunity that paid a lot more. I applied and was hired as a floor technician and though I work like an Alaskan Malamute, I do get paid more and have better hours.
Business: On my days and time off from that position, I work on a business I started one year ago today, on September 11, 2019.
Now I am investing in the stock market and am working on building affiliate marketing websites to earn money by referring others to quality products and services.
Financial Success Shines Ahead!
My plans for getting involved in an intimate relationship are still pending. I’ve had opportunities but turned them down; others who I was interested in turned me down, well, kind of. To get involved in an intimate relationship probably requires asking someone out for a date or at least a Roll in the Sack, but …. I only played around with that aspect of romance.
I got what I had coming by rejecting a couple of cougars who were stalking me: What Goes Around Comes Around!
The truth is that I know I need to focus more on building a financial future, and unless I were to find that special someone who would be an asset in that endeavor, an intimate relationship would be distracting because I’d want to spend more time with her than working toward becoming financially secure.
Regarding my children and familial relationships, those haven’t worked according to plan either, but … I know that everything is working according to God’s will for my life.
The most important thing is that I have remained free and am in good health. I continue to live my life without using mind-altering substances and strive towards building that bright future I KNOW God has in store for me, one day at a time.
Everything else will fall into place when it is time for me to step into another life. Going for a ride on a pontoon sounds like a great idea, too, so I can watch the water churn behind the boat as we head towards our happy destiny.
September 6, 2020, Update: Many things changed since I wrote this blog on August 10, 2018. The biggest change being that I walked out of the prison doors of the Federal Correctional Institution in Edgefield, SC on August 28, 2018.
The realities of life after incarceration have been different than what I had imagined life would be upon release. In hope of helping to prepare others of the realities of life after release from decades of imprisonment, I am working on a blog, Life After Release, which is about things that contrasted with reality and what I thought before I walked out the doors.
In this updated post of Returning Citizens, I’ve added a Notification at the end of the post to reflect recent changes in my plans due to the lack of support.
Check out Life After Release on September 11, 2020.
Returning Citizens, August 10, 2018
I see the worm hole up ahead. Entering the worm hole, I’ll be traveling at warp speed as I race toward the future. Images zooming by so fast that I’ll only see blurs of the present as thoughts and ideas for the future bombard the senses.
The future that glitters on the other side of the worm hole is a place I never expected to see, back when I began this voyage into Never Never Land. I sat in jail contemplating suicide because of the extreme dissatisfaction I felt in myself.
Love for my family kept me alive. Despair ravaged my soul and whole sense of being because of what I had done that put me in another jail cell. Miraculously, I thought of the effect my death would have on my loved ones and cared enough about them to decide not to end the life I had ruined, at least, so I thought (that I had ruined my life).
Never lose hope. Life changes. Circumstances change. Life is good today.
This past weekend I began reading “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor E. Frankl, who was a former prisoner in a German Concentration Camp. A notable quote he used that’s relevant to a prisoner’s experience, as well as in many other facets of our human existence, was one by Nietzsche.
Frankl wrote, “There is much wisdom in the words of Nietzsche: ‘He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.'”
In reading of Frankl’s account of his life in a German concentration camp, I can appreciate the difference of life inside an American prison compared to the life of a prisoner of war in a foreign country.
When I began this sentence, I had a “why to live”; one driven by mass amounts of anger and resentment. But that “why” was killing me. Several years later, when I experienced freedom from those negative emotions, I was liberated.
Another favorite quote of mine is in regards to resentment that also came from Holocaust survivors.
“A former inmate of a Nazi concentration camp was visiting a friend who had shared the ordeal with him.
“‘Have you forgiven the Nazi’s?’
“‘Well, I haven’t. I’m still consumed with hatred for them.’
“‘In that case,’ said his friend gently, ‘they still have you in prison.'”
Ernest Kurtz & Katherine Ketchum, THE SPIRITUALITY OF IMPERFECTION.
August 28, 2018, thirty-years and ten days after I walked in the door of a confined and restricted environment, bound and chained with cuffs on my hands and ankles, I’ll leave en route to a Residential Reentry Center (RRC)/halfway house as a returning citizen, without chains dangling from my aging body.
I received a new RRC date and an increase in my RRC placement period (the former 119-days were replaced with 192). My former date was 12/26/2018: It really pissed me off to have an RRC date for the day after Christmas.
Now I will be home for Christmas! 😉
RETURNING CITIZENS: the Reentry Affairs Coordinator, Ms. P., told me and others in the office that the new term for those exiting prison life is “Returning Citizens,” in place of ex-offenders, or ex-cons.
As a returning citizen, I know I will face many new problems as I forge my way into a bright future. Discouraged, I am not. I am eager to face challenges and to find solutions and conquer all conflicts and obstacles that stand between me and my success as a returning citizen.
A friend who returned to society years ago, once told me during a phone conversation that he sat complaining as he tried to figure out which girl to take on a date. Then the thought occurred, “I bet Wayne would love to have my problem.” 🙂
Yep, Wayne would, just as many of those I’ll leave behind would love to have some of the problems I may encounter along the way toward the future. I’ll try to remember that if my gratitude escapes during times of character-building episodes of Life Happenings.
Perhaps the new experiences I encounter will allow me to learn something to pass on to others who will follow in pursuit of their future.
HOW MY RELEASE DATE CHANGED: Some of this information is redundant from another blog; most is not, which I will share in the words of the famous radio host, Paul Harvey, as “The Rest of the Story.”
A May 10, 2000, Progress Report, showed May 29, 2020, as my Projected Release date; derived from the amount of eligible Good Conduct Time, subtracted from the maximum 420-months of incarceration, set to expire on August 17, 2023.
On January 2, 1990, staff informed me that the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles filed a Temporary Revocation Warrant. I wrote a letter on that same day to request the withdrawal of the warrant because I sat in jail until after my parole expired and was not being given credit off my federal sentence due to that time being applied to my state sentence.
On April 19, 1990, the Parole Board withdrew their warrant. Over a decade later, I used that letter to establish the legal basis of a challenge to the federal jurisdiction relied upon to put me in prison for thirty-five years.
In 2002 the BOP awarded me 188-days of jail credit that it had refused to give for fourteen years. In court, I used the 188-days spent in jail before federal sentencing to establish that the jail time was applied toward a state sentence. Then the BOP credited me with a total of 401-days (from the day of my arrest until the U.S. Marshals took me into federal custody on September 22, 1989).
That changed my date to April 24, 2019, but that still was not right: I just couldn’t figure out how back then, even though I was no longer on drugs.
Only after my case was docketed in the United States Supreme Court, where I was set to prove the Department of Justice unjustly convicted me in a court without jurisdiction by violating Article IV(e) of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act, did the BOP decide to give me the jail credit that was due.
LEGAL RESEARCH: While researching the halfway house issues I’ve written about in “Life Inside,” “Half A Problem,” and several other blogs after the BOP modified its halfway house policy (began changing/reducing RRC dates), I learned that Section 3624(b) of Title 18 of the United States Code prohibited the BOP from deducting more than 54-days per year for disciplinary infractions.
As written in “Reentry Plans & A Friend Moves On,” I lost 82-days in 1990. However, when I reviewed my Sentence Computation Sheet, it did show I was not awarded any GCT for 1990, but did not show that the 28-days above 54 (82 minus 28 = 54) came off in 1991.
The Sentence Computation Sheet showed the maximum allowable GCT as 1,576-days. That did not compute, even after I applied the formula used by the BOP as illustrated before the Supreme Court in Barber v. Thomas (2011). I then submitted a request to my case manager for correction. He referred me to the Records Office.
I sent an electronic request to staff to the ISM and relied on the Code of Federal Regulations to challenge the GCT calculation. The issue was resolved during a Release Audit on March 29, 2018. I was given 54-days per year on having served 30-years of the 35-year sentence. Thus comes the confusion in inmates attempting to figure out their Projected Release dates.
On a ten-year sentence (120-months), a prisoner would think he or she would earn 540-days (10 x 54). Not so! The prisoner only earns 470-days because the formula doesn’t allow prisoners to earn time off any portion of a sentence not physically served; therefore, in that example, the GCT earned during the second through eighth years, is deducted from the ten-year total. That eliminates GCT credits for the tenth-year and a portion of ninth.
The remaining portion of the ninth year (less than one-year) is prorated at fifteen percent. In my case, 205-days remained, prorated at 15%, allowed me to earn thirty-one more days, which, by statute, won’t be awarded until the last six-weeks of my sentence.
The corrections are what changed my release date from April 24, 2019, to March 10, 2019. But because March 10th falls on Sunday, I was given the date of March 8, 2019 (that will change to February 5th or 7th during the last six weeks).
Afterwards, my case manager contacted the Residential Reentry Manager and requested a re-adjusted date because the change in my Projected Release date reduced my RRC placement period from 119-days down to 72-days, which would then become 43-days when awarded the prorated portion (31-days).
Now you know the Rest of the Story. 🙂
OFF THE RECORD: I sat in my cell listening to Alice Cooper on Uncle Joe Benson’s, Off the Record, on Sunday morning (08/05/18). As I sat listening, I wondered what my life will be like in September when I am sitting in the halfway house in Atlanta, or at my residence upon my release. Will I take time to listen to such programs? Will I be interested or have other things to do?
One thing I feel certain about, is that I won’t be living the thug life. As I wrote in “Guns, Drugs & Thugs: Drug Store Spree,” I am a retired thug. I hung up my guns and now use words sharper than razors, more powerful than bullets and bombs; softer than butter, sweeter than honey; rough and tough, or kind and gentle, clean and straightforward. Whatever the situation warrants, I’ll use select-words in the construction of sentences and phrases needed to fight battles or to mend wounds caused by my past, straight from the pen, a different pen. 🙂
In September, StraightFromthePen.com will activate a new email address for special deals on books, essays, short stories, and updates on the status of StraightFromthePen.net and .org: firstname.lastname@example.org. Posting will be determined based upon legal aspects and rules governing life in the semi-free society. Expect an update to my author’s page at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy and at other social media sites.
Notification: September 6, 2020: While incarcerated, I paid my publisher to create this website for me so I could fight for change from inside the depths of prison life. I spent a lot of money fighting for a cause in which I believed (Prison Reform).
Unfortunately, what I discovered is that people love to complain about the status quo when it comes to criminal justice and prison reform, but will not do what it takes to bring forth change. Some do fight and will put their money where their mouths are, but none of those contributed to Straightfromthepen.com, or voiced support for what I wanted to accomplish upon release.
I put my personal funds into this blog and website without any monetary return and fought for change before and after my release. On many levels I succeeded, including what I wrote about in Fight for Change, but the outcome has disappointed me in regard to gaining public support to build the other two websites I mentioned above.
No funds were contributed to the PayPal account (email@example.com) for this website for the development of the other two websites and associated domains, so I am not under any legal, moral or ethical obligation to complete what I planned, which I am cancelling because of the lack of private or public support.
The only use for the email listed below (firstname.lastname@example.org) is to provide information to some inside the federal system. My primary email address for that purpose is email@example.com that I use through Corrlinks.com.
Because of all of the above, I am aborting the mission and will only continue to do what I do on this website and for those stuck inside the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons and some state and private institutions that have access to Corrlinks.com.
Essays and More Straight from the Pen shows the power of change. The well-written essays take the reader deep inside the life of their author who overcame circumstances and obstacles that kept him chained to a 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.
An incarcerated person asked these questions for Wayne T. Dowdy. Because of privacy concerns, the name of the incarcerated person will remain anonymous. Straightfromthepen.com gives special thanks and will provide a complimentary copy of Essays and More Straight From the Pen.
Q: Since you have started using this blog, has the sales increased on your books?
A: I haven’t noticed much of an increase in sales since I began writing the blogs. But since my release from prison, I have increased the number of views on the blogs, and the circulation of eBooks on Smashwords.com by making certain eBooks free.
Q: Since you began using this blog, have you talked about your books?
A: Yes, during the first two years I did (I paid to get a website and blog created in 2015), but I haven’t written promotional content in several months.
I got involved with the prison reform movement in 2016, and then later began writing blogs relating to prison reform, but also to help fight my way out of prison. I became an outspoken critic of the former BOP Director (Mark S. Inch), who changed halfway house policies (reducing available placement period from up to one-year to “up to four months”).
On prison reform, I wanted to do my part in creating positive change, so I put my personal writing and sales promotions on the side until I could get out of prison and put things in action. Now I am back. Look out!
Q: How many books have you written?
A: I’ve written four books but only have two I’m marketing. I had a special purpose for UNDER PRESSURE-MOTIVATIONAL VERSION by Mr. D (I added sections to the original UNDER PRESSURE to inspire the aspiring writers). To make it a better value for my readers, I combined the original novel with the sequel and produced UNKNOWN INNOCENCE by Wayne T. Dowdy ($9.99 plus S&H), with the help of Midnight Express Books.
The other book is technically a personal magazine because it combines genres. ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN has 11-essays, 1-short story, and 3-poems, which I’ve discounted the price of at $8.95.
My case manager read it and commented, “Parts of it make you want to laugh, others make you want to cry. There’s a lot of wisdom in it.”
Q: When did you start writing?
A: I wrote for decades in personal journals. At the age of twenty-five, while serving a state sentence, I wrote drafts for a series of pornographic literature. I gave my collection to a married woman I was having an affair with and asked her to keep them for me until I got out.
She was jealous. Everything I wrote did not include her. When I got out and wanted my writings, she said they got lost or her husband threw them away, either way, my perverted writings conveniently disappeared.
Maybe I’ll return to that genre if sales don’t improve on what I’m writing now. 🙂 With the success of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, there’s a large market for that type of writing.
Q: Did you go to college to learn to write?
A: Yes, and No. In 1981 I did take Creative Writing in college. In 2006-2008, I took a professional writing course through the Long Ridge Writers Group to learn how to write essays and short stories for magazine publication.
Q: Were you published in any magazines?
A: Yes, but I was published before taking the course. In 2003 I was first published in the A.A. Grapevine under a pseudonym. I’ve been published several times since then; however, none of the publications satisfy my ego, which always wants more.
These are my magazine writing credits:
The Sun (Chapel Hill, NC);
Confrontation magazine, the literary journal of Long Island University;
Savage Kick magazine;
and many others under a pseudonym related to recovery from drugs and alcohol.
Q: How has writing changed your life?
A: Writing, in general, has not changed my life except on an interpersonal level. But writing does help me to formulate ideas and allows me to express myself without interruption. That means a lot to me when I feel the issue is important and needs addressed, whether it’s what people want to hear or not.
One day I hope to answer that question by saying my writing changed the quality of life by making me rich and famous, but in the meantime, I must say it keeps me constructively occupied and that I take pride in knowing my writing impacts the lives of others, as many have said to me throughout the years.
Q: Are you writing another book now?
A: No, but I do have ideas for one coming soon and I am plotting on writing query letters and articles I want to see in print, something my ego loves (seeing my name in print).
Purchase writings by Wayne T. Dowdy from your favorite eStore or bookseller. Get the best value on eBooks at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy
Corrlinks.com is a company that provides electronic services for incarcerated individuals in the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons, some privately-owned, prisons for profit, and a few state prisons.
Learn more about Corrlinks at https://www.corrlinks.com/FAQ.aspx
Quora.com is a great place to go to find a variety of information. I have answered a lot of questions and have had almost a half of a million views, since I began writing content over a year ago.
My specialty is prison-related topics. Check out some of my writings at https://www.quora.com/profile/Wayne-T-Dowdy
The following is a modified version of my answer to this question:
Answer by Wayne T. Dowdy
An inmate must put in a Corrlinks contact request to your email address. Then you receive an automated code from Corrlinks through the email address.
You have a choice to accept or refuse correspondence with the inmate. The following is an actual message I received from Corrlinks:
This is a system-generated message informing you that the above-named person is a federal prisoner who seeks to add you to his/her contact list for exchanging electronic messages. There is no message from the prisoner at this time.
You can ACCEPT this prisoner’s request or BLOCK this individual or all federal prisoners from contacting you via electronic messaging at CorrLinks. To register with CorrLinks you must enter the email address that received this notice along with the identification code below.
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Identification Code: H7LKQ3XX
This identification code will expire in 10 days.
By approving electronic correspondence with federal prisoners, you consent to have the Bureau of Prisons staff monitor the content of all electronic messages exchanged.
Once you have registered with CorrLinks and approved the prisoner for correspondence, the prisoner will be notified electronically.
For additional information related to this program, please visit the [URL removed for BOP] FAQ page.
Este es un mensaje generado por el sistema que le informa que la persona mencionada es un preso federal que pretende añadirlo a usted a su lista de contactos para intercambiar mensajes electrónicos. No hay ningún mensaje del preso en este momento.
Usted puede ACEPTAR esta petición del preso o BLOQUEAR a esta persona o a todos los presos federales de contactarlo a usted a través de la mensajería electrónica en CorrLinks. Para inscribirse en CorrLinks debe introducir la dirección de correo electrónico que recibió esta notificación, junto con el código de identificación a continuación.
Dirección de correo electrónico: email@example.com
Código de identificación: H7LKQ3XX
Este código de identificación expirará en 10 días.
Al aprobar la correspondencia electrónica con presos federales usted esta consientendo a que personal de la Oficina de Prisiones superivse el contenido informativo de todos los mensajes electrónicos intercambiados y cumplir con todas las reglas y procedimientos del Programa.
Una vez registrado en Corrlinks y aprobado para la correspondencia el preso será notificado por vía electrónica.
a) If you wish to accept correspondence, you must open a Corrlinks account through the email address.
b) If the inmate is NOT a federal prisoner, you will need to fund the account because it will cost you to send messages (rates may vary but I pay $0.10 per message to Wisconsin inmates).
If the inmate is a federal prisoner, he or she must pay to access the public messaging system and it won’t cost you anything unless you elect to pay the annual $6.00 fee for Premier Service so that you receive a notification when he or she emails you. Otherwise, you must go to CorrLinks to check for messages because the notification process often fails.
Once you receive the Notification from Corrlinks that an inmate wishes to “exchange electronic messages” with you, do this:
1) copy the automated code as shown above that consists of capital letters and numbers;
2) use a laptop or PC computer to accept the request (not a cellphone because it won’t work for the acceptance process and is very limited for messaging once you’ve established contact with the person). Login to the Corrlinks account with the email address and password, and then prove that you are not a robot through reCAPTCHA by selecting the proper images [a sometimes aggravating process because of distorted images and ones that change and others that appear in a former place you selected].
3) Then you will see a box to enter the Identification Code you copied in Step 1);
4) Enter the code and click GO, and then when the panel opens to the right side of the screen (not shown in this example), click the box to “Enable Email Alert” (which happens to work more often when you pay for the Premier Service);
5) Click “Accept” and then after the inmate receives the notification that you wish to correspond, he or she may message you after depositing funds in the institutional inmate account process, or you may be the first to message, once the incarcerated person accepts the contact connection.
6) To retrieve messages you go to the Mailbox:
Beware: The Corrlinks system will malfunction, so after you type a message, copy it before trying to Save or Send.
I have cursed Corrlinks many times because it logged me out instead of saving or sending my message.
Through WTD4U, I send inmates various information, some of which intelligence-lacking staff at the institutional level, will reject because he or she cannot comprehend rights provided by the First Amendment (Freedom of the Press). Later on, I will send the same message and it gets delivered to the intended inmate.
Some of my more controversial messages have magically disappeared and I’d have to start over, so when I remember I copy and save before clicking Send.
On a laptop or PC, you can save a message as a draft, which closes the screen, but still copy it before trying to save or send. Cellphones are not so user-friendly for doing anything other than reading or sending a message.
Public messaging through Corrlinks can be expensive but I was happy to have an avenue to contact family, friends, etc., once the system was implemented.
On average, I spent close to one-hundred dollars per month on Corrlinks because I wrote blogs to post on this website, short stories, essays, and other forms of content for publication, legal purposes, and for general correspondence.
To learn more about this website and my goal, read About Your Host & Straight from the Pen.
History may repeat itself but if I am involved, I have a choice about my role
“History repeats itself” is an old cliche’ that fits what I have to say in one sense but not in another. Because even though a similar event occurs, whenever it does, I have another choice that I may make based upon my experience with the first event. I do not have to do as I did before.
From my observations and what I read along metaphysical and esoteric1 lines, life does run in cycles.
1esoteric [ˌesəˈterik] adjective: intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with specialized knowledge or interest.” esoteric philosophical debates” Synonyms: abstruse, obscure, arcane, recherché, rarefied, recondite, abstract, difficult, hard, puzzling; Antonyms: simple, familiar
In my search for meaning, decades ago, I noticed a strong correlation between my life events and ten-year cycles, some of which I wrote about in blogs and other published content.
The following is a modified excerpt from my essay, The Price of Change that I will use to show an example of an event I foresaw but failed to act to avoid what I knew was to come before my last arrest on August 18, 1988:
“When eventually released from prison, I wanted to become a successful law-abiding citizen. I was fortunate enough to succeed at getting a job at one of Atlanta’s Top 100 companies where I quickly climbed the ranks. A year after I had started the job, I was doing better than ever: driving a new vehicle, wearing nice suits, living a respectable life. What I struggled with was doing what is normal to most people, such as having to be responsible: paying bills, balancing a checkbook, and having to work a lot of overtime to make what I needed to pay for the life I wanted. I stressed myself out doing it.
“I also had an issue adjusting to family life, having to deal with somewhat normal people, who had their problems I wanted to “fix” but couldn’t. I couldn’t even fix my own. After spending most of my life in prison, I had adjusted to the typical prisoner’s mentality, which is not normal. At least, not for those who have to learn to survive in a violent environment: we become desensitized, stop feeling, stop feeling empathy; become emotionally disconnected after being around years of brutality and helplessness, wanting to help someone, but knowing to stay out of it or suffer dire consequences.
“The avalanche that destroyed my plans to be a successful law-abiding citizen began with a 7-ounce beer. I am an addict and alcoholic and the beer started a chain reaction. I was back to smoking pot within a month. [I’ve now been clean and sober since April 1995.]
“What had happened was that I had gone out with a woman who wanted to seduce me. I didn’t resist. I was nervous because we were in a foreign place, the house of her friend, who had several other people sleeping there, some on the floor. One couple had to give up a guest bedroom so we could have it, so, when we went to have sex, I experienced performance anxiety or something, and drank the beer to help relieve the anxiety. That’s typical behavior for many of us who get out of prison, especially males who listen to the wrong head for advice.
“A year later, I was back to shooting cocaine, plotting, and scheming on ways and means to get more [the same thing that I had been doing ten-years before that lead to me being arrested on August 28, 1978, in Kentucky, within ten days of being exactly ten-years before I was arrested again, pulled over in Tennessee by the Kentucky State Patrol. On the previous and last arrest, I had told both partners who wanted me to carry them to Kentucky that I knew we would be arrested if we went to Kentucky. Ten years before, in 1978, another crime partner from Kentucky, also wanted to return to see his father. I told him we’d be arrested if we did go there, and we were].
“I was insane, as is evidenced by my shooting doses of cocaine so large that I often laid on the floor in convulsions. I’d pray and ask God to save me and promise not to do it again if He would, but then when I survived, I would get right on up and do it all over again.
“It didn’t take long for me to quit my job, and to stop making car payments, which resulted in the repo man taking my car away. By that time, I had begun robbing and stealing, pretending to myself to need money to pay bills, but any money I took went into the arms of me and my associates. I had an insatiable urge to stay high, which lead to my putting cars, houses, and relationships, all into bottomless syringes. [Only by the grace of God did I not contract HIV.] My desire to stay high was more important than any amount of devastation my actions caused in the lives of others. I was one selfish, self-centered, SOB, and a crazy one at that.
A good example of my insanity was in response to my fiancés’ warning. She said, “’Honey if you don’t stop what you’re doing, you’re going to end up back in prison.’”
“’I know baby doll. I just want to do some more cocaine.’” That was the extent of my madness. I knew I was in the middle of a train track, and that the coming train would kill me when it hit, but I was unable to get out of the way. After I ended up in jail for more charges than I ever imagined, I wanted to kill myself because I was disappointed that I failed to succeed and had returned to the lifestyle I vowed not to do. But somehow, I was able to think about how my actions would affect the lives of my loved ones and chose not to put them through such pain.”
THE PRICE OF CHANGE, Essays & More Straight from the Pen
To tie those events into the Rest of the Story for the conclusion of this blog, I will share more of my personal life experiences.
INSURANCE COMPANY ISSUES
Other events that occurred before my arrest in August 1988, was having State Farm Insurance Company to improperly cancel my insurance because of a speeding ticket, which costs me a lot of money when trying to find another insurance carrier.
On several occasions, I attempted to withdraw funds from an ATM machine. It didn’t give me the money but deducted it from my account which lead to me having overdrawn checks. When I went to the bank and complained, I was told the machine was right, and that no adjustments would be made to my account.
Shortly thereafter, the ATM receipt showed my account balance was over $161,000, which was wrong, of course; however, when I returned to the bank and asked for my $161,000, the machine was wrong.
As long as it was stealing from me it was right but when it tried to give, it was wrong.
Those two experiences made me resent banks and insurance companies.
A Different Man Makes Different Decisions
On July 13, 2020, I received a letter from Nationwide Insurance Company stating my insurance policy would be canceled on July 23, 2020, because I failed to show having insurance coverage for six-months before starting my policy with them.
I did not have a vehicle until January 15, 2020, and had relied on public transportation and family assistance to get from point A to point B. I explained that and expressed how ludicrous it was to require me to have insurance coverage when I did not own and was not driving a vehicle.
After several discussions with Nationwide representatives, who really tried to help me resolve the issue, I was told that the underwriters would not make an exception. I hung up the phone and then went online to return to my former insurance carrier (Root Insurance Company). Within five minutes of hanging up the phone, I was reinsured.
I canceled my Nationwide policy.
I am in the market to buy a home and needed a precertification letter from a bank. I had one from Credit Karma but the real estate agent wanted one from a different financial institution, so I contacted my bank for what I thought would be a simple process since I have good credit and pay my bills on time.
Over a week later, I was still trying to get that darn letter and was not happy about it because I was having to complete forms and provide information for fictitious amounts that I may not even need, for a house in an area I may not even find a house in, so …. I was not happy with dealing with a bank, again.
Different Response, Different Choices, Different Results
This time I weathered the storm and got all I needed. I did have to do a lot of praying for guidance and direction from my higher power, whom I choose to call God, but I did not revert my old behaviors (didn’t use the frustration as a reason to get high or to go and take something that wasn’t mine because I was angry).
Before the end of the week, I had gotten my pre-certification letter for my real estate agent and was happily insured, heading off onto another exciting adventure into the beautiful world, far behind the galaxy that makes up the Universe.
Yes, history repeated itself, in that I experienced problems with two agencies that I had had issues with over thirty years ago, but I chose to respond, rather than to react, and to accept that life happens just as it must. Now I am waiting for that special lady to ride with me into a future so bright we both need to wear shades.
The following article was my submission for possible publication in a book that I submitted over a year ago. I include excerpts from some of my published materials and blogs that relate to the topic of recidivism, returning to old behaviors. My writing was not accepted for inclusion in the book but I do want my thoughts and ideas to be read, so I am posting it for the world see. 🙂
Though parts of the former submission may be outdated, the principles and concepts that I present are not, since not a lot has changed, per se. Millions of people remain in prison across the United States of America; especially, those who suffer from mental conditions and addiction problems.
Maybe something I wrote will encourage someone to do something that leads to changes in the status quo of mass incarceration in America.
What We Know
What we know is that America has a severe problem with recidivism that costs victims of recidivist immeasurable amounts of pain and suffering, and American citizens billions of dollars. My story shows the high-cost of recidivism and major problems within our Criminal Justice System and its policies. How do we reduce recidivism rates? Does the answer lie in reentry initiatives, preventative measures, sentencing factors? All the above, perhaps?
In 1988 I recidivated and spent thirty-years in federal prison and am part of the problem. I offer a unique perspective to help change the status quo. My goal is to use my vast experience in corrections to become part of the solution in penance of my debt to society.
First, to establish my qualifications to write on the selected subject, I’ll summarize selected points of my extensive criminal history, which began with my first arrest in 1969 for the burglary of a school, at the age of twelve, and continued until my last arrest on August 18, 1988, for the charges that I will write about later.
My criminal activities as a child lead to at least twenty arrests as a juvenile; all arrests related to my drug and alcohol problem, the true reason behind me costing taxpayers over a million dollars that I will show in association with me spending most of my life confined behind barbwire fences lined with rows of razor wire. For clarity and to offer an excuse for the negative behaviors I displayed for decades of life, when I was eleven-years-young, I began using LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and other mind-altering substances. My life of substance abuse continued for 26 years, 3 months, 18 days (I stopped using April 5, 1995). From the time of my first childhood arrest, I did not stay out of jail or some type of confinement for more than six months, until 1976 after release from my first adult prison sentence, when I served thirteen months in prison for a burglary to steal guns. That time I almost made it two years without an arrest. On August 28, 1978, I landed in jail for stealing a car and robbing three drug stores at gunpoint.
Two armed robberies and the car theft happened in Dekalb County, Georgia. The other robbery occurred in Paulding County, Dallas, Georgia. Though not charged for assault with a dangerous weapon and discharging a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence, during the Paulding County robbery, the pharmacist refused to comply with my demands and I struck him upside the head with a pistol that discharged a round into the wall, crimes of which if committed today and if charged with then, would have kept me caged for life.
I suffered from mental illness back then. I went to trial and a psychiatrist testified that I could not differentiate between right and wrong. The jury didn’t accept the guilty by reason of insanity defense and found me guilty as charged. I did not receive help for my psychiatric issues. The judge sentenced me to twenty-years, serve eight, balance probated and then I went to Dekalb County to face charges. Though I planned to stay out of prison upon release after the first time, I did not, because I returned to using drugs and made terrible decisions. Drug addiction lead to me robbing those drug stores in 1978 and the courts sentencing me to multiple sentences for a total of fifteen-years to serve and five-years of probation. I didn’t complete the original sentences before picking up additional charges for new crimes committed while in prison.
In 1981 I assaulted two correctional officers while they were trying to get another prisoner under control, the prisoner of whom went into the gymnasium bathroom to pick up drugs stashed for him to pick up. He owed me two ounces of marijuana. For that incident, the disciplinary committee sentenced me to two-consecutive, fourteen-day sentences in solitary confinement. The State of Georgia charged me with two counts of mutiny in a penal institution. I laughed when the person serving the warrants told me of the charges.
“Mutiny, I wasn’t on a battleship,” I said.
I didn’t laugh when sentenced to two more years for committing the crimes.
After I got out of the hole for those charges, I got into more trouble and ended up back in the hole and then when I went to trial, and the jury found me guilty of the charges I’ll discuss next, the court sentenced me to four consecutive years. The two-year sentence for the mutiny charges ran concurrent with the four, consecutive to the original sentences.
For the Dekalb County crimes, I accepted a 15-year plea agreement after a psychiatric examination proved more harmful than helpful. At twenty-one-years old, those fifteen years seemed like life imprisonment when I calculated being thirty-six before getting out. My plan was to leave when possible. I did. Three years into the sentence, I escaped from Coastal Correctional Institution in Garden City, Georgia.
In June of 1981, several prisoners planned to escape Saturday night. An associate asked if I wanted to escape with them? I declined.
They didn’t leave on Saturday, and then on Sunday when I didn’t get a planned visit, I became depressed and changed my mind about leaving. On Sunday night, myself and ten others escaped by climbing two chain link fences. The first fence, five feet high, the other twelve with an inward facing arm, three feet long and strung with barbwire. The arm of the extension set at a forty-five-degree angle, facing the institution. To get to the fences, a prisoner nicknamed Tiny lured a guard into a trap. The guard stood above six feet tall, Tiny near five, so it is logical to assume the guard didn’t feel threatened by him and violated the security protocol by opening the Control Room door to hand Tiny an electric razor. Tiny grabbed and held him until reinforcements arrived who were hid in a blind stairway. I waited in another corridor for the takeover and the opening of the doors. Moment later, the outside doors opened.
I ran five-to-six hundred yards across a field to the fences. Before I made it to the first fence, a correctional officer driving a security vehicle had stopped and was firing a shotgun at the other escapees who had cleared the tallest fence. I barely slowed until I landed in the sand trap between the two fences. I climbed the second one, the tallest. When I reached the three-foot extension, I grabbed hold of its arm and pulled my body up to the barbwire strands, and then used my hands to swing from strand to strand until I reached the top row. I threw my right arm over the top strand. A barb pierced my bicep. I jumped after clearing the wire.
The guard fired again. A pellet struck Tiny in his foot and caused him to stumble before he fell to the ground. The gun bucked from the blast. I ran a few feet before I hit the ground awaiting the buck of the gun from the next blast, which hit another prisoner in his shoulder. He staggered from the impact but continued running to the woods. Tiny jumped up and ran with me into the woods before the guard could fire again. The guard may have had to reload, but whatever the case may be, I got away without taking any lead with me into the Woodline.
I separated from the rest of the escapees. Running through the woods, I tripped over vines and fell into a gulley in the dark forest, but I still get away before the hound dogs arrived. A helicopter flew above the forest shining a light through the treetops. To avoid detection, I stayed in the shadow of the trees and once had to pull bushes over myself to avoid detection as the helicopter passed over. Helicopters did not have heat sensors in those days.
I made it out of the woods a few hours later, where I stole a car from the parking lot of an aircraft manufacturer. I would have stolen an airplane if I had known how to fly one. Soon thereafter, I saw a railroad crossing with two guards posted waving for me to stop. I didn’t. I almost ran over them instead. A mile down the road, I did the same thing. A chase car got behind me when I made it to the next road. A high-speed chase followed but not for long. The car I stole only ran a little over a hundred miles per hour, wide-open. Police cruisers ran a hundred and forty. The pursuing police officers boxed me in with their cars and captured me. Before I got out of the car with my hands in the air, a prison van pulled alongside one of the police cruisers. The cops put me in the prison van and ended my wild escapades.
Those events lead me to the Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, Georgia, where the state kept the worst-of-the-worst, a prison plagued with violence. Because of all the violence and state officials refusing to follow a federal court order to improve living conditions, stop the racism, and brutality, the federal government implemented processes to begin a takeover. Part of that process included appointing a federal monitor to oversee the lawsuit and placing a federal warden over the institution.
Someone cut the tires on the warden’s vehicle.
I assume that the family clans did not like that the Feds sent in a foreigner to disrupt their running of the prison, and wanted to let him know that he wasn’t wanted in those parts of the woods. He did not leave.
Another process formed was the creation of the Staff Inmate Communication Committee (SICC). White and Black prisoners in each living unit elected a white and black representative to help reduce prison violence. My peers chose me to represent their interest, thus I became a spokesperson and received copies of all legal documents filed in the litigation. I fought and succeeded at helping to change the prison, as I am fighting now to change the system.
In 1982 the federal government reported that GSP was the most violent prison in the United States. I argued the issue with a federal monitor because New Mexico prisoners had rioted and killed more people than prisoners had killed in Reidsville.
The federal monitor replied, “The New Mexico incident was during a time of rioting. During the normal run of the prison, y’all have had six-murders, fifty inmate-to-inmate attacks, and thirty-five inmate-to-staff attacks, with fewer prisoners than New Mexico. That is what makes this prison the most violent in the United States.”
Events almost kept me in prison the rest of my life, because another prisoner wanted a transfer to another prison, he and others lied and said I killed a person, one of the six murders in 1982. I was innocent of the actual murder, but that incident made me realize I needed to change my life, and that’s when I began. Several years later, I made parole.
On August 1, 1985, I completed my commitment to a halfway house in Atlanta, Georgia and made parole. I did not plan to reoffend. I wanted to be a successful law-abiding citizen and did well until, once again, I returned to using drugs and that always lead me back to prison.
Now to my last arrest and conviction. Tennessee state police arrested me August 18, 1988, in Campbell County, Tennessee, for possession of explosives (firecrackers and a hand grenade that was a dud), possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of a firearm and ammunition, and possession of stolen credit cards. At first, I was under an alias. No other charges filed, other than me using a stolen credit card to rent and not return the car I was driving when arrested. The actual charge was theft by taken motor vehicle.
I agreed to extradition to face the Theft by Taken Motor Vehicle charge in Gwinnett County, Lawrenceville, Georgia. A few days after my arrival in Georgia, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Georgia Bureau of Investigation called me out for questioning on the armed bank robbery of the Bank of Dawson County, Dawsonville, Georgia. I refused to cooperate and laughed when the investigating agents tried the Good Guy/Bad Gay routine to elicit a confession.
A Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent jumped from his seat, knocking it over, and then said, “You think this is funny. They’re trying to put armed robbery charges on you and I’m going to make sure you get more.”
I laughed again. I knew my life was over and figured I’d die in prison anyway, so it didn’t matter anymore. I screwed up really bad this time, I thought. Within thirty-six hours, I had four counts of armed robbery, two counts of false imprisonment, and two weapon charges to go with the theft by taking motor vehicle charge. That was before the FBI filed the federal charges. I knew my life was over and contemplated suicide to shorten the process. I’m glad I changed my mind and have lived to see this day as I type.
Back to the last crimes and convictions: On November 10, 1988, a federal jury found me guilty after a four-day trial for the following crimes committed June 21, 1988:
1) armed bank robbery (Title 18 of the United States Code (U.S.C.), §§ 2113(a)(d)); 2) abduction of a person to facilitate commission of an offense (18 U.S.C., § 2113(e)); 3) conspiracy to commit bank robbery (18 U.S.C., § 371) (the charge that lead to convictions on all other counts), and 4) use of a weapon during commission of a crime of violence (18 U.S.C., § 924(c)).
The court delayed sentencing due to a pending case before the United States Supreme Court. On February 24, 1989, a federal judge sentenced me to 420-months (300-months on Count 1, 360-months on Count 2, sixty-months on Count 3, all concurrent (running together), and sixty-consecutive months on Count 4). I did not walk out the prison doors without handcuffs on my wrists, a belly-chain around my waist, and shackles on my legs, until August 28, 2018, before I left the institution en route to Dismas Charities in Atlanta, Georgia. Dismas Charities is a privately-owned halfway house/residential reentry center (RRC).
RECIDIVISM IN AMERICA: WHAT WE CAN DO
Today I write as a professional and have spent hundreds of dollars to make a difference through my writing resources and otherwise, in penance for the harms I caused society with my criminal behavior and lifestyle.
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 May 2018 study revealed an Eighty-three percent (83%) recidivism rate during the 9-year follow-up period, and that shows the seriousness of recidivism in America and the need for a magic elixir that does not exist. However, even if there isn’t a magic elixir, we can reduce recidivism by ending financial incentives for politicians who make laws and policies that fuel mass incarceration. Positive change will be slow until lawmakers stop state and federal funding for private prisons. In the conclusion I will offer suggestions to reduce recidivism and help to create more productive members of society in the process.
The 2017 annual cost of incarceration for federal prisoners was $36,299.25 ($99.45 per day). Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 52 (03/18/13), and Vol. 83, No. 83 (04/30/18).
TREAT THOSE WITH ADDICTION PROBLEMS & DUAL DISORDERS
In December of 2002, USA TODAY published an article “Study: treat addicts’ mental illness,” by Marilyn Elias, 12/02/02, USA TODAY newspaper. According to Charles Curie of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about one third of drug and alcohol abusers have an underlying mental disorder. In a Pennsylvania state prison study around the same time, researchers determined that 85% of Pennsylvania prisoners had addiction problems, with half of them (42.5%) having an underlying mental disorder. Mr. Curie stated in the same article, “That’s typical of prison systems nationally. And we know if these inmates recover from the disorders, they’re unlikely to repeat crimes.” Think about that statement: “inmates …, unlikely to repeat crimes.”
Those were high numbers to ignore for those wanting to reduce recidivism, considering that reducing it would decrease state and federal deficits. Of what should be of greater significance to policy makers is helping other human beings to become productive members of society. With it being 2019, sixteen years passed since the release of that study. To date, the Federal Bureau of Prisons only has one facility that treats those with dual disorders (Lexington, Kentucky), but some states have implemented more of such programs and seen positive results.
I am one of the fortunate ones from the federal system who received treatment for both disorders while in prison, long before the authors released the study. My success verifies the study findings. I was a model prisoner for several years before my release. I behaved in a constructive manner and helped others learn to live as law abiding citizens by practicing Twelve Step principles. Now I am a productive member of society because I am applying what I learned in prison.
Studies on recidivism shown in 1997, that 67.5 percent of prisoners released three years earlier were re-arrested, amounting in a five percent increase from those released in 1983. The re-arrest rate for drug offenders rose from 50.4 percent in 1993 to 66.7 percent in 1994. Before the 2018 study, which is a follow up to the 2005-2010 study, showed those numbers increased to 76.9 percent, and then to the staggering eighty-three percent after adding four years to the study period, all of which shows a growing problem within the Criminal Justice System.
In April 2014, the United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Statistics, released study NCJ244205 “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010,” by Matthew R. Durose, Alexia D. Cooper, Ph. D, and Howard N. Snyder, PhD, BJS Statisticians. The study expanded to include statistics for a five-year period, compared to the typical three-year studies. The five-year study showed 67.8 percent of prisoners released had been arrested for a “new crime” within three years of release, and 76.6 percent within five years.
Here’s the numbers for relevant offender categories:
1) property offenders 82.1% (burglary (81.8%), larceny/motor vehicle theft (84.1%), fraud/forgery (77.0%), other (83.6%));
2) drug offenders 76.9% (possession (78.3%), trafficking (75.4%), other (78.1%)).
3) public order offenders 73.6% (weapons (79.5%), driving under the influence (59.9%), other (77.9%)).
Ironically, violent offenders came up last: 71.3% for re-offenders (homicide (51.2%); murder (47.9%); non-negligent manslaughter (55.7%); negligent manslaughter (53.0%)’ rape/sexual assault (60.1%); robbery (77.0%); assault (77.1%), and other (70.4%)).
FEDERAL RECIDIVISM STUDY: In the recidivism study by the United States Sentencing Commission, “The Commission studied offenders who was either released from federal prison after serving a sentence of imprisonment or placed on a term of probation in 2005.”
STUDY NUMBERS: Offense Types and recidivism rates were as follows: Drug Trafficking (41.7%), Fraud (13.6%), Firearms (12.8%), Robbery (4.3%), Larceny (3.9%), Immigration (3.5%), and ALL Other (20.3%).
DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS OF RECIDIVISM STUDY: The first numbers are those in the study, whereas the second number represents offenders sentenced in 2014, after the eight-year study period ended: 81.7% – 81.2% were Male offenders. White offenders led at 43.7% – 38.1%, followed by Blacks at 33.9% – 32.7%, Hispanics at 17.8% – 23.4%, and other races at 4.6% – 5.8%.
EDUCATE TO REDUCE RECIDIVISM: Post-Secondary Education Reduces Recidivism! In the study, 34.3% did not graduate high school, compared to 36.6% who did; 21.4% had some college, and only 7.5% were college graduates.
OTHER RESULTS OF RECIDIVISM STUDIES: 49.3 percent of those released were rearrested for a new crime or rearrested for a violation of supervised release (e.g., failing to pass a urine analysis, failure to report to the supervised release officer; leaving without permission from a halfway house, perimeter of home confinement area or the state; violating state or federal laws, etc.). “Recidivism Among Federal Offenders: A Comprehensive Overview,” United States Sentencing Commission, March 2016.
The 2014 and 2018 studies show recidivism decreases as age increases.
FUNDING NEW RECIDIVISM REDUCTION PROGRAMS
Releasing qualifying elderly offenders who complete the recidivism reduction programs outlined at the end of this section will save billions of dollars to use for funding other programs with minimal risk to society. Reducing this category saves a lot because incarcerating the elderly costs the most.
This section targets a large segment of inmate populations and thus saves hundreds of billions, even with only marginal success. The cost savings will supply more resources for managing other aspects of the criminal justice system.
Let us assume Mr. Curie is correct (“[W]e know if these inmates recover from the disorders, they’re unlikely to repeat crimes”). Based upon that premise, if ten percent of released inmates received treatment for dual disorders, while inside and did not recidivate by committing more crimes, then each ex-offender saves the criminal justice system a minimum of $25,000 per years, not including associated savings gathered from not spending money to arrest and re-prosecute the offender.
The Department of Justice could apply those savings to revamping correctional systems with more psychiatrists, psychologists, and addiction specialists needed to reduce recidivism rates that fuels Mass Incarceration in America.
Using 2,000,000 as a base figure, and $25,000 as the cost of incarceration to accommodate the lower cost of housing healthier prisoners in state-and privately-owned prisons, if 85% of the 2,000,000 prisoners have an addiction problem, that’s 1.7 million prisoners. If 42.5% of that 1.7 million have an underlying mental disorder, that’s 722,500 prisoners with dual disorders. If twenty percent of that 722,500 asked for and received treatment, that would be 144,500 people treated and “unlikely to repeat crimes.”
If Mr. Curie is correct, the following numbers I use would be higher and save more taxpayer dollars. Again, using a modest $25,000.00 as the annual cost of incarceration, if ONLY ten percent (72,500) of the 722,500 of prisoners with dual disorders were treated, released, and never committed other crimes; taxpayers would save $1,806,250,000 each year. That doesn’t include money saved from not having to pay law enforcement and the prosecution for associated costs. If ten percent (14,450) of the twenty percent (144,500) suffering from dual disorders, completed treatment and stayed out of prison, that would be $361,250,000 saved annually. If that same twenty percent (144,500) stayed clean after release, that would be $3,612,250,000 saved. More importantly, thousands of citizens would not fall victim to those released from prison in worse shape than when they arrived; another recidivist or death statistic in the making. Nor do those figures factor in the decreased need of hiring more law enforcement personnel; not having to pay for more buildings and equipment and resources, including not having to build more prisons to warehouse the prisoners.
To reduce recidivism and help protect American citizens, as well as to help the returning citizen to successfully reintegrate, increase the availability of rehabilitative programs. The programs need to 1) require that participants have at least a twelve-month clear conduct record; 2) require attendance for counseling sessions for any noted mental disorder and or addiction problems; 3) require participants to attend all scheduled educational or trade-related courses.
As part of the reconstructive process, prison official must be required to create more evidence-based programs for reducing recidivism, as the recently passed First Step Act requires for federal officials. Part of the process should include regularly-scheduled, independent audits performed on a random basis by an external agency and include interviewing twenty-percent of inmate participants, with the goal of assuring compliance. If prison officials do not comply, sanctions should be issued against prison officials (e.g., monetary sanctions, demotions, and termination for repeated citations for failure to comply).
Incorporating the above processes will change lives and give many men and women trapped behind the walls, bars and fences of the thousands of prisons across the United States, an opportunity to become assets to society rather than tax liabilities. Yes, some will fail. Thousands of other will succeed at becoming better men and women to help make America great again.
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