Writings posted on this page are intended to help those from the inside to have a voice on the outside, by posting their writings here for all to see. Enjoy and appreciate the struggles and difficulties those on the inside have to get a manuscript ready for publication and submission to whoever gives them an ear.
My Ears Hear Their Cries and Shouts of Joy.
Straight from the Pen
[DISCLAIMER: Views or beliefs expressed in any submission posted herein are those of the authors and not necessarily agreed with or endorsed by your host]
Complimentary blog posted with permission from Murder Slim Press and author, Jeffrey Patrick Frye.
Retooling The Pickle by Jeffrey P. Frye
I have only mentioned this to a couple of people, but a month and a half ago I changed cell blocks. I told this to my friend, the literary guru of Civil War era historical fiction, Alexius Rex (alexiusrex.weebly.com) and also to Miss America (my sister, Tracy, the guru of United States Postal Workers). The explained to them that my moving cell blocks is noteworthy because I entered a residential behavior modification/drug program called The Challenge Program. The only people who live in my cell block are participants of the program (See: Other psychos). The program is 18 months long and upon completion I will receive 40 acres and a mule. Just kidding. I will receive a snazzy certificate and the satisfaction of a job well done (See: Nothing of tangible value).
Coincidentally, I was called to move about two days or so after I penned the blog ANOTHER MORNING IN THE HOTHOUSE. This is the blog where I attempted to share with my readers the sheer insanity of this place by telling them how my day began with someone rushing into my cell holding a syringe and asking me to inject their friend in the jugular vein (because he couldn’t do it himself). It is also the blog where I introduced my readers to the uber mensch and writer Clayton Lindemuth, the guru of Grit Lit, who conjures up and writes about characters such as a 400 lb. hooker named Shirley and an 83 year old drug lord named Lester (his books are available on Amazon and are worth picking up) .
If you’ve read about three of my blogs, you have most likely been able to glean the chaotic and volatile nature of a maximum-security federal pen. It’s like a Clown Convention where all the clowns are violent. At this custody level they don’t really sweat the small stuff (due to the constant state of violence). In this USP realm “The rules” are often determined by what a person can get away with without the cops catching them or what a person can get away with using violence, force, intimidation, and/or manipulation. I attempted to explain this premise to my brother-in-law, Mickey (guru of HVAC systems), by explaining: At this custody level there is only really three rules that they expect us to follow. 1) Don’t kill the guards or staff, 2) Don’t kill each other (on their shift), and, 3) Don’t try to go over the wall.
In my tenure as USP riffraff, I have found these to be the basic three rules and found that everything else is pretty much negotiable. I again considered this premise the other day and considered how after a decade in this environment how I’ve come to find a certain comfort and/or stability in this volatile, chaotic, world. An existence where I’m showing my proclivity for being an extreme people-pleaser by shooting drugs into somebody’s jugular vein for them simply because they can’t do it on their own. But wait! There’s more.
I feel sure that when you people out there see a guy running at top speed with three guys with knives in their hands chasing him, that you think, “OMG! That man is in danger!!!” But when I get up in morning and walk out onto the tier and see this scenario, I just shake my head, and think to myself, There goes old Tyrone. He’s cutting-up again.
It was my self-realization that I now somehow accept this as “Normal” that led me to determine that I needed some psychological, social, and environmental retooling.
In the Challenge Program block that I now live in, there are colorful murals with positive affirmations that adorn the walls. No one drinks or uses drugs. Which in itself is truly amazing for any cell block in a United States Penitentiary. Five days a week we are expected to be up, fully dressed in our khaki uniform, and have our bed made and our cell clean. We are not allowed to lay down in our bunk and the televisions are turned off till 4 pm Monday thru Friday.
To start the day after the doors pop at 6 am, fifty plastic chairs are set up in the middle of the block; twenty-five chairs facing twenty-five chairs, with a podium set up at the front. A wireless mic is given to each side of the room to pass around and give feedback with. At 7:50 am, also Monday thru Friday, we have a “Community Meeting” that is led by an inmate facilitator. The meeting follows a format. The first order of business is that Roll is called, and when you hear your name you are required to stand up, and say, “Good morning, Community.” After this, different individuals do a brief accounting of the news, weather, and the sports. Next is Community Business, which includes an oral prediction of the menu in the chow hall that day. The next in the format is called Positive Praises, where Community members congratulate other Community members on making a right decision concerning a behavior that they might have been struggling with (See: I’m proud of you Billy for not stabbing anyone so far this week). The next part of the meeting is my least favorite. Interventions.
An intervention in this program is like an accountability pull-up where one Community member has observed another doing something wrong and written them up for it. They both go to the front of the room and stand face-to-face behind the podium while the person who wrote the intervention reads the behavioral True Bill to the one whose been indicted. He then goes on to give his opinion on how this wrong behavior effects the Community, then other various Community members stand up and share how they too have struggled with this behavior and what they do to try and overcome it; the person whose been written up responds back to them all to share what their insight has meant to him. These interventions are for something as benign as speaking to someone in another block through the window as we walk to chow (using Prison Sign Language (PSL) which I happen to know), to something as offensive as a person standing behind their door and masturbating on female staff (See: Being a fucken creep).
The meeting (finally) ends with something called an “Upbeat Ritual” that is designed to start the day treatment day on a fun note and to offset the tasering and public roasting that you’ve just done to someone you call your friend (See: Ratting him out). When the Upbeat Ritual is done, the Community breaks up and goes to their assigned Core or Process groups (See: Psychotherapy with real live psychos) that are led by a person’s Drug Treatment Staff, or DTS as we call them.
If anyone out there reading this is under the impression that I am built in such a way that I find it acceptable for someone (See: Anyone) to rat me out for liberating milk from the chow hall in my sock (my last intervention), then you must’ve been reading someone else’s blog these last several years. Calling “Ratting” therapy doesn’t make it so. Or as my grandpa Linder Newman from Cowling, Illinois used to say, “Cutting the ears off a donkey don’t make it a damn horse, boy.” But I came here to reestablish a healthy daily routine that will carry over into my life in the free world when I am released in five years or so (I’ve been back here 11 yrs. so far). I also came here to be in a positive environment where I can work on my struggles with addiction and the warped behavior patterns I have devolved to as a result of it (See: Forgetting that the FDIC didn’t actually owe me the money I liberated from the banks).
I’ll tell you something though. The drugs are just a symptom of a much larger and core issue. And I may be older than Moses’s sandals and will always be a felon, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t change and start giving back after having spent a lifetime of taking. Because I can. And I will.
I recently told my friend and former Spanish flame, Renee O. that becoming an addict and a criminal is akin to taking a cucumber and turning it into a pickle. Once it becomes a pickle, all of the wishing in the world won’t turn it back into a cucumber. This doesn’t mean that I can’t be a nice, healthy pickle though. Which, somehow, has turned out to be the ultimate goal. Go figure.
Note: due to prison rules, Mr. Frye cannot receive Christmas or any other kinds of cards, colored paper, or address labels. Only white paper and envelopes. Any donations sent to him must be sent through the process outlines at https://www.bop.gov/inmates/communications.jsp#money
Jeffrey P. Frye, # 89319-071, United States Penitentiary, II, P.O. Box 1034, Coleman, FL 33521
More from Mr. Frye
JEFFREY PATRICK FRYE on 10/23/2019 10:50:46 AM wrote
I woke up this morning like I do every other morning here in Hades. I kissed the Black plastic Rosary that was intertwined through my fingers and dropped it down into the corner of my bunk. I sleep with it in my hand because even though I know that St. Michael has my back, this place is a hundred or so acres of corralled evil and it never hurts to have extra spiritual protection. Kinda like car insurance when you tack on collision, knowing that you already have liability. So many murders and suicides have happened here over the last 20 years that there’s bound to be several disgruntled souls who are still wandering around, pissed off, and that haven’t gone to the light with Carol Anne.
After tucking away my Rosary, before getting out of the bed, I say a quick prayer that went something like this:
“Lord, please watch out for my family and friends today and give me the strength and wisdom not to choke one of these cock-holsters to death around here. Amen.”
Having gotten that outta the way, I hopped out of my bottom bunk, grab my Blue toothbrush, and run a thick red bead of Close Up down the bristles and head to the sink to brush my giblets. On my way though I pause and stop to look at my new cellie. His name is Joshua Vallum and he’s doing 49 years for a federal hate crime, that only turned into such after Caitlyn Jenner mentioned it on TV at The Espy Awards. Josh stabbed and beat to death (w/ a hammer) a 17-year-old transgender named Mercedes Williamson when he discovered that his Venus had a penis. At least that’s his story, which he’s entitled to, but I suspect that his brothers in the gang he was in discovered that he was dating a transgender and he killed Mercedes to stay in their good graces. But whatever the story is, for Mercedes, dead is dead, and for Josh, Life is Life…literally. After he finishes up his 49 years in the feds he has to go do his no-parole Life sentence in the state of Mississippi.
So, yes, he’s a bonafide killer (and also an Army veteran with a Bronze Star for valor and a Purple Heart from Afghanistan), but, to me, he’s just my cellie. My cellie who is presently laying on his back snoring with his mouth wide open. I contemplate dropping a piece of plastic over his nose and mouth (I call it Convict Waterboarding), but Josh has PTSD and night tremors so I decide to give him a break. For now.
After brushing my teeth, I wash my face then put lotion on all over it and my arms in an attempt not to look 10 years older than God. I look into the mirror and discover that it hasn’t worked. Fuck. As I am contemplating my potential future unsexiness I hear a knock at my cell door and look over to see that it’s a guy I call Bocephus. His name is Bobby Rodgers and he’s doing a dime for blowing up an abortion clinic. He has long greasy brown hair, a reconstructed face, and he’s also missing his two front teeth. Despite this though, he still likes to smile and rep them like they’re a full set. He’s the most unlikely right-to-lifer that I’ve ever met but at least he’s not a flaming lefty, so I nod my head to him letting him know that it’s okay to come into my house. Before he even opens his criminal pie-hole, I can tell that he’s in a tizzy about something.
He rushes in, and says, “Goll damn. My buddy’s all messed up and needs your help.” I reply, “What’s his issue Bocephus, and what does it have to do with me?” Quickly, he spews, “He’s trying to do his wake-up shot and can’t find a vein!” When he says this I initially duck, just in case his bottom partial flies out. I straighten up, and say, “I’m not a doctor Hank Jr. so why the hell are you coming to me?” He gives me a look that seems to impart, How dumb can you be? and he says, “Well, daggum it, you seem to know a little something about everything and you’re the smartest dummy around here!” Then to prove his point, he adds, “And you used to be a dope fiend!!!” I suspect that somewhere in that sentence is a compliment, so I shake my head, and tell him, “Go get him.”
He sure didn’t have to go far. He stuck his head out of the cell door and tells the guy (who’s standing out on the tier), “C’mon! He said he’d do it! C’mon now!!!” The guy that he brings in is a little El Salvadorian who’s so small that I figure they would only let him into MS-12. He will remain nameless, but he’s short and skinny. His eyes are spaced way too far apart and it has the effect of making him look like a flounder. I imagine that his Madre drank cervezas at the cantina every night (and day) while she was pregnant with him. I don’t know how to say “Sling Blade” in Spanish, so I say, “Que pasa, Flacco?” He doesn’t speak English, and he holds up his binki and I see that it’s filled with liquid and blood. A binki is a prison syringe that’s about 3 inches long and is made from melting the needle from an insulin syringe into the end of a clear Bic pen. A rubber piece is attached to the back of it to create suction.
I maneuver Felipe The Flounder over to the window to get some light, and start prodding the veins in his skinny neck with my thick fingers. Then I shake down the binki and squeeze a single drop out to make sure that it isn’t clogged. I reach into my locker and grab a pencil and tell this little criminal crustacean, “I’m sure that this won’t be foreign to you, but I want you to put this pencil between your lips and blow hard.” Bochepus is sitting on the bed and he giggles, but Felipe doesn’t move a muscle (or a gill). So I put the pencil between my lips and blow, demonstrating what I want him to do. He does it (without even wiping off the pencil), and the veins in his neck pop right up. I choose the biggest one and jab the needle straight into his jugular, see blood roll back into the barrel and register, then I empty its contents into the vein. Although I’m not sure (and don’t really care), I’m guessing that the binki contained Suboxone, since this drug and K2 (rat poison disguised as synthetic marijuana) are an epidemic in the BOP with about 75% of the inmate population being strung-out on one or the other.
Felipe The Flounder’s eyes start to droop and I tell him, “Swim away little fishy. Adele!” He takes off, and I turn to Bocephus, and say, “My codependent services aren’t free..” I feel sure that he has absolutely no idea what codependent means (or who Melody Beattie is), but he picks up on my tone, and says, “Whaddya want me to getcha?” I pretend to consider his question, then say, “I want you to come over here and bend over this sink and pull down your pants.” So what does Hank Jr. do? He gets up and starts walking towards the sink!!! Bending over the sink must be a Family Tradition where he’s from. I yell, “Hey! I was just kidding!” Then I had him my clear plastic coffee cup and tell him to go get me a cup and we’ll call it even. I also tell him, “Look. Please don’t bring anybody here like that again. And stop overestimating my intelligence and phlebotomy skills.” He replies, “I ain’t done none of that. I just figgered you’d know how to shoot dope and find a vein.” He finally spins off and I turn around to see my cellie still laying on his back snoring, and sounding like Bike Week at Sturgis.
The insane clown posse hasn’t been gone two minutes and as I’m scrubbing my hands, my boy Madman (Michael Brabham from Dallas, Texas doing 30 years for conspiracy to distribute a shit-ton of meth while possessing a gun) comes into my house without knocking and goes into my locker, grabs a muffin, and sits down on my bunk and proceeds to eat it. Madman recently turned me onto an author named Clayton Lindemuth. He handed me a book called MY BROTHER’S DESTROYER one day, that is the first in a series of a character named Baer Creighton. I couldn’t put the book down and neither could about 10 other guys in my cellblock who read it. Clay can write. I recommend picking up a copy of the book on Amazon or looking up Clay’s group on Facebook RED MEAT LIT STREET TEAM. You can also contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, which is something I recently did. Surprisingly, Clay accepted my email request and we started chopping it up. Clay writes grit-lit just like I do. After a few emails, Clay asked me if he could send me books and I explained that they had to come from a publisher. So what did he do? He Paid retail for his own books and sent me the whole Baer Creighton series and a couple other of his books off of Amazon! Unfuckingbelievable, huh? Clay’s writing style is like my fellow authors at Murder Slim Press. His writing keeps you wanting to be like Bob Seger and keep turning the page.
Speaking of turning the page, I have a new book coming out next month for Murder Slim called STORIES FROM THE LIFE. It’s a compilation of 11 of previously unpublished stories. Shakespearianesque tragi-comedies, penned from various federal prison cells over the last decade, all designed and beautifully laid out by Steve Hussy at MSP, a great writer in his own right. So buy several. They make great Christmas gifts. Pick one up for a family member, your significant other, or your parole officer. It might be my last book for Murder Slim Press.
And, above all, keep clicking onto The Bank Robber’s Blog.
Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber’s Blog
About Breaking Free Poets by Michael Newman
Breaking Free Poets is a group of writers, thinkers, and activists which formed at FCI Petersburg, VA in 2017. We started out with the simple idea to bring people together to produce a poetry slam in the prison chapel. The turnout and response was so powerful and far beyond expectations that we couldn’t stop with just one performance! From there, we went on to produce more shows and eventually created a poetry blog with help from outside supporters. Since then we’ve connected with some amazing organizations like FairShake, Free Minds D.C., and others.
Our weekly meetings have been an outlet for us to process, write, and talk about issues within the prison and in the outside world. This breaks the cycle of negative interaction that can take over in a prison environment, and provides a sanctuary. The group also offers us a small slice of autonomy and individual expression in an environment where these are suppressed in so many ways.
As members of our original group are released, they hope to continue the work we started here. We know that people without a voice disappear from a democracy. We want to make our voices heard on the inside and outside of prison to advocate for the freedom of our imprisoned brothers and sisters everywhere. We currently making partnerships to produce media content, live performances, and speak publicly to tell our stories and advocate for people and communities negatively impacted by the criminal justice system.
Founder, Breaking Free Poets & Breaking Free Media
connect with us:
On Instagram: @breakingfreepoets
LOVE by Johnnie Burns
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.
Peace, love, and blessings.