WORD USE & PRISON LIFE

by Wayne T. Dowdy

prison mail“Words pack a punch, whether written or spoken, words have the power to change or destroy lives. I choose my words carefully and hope the ones I select affect a positive change.” Teaching Cons New Tricks–Creative Writing & Q.A. Apprenticeship Program. (April 15, 2015) straightfromthepen.wordpress.com.

In my March 8, 2016, blog post (“Manuscripts Worth Stealing”), I wrote about two of my manuscripts that I suspect a corrupt federal employee stole or destroyed. Readers who know me commented on my unusual display of anger in what I wrote. One friend in particular, Jeff B., commented about my statements concerning what I felt the culprit deserved if caught; how I started off in an aggressive tone and went on and on, and that it made him feel like I wanted to do to the culprit what I said he or she deserved, going by what he read.

I clarified that I did not say I would do those things. I let him reread my statement in the third paragraph:

“I do feel sorry for the idiot who gets caught for doing it. Risking five-years in prison for stealing a manuscript in the mail takes a real devious person, or someone who is just downright ignorant or stupid. However, if the person does get caught and goes to prison, I would not weep if he or she experiences extreme levels of physical and sexual abuse by prisoner predators. Tampering with someone’s mail is a killing offense for some of those confined inside American prisons. For a person convicted of committing such a crime, to be raped and brutalized would be letting them off easy. I do not approve or endorse predatory behaviors, but in this case, Karma seems to demand an exception.”

PRISON LIFE: The above quote was only a comment. I know that many in society think of prison life completely different than its reality. When discussing what to blog about to get more followers, a staff member shared how her friends thought it necessary for her to have armed guards sitting in a classroom to protect her as she taught prisoners. She laughed in telling me that, because such thoughts are so common, and yet indicate something so far away from the truth about prison life that it is comical for those who live or work inside and know the truth.

Given that line of thinking, a common misconception about prisoners and prison life is the caliber of people inside. (Read “The Truth About Incarceration, Part I” for a realistic view of what prison life is really like for MOST prisoners.) Everyone in prison is not violent and we do not typically run around raping and robbing each other, or battling over food in the chow hall. In the more violent prisons, some prisoners may rob, rape, or take food or commissary items from weaker prisoners, but those things do not happen on a regular basis.

NOT ME: Back to the missing manuscript and my word choice. I do like to entertain my readers, but this blog is not the place to read about wild adventures. My censors would disconnect me from the outside world if I got carried away with content. Maybe later, once I am released, I will post more on the wilder side of prison life, but just for the record, I am not into raping and brutalizing men, women or animals. Sorry, that’s just not me.

NON-VIOLENT: I avoid committing violent acts and would only do so to protect myself from physical harm. I used to view myself as a violent person living a non-violent lifestyle, until I shared my feeling in a twelve-step meeting. One of my sponsees said, “I don’t see you that way. I see you as a gentle, kind, and compassionate person who is capable of being violent.”

His words changed my self-image. He spoke the truth.

Even offenses against my delicate ego do not warrant violent reactions or responses to something as trivial as someone stealing or destroying a manuscript in the mail; however, I do understand and know what some of my peers would do to someone for doing similar things. That is why I wrote what I did, not because it was what I would do if given the opportunity. If I did anything violent in response to their action, the most it would be is a bitch slap to get their attention. Years ago I would have done that and more without hesitation before I decided to change my evil, wicked ways.

WORD POWER: As for what I wrote, okay, I confess, empathy and compassion escaped me. My words did not suggest sympathetic feelings or forgiveness for the villain. I used coarse statements and calloused words for literary and personal reasons. I hoped the perpetrator would read what I wrote and think about the severity of his or her actions.

One of my sisters agreed and commented that my blog may change the life of the person who stole the manuscript by making him more aware of the potential consequences of what he did.

I hope so. That would turn a negative into a positive. I like doing that; especially, if I can do it with words alone.

In “Manuscripts Worth Stealing,” my powerful words painted graphic images to deter the offensive behavior of mail theft; however, I did not indicate, suggest, or imply that I would commit those acts if given the opportunity to execute revenge against the one(s) who took my manuscript(s), providing what I suspect did happen. I am convinced by the facts that it did. I put it in the hands of the United States Postmaster General to determine what happened.

FIGHTING FOR MY PEERS: I did not want to file a complaint with the Postmaster General, but I had to think about the risks to my peers if someone lacking morals is left in charge of their mail. Those who put legal documents in the mail to fight for their freedom deserve protection.*

One of my friends mailed his post-conviction relief motion on Friday, March 18, 2016. Mailroom officials weighed his package and told him the amount of postage needed.

He paid over $9.00 to send it by certified mail. A family member checked on Monday and the post office said it could not be tracked by the tracking number. The receiving stamp provided by local post office was not legible.

On March 24, 2016, he went to the mailroom and discovered that it was returned for $0.84 postage. A staff member who works in the mailroom, had went to the local post office to enquire about his missing mail. The local post office had it laying around. It took six days to learn something that he should have known by Monday (03/21/16). The incident shows the level of incompetence of those who work in the mailing system that we deal with in prison. Sometimes the problem occurs at the institutional level; other times at the United States Postal Service.

RESENTMENT: The manuscript issue is not one for me to waste away my time dwelling on ways to retaliate for wrongs done to me by anyone. I am not a religious person, per se. I do believe in spirituality, which to me, is accepting that every human is flawed and that it is okay; not putting everyone in a box that requires them to think and believe the same. In the book I mention below, as I recall, it essentially said that spirituality is more open-ended, rather than compartmentalized (to be one of us, you must believe, think and act as we do). Spirituality allows us to accept each other in light of our differences.

With that established, when I am angered or struggling with an issue, I let go and turn the matter over to my higher power, whom I choose to call God.

I refuse to harbor resentment. I express my anger, take appropriate action or do not do anything, and then move on with my life. I always had to pay for my dirty deeds and I know everyone else will have to do the same. I am not God’s executioner and cannot control other people. The world’s best selling books says, “We reap what we sow,” and to “judge not lest we be judged by the same token.”

With my history, I need all the leniency I can get, so I try to avoid using a magnifying glass to examine the wrongs of others in hope of one not being used to examine me. I focus on my actions, not theirs, because it is what I do that creates my problems or rewards.

I pray to forgive. I do not have the power to forgive anyone. That is not my department. All I can do is let go and get out of the way to let nature take its course.

Spiritual principles work like math formulas. Add three plus four and you get seven; add four plus three and you still get seven. Subtract three from seven and you get four, or subtract four from seven and you get three. No matter how it is added or subtracted, we get the same result: It works out according to the principles and formulas applied. I receive what I put out.

POWERFUL STORY: In 2004 I read a powerful story in THE SPIRITUALITY OF IMPERFECTION by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketchum about resentment and forgiveness that went something like this:
Two former Nazi prisoners sat around talking.
One asks the other, “Do you ever think about the Nazis?”
“Yes, I think about them every day of my life,” he said.
“Then they still have you in prison.”

Let it go. Stop dwelling on past transgressions. The same book described a resentment as pain wrapped in anger.

For me to heal, I deal with the pain and get to the anger to let it go.

Do not be a prisoner of those who offend you or do you wrong. With forgiveness comes freedom from the past and the pain of resentment.

LOVE NOT WAR: Karma takes care of those who commit acts that deserve retribution. Personally, I prefer love not war. My fantasy is a fat butt girl with a pecan tan and a Mercedes Benz, to love, hug and hold, not someone to take out aggressive feelings on.

A lot of what I wrote in that sentence is just word play to paint a picture with words. I do not set requirements on finding love. Wealth, fame, economic status, ethnicity or a person’s skin tone does not concern me, if love thrives within our hearts. But I do not need a woman who needs abuse to make her feel wanted. I’m not into that either. I want to cuddle and love, not wrestle and fight.

HONEST JUDGE: In my last blog (“Agape Love”), where I wrote about love, I lost two followers after my publisher posted it. I reckon there are those who want to read hate or anger driven blogs instead of those about love. That is not the first time something negative happened after I did something positive.

In 1986, a friend of the family asked me to be a judge in a Beauty Pageant. I agreed. No one mentioned that I was there to rig the votes. One of the sponsors did point out who their relative was in the toddler division. I voted according to my version of truth about who was the best. My vote cost the relative’s toddler to come in second place.

I never got invited to judge again.

So much for moral rewards when displaying good work ethics and honesty. I’d do the same thing again. Fire me for doing the right thing? All right. That is okay with me. So much is life.

CONCLUSION: My hope is that my words written above will affect a positive change in the life of someone who reads them. The power of words is undeniable.
_______________________
* I wrote about a similar issue in “Fighting for Rights to Write,” posted on March 03, 2015, on my blogs at straightfromthepen.wordpress.com and waynedowdy.weebly.com (first published by PrisonEducation.com in February 2014). By the way, I won that battle and others where our right to write was concerned.

Wayne T. Dowdy writes Straight From the Pen. Purchase his writings from your favorite book or eBook retailers, or from straightfromthepen.com or Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616. Look for UNKNOWN INNOCENCE within weeks. The release was delayed due to the stolen draft copy of the manuscript written about in “Manuscripts Worth Stealing.”

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4 thoughts on “WORD USE & PRISON LIFE

  1. I did an internet radio show about the prison system, racism, the life of Jamie Cummings in prison, suffering from epilepsy, and the book I am writing about him. “Inside The Forbidden Outside” I need a push from websites that understand the importance of this issue. I wanted to give you a link to read, share or hopefully reblog. As a new author it takes a lot to get it out there and I am starting before it is published. At the interview, if you start it one hour and 20 mins in it will be a couple minutes before he starts my interview. I hate to advertise myself on other blogs but was hoping this exception would be okay. https://mynameisjamie.net/2016/04/04/david-snape-show-2-4-4-16/

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    1. i Jamie, thanks for the comments. Feel free to use whatever you need from my writings. I have asked my publisher to post the link to your website. I have a blog on Weebly.com (the same posts as on WordPress), which she may be able to do the same with. Anyway, if you like, you can send me an email address to waynedowdy.straightfromthepen.com and I will add you to my Corrlinks contact list so we can interact. Your plan to advertise before release is right on point. PROLOG (for press releases) is another avenue I plan to use when UNKNOWN INNOCENCE is ready for sale. Gotta go and get ready for work. Thanks again for comments. Maybe I can write a blog and mention your site in it. Take care. Wayne

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      1. Ah, so you are writing a book, too. I think that because of everything that is happening with the prisons – now is the time to write. Interest seems to be high with the people, too. It is just another thing they’ve been lied to about.

        I am actually Sonni. I write Jamie’s blog, and he is the core of the book. It has been written through about 4-500 letters we have exchanged. I’ve been talking to a lot of self publishing companies to find the right own – going to the BBB to check them out as well. One guy said something interesting. So many writers who self publish don’t promote themselves before, and when it is put up on the usual sites like Amazon and B&N they think it is going to sell itself and then wonder why they aren’t making money. I started promoting it from the day I started writing it and collecting email addresses. I won’t quit when it is out – this is going to be successful because it is for Jamie. He still has 7 years (out of 17) He’s in Ad seg. He can’t take classes. Doesn’t even have a GED. No phone calls, no contact visits. It has taken a lot to keep him from sinking. Now I have a few more people writing to him regularly and even helping a little financially because he only has had me.

        I’ll check out PROLOG, and send you my email address. Good talking to you. If you mention my site in a blog post I’ll put you on the top of my Christmas card list!

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