All posts by waynetdowdy

About waynetdowdy

I am a Georgia native who grew up in the Atlanta area. I have been in the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons since August 18, 1988, for armed bank robbery and associated charges. I hope that doesn't matter to you but I understand if it does. I live my life today much differently than I did in my youth. I was 31-years-old when arrested and will be 62 upon release on April 24, 2019

SEEKING A REAL JOB

job application.jpgby Wayne T. Dowdy

Time changes things.  Ex-offenders struggled to obtain gainful employment for years.  The blemish of a felony conviction decreased their chance of employment.  Now, at many American companies, a criminal conviction does not automatically disqualify ex-felon job applicants.  That is good news for society and taxpayers!

“The Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, representing 1,300 business groups, agreed last month with the Counsel of State Governments Justice Center to provide assistance to chamber members in the hiring of ex-offenders.

“While some businesses have been interested in the past, ‘it becomes even more critical when the labor market is tight not to rule out qualified applicants,’ said David Rattray, a Los Angeles chamber executive.”  Stigma of Criminal Record Fades, As U.S. Employers Get Desperate by Steve Matthews, Copyright 2017 Bloomberg L.P., published in the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (BNA Reporter), CRL, May 31, 2017.

PERSONALLY:  In 1976, I was released from state prison and applied for numerous jobs.  I even tried getting a job at some of the local state government agencies.  During interviews, things went well until my criminal history became the topic, then I essentially got the infamous line, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”  No one called.

A month later, I read a newspaper article about CETA, a program created to help disadvantaged people find employment.  I applied there and experienced the same ole BS.  I had had enough by then.

CRIMINAL THINKING:  After hearing the same ole line, I looked at the interviewer and said, “I’m trying to get a job.  No one will hire me.  I have a wife at home, a baby, and another baby on the way.  I’ve got to have a job to take care of them, but since no one will hire me, what are you saying, I should get a gun and go to work?”

He reconsidered and sent me for an interview at a Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi dealership.  The company hired me as a mechanic.  Unfortunately, the floor manager did not like me.  If the Kelly’s Blue Book said to pay mechanics a certain rate for performing a specific task, he paid me less than normal.  The other mechanics sympathized and agreed that he was unfair to me.

I quit after dealing with the disparity for several months.  Within two years, I made a terrible mistake and picked up a gun to “get paid.”

CRIME PAYS:  I got paid using a gun.  What I got paid was a long-prison sentence because of the method of employment I chose to get paid.  Crime pays with prison sentences that rob men and women of their lives.

A life of crime led to me robbing my children of a father to guide, protect, and provide for them; robbed my wife of a husband to fulfill his responsibilities in the marriage; robbed my siblings of their brother, my mother and father of their son, and turned me into a liability rather than an asset to the family.

GET A JOB:  No, not with a gun.  Being caught with a gun or bullet, would get me sentenced to fifteen years to life without parole.  I don’t want to retire that way.  The 35-year sentence I am almost finished with, gave me enough time to get rested and willing to get a real job.

PREPARING FOR THE JOB MARKET:  On Sunday, May 28, 2017, Georgia Focus, a radio talk show, featured a Georgia Department of Labor official (I think it was Georgia Labor Commissioner, Mark Butler).

He spoke of programs to help the formerly incarcerated to find employment, and said that he has over 100,000 positions to fill.  According to the radio interview and the BNA article, one of the biggest obstacles of some applicant/employees is a lack of soft skills.

SOFT SKILLS:  show up for work on time, dress accordingly (if applying for a welding job, go dressed as if you are ready to start work, not in a three-piece suit); communication and people skills (working with others, being polite, considerate, etc.), and of course, working hard.

He also spoke on the value of following up on job applications; e.g., sending a message or calling to thank the employer for his or her consideration (as I recall, Mr. Butler used his daughter as an example of follow-up activities that landed her two interviews and then the job she sought).

THE WORLD OF WORK:  In 1985-86, I graduated from The World of Work, a program to teach participants to be entrepreneurs, how to get a job, how to succeed in the business world.

(To view a photo of me while giving a graduation speech from a podium at the Hilton Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, visit my photo gallery at here..)

I secured the first position I applied for at Bankhead Enterprises, Inc. (BEI).  I drove a truck to pick up and deliver parts for their Transportation Division (Bankhead Transportation Equipment).  Within two years, I held multiple positions and increased my salary by fifty-percent.

One position I held was as the assistant manager of the Equipment Maintenance Division.  I brought it out of the red for its first time by billing all expenses.  All of the department heads complained about an increase in overhead, but it made my boss happy.  🙂

The last official position I held was in the Personnel Department.  For a pay increase, I left to become an estimator for BEI’s fastest growing division (Bankhead Asphalt Paving).  The manager wanted me to work for two weeks to show him what I could do before he decided how much to increase my salary.

SHARP DRESSED MAN:  I made an irrational decision to quit because “that wasn’t the deal.”  I wanted the raise to walk on the property in my three-piece suit.  Yes, I was young and dumb, well dressed, but definitely young and dumb.

I left BEI and later worked for the Electrolux Corporation to sell vacuum cleaners and shampooers.  I took top office sales on my first week out.

HISTORY HURTS:  In 1988, an insurance company and real estate company both called and invited me to work for them.  My criminal conviction prohibited me from getting license to sell insurance, homes or property.

The insurance company had hired me.  I let the manager know I may not be able to get a license.  I wanted to find out if I could be licensed before he invested the time into training me.  With regret, he learned Georgia law prohibited me from selling insurance for his company.

The principles I learned in The World of Work worked.  I failed to succeed because I had a problem with drugs and alcohol, a problem I no longer have, and one that screwed up my thinking.  With over twenty-two years of sobriety, and a determination to succeed, I know I can make it in any company I chose to work for upon release.

SELL YOURSELF:  To get a job, one must sell themselves to the potential employer.  Employers do not care if the baby needs milk or if the spouse needs a new pair of shoes.  Employers hire people to do the job and to profit/benefit from their labor, so an applicant must convince the employer they are the best candidate for the position, the one to make them money or best serve their interests.

COMPLETING THE APPLICATION:  When completing an application, if it contains a field for Felony Convictions, write or type, “Will Explain During Interview.”  That may allow you to get your foot in the door to sell yourself as the person for the job.

EXPERIMENT:  If faced with resistance by a potential employer, and if you are confident of your ability to do the job, offer to work a week without promise of pay, unless you satisfactory perform the tasks.  Walk away with dignity and pride whether you secure the position or not.  Be proud of having given it your best.

ADVANCEMENT (GIVE MORE THAN YOU RECEIVE):  If paid $10.00 per hour and only work to give an employer $10.00 worth of work, an employee will likely stay at $10.00 per hour; however, if that employee gives the employer work worthy of $20.00 per hour, he or she will likely be promoted, whether it be by advancing in the organization, or by an increase in his or her salary.

FEDERAL PRISON INDUSTRIES, INC. (UNICOR):  For almost 28-years I’ve worked for UNICOR.  Numerous politicians tried to shut the doors.  UNICOR helps reduce recidivism by preparing inmates for the job market.  I learned several marketable job skills since I began working for UNICOR on December 1, 1989.

The more promising positions have been working as a document control clerk, a tutor in an Apprenticeship Program for Quality Assurance Inspectors, a technical writer (since 1997), and an Internal Auditor for eleven years.

The former Quality Assurance Manager, once told an external auditor for the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI), who audited our Quality Management System for compliance with ISO 9001: 2008 Requirements, that I was like a gnat.

“When he’d ask me to do something we are supposed to do, if I put him off, he’d keep coming back to bug me to do it.  He was like a gnat flying around in my face.  I’d shoo him away but he’d keep coming back until I did what I was supposed to do.”

He retired and became a respectable employee for a private company.

I apply myself in whatever task I perform and do it to the best of my ability or not at all.  In UNICOR, I apply myself more so to do my part to help keep it afloat for others to have an opportunity to learn and provide for themselves.

I expect those who earn more in a day than I earn in a month to do the same thing.  That does not always work out when dealing with Union or federal employees who know it almost takes an act of Congress to terminate them.  Most often, the bureaucracy rewards incompetence by promoting them instead of sending them to look for another job.  Maybe President Trump can change that.

WORKKEYS:  I began WorkKeys last month to help prepare for reentry into the job market.  The title should have warned me that Workkeys required a lot of work.  The curriculum entails Reading for Information, Applied Math, and Locating Information.

In the early ’80s, I took a Math remedial class at South Georgia College to bring my math skills up to college level.  Now I am re-learning math because I forgot most of what I learned decades ago.  Use it or loose it!

The Neurons inside my brain sparked when math entered the equation.  Math is not my favorite course of study but that has not deterred me from proceeding with what I began.  I am rising to the occasion because of my desire to succeed.  I am striving for Platinum Certification.  More will be revealed!

REENTRY & EMPLOYMENT:  The changes in the job market give me more hope in securing gainful employment upon release.  My age may also be a hindrance when I apply for jobs.  Even so, I’m sure some employers prefer an older, more mature employee, who shows up for work on time, performs his duties in a prompt, efficient manner, and who proves himself an asset to their company, as I will do.

In “Reentry Programs Will Reduce Recidivism” (July 2016), I wrote on the reentry initiatives implemented by President Obama that will help ex-offenders obtain employment and become a taxpayer instead of a tax liability.  I listed numerous companies willing to hire ex-offenders; e.g., The Coca-Cola Company, Georgia-Pacific, Kellogg Company, Staples, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Best Buy, and many others.  Hopefully, Attorney General Sessions will not undo that as he has other initiates implemented by the Obama Administration.

Perhaps Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal, will hire an ex-offender when I am released.  I have a lot to offer about issues affecting recidivism, including ideas for reducing it by helping the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated.  After all, with my experience in corrections, I am somewhat an expert.

My corrections experience cost taxpayers well-over a million dollars.  Employing me as a Consultant or auditor will yield favorable results by converting me into an asset, especially, for those with a vested interest in reducing recidivism through employment opportunities.

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Wayne T. Dowdy writes StraightFromthePen.  Follow his blogs and purchase his writings at http://www.straightfromthepen.com or at Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616, Email: MEBooks1@yahoo.com

Mothers & Memorial Days by Wayne T. Dowdy

happy mothers day

TO THE MOTHERS OF THE WORLD:  Two years ago on May 8, 2015, I sent out a message to have posted on FaceBook.  My publisher read and liked it so much that she decided to post it as a blog for me.  This is what I wrote:

 

“Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful women out there who gave your blood and suffered unbearable amounts of pain to give life to the children you brought forth into this thing we call life.  Not to mention all you gave of yourself to raise your children the best way you could by giving them what you had been given.  May those close to you show the same amount of love on your special day.”

 

To all you Mother’s out there who do or do not follow my blogs, I resubmit to you the same feelings wrapped in words.  Each of you deserve praise for the sacrifices you make for your offspring and loved ones.  I decided to repost it when a friend of mine let me know he planned to plagiarize it last week, after having read a collection of my blogs.

 

In “Women Rule the World” (March 27, 2017), I used a bear to illustrate that women are the stronger and more intelligent of the human species.  We owe our lives to our mothers, whether she was the best or the worst, she chose not to “abort” the mission of bringing us into this world.  For those who did not read it, I will share a version of my favorite parts that caused the audience to erupt into laughter when I presented it at a special to celebrate Women’s History Month.

 

“I am Wayne T. Dowdy, a son, father, grandfather, brother, and an uncle, all the products of a woman, my Mother.

 

“The strength I saw in her and many other women has convinced me that the biggest deception in life began when an intelligent woman convinced man that he was the strongest.

 

“Yeah, right!  She says, go fight that bear to protect me, honey.  Bring me his meat and we will eat.  The man risks his life to please and feed her. …..

 

[Men do insane things to please women, some rob banks, write bad checks or worse to win them over.]

 

“The birth process is evidence of a woman’s strength.  Most men would not dare to suffer so much pain to give life, if given the option.  No, he is too weak for that kind of pain.

 

“Our species would not have survived if man carried the burden of birth.  He may go fight a bear to please her and to feed their children, but he dare not to endure such pain for nine months.

 

[Of course, there are those “males” who would love to get pregnant and become rich, but most men I know would mandate prophylactics (rubbers), not because of the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, but because of the risk of pregnancy.]

 

“Additional evidence lies in the fact that in long-term marriages, if the woman dies first, the man is soon to follow.  If the man dies first, the woman keeps on going to nurture her offspring for generations.

 

“My mother outlived and buried three husbands.  …..

 

“Yes, maybe most men are physically stronger than most women are; however, the facts show women rule the world.  Evidence also suggests that she is more intelligent.  If she wasn’t, she’d be the one to go fight that darn bear to feed her family while the man stayed home with their children.”

 

It made me happy to be able to help others have a pleasant day.  A Psychologist who was present thanked me as I was leaving.  She said, “You had us laughing so hard we had to hold our sides.”  🙂

 

MOTHERS & GOD GIVE LIFE:  Both parents may have enjoyed the process of putting us children into our mother’s belly, but it was she who suffered the pain of childbirth that allowed us to grow into the person we became in life.  The formation of our life was under her and God’s control.

 

HIT & RUN:  Some fathers hit and run and left the mothers to bear the pain all alone.  Single parent mothers made even more personal sacrifices to get us the life we now have.

 

If you know any single parents (male or female), who has children at home, give them a hug and offer to help care for their children long enough for them to go out and get some time alone or time with friends.  Everyone needs a break, sometimes!

*****

confederate flag

REMEMBERING REBELS:  Confederate Memorial Day is April 25, 1866, that is, depending on who you chose to believe.  Various dates and places exists as to where Memorial Day originated.  The same is true about which group of people began the day of remembrance for the soldiers who died during America’s most gruesome war.  Civil War history is convoluted.

 

The United Daughters of the Confederacy kept memories alive of the Civil War, by raising funds to have monuments constructed to honor soldiers who died during a period of American history that America’s government wishes to forget.

 

No government likes rebels.  Those darn rebels had the nerve to create their own government, and even worse, to make their own money.  How dare those darn Rebels!  Disgusting Rebels!

monument being removed in NO

ERASING HISTORY:  In New Orleans, Louisiana, local government is in the process of trying to remove memories of the Civil War by removing various Civil War monuments.

 

On April 24, 2017, “Workers dismantled an obelisk, which was erected in 1891 to honor members of the Crescent City White League who in 1874 fought in the Reconstruction-era Battle of Liberty Place against the racially integrated New Orleans police and state militia, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement.”  The New York Times, “New Orleans Begins Removing Confederate Monuments, Under Police Guard” by Christopher Mele (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/24/us/new-orleans-confederate-statute.html?_r=0).

 

Plans exist to remove other statutes/monuments.  The list includes a bronze statute of General Robert E. Lee, an equestrian statute of P.G.T. Beauregard, a Confederate General, and a statute of Jefferson Davis, who was the president of the Confederacy.  Even the monument of President Andrew Jackson is at risk.

 

Removing the obelisk is more understandable than removing the other monuments; especially, statutes of real men whose family linage and heritage is rooted; e.g., Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard, and President Andrew Jackson.

 

More of those darn rebels protested when workers and officials attempted the removal of Jefferson Davis’ monument on May 1, 2017.  Five people were arrested; the removal process put on hold.

old glory

MEMORIAL DAY:  The celebrated federal Memorial Day is the last Monday of each May.  Supposedly, Memorial Day got its start when a group of women put flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers.  Regardless of whether they fought for the North or the South, those Civil War soldiers gave their lives fighting for their country, as has all other soldiers before and after the Civil War.

 

It is a disgrace for those in power to attempt to eradicate a part of history.

 

IMPORTANT DATES:  A misconception pumped into today’s society is that the primary “cause” of the American Civil War was to free the slaves.  Don’t mistake what I write.  I do not like what happened in America during the days of slavery.  No human being deserved to be mistreated the way some slaves were, not even terrorists.

 

I write that to stress my point:  I do not like Terrorist cowards or predators who kill or injure innocent people because of their ideological belief.  Terrorist deserve to experience extreme amounts of pain for repayment of their acts.  But to treat them the way they deserve to be treated, would make us no better than them.  In my opinion, it would be more humane to execute them rather than torture them to death, as they deserve.

 

PROOF OF HISTORICAL DECEPTION:  “On July 20, 1862, John Hay, Lincoln’s private secretary, predicted in a letter that the president ‘will not conserve slavery much longer.’  Two days later, Lincoln, wearing his familiar dark frock coat and speaking in measured tones, convened his cabinet in his cramped White House office, upstairs in the East Wing.  He had said, ‘dwelt much and long on the subject’ of slavery.  Lincoln then read aloud a 325-word first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, intended to free slaves in Confederate areas not under United States authority.”  Louis P. Masur, “Forever Free.”

 

After writing the draft, President Lincoln was faced with another problem:  “One of the weightiest questions was whether significant numbers of Union soldiers would refuse to fight in a war whose purpose was not only to preserve the Union but also to end slavery.  ‘How Will the Army Like the Proclamation?’ trumpeted a headline in the New York Tribune.'”  Smithsonian magazine, January 2013, “Forever Free” by Louis P. Masur.

 

If the Civil War was about freeing the slaves, President Lincoln would not have had that concern and the article would not have appeared in the New York Tribune.

 

Lincoln later “[o]pened the ranks of the Army to blacks, who until then had served only in the Navy.”  He had to do that to get slaves to help the Union fight the Confederate rebels who were kicking their ass on the battle field.

 

Lincoln did not write the draft of the Emancipation Proclamation until 464-days after the Civil War began on April 12, 1861.  That proves that the American Civil War was not fought to free the slaves.  At least, it did not begin with freeing the slaves on the agenda, only later was it added.

 

Slave labor allowed the Southern plantation owners to undercut the Northerners in the Cotton market, the same argument presented today by politicians about the Federal Prison Industries, Inc. using inmate labor to produce goods and services, which raises a question of whether the practice violates the Federal Fair Trade and Practice Act (?).  (I will write a blog to cover that issue in the future.)

 

The Emancipation Proclamation was not signed until January 1, 1863; 165-days after Lincoln wrote the draft on July 20, 1862, which gave freedom to slaves across America, including those in the North.  In other words, wealthy Northerners still had slaves when the war began in the South.

 

The most liked blog of mine is “Southern Pride-Waving a Confederate Flag” (July 6, 2015).  As stated, “If the Civil War was fought over slavery, wouldn’t President Lincoln have signed the Emancipation Proclamation to free all slaves before the war began on April 12, 1861, instead of on January 1, 1863?  Weren’t the slaves used by the president to fight off Confederate forces who had proved to be a more formidable force than expected by slaughtering his troops in numerous battles?  Yes, is the most logical answer based upon the facts and history of the rich using the poor to fight their battles.”

 

What would the Mothers of Civil War soldiers think if they could see what is going on today about the war that claimed the lives of their sons?   We should, as a society, honor those who gave their lives to defend our country, even if their lives were lost fighting a war within the United States of America.

 

Feel free to share this post.  For more on the Civil War, and excerpts from THE LAST CONFEDERATE COIN by S.G. Garwood and Dr. Jonathan Jackson, visit thelastcharlestonconfederate.weebly.com.

 

_________________________________________

Wayne T. Dowdy writes at StraightFromthePen.com.  Send comments to waynedowdy@straightfromthepen.com, or by writing him at Wayne T. Dowdy, #39311-019, P.O. Box 725, Edgefield, SC 29824-0725

Burning Bridges

by Wayne T. Dowdy

Some terms I use in this blog may be offensive, even though that is not my intent. Political correctness isn’t my cup of tea.  If you are sensitive and feel offended by terms that appear insensitive, please read some of my other blogs. I have a variety to choose from, including some of which stick in my mind:  “From Where Do Writers Root”; “Social Media for Writers”; “Vacation in Prison”; “The Truth About Incarceration”; “Gratitude & More”; “A Spiritual Journey”; “Love & Evil Are Color Blind”; “Southern Pride: Waving a Confederate Flag”; “We Are the Cancer”; “No Sympathy”; “Reentering Reality.”

burning bridge

BURNING BRIDGES: Metaphorically, I burned down many bridges during the early years of my life. I am sure many others will identify with burning down metaphorical bridges; especially, those with a history of drug abuse, alcoholism, and criminal lifestyles.

When a person reaches out to help someone and gets taken advantaged of or injured in the process, a bridge gets torched. Today I work on constructing bridges rather than burning them.

CRACKHEAD: I use the term “crackhead” to paint an image of someone who commits an act or says something that defies logic or doesn’t make sense. The way I use crackhead, it does not necessarily have to do with someone who smokes crack, though most crack smokers do qualify for what the term denotes that others coined for their behavior.

I often say, “He smoked one too many crack rocks.” I do not mean for it to be demeaning, insulting, or belittling, though it sometimes is. I also apply the term to some who never seen a crack rock, whose actions warrant the label.

In this blog, I refer to a person as a crackhead but cannot say he ever smoked crack, even though the media reported that he did. His extensive criminal record helps show he’s a crackhead, regardless of whether he smoked crack; however, he is innocent of the alleged crimes until proven guilty.

Addicts, alcoholics, and criminals burn more bridges in a year than can be built in a thousand. But one crackhead in Atlanta, Georgia, stands accused of burning a bridge so big that locals will remember its burning more so than the telling of General Sherman terrorizing the City during the Civil War, when he marched through it on September 1, 1864, burning buildings to the ground.

TRAITOR OR WISE MAN: When General William Tecumseh Sherman marched through Atlanta, he spared the Peters’ house, an Antebellum era mansion that rests on a city block.

Because of General Sherman’s mercy, I lived in a real mansion for a while. I posthumously thank him for sparing his torch on such a beautiful house.

I reckon I also forgive Mr. Peters for being a traitor when he helped the invaders. I thank him, too, for leaving behind his mansion for me to live in. Well, maybe he didn’t leave it just for me, but because he did leave it behind, I did get to capitalize on his kindness and successful lifestyle, even if just for a moment.

Peters Mansion from Ponce De Leon Ave

A HISTORICAL MANSION IN ATLANTA: “The Mansion” sat on a small hill, surrounded by concrete sidewalks on Myrtle Street, Piedmont Ave., Ponce de Leon Ave., and North Ave. The only other structure on the block was a tiny flower shop called Love for Sale that sat on the corner of Myrtle Street and Piedmont Avenue.

Sherman spared the mansion because of the hospitality shown to him and his soldiers by Mr. Peters.

The Mansion sat up the road from “The Bridge,” allegedly burned down by a crackhead. (Read below for “A CRACKHEAD AND A BURNING BRIDGE.”)

LESS KNOWN ATLANTA HISTORY: In December of 1971, I helped five other “residents” restore the Peters’ Mansion before Dante, the owner of Down the Hatch in Underground Atlanta, bought it for one and a half million dollars to turn into one of Atlanta’s famous restaurants, appropriately named, “The Mansion.”

CHRYSALIS: “a pupa of a butterfly : … : a sheltered state or stage of being or growth.” Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed.

All six residents (three boys and three girls), were adolescent addicts and juvenile delinquents. We were the first members to join Chrysalis–a residential drug program–created by Bob Griffith, who managed to get use of the Mansion to start the program. Three volunteer staff members assisted him at providing us with unconditional love to help us gain control of our lives, to help us change its direction.

I rejected their love and failed. At fourteen-years dumb, as is common for anyone that age who thinks they have all the answers, my decision making ability suffered. Spiritually, I lacked honesty, humility, and the willingness to follow directions, three major components for recovery.

I rebelled against authority and aborted the mission after four months, to go on to spend most of my life confined in correctional facilities, designed to contain and break my rebellious spirit; all of which failed until I became willing to change.

CHANGES: Two and a half decades later, I became teachable and God put people in my life that taught me how to change and to live my life without the use of drugs, alcohol, and criminal behavior.

BAD NEWS:  After three months of intense work at restoring the Mansion, Bob gave us the bad news: Someone bought it.

The place was paradise in the city, with its state-of-the-art, architectural design, and towering oak trees that shaded the yard. As I recall, it had a sun porch, a screened in sun room that sat above the main entrance; turret-like balconies at every upstairs window; spacious rooms, including a massive living room with a wall mirror that span at least fifteen feet across the living room wall; and a stair case, made from red oak that we polished daily.

On the outside, sat a carriage house where the stable buck once lived to care for the horses kept below; a garage to store and service a Model A Ford, and a beautiful swimming pool that we scrubbed for weeks to restore. That list does not include the many parts and features of the mansion that I do not have the architectural vocabulary to describe.

As a gesture of goodwill for buying the house we had grown to love, Dante invited us to Down the Hatch. We accepted his offer. He then treated us to chocolate and cheese fondue.  He even gave us a taste of his most expensive wine, which was far too bitter for my cheap taste. I’d been more happy with Boones Farm Strawberry Hill or Wild Mountain Grape. But I did appreciate his kindness and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of a lifestyle I had not known.

After the sale, Chrysalis moved to a less-attractive house on Boulevard Avenue, near the Atlanta City Zoo. By then, I had walked out the door of The Mansion to abscond from justice.

I was a “Wanted Child,” on the run from the law, a young thug out of control. Read ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN by Wayne T. Dowdy for inspirational stories that prove people change.

I burned a bridge when I walked away from Chrysalis. I was rearrested several weeks later.

I only agreed to go there to avoid returning to the Youth Development Center (YDC). Yes, returning. At fourteen, the judge sentenced me to an indefinite term of confinement for a violation of the Georgia Drug Abuse Act, theft by taking motor vehicle, and burglary.

BURNED BRIDGES: I did seven months at the YDC in Augusta, Georgia, before I got arrested again for drug-related offenses, within six weeks of my release.

Betty R., a beautiful social worker assigned to my case, stuck her neck out to get me in Chrysalis. “Everyone warned me not to help you because I would get burned,” she said.

I did not intentionally burn her, but I did. My history proved I burned bridges.

CRACK PIPE: I sympathize with a 39-year-old man, who allegedly burned down the only “real” bridge I know of being torched by someone smoking crack cocaine. I hope the burning bridge leads to him getting help to regain control of his life before the pipe takes him to his death.

I smoked crack in 1988 before my arrest and do not condemn anyone who smokes crack or does drugs. I would be condemning myself because that was me. I feel regret for those who chose not to seek help and do what it takes to change their lives; however, I understand their reluctance to try changing.

I failed thousands of times before I got it right in 1995. I feared failure and success. My lack of self-esteem kept me from feeling I deserved success. I was double-cursed!

FLAWED THEORY: Crack wasn’t strong enough for me. All it ever made me do was to want powder cocaine to inject into my arm. The government’s theory of the crack-cocaine-epidemic, used to support severe penalties for crack cocaine offenders, was flawed in relation to the dangers of smoking crack. If an addict injected a quarter GRAM of 86% pure, cocaine hydrochloride (powder), he or she would likely die, whereas, if he or she smoked a quarter OUNCE of crack, they’d only want more.

A CRACKHEAD AND A BURNING BRIDGE: Thursday, March 30, 2017: three homeless people entered a restricted area under Interstate 85 to smoke crack cocaine. A fence with a shabby gate surrounded the restricted area, where the city stored construction materials, in particular, a “conduit made from high-density polyethylene, used to protect fiber-optic cables.”  Three hours later the bridge above Piedmont Avenue collapsed. [The Atlanta Journal & Constitution, April 2, 2017.]

Affidavits show Basil E., the thirty-nine-year-old, decided to smoke all the crack without sharing. As the other two were leaving, Barry T. claimed to have seen Basil start a fire. That does not mean Basil did.

Before leaving Basil with his crack pipe, Barry T., said he saw the crackhead put a chair on top of a shopping cart and set it on fire.

QUESTIONS: Could Barry T. have said the above because he was angry at Basil for refusing to smoke the crack with him?  Possible. Could Barry T. have started the fire and blamed it on Basil because of the anger? Also possible.

People will tell lies to retaliate!

(I only use first names to protect anonymity, already exposed by the press.) Basil, reportedly homeless for 15-years, had been arrested 19-times, mostly on drug charges in Fulton County, since 1995.

I celebrate April 6, 1995, because that is the day I began a life of sobriety.

According to CNN, Basil’s arrests were for drugs, battery, assault and other charges. “An April 2014 mugshot shows [Basil] after he was arrested for charges related to the sale and trafficking of cocaine.”

For the bridge, law enforcement officials charged him with criminal damage to property and first degree arson. If convicted, he will go to prison because he refused to give up the crack pipe and allowed it to reek havoc on his life.

I understand. I acted like a crackhead, too, when I walked out of Chrysalis in 1972. I did so even more as an adult when I knew I had a serious drug problem and didn’t try to fight it.

Back then, I didn’t have the strength or courage to do what I needed to change.  Only by the grace of God did I survive long enough to do so. My existence proves people can change.

An anonymous person told the AJ&C that Basil went to a 12-Step program and got kicked out because he became disruptive. I wasn’t there so I don’t know if he was wrong or if the members were wrong for not practicing more love and tolerance, as the program requires.

With him knowing where to find help, I know he can change if he makes the decision to do so. It is a decision I hope he and others make who are suffering from the disease of addiction. Build a bridge to those willing to help.  Show respect by following the path to a better life.  My prayers are with you.

The burning of The Bridge inconvenienced the lives of 250,000 daily travelers. Drug addiction kills more. If you have problem with substance abuse or alcoholism, consider contacting Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous.

________________________________

Wayne T. Dowdy writes StraightFromthePen.  Purchase ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN ($8.95) for more of his writings in relation to his life.  If you do not have access to online distributors, or prefer not to make online purchases, order your copy from Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616 (E-mail:  MEBooks1@yahoo.com)

WOMEN RULE THE WORLD

by Wayne T. Dowdy

Womens-History-Month-300x153I live in an abnormal environment dominated by women–a men’s federal prison. On Tuesday, March 28, 2017, I am a scheduled speaker at an event to honor Women’s History Month in America. I feel inclined to do a powerful presentation. Talk about performance anxiety!

I speak often from the podium and have no fear of public speaking. I will speak from the heart to honor powerful women in history, not just in America.

Most department heads at this institution are African-American women, including the one who rules her domain with whips and chains at the Federal Correctional Institution in Edgefield, South Carolina, the Warden, as well as, one of her two Assistant Wardens. Here is what I have written for the Products of a Woman presentation:

Powerful Women

I am Wayne T. Dowdy, a son, father, grandfather, brother, and an uncle, all the products of a woman, my Mother.

The strength I saw in her and many other women has convinced me that the biggest deception in life began when an intelligent woman convinced man that he was the strongest.

Yeah, right! She says, go fight that bear to protect me, honey. Bring me his meat and we will eat. The man risks his life to please and feed her.

Now I’ll touch on history. In the United States, Women’s History Month traces its beginning back to the first International Women’s Day in 1911.

In 1978, the school district of Sonoma, California participated in Women’s History Week. Different events followed that led to President Jimmy Carter declaring March 8, 1980, as National Women’s History Week, which began a series of Presidential Proclamations of Women’s History Week, up until 1986.

During this trend, Congress got on the bandwagon and passed resolutions for Women’s History Week.

Beginning in 1988, each subsequent president issued Presidential Proclamations of Women’s History Month that continues to this day. These women are a fraction of notable women in history:

Cleopatra (69 BCE – 30 BCE), the woman who ruled Egypt.
Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431), a 17-year old woman who inspired a French revolt against the English occupation, and then led the French to victory at Orleans.
Sojourner Truth (1797 – 1883), an African-American, female abolitionist and women’s rights campaigner, whose famous speech against racial inequality, as a woman, I will share upon conclusion.
Susan B. Antony (1820 – 1906), campaigned against slavery and promoted rights for women and workers. Her contribution earned her a mark on a U.S. coin.
Emily Murphy (1868 – 1933), the first woman magistrate in the British Empire. In 1927, she joined forces with four Canadian women who sought to challenge an old Canadian law that said, “[W]omen should not be counted as persons.”
Rosa Parks (1913 – 2005), she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, an action that indirectly led to the most significant civil rights legislation in American history.
Indira Gandhi (1917 – 1984), first female Prime Minister of India. She was assassinated.
Margaret Thatcher (1925 – 2013), the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Condolesa Rice, Secretary of State under President George Bush, Jr.
Loretta Lynch, United States Attorney General under President Barrack Obama.

An old cliche is that, “Behind every good man is a good woman.” These women are examples:

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 – 1962), First Lady of President Franklin D. Roosevelt;
Jacqueline Kennedy ( ), First Lady of President John F. Kennedy;
Nancy Reagan ( ), First Lady of President Ronald Reagan;
Hilary Clinton, First Lady of President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State under President Obama, 2016 Presidential Candidate;
Michelle Obama, First Lady of President Barrack Obama, and of African-American decent.

I offer those listed above as examples of thousands of powerful women throughout history. Women are survivors.

The birth process is evidence of a woman’s strength. Most men would not dare to suffer so much pain to give life, if given the option. No, he is too weak for that kind of pain.

Our species would not have survived if man carried the burden of birth. He may go fight a bear to please her and to feed their children, but he dare not to endure such pain for nine months.

Additional evidence lies in the fact that in long-term marriages, if the woman dies first, the man is soon to follow. If the man dies first, the woman keeps on going to nurture her offspring for generations.

My mother outlived and buried three husbands.

Women are fighters, fighting for life, for love, for equality. Ask Beyonce’ Knowles, she tells the truth when she says, “Women Rule the World.”

To celebrate their legacy, a week was not enough, nor is a month, so the fight continues. Women’s History Month allows us to focus on the value of women and reunites the flame to fight for equality in the workplace and in all other aspects of life, because without the woman, there would be no life.

Yes, maybe most men are physically stronger than most women are; however, the facts show women rule the world. Evidence also suggests that she is more intelligent. If she wasn’t, she’d be the one to go fight the bear to feed her family while the man stayed at home with their children.

Now for, “AIN’T I A WOMAN?” by Sojourner Truth, delivered in 1851 at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio:

“Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women of the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most of them sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, ‘intellect’] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.”

The fight continues until the day all women are treated equal. Let us remember each day, not just during the Month of March, to celebrate Women’s History. Thank you!

_______________________________________
Wayne T. Dowdy writes Straight From the Pen. Visit the website to purchase his books and essays at http://www.straightfromthepen.com. Follow his blogs at https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com.

DAMAGE & PRISON

solitudeby Wayne T. Dowdy

Prison damages people.  Those who spend decades in prison are damaged in many ways, all of which I will not go into.  For instance, exposure to violence or physical abuse that people deal with, or repressing natural tendencies to fight when having to comply with irrational demands; e.g., like ones I wrote about in “The Truth About Incarceration, Part I,” and “A Prisoner’s Story,” https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com and http://www.straightfromthepen.com.

DON’T GET PERSONAL:  A less than obvious example of damage, occurs for someone like me–a southern gentleman by nature who likes to assist people I see carrying a heavy load or otherwise look to need help; especially, women, who represses the natural desire to help.  To engage in a personal conversation may also create difficulties.

At times, I resist the desire to offer help due to fear of causing a conflict for the damsel in distress.  I still offer to help in certain situations.  Because of prison regulations and the warped, unwritten code of prison ethics, I may avoid speaking openly about an issue I would normally speak about to a person I feel I can help by offering a suggestion.

The person may or may not accept a helping hand.  In such a situation, an inmate may decline assistance at the fear of being seen as weak or vulnerable.  A staff member may decline due to fear of another staff member suspecting improprieties between him or her and the compassionate prisoner.  Personal conversations and any type of transaction between staff and inmates are viewed as inappropriate by many prisoners and staff alike.  Humanity prohibited!

INSTINCTS DENIED:  My instinct is to help others.  Sometimes I don’t because of the risk I may put the other person in by doing what comes natural.  Knowing that my act of kindness may harm the other person, makes me reluctant to offer the assistance my ethics and natural instincts tells me to do, as a decent human being.

Upon release, I will have to undo decades of damage done by the prison experience:  suppressing healthy emotions and needs.  I must learn to be a normal.

I sent out the following message to a friend who posted it on social media for me.  A lot of people liked it so I will share it.

“03/05/17:  To all my Faithful Friends:  I hope March brings each of you lots of love and success or whatever your hearts desire.  For me, I’d be happy to be able to walk through a park or to sit on a lake to listen and observe the beauty of nature; to give someone a hug, kiss someone special, or to just be able to sit and watch animals; or to pet a dog, cat, rabbit, or a chicken.  🙂  Hell, I’d be happy to watch some fish swim around in an aquarium.  I am looking forward to going to the Georgia Aquarium to see some really big fish!  So much in life people take for granted until it’s gone.  One day soon I will be reentering the human race.  Then I will be able to interact with each of you like a normal person.  Have a great day!  Wayne”

The above indicates the desensitization of prisoners.  For over 28-1/2 years, my physical contact with other humans and mammals has been severely restricted.  That is definitely true on an intimate level about lovers and sexual intercourse!  During this sentence, I have resisted romantic-relationships.  I’ve only been involved in three since 1988, and only one of those included physical contact (hugs and kisses on a visit).

I had one female visitor I got to hug and kiss, and some mice to pet while at U.S.P. Atlanta.  🙂

In Lompoc, California, I got to take care of a friend’s pet house sparrow, and to go outside to feed the seagulls, crows, other birds, and ground squirrels.  I fed the ground squirrels until the administration poisoned them.  😦

In a relationship, I love to hug and touch, to put my arm around my mate’s waist or shoulder, to sleep with my arm around her to maintain contact.  I guess I am by nature, a “touchy-feely” kind of guy.  In prison, I sleep alone and touch myself.

SEXUAL REPRESSION:  In 1980-81, when I took psychology in college, I seem to recall that a prominent psychologist or psychiatrist wrote about the damaging effect of suppressing sexual feelings and desires.  If that is true, I must be more damaged than I realize.  Perhaps I need a therapist, now!

In my opinion, sexual repression is one of the leading causes of mental illness in America.

Around 1997, a Nevada, Holier-than-Thou politician, pushed a bill through Congress that prohibited federal prisoners from receiving magazines or books containing nudity.

CENSORSHIP & COMPLEX REASONING:  Several years ago, the prison mail room staff rejected an issue of Smithsonian I subscribed to because it contained nudity.  I appealed.

The program statement makes an exception for educational or anthropological content, as one may see in National Geographic; however, understanding an “exception clause” requires cognitive thinking; an ability to comprehend the subject matter and its relation to the provision; to then analyze the situation and decide whether the matter before one’s eye, does in fact, contain what constitutes a permissible exception, a far too complicated process for someone who may not have a GED, I reckon.

The Smithsonian Board of Directors has Supreme Court justices and politicians.  If I was wrong in my assertions, the justices and politicians on the Board of Directors support publishing and distributing pornography.

I appealed the decision to reject my Smithsonian.  I took it to the highest level in Washington, DC.  No one involved comprehended the “exception clause” and upheld the denial of my magazine.  Censorship won because I didn’t want to spend $500.00 to litigate the matter in federal court, where someone with the required intelligence could understand the educational/anthropological, “exception clause.”

PERVERSION & THE POLITICIAN:  Since that policy took effect, I saw a dramatic increase of inmates put in the hole (confined to a cell 23 hours per day, restricted from purchasing most commissary items, using the phone, email system, etc.) for “gunning down” female staff members (masturbating or exposing genitalia while watching the woman).  That may qualify as abnormal behavior.

The politician who sponsored the censorship bill, later came under fire for getting caught cheating on his wife.  Throughout the years, many of the politicians who come up with such bills did what prisoners in the Georgia prison system called “Shifting the Heat,” which is to say or to do things to put the focus on other people to keep it away from themselves.

CELIBATE BY CHOICE:  In prison, I remain celibate because I choose not to participate in homosexual activities, my only other option since I do not have or attempt to have sexual affairs with staff members.  Even if involved in a heterosexual relationship with someone, I still couldn’t engage in sexual activities, even if someone visited me.  While visiting, prison rules limit physical contact to hugs and kisses when greeting and leaving.  Therefore, I remain celibate and will do so until I reenter that part of humanity upon release from prison.

LOMPOC CA:  In 1999, while I was at the United States Penitentiary in Lompoc, California, a tall and pretty, female staff member worked in M-Unit, along with a male staff member known to create drama with staff and inmates alike.

M-Unit is where those of us with high profiles were kept.  I lived in it because I was a maximum custody prisoner.  The administration scored me as Maximum custody due to violence and an escape in 1981, when I was a 24-year-old knucklehead in the Georgia prison system.  Today I am a model prisoner.

PRETTY WOMAN:  That tall and pretty woman was a mother of three.  The male guard wanted her to sit in a booth where the correctional officers, who worked in the unit, had a phone, small desk, drawers, and a cabinet to store their personal and work-related items.

She rebelled.  Instead, she chose to speak with me, within his view.  We stood talking on a tier, in an open area, where others could hear our conversation.  To learn how she might help raise her children, she asked about my childhood and history, and wanted to know what I thought lead to me spending my life in prison.  Our conversation was wholesome, no improprieties of any sort.

The next time I saw her, she asked if I’d be willing to give her an affidavit about our conversation, if she needed it.

“Sure,” I said.

The male guard wrote a complaint against her for fraternizing with an inmate.

Because of that experience, I sometimes avoided conversations with female staff members, who may have only wanted to engage in conversation to ease their tension from working in a male prison.

When sexually attracted, I must resist the impulse to flirt or to make an advance.  A rejection might result in a trip to the hole and a damaged ego, the damaged ego being the worst casualty of rejection.

As damaged as I may be from the prison experience, I will blend into society when I am released.  With a little help from my friends, and maybe a therapist or two, I will be okay and become a success story.

________________________________________

Purchase books by Wayne T. Dowdy from StraightFromthePen.com, or his eBooks from Smashwords.com  (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy).

ROCKY ROAD TO PRISON

two men to a cell.jpgBy Wayne T. Dowdy

Prisoners do not have a choice about which prison authorities place them in, nor can they control who moves in a cell or dormitory where they live.  At least, legally they cannot, but sometimes do.  Those facts often led to prison violence and negative results.  Prison does not have to be negative as a whole.

DANGEROUS CHARACTER:  Five months before I was arrested, a woman gave birth to a child who grew up to be a tall, handsome, muscular, young man.  He moved into the cell with me on September 21, 2016.  I later learned that he was a paid hit man who severed limbs for a living.

He showed no mercy to the living or the dead as he wielded a chainsaw to accomplish his goals; a highly dangerous, Indiana Jones type of fellow.  He used a shovel and stepped outside the boundaries of the law when he chose to dig up remains left behind by people before him in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina.

How can another man close his eyes to rest when knowing he is locked into a 8′ x 10′ x 12′ cell designed for one, housing two men in a bathroom, while knowing the other occupant is so dangerous that he dared to dig deep into the soil for artifacts left behind by Cherokee Native Americans?

HIS CRIME:  Arrowheads, that’s right, arrowheads, rocks; he’s in prison for digging up rocks, approximately thirty feet outside an authorized area.

HIS SENTENCE:  one-year probation for a non-violent crime.  And then he violated the terms of probation and landed in a prison cell with a man serving thirty-five years for violent crimes, a man with a long history of committing crimes of violence.

SHARED HISTORIES:  Both of us have a history of substance abuse.  He still struggles.  I do not.  I have lived clean and sober for almost twenty-two years since he was about seven years old.

On August 1, 1985, I was released from the Georgia prison system.  I was twenty-eight years old, his age.  I read the tea leaves and saw him traveling down the same path that I did.  The path that led to me spending most of my life in prison for committing crimes to get high.

During the past five months, I strived to be a positive influence in his life by showing him parts of my life that lead me to “here.”  My life proves people can change.

My hope is for him to get out and stay out of prison.  He made the mistake of choosing the road of Bad Decisions.  That does not mean that he must continue to travel down that road.

Good people make bad mistakes, too!

MENTORING IN UNLIKELY PLACES:  He has stayed clean and sober while here.  I have mentored and tried to help him avoid making decisions with negative consequences.  He listened more often than not and will leave here next week to go back to the peaceful town at the foothills of the North Carolina mountains, where he has a loving family waiting to help him get on with his life.

WHAT IF:  What if he had been assigned to a cell with a practicing addict or knucklehead who thrived on drama?  Seeing or smelling drugs makes it more difficult for an addict to stay clean; especially, when that addict is trapped in a cage with demons he or she fights every day of their life.

In prison, it is common for peers to encourage violent responses when the actions of others are perceived as being disrespectful.  I encouraged him to think of getting back out to be with his family when dealing with perceived threats to the ego.

What if we had not gotten along and got into fights?  I would have probably got my old ass beat up, maybe even accidentally or intentionally killed, or otherwise have had to commit a serious act of violence to protect myself.

Historically, a lot of youngsters ended up in graveyards by messing with old folks.  Besides that, a person can’t win beating up elders:  they look bad if they beat them up and look bad if the older man or woman beats them up, so it’s best to just leave the old, cantankerous rascals alone with their muscle rub, Tylenol, and multiple medications to treat ailments.

What would have been my cellmate’s chance of using prison as an opportunity to change his life, if he had instead fallen into the darker side of prison life, where men prey upon each other to appease their self-interest, rather than to support changes that increase a prisoner’s chance of getting out to live a better life as a productive member of society?

Many men and women come to prison and never get out because of decisions made before or after incarceration.  Society loses when its citizens perish in prison.

ANOTHER LOST LIFE:  In “A Prisoner’s Story,” I began by writing about the murder of “Bandit.”  He battled with another prisoner inside a cell at U.S.P. Lompoc.  He lost.

I wrote, “I had known him for several years.  He and I were all right with each other, but I knew that by the warped sense of justice, silently written into the prison code by unknown authors, that he had it coming because of what he had done to others.  Bandit was a gangbanger who ran with his affiliates and extorted weaker prisoners so that they could buy heroin with the money.  He was also one of the many who I have seen get out of prison and return, a recidivist.  All he needed to walk out the door as a free man was to survive four more months.”

Based upon such experiences, I know how easy it is to make a fatal mistake or to make bad decisions with long consequences.  I made such a decision when I agreed to steal a car to commit a jewelry store robbery that never happened.  I got into the car with two people who became my codefendants in the bank robbery and associated crimes that I am in prison for committing.

It is easy to land in prison for decades or the rest of your life.

I conclude A Prisoner’s Story with, “I have seen many lives devastated by coming to prison for petty crimes and then learning new tricks from old and new prisoners alike, just as I did.  One thing the gullible prisoner fails to consider is the source of the information:  Someone sitting inside of a prison and bragging about how easy it is to get away with crime does not have impressive credentials, considering that they “are” in prison.  If crimes went as planned, then prisons would not be filled to capacity, as they are in the United States.  People have to wait in line to come to prison, because there is a long waiting list, especially for the mentally ill, dope fiends, alcoholics, illegal aliens.”

[Purchase “A Prisoner’s Story” as part of ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN by Wayne T. Dowdy at http://www.straightfromthepen.com or at your favorite online or offline bookseller.

For those who prefer to save trees, download the collection or the essay as a separate eBook (“Authority & A Prisoner’s Story”) at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy.  Read my February 13, 2017, blog “Apple & EBooks” for information about Smashwords.com.]

NOT A TYPICAL SIXTY YEAR OLD:  “You aren’t like other old people are.  You like the same music I do and I can talk to you about how I feel or anything else.”

That’s true.  I am not like a normal man approaching sixty.  Experts say that using drugs arrests a person’s emotional growth and development.  I started using drugs at the age of eleven, so I am really thirty-three going on sixty.

Because of that, we can laugh and joke, or engage in meaningful conversations to show the follies of our pasts that ultimately led us to be in a prison cell together.  By us being able to do so, helps him to see why those behaviors are not productive and give a good reason to avoid doing it again.

A GOD THING:  When he first arrived here, the staff at Receiving & Discharge told him to move to cell #409, which was the cell I had moved from that morning.  A prisoner who practiced Islam influenced the cell house officer to move him into cell #414, the cell where we now reside.

BLESSINGS:  He told his mother about the positive influence I was in his life.  “Mother said God knew I needed to be around an older person that I’d listen to,” he said.  God does work in mysterious ways.

God put him in the cell with me without asking my permission.  How dare He do that!  He gives me what I need, not what I want.  In this case, it turned out to be a rewarding and positive experience.  God answered my prayer.  Before he moved in, I prayed my next cellmate would be someone not into any of the things I do not do.

I am not into drugs, alcohol, weapons, or anything illegal.  I am almost a saint, Saint Wayne, I may be called one day.  I let all cellmates know from the start that I do not get high and do not want any BS around me.  When I told him that, he said, “That’s a blessing because I am trying to change my life.”

We knew God had put him right where he needed to be.  God also put him in the cell with me because he was the type of person I needed to be around because I love helping others who want to change their lives in a positive manner.

In my life, God has always worked in mysterious ways.  Who would think He lived in prisons, too?

TREE SURGEON:  Back to my chainsaw wielding cellmate.  He is a tree surgeon people pay to come cut or trim trees to improve the safety of their homes by removing threatening tree limbs, or to beautify their property by taking out unsightly trees and forage.  Trees hate to see him coming!

_____________________________

Wayne T. Dowdy writes Straight from the Pen.  Visit http://www.straightfromthepen.com today.  Follow his blogs on straightfromthepen.wordpress.com or waynedowdy.weebly.com.

APPLE & EBOOKS by Wayne T. Dowdy

EBook sales of my published works surpassed paperback sales in 2016.  2017 looks to be the same for eBooks.  I have already sold more eBooks, so I delayed doing another paperback until I complete other short stories to combine into a collection.

Book 4 cover.inddMidnight Express Books released GUNS, DRUGS & THUGS:  DRUG STORE SPREE by Wayne T. Dowdy on February 1, 2017, now available on Smashwords.com and other online distributors for $0.99.

FORMATS FOR ALL:  Smashwords is an eBook distributor that makes eBooks available in the following formats and applications:  epub (Apple iPad/Books, Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, most ereading apps, including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital editions, and tablets); mobi (Kindle), pdf (Desktop; best for technical, illustrated, or photographic works); irf (Older Sony readers), pdb (Older Palm devices), txt (Archival; contains no formatting), and html for reading online.

PERSONAL PERMISSION TO PRINT:  For those who prefer to hold the words in your hand, download “my” eBooks in the pdf. format to your PC and print.  (Smashwords Support Center FAQ contains instructions on how to download to various eReading devices.)

Two of the twenty-one eBook retailers that receive my eBooks from Smashwords, are the Apple iBookstore and Barnes & Noble.  Most downloads came from the Apple iBookstore.  I have no way of knowing if those downloads were for reading on iPhones, iPads, or other eReading devices.  Barnes & Noble placed second.  (Smashwords’ sales exceeded Amazon Kindle.)

UNKNOWN INNOCENCE by Wayne T. Dowdy and my free essays picked up the majority of downloads from Apple.

Note:  Buy your copy of UNKNOWN INNOCENCE now to avoid the March 2017 price increases of the paperback and eBook.

FICTION CRIME SERIES IN PROCESS:  “Drug Store Spree” is the first of my GUNS, DRUGS & THUGS fiction crime series.  I’m working on the second short story now.  GUNS, DRUGS & THUGS:  PILLS & THRILLS begins with more violence than I normally write.  Some readers commented on the violence in UNKNOWN INNOCENCE.  This series will make it read like a love story in comparison.

The tentative completion date for “Pills & Thrills” is before July 2017.  Read on for a peek into both short stories.

I wrote Drug Store Spree based upon real life experiences.  Because of Son of Sam laws that prevents people from making a profit by selling a book or movie written about a crime they committed, I made a few minor changes to convert it into fiction.  The setting is in Georgia, 1978.

Most of what I write in the rest of the series will be fiction with truth woven through its fabric, whereas Drug Store Spree is truth containing fiction.

The following is an excerpt from my latest:

GUNS, DRUGS & THUGS:  DRUG STORE SPREE

11:00 AM, August 14th:  Three thugs cruised through the parking lot of a shopping mall in a small North Georgia town of the southeastern United States.  A sawed-off shotgun laid under the driver’s seat.  The black handle of a semiautomatic pistol protruded from the waistband of the shotgun rider’s pants.  Another gun stretched across the back seat and floorboard at an angle.  A merciless August sun bore down on the Dodge Charger as the thugs eased by the line of stores on the right side of the car.  The rumbling of the headers on the 440-magnum echoed under the canopy where patrons strolled before entering the stores.  A REVCO drug store sat at the end of the long-line of businesses.  I’m one of the thugs, a retired thug.

Nathan drove the car, I rode shotgun, Rodney sat in the backseat.  Each of us had been awake for days, me for over three weeks, other than a four-hour Quaalude-induced nap.  I pointed toward a bank in the far left corner of the plaza, beside where the parking lot met the road.  “When we come out we’ll go that way,” I said.  “Any cops should come from the other direction.”  As we drove by the drug store, I glanced inside to check the layout.  Nothing seemed any different than all of the other REVCOs.  After we passed by, we checked out the route we’d take when leaving, especially if pursued by the law.  No one liked that thought, of course, but I had prepared for it by purchasing a clip-fed, bolt-action, twelve gauge goose gun with a thirty-six-inch barrel, the gun taking up space in the backseat.  With two boxes of shotgun shells, I figured I could change any cop’s mind about pursuing us for long enough to ditch the car and take another one from some unsuspecting victim if needed.  It wasn’t what I wanted to do.  It was what I knew I would do to avoid going to jail. ….

[To read the rest of the story, click https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/700815 to purchase your copy.]

***************

The following excerpt is edited due to profanity used in the original manuscript.

GUNS, DRUGS & THUGS:  PILLS & THRILLS

Salazar gripped the steering wheel to stop his hands from trembling.  The cargo meant life in prison if found.  They couldn’t stand a shakedown.  He whispered, “Don’t move.  Here he comes.”

Officer Barge shined his flashlight in the rear window of the minivan, rented on a stolen credit card, before he edged toward the front of the vehicle.  His right hand rested on the handle of a .40 caliber Glock.

Kager laid motionless in the fetal position to avoid detection; his finger rested on the trigger guard of his Desert Eagle .44 Auto mag.  The projectile of the chambered round would disfigure steel or destroy any living organism it contacted.  An old military tarpaulin covered his long-limbed, sinewy body and chiseled face.  His face tightened as he held his breath when the light illuminated the van.

Officer Barge stood five feet from the door on the driver’s side.  “Turn off the engine and roll down your window.”

Salazar obeyed.  “What did I do wrong, Officer?”

“You failed to use your turn signal at that last intersection.  I need to see your driver’s license and insurance card.”

“My wallet’s in the glove compartment.”

He moved closer to the window.  “Do you have any weapons, drugs, or anything in the vehicle that I should know about?”

“No, Sir.”  His heart pounded inside its cavity.

“Open it and get your wallet.”

Droplets of sweat gathered on Salazar’s forehead.  “Yes, Sir.”  His hands jittered when he reached to open the glove compartment.  He remembered leaving his wallet at home.  For a couple of seconds, he fumbled with the warranty and other papers.  “It’s not in here.  I must have left it at home.”

Kager wrapped his finger around the trigger.

“Step out of the vehicle, please.”

Before he could open the door, Kager slid from under the tarpaulin and fired through the window.  BOOM!  BOOM!

The first shot whizzed by Barge’s head.  The second one ripped through his left shoulder, obliterating bone, cartilage and muscle tissue.  The impact of the projective spun his body as he crashed to the ground.  Blood gushed from the gaping wound.  He grunted as he rolled over to un-holster his gun.

Salazar covered both ears with his hands.  The blasts had made them ring.  He whirled around to face Kager.  “What the f***, man, you–”

Kager sprang to the front seat and shoved him to the side.  “Move,” he said.

Salazar fell against the dash as more rounds from the Desert Eagle exploded in rapid succession.

BOOM!  BOOM!  BOOM!  All three projectiles ripped through Barge’s body before his gun cleared its holster; two struck him in the chest, the other in the stomach.

“Shot, a, a cop.  You shot a f****** cop.  We’re f***** for sure.”  Sweat poured from every sweat gland in his body.

Kager jumped out of the van to make sure the cop was dead.  Assured that he was, he turned to face his crime partner.  Damn, I gotta shoot him too.  He’ll tell on me if we get caught.  I’ve got to do it.  Not now, though.  I’ll do it later.  “Let’s go,” he said, as he climbed back into the van.  “We’ve got to get the hell out of here and ditch this van before someone identifies us or his backup arrives.  We can’t afford to loose all these pills.”

***************

I hope you enjoyed the clips and will purchase the eBooks.  More will be revealed.  Thanks for reading my writings!  Wayne

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Visit http://www.straightfromthepen.com for more books, essays, and short stories by Wayne T. Dowdy.  Become a regular follower of his blogs at https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com.  After connecting to the site, press Ctrl End to go to the end of the current blogs, where you will see how to sign up to be notified of each post.

Click https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy to download his eBooks now.  “No Sympathy” and the most downloaded eBook (“A Prisoner & a Poem for a Princess”) are available for free.  Both essays are part of ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN.  The benefit of the paperback is to see a copy of a Card from an Angel.  🙂

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RECIDIVISM IN AMERICA by Wayne T. Dowdy

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January 11, 2017: Three men sat at a corner table in the prison “Chow Hall”; each with a hamburger, a few strands of lettuce leafs, a thin slice of tomato, and “Smiley Faces” (fried, round pieces of oil-saturated, potatoes, with cut out smiley faces, capable of making men frown if not properly fried).

I was one of the three men who sat at the table. My last complete day spent in society was August 17, 1988. (Read “No Sympathy” by Wayne T. Dowdy for details of my arrest and conviction in federal court, by a jury unlike my peers.) I eagerly await the day I leave prison for a halfway house.

Johnny P. sat across from me, his last day free was also over twenty-years ago. He is a good man who made bad decisions in his youth. A youngster sat to his right at the table.

RECIDIVISM: The youngest at the table was released from here three months ago to go to a halfway house. He returned for violating the terms of his supervised release (similar to parole or probation where a man or woman must meet specified conditions to remain free). See below subtitle, “RECIDIVISM DEFINED” for definition.

Johnny grilled the youngster about his return.

The youngster said, “Because I was under Public Law, I could only get a four-hour pass each month. I got tired of seeing everybody else go on passes for the weekend, and me not being able to, so I left a couple weeks later and didn’t go back. They caught me after three weeks. I’ve been locked up ever since.”

Johnny turned his head and locked eyes with the youngster. “I have six life sentences. Do you know how bad I wish I could go home to be with my family for four hours a month?”

Johnny’s words ingrained an image in my mind that influenced me to write this blog.

The youngster acknowledged his mistake, but then rationalized that serving the additional 18-months would kill the remainder of his supervised release.

SUPERVISED RELEASE: Depending on when a person was sentenced, determines whether a sentence for a violation disposes of the remainder of supervised release, or restarts the supervised release term upon release from prison for the violation. I have three terms of supervised release (one for two years, another for three, consecutive to the two, and a concurrent five-year term), each of which is only good for one violation that I do not plan to utilize.

ANTI-CRIME BILLS: The United States Congress has passed several anti-crime bills, with various provisions for controlling offenders captured in the mass incarceration frenzy–created by politicians for the sake of a vote–that ruins lives and costs American citizens billions of dollars each year in taxes.

SENTENCING REFORM ACT OF 1984 (SRA): One such bill was the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. As part of the SRA, effective November 1, 1987, Congress created the United States Sentencing Commission (“The Commission”) as “an independent agency in the judicial branch of the government.”

More than 1.5 million people have been sentenced under the SRA. The alleged purpose of the SRA was to deter, incapacitate or rehabilitate criminals, and to protect society from future crimes by offenders.

The SRA abolished federal parole and requires federal prisoners to serve 85% of their sentences. Eligible prisoners may earn “up to 54 days” per year under Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 3624(b)(1), Release of Prisoners. The United States Federal Bureau of Prisons (B.O.P.) refuses to give any of their Cash Cows more than 47-days.

The B.O.P. began 2017 with 189,333 prisoners, which is substantially less than the 219,298 reported in 2013.

21,140 of those prisoners are contracted out to private prison companies. The reduction came from legal and legislative changes, not from B.O.P. initiatives. Lobbyists from private prison companies provide hefty campaign contributions to politicians to maintain mass incarceration policies. Read “The Truth About Incarceration, Part II” by Wayne T. Dowdy for more on the topic.

THE COMMISSION: The Commission’s primary purpose was to establish policies, practices, and guidelines for federal judges to use in sentencing federal offenders.

RECIDIVISM DEFINED: Between 2005 and 2013, 25,431 federal offenders were included in a study on Recidivism (“refers to a person’s relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime.”)

“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 represent 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.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Maybe President Trump will find a way to reduce prison populations and save billions of dollars by reducing recidivism rates. To help willing ex-offenders become productive members of society, who can help pay back their cost of incarceration by paying taxes, will help to make America great again, instead of shamefully being the Incarceration Capital of the World.

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.

Another study showed recidivism rates for state prisoners were higher than federal counterparts: 76.6% of state prisoners were rearrested within five years. “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010” (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rprts05p0510.pdf).

In adjusting the federal study for a five-year comparison, the examiners removed federal offenders sentenced to probation or fines, which lowered the federal rearrest rate from 49.3% to 44.9%, compared to the 76.6% for state offenders. Comparing recidivism reconviction rates (convictions for new criminal charges), state offenders led at 55.4%, compared to 26.0% for federal offenders.

The difference in rearrest rates were possibly due to higher education levels for federal offenders and more available programs created to reduce recidivism. Locking people up inside overcrowded institutions, without providing opportunities that allow the imprisoned to learn how to improve their circumstances that led to prison, only feeds a system that robs men and women of dignity, integrity, and self-respect.

ANOTHER CHANCE: Providing I see the end of this 35-year sentence of imprisonment, which I anticipate doing, I will have another chance to succeed in society. I plan to be a productive member upon release by sharing my experience, strength and hope to help others learn from my mistakes and success.

I plan to use StraightFromthePen.org to provide a platform to (1) influence legal changes to absurd laws; (2) promote prison and sentencing reform; and (3), to help improve prison systems through legislation that forces prison authorities to provide inmates with resources to help them change their lives. To do so, I will communicate, directly or indirectly, with state and federal legislatures for those I will leave behind.

Of course, an old saying is that if you want to hear God laugh to tell Him your plans, so maybe He is laughing now. Maybe His plan for me entails something other than that, but since I am essentially an expert in the field of corrections by being inside most of my life, I figure my experience can benefit others inside who are heading down the path that led me “here.”

My hope is to help effect a change to allow Johnny and thousands of others who are serving absurd prison sentences, to one day have an opportunity to get out of prison, even if only for a furlough.

MASS INCARCERATION: All of us released from prison and then returned for a new sentence are equally responsible for mass incarceration.

As prisoners, we complain about our conditions and what we deal with as part of the prison experience, and yet, for those fortunate enough to get out, we return to make the Prison Machine grow bigger and stronger by feeding it with our lives. By returning to prison, we make sentencing reform initiatives more difficult to pass.

Many men and women released from prison are forced to return to the same area from which they came, without the benefit of going to halfway houses to prepare for successful reentry. Some revert to crime to survive, rather than seeking help from available social programs; the reason is most likely a lack of knowledge about available programs.

DRUG OFFENDERS: The majority of American prison populations are drug offenders, who are the worst to complain about having unjust sentences for “victimless crimes.” But if addicts die from drugs or commit crimes to buy them, are addicts and those victimized by the addicts to get the drugs, victims?

The same legislatures who passed laws to punish people who rob banks, or kill people, are the same ones who passed drug laws. Whether I agree or not, it is the law and if I don’t want to go to or stay in prison, I do not need to violate the law.

Plans to commit and get away with crimes ultimately fail, as proven by booming prison populations.

I do agree that many prisoners have unjust prison sentences, but not just for drug crimes. Those serving life without parole in cases that did not involve murders or other forms or violence are real unjust.

Life without parole may be spelled with letters or numbers (50, 75, 100 years imprisonment).

Numerous prosecutors and law enforcement officials plot with “cooperating codefendants” of the accused to exaggerate drug quantities or other facts needed to trigger more severe sentencing ranges. Codefendants fabricate drug quantities to receive a lesser sentence for providing “substantial assistance.”

Several foreign countries do not have large prison populations because they execute those who violate laws, including drug laws.

At the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, foreign nationals toured the prison. A psychologist told me a prisoner complained to a lady about the severe prison sentence he was serving for a drug offense. She replied, “Sir, why do you complain? In my country, they would execute you.”

Help make America great again by reducing recidivism through proven programs. Imprisoning citizens does not make America great; especially, when slowly executing them by laws that lead to decades or the rest of their lives in prison.

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Wayne T. Dowdy writes at StraightFromthePen.com. Purchase UNKNOWN INNOCENCE ($10.95) and ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN ($8.95), plus S & H charges, at Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616. Buy online at CreateSpace.com, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and other eStores. Visit his Author’s page at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy to purchase eBooks, or from most available eBook distributors, including the Apple iBookstore. At Smashwords, download your copy in the format that works best for you, including Html or pdf to read on your PC or Smartphone.

Successfully Reentering Society by Wayne T. Dowdy

 

My question-on-applicationopportunity to reenter society approaches faster than additional studies can be produced to predict the likelihood of success for released prisoners. I am prepared for successful reentry. Failure is not an option.

Without thinking of that particular day, I have worked toward it for almost three decades. Even when my release date seemed more distant than the stars that glittered in the night (too far away to see without a telescope), I moved forward on faith of better days.

Others have led the way that shows I can reach the stars by following their paths. One such person is Brandon Sample, Esq., whose inspiring story I will share before conclusion of this blog.

PREPARING TO REENTER: Part of my preparation process included getting help for addiction and associated mental health issues, back in the early to mid-Nineties.

I also worked for the Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR, a UNIque CORporation), since December 1, 1989. I learned lucrative job skills to increase my chance of gaining successful employment upon release; e.g., technical writing (writing and editing quality manuals, operating procedures, manufacturing and inspection instructions, training modules, designing & creating forms, etc.); internal auditing, ISO 9001: 2008, Quality Management System requirements; working with NSAI external auditors during the ISO certification processes, and many others.

This week (January 9, 2017), I begin a twelve-week, Non-Residential Drug Abuse Program, which I am taking more so to mentor others than for an interpersonal reasons (I stopped using drugs and alcohol in April of 1995).

POST-RELEASE PLANS: Once I am released, I know to take advantage of all available programs. Websites such as http://www.FairShake.net and http://www.HelpForFelons.org will keep me up to date on resources out there for me to capitalize on. Today, more companies are willing to hire ex-offenders. I list several in my blog, “Reentry Programs Will Reduce Recidivism” (https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com).

Both FairShake.net and HelpForFelons.org have beneficial links. I am particularly interested in http://www.helpforfelons.org/online-jobs-felons, and am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to surf the Deep Blue Web for the first time.

BRANDON SAMPLE, ESQ.: Brandon ignored the naysayers and moved forward toward his future as an attorney.

As a troubled youth and young adult, he made decisions that led to a 168-month federal prison sentence in 2000, at the age of twenty. During his twelve-year stay in the federal prison system, he “fell in love with the law,” while fighting for his freedom. It was then that he decided to begin college to study law to become an attorney.

Brandon did not pay attention to those who said he could not be an attorney with felony convictions on his record. “When I look back now, that 14-year sentence saved my life. I very well could have ended up dead or caught up in the cycle of going in and out of prison had I not received that serious wake up call. I say that not to suggest that all sentences, no matter how long, are fair and just.

“But the key, for me at least, was that I decided to change. I wanted a new life, a new future with all my being. So many people along the way told me that my dreams were unrealistic. I never listened to any of them and just plowed ahead.”

While incarcerated he paid for correspondence college courses through Adams State University. Upon release in 2012, he walked out the prison doors with his Bachelor’s degree.

In August of 2013, he began classes at Vermont Law School, where he graduated in May of 2016, magna cum laude, and now holds a Juris Doctor degree.

He received his law license from the Vermont Supreme Court in October of 2016. Now he is licensed to practice in the State of Vermont, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Circuits.

Brandon may have lost the battles for his freedom in the courts. But he won the war when those battles led to him successfully becoming Of Counsel for the Law Firm of Jeremy Gordon, Esq., Mansfield, Texas (www.facebook.com/gordondefense).

Brandon’s story proves that prison does not have to be a negative experience. Miracles do happen. My hope is to become additional evidence of that important aspect of life, as many of my peers have proven true over the years; especially, those I met through Twelve-Step Programs. I will not fail!

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Wayne T. Dowdy writes Straight From the Pen. Visit his website at http://www.straightfromthepen.com and his author’s page at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy.

GRATITUDE AND MORE

from Wayne T. Dowdy

PRISONERSLast year on December 23, 2015, I posted “Plot to Stop Santa by Mr. D.” to add a little humor to the holiday season (read it on straightfromthepen.wordpress.com or waynedowdy.weebly.com and check out Santa’s militarized sled). This year I am writing along personal lines and will share some previous messages I sent out to those on my Corrlinks contact list. My hope is to create a sense of gratitude.

12/25/2011: On Christmas Day, I sat in my cell reading my favorite magazine (THE SUN). “Chow time,” the guard shouted.

I rushed to the chow hall. Inside, I sat at a rectangular table of four with three of my peers. One person stood to leave. Each of us exchanged Christmas greetings, wishing him a Merry Christmas before a 27-year-old youngster sat down to take his place.

The one who sat to the right of the youngster had just complained how the Cornish game hen was small. I had previously tried to maintain the attitude of gratitude at the table by commenting how it was good, though, it was smaller than those we had had in the past. It was still tasty. I simply agreed with the other guy about it being smaller than usual. I labeled it as a “Cornish Game Chick.”

That’s when the youngster sat down. “There sure are a lot of complaining people at this prison,” he said.

His words filled me with guilt. He had once told me that both of his parents were still in state prison. I realized his parents were probably doing worse than all of us at the table.

The youngster’s comment helped redirect the nature of our conversations toward what we were grateful for.

I shared my favorite saying by an author whose name I do know to give him or her their credit due (“I complained of having no shoes until I met a man with no feet.”).

I continued to express gratitude for the well-prepared meal; knowing we were all fortunate to have what sat before us, as we compared our plight to others incarcerated in state and other federal prisons, who probably wished they could eat as good as we were.

This is what we had to complain about: a Cornish game hen, black-eyed peas, which were really good; collard greens, rolls or wheat bread (I chose wheat bread); an individually packaged cherry pie, chocolate cup cake, and some other stuff I probably forgot. I ate my fill.

Each of us walked away feeling more grateful for the meal we had been blessed with because we had stopped for a moment to remember the less fortunate in life.

Not only do I have two feet and nice shoes, I have a fat belly filled with gratitude. I hope each of you have a wonderful Christmas meal and feel fortunate for the freedom you share in a less than perfect world.

Sincerely,
Wayne

**********
Along the same theme as above, I wrote this on America’s Turkey Day:

THANKSGIVING DAY 2016: Happy Thanksgiving Day to each of you. If you feel like you don’t have much to be thankful for because of the hardships life has thrown at you this year, stop to think of all you have to be grateful for; perhaps you have food to eat; two feet, two arms, shoes on your feet, and clothes to warm your body, a place to stay and be safe. Feel fortunate.

When I find myself disgruntled for having to wait for an hour in the commissary to purchase a few items, I try to stop and remember those who wish they had my problems, financially able to shop for a few items needed to maintain a decent level of living inside this prison. That makes me feel grateful for the opportunity, rather than disgruntled and agitated for having to wait as I listen to loud mouths shouting to the man next to them, disturbing the peace, killing the sound of silence.

Upon remembrance of the less fortunate, I find myself grateful for the simple things in life I often take for granted. Be thankful for those you have in your life who love and care for you. Happy Thanksgiving!

**********

For those of you who follow me through other means of social media, you may have read the message below that I wrote after losing one of my brothers, Larry. I once had a mother, father, three brothers and two sisters. I am now down to one brother and two sisters.

In 1978 I lost Stanley, my older brother. In 1982 I lost my father, and then in 2016 I lost my younger brother, Larry, after having lost my mother eight months before him.

The loss of two loved ones in the same year was why I wrote what I did about “the hardships life has thrown at you this year”; including myself in the equation. I write to show we still have things to be grateful for in light of the hardships we experience as the cost of our love for others.

Some people lost their whole family and suffered tragic loss of limbs and even more severe health issues. That makes me grateful to still have family members who remain in my life. I am also grateful for my less-than perfect health.

The families of some prisoners abandon them because they go to prison. My family has stood behind me, even though my actions were unacceptable to them; my actions that landed me in prison. I am fortunate!

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September 18, 2016: One of my two younger brothers moved on to the next phase of existence around 3:00 PM today. Larry was the most gentle and innocent of the four sons birthed by our Mother. Not that he was innocent; he wasn’t, but he was not driven by hate or anger and he never intentionally harmed anyone that I know of. Him and Jeff, the youngest of us, were never the rowdy type, whereas me and Stanley were hell raisers.

Larry was a kind and all around good person. It hurts like hell to know he is gone, but I do rejoice in knowing he no longer suffers from his illnesses. He lives without pain in some other place we all must go one day. Maybe he fishes from a rainbow, catching a few rays, as he surfs the ocean in pursuit of eternal peace. I hope he catches an abundance of love and happiness during his journey. No doubt, many here on earth loved and will miss him.

Ironically, he passed away on my ex-wife’s birthday. Our Mother passed away on the birthday of our son, Jonathon. For those of you who believe in God, please keep the family in prayer as we go through a difficult time. Thanks! Wayne

**********
December 18, 2016: Yesterday my remaining siblings came to visit me. We had a good visit. Though each of us are grateful to still have each other in our lives, I sensed the emptiness from the unspoken loss of our loved ones.

Loved ones fill a space in our hearts that no one else can replace. God made that spot just for them, whether our memories and feelings are good or bad, that space is theirs.

I am grateful to have been blessed with the love given to me by those, whom that power greater than myself, put into my life.

I am also grateful for my eyes* and other physical features that I use to write and send my words beyond the walls and barbwire fences that surround me at this juncture of my life.

Prison only confines my body: I refuse to allow it to consume my sense of being, or to rob me of my dignity and integrity. I am a man first and a prisoner second.

My mind and spirit are freer today than when I roamed the streets in 1988 before my arrest. God gave me a life worth living.

Better days are on the horizon. When I walk out of these prison doors, Straight From the Pen will come alive, more like straight from the keyboard.

In an upcoming blog, I will share a former prisoner’s inspiring story. Brandon Sample is one who proves people can leave prison and succeed in life, by beginning to build the path toward a better life while inside doing their time.

Miracles happen. Have faith and never loose hope. Hope keeps the world going.

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* I have an essay titled “Eyes” that I wrote in gratitude of my eyesight that I am fortunate to still have. It is an inspiration story you can read it in ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN.

Purchase UNKNOWN INNOCENCE ($10.95 USD) and ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN ($8.95 USD) while the prices are low. Available in paperback at Amazon, Createspace and other online booksellers, and as eBooks at Smashwords.com, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.Kindle, and other eBook retailers.