Category Archives: 2016

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

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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!

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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

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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 inspirational story available in ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN.

Purchase UNKNOWN INNOCENCE ($12.95 USD) and ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN ($8.95 USD) while the prices are low. Available in paperback at Amazon.com and other eStores, and as eBooks at Smashwords.com, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.Kindle, and other eBook retailers.

Visit my Smashwords authors page today https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy.

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​POLITICS, DEATH AND LOVE

by Wayne T. Dowdy

 

November 26, 2016:  Cuban immigrants party in the streets of Little Havana in Miami, Florida;

 

November 9, 2016:  Protests in America over the election of President-elect, Donald Trump;

 

November 8, 2016:  Television Privileges Restored & Gone Again.

 

CELEBRATING THE DEATH OF A DICTATOR:  On November 25, 2016, at 10:30 PM, EST, Raul Castro announced the death of his older brother.  Fidel Castro died at the age of ninety from natural causes, rather than as some would have preferred, by some excruciating means in compensation for the pain and misery he imposed upon the people of Cuba.

Cuban immigrants and Cuban Americans partied in the streets of Little Havana to celebrate the death of Fidel Castro, whose regime tortured and murdered thousands of men and women; especially, his political opponents.  His henchmen cut off a testicle of one man, an atrocious act of cruelty, but not the worst he committed against Cuban peoples, only one that portrays the nature and evils of Castro’s torture techniques.

 

PRISONER RETURNS:  In 1993 a prison guard at the United States Penitentiary (U.S.P.) in Leavenworth, Kansas, claimed to have assisted the U.S. Marshal Service in the return of Cuban exiles to Cuba.  What happened shocks the senses on one level, but does not when considering that it occurred in the regime of a dictator.

Cuban soldiers directed the plane to an area where stood a tall, concrete wall.  U.S. Marshals escorted the bound and chained prisoners into the hands of the soldiers.

The soldiers committed the return of the hardware and then lead the load of prisoners behind the wall.  A barrage of gunfire erupted moments later.

The guard said, “When the soldiers returned the leg shackles and handcuffs, there was blood all over them.  Then they said for us to bring them more prisoners.”

I am not aware of America returning any others to Cuba for execution by firing squad.

Perhaps Castro’s treatment of returned Cuban citizens influenced a prison riot at U.S.P. Atlanta in 1986.  Cuban prisoners took hostages at the prison and then burned buildings, including the factory owned and operated by the Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR), a UNIque CORPoration.

 

TRUMP ON CASTRO & CUBA:  CNN reported on November 27, 2016, that President-elect Trump spoke out against the atrocities of Castro committed against Cubans.  Castro has been out of power for ten years.

President-elect Trump expressed a desire to have better relations with Cuba.  His message gave me hope that he will not unravel what President Obama started–a campaign to restore U.S. and Cuban relations.  Afterwards, the Rolling Stones performed a concert and recorded an album in Havana.

 

TELEVISIONS & THE ELECTION:  In “Politics & Prisons,” I predicted the Presidential Election would be over before my blog posted, and that we would not be allowed to watch the election because some prisoners had had the nerve to violate prison rules.  I erred, twice.

My publisher/friend posted the blog the day before the Election.   Then the Criminal Keeper restored television privileges in time for everyone to watch the controversial election of Donald Trump.

 

November 28, 2016:  Now all television are on the same Black & Beautiful channel again.  Another scoundrel broke the darn rules.  Surprisingly, no one reported him to authorities.  People do confess the sins of others to avoid confessing their own.

I suspect some prisoners expect him to “do the right thing” by owning up to his evil, wicked ways.  Someone will most likely assist him before it’s over.  No one confessed to the crime of stashed homemade wine; no one confessed on his behalf.  In prison and life in general, the right thing to do is a matter of perspective.

Taking a bullet for a cause may be the right thing:  dodging the bullet may be a better option.  Bullets hurt like hell.

Personally, I went over 3 1/2-years at U.S.P. Atlanta without watching T.V. more than three or four times, and then for only brief periods, so I am not concerned with televisions.  I am concerned with laws and matters that “really” affect the lives of others.

I change programs when my options change.  Maybe we all need a moment of meditation to reflect on what we have in life.

 

PEACEFUL TRANSITION:  On November 10, 2016, CNN covered the first meeting between President Obama and President-elect Trump.  After a surprising one and a half hour meeting, both men appeared in good spirits and indicated a positive transformation of power and the unification of our Nation.  A unified nation is a wonderful concept!

Mr. Trump commented that President Obama was a good man and that he would be speaking with him and seeking his advice a lot during the transition of power.  I hope he spoke his true feelings and not just something that sounds good.

 

VOTES THAT AFFECTED PRISONERS

The following clears prisoner misconceptions about political events that restricted or abolished certain rights and privileges.  Source:  2009 WORLD ALMANAC & BOOK OF FACTS.

 

98th Congress (1983-1985)

Under Republican President Ronald Reagan, Republicans controlled the Senate and Democrats controlled the House of Representatives.  Republicans and Democrats alike passed the Sentence Reform Act of 1984 (SRA) that abolished federal parole and required federal prisoners to serve 85% of their sentences.  The federal government forced the same measure on states by withholding federal funding if states refused to require prisoners to serve 85% of their sentences.

Ronald Reagan did not sign the bill.  The SRA was attached as a Rider to a Senate Appropriations Bill that automatically went into effect after ten days.

 

104th Congress (1995-97)

Under Democratic President Bill Clinton, a Republican Senate and House majority passed the Anti-terrorism, Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), which restricted post-conviction relief for federal and state prisoners.  The bill passed in a hurry after the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Timothy McVeigh pulled a truck in front of the Federal building.  He allegedly killed 168-people after he parked the rental truck and detonated the explosives in retaliation of the United States’ raid of the Branch Dravidian compound near Waco, Texas.

Under the guidance of former Attorney General, Janet Reno, military weapons were used against American citizens on April 19, 1993.  More than seventy members of the Branch Dravidian compound perished when two Army tanks crashed into opposite sides of a building before firing combustible gas canisters that exploded when the gases mixed.  The building caught afire and burned men, women, and children to death.  Those were sad days in American history.

Bill Clinton signed the AEDPA into law; however, even if he had not, a three-quarters majority vote would have overrode a presidential veto.

 

PROTESTS IN AMERICA:  After the results of the 2016 Presidential Election flooded the news channels, thousands of citizens protested in American cities; most protests were peaceful, but some did erupt into violence that caused damage to property.   Police tear-gassed crowds but did not shoot anyone.  Miracles happen!

 

In the paraphrased words of Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

 

On April 29, 1992, fifty-three people died during a major riot in Los Angeles, California, after a jury acquitted four L.A. Police officers on all but one count.  Video footage showed the police beating motorist Rodney King.  The violent protest caused millions of dollars in damage, a lot of which was due to some rioters using the event as an opportunity to loot stores and other businesses.  At least the Trump Protest did not spark such violence and destruction.

 

RED NATION:  The Red now reign in America.  Not Native American red, whose plight still continues in North Dakota as they fight to keep and protect land from contamination by an oil pipeline.  The Government gave their land back and forced them to live on the reservation, and now some corporation wants to use the land for profit.

 

History repeats itself.  Pale Face spoke with forked tongue again if the intrusion upon Native American land prevents the people from keeping their water free from contamination.

The nation is Republican Red.  Republicans control the House, Senate and Presidency.  Perhaps the Do-Nothing-Congress will do something positive.  Rebuilding the infrastructure seems to be what most Americans want.  That will help the economy grow and provide more jobs.  Huh, I seem to recall that President Obama wanted to do the same thing?  Congress would not cooperate with him for some reason.  I bet they will cooperate with President-elect Trump.

Prison Reform will likely happen.  Sentencing Reform will probably stall.  Maybe not.  If those For-Profit-Prisons would just stop bribing politicians to vote against it, it might pass.

The Election results made private prison stocks soar the following day:  stock in the largest for-profit-prison, Correctional Corporation of America (CCA), jumped forty-three percent; the second largest, GEO Group, jumped twenty-four percent.  GEO Group contributed $45,000 to Donald Trumps’ campaign as I wrote in “Reentering Reality,” October 6, 2016.

To understand why the stocks jumped, read “The Truth About Incarceration, Part II” by Wayne T. Dowdy that shows the influence of For-Profit-Prisons on mass incarceration rates and “Tough-on-Crime” policies and practices.

CCA announced plans to invest in halfway houses.  Maybe their legislative bribes will lead to the reinstatement of federal parole to boost their halfway house division profits.  The immigration division is booming with Republicans dominating the government.

 

LOVE:  The only short story in ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN is “The Lonely Spirit.”  One reader commented that he thought that the word play I used was my best.

The story is an usual love story.  I will give you a peek into its opening.  Purchase it as part of the collection in paperback or eBook (http://www.straightfromthepen.com), or as an individual essay from my Smashwords author’s page (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy) or at Amazon.kindle.

Taser lost his true love and went on a mission to find her, after his death.  This is where it begins:  THE LONELY SPIRIT by Wayne T. Dowdy

“Lana and I looked over the edge at the wave crashing against the rocks, two hundred feet below.  My right hand rested on the curve of her delicate waist and adorable hips.  The July sun scorched our skin as an ocean breeze brought the salty smell of seaweed and dead fish to our nostrils.  Several seagulls and pelicans rode the waves; some of the pelicans dived for fish, while other seagulls squawked as they soared above and surfed the convection currents.  I stepped away from her and began a journey into another life.

Lana looked lovelier than ever in her golden string bikini.  “Don’t do it Taser,” she said.

I gave her my cross-eyed look, then gulped the contents of my last beer before I smashed its emerald green bottle on the rocks ten feet away.  Lana arched her eyebrows and glared at me as she usually did when I frustrated her with my false bravado.  I burped, smiled, jumped.  The water below was hard and merciless when I hit, arms stretched forward.  Soaring through the stream of bubbles created by the crashing waves, my arms gave into the pressure before my head struck a sharp rock.  I floated to the top, unconscious; only for a moment, though.  The two hundred foot fall was too far, the water too shallow, the waves too rough, my life too short.  My body sank beneath the waves and was smashed against the rocks and covered in seaweed.  I watched as the wind carried me away to some other phase of existence.  Where I went, I do not know.  It’s a place where only spirits can go.  I saw the Earth, foreign stars, unknown galaxies, different universes, beauty beyond imagination, the true paradise visited only in dreams and fantasies.  I left to look for lovely Lana, my life, my dream, my love.”

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Wayne T. Dowdy writes Straight From the Pen.  Visit and click to “Like” his blogs on straightfromthepen.wordpress.com.  Purchase his books online or at your favorite bookstore.  Order by mail from Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616 (email:  MEBooks1@yahoo.com).