Category Archives: My Life on the outside

RETURNING CITIZEN by Wayne Dowdy

broken chain

I see the worm hole up ahead.  Entering the worm hole, I’ll be traveling at warp speed as I race toward the future.  Images zooming by so fast that I’ll only see blurs of the present as thoughts and ideas for the future bombard the senses.

The future that glitters on the other side of the worm hole is a place I never expected to see, back when I began this voyage into Never Never Land.  I sat in jail contemplating suicide because of the extreme dissatisfaction I felt in myself.

Love for my family kept me alive.  Despair ravaged my soul and whole sense of being because of what I had done that put me in another jail cell.  Miraculously, I thought of the effect my death would have on my loved ones and cared enough about them to decide not to end the life I had ruined, at least, so I thought (that I had ruined my life).

Never lose hope.  Life changes.  Circumstances change.  Life is good today.

This past weekend I began reading “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor E. Frankl, who was a former prisoner in a German Concentration Camp.  A notable quote he used that’s relevant to a prisoner’s experience, as well as in many other facets of our human existence, was one by Nietzsche.

Frankl wrote, “There is much wisdom in the words of Nietzsche:  ‘He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.'”

In reading of Frankl’s account of his life in a German concentration camp, I can appreciate the difference of life inside an American prison compared to the life of a prisoner of war in a foreign country.

When I began this sentence, I had a “why to live”; one driven by mass amounts of anger and resentment.  But that “why” was killing me.  Several years later, when I experienced freedom from those negative emotions, I was liberated.

Another favorite quote of mine is in regards to resentment that also came from Holocaust survivors.

“A former inmate of a Nazi concentration camp was visiting a friend who had shared the ordeal with him.

“‘Have you forgiven the Nazi’s?’

“‘Yes.’

“‘Well, I haven’t.  I’m still consumed with hatred for them.’

“‘In that case,’ said his friend gently, ‘they still have you in prison.'”

Ernest Kurtz & Katherine Ketchum, THE SPIRITUALITY OF IMPERFECTION.

August 28, 2018, thirty-years and ten days after I walked in the door of a confined and restricted environment, bound and chained with cuffs on my hands and ankles, I’ll leave en route to a Residential Reentry Center (RRC)/halfway house as a returning citizen, without chains dangling from my aging body.

I received a new RRC date and an increase in my RRC placement period (the former 119-days were replaced with 192).  My former date was 12/26/2018:  It really pissed me off to have an RRC date for the day after Christmas.

Now I will be home for Christmas!  😉

RETURNING CITIZENS:  the Reentry Affairs Coordinator, Ms. P., told me and others in the office that the new term for those exiting prison life is “Returning Citizens,” in place of ex-offenders, or ex-cons.

As a returning citizen, I know I will face many new problems as I forge my way into a bright future.  Discouraged, I am not.  I am eager to face challenges and to find solutions and conquer all conflicts and obstacles that stand between me and my success as a returning citizen.

A friend who returned to society years ago, once told me during a phone conversation that he sat complaining as he tried to figure out which girl to take on a date.  Then the thought occurred, “I bet Wayne would love to have my problem.”  🙂

Yep, Wayne would, just as many of those I’ll leave behind would love to have some of the problems I may encounter along the way toward the future.  I’ll try to remember that if my gratitude escapes during times of character-building episodes of Life Happenings.

Perhaps the new experiences I encounter will allow me to learn something to pass on to others who will follow in pursuit of their future.

HOW MY RELEASE DATE CHANGED:  Some of this information is redundant from another blog; most is not, which I will share in the words of the famous radio host, Paul Harvey, as “The Rest of the Story.”

A May 10, 2000, Progress Report, showed May 29, 2020, as my Projected Release date; derived from the amount of eligible Good Conduct Time, subtracted from the maximum 420-months of incarceration, set to expire on August 17, 2023.

On January 2, 1990, staff informed me that the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles filed a Temporary Revocation Warrant.  I wrote a letter on that same day to request the withdrawal of the warrant because I sat in jail until after my parole expired and was not being given credit off my federal sentence due to that time being applied to my state sentence.

On April 19, 1990, the Parole Board withdrew their warrant.  Over a decade later, I used that letter to establish the legal basis of a challenge to the federal jurisdiction relied upon to put me in prison for thirty-five years.

In 2002 the BOP awarded me 188-days of jail credit that it had refused to give for fourteen years.  In court, I used the 188-days spent in jail before federal sentencing to establish that the jail time was applied toward a state sentence.  Then the BOP credited me with a total of 401-days (from the day of my arrest until the U.S. Marshals took me into federal custody on September 22, 1989).

That changed my date to April 24, 2019, but that still was not right:  I just couldn’t figure out how back then, even though I was no longer on drugs.

Only after my case was docketed in the United States Supreme Court, where I was set to prove the Department of Justice unjustly convicted me in a court without jurisdiction by violating Article IV(e) of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act, did the BOP decide to give me the jail credit that was due.

LEGAL RESEARCH:  While researching the halfway house issues I’ve written about in “Life Inside,” “Half A Problem,” and several other blogs after the BOP modified its halfway house policy (began changing/reducing RRC dates), I learned that Section 3624(b) of Title 18 of the United States Code prohibited the BOP from deducting more than 54-days per year for disciplinary infractions.

As written in “Reentry Plans & A Friend Moves On,” I lost 82-days in 1990.  However, when I reviewed my Sentence Computation Sheet, it did show I was not awarded any GCT for 1990, but did not show that the 28-days above 54 (82 minus 28 = 54) came off in 1991.

The Sentence Computation Sheet showed the maximum allowable GCT as 1,576-days.  That did not compute, even after I applied the formula used by the BOP as illustrated before the Supreme Court in Barber v. Thomas (2011).  I then submitted a request to my case manager for correction.  He referred me to the Records Office.

I sent an electronic request to staff to the ISM and relied on the Code of Federal Regulations to challenge the GCT calculation.  The issue was resolved during a Release Audit on March 29, 2018.  I was given 54-days per year on having served 30-years of the 35-year sentence.  Thus comes the confusion in inmates attempting to figure out their Projected Release dates.

On a ten-year sentence (120-months), a prisoner would think he or she would earn 540-days (10 x 54).  Not so!  The prisoner only earns 470-days because the formula doesn’t allow prisoners to earn time off any portion of a sentence not physically served; therefore, in that example, the GCT earned during the second through eighth years, is deducted from the ten-year total.  That eliminates GCT credits for the tenth-year and a portion of ninth.

The remaining portion of the ninth year (less than one-year) is prorated at fifteen percent.  In my case, 205-days remained, prorated at 15%, allowed me to earn thirty-one more days, which, by statute, won’t be awarded until the last six-weeks of my sentence.

The corrections are what changed my release date from April 24, 2019, to March 10, 2019.  But because March 10th falls on Sunday, I was given the date of March 8, 2019 (that will change to February 5th or 7th during the last six weeks).

Afterwards, my case manager contacted the Residential Reentry Manager and requested a re-adjusted date because the change in my Projected Release date reduced my RRC placement period from 119-days down to 72-days, which would then become 43-days when awarded the prorated portion (31-days).

Now you know the Rest of the Story.  🙂

OFF THE RECORD:  I sat in my cell listening to Alice Cooper on Uncle Joe Benson’s, Off the Record, on Sunday morning (08/05/18).  As I sat listening, I wondered what my life will be like in September when I am sitting in the halfway house in Atlanta, or at my residence upon my release.  Will I take time to listen to such programs?  Will I be interested or have other things to do?

One thing I feel certain about, is that I won’t be living the thug life.  As I wrote in “Guns, Drugs & Thugs:  Drug Store Spree,” I am a retired thug.  I hung up my guns and now use words sharper than razors, more powerful than bullets and bombs; softer than butter, sweeter than honey; rough and tough, or kind and gentle, clean and straightforward.  Whatever the situation warrants, I’ll use select-words in the construction of sentences and phrases needed to fight battles or to mend wounds caused by my past, straight from the pen, a different pen.  🙂

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In September, StraightFromthePen.com will activate a new email address for special deals on books, essays, short stories, and updates on the status of StraightFromthePen.net and .org:  info@straightfromthepen.com.  Posting will be determined based upon legal aspects and rules governing life in the semi-free society.  Expect an update to my author’s page at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy and at other social media sites.

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REENTERING REALITY

by Wayne T. Dowdy

Time Warp - Time Dilation. Quantum mechanics meets general relat
Time Warp – Time Dilation. Quantum mechanics meets general relativity.

The clock ticks away the seconds, minutes, hours, and months until my release. The realities I must face flood the senses as my day comes closer. The last three decades of my life will have been spent inside federal prisons. For most of this sentence, getting out seemed so far into the future that I never concerned myself with release preparations, other than general ideas about where I would live when that day arrives, and how to legally provide for myself; e.g., writing my way to riches, freelance technical writing, writing “how to” books; working as an internal auditor, or helping to prepare a company for ISO certification of their quality management system, maybe starting a company. Some of my peers want me to set up a paralegal service to help those still incarcerated. Whatever I do, I will succeed as a free citizen.

FREEDOM: In recent months, I have known a few to receive commutation of sentences: Alphonso Davis, Alonzo Mackins, and the most recent two J. F. Banks, and M. L. Sherrod, all of whom were doomed to die in federal prison until President Obama bestowed his mercy upon them and gave them another chance at life. All four men had sentences of life without parole for various drug-related crimes. (See LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE below.)

FREEDOM DENIED: I have known many, many, more men whose petitions were denied, including myself. My petition was denied on September 30, 2016. I am not alone. Thousands of applicants of all ethnic backgrounds have been denied.

Personally, I have not known anyone other than African-Americans whose petitions were granted. I know race plays a role in the decision on whether to grant or not grant a petition, since President Obama specifically mentioned sentencing disparities of “minorities.” It makes me happy to see anyone blessed with freedom.

The sad part is that all four of those men I know, who were serving life without parole, are only a micro-percentage of all the others I know who are in the same position and deserve another chance at life.

I do believe that what President Obama is doing is a good thing. I do not believe the color of a person’s skin should have been a decisive factor in sentencing or relief. I know the President began Clemency Project 2014 to release people of color who met specific requirements; a few others were also released. All of the people I know whom he granted relief deserved it and should not have been serving the rest of their lives in prison for their crimes.

RECIDIVISM: Statistically, many released prisoners will re-offend, whether white, black, yellow, or brown. Only a few will commit horrendous crimes and regardless of what percentage returns, the politicians should not use that to justify not passing laws to give others another chance at freedom. (Read my July 25, 2016, blog post, “Changing Public Image of Prisoners,” (UNRECOGNIZED SUCCESS STORIES), and “Reentry Programs Will Reduce Recidivism” for more on the issue.)

TOUGH-ON-CRIME BRIBES: Many donations will be given to politicians who vote against prison reform bills. On July 27, 2016, Presidential candidate Donald Trump received a $45,000 contribution from GEO Group, Inc., a private prison group with a vested interest in high incarceration rates. www. rollcall.com, “Private Immigrant Detention Firm Gave $45K to Trump Fundraising Group” by Dean DeChiaro.

My day will come and I will walk out the door a better man than when I walked in three decades before. Most of the years I have spent in prison were due in part to tough-on-crime bills driven by funding from private prison representatives.

In the “Truth About Incarceration, Part II” (https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com), I wrote on the influence on laws by contributions from private prison officials.

lifewithoutparoleLIFE WITHOUT PAROLE: Life without parole for drug crimes was once considered to be cruel and unusual punishment in some states until the United States Supreme Court decided it was cruel but not unusual, and then upheld a Michigan criminal statute that allowed men and women sentenced to life without parole for possessing “650 grams or more of any mixture containing certain controlled substance, including cocaine.” He a first-time offender. Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957 (1991).

“Times change. The law has changed. Our culture is changing its views about how long we should put people behind bars.” The Honorable J. Merritt, Circuit Judge, dissenting in United States v. Taylor, 815 F.3d 248 (6th Cir. 2016).

Americans are reevaluating punishment for what they think crimes should carry.

The time has come for Americans to take a stand about the mass incarceration that drains the economy and ruins the family structure of those affected by unjust incarceration.

BLOGS: I wrote blogs in tribute to Alphonso and Alonzo, both of whom were friends (“Freedom for a Friend” and “Freedom for Another Friend”). In those blogs, I praised President Obama for doing what he did. I wrote other blogs that relates to others reentering society and my views on programs to reduce recidivism (reverting to old behaviors, drug addiction or crime that leads men and women back to prison).

On a different note, President Obama was an attorney before he became a senator and then the President. As an attorney, he would have seen first-hand how Americans were cast into prison for life without parole, for crimes that did not warrant such severe punishment.

TRANSITIONS: Most everyone faces difficulties when reentering society; especially, with a criminal conviction to overcome when applying for jobs. Just trying to fit-it can be challenging upon return to a different society than when the ex-offender was last free. In “No Sympathy”* I wrote about such changes.

I forewarned Mr. Mackins about the changes to expect during his transition. He was a first-time offender who had spent eighteen years of his life in an unnatural environment: prison. Reentering society after decades in prison often makes a person feel like an alien.

My time is coming soon. Am I ready? Yes!

In 1988, I did not worry about what my life would be like in 2019, sixty-two years old; leaving prison, without a home, or a car, or a job, and without money to sustain my life in a foreign world: the free society. The world I left as a young man for sitting in a second-getaway vehicle during an armed bank robbery, down the road from the bank, unarmed, alone until confederates came to meet me for the great escape.

With it now being the end of 2016, and with knowing my case manager said he will put me in for more time in a halfway house than most people receive (due to amount of time served), I may go to that distant world as early as April 24, 2018. The reality of my upcoming release sets in.

My tentative release date is April 24, 2019. That is the date I am scheduled to begin serving my five years of supervised release. I will have served thirty-years and nine months inside.

For fourteen years I was rated as High security and Maximum custody. The custody rating determines the level of security and controls needed to house an inmate.

CHANGES: In the beginning, I realized a very real chance existed that I might die in prison; especially, since I was told I would stay maximum custody, because I had assaulted staff and escaped while serving time in the State of Georgia. I never accepted I could not get my custody/security lowered, even though the classification system did have me in a trap: I could never score enough points for a custody decrease, regardless of how well I behaved.

I did not give up, even with it looking as if I would never get my security lowered because of my past. My High Max classification was based more on my behavior as a twenty-four-year-young, knuckle head, than my behavior in the federal system.

Early on when I asked about having the maximum custody removed, the unit manager at U.S.P. Leavenworth said, “You will be maximum custody when you get out in 2020.” (My release date was in 2020.)

Years later, after not having been a disciplinary or management problem, I asked my case manager about removing the maximum custody that kept me in the penitentiaries. She said, “Two things the B.O.P. does not tolerate is escape and assault on staff and you have done both. I don’t see any warden signing off on you but we will talk about it at your next team.”

At the next team meeting I asked again. She put her hand on my extensive file, tapped it with a finger, and then said, “The person I see in here is not the same person I see sitting in front of me. You’ve changed haven’t you?”

“Yeah, I changed a little,” I said and laughed.

I have changed a lot over the years and am an honorable man and a good person. Many times I wondered if I would see the outside again, especially when I sat in some of the most dangerous federal prisons in the United States, with trouble brewing that I knew could lead to a full-scale riot and result in the deaths of many men.

I maintained my sanity by not thinking about a day I knew I may never see: the day I would walk out the prison doors as a free man.

REALITIES OF RELEASE: I recently thought about some of the challenges I will face upon release: needing a car for transportation to and from work, and needing the money to buy the car and insurance for the car that I cannot buy without a job. In the city of Atlanta, which is where I will be sent for the halfway house portion of my sentence, I will be able to use the MARTA transit system to get around while in the halfway house. In the suburbs of Atlanta where I plan to live, I am not sure if public transportation exists.

When I was last a free citizen, the price of gasoline at some Georgia gas stations was $0.78 to $0.82 cent per gallon. At high dollar stations like Shell and Exxon, it only cost around $1.15 to $1.38 per gallon. By the time I am released, I am sure the prices will be around $3.00 to $4.25 per gallon.

WANTS VERSUS NEEDS: I realized through my personal experience that the lack of money management skills put people in prison, as does drug and alcohol abuse. During the last twenty-one, “sober years” of this sentence, I learned to manage my money by living within my means, not borrowing to buy, and making decisions to purchase based on needs versus wants.

If the prison commissary stocks a new item (e.g., a different style of tennis shoes I like, a watch, radio, or MP-3 player), I have often wanted to purchase the item but have not because it was a “want,” not a need. I love music and can afford to purchase an MP-3 player. I really do “want” one, but if I buy one, then I’d be buying songs for $1.55 each. I resisted the impulse and applied my limited funds toward paying for time on Corrlinks to write these blogs and for sending emails to friends and loved ones, or printing documents at fifteen cents per page.

I keep time on the first Indiglo model Timex that I bought in March of 1995. I don’t need a different watch, I want one. My relic works fine. I must maintain that level of thinking upon release.

My primary objective will be to find an apartment or home to rent or buy when my finances permit it. When I do, then I have to buy insurance on the house (and personal insurance), and then furniture for the house or apartment.

Relationships will be another adventure. God will give me who I need to make me whole.

Materially, I do not need anything elaborate, nor do I need all the fancy gadgets, such as the latest Apple iPhone. I’ll need to buy clothes to dress for success, a decent cellphone, preferably a Smartphone (who wants a dumb phone?), a computer for my writing career, and maybe a spacecraft to begin my journey into a whole new world. 🙂

In my blog, “The Internet,” I wrote about a conversation I had with my first unit team members. Read it and you will understand what I mean about a spacecraft.

Whether I have a spaceship or not, I will be okay and will be successful as a free citizen.

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The publisher will advertise UNKNOWN INNOCENCE in their newsletter that goes to prisoners. To absorb the cost of shipping and handling, I asked that the price be lowered from $14.95 to $10.95. Purchase it now while the price is low.

* “No Sympathy” is in ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN by Wayne T. Dowdy. It is a good read for those who want to know the truth about life inside American prisons and the associated politics of survival inside the insane world of incarceration. The book is a deal at $8.95.

REENTERING SOCIETY

by Wayne T. Dowdy

When my day comes in the near future, I will be approaching the free society like the Columbia Space Shuttle reentering the atmosphere without all of its protective tiles, or like a meteor heading straight for a collision course with the earth:  I will burn up because of the friction created in the atmosphere of society, caused by my reentry into a distant world of free citizens, unless I proceed with caution and the protection of knowledge, draped in a determination to succeed against the odds.

I must remain constantly aware of the transitional aspect of my journey and how I am affected by all that has changed since my departure three decades ago.  Upon my reentry into a time-warp-zone, I will fail to become a productive member of society if I do not take advantage of the available help now available to prisoners, which will help me ease into a normal life, whatever a normal life may be “out there.”

After my release, death will be inevitable but I will have a choice on whether it will come to me while I am a free man, or as a recidivist who returns to prison because of his thug lifestyle, or as a drug addict who dies because of his addiction and lifestyle, or as a man who fought to change and succeed at changing his life.  My choice is the latter.

COVER.inddIn “No Sympathy” I wrote about my transition into society after serving seven years in the State of Georgia’s prison system and my eventual return to prison (recidivism).  I use my experience to show others that it did not have to be that way:  I did not have to return to prison.  I made choices that led me to where I now write.  I use my story to promote change in a broken criminal justice system and am pleased to see that some of the issues I pushed for over the years have come into existence.

In May 2015, I had my publisher to send Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal, an email for me and an electronic copy of my blog (“Snake vs. Politics,” 03/13/15).  In my blog, in the section subtitled, “Political Promises & Incarceration,” I praised Governor Deal for what he had done and planned to do in the Georgia Criminal Justice system and its prison system.  I know his action will lead to favorable results; e.g., his creating re-entry programs for those released from prison and juvenile diversion programs to stop the flow of juveniles becoming career offenders.

In another essay I wrote and then posted on my blogs (The Truth About Incarceration, Part II); in a subtitled section, “Reentry & Recidivism,” I wrote about the Honorable Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General and President Obama for creating reentry initiatives to help ex-offenders find employment, treatment for drug, alcohol problems and mental health issues.

Those reentry initiatives are more of what I pushed for and know will have a positive impact on the lives of those released from prison, as well as for American society as a whole.  (We are all a part of “one,” whether we want to be or not.)  I cried out for all of that in “No Sympathy” when I revised it in June 2014 before I put it in my personal magazine (ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN) and posted it online as an eBook and then on my blog for everyone to read for free.

I have written other blogs that mention recidivism rates and my experiences over the years that will increase my chances of getting out and staying out when released.  Some blogs contain humorous parts but still draw attention to important issues.

In “Rain, Blogs, Frogs & Politics” (November 3, 2015), and in “Vacation in Prison” (April 8, 2015), I wrote about my position in the Federal Prison Industries (trade name UNICOR).  My experiences and skills learned in the organization will help me to secure employment upon release.  I have been fortunate to have obtained legal skills foreign to most prisoners.

Then in “Teaching Cons New Tricks–Creative Writing and Q.A. Apprenticeship Program” (April 15, 2015), I did the same (wrote about skills learned to help me reintegrate into society).

UNICOR is a non-profit organization set up by Congress in the mid-thirties to make various cotton duck cloth items, originally strictly for the military and other government agencies.  The business structure of UNICOR operates similar to the United States Postal Service by generating its own funding, rather than depending on Congressional budgets.

I show in my essays that UNICOR reduces recidivism by teaching inmates marketable job skills.  Even though in recent years, UNICOR seems to have lost focus of the fact that Congress created the organization as a work program for inmates; not as a conglomerate to become a good-ole-boys fraternity or undercover, profit-generating organization, where profits must disappear into staff bonuses and purchases of elaborate office furnishings or maybe into expense paid trips justified as business necessities.

By their Program Statement, UNICOR has an Inmate Scholarship Award where UNICOR contributes funds to assist inmate employees in paying for college courses; however, the budget for the Inmate Scholarship Awards disappeared, probably into some lavish furniture or extra large bonus for Washington Officials who stripped the funding from the program.  Imagine that, misuse of government funding:  Spend funding on unnecessary items rather than on maintaining a program known to reduce recidivism.

Programs that allow inmates to learn new skills, improve their education, and to learn a new way of life benefit inmates and society:  It is a cost-effective way to reduce recidivism and to help create more productive and constructive members of society.  In “Snake vs. Politics,” I challenged all politicians to read “No Sympathy” when deciding on what is needed to reduce recidivism rates in America.  Maybe some of them actually took me up on the offer.  I feel reasonably assured that Governor Nathan Deal accepted the challenge.  He continues to strive toward making prisons do what society needs done to shut the well-known “revolving door” of recidivist that plague the nation.

CONCLUSION

I will write a more technical blog on Reentry and Recidivism next time I have time to write.  Most of my time has been going toward legal work to help other prisoners file post-conviction relief motions, in an effort to help them obtain their freedom.  I won two out of the last five and hope to go five and O.  🙂  Now, due to a long-shot chance I have at obtaining my own freedom, I must rush to seek permission to file a motion to challenge my own conviction before the June 26, 2015, deadline.  Recent changes in law due to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (June 26, 2015) is what has changed.  As I wrote in “Violent Crime Misconception,” Johnson invalidated a provision of the Armed Career Criminal statute, known as the “Residual Clause.”  Some courts are rightfully applying it to other similar provisions in various statutes, such as Title 18, Section 924(c)(2)(B), which is where “crime of violence” is defined and contains similar language, as does the statute for immigration (18 U.S.C., Section 16(b)).  I have to show armed bank robbery is not “categorically” a crime of violence because a person can commit the crime without rising to the level of violence required to show it is a violent crime. A lot of legal jargon with lots of meaning for those fighting to live another day as free men and women.

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09012015002004Purchase “No Sympathy” as one of eleven essays in the collection, ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN by Wayne T. Dowdy, $8.95 USD, available from all major bookstores and eBook retailers.  Read No Sympathy for free online or by downloading the individual essay from Smashwords.com and other eBook retailers.

Due to technical issues, the release of UNKNOWN INNOCENCE was postponed.  The pagination was reduced and the book reformatted.  The tentative plan for release is June 15, 2016.  The listed price is $14.95, USD.  At 85,000-words, that is a deal:  Two books in one.  Those without Internet access may purchase it from Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616 (email:  MEBooks1@yahoo.com).  All others may buy it from their favorite bookstores or eBook retailers, including the AppleiBookstore.

Follow my blogs at straightfromthepen.wordpress.com and waynedowdy.weebly.com.  Send comments to waynedowdy@straightfromthepen.com.  I will respond when my publisher forwards them to me, when a response is permissible.

 

 

SNAKE vs POLITICS

Reprint permission granted by the author.
May 13, 2015

SNAKE VERSUS #POLITICS
by
Wayne T. Dowdy
Whether to put more emphasis on the topic of Politics or Snakes was my dilemma. Snakes won by a landslide; however, I will also write on Political Promises and Incarceration.

To be specific, what changed my mind was a foot-long, reddish-brown, coppery-looking snake, with black patterns and a white underside. Several of us prisoners stood gathered around, some saying it was a poisonous copperhead because it had struck at the first person who reached his hand down toward it, and because the shape of its head resembled a diamond when it lay poised to strike at the terrorists who taunted it.

It was a lively little creature, which struck at a folder filled with paper that I held near its head; I examined its markings and physical characteristics to determine whether a deadly reptile lay before me, or a simple non-poisonous one here to do its job of ridding the world of pesky insects, and rats too, after it grows large enough to eat them. I determined the latter to be true, based upon my experience at dealing with snakes earlier in life.

The colorful snake was a juvenile in fear of its life from the world’s greatest predator: human beings; a human who held an object close to the nose of the serpent to see what type of response he got from the venomous creature. Okay, I confess. The snake was not mean and vicious; the harmless baby was just trying to survive in a world no one understands, its instincts telling it to strike to deter the enemy from harming it. Hey, snakes do what snakes do. No harm no foul.

After three futile strikes it turned docile, portraying the message that it wanted to be left alone so that it could continue its sunbathing. That’s what it was doing before we rudely interrupted it by towering above it to gawk, while it lay on the ground not bothering anyone, just being a harmless snake.

How did the snake change my mind about what to write? The term “snake” fits scandalous politicians who tell lies to get votes, so there is a correlation between both topics. On this occasion, the serpent reminded me of my youth, when I loved to ramble through the woods with any device capable of sending a projectile into the body of some innocent creature (I would not consider harming anything today); or to trudge around a body of water to see if I could find fish, frogs, snakes, crayfish, salamanders, or some beautiful formation of rocks, trees, or plants.

I loved nature, even though I lost touch with that aspect of my life and became a destructive person who harmed people and the environment in which we live. I allowed my life experiences to turn me into a cruel person by becoming a product of my environment. Now I focus on becoming the person God created me to be.

My essay collection* contains several essays and poems about my life and some of the experiences that shaped me. In response to my childhood experience of growing up in a neighborhood across the street from the world’s busiest airport, I wrote “REMEMBER,” a poem which coincides with what I wrote in “An Airport Ate the Neighborhood,” (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy) ($0.99).

REMEMBER

Remember walking through woods,
Playing in creeks, catching crawdads,
Watching for snakes, frogs, fish, turtles.

Remember roaring jets, planes,
Spewing toxins, shaking trees,
Poisoning streams with spent fuel.

Remember neighborhoods,
Poisoned by noise,
Structures cracked by sound.

Remember houses on the trucks,
Men on top, moving power lines,
Helping houses move on roads.

Remember walking with nature,
With thick woods protecting creatures,
Life thriving under its cover.

Remember where I once lived,
Nature near, full of pleasure,
Before Jets and Planes came.

I wrote another essay with an environmental theme, “We Are the Cancer,” first published by Surepleasurez Promotions. You may read it in the March 2015 Archives (https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com/). I write such essays with the hope of effecting a small change in the lives of those who read them, and as my way of trying to compensate for the damage I caused during my youth and the early years of adulthood.

Back to the snake that changed my mind. The snake reminded me of the first time I captured one when I was twelve-years-young. In elementary school and at home, I read books on insects, reptiles, mammals, and amphibians. As a disruptive student, most teachers encouraged me to sit and read all I wanted as long as I did not cause trouble. I was not a good student (if interested in my education, read “Life from ‘F’s to ‘A’s,” (03/28/15); published by PrisonEducation.com on 09/18/14).

My family owned a nice collection of encyclopedias, World Books, and Science books that my parents bought for my older brother and two sisters to have for school assignments. Even before I could read, I enjoyed looking at pictures in the volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica and any type of book or magazine about science or animals. All a book needed to entertain me was photos of things that walked (especially on four legs), crawled, flew, or swam, and looked different than humans. That’s how I learned to capture a snake.

That first snake taught me a lesson. I did not adhere to what I knew on how to catch one by grabbing it behind its head, at the rear of its jaws to prevent it from turning to take a bite. It was a harmless green snake, with its head stuck in some weeds, its body stretched across a trail me and a friend walked on while playing “hooky” from school that morning. Since the head was not visible, I reached down and grabbed it at the portion of its body closest to the weeds. It turned and bit me on my hand to remind me of the proper way to handle a snake. The bite only hurt my pride.

POLITICAL PROMISES & INCARCERATION

Reading proved valuable for me in many facets of life. I sympathize for those who cannot read due to issues beyond their control, and those who may never have an opportunity to learn how to read due to their social, geographical, or economic status. Maybe American politicians will focus more on funding education, and less on making laws to incarcerate its citizens for more crimes than any human has the capacity to comprehend. For several years, governments spent millions more on incarceration than on education at state and federal levels in the United States.

Read my essay, “Education, the Prisoner, and Recidivism” (03/28/15, first published in May of 2013 by PrisonEducation.com), to see where statistics prove education reduces recidivism (the return to old habits or behaviors). Politicians still continued to vote on Mass Incarceration policies until recent years. I show reasons for that in “The Truth About Incarceration, Part II” (04/05/15), where I address the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and private prison companies on high incarceration rates.

Prisoners became a commodity due to the rise of Prisons-for-Profit, whose owners and representatives gave politicians hefty financial incentives to continue “Tough-On-Crime” policies. That trend changed because the operation of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and state prisons began to consume the largest portion of criminal justice budgets. Too many prisoners became too expensive to house with rising costs of incarceration.

On a positive note, Daniel Malloy reported in the May 3, 2015, edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the “South Leads Push to Reduce Prison Populations.” In a well-written article about changes in the political spectrum on incarceration in America, he reported that several states changed policies and practices: Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Mississippi, and others across the South, as did New York. All have shown favorable results at reducing state deficits and incarceration rates. Most importantly, some of those states began providing better substance abuse and mental health treatment for their prisoners, as well as implementing re-entry initiatives. Those states and politicians deserve praise, even if most of those policies and votes were likely based on financial concerns, instead of any moral convictions for decades of wrongs inflicted upon their citizens by previous policies.

According to a quote in Malloy’s article from an ALEC spokesperson, former Texas Governor, Rick Perry, started spending more money on diversion programs in place of prison beds in 2007. I respect him and Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal, for creating diversion programs as alternatives to incarceration for juveniles and other offenders. Gov. Deal implemented different phases to change Georgia’s failed criminal justice system (CJS). I am a Georgia native who spent numerous years of his life in their CJS. Last year, Gov. Deal focused “[o]n improving ways to rehabilitate inmates who are serving prison sentences and ease their transition as they re-enter society. He’s poured millions into education programs at the state prisons.” AJ&C, 05/03/15, under sub-heading of “Tide Swells Across the South.” That was an honorable act. Politicians such as Governor Deal and Rick Perry, are a rare breed who take a stand for what is right that may not be politically correct.

CONCLUSION

As a general matter, Politics are depressing. No wonder I chose to focus more on snakes that crawl over those who walk. Who wants to read about immigration, legalization of marijuana, or the politicians who deceive voters by campaigning on issues and then promising to vote a particular way if elected, who then votes contrary to their promises, after their voters put them in office? Not me. The Snake lying on a prison yard has more appeal to me than a politician lying when making campaign promises.

With statistics proving the over-incarceration of American citizens, and the cost of keeping them in prison for decades, the 2016 presidential candidates and other politicians are campaigning to reduce prison populations. The future will reveal which ones chose to be honorable by voting according to promises made and introducing bills to support the words flowing from their mouths, as well as those who engaged in political pandering to get votes, who are more slimy than any reptile crawling on the face of the earth.

Respectfully, I say to those who win the seats, represent the office upon which you are elected by being honorable men and women, whose words mean something. As I write, I have spent almost twenty-seven-years in prison for my role in crimes no where near as harmful to the nation as the policies that put me here for decades. Countless taxpaying victims have struggled to pay the cost of my incarceration, shelling out more than a million dollars for me to stay in prison for driving a second getaway vehicle in a serious crime.

I challenge all politicians to read my essay, “No Sympathy” (first published in my essay collection,* and then posted 04/09/15, to let people read it free to see the true cost of failed Criminal Justice policies. Read it and look at the facts to determine whether the damage caused by “Tough-On-Crime” bills have been worth the price paid by American citizens. Now “YOU” have the power to change what was done for the sake of a vote that came with the expensive price tag of human lives. Please vote to correct the policies that lead to mass incarceration rates.

Oh, BTW, a prison guard arrested the snake for posing a threat to the safety and security of the institution and for it being in an unauthorized area. We pled for him to have mercy and not execute the poor little snake for its crimes. The guard promised to help the snake escape the confines of the prison by carrying it home in his pocket. I hope he did.

The guard really did say he was going to carry it home with him and that it was a juvenile garter or king snake. The tiny one wrapped itself around his fingers as he walked away to end the terrorism of the snake.

Stay posted. I plan to write more on politics based upon the AJ&C article. I thank those of you who follow my blog posts.

Wayne T. Dowdy, #39311-019, B-3
P.O. Box 725, FCI
Edgefield, SC 29824-0725
Email: waynedowdy@straightfromthepen.com

*ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN, $10.95, Midnight Express Books (http://www.straightfromthepen.com). For those willing to do a book review, contact me at waynedowdy@straightfromthepen.com and I will provide a free Smashwords coupon code to download the eBook; otherwise, download it as “Reader Sets Price” from https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy and pay what you like.

THE CONCERT I DIDN’T REMEMBER

In the seventies, I missed a lot in my life because the lights were on but no one was home: drugs, massive quantities of drugs fed into my brain had that effect on my intellect and cognitive functioning. Several people have filled in the blanks for me with statements like, “Oh, hell yeah, we had a great time,” or “That’s why everyone is pissed at you.” My recollection process experienced technical difficulties. Sometimes it was better that way, other times it made me angry that I didn’t remember anything about what had happened. One experience I regret failing to recall was a concert.

Me and my girlfriend went to see two hard rock groups perform at the Atlanta Stadium, around 1973-74, I believe. Drugs people, drugs, lots of drugs, that’s why I can’t remember the exact time and place; too many drugs and mind-altering substances for one mind to handle without experiencing technical difficulties, at least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The bands playing that we went to see were Ten Years After with Alvin Lee, and their opening act, Golden Earring. Ten Years After faded away while Golden Earring soared with a series of hits in later years, hits such as “Radar Love,” “Lunatic Fringe,” and “Twilight Zone.” Out of all the songs in history for speeding-while-driving, “Radar Love” probably holds the record for songs played while acquiring speeding tickets in America. Sammy Hagar accumulated his share of speed victims with his hit, “I Can’t Drive Fifty-five.” The rhythm and lyrics always drove my foot down harder on the accelerator, like some demon had done jumped into the foot and took control. I am sure others experienced similar things while cruising along the roads and highways, with or without a joint burning and music blaring from their sound system. Put me in a car right now and pump up the volume on either song, and I’d most likely do it again, as I sang out, “Last car to pass and here I go. … The line of cars go down real slow.” Or I’d scream out “I … Can’t … Drive … Fifty-five,” when looking in the rear view mirror and seeing the flashing blue lights of a police car.

Smoking a joint while driving and speeding along the highways wouldn’t be an option for me these days, even if pot is legalized, as it should be because alcohol is legal and is much worse than pot when it comes to impairing judgment and causing health problems. And, most importantly, because research shows marijuana may treat or provide people with relief from certain health problems, but smoking dope just isn’t for me anymore. When I smoke weed, it makes me cough and then ignites the aphrodisiac response, and then I want to have sex, of course, but the increased sexual desires aren’t the problem. One thing leads to another with me and drugs, so, in time I know I would eventually revert to some of my former drugs of choice. Anyways, that part of my life went up in smoke years ago. Back to the songs now. According to Wayne, those two songs hold the records for the American song-related, speeding-tickets.

Ten Years After didn’t have a lot of songs to hit the pop charts because, in my unprofessional opinion, they were ahead of their time. A popular song of theirs was “Rock and Roll Music to the World.” I liked it but it didn’t compare to “Choo Choo Mama” and “Good Morning Little School Girl,” both of which contained sexually explicit lyrics that most radio stations prohibited from being aired during those days. Some college stations gave them air time, but most didn’t.

Before we made it to the concert, I ate ten hits of Tab-T, named so in relation to Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, gungi, pot, or whatever you want to call cannabis sativa or cannabis indica. THC occurs in many variations, with the most active form being delta-9-THC. The seedless, female marijuana plant (sinsemilla), is one of the most preferred brands I am familiar with that pot connoisseurs like to smoke, which probably contains exceptionally high concentrations of delta-9-THC. On the other hand, Tab-T does not contain any THC. I’m sure that the Tab-T salespersons did not intentionally mislead people into believing it contained a variation of THC, such as cannabinol, a psychologically inactive crystalline cannabinoid. The thought of what Tab-T contained did not enter most drug-driven-minds, I’m sure of that, too; mine in particular. Since most who sell drugs aren’t chemist and there aren’t any quality control processes involved in the production of illicit substances, I doubt if anyone other than the chemists knew PCP was not a THC related substance. Years after I stopped using it and my brain activity increased enough to properly formulate a sentence in my Southern accent, I learned that Tab-T was actually Phencyclidine hydrochloride; commonly known as PCP, a veterinary anesthetic with psychedelic effects when used illicitly by humans. No wonder I acted like an animal during periods of my life.

Oh, I forgot to say that I also used to smoke a lot of pot and do lots of acid (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide). Perhaps that had something to do with my wild behaviors and occasional issues with the memory recall process? Purchase my essay collection and read some of them and you will see just what I mean by behavioral issues, especially those I wrote about in “The Price of Change,” “An Airport Ate the Neighborhood,” and “No Sympathy.” (ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN is available from Straight From The Pen.com (http://www.straightfromthepen.com). You can purchase some of the essays individually or the collection as eBooks. I later posted “No Sympathy” as a blog so people may read it for free without having to download the eBook (https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com and http://waynedowdy.weebly.com).

As for the concert ….. Well, truthfully, after twenty-years of abstinence from mind-altering substances, I don’t have a memory problem. Actually, I have an excellent memory and recall process, even after all of the drugs and all of the years of my existence, but I still cannot remember anything more about that concert. I know I enjoyed it, though, from out in the ozone or wherever my mind was at when a fellow tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Is your name Wayne?”

“Uhh, yeah, I think so,” I said.

“Man, your girlfriend has been looking for you all night.”

She came running over and wrapped her arms around me and then gave me a barrage of kisses, before she began a series of sentences that flowed from her luscious lips so fast that I couldn’t keep up with what she was saying. My mind still wasn’t functioning at normal capacity when she arrived. What had I been doing? Before the tap on the shoulder brought me back into reality, hanging on a fence set up around the stage, with my hands held high as I clapped and shouted, “More, More, More.” Everyone was gone. Only a few people remained in the venue where I had no conscious remembrance of the concert I had waited months to see. I don’t remember a single lyric played, any note strung on a guitar, or any reverberations generated from the pounding on drums. Gone. That part of my life gone. Gone without warning. I paid a reasonable sum for those concert tickets and missed the whole show because of getting a little carried away with the PCP. The story of my life! Not necessarily because of PCP alone. I used mass quantities of other drugs to take my mind to other places I do not know and cannot recall. One time I was the first to try out a fresh batch of PCP. The chemist warned, “I didn’t have time to cut it. Don’t put it out on the street like it is.” I shot it and my mind was gone for a few hours. I watched myself spiral down a revolving room into the carpet of a motel room. What can I say? I did it to myself. No one else to blame.

Anyway, how did we get separated from each other? I don’t know the answer to that one either. My girlfriend said, “You went into the bathroom and didn’t come out. I asked one of those guys to go in and check on you. He came out and said you weren’t in there, so we left to look for you.”

Wayne was missing in action, lost in a sea of faces. I must have went down the toilet with a flush and popped out near the stage. I have no idea how I got from the bathroom, without my sweetheart, and migrated to the front of the stage, only to miss hearing one of my favorite bands jam away throughout the night. I suspect that the ones who helped her search for me may have intentionally mislead her into believing I wasn’t in there, with hopes of taking her home with them. She was an absolutely beautiful young lady with long, blonde hair, perfect teeth, and a perfect body. She was also a good Christian girl determined to help God save my wicked soul. If that was their plan, it didn’t work. I kept my girl, even if I didn’t know where I was at or where she was. Her love for me kept her faithful enough so that she did not abandon me.

When we left the concert, we bummed a ride with strangers and had a car wreck. Either the driver of the vehicle we were in or the one driving the other car, run a red light. The other car broadsided the car we were in. The impact busted the windows and glass flew all over us. Me and her got out of the car and got the hell out of Dodge before the cops arrived. I couldn’t stand a shake down (drugs were in my pocket). I remembered all of that, and that I had to call my dear Mother at 1:30 AM to come rescue us from the streets of downtown Atlanta. I was about sixteen-years-old, a wild child. I never got another chance to see Ten Years After or Golden Earring. My loss. So much is life. You snooze you loose. I wasn’t snoozing but I may as well have been, because I honestly couldn’t recall anything about the night once the drugs kicked in and my mind kicked out. Drugs, people. Drugs. They robbed me of my life. They definitely stole that night. Damn it!

One thing I learned in writing this blog is that it is easier to take drugs than it is to figure out how to spell their names. To the contrary, learning how to stop using them is the opposite–I could have gotten a few doctorate degrees in the time it took me to figure that one out!

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Contact info: waynedowdy@straightfromthepen.com
Wayne T. Dowdy, #39311-019, B-3
P.O. Box 725
Edgefield, SC 29824-0725