Tag Archives: prison

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.

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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!

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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.