I am posting this link to Quora to help Ms. Begum K. find another participant for her interview of returning citizens. I’ve already been through the process with her and it was painless, not extremely sensitive questions or anything to fear, so if you or someone you know has been incarcerated and are now free, she does need a volunteer.
[Notice: this is a duplicate of the blog I posted on the new webhosting site that I am still working on to get things running right. This site (straightfromthepen.wordpress.com) will soon end. Read the following and maybe you will understand. On the https://straightfromthepen.com new location, a lot of things aren’t working the same as on this site but I will have things back up to par soon. Please click to follow when the search engines find it. Thank you!]
Technically speaking, I moved on and now have a lot of work to do because of the moving process, the same as if I physically moved from one house to another.
Moved On from WordPress.com because of various reasons. Moved faster than anticipated, too. My plan was to post this blog before I moved the website so that all of my followers would know in advance, but I first moved the domain name to Google Domains and that screwed up the website.
As I type, I am not sure about what came with the migration or what I left behind. Time will tell.
I sought the assistance of the superb hosting service I use, FastComet.com, to migrate straightfromthepen.com from WordPress.com to WordPress.org on my behalf. The Plan I pay for included that service.
Though I ran into technical issues because the process with a less-experienced Technical Support member than what I needed, we did get the job done, but if I had not had working knowledge of the migration processes and experimented with exporting sections of my massive website, I would not have known that the person was incorrect about how I needed to go about getting the massive website moved.
My cost for the hosting package at FastComet.com, where I can have multiple websites, only costs a little more than what I paid for the Premium package on WordPress.com that severely restricted what I could do on that hosting service, unless I wanted to pay $25 per month for the Business Plan. Not me, I moved on to a better place and hope I brought my followers with me. Since this has only been live a few hours, the search engines haven’t found me on this new location.
For those not familiar with the more technical aspects of the functioning of websites, there is a substantial difference in WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
StraightfromthePen.com was hosted by WordPress.com, which means that it provided the server (like a large warehouse with a massive distribution network) that I used to park my Domain on (website address); e.g., straightfromthepen.com.
I’ve been using WordPress.com for several years and am not satisfied with the way it works due to its management. StraightfromthePen.com is my oldest site, and then a few years ago I started WonderfulThingsDone-2 using WordPress.com.
I paid ninety-six dollars per year for the WordPress premium, plus $19 for the domain name I moved over to WordPress. Moving the domain name to WordPress.com ended up costing me more than what I previously paid for wonderfulhingsdone.net (WonderfulThingsDone-2) and straightfromthepen.com.
On WonderfulThingsDone.com, which is a WordPress.org website, I have more control and responsibilities for building and maintaining the site, but I got tired of WordPress.com squeezing me for more money, so … I moved on and won’t go back!
On one of my adventures in downtown Atlanta, after my release from serving a 420-month federal prison sentence, I captured the photo of this beautiful bus while walking around the city snapping photos using a smart phone. Only Dumb Phones existed before my 1988 arrest and conviction. But at least you could find a phone booth to pay with coins or by calling collect on such a device, instead of having to pay a lot of money for a smartphone and phone plan.
Ad: Speaking of Phone Plans, here is my promotion for Tello.com where I earn 10 Tello Credits for referrals who use my referral code (P3RHP9H9) to purchase a low-cost plan.
Since these posts are read world-wide, I am certain that those in different countries without all of the available technology used in America may wonder how a phone booth looked. Though this photo is of a much older phone booth seen in 1988, this photo does show what would now be a dumb phone, if one could be found somewhere, when compared to a smart phone that I can use the camera of to walk around town taking photos.
Moving on to a different theme, when I first began writing this blog my intent was to post this brief message to refer readers to my page on Quora.com, where I may also earn a commission for those who use my link to sign up for Quora+
Anyways, for a quick blog post with a punch, I am re-sharing a popular answer on Quora that continues to receive a lot of attention because it relates to the technological challenge many returning citizens face upon release. Please be sure to follow the comments in the thread. In particular, what I wrote in response to a comment to help the returning citizen protect himself from scammers:
“Along the lines of security, adding two-factor authentication to an important account is best; especially, if you can use an Authenticator App, such as the one offered by Google or Microsoft. SMS messaging is better than not using any additional measure of security, but that may also be compromised. A lot of SPAM calls may leed to that becoming a security threat.
“Using a credit card versus a debit card is also best, since using the credit card does not require adding your pin number.
“For additional security, in the Manage Account settings on credit or debit cards, add a notification for any transactions done for the lowest amount available so that you will be notified of any transactions posted, and if not you, you can turn off the card immediately and change all associated passwords.” WTD
This post is complimentary to allow his voice to escape the confines of prison walls. Only the font style and size has been changed. Content is as submitted. Straight from the Pen does not express any opinion on the subject matter or content or the validity of any statement or claim made.
This post will also appear on Life Inside and Out, a Space on Quora.com, where men and women go for answers to questions. Check out the profile page for Wayne T. Dowdy.
Languid Eyes by Jason Glascock #342498
In my dream I repeat “6 am. 6 am. 6 am.”
I need to wake up at 6 A M!
My eyes snap open to a cream-colored cinder block wall and roll over to a clock reading 6:08 am. Perfect. I tighten my muscles, straining as hard as I can, working through the back, legs, shoulders arms jaw, every muscle gets engaged, released and stretched in this wake-up ritual.
6:08 am. I have a few moments before I actually need to get up, but if I stay here, now relaxed after the stretch, I’d likely fall back to sleep; so, I take three deep breaths and get up. The dayroom hasn’t opened yet, it’s quiet, my cellmate is asleep, meaning I need to be as quiet as possible. Piss in the toilet. Flush. Wash hands. Wash face. Rinse mouth. Dress for work in heavy boots and wait for the door to pop with that steel-on-steel hammer sound. Quiet, like I said.
While I’m sitting in the chair waiting for the door, I decide to do some squats to get the heart pumping. Slow, quiet ones that don’t get me breathing hard. I’m facing the dimly lit dayroom through the small window in the door, looking across at the other cells. The dayroom nightlight flashes into my eyes as I go down, disappears as I stand into the shadow. It’s then that I notice the burning of fatigue that wants to force me back into bed, the tiredness I’m trying to drive away with the squats.
Fresh blood to the brain simulates thoughts. For every hour loss of sleep the IQ can drop by 10 points. Sleep deprivation increases heart disease, exasperates diabetes, increases irritability, promotes violence, and a slew of other maleffects. With all these negatives recognized by medical science, departments of corrections around the country have become aware of how to create conditions that enhance the punishment factor of prison. They’ve doubled down on their efforts to make the environment as uncomfortable as possible. One method is to use sleep deprivation. The choice of uncomfortable mattresses, beds that squeak and rattle when a person rolls over, louder toilets, louder sinks, and more. They’ve removed sound absorbent surfaces such as carpet and wood, opting for steel and concrete. They’ve put in more and brighter nightlights that illuminate the bed as if it were daytime. For instance, I sleep with stadium lights shining in my face or reflecting off the dirty-white wall. If I cover my head the officer will pound on the door to wake me up. Light levels are shown to affect the quality of sleep. The beds are short, so in my case with a 6’4” frame, my feet hang off the bed, resting on square steel tubing much of the night. Then there is the heat. Where temperatures over 75°F are known to cause physical stress and negatively impact sleep, the prison now keeps the livings units at ~85°F year-round, all day, all night, somehow justified as part of their energy saving initiative.
All of that runs through my mind as the squats increase blood flow to the brain. Down… Up… Pump-pump. Down… Up…
The burning in the eyes never goes away; a constant irritation throughout the day. At 4:10pm I enter my cell to wait for dayroom to close. I sit down and grab the book I’ve been working my way through. I look at the page and the text goes wonky. I blink a few times and it clears, coming into focus. A few minutes later I snap awake, catching myself from falling out of the chair. I clear my throat, look to the page and find what I last remember reading. A few minutes later, I’m startled awake again by the sound of the book hitting the floor. I need a nap, but I’m dirty, need a shower, and count is within 20 minutes. There’s no way i can get to the showers. My eyes ache, my muscles ache, l know I’m missing things as I struggle to understand the book. Standing will increase my metabolism, but my feet hurt from working in the bad boots, so I sit back down.
I turn on the TV for some news. As I’m watching all the horrible stuff in the world, I hear this gasping snore and realize I’m sleeping again with my head back like a Zippo lighter.
Coffee. The 4th cup of the day will get me going. And squats. Yes, squats!
It’s count and just standing feels exhausting, but I can’t take a nap because it’s time for work. When the dayroom closes, and I clean. Rushing to change mop water, disinfect phones, tables, chairs, vacuum what carpet remains, sweep and mop. There are ramen noodles on the wall, and someone smashed half a Swiss roll into the rug. Not too bad today. 45 minutes of cleaning and then it’s chow time.
I rush into the servery for a cold hamburger on a bun that’s so dry it crumbles in my hand. I shovel the burger and canned pears into my mouth and leave, still chewing as I stand up; the dayroom needs to be finished before it opens in a half hour.
With work done I shower. The combination of work, coffee and shower leaves me feeling refreshed, the sense of fatigue washed from the brain, but I know it’s still there. Military research has shown there is no performance improvement from caffeine for cognitively demanding tasks and does nothing for the tired muscles. So, I don’t feel the need for a nap and keep going.
The night comes and the 9:15pm count approaches. I’m wearing down. I’ve been up all day, moving around, lifting, twisting, etc. I was at a computer for 4 hours doing a college paper, rereading the book and parsing its contents, formulating my argument and crafting supporting clauses. Exhaustion isn’t creeping up, it’s here and I’m pushing myself. 40 more minutes, I tell my body. I can do 40 more.
Count clears on the unit and then I’m in the dayroom cleaning up for the final time. The work increases my heart rate and blood flow. Fatigue is cleaned from my muscles as I wipe the floor with a wet mop. Thrust right. Thrust left. My back muscles countering the forces and I bounce from foot to foot, bending the knees slightly in almost a dance. I breath deeper, engaging, disengaging, and reengaging muscles, oxygenated blood floods every part my body as I run up and down stairs. The work re-energizes my body leaving only the burning grittiness in my eyes.
My 40 minutes of night cleanup ends and I lock-in for the night. Sleep. I know I need sleep but reinvigorated from the light work I choose to take off my boots and socks, kick the feet up and begin reading the book I’d dropped earlier. The grey matter has plenty of energy now and I’m going to make use of it: BBC World News and a book on data structures in the Python programming language. I make a cup of tepid coffee and look in the mirror. My eyes are red-rimmed and bloodshot, the whites are the tan of straw and itch furiously, heavy-lidded, languid, exhausted. I take a sip of coffee and continue to look at myself for a moment longer, then turn to the book.
I get a good 20 minutes of reading in before an overwhelming sleepiness washes through me. I yawn, continue reading, forcing myself to finish out the chapter. That takes me up to 11pm and I can no longer focus the eyes on the page. The conversation with my cellmate proved that I can’t think either; halfway through sentences I’m losing track of the thought. Now, it’s time for sleep.
Flipping the light off is like turning myself back on. For some reason I get a short burst of wakeup energy from somewhere. Getting into bed, I feel the fatigue of the day fade a little, and I wind up staring at the wall for the next hour, rolling from side to side looking for comfort in an uncomfortable bed with a stadium light blasting my retinas, and the last thing I remember is looking a the clock reading 12:23am before my eyes snap open at 6:03am to start all over.
My experience with sleep deprivation is not unique or unusual. I go for days as I described and then crash. I simply can’t push myself any further and I’ll sleep nearly all day. There are days where my body hurts so bad from lack of sleep I don’t want to do anything. There are nights where I’m overtired and sleep fails to find me until 3am. Next semester I’m going to take 6 credits of courses, and my brain has to perform as well as any college student, and I wonder what it would be like to have full use of what my brain could do, if I could get good sleep.
Shane, who is a returning citizen like me who wants to make a positive contribution to society, provides a link at the end of this post from his Space on Quora.com that may be of interest to anyone who has served time in prison or who has a loved one or friend who has been on the Inside.
WHY I CREATED THE SPACE, “THE PRISON AND JAIL FORUM – DECADES.” PLEASE READ BEFORE CHECKING OUT THE ANSWERS ON THE SPACE OR IN MY PROFILE!
First, I want to thank all those that have supported the space with their posts, views, and commentary.
I created the space with the goal to gain credibility to launch much loftier goals I have of preventing juvenile delinquents from making the decisions I made and ending up in prison. Incarceration and recidivism rates are way too high in our country. The devastating consequences affect everybody that live here in the United States. The majority of the people in our country that are in prison will be going home someday. I believe that the way our current criminal justice system is set up that the goal of rehabilitation is not being realized. I would like to think if I asked anybody that lived here in the United States if they want a person that is in prison or jail to come out of prison or jail a better person than they were when they went in that their answer would be yes. That is my goal here. That, and preventing them from being in prison in jail in the first place.
The reason that’s DECADES is in the title of the space is because I only solicit contributors that have at least 10 or more years experience in the criminal justice system. I made this decision because I want the answers on the space to be as accurate as possible and come from real experience. You’ll see some posts are from people that do not have 10 or more years in the system because I allow anybody to request to post something, and after reviewing it, I post it if it is appropriate. I solicit contributors that are not only male and female ex-convicts but also police officers, parole officers, correctional officers, probation officers, defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges, human rights advocates/activates,family of incarcerated, and even sex offenders; in the hope the space will not be biased. I encourage those that meet these prerequisites to apply to be a contributor. I also encourage anybody that would like to collaborate with me, with the goal of preventing juvenile delinquents from ending up in prison, to message me.
Also, far too many people are in prison that are innocent in the first place. You can see evidence of this through the fact that more than 300 people have been exonerated and found to be innocent of the crimes that a jury had found them guilty of, due to the development of DNA technology. That is more than 300 people that the sperm or blood, that was found in heinous rape and murder cases, was found not to be the perpetrator’s blood. Imagine all the people on death row right now that don’t have DNA in their case to prove their innocence, many of which will be executed by our government. The average law abiding citizen believes in our criminal justice system; that it is fair and just, that we don’t put innocent people in prison here in the United States. It isn’t until you have a real encounter with the system that you come to realize that it is broken. The jury pool is pulled from voters. Voters believe in the system or they wouldn’t vote. When the accused sits at the defense table, it is only natural for the person serving on the jury to form an opinion, before any anything is ever said, by their appearance. A large percentage of those jurors are automatically biased because they believe in the system and believe policeman wouldn’t arrest someone for nothing, so there’s already a presumption of guilt even though the accused is supposed to be assumed innocent until proven guilty. Public defenders don’t have adequate resources to protect their clients from injustice due to the high cost. The focus is on plea bargaining when the focus should be on coming to the truth. Prosecutors will fight to keep someone in prison even after they have been shown to be innocent from DNA evidence, contrary to their oath office they swore to uphold.
I watched a 2020 special one time where they took mock jurors and held jury trials. They used the same witnesses, asked the same questions, the same prosecutors, the same defense attorneys, with the only different factor being the person sitting at the defense table. A clean cut individual was often found not guilty, whereas someone who did not have the quintessential look of an innocent person was found guilty. I also watched another 20/20 special where they would have someone, with the stores permission, go into to a store, snatch something and run out the door. Then they would show mugshots to the people in the store that were shopping at the time. People would pick photos in the mugshot lineups and say that that was the person they saw snatch the item that was snatched and it wasn’t even the person. This is literally within 20 minutes of seeing the person that snatched the item. Many of these people said they were certain it was the person when it was not. This also shows how eye witness testimony, which is often taken as fact by jurors is flawed. I hope if you’re reading this, and you serve on a jury, that you will remember this blog and it will lead you to have an unbiased opinion of the accused and will prevent innocent people from going to prison.
I think of all the tens of thousands of juveniles in the system today. I believe if someone just took an interest, an actual sincere one on one interest, in each and every one of them, that a significant percentage of them will never make the choices that will ultimately land them in prison one day.
Incarcerating people has a high social and financial cost to our society and is devastating. Our inner cities are being destroyed. Children are growing up without their fathers. People are leaving prison angry, lost, and worse off than when they went in. Many don’t realize that it is not the prisoner alone that is serving the prison sentence but also their children, their parents, and other loved ones that count each and every day with them, suffering , to the day of their release only to be disappointed to find many of them broken and damaged, instead of rehabilitated. Many, myself included, as well as correctional officers, and others that work in the prison, suffer from PTSD due to the violence. Upon release from prison I thought I was going insane until I found out that everybody that did a lengthy period of time like me suffered from the same symptoms and that it was a normal result and consequence of the environment I lived in. There’s actually a mental health label for it called Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS). PICS, not only affects the person that is suffering from it but all those in society that that person comes into contact with due to the behavior they exhibit is a direct result.