Pages

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Alcatraz of the South Part 9 “Fire in the Hole”


Today, March 29, is Mike's birthday and in his honor we are posting 
a previously unpublished essay he wrote in the summer of 2017.

By Michael Lambrix

To read Part 8 click here

As I stood at the back of the cell one late September morning in 1988, an unfamiliar voice yelled out from somewhere downstairs, “Fire in the hole!” It was quickly echoed by others to make sure everybody heard. A white shirt was on the wing. Back then the wing sergeants and officers generally left us alone to do our own time, just as long as we didn't make them look bad. And we'd get a heads up if the confinement lieutenant (”white shirt”) came on the wing so we could tighten up and at least make it look good. There's a lot of truth to what they say about how shit runs downhill... -- if we made the wing Sergeant look bad, it would come down hard and heavy on us and nobody wanted that.

Quickly, I tried to do what I had to do. I was already on disciplinary confinement (”the hole”) for fighting on the recreation yard a few weeks earlier over a stupid call during a basketball game. I only had about another week to do before my 30 days were up. But if I got caught with any contraband while in the hole, it would add another 15 days.  Football season had already started, and I really wanted my TV back.

When they first called out, I had just started to heat up a cup of water to make my morning coffee. That isn't as easy as it might sound when you're in the hole. Just getting someone to smuggle a bit of instant coffee to you was enough to make you think seriously about quitting, but I loved my coffee. It was one of the very few pleasures that I had no intention of giving up if I didn't absolutely have to. I was willing to risk another 15 days in the hole rather than do without.

Then there was the problem of heating the coffee, as there was no electricity to the cell and no coffee pot, either. Never underestimate how resourceful a prisoner can be. Each morning we got a half pint of milk at breakfast, in a small waxed carton. By taking my roll of toilet paper and wrapping it around my fingers and palm until it made a small but loosely wrapped roll, then tucking in both the top and bottom, I made what we called a “bomb.” I had purchased a small piece of wire with trading stamps. By touching the wire to the top and side of the battery while holding the end of a cotton Q-tip to the wire, first a bit of smoke, then a small flame would appear. In a single, fluid motion I would drop the battery and hold that now smoldering Q-tip to the bottom of the bomb and use it to set it on fire. The flames sprang to life in the hollow core of the bomb. I sat it down on the edge of the toilet, balanced precariously above the water only inches away. I would hold the small milk carton filled with water above the bomb, which was by now burning like a small campfire. Within minutes the water would come to a boil.

I stood there wearing nothing but my baggy state issue white boxer shorts, since even late September in a concrete and steel box gets hot, too hot to wear clothes if you don't need to. Like most on the third floor (heat rises to the top), I wore as little as possible. When the “Fire in the hole” call came, I at first thought little of it as the daily rounds typically never had the Lieutenant coming up to the third floor.  Nobody wanted to walk into the scorching oven if they didn't have to.

But then I heard the distinctive sound of heavy brass keys turning the lock on the steel security gate leading onto the tier where I was housed. I knew they were on my floor. As quickly as I could, I pushed the burning toilet paper bomb into the toilet, a generous puff of smoke rising as the water extinguished the flame. I pushed the chromed button, causing the toilet to come to life with a loud groan flushing the disintegrating bomb down the pipes. I went to the nearby bunk, stashing my coffee under the pillow and turning a half step around to sit on the steel footlocker against the wall as if I was doing nothing at all.

No sooner did I sit down then Lt. Walmsley and the Administrative Sergeant Timothy Giebreg were standing at my cell door. Lt Walmsley called out, “Inmate Lambrix.” I had to suppress a laugh, since he obviously knew who I was, and he ordered me to stand. I stood and stepped the short step to the cell front and said, “Yeah?” He instructed me to grab my address book and get dressed as I had to go up front.

Instantly, I knew what it was. We have all seen this play out too many times before. When a white shirt shows up at your cell and tells you to grab your address book, that meant the Governor had signed your death warrant, scheduling your execution. You would be escorted up front to see the Warden. We all knew the routine.

They waited at my cell front, watching closely as I opened up my footlocker to retrieve a small notebook I had already prepared with the names and phone numbers of my family and friends. Although death row prisoners were not allowed to make phone calls, the exception was when the governor signed your death warrant they would allow you to make one phone call to either family or a friend (many of those on the row had long been alienated from their family), which is why they told us to grab our address books, I reached for my blue state issue canvas pants and apricot colored t- shirt, the color of the t-shirt indicating that I was death sentenced.

As I began to dress, a few of the guys in the hole with me called to me. They already knew what was going on, each calling out, “take it easy, Mike” and other cordial comments. A few cells away, Ted Bundy called down, jokingly telling me he'd hold my cell as long as he could. I laughed and responded that he'd better or he wouldn't get the fruit pie I still owed him. I didn't really owe him one but that was his weakness, he really loved his Little Hostess pies we could buy once a week off the prison canteen (store) and there never were but a few available each week so the inmate canteen clerk usually charged a premium, especially if you wanted more than one. When I could, I'd pick up a few for Ted so that he didn't get robbed too badly by the greedy bastards out to exploit us.

Once dressed, I already knew to back up to the cell door. A I did, I felt the handcuffs being secured on my wrists. Anytime we were removed from our cell, even if only going to the shower at the front of each tier, we were handcuffed behind our back. We would stay physically restrained until we were securely locked in a cage, whether it was our assigned cell, or the shower cell, with the exception of the recreation yard and the visiting park (for social visits with family and friends).

I had only been under a sentence of death a little over four years and had not had the opportunity to pursue collateral, post conviction review. This was the only opportunity to argue evidence the jury never heard, evidence that supported your innocence. Also other substantive claims that would show that your court appointed trial lawyer failed to provide competent legal representation, resulting in a wrongful conviction.

I didn't even have a lawyer assigned to my case. Florida's governor, Robert Martinez, one of a then new breed of Rabid Rednecks Republicans (”RRR,” the natural evolution of the politically unpopular 'KKK') who won political office on promises of exploiting executions by any means necessary had, for the first time, used the power of the governors office to sign so many death warrants that it overwhelmed the judicial system. Eventually, significant changes were made to prevent future governors from abusing the power of the office as Governor Martinez had.

As I was being escorted off the tier, past each cells and barely aware of the words of encouragement spoken by each prisoner, I felt emotionally numb. The reality that I was being led to “death watch” to face my own execution, began to weigh heavily upon me.

We exited the wing, into the main corridor that runs the length of the prison (please read, Alcatraz of the South, Part I and II) the Lieutenant radioed for a security lockdown, since protocol was that anytime a “death watch” inmate was brought out into the main corridor, the entire prison was put on lockdown. Before the Lieutenant had finished broadcasting over the hand held security radio, the solid steel doors at each of the twelve wings began to slam shut, loudly echoing as steel met steel with a thunderous force. When the last door was secure we began to move up the main corridor, southward towards the “Colonel's office,” where the Warden would be waiting.

With the Admin Sergeant to one side and the Lieutenant at the other, we moved at a leisurely pace, neither in too much of a hurry. Once past the “Corridor E” security gate, we slowly walked past the dayrooms used for general population prisoners, each dayroom separated from the main corridor by windows. At each window, prisoners looked out. Many were former death row prisoners and as I recognized a familiar face, I nodded and he would silently nod back. At almost a quarter mile long, it took a few minutes before we finally reached what is commonly known as “Times Square”, where just inside another set of security gates the main corridor intersected with the secondary hallways.

The main control room for the prison was at the southeast corner of Times Square. The officer inside electronically opened the security gate and we walked through and across the intersection another or so paces, before stopping at yet another electronically controlled security gate that led into a small complex of administrative offices as well as the small rooms where death row had their legal visits. Walking inside, we then crossed the open area at the center of these offices, going directly to the office in the far corner. I had never been in that office before, but knew it was the Colonels’. The highest-ranking security officer at each state prison, formally titled, “Chief Security Officer,” wears the quasi-military rank of Colonel.

Nudging me by the arm, the Lieutenant guided me a few steps into that wood paneled office until I stood in front of a heavy wood desk. Rumor had it that the desk was made out of the same hardwood oak used by inmate labor to build “Old Sparky,” Florida’s infamous three legged electric chair.

I immediately recognized Warden Tom Barton sitting behind the desk. He looked up at me and said, “Morning Michael...do you know why you are here?” Hearing him call me by my first name kind of threw me for a moment as I've known Warden Barton for a few years, and never heard him call anyone anything but inmate, usually with an unmistakable tone of contempt in his voice, comparable to the inflection a plantation owner would use towards his slaves.

As he spoke, he held up a single piece of paper that had a distinctive black border around the edge. The “death warrant” that Governor Martinez had signed, ordering my execution. Warden Barton then proceeded to read the warrant, word for word, and as he came to the end where it said that my execution was to be carried out the last week of November, at a specific day and time set by the Warden, Mr. Barton looked up over his steel framed glasses and without even a hint of emotion, informed me that I was scheduled for November 30, 1988 at 7:00 am.

Warden Barton asked if I had any questions, but I had none. As he rose to his feet, he informed me that the death watch Sergeant would explain how things work down there. I felt a hand take me by my elbow and lead me back out and down that long corridor again, only this time we did not stop at the death row housing wing that I had come off of, but instead proceeded to the very end of the corridor and the heavy steel door over which was the letter “Q”... the infamous “Q-Wing, and it wouldn't be my last time there. I already knew that the top row of the three floors were used to house prisoners in ultra maximum security cells unlike anything else in the Florida prison system, since I had previously spent time in those cells when I got into trouble. Each of the two upper floors had twelve cells, six to each side, each cell within it's own concrete crypt. When the steel door closed it became a world of its own, completely isolating the occupant from all else.

But this time I wasn't brought upstairs. Instead, as we walked on to Q-Wing, I was instructed to go down the staircase inside the door. Lt. Walmsley held me by the elbow, not so much to offer support so I wouldn't fall, but to exert his control over me. We descended downward one floor, and as we reached the bottom I was immediately surprised by how clean it was -- even the concrete floor common in prison was tiled and polished to a bright shine.

To the right was a heavy steel gate made of the same bars as our cells and just inside was a Sergeant. He quickly got up from his desk and using the heavy brass key, opened the security gate and we stepped inside. I already knew the Sergeant since he worked the death row wing from time to time and we exchanged greetings. Just as I started to walk through the open gate, Sgt. D. laughed and told me I wasn’t going in there yet, pointing to the other side of the wing. I would be on the West side for now.

Locking the security gate behind him, Sgt. D. and Lt. Walmsley led me about 25 feet to the West side and then another almost identical heavy security gate was opened and we stepped inside. I had never been in this part of the prison. I walked past a small closet, a shower cell, then three cells in a row, each surprisingly large -- almost twice as big as the regular death row cells.

Sgt. D. asked me which of the three cells I wanted. I laughed at the thought that I had a choice, since I've never been given that kind of choice before. In the open area outside the cells near a large steel-barred window was a small table with a microwave and large coffee urn on it. I said that I'd take the middle cell, not only to be close to that table, but to be as far away as possible from both the front security gate we just walked in, and the nearby solid steel door at the back. I already knew without being told that it led into the execution chamber where the electric chair awaited it's next victim.

As soon as I was secured in the “death watch” cell, the Sergeant removing the handcuffs, Lt. Walmsley walked away without another word. Sgt. D. told me that he was going to wait a bit before he explained how things work on death watch, since I had a neighbor coming. He asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee, and I said, “Oh, hell, yeah!” Sgt. D. disappeared around to the other side of the wing where his desk was, returning a few minutes later with a small Styrofoam cup of fresh, percolated coffee which I thanked him for as I took it from him. We heard voices coming down the stairs.

A moment later Lt. Long appeared in front of my cell, escorting Amos King. He asked Sgt. D. which cell he wanted King in, and Sgt. D. said that he could pick and Amos chose the third cell and stepped inside, and once he was secured in that cell, Lt. Long left.

I didn't really know Amos although I had met him a few times out on the recreation yard. Sgt. D. left because Amos wanted a cup of coffee, too. Because of the way the cells were situated I couldn't see into the adjacent cells, but Amos and I began to talk around the concrete wall that separated us. The first thing we both wanted to know was how long it would be before they brought our personal property to us so that we could write our family and friends to let them know we had our death warrants signed.

As Amos and I were talking, Sgt. D. brought him his cup of coffee and then Lt. Walmsley suddenly reappeared, this time escorting Robert “Bob” Teffeteller. I had already known Bob for a few years and was almost glad to see him, since I couldn't ask for a better guy to have to go through death watch with. Like myself, Bob had a healthy, if a bit twisted, sense of humor and didn't waste anytime throwing his first shot at me, even before they put him in the front cell. ”Awwhh, hell, Mike,” he said in his backwoods Tennessean accent, “What the hell did you get us into now?” We all laughed, and Amos quickly quipped, “Hey don't blame Mike, it was one of you Bob's that done this shit,” (referring to Governor “Bob” Martinez), and we all laughed again.

As we had our little bit of fun, Sgt. D. pulled up a chair in front of my cell so he could talk to all three of us at once. With a grin, he said, “Alright, children, settle down” and we found that funny, too. Then Sgt. D. proceeded to explain the death watch protocol, letting us know that as long as we had money in our account we could buy whatever we wanted from the prison canteen everyday (instead of only once a week on the regular death row) and that there was a small refrigerator for sandwiches and sodas, and a microwave for heating things up, as well as a coffee pot just for death watch.

He then explained that we would be allowed a legal phone call once a day as well as two social phone calls to family or friends each week. Amos quickly asked, “What's a phone?” since regular death row was not allowed phone calls, and that got a few chuckles. We would not be allowed to go to the rec yard while on death watch, and would only be allowed non-contact visits with those on our approved visiting list. We already knew all of that, since although this was our first time on death watch, we knew from others what the special rules were.

The rest of the day passed quickly and toward the late afternoon the property room Sergeant brought our personal property and small black and white TVs to us (at the time, death row was not allowed to have color TVs-it wasn't until 2004 that we were finally allowed to purchase small color TV’s).

As the days and weeks passed, Amos and Bob and I formed a close comradery, constantly passing the time talking and joking. Since it was our first death warrant, none of us were concerned as we knew that nobody was executed on their first death warrant-at least, they weren't back then. That later changed.

But it wasn't all fun and our gallows sense of humor only hid the stress we all felt as the reality of possible death hung over us. as well as those closest to us. Especially in the morning hours a heavy silence would hang over the cell block until one of us finally called out to another and asked how we're doing. If the silence became too prolonged we would check up on each other and use humor to take that edge off.

On the other side of the death watch floor they had Leo Jones and Jeff Daugherty, next in line for scheduled execution. The reality of the uncertainty of our fate was driven home that first week of November when in the early morning hours of November 7, 1988 the Lieutenant came down and woke us up and told us to grab what we need for the day as we were being moved upstairs right away.
They told us that Jeff didn't get a stay of execution as we all had expected. At that time Florida carried out executions around 7:00 a.m. Grabbing our bedrolls and some writing materials, one by one we were moved upstairs since they didn't want any prisoners on the death watch floor when they were carrying out an execution. That would also change in later years (please read: “Execution Day- Involuntary Witness to State Sanctioned Murder”).

Each of us was placed in a cell on the second floor and waited the hours out, knowing that downstairs they were putting Jeff to death. Around mid- morning the wing Sergeant told us to grab our property since we were going back downstairs. A short while later the death watch Sergeant came and escorted us, one by one, back downstairs.

Not long after that Bob got a Stay of Execution and was moved back to the regular death row housing area. About a week later Leo Jones came within a few hours of execution, even having his head and lower leg shaved and eating his last meal, before receiving a Stay of Execution and also being moved back to the death row housing wing.

After Leo was moved off death watch, they moved Amos King and me around to the east side. We were now the next in line for scheduled execution did Amos was put in cell three and I was placed in cell one. That same day they moved Abron Scott, John Marek and David Johnston to the west side cells we’d just vacated and we had a full house again.

As our scheduled execution date drew closer, Amos got a stay while I remained alone on death watch. (Please read “The Day God Died” which describes my last few days on death watch). On November 28, 1988 I finally received a 48 hour temporary Stay of Execution and then on December 2, 1988 I received a full Stay of Execution and was moved back to the regular death row wing.

As the years passed, every person I was on death watch with died except me. Of the eight men I shared that experience with, I am the only one still alive. 

Leo Jones, Jeffrey Daughtery, John Morek and Amos King all were eventually executed, while my brother Bob died of cancer over a decade later, and David Johnston died of a heart attack when a second death warrant was signed against him in 2010. Myself I would survive another death watch experience. (check out the PBS documentary “Cell One” about my 2016 death watch experience at http://cellone.wlrn.digital/)

Michael Lambrix was executed by the State of Florida on October 5, 2017


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Rosendo



Rosendo Rodriguez
Executed by the State of Texas
March 27, 2018
He stood at the window of the empty cafe and watched the activities in the square and he said that it was good that God kept the truths of life from the young as they were starting out or they'd have no heart to start at all.   - Cormac McCarthy

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Kolbe Retreat

By Jaime Prieto

A Prison Ministry held an event in the Ellis Unit in Huntsville, Texas, called “Kolbe Retreat.” A friend of mine signed me up because last year when they came, I was turned down for an unknown reason by the major of the unit.  My feelings were hurt and didn´t want to go through that again.  But I was very happy I had a chance to go this year.

The retreat was Catholic-based but anyone was welcome to sign up for it.  There were Muslims, Jews, Baptists and non-believers who signed up and got approved.  Everyone wanted to go because they would be feeding us “free world food” and the food in the chow hall gets old pretty quick.

The retreat was going to be in the south gym of the unit. Hunstville is down in southern in Texas where the humidity is 90% almost all year around.  So, it´s hot in the gym.

Day one of the retreat:  As I entered the doors of the gym, I saw two lines of men in blue shirts standing side by side, clapping. We would have to walk in between the two lines of men.  As the first inmate got close to the lines of men, they stopped clapping and started to give hugs. I got closer, and tried to give the first guy a handshake, but he hugged me instead.  It caught me off guard because we are not used to that kind of contact with people in here.




After all the hugs, we ended up in the middle of the gym where 12 round tables were set up with folders and name tags on them.

After finding our seats, a speaker came up front and introduced the volunteers and explained a little about the retreat. Then he said the words I was waiting for, “We will be feeding ya´ll lunch and dinner.” 

I grew up with a Catholic mother, and went to Mass when she didn´t have to work, but I really didn´t pay too much attention in Mass anyway.  But listening to the speaker, I understood what he was talking about when it came to the Catholic church.  He also said that he knew that half of the men were not Catholic and that they were not there to convert anyone to Catholicism.  They just wanted to share the Word of God with us.  That got my attention because when ¨Church Folks¨ come in to prison, they usually try to convert us and by doing that, push a bunch of us away.  He also said if we only came for the food he was still glad we came, and that they would be trying to stuff us.

They started by giving us cookies, rice crispy treats, brownies and Folger’s coffee with cream and Sweet-and-Low.  The coffee was the best I have drank in the 14 years I´ve been locked up.  Even though it was 94º in the gym and I was sweating, I didn´t care.

After we ate, the speaker told us that in the folder in front of us was a picture of a saint and some history of that saint.  He wanted each table, as a group, to read and talk about the saint.  We would gather information about the saint, then someone from each table would go up, talk a little about the saint. Each table had a volunteer so if we had a question he could help and answer it.  We were blessed to have two with us: Mark and Brian. Brian said we would be going up to the mic throughout the retreat and everyone would get a chance to speak.  So, I volunteered to speak first. 

I wrote down some things that we’d talked about, and “free-styled” the rest as I spoke.  I was glad when the whole table went up front with me.  Helped out a lot.  Everyone that spoke the first round was brief.



Then one of the free men told his testimony which was amazing because he talked about his most personal business in front of men he didn´t know, some of whom only signed up for the “free world food”.  His testimony was so powerful that I looked around the gym and some guys were not looking at him, but at the ground, because their eyes were watery.  Even though the guy was not a thug and hadn’t had a rough childhood, his story was like many of ours and it touched home. Once again, we had 15 minutes to discuss among our table what we got out of the testimony and each table had a turn to speak.  At lunch time we had spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread with sweet tea and lemonade.  They fed us until we couldn´t eat anymore. 

The next speaker gave his testimony and then we discussed it and guys went up to speak on it.  This time prisoners opened up more and talked about their lives, which was different because I’d known many of them for some years now and I did not know the things they talked about.  Getting put in this place makes us shut down and build walls around our emotions and feelings.  We don´t talk about things that hurt us or about our past.  That leaves us vulnerable.  So to hear these men talk like that was surprising.

Day two of the retreat: It was a humid morning, so sticky that the hugs the men gave us felt funny.  Even though it was hot, the coffee was good.  We started off the day with the prayer of the Rosary.  A lot of men didn´t do it, but they respected it and sat quietly as we did it.  When we finished, the speaker talked about the Rosary and answered questions about it.  There were a lot of good questions and I learned more about the Rosary.  

More speakers talked throughout the day, but what caught our attention was the reenactment of Jesus getting beat and carrying the cross, which was a real one, bigger than the volunteer who carried it.  The volunteers dressed up, one as Jesus and two as soldiers.  There was a narrator telling the story as they beat him and he carried the cross. I´ve heard and read the story of all of that before, but to see it as the narrator read about it was a real powerful thing to witness.  I had to look away a couple of times. To see a man beaten and treated like that for no reason, then killed for us and our sins, there isn't words to describe that.  The whole gym was quiet and that made me nervous.

For lunch they fed us brisket sandwiches, salad, cookies and chips with tea or lemonade.  I ate so much I felt sick.



Day three, the final day: We came in with hugs again, which didn´t feel weird anymore, but welcoming.  They started us off right away with bananas and apples, cookie and brownie with coffee.  It was a blessing to have fruit like that because we only get an apple and banana twice a year: Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The speaker for that day was a deacon, and he talked about the tradition of the church and the partaking of the Eucharist.  After some Q and A they set the chairs up in rows and we had Mass.  Three priests came and they did confession, or talked to the men who weren´t Catholic who wanted to speak with them.

After Mass, they gave us some more snacks and we sat and talked amongst ourselves as the volunteers set chairs up around the gym in a big square.  We didn´t know what was going on until the speaker got on the mic and asked us to sit in the chairs they set up.  As we got settled, the speaker started talking about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and went a little bit more into it.  But what they wanted to do was wash our feet.  I have seen that growing up, during Mass, but never had it done to me.  At first the Muslim and Jew guys didn´t want to do it.  

But as the volunteers started to go down the row, doing one at a time, they changed their minds and went through with it.  Days later I talked to some of the Muslims who were there and they said they thought what the men did showed so much love and caring for us. Society thinks of prisoners as the scum of the earth.  Murderers, rapists, gang members, etc. sat in those chairs and these men humbled themselves to wash their feet.  I´d heard people say: “God is in the room” before in church, but that day I felt him in the gym.  So many lives were changed that day in a hot Texas gym.  I´m not a “Bible Thumper” but I am a believer of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

The rest of the day they fed us ham, cheese, grapes, grape juice, brownies, cookies, garlic bread until we felt like we were going to pop.  They had so much food left over, but we couldn´t eat anymore.  As we sat there with full stomachs, we talked to the volunteers and said our good-byes.  It was kind of sad because these men became friends, and we probably won´t see them again.  But it was a blessing to have met them.  Then after more hugs the retreat was over.



As I said, many prisoners went to eat the “free world food”, but came out of it with a seed planted in our hearts.  These men came with God on their side to a prison where the State of Texas locks us up and throws the key to the doors away.  And showed us how much God loves us.  To know that there are people out there in the world who do care for us and forgive us for the bad choices we made gives us hope and the will to change our ways of thinking.  These men were a blessing to us.  And I can speak for everyone on the Ellis Unit in saying that we are very thankful to God that He sent his angels to us to show us the love He has for us.


Jaime Prieto 01305672
Ellis Unit
1697 FM 980
Huntsville, TX 77343
Jaime Prieto has been incarcerated since 2003.  He is a devoted son, father, brother and grandfather, as well as a writer and artist. His brother, Arnold Prieto Jr., also contributed to Minutes Before Six.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I Somehow Swallowed the Night: Prison Picassos, Big-House Hemingways, and the Prison Creative Arts Project

By Chris Dankovich

In a modest hall covered in snow on the main campus of the University of Michigan, a mostly-volunteer staff of professors, graduate and undergraduate students, and a Canadian hockey player take some time to answer several letters before getting back to work sizing, matting, and organizing all manners of art from some of the best artists in the world (and others who show much promise). Canvases adorn the coving around the walls. Decorated papers, big and small, lay on tables. Bobbleheads of international figures made from soap and toilet paper stand on desks. Hand-carved leather purses and knitted skeletons are placed anywhere else there is room. Trips have been made to the archipelago of over 30 prisons across the state to collect the works – some further from the college as Philadelphia is by drive. Meetings have been held with the inmates involved, for some these were their only contact with the outside world. Allocations were made for artists in isolation. All of this to create the world’s largest show and sale of artwork created by the incarcerated, and one of the most fascinating, interesting, and unique art shows in the world.

Art Exhibition Submissions by the Author

As landscapes, dreamscapes, scenes of fantasy and of the ordinary get recorded and tagged, plans are made for each artwork’s place in Duderstadt Center Gallery. Overseeing all of this is Ashley Lucas, known internationally for her work in theatre, and as the head of the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) for the past five years. Under her watch, the art show – PCAP’s biggest event of the year – has become the largest it has ever been, displaying hundreds of artworks by nearly as many artists with a perspective unique to the art world. Her husband, Phil Christman, teaches English at the University of Michigan, and is the chief editor of the annual Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing, now in its tenth year (a “best-of” from all previous years is the theme for this special edition).  The couple took over PCAP and all of its programs from founder Buzz Alexander and his wife, Janie Paul, who encouraged rehabilitation, restitution, and restorative justice through the arts for decades. In addition to the exhibition, PCAP hosts creative writing, drama, art, art history, music, and photography workshops inside of prisons throughout the year.

Art Exhibition Submissions by the Author

PCAP came to life in 1990 when Buzz (as he asks us to call him), as a professor at the University of Michigan, began working with a new theatre group at the women’s prisons in Michigan. From there, he envisioned an expansion to spread theatre as a means of expression to male prisons. Over time, he worked in other forms of expression, notably the creative writing classes – where I learned to write creatively when I was 17-years-old at Thumb Correctional Facility –, and, in 1996, he founded the Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners. Hundreds of artists from across the state have the opportunity to display and sell their art once a year at the exhibition, also known as “the art show”. The show regularly leads to hundreds of sales, equivalent to tens of thousands of dollars; with all of the proceeds going first towards restitution, and any remaining profits going to the respective artists (relieving burdens placed on family members of the incarcerated). In this way, it also allows the prisoners to give back to the community, paying restitution he/she would never be able to pay off while incarcerated otherwise.

Art Exhibition Submissions by the Author

The art show also marks the release of the Review of Prisoner Creative Writing, which displays the best essays, stories, and poetry written by those incarcerated in Michigan prisons. Humor, sadness, remorse, and a striking amount of talent pervade the pages. This publication is also a special example of the restorative justice that PCAP provides to our society: not only encouraging future citizens to better themselves through art, but also by providing opportunities for educating  youth outside of prison (as students at the University of Michigan learn the editorial process as a part of Phil Christman’s English classes).

The canvasses are matted and placed on the walls of the gallery. Stands are positioned to display the clocks, purses, sculptures, and other three-dimensional art. Invitations go out to special guests, like the director of the Michigan Department of Corrections, prisoners’ families, and past art buyers. Speeches are prepared for opening day. Docents are selected and briefed. Beginning each year at the University of Michigan at the end of March, everything is set for one of the most unique events on the international art world’s calendar.. All are invited; and all who attend will be impressed by the artwork, as they also simultaneously help change lives and restore our communities!

For more information on PCAP, the Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners, or the Review of Prisoner Creative Writing, please visit www.prisonarts.org


Chris Dankovich 595904
Thumb Correctional Facility
3225 John Conley Drive
Lapeer, MI 48446


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Two Different Men

By Vernon Robinson

(This piece originally ran on Decarcerate PA and is being shared with the permission of the author)

Introduction

I want to open up a discussion. This discussion will lead into different facets of the same apparatus. Depending on what’s contributed to this discussion, this discussion could delve much more deeply than I even anticipate. But, in order for this discussion to have a chance at a meaningful resolution, all contributors have to be willing to look at everything objectively and believe that there’s a possibility that their own line of thinking could be wrong. I will assert right now that, in an effort to stay objective, I will attempt to be cognizant of the fact that my scenarios or thoughts are not necessarily truths that are etched in stone. Someone could offer a rebuttal that disproves my thoughts, and I am open to that possibility.

Two Different Men

Let’s begin this discussion with an analogy. Let’s start with two different men. One man, named “John,” has an “occupation” that requires depravity in order to be successful. He’s a hit man, and he’s committed a fair share of murders. There are no limits on how far he’ll go. Whomever he’s hired to execute, that job will be done, no questions asked. The second man is named “Blake.” While he doesn’t exhibit a penchant for murder, his environment and peer pressure sometimes goad individuals to believe they “have to do what has to be done.” One day, Blake finds out that his own mother was robbed and beaten by a man from around the corner. Needless to say, even though his mother survived, the “codes of the street” that he continually adhered to, compelled him to “take care of the situation.” Without the same stealth or clarity of mind as John, Blake takes the life of the man whom he considered to be a vile human for robbing and beating his mother.

Both of these men, John and Blake, committed abhorrent crimes against other individuals, and society as a whole. Neither actor can be reconciled without the proverbial pound of flesh. Absent the subjective beliefs of some as to whose crimes were worse, it’s safe to say that John’s accumulative demerits for homicide call for a more intense punishment. But, sadly, “justice” is not always sought. More often than not, an “outcome” is the desired result.

What Is Next In Their Lives?

There is hypocrisy in our judicial system. This hypocrisy is perpetuated by sanctioned individuals within the system. But the public endorses these actions; by doing nothing and accepting these actions as just. I’m apt to say the public only accepts some flawed concepts because they are not privy to the strategies, applied daily, in the judicial system. If the public were to see these actions more often, the public would probably be horrified. Oh, one of these hypocrisies, or flawed concepts, is “The Deal”.

As I stated before, John’s continual disregard for the sanctity of human life seems to be easy to categorize as heinous. Blake, while not free from blame, could possibly be seen as a person provoked by the assault of his mother. But now, the prosecutor uses “The Deal” to decide the fate of these two individuals (over 90% of cases have a deal offered). “The Deal” is not gauged on an individual’s particular crime; it’s arbitrarily decided by the perpetrator’s worth to the prosecution.

John is offered a deal that could have him out of jail in maybe 10- or 15-years. His deal entails him testifying on all those who hired him, and many of their cohorts as well. Blake, on the other hand, is offered a deal for 30- to 60-years. His deal is not for testimony but just to save the government the cost and time of a trial. Needless to say, with John’s unsavory compilation of crimes, he willingly relinquishes the beliefs he once held dear and he testifies against his former brethren; securing “The Deal” in the process. On the other hand, feeling as though proper vengeance was exacted, Blake doesn’t take “The Deal” and he winds up feeling the full weight of the law after his conviction: LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE. Do you think the two sentences are fair?

Who Orchestrates “The Deal”? What Does It Look Like?

The government propagates the notion that deals must be made in order to keep the system moving. They say that, without deals, the system would come to a “grinding halt”. But let’s examine the art of “The Deal” and see if it is feasible to our pursuit of justice.

First of all, there are no written standards for a deal. (I could’ve given you the real-life example of Marie Noe, from Philadelphia, who received no jail time for the smothering of over five of her own infants. She also violated her probation and still never saw the inside of a prison.) A prosecutor – two or three, at the most – has the authority to offer whatever deal they believe suitable. This means that one human being, who is not infallible – three, at the most – gets to determine a person’s worth based on a personal assessment of the case. The defendant is subject to a prosecutor’s proclivities, and possibly the prosecutor’s obduracy – one human being who is not infallible, as an agent of the government, with the power to decide an individual’s fate. Why aren’t prosecutors’ actions considered just as bad as the perpetrator, since he/she also, subjectively, decides what action is right and just?

Before you claim the prosecutor is the government, remember that “The Deal” is not law, nor is there uniformity (i.e. Marie Noe). Without established guidelines – and a seemingly unmitigated immunity for prosecutors – defendants are sometimes subject to the whims of a prosecutor. Many times, prosecutors’ actions can’t be construed as acts on behalf of the people because prosecutors use the system to gratify their own desires; therefore, their actions belie an entity that is supposed to be an example of fairness and justice.

Let’s also examine the aspect of “The Deal” that the government considers a necessary evil. Prosecutors have repeatedly asserted that they sometimes need to deal with criminals in order to catch criminals. That mindset has, at times, led to the proliferation of criminal enterprises. (We readily employ that mindset overseas, too, to usurp governments and we can see what that has got us.)

This action won’t be considered vigilantism because vigilantism is action taken outside of lawful procedures. But using criminal actions to prevent crime – actions taken outside of lawful procedures – almost, surely, is applicable to the same category as vigilantism. Wait a minute, I don’t want to further obfuscate this conversation with questions of whether the government can be vigilantes.

Consider the question: If you had a strong belief that your daughter was getting high, would you give the neighborhood dealer some type of incentive or consideration in an effort to catch your child red-handed? And, if you’re that desperate to catch your child in the act, and you do work with the dealer, are you content that a criminal has benefited off your desire? If your compensation was money, it probably could’ve contributed to the dealer’s expansion. Whatever your compensation was, would you be comfortable? This scenario is tantamount to the prosecution’s deal with a cooperating defendant. Is this Utilitarianism, and these actions the greatest good for the greatest amount of people?

Prosecutors secure testimony from a criminal who was in collusion with others but no longer sees a benefit for themselves by aligning and staying true to those others. Prosecutors give this criminal “The Deal” in order to secure convictions on the other defendants. Lots of times, the criminal who is given a deal is more dangerous than those whom he has to testify against (surely, people would be more afraid of John than they are of the ones who sent him).

This cooperating “witness” is only doing this for some type of incentive. Matter of fact, let’s look at some recent, real-life events. In 1997, Kelly Renee Gissendaner conspired with her boyfriend to have her husband murdered. The boyfriend, Gregory Owen, actually plunged the knife into the neck and back of Gissendaner’s husband. The prosecutors cut him a deal to testify against Gissendaner, and he will be eligible for parole in 2022. Kelly Renee Gissendaner was executed by the State of Georgia on September 30, 2015, for the murder of her husband. Even though the man who actually murdered her husband is eligible for parole, she was executed for her crime. Is there fairness in this case? Is Owen more redeemable that Gissendaner?

Another similar case is in Oklahoma. Richard Glossip is on death row, while his co-defendant, Justin Sneed, was spared the death penalty. Following the theme of the previous example, you can gather that Justin Sneed was the one that murdered the victim, but Sneed, conveniently, was offered the chance to testify against Glossip for a reduced sentence. So, the actual murderer, Sneed, was spared the death penalty, and the individual that Sneed testified against, Glossip, was given the death penalty, because it was alleged that he told Sneed to kill the victim. Is this fair?

Why Should We Care? What’s The Effect Of This?

I can’t tell you why you should care. Actually, this piece is being written to evoke some responses, mainly those that explain why others should care. I just want to present a side of the system that many don’t see and, with that information, you can decide what position you want to take. In the beginning, I said that this conversation would look at different aspects of the same apparatus, and now I want to explain how all of those analogies relate to another part of the system.

Is “The Deal” the problem? No. “The Deal” is just a concept. But the same as any concept, intent behind this concept must be examined. Investigating the intent of the concept will ultimately lead to its root – human intention. “The Deal” is not a problem, per se; how people see other people’s intrinsic value is the problem. Deals are offered on an arbitrary decision of who is redeemable and who is not. Knowing this, whether you look at the intent of the concept, or the anticipation of the concept, “The Deal” is reliant on the integrity of humans.

“The Deal” is just a mechanism that some use to exhibit a wanton disregard for a justice system that’s tempered with compassion and humanity. That disregard is exemplified in some other machinations that blatantly oppose mercy (one of these machinations being Life Without Parole, which we will explore shortly).

The agents of the government who employ “The Deal” perceive their actions to be benevolent and, sometimes, they are right. But, as you can see from some of the earlier examples, the seeming unfairness of some of those deals completely strips the prosecutor’s actions of any benevolence. 

The human factor to “The Deal” is, at times, detrimental to it. Prosecutors take a position of defenders of “non-accused” citizens, instead of defenders of justice. Prosecutors are actually supposed to be defenders of the public, which also encompasses “accused” citizens. But prosecutors develop a callousness that inhibits the desire for justice, and encourages abuse. In some instances, the wishes of the victims for mercy are not even honored, indicative of the prosecutor’s dismissive attitude towards justice. At some point, you have to ask: Is the thirst for vengeance really the public’s thirst, or is it the desire of “armchair warriors,” who utilize the public’s fear to further their own agendas? A prosecutor’s partiality is evident when they show such exuberance to convict the accused, but lack the fervor when evidence is revealed to be contrary to their position. Oftentimes, they won’t even apologize for a wrongful conviction.

Is “The Deal” The Problem?

Just like most concepts that are intended to help others, a human with nefarious means can corrupt the good intentions of any concept. “The Deal” has been used, unjustly, for some time. When that is done, justice is not served. When justice is not served, the approval for injustice becomes stronger. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and no human is immune to the possibility of an injustice being perpetrated against him or her.

The consequences of a deal can sometimes be dire – not only when a deal is taken, but sometimes when a deal in not taken. You can see from the examples earlier, unbalanced outcomes are prevalent in this system. The government has “legitimized” two forms of obliteration of human beings: the death penalty, and death by incarceration (DBI – also known as Life Without Parole). Acknowledging the finality of these sentences, why would we allow something as definitive as the destruction of a human being to be reliant on a system that is, oftentimes, unbalanced?

Death penalty and Life Without Parole sentences are levied on those whom the system deems incorrigible. (Before someone tries to insert the argument that jurors decide a person’s fate, it should be noted that juries only decide guilt. Juries are not even informed as to what sentences are applied to the charges they have to choose from.) The initial argument against these sentences is that neither sentence allows for redemption. Both sentences neglect the possibility that a human being could change for the better and become an asset to society. But, beyond the immorality of the sentence, let’s look at the process of deeming an individual unredeemable.

I just said that those terminal sentences “are levied on those whom the system deems incorrigible”. A more accurate depiction would be to substitute the word “system” for the word “prosecutor.” Prosecutors – maybe two, but definitely no more than three – are the deciders of a person’s fate. If an accused person refuses to fully cooperate, the prosecutor can maliciously try to attain the harshest penalty available. Does a refusal to cooperate with authorities somehow warrant annihilation? Actually, the Constitution guarantees the right to not incriminate one’s self. So, why would taking advantage of the rights the Constitution affords you be treated as if it’s subterfuge, and a terrorist act against the government? Is the system meant to be a propagator of vindictiveness? 

So, Get Rid Of “The Deal” To Ensure Fairness, Right?

No. The conversation about “The Deal” was just a contrivance I used to illustrate a much larger issue: the absurdity of our justice system! These analogies were used to show the incongruity in the application of fairness. We are complicit in a system that gives an unearned chance at redemption to a person whose recompense is to be further dishonorable (note: I did not attribute “dishonorable” to cooperating defendants because of “snitching”; they are dishonorable because they have no ethical allegiance to anyone but themselves. They only cooperate when they are offered leniency, almost never because of their civic obligation).

Deals have become tools that are used in reprehensible ways, not as producers of honorable justice. I initially said that the public is unaware of these deals, but that might not be true. Who doesn’t know about Sammy The Bull, or one of the multitude of henchmen who eventually turned state’s evidence? I believe the public is aware, but there is such a cavalier attitude towards the situation. Our selfishness precludes us from looking at instances in a system that is imploding; blinding us to the fact that we can be affected by the blast.

The words “criminal justice system” seem to form a duplicitous term that only the favored would favor. Nobody is accentuating the fact that the cries for justice are not coming from the elitists. And, unfortunately, some outside of the elite standing cannot see the lack of justice that is apportioned to them; more than likely because they haven’t had to address it head-on. There is a clear dichotomy, but what’s not clear is if the have-nots understand that they are have-nots.

But there is a bigger problem in this system. There are quite a few irregularities in the application of fairness in our legal system. It seems as if the whole process indicts our unquenchable thirst for revenge and reluctance to forgive. So, I want to pose a question: If you find that most of the scenarios that I related to earlier implicate unfairness, how could you not be against a sentence that eradicates any possibility of redemption? How could you be an advocate – through lobbying or reticence – of sentences of such finality in the face of human fallibility and bias?

We implement punishments in our system that exact permanence, but none more than DBI and the death penalty (both death sentences). In light of a system prone to error, how could we be comfortable with that? Death sentences are not punishments to teach what was done wrong; they are human decrees of a person’s immaterial worth to the world.

The system has many instances of showing a disregard for certain individuals’ circumstances in life, but death sentences show an unmitigated disregard for life, period! The moment you decide another person is not worthy of life, you take part in a segment of society that imbues themselves with the right to decide life or death. The same act that you objurgate the “murderer” for, you plan to implement yourself. The mercy that you wish had been bestowed upon the victim, is the same mercy that you are unwilling to bestow; essentially adding fuel to a circuitous ring of fire that furthers the destruction of human life.

We don’t rob a person who has robbed someone. We don’t rape a person who has raped someone. We don’t kidnap a person who has kidnapped someone. Nor do we assault a person who has assaulted someone. So, why should we kill a person who has killed someone? Is there any curriculum in our country that teaches that it is okay to violate someone, if that person has violated you?

I have asked you to look at death sentences from a self-reflective point-of-view, comparing the sentence’s value to your own moral compass. Well, why don’t we just look at the sentence from a practical perspective.

There are plenty of states that use Life With Parole sentences, and some states do not use the death penalty. There has been no major uptick in murders because of the availability of parole. The recidivism rate for the class of individuals who were serving Life With Parole is extremely low. Keep in mind, parole is not immediately granted to an individual because his or her date is due. If a person shows transformation in thinking, and a renewed dedication to the community that is beneficial and not harmful, only then can that person be afforded a chance at parole.

Why not use parole? There are commutation and clemency processes that resemble parole, and allow a second chance. Commutation and clemency have not been protested as release valves, so why should parole? The problem with commutation and clemency are that these processes are lengthy and, more often than not, political. They are processes that also overlook those who are likely viable choices but who didn’t apply; an individual’s life should be worth being looked at without prerequisite paperwork. Parole accomplishes that. And, since there is no uproar about commutation or clemency, why not use parole, which is just a better alternative to those valves of release?

Again, Why Should We Care?

No one can make you care, but a lack of caring is what is weakening humanity now. But, if you don’t care, what makes you think that someone with more power and authority won’t feel the same – about you!

Please understand that, just because I railed against the unjust death sentences, I do not absolve the actions of any individual who has killed another human being. But we can’t censure one individual for an act and, in turn, perpetrate this same act and call it comeuppance – especially under the auspices of a clearly flawed system.

We utilize a system that spitefully negates the possibility of redemption. This system is in the hands of a few, and they willingly trample the rights and desires of the many. In a system of checks and balances, the many, who are not in the upper-rungs of the hierarchy, are not actually allowed to engage in the checks and balances – or, at least, are dissuaded from doing so.

Look, some states do not use death sentences. So, is there a difference in murder between states? What makes the people convicted of murder in those states more deserving of a second chance than people convicted in states with death sentences? Nothing. They all have the same capacity to become better people and, also, attempt to correct some of the harm they have caused.

We’ve got to a point where we let politicians and pundits tell us how to feel. The Supreme Court just determined that juveniles were not to be required to face mandatory death sentences. There was no massive uprising to combat this. The court said it, so it was so. Individuals, whom people had once considered incorrigible, were now considered able to contribute to society. We waited for decades for the “authorities” to tell us it was okay for kids to go home. Why wait more decades for the “authorities” to tell us what we can see now: many men and women are not incorrigible, and they should not be viewed as such.

Don’t be fooled, the authorities actually work for the people. You can ask for systemic change, or you can just sit back and watch the negative effects, hoping that they never touch you.

Conclusion.

I once talked about this quote in one of my papers:

“If I had to choose between justice and disorder, on the one hand, and injustice and order, on the other, I would always choose the latter.”
- Goethe (1749-1832)

First of all, justice cannot be juxtaposed with disorder, nor can injustice be juxtaposed with order. Actual justice should be universal to all, and it should inspire order. But someone who wants to embrace injustice to have order – as Goethe intimates – has already decided that they will be the dispenser of injustice, so that they can achieve that “order”. That is an unfortunate mindset, and one that permeates our system today.

And that is why we should care.

Vernon Robinson CB3895
SCI Graterford
P.O. Box 244
Graterford, PA 19426

Vernon Robinson is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution Graterford in Pennsylvania.  He specializes in editing and proofreading and has a few published works to his credit.  He is also the secretary of the Lifers' Right to Redemption Committee - a committee dedicated to the eradication of Life Without Parole sentences and educating the public about the Life-sentenced individual's capacity to change and become an asset to society.  Vernon considers his greatest accomplishment to be his beautiful daughter.  His hope is that some of the things he does will somehow influence others positively.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Dialing 911

By Timothy Pauley

“One´s scared and the other´s glad of it,”  Johnny declared in disgust as we watched the latest spectacle of manliness unfold in front of us.  When the recreation movement was announced, two new guys in their early twenties left the two-man cell they shared.  The moment they were outside and in front of about a dozen guards, they turned toward one another and began exchanging blows.

“Stop fighting!” a guard yelled as he and six others formed a ring around the pair. Immediately both “fighters” got down on the ground and put their arms behind their backs. No more than thirty seconds after it had begun, they were being marched off to the hole. The rest of us, however, had to remain on the ground for about ten minutes before they would allow us to resume normal activities. They had to “clear the code.”

When I came to prison decades ago, violence was of major concern to nearly everyone at the facility.  There was many “blind spots” where visibility was poor and staff presence was unlikely.  These were the venues of choice.  Anyone who was not a complete idiot remained vigilant in these places.

Little of this violence was random, but a person still had to be careful.  You didn´t want to be the guy who walked around the corner just as someone you didn’t know was stabbed. Now you´re a potential witness.  What are the chances this guy is going to trust you enough to let you walk away?  Such an encounter was to be avoided at all costs.

Any time two guys had a beef that needed to be settled, they´d find somewhere to go deal with it.  Dealing with it could range from a verbal thing to a fist fight or a life or death battle. The bottom line was that you were expected to go handle your business in private. Failure to do this usually resulted in long-lasting negative consequences associated with being perceived as weak in the land of the strong.

In the alternate reality that was prison, this was taking responsibility for oneself.  Even if a guy didn´t know how to fight, the mere act of being willing to step up and show some courage counted big.  It also kept frivolous spats and irresponsible behavior to a minimum.  Failure to live right had consequences.

A lot has changed over the years.  In those earlier days, no matter how badly you wanted to punch a guy, you waited until the guards were out of sight.  That´s just how things were done.  Picking a fight in front of the guards was called “dialing 911”.  Two cellmates waiting until they were in front of the guards to fight, well, that was damn near an act of treason.

The same held true for loud talking at someone.  If you had something negative to say to someone, you got out of earshot of the guards and you kept your voice down.  Raising your voice at someone and catching the guard´s attention was also dialing 911.

In a long slow decline of personal integrity, the aberration has become the norm.  Today, when a prisoner has a beef with another guy, they typically have it out right in front of the guards.  There is usually no attempt to conceal their activities.  Quite the contrary.  Usually great trouble is taken to make sure the guards are there to the rescue.  Either by yelling at one another or actually fighting, as long as it´s right in front of the guards, there is little danger of sustaining any serious damage.

In the end, it´s just a matter of who can get in the most punches before they are both rescued.  But the combatants are, nearly always, marched off to the hole with their heads held high as if they´ve done the honorable thing.  The indisputable fact that they just told on each other, and themselves, is a detail of which they remain blissfully unaware.

Many believe this whole practice originated with “the mission”.  Sometime during this moral decline, a few unscrupulous older prisoners were able to figure out a way to manipulate younger prisoners to do their fighting for them.  If an older “shot caller” decided he had a problem with someone, he´d often put some young guy -- one who wanted to fit in a little too much -- up to attacking the guy, typically in front of the cops.  To make these youngsters feel like they were actually serving some vital purpose, they named this practice “running a mission”.

For the shot caller, this was a perfect storm.  If he owed someone some money, or had a personal problem with someone, he could just convince one of these kids to go attack the guy. Next thing you knew, the guy he owed was in the hole and he no longer had to pay. Or the guy who´d wronged him was in the hole and he could justify not taking steps to resolve their dispute. Either way, the problem was gone and it cost nothing but a little conversation to make it happen.

For the youngster´s part in all of this, he´d get out of the hole feeling like he´d established himself.  Most enter the prison quite apprehensive about this and with one simple act they are seemingly able to “be somebody”.  And, of course, they were not in any real jeopardy because they made the move right in front of the cops, who promptly rescued whomever was getting the worst of things.

The majority of the time, things play out according to this script.  Every once in a while though, it doesn´t work out according to plan.  Like when one of these youngsters gets to thinking he´s now somebody and starts expecting a certain level of respect he hasn’t earned.  That can end in a real fight that doesn´t take place right in front of the man.  These types of encounters tend to impress upon the mission boy his actual place on the food chain.  And with no element of surprise and no guards to rescue them, this type of fight almost never goes the mission boy´s way.

Then there are times when the guy to be attacked finds out about the impending attack. Sometimes mission boys can´t keep their mouths shut. On those occasions, the guy who was behind it all, sitting back waiting to watch the show, is usually in for a big surprise. Sometimes he never recovers from said surprise. Whenever either of these things happens, the old time convicts will laugh.  That´s what happens when a guy dials 911…

Timothy Pauley 273053
Washington State Reformatory Unit
P.O. Box 777
Monroe, WA 98272-0777