#153 Dan River Prison Work Farm (new)
Dan River Prison Work Farm
Happy Friday everybody…well, as best as one can do, all things considering.
I wanted to blog today about one of the prisons I was at, in fact this was my last stop before I got out in 2001. I’ll get to that in a moment.
First, a very warm thank you to a very kind individual who sent me a $50 gift card for Office Depot. We don’t have one in my town, but there is one in another town not too far from me, so I will be using that to get my supplies. This should really help in getting the tri-color or black ink I need for my printer.
I have actually started printing a number of things out, so that by May I will have a lot of it ready to go at the requests made. In fact, after I finish this blog, I will print some more cards, certificates and other things. If I can get ahead of the game, then I won’t have to do so much when the requests come in. Ideally I need to upgrade my computer and printer so I can do faster work…but hopefully that will come in the near future.
So if you are interested in my books, cards and other products, let me know, I expect to be talking more about it next week. At any rate, you know my email.
Now, today I am blogging about the last prison I was in, Dan River Prison Work Farm, which is in Yanceyville, NC. It was there I was released , but it was also here I was sent as punishment.
First off, don’t let the name fool you…it’s not really a “farm”, it’s just like most other prisons that are minimum custody. Lots of people hear “farm” and think it is one of those prisons where all the inmates are out in the fields…nope, not like that folks. Most prisons are not like that. In fact, I did time at another similar prison, called Tyrrell Prison Work Farm…and nope, it wasn’t really a “farm” either.
Beside me right now, I have a large brown envelope with “Dan River 1” written over the front… I wrote that myself because a few years ago, when I started writing about prison, I had to group all my writings in piles depending on where I wrote it. Everything from grievances, letters, journals, anything I wrote that I saved I kept in groups. So today I have this envelope full of paper, which came from this prison.
Inside this large envelope are letters received from members of the US House of Representatives, letters from a local community college, letters from the US Senate, letters from the Inmate Grievance Resolution Board (a TOTAL waste of time) and many other things.
Folks, let me put it to you this way…I have been writing on prison issues since about 2002, and in all that time, I STILL have not scratched the surface of the things I could talk about, and this is just based on my experiences alone.
Everything I have experienced, if I saved anything from it, is a subject that can be talked about, and shared with you to give you an idea of what prison was about. And looking back, it was very fortunate…or wise (however you view it) that I indeed saved nearly everything I wrote or received. 99% of inmates throw those things away.
The reason why this is so important is that even though I have been out since 2001, we all know that memory fades with time, especially the small details. It does not matter if you are 20 or 70, time will corrode some memories. But if you keep documents of those events, you can fill in the gaps of the times you might not quite remember. Case in point this letter I got from a community college while I was at Dan River.
While I was at Dan River Prison Work Farm, I enrolled in a computer class. Just enrolling was a miracle and a fight within itself, because I actually had to write a grievance against the prison to ALLOW me to go to the class. Most guys would write a grievance if they had to go to class. But because my time in prison was drawing near an end, they prison felt that there was no need for me to go to the class, even though I asked to go.
I was disappointed in this, because by doing this, the prison was actually preventing me from a chance to better myself…I mean, I WANT to go to class…I WANT to learn something…I WANT to brush up on my skills on the computer. Why is the prison having a problem with this?
So I had to write a grievance to try to get the prison to let me go to the class. Whether I finished or not didn’t matter, at least give me the experience.
So eventually I got in, a little late but not only caught up, but I passed everybody in class…see, I took computer classes in college, so I already knew much about it, and I also took and finished a computer class while at Pasquotank Correctional…this was not new to me. And because I was a fast typist, it was no problem to catch up with everybody.
Yet I could not finish the class because my incarceration ended just a few weeks before the course ended. But this letter I have in front of me brings back some memories, and I want to share some of this with you. This letter comes from Piedmont Community College and says the following, dated September 4th 2001:
“It is my pleasure to inform you that your academic achievement during the Summer Semester 2001 has qualified you for recognition on the PART-TIME HONOR ROLL at Piedmont Community College.
This distinction of having achieved at least a 3.50 average as a part-time student is an indication of high standards of academic excellence for which you are to be commended.
Congratulations on this achievement in your academic career at Piedmont Community College.”
This letter is signed by the Dean of Student Development. I actually received this letter shortly AFTER I was released, because the address on it is my home address, not the prison address. Had I not double checked that, I would have told you that I received that while in prison, which would not have been accurate.
But by sharing this, you get just a small idea of what prison was like for me, and a general scope of what prison can be like. Now, did I like Dan River? Well, there was some good things and some bad things about it.
The good thing was the classes, which I enjoyed. As a college grad, I love school anyway, and lived for the thrill of learning, and challenged myself on that thought every day. It was a lot of fun too, because I still believe my 4 years in college were the best of my life…so far.
But in prison, this was a chance to break away from the routines of prison. The classes were held outside the prison, which meant we took the prison bus to a town called Roxboro, where there was like a mini-camp designated for inmates. It was a very nice change of pace from the walls of prison, so I was quite comfortable there. I almost regret not finishing that class.
I made some good friends there too, some of them I remember from my initial time in prison, at a different camp. Some of those guys I wish I had kept up with too, and wish them well, wherever they are.
But some of the negatives of the prison was the arrogance of many officers of the prison. What really ticks me off is when an officer tries to bend the rules to benefit the prison at all times…I understand the need for rules, but if you are going to break them or ignore them when it sides with the inmate, then this is no longer incarceration, it is suppression.
A lot of you don’t quite get that, because some might think that this is how prison is supposed to be…wrong folks. Get this through your head, incarceration IS the punishment, not suppression. I did my best to honor the rules as best I could, but in return, I expect the prison to honor it as well. Often times the prison would do things that were clearly not in the rule book, but when we wrote a grievance about it, they did all the dances to try to ignore it or to disqualify it.
Guys, I can write 500 pages on the wars I had with prisons when it came to grievances. I am no fan of the Inmate Grievance Resolution Board, because I think they are all blind and deaf to an inmate’s pleas. Call it a Kangaroo Court if you wish. In fact, my being at Dan River was based on a retaliation from my previous camp, Robeson Correctional, in Lumberton NC.
I won’t get into the details on this blog, but believe me, there is a lot of mess going on when it comes to prison officials. Not every prison guard or administration is “corrupt” but I ran into many of them. My run in with a case manager at Robeson resulted in me being kicked out of Robeson and sent to Dan River.
Imagine that…being kicked out of a prison. But that is what happened. I have to find the official words on it, since I do have it, but it was based on the idea that I could not conform to the prison. Now notice the wording there…it didn’t mean “conform” in a negative way, because if I was that unruly, I would have been put in segregation (isolation) and given a write up. Prisons can always discipline inmates when they don’t conform to the rules.
But yet my situation did not warrant discipline, because I had not broken any rules. Remember, had I broken ANY rules, I would get a write up, like any inmate in any prison. But they could not write me up for anything, because what I was doing was perfectly legal. I had the right to write grievances or letters to anybody I wished, concerning prison issues.
So the solution was not to punish me by the rules, since they had no real authority to do so. However, they could “punish” me by sending me away, and rationalizing it by saying I could not “conform”. That’s just another way of saying “we don’t want him”.
Imagine that…being rejected by a prison….
So that is how I ended up at Dan River…and it was almost the reason why I am sure I would have been sent away to another camp if my release from prison was not sooner. At the time before my release, I had written about several issues at Dan River that had the office debating with me about the rules. I know what I read in the rulebook, yet the officers there would argue that “I have never seen that in the book”. But when I go to my locker, get the rulebook and show them WORD FOR WORD, then they make up excuses.
Just before my release, they tried to get me to agree to be sent to another camp, closer to home. I think if I had agreed, they would have sent me that very same day, just as long as I got off that camp. But not wanting to leave, I lied to them and told them my family was already told where to pick me up and they had made plans. Part of it was true, they knew where I was, but in reality I suppose if I was closer to home, the drive to pick me up would not have been so far. The difference of maybe one hour to the closest prison, to 3 hours from where I was at the time.
So I stayed at Dan River until my last day, and was released from there. It was the last prison I remember, one of 8 prisons I would have set foot in throughout my incarceration.
Hopefully I can share more with you about those prisons, and some of the details in each. I could have written a blog just on the education of inmates alone, using that letter I have. Everything I have saved opens a Pandora’s Box of other issues and emotions, and when I read or look at them, I get a flood of memories about the place I was at. This will come in quite handy as I blog on prison issues, because even though years have passed, these reminders can quickly connect me back to those times, and allow me to speak more clearly from my heart and mind. Perhaps by doing that I can be of further help to you.
Anyway, that’s all for now, I gotta do some printing today. Big time thanks to that very nice person who sent me that gift card, and also a thanks to two others who sent me a gift. I truly hope that your kindness will continue to encourage me to keep writing, to keep sharing and to keep you encouraged, as you have done for me. Until then….
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