#172 Lost posts on Prison talk: Anniversary

May 5, 2010 at 3:52 pm 1 comment

Lost Prison Talk Posts: Anniversary

Today I got a few emails concerning some of my past writings, and one in particular asked me to share more of my “lost posts” on Prison Talk Online, or PTO for short.

As you guys know, I used to write for the site, but was banned a couple of years ago based on some less than logical thinking by the group. It clearly has not stopped me from writing, as I have written far more outside the site than I did when I was in.

A few weeks ago I shared a post that I saved from the site, and talked about it here on my blog. Today I want to share another one, based on an “anniversary”.

This is interesting because the post I wrote, while then a member of PTO, was actually based on me being out of prison 4 years. Remember, I got out in 2001, and I was writing for many different sites at the time. I had posted on PTO a post titled, “Four Years Ago I Was Released From Prison”.

What I am going to do here is share with you that post, talk about it, and also share with you some of the comments from the members…some are pretty interesting.

This post was put up on the NC Forum of PTO (before I lost ALL respect for the NC Forum), and it was about that time that I was really on a run with sharing info on PTO, many things I posted were immediately read and commented on by other members, and I was always getting emails from people about my posts. My goal was to do my best to help those people understand more about prison, at least as best I could.

So, let me share with you this post first, and I will pop in and out to discuss this with you. The actual post has validity, as you will see:

(The following is copied and pasted from my saved files)

Not to make this like some anniversary, but it was about this time in 2001 when I walked out of Dan River Prison Work Farm, with 3 big plastic bags full of my personal belongings. I was a free man and from there I was no longer under the full authority of the NC Prison system.

As I reflect on that, I think about what that means to me…what does freedom mean to me? I think the answer prisons want you to say is that I will never, ever do anything to end up in prison again. Your experience in prison should be rough enough so that you would do anything from going back. I sit here wondering how I feel about the past 4 years since I have been released. Surely there are loved ones expecting their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, ect, coming out soon. Not everyone is in that position, but I bet many are. So I wanted to kinda shoot from the hip about what the last 4 years has been for me, in hopes that it might in a small way help you.

I don’t know about you, but often times I like to gauge myself or situations on a scale…whether a 1-10, or a 1-100 or the educational grade scales with letters. I’ll use 1-100 to try to give you an idea of how I feel since my release.

On a scale of 1-100, with 100 being perfect, how would I rate my life after leaving prison? Four years is plenty of time to gauge how things have gone. I have to weigh the positives and the negatives, the hopes against the failures, the good and the bad.

The GOOD: I am out of prison, and the pure restiction of my dreams is now defeated. As long as I am in prison, NO dreams can be accomplished. But outside of prison, I at least have a shot, even if it is a billion to one. It’s still a chance. I can now work for more than a dollar a day. I can watch tv whenever I want, and as long as I want. No more count times. No more sleeping in bunks. No more locker searchers. No more prison clothes (although I do have a pair of green pants…who doesn’t). No more officers lying to me about rules I know better than they do. No more retaliations from officers that are too stubborn to admit they are wrong. I can eat pizza more often. I can walk anywhere I wish. I can be OUTSIDE at night.

This list can go on…

The BAD: Getting a job is very difficult. The mark of felon proves that a person does not “pay his debt to society”, it is eternal. Probation, although not as bad as I thought, hampered me big time. Lost time in my dreams that I cannot recover. Background checks will for most jobs will make it nearly impossible for me to do a “honorable job”. Jobs available to inmates trying to make it are rare (but not impossible).

So for all the things I listed, I still need to give you a number, a gauge of my take of my life after prison. Well, for me, some of the most important characteristics are hope, dreams, happiness and the chance to help others if you can. But there is a balance here that has to be addressed. Surely I did not expect to walk out of prison and inside of 6 months be financially set with a house, car and a decent job…in most cases it does not work that way at all. Sometimes it can get very frustrating when you spend months just spinning your wheels trying to get a job or trying to advance yourself.

But life does not slow down for any inmate; we have bills that have to be paid just like anyone else. In some cases, restitution, for some probation fees, and for everyone, bills. Then add on the basics, like food and clothes. For me, I had the support of my immediate family, but let me say this very strongly…it felt M-I-S-E-R-A-B-L-E being idle, trying to find a decent job. It’s tough, very tough, sometimes overbearing. I said this several times on other posts, but if mom knew how many times I sat in my room late at night not know if I was going to make it, she’d feel so sorry for me. But I don’t want my mom thinking that way for me.

I didn’t want that kind of pity because there are hundreds of thousands of people out there that have never gone to prison or even been arrested, and were unemployed. So I didn’t want to act like I was owed anything; I was no one special. But it does not change the fact that often I was broke, yet expected to “do right”. Add on to this the fact that I was a college graduate and the world should have been wide open to me…not anymore.

There is a deep pain that can exist inside of a person that no asprin or medication can cure…maybe that’s called depression. What do you do when you want to do right, you want to make things happen, but every door seems closed? A lot of inmates go through that, wondering after 6 months or 8 months or a year of working minimum wage jobs if it’s really worth it. No one wants to be locked to a fast food restaraunt or grocery store job the rest of their lives. And Heaven forbid if you owe restitution, or have a family. It is enough to make any person feel worthless.

But at least when you are free, there is hope. You can start your own business, even if it is with a few dollars. You can continue to look for a better job. Opportunities are there, even if you don’t find them when you want them. There is always a way, someway. I promise you, that simple thought got me through many very difficult nights. Even if I could not see a solution, I believed that somewhere, somehow, something had to work out. Maybe it was because I was backed into a corner, maybe it was because I really believed it. But the inmate has to believe, even in the worst of times, that things can get better. As long as you are free, anything is possible to help you get back into the swing of things.

So, having said all that, what would I give as my gauge after 4 years free from prison? Am I where I want to be, of course not, am I close…maybe not, after all, I have some very lofty goals (including that trip to Hawaii!). There is a lot of interesting things going on in my life that can make this very interesting… and profitable. But I have also seen a lot of interesting things go down in flames. A 100? Certainly not, otherwise I’d be making posts from a brand new laptop from a nice hotel in Atlantic City, Las Vegas or some nice city. A 75? Not hardly; I have seen some progress, but I have not seen the promises I have planned on. A 50? That would mean things are halfway decent. But I can’t say that. I am not devaluing the fact that we all have tough roads, because we all do, but in the things I have planned and look forward to doing, I have seen the potential, but not the fruits of it. How about 25? That might imply to me that after 4 years, I have definately made some progress. And in all truth I have. My writing of my books are starting to sell, which in turn allows me to concentrate on more writing and giving more time to places like PTO, or to answer letters from concerned people. It’s funny though, I never planned on writing in this manner, but here I am. Other works that I thought of while in prison, or had before I was ever incarcerated are still there, but it takes time to make things happen. It is certainly not where I wanted to be by now, but there is movement.

I think my number might be 15, and that sounds pretty low to some of you, but I think it is fair. I see a lot of potential in the things I hope to get accomplished, and maybe I’m near the top of that hill; maybe things will get better and I can really move forward in getting my life in full swing. I can’t promise that, because I can’t even promise myself tomorrow. And sometimes I wonder why it takes so long to make goals and dreams come to pass. Four years is a long time, and as I look back on what I had when I got out, and what I have now, there is not a lot of physical evidence that I have turned everything around. We’d love to hear about that “feel good” story about the inmate who got out, started a business and is now very successful while helping others who have loved ones in prison. That’s not me in that situation.

But there are many positives that I didn’t have 4 years ago. My dreams and goals ARE closer, in fact almost in reach. If I shared some of those things, you would understand, but I almost don’t want to “jinx” myself by talking about it now, and 6 months from now it falls apart…gosh, it has happened to me so many times. But things are looking very promising and things are in the works…much moreso than 6 months ago, or a year ago, and certainly 4 years ago. I enjoy more things now, and I try to keep everything in a positive nature, as best I can. Not every day is sunshine-bright, but I assure you, I don’t like giving in to negative situations. And it’s the same attitude I try to share on my posts, to try to share what I can, but always try to let you know that there is always a way, even if we miss it sometimes.

Life has to be positive, and for the inmate coming out, he has to find those positive things before the negatives set in. Hope is the counter for dispair, and you must set that in your loved one before dispair sets in. With that comes depression, and doubt, then failure. But you must be able to reinforce your loved one that even if things start off bad, that he has to hold on. He knows that in prison, there is NO dreams he can look forward to, but as long as he is free, anything is possible.

So, after 4 years, I give myself a 15; not that high by any stretch, and maybe I am being hard on myself. But I can live with it, because it shows that even though it has been rough, there has been progress. But there is some very interesting things going on in my life that can easily bump that up to a 50 really quick….but I’ll hold that for another post. And as I continue to write my projects, it also helps in several ways that have a direct impact on my gauge. So I can live with the score…but I am always hopeful that things will get better….

they usually do….

(End of post)

Now, you can see the nature of the post, mind you, the idea was to try to encourage readers while I was writing for PTO. I think during that time I was a member of several different prison sites, and often times I would write a post, and put it on 1 to 5 other sites on the same day.

I was at the time, gauging myself and my progress, trying to figure out if I was headed in the right direction after 4 years of freedom. Granted things were not going perfectly, but at the time, it looked like I was starting to “turn the corner”.

You also notice I mentioned my “Grades of Honor” books too. See, it was cool then for me to mention it, because everybody liked reading my posts, but I would find out later that these same people that were reading my posts would turn on me and kick me out. It’s interesting because after I made that post, there were some interesting comments from some of the members.

I wrote that post August 25th, 2005, just before noon (since the site keeps up with the exact times of their posts. After I made the post, there were some responses. Less than 10 minutes after I made that post, a person responded saying:

“Awesome….I love to read your post!!!”

That person had been on the site since about 2004, so they were pretty new to PTO, but by her response you can tell that she was indeed following my posts. Sometimes a word of encouragement does not need to be a page long, just short and to the point.

The next response came a day later:

“Your posts are so touching. When I run across them I can’t read them fast enough. Thank you for all that you do for the rest of us!!! You are truly Heaven sent!!!”

The interesting thing about this is that it came from a moderator And although I do have the name of the person that posted this, I chose not to put any member’s names on my blog (unless I am bearing fangs). I remember this person’s name because this was also one of those people that would end up saying bad things about me later. But at the time, you see she was following my blogs as well. Ironic, she said I was “Heaven sent” but I would be kicked out like some demon from the site…hey, make up your mind.

The next comment comes from a person with an interesting situation:

“Thank You for sharing. (along with everything else! lol) I wish you well and hope you exceed that 15 very soon!”

I remember this person because she actually emailed me about some help with her loved one who got a write up. She had been following my blogs, and contacted me about her situation. We emailed each other and I was able to do what I could to help. Later, I wrote a post on PTO about write ups, and she was the first to make a nice comment about it, based on the things she went through with her loved one.

But later on, some self-righteous correctional officer made some face-saving comments about the situation, which didn’t sit to well with her…or me. She got upset about it and made some comments, which lead to her eventually getting banned from PTO. The sad thing is the correctional officer who made those comments…nothing happened to him.

I was very upset because PTO, a so called Prison Support site, failed in the very fundamentals of their own site…to support people with loved ones in prison… not to support correctional officers who wanted to create controversy.

So I remember her, and was thankful for her comments, she truly was one of the very few that was pro-active in finding solutions for a loved one in prison. Too bad there aren’t many like her.

A couple of positive responses down the line, another person said:

“Masonik4,
Your writings are truly inspiring! Where can one find your book(s)?”

As you can see, this was during the time I was writing my “Grades of Honor” books. But as I wrote these books, I was trying my best not to make my posts “commercial”. Heck, the very idea of writing prison books came from members at PTO. I had written so many posts, people were asking me if I have ever written a book, and if not, then maybe I should. So I had written I think my first or the first 2 books at the time. People were asking about it, but a lot of folks there were kinda playing lip service, I found that a great deal of real support came from people outside of the site, rather than those in the site.

Another comment came from a member I remember quite well:

“thank you so much for another heart warming post….you are so real, and I love that about you…..thanks so much for being such a valuable part of our NC team….
Good luck and I surely hope that all of those dreams and hopes you have do come true soon….you are a strong man….
When you said you walked out of Dan River Prison work farm with your bags, I could envision that so well, because I am there every week.…”

I remember the person, but at the time I saved this page, I also saw that PTO had closed her account. They changed her name to “Retired-21”, which was NOT her actual penname on the site. I remember some things happening, and I think she was the one who defended me on the site, challenging members about how they talk about other prison books and yet did not support an “in house” writer, which was me. The site kicked her out, then banned me as well, guilt by association I suppose. So much for prison support.

The next response is rare because it comes from a man:

“A 15?!?,

I’m sure you still have some youth,and you got your health!
Ya better bump it up to 80!
One quick trip to the hospital,VA hosptial or the like and you’ll feel better than Donald Trump.
Two arms and legs,eyes that see, and a mom who loves you.
Having lost a few friends last year,two having bad strokes and canser…
They’d all trade places!”

(Note that I am pasting it exactly as it was on the page, mind the slight errors)

I remember this guy, he would actually invite me to another prison support site, because a lot of people were not happy with how PTO was being run. I think I actually sent him a copy of “Grades of Honor” after I finished my first book. I sent it to him to get his opinion about it, and he liked it. He was always a nice guy, and a pleasure to have comment on my posts. He didn’t mean anything negative by his response, he was trying to encourage me to be more affirmative about my score.

The next response is very interesting….

“Thank you very much for sharing this… I walked out almost 4 years ago myself. September 29, 2001.”

This comment comes from the owner of PTO himself, David Frisk, made August 29th, 2005.

What is very interesting here is that the owner of PTO and myself both got out of prison in 2001, I got out about a month before he did, as by the date he mentioned in the response on my blog.

It’s interesting that at the time I was writing, there was a point where one member made some stupid remarks on my post, and I was so frustrated that I emailed the high-ranking members of PTO to let them know I was leaving. I actually got messages from them, including David Frisk, also known as Fed-X, to stay on PTO, and even asked if I could become a moderator.

Since then there has been a serious rotting of respect, apparent in his email to me a couple of years ago, and how his “minions” like to read my blogs and shoot cheap criticisms at me. Last I checked, he had like 70,000 posts….

Oh come on man! There is no way you could have written THAT much and possibly care about the members.

At the time of his post on my thread, he had just over 14,000 posts…his “join date” was November of 2001, so in 4 years he put up over 14,000 posts…hmmm.

That’s about 3500 a year, or 300 a month, or 10 posts a day…every day, for 4 years. Hmmmmm

(and you guys say I write a lot…said with a sarcastic smile)

At any rate, at the time I wrote this post, I was getting lots and lots of comments from moderators, members and even the ranking members of PTO.

One of the last responses comes from a person that does what a lot of people do on the sites:

“Dear Masonik,

Thank you for your post.
I have learned a lot by reading it.

I will print it and send it to my man, he still has got more than 6 years to go but has got many years behind him, in prison.
I know it is going to be so hard for him.

To read your story could possibly give him a glipse of what he can expect.
Society has changed so much since he went to prison, all those years ago.

Take care!!”

I think a profound way to know you are helping is when people find value in what you share. When a person says they want to print out what you have shared, it shows that they value what you have said, and want to preserve it to share with someone else. It’s like something another person said on one of my posts. She said, “this is why I got a printer”. I have no idea how many people copied and printed out my posts, but to know that people are doing it means I can contribute in a very constructive way. This is evident in what that last response noted.

And don’t get too carried away here folks, I continually say that I don’t have a halo on my head, and I am far from perfect, but the idea here is to give people your best effort, in order to help those with loved ones in prison.

In that post I shared, another person asked me if, while I was in prison, if I was overly optimistic with my goals when I got out. This was important to her, because she had a son in prison and needed to tell him something. This lead me to talk about that issue as well, which is also on that same post.

Here is something interesting about that page…I saved the first page, not the second, since saving files only saves the page you are viewing. If I click on the “page 2” of this post, it would automatically take me to the current site of PTO, and the remainder of the post.

I did that just a moment ago, and there were a few more comments. One of the last ones was a person who made a comment on my post dated in 2005, long after I was gone as masonik4, and at the time, writing under “Nolaw97”…before being booted out. She asked about what to tell her pen pal, and wished that I was still a member so I could at least share some more feelings on the post.

There are actually a number of posts I have read from people who are still looking for answers, but because prison support sites have so few that can speak as one being there, the questions often go unanswered. Nobody can answer every question, but when I saw one I truly felt I could tackle, I did.

When I look back at the things I wrote, I see that I indeed left a paper trail of sincerity, I really wanted to help, if I could. This wasn’t about having 100 million posts, it wasn’t about being a moderator, and at the time it wasn’t even about trying to get financial support for my writings. It was about helping, giving of my time, and writing to help somebody in need.

I could write for another 10 years, and still get people who think I am some kinda con man, or some fool that thinks he knows everything. Those kinda people don’t get it, they are too busy condemning rather than supporting or finding reasons to encourage. There is a fine line in “talking” support, and actually DOING support. I truly wish more prison support sites would do more rather than just open forums to people who are copying and pasting simple words to rack up numbers.

So that’s something to think on, I have many more “lost” posts. Remember, if you want to get in touch, make sure to email me. And feel free to ask about my products, and thanks to some of you who have taken me up on my free prison encouragement certificates, I am sending them out as I receive the requests. Also thanks to a few people who are supporting my blogs. Until next time…

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Entry filed under: girlfriends with boyfriends in prison, God and prison, inmates, jail, LostVault, mothers with sons in prison, prison, prison abuse, prison blogs, prison books, prison cards, prison food, prison jobs, prison mail, prison pen pals, prison support sites, Prison Talk Online, Prisonbid, rehabilitation, son in prison.

#171 Followups on prison blogs #173 Mother’s Day and Prison Letters

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. chelleco1  |  May 5, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Well…here’s another comment, from a mom, with a son in prison, who so VERY much appreciates your helpful posts! (Just came across them actually, the other day…SOOO very helpful! Thank you!)
    Yes, I would be interested in your books, and also in a certificate!
    …By the way…if you DID have a halo…you wouldn’t be NEARLY as empathetic, and helpful. =)
    Michelle
    mt1214@msn.com

    Reply

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