#187 Letters from prison: flood

May 13, 2010 at 4:01 pm Leave a comment

Letters from prison: Flood

If I can gather all my letters together, it might make for a book…worth a thought or two…

Before I begin, my warmest thanks to some of you that have asked me about my “Grades of Honor” books. I was emailing a few people today about the availability of those books and wanted to let them know that these books are self published. That means at the moment you request them, I print them out from my computer. I don’t have a publisher (yet) so everything has to be done by me. The only think I can’t do is put the books in bound form… actually I can, but it is more professional to take it to an office supply store like Staples and have it professionally bound.

When I first started doing my books, I would use a three way hole puncher to…well….punch holes in the pages, then line them up and use a report folder with metal tabs to fix it up in a decent way. Mind you, I have very limited resources. I felt it was ok, but I could do better. But it was all I could afford.

But since then I upgraded to having the books glue bound at an office supply store. It looks much better, and the cover looks great too. It obviously costs more, about $3 to $4 a book, as compared to about a dollar to do it the older way. Sometimes you have to pay for a better product.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions about my books, I have put up several retro blogs to help those that are interested, but if those are not enough, my email is available to you.

Also, a very warm thank you to a reader who sent me a gift today, I just received it in the mail today, and it so lifted my spirits. It is always very good to receive a blessing, a gift from a person that believes in you. It encourages me to continue writing, and to do as best I can to help those in need.

Now, today I was looking at some of my letters that I wrote while in prison. You might remember that I said before that I found a batch of letters I sent home while I was in prison. I had never thought of seeing these letters again, but hey, here they are. It is obvious mom kept them, and I took one out to read. By reading it, I can get a very accurate idea of what was going on when I wrote it, and how I was feeling.

This particular letter was written in late September of 1999, while I was at Pasquotank Correctional. I know this because the date stamped is Sept 29, and as with most prison letters, they always stamp the name of the prison on the front of the envelope, as to warn you that “be careful, this letter is coming from a criminal!”. I always hated that.

Anyway, let me share with you the contents of this letter, and discuss some of it with you after I finish:

(The following is from the letter, written Sept 1999)

“Hi yall,

Sorry I’ve not written in a while; I’ve had to conserve my $2.00 a week to stretch. I’ve been living off state supplies (lotion, toothpaste, shampoo) which are the bottom-of-the-barrel generic stuff. Today I got some welfare, which included 5 stamps. With that I decided to write.

I saw Rocky Mount and Tarboro in the news, about the flooding: I hope you’re all ok. I can’t call because I can never get through. We had to evacuate the camp during Tropical Storm Dennis and Hurricane Floyd. We slept in the gym at the big house. It wasn’t all that bad, but in truth we suffered almost no damage except water.

My writings have dropped off a bit because of a lack of stamps. I know that when you last visited me, you brought 60 stamps. If you still have some, I’d like to forward a large envelope full of business letters for you to send. All you need to do is stamp them. The reason why I want to do it that way is because it avoids the “mailed from PCI” stamp.

We got the “Christmas Package” order form last week. I am sending that to you, with my choices picked. If you can’t get it, that’s ok.

I’m sure there is a lot more to add but I’ll keep it short for now. A number of guys like “Batman Beyond” and the “Beast Wars”. Haven’t seen the “Avengers” yet. Is “Pokemon” that popular? Digimon is corny. Anyway I gotta go. Naptime, since it is quiet in the dorm.

Tell everyone I said “hi”. Hope the waters aren’t giving you trouble.”

(end of letter)

Its very interesting that this is dated at the time that our state (NC) had one of the worst hurricanes in the state’s history. Hurricane Floyd did MAJOR damage to numerous towns and cities. But during that time, I was in a prison camp quite literally on the Atlantic Ocean coast.

One of the first things I notice about this letter is a very, very slight detail…the ink. The address and letter was written by me in a “Carolina Blue” ink. This would not mean anything to you, but it reminds me of something pretty important. In many prisons you are allowed to have certain supplies, like paper, pencils or pens. My mom sent me some very nice pens, the Pentel pens, which come in a variety of colors. I actually used some of those to barter for things, as I was one of the very few guys in prison that was getting these pens. Lets face it, when you write in blue or black all the time, the idea of changing it to a green, red, purple or light blue can be a nice change of pace.

And because of that, it kinda made me a little popular with some of the inmates. Some of the guys that did artwork on the camp saw endless possibilities with these nice pens, so I was often approached by guys wanting to barter for them. Yeah, I know, bartering is against prison rules…but if you read my first book, you know how I dealt with that issue.

You will also notice my financial status during that time…in the dumps. I was working as a dorm janitor for $2 a week. Each dorm at the camp had I think it was four different guys as dorm janitors. It was necessary because the dorm room could house as many as 40+ inmates. Imagine that many people using the showers and bathrooms.

These were pretty tough times for me, trying to adjust to the prison, and making no money. A lot of people wonder why inmates need money, or how much, in all fairness I suppose inmates don’t need any money, but if the idea is to simply make them suffer, then mission accomplished. If the idea is to give them hope to change, then sometimes a few dollars makes a great difference when you have the power to purchase. Some of my better days there was on payday, when I got my measly $2 and squeezed a few coins to buy a soda. But many times there was a pressure to just deal with the daily life, made harder when you are broke. I didn’t want my family to worry about me, but being broke for awhile weighs on the heart as well.

I mentioned the state supplies I was using, like the generic toothpaste, shampoo and lotion, these are provided by the state for those who cannot afford to buy the better products. And I gotta tell you, it really wears on your self esteem when you are that far down where you have to use poor products. I mean, this stuff would not even be worth the dollar items at your local Dollar Tree, Dollar General or any other Dollar Store.

Example: right now, I have in the house some “Suave” lotion, which many of you will recognize as a pretty good brand of lotion. You put it on, it softens your skin and feels good (and some varieties have nice scents). But the state lotion is very watered down, you use it and will have to use more, because it is almost worthless.

When you are forced to use state supplies, it really breaks your self esteem, and takes a huge effort daily to get through. And at two bucks a week, there was no way I could afford to buy anything else. It was pretty tough during those days.

In the letter I mentioned seeing a couple of towns in the news. In fact, I think it was the USA Today where I saw parts of Rocky Mount under water. I was worried that if they had problems, what about other cities, including my family? I wasn’t in panic mode, although I could easily have slipped to that, all I could do was hope and have a little faith that my family would be ok. At the time of writing that letter, I had no idea how they were. As it turns out, they were doing fine, which brought a lot of relief to me.

I also mentioned that we had to evacuate, let me explain that. Anyone familiar with Pasquotank Correctional knows that it isn’t one camp…its actually two camps. The administrative building and where most higher level inmates are house is called the “Big house”. But across the way, almost quite literally shouting distance, was the minimum custody camp. At the time I wrote that letter, that is where I was. I had actually started my incarceration at the “Big house”, so I was very familiar with the place.

When we had to evacuate, all inmates had to be put on prison buses, and moved from the minimum custody camp across the way to the “Big house”. We’re talking about 120 to 160 inmates, so not really that much. We had to sleep in the gym, and brought along only what we could carry, but it had to include a mattress. It was actually kinda cool, because since I had been in the larger prison before, I was quite familiar with the gym, and the layout of the prison. At times, I wished I had stayed in the higher security than the so called promotion I got. It was certainly harder for me in minimum custody than in the higher custody. But I suppose if I never was promoted, I would not have been edged to write as much as I did.

Overall, I tried to keep the letter positive, while still talking about some of my issues. As you can easily tell, being broke was my biggest problem, that and my concern for my family. I just can’t tell you guys how much better a person can do his time if he has a few dollars to spend. Now, this does not mean you have to put $100 a week in your loved one’s account, but what it does say is that there are times where a couple of dollars can make the difference of a good day and a frustrating one.

Don’t believe me? Let me share an example.

Consider all the negativity and pressures on an inmate in prison, being around other guys all day long…some are ok, but some get on your last nerve. Consider that chow wasn’t that good, and you’re not feeling all that happy or positive. When things pile up on you, it is important to be able to find a venue to release that pressure. We all do it in different ways, but one way is to divert your energy to control. Well, in prison you don’t have control of much, so you feel frustrated, kinda bound in your incarceration.

But if you had a few dollars, you could go to the canteen and buy something to help you feel better. Its amazing how something as simple as a cold soda can, for a moment, change your disposition. That moment of relaxation, of refreshment, can give you a different perspective on life, even if just for a few minutes. And what it also gives you is the power to make a decision, a choice that you wanted to do. I choose to buy a soda, and spend my money to do something that makes me happy…that is a hidden part of rehabilitation that few people truly understand. But we all understand it when it is in lack.

Now again, I didn’t share that to make you feel guilty and run to the bank to withdraw $100 to send to your loved one today, I just wanted to share with you how a few dollars can indeed help an inmate when he is feeling down. A soda, some snack cakes, some REAL hygiene materials can really make a guy feel better while doing his time.

Oh well, I have run my mouth too much today, I will end it for now. Again, feel free to email me about my products, or make a nice comment. It is my hope to continue to share these blogs, and even to do more in the future. My warmest thanks to those who support my blogs, I am very, very thankful for your kindness. Until my next blog….


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.

#186 Help me, my son is in prison (retro) #188 Prison Talk: Staying positive (new)

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