#196 Lost posts on Prison talk: Books

May 21, 2010 at 1:50 am Leave a comment

Lost posts on Prison Talk: The Books Rejected

So here’s another blog to share with you, one based on the first book I wrote, “Grades of Honor”

This was my first prison book, where I could write about my experiences while in prison. The title is actually a play on words, rather a promotion. When the prison promotes you to the minimum custody from medium or even close custody, you are sent to what is called, “Honor Grade”.

But in my time in several of those prisons, I learned that there are many variations, or grades of that honor, based on the individual. I did far more writing in minimum custody than in medium, and it is those writings that I base a lot of what I share here on my blogs or on posts.

Today I want to share with you a post I wrote for Prison Talk Online, back on November 18th, 2004. This was while I was busy posting a lot of things for the site, and during that time, many people asked me if I ever wrote a book, and if not, why?

Maybe I was a fool for believing I could, but at the same time, I was wondering if maybe by writing a book I could help myself financially, while helping others? It seemed to make sense, so with such a dream, I began writing the first “Grades of Honor”.

After I got into writing the book, I was still making posts to help others, while working on my first book. But what I am about to share with you is interesting, because it shows that indeed the site knew I was writing a book, and many expressed a desire for it, but ironically I would be banned for talking about the very same book that these people so wanted to read. Here’s the post I wrote, titled, “Why write about prison”:

“Hi, in the past few weeks I have been working on this project, writing about my experiences in prison, and I guess I never really addressed this issue. Why bother? Why am I writing this work, and what do I hope to accomplish? That is kinda funny because I never thought about it while I spent about a year and a half in county jail, nor did I think about it when I went from Craven Correctional to Pasquotank Correctional, then to Tyrrell Prison Work Farm, Sanford Correctional, Guilford Correctional, Robeson Correctional and Dan River Prison Work Farm. But in all these places I did write, with the exception of Craven. So why bother now?

Parents don’t know much about what prison is about, only what they hear or see on tv. This is understandable, and we are kinda tuned in like a tv show; there has to be some form of drama or controversy or it isn’t worth watching. Perceptions of prison are the same, although drama is always based on some sort or realism. Before I started writing, I thought I could try to walk people through what I went through in a short period of time. But then I started to understand something…what was common to me may not be to those parents or loved ones that worry so much about their loved ones. You might wonder how he sleeps, what he eats, simple things that I took for common while I was there. It would not be fair to you to skip these things, and to open up my thoughts on it. I understand that people really, really need to know what is going on, to help them cope with the problems of missing a loved one. Sometimes understanding is the greatest cure for worry.

But that thought changed what I was writing. Instead of a glimpse of each camp, and addressing issues, I found that it will have to be longer, to walk you properly through what inmates may go through. For example, my work starts off from the moment I was transferred from county to Craven Correctional, in Vanceboro, NC. I was there about 6 weeks for processing. Originally I figured this will cover about 10 or 20 pages….not now. I am over 50 pages and still have things to talk about. I did not realize how much there was to tell, if I am going to tell it to those who know nothing about prison. But maybe it needs to be told, so people can understand. It causes a delay, but may be worth the delay because I can share more information.

But in a nutshell, why am I writing this? I though about it, and it keeps coming back to a believe I have, something I learned while in prison. I thought about what would make prison a lot less stressful. What factor, if dealt with, would be more helpful to inmates? The only thing that kept coming back to me was one word…accountability.

Inmates are put in prison as punishment for crimes, that cannot be argued; however, the punishment is prison and loss of SOME privileges. There is not ONE officer in this country who has the right to abuse any inmate’s remaining privileges, not one. Yet this happens daily all over the country. Whether the grievance procedure, visitation, mail and many other issues, inmates have to deal with “additional suffering” at the hands of officers who push their authority too far. Let me say quickly though that this is not every officer; there are many very good officers in prisons today, but there are some that are very undesirable. It almost seems to support a double standard of humanity. Inmates have very little chance to prove themselves if prison regards them like dogs and gives them little chance to change for the better. But once they are released, society expects them to “learn their lesson”. These issues, based on honor, are what I am writing about.

I remember many instances in prison where I was so frustrated with prison situations I could barely contain myself. Writing was all I had. Now I am in a situation to hold prisons accountable for those situations. Understand, this is not a prison-bashing work I am working on, far from it. My idea is not to say that, but my goal is to, amongst other things, make certain prisons accountable for what they did, and are doing to inmates. My experiences at the camps will be shared, with details of what happened and the consequenses of each. But I will also share experiences with good officers too, because they deserve it. Loved ones outside the wall have to understand that not every officer is against your loved one. There are kind and good officers that can and will help if they can. I intend to share these situations with readers, as well as those officers who did not treat inmates well. I expect that prison officials that may read this won’t care, which is fine because that has been par for the course, but I believe it is very important to families, friends and loved ones of inmates because it does mean something to them.

If I can just get the reader to step in my skin for the duration of the reading, and see what I see, and feel what I feel, maybe it can clear some of the fog about prison and creat some better understanding, rather than worry. I understand that my situation is different from any other, since no two inmates ever did the exact same time the same way, but we are all the same as inmates, and even moreso as human beings. That did not change when I went in, and when I came out. But the way inmates have to deal with it is very different, made more difficult by prisons not being held accountable for what they do.”

You can see the mentality of my post, in that the book was in some form, supposed to help make prisons accountable for things that nobody tells you about prison. So many inmates have problems that could be better solved if prisons would treat inmates like people, but most prisons always side with the “you can’t trust an inmate”, so often times even when you are right, you are wrong.

But this was early in my first book…things changed a little as I would finish the first book, and eventually write two more. The idea was still to make clear what I went through, but this also included accountability and my personal feelings as a first time felon.

The responses of my post about my new book were as follows:

“I am really looking forward to reading your book – you are not only knowledgable, but very intelligent and perceptive. I think everyone whos life you touch with your writings will open a new door of understanding for them, and we will all learn so much.”

“I too am impatiently awaiting the release of your book!!! I cannot wait to read it…Keep us posted!”

“You have a lot that’s important to say, for a lot of reasons.

First, like it or not, prison experiences are, and will continue to be, an increasingly common part of American life. We have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. 2 million people behind bars. And growing.

Second, prison, as you know, sucks. But a lot of people don’t, and your experiences might be a good way to show that. Tell your tale the right way, and it might make some readers (who may go on to vote or make policy) be a little (or a lot) less harsh in their attitudes. I’ve noticed on this Board that it’s full of people who really didn’t give the matter any thought until they or someone they cared about went down.

Third, prison hurts families, too. It tears them apart. Moms are more willing, I’ve observed, to share their feelings, but dads and others are hurt, too. Maybe get your mom and dad to share their feelings, if they’re willing. This is important because if enough people see the far-reaching effects incarceration has, the cruel pendulum may swing the other way.

Fourth, a felony record is turning into a greater and greater handicap for many people. I suspect in your case, probably not, but for others . . . . .

Fifth, you went down, you’re out, you can still have a good life. Incarceration sucks, it’s often unjust, but it’s not the end of the world, except in a few cases. You could show that.

All up to you.

When it comes out, let me know, and I’ll be at the book signing.”

Other responses to my post were:

“I await your writings as do so many others in here. Our loved ones are in a world we know nothing about. Knowledge is strength. when I’m talking to my son, he does not want to talk about his everyday life, all he will say is that he hates it and the boredom is the very worst thing in the world, nkowing it is going to continue for years on end. So we always talk about what I’ve been doing. So Yes please give us that look into thier world. Thank you”

“Hi ,you have opened my eyes and ears to understand more of what my son is going through from reading your posts. I too cant wait until your book comes out and I pray that it will be a success and open up some minds and hearts to those that have no clue what its like to be incarcerated or have a loved one incarcerated. Maybe then they wont be so judgemental. take care,”

“Why should you write? You should, for you have a “Life Telling Story” to tell us all. Life is about the Living and you and all incarcerated persons have Live a life that is totally unknown to persons such as myself.

A CO once made this statement to me and my family as we were leaving from a visit with my son. He mentioned that my son stayed to himself and was handling himself very well. The CO said, “you know, I would never have thought he (my son) would be incarcerated. My response was “Neither did we”… Typically response… Then the CO replied “You know, he isn’t no different than me or nor most CO’s, we just didn’t get caught”… This was a tell-tale point of view. Yet, I can’t understand, why many CO’s find the need to take their authority and oppress those who are the same (incarcerated human beings) whom only got “caught”. Make no mistake my son, and all guilty incarcerated persons should and must be held accountable for their crimes. The sentence should be fair and fit the nature of the crime. Earned Second Chance rehabilitational programs should be mandated throughout all prisons to bring about an increase in ex-felons as productive members in society and a decrease in “recidivism”.”

So from these comments, I honestly felt that I was on the right track, that if these people felt that way, then surely this could be the turning point of my life. Remember, I posted that post in November of 2004, so maybe 2005 was going to look like the big turnaround in my life.

By mid December of 2004, I had finished writing the first “Grades of Honor” book, and had proofed it and done all I can do to it, considering I had to do it myself, with no publisher. Now I am not gonna sit here and tell you it’s a best seller, its just me writing about my prison experiences as best I can, in an attempt to help others but also to maybe make some money.

So after I finished, I went back to Prison Talk and posted the update:

“Well, I think I am about finished with this first project. I have proofed it so much I can almost recite it myself. I have written what I could, although there is much more I can write in later projects. I have the site up and runing, which gives info about the project. It will explain much more than I can here, since I do not want this to turn into some market scheme. The purpose here is just to say that the writings for the first project “appear” to be done. If I can accomplish the task of opening a few doors so loved ones on both sides can meet and understand one another, I think there might be some helpful things to come out of it.”

To which a couple more responses followed:

“God Bless you for your courage and determionation to let the world know what prison is all about and what needs changing and so forth. Some made get mad at what you write and then again if the right people read your stories it may just well take us all on a road to betterment of all our prison if it be one prison at a time one day at a time and one year at a time! It is up to us to spread your word as far as one can possibly do. I have copied and printed several of your posts and sent them to my daughter and she has intern passed them on to others in her cell block in hope s they learn from you as you are wise beyond belief. You have lifted a lot of chins around here and stopped a lot of tears and I know myself many people look up to you and take your advice very seriously and to heart. Please dont ever leave us when you get famous . We will always need you words of cheer and comfort on PTO always and forever!”

“Wow You Go!!!!! I Know I Will Buy 2 Copies; And Mabye My Hard Headed Sons; Will Read Some Of Your Experences ;and Learn Life Behind Bars Is Not Much Of A Life;”

Gosh…it soooo sucks when you think you have something going right, and things turn a complete 180 degrees.

At that point it really seemed that I was now getting support from the prison SUPPORT site. But what seemed to be happening was just nice lip service. I don’t know what they were waiting for, a television commercial or an ad in the newspaper, neither of which I clearly could not afford. At that point, the book was ready for anyone who wanted one…but the members of Prison Talk never contacted me, either by post or by private mail, about my book.

The comments are very emotional, as you can tell, so I had to believe these people meant what they said. And there was no question about my contributions to the site. I did as much as any person could do to help people with loved ones in prison, and by doing that, it encouraged me to write a book, since the members of PTO kept asking me if I did… so I did, at their request, thinking it will help them more, and be a financial venue for me.

But today, six years later, I am hated by the very people that was speaking well of me. And to be sure, I didn’t sell many of my books to them. In fact, when I completed the first book, I made three copies, and emailed three different members of PTO, and asked them if I could send them a copy….FOR FREE!

If I could have gotten just a slight wiff of promotion off that, maybe things would have been much different, but none of those people spoke about my book. I think there was a sentence or so where one of them mentioned my book, but not much more.

It seemed that all that talk was a waste of time…maybe writing that book was a waste of time.

Yet that can’t be true, because I went on to write two more books, and a blog book, and continued to post and blog. The setback because of my lack of support was ironic, because to be sure, I gave the site as much support as one could possibly give. But it seemed to imply that in the end, I was still an ex felon, and despite writing over 1000 posts, and answering countless private emails from those members… I was still just an ex felon, not to be trusted.

Funny how things change, from that post, where I was giving them all I could give, to now, where even the owner spits on my name. But does that change my desire to help? It should, because it would have been easy to assume that members at Prison Talk are just that…all talk, and don’t really care about anybody but their own loved ones in prison. Its easy to assume that, and I will wager that MOST are actually like that.

But since then, I have written for other support sites, some ended up banning me like LostVault and WriteAPrisoner at the very mention of my book, many other sites ended up going belly up. But deep inside, my desire to help did not change. Hey, you are not looking at a perfect individual, not even close…but what I can do is write, and if that is what it takes to help, then I can at least do that.

So my books are there, Grades of Honor 1, 2 and 3, and I also have a Blogbook. In fact, I actually started on Grades of Honor 4 a few months ago, but have not been back to pick it up. If things turn, then it would be a great project (among many others) for me to work on. We’ll see.

Anyways, just another example of what I wrote, maybe we can share more later. Email me if you are interested in my books, cards and other projects. Of course, if you want to support my blogs, I would be more than happy to accept. Until then…

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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.

#195 Lost posts on Prison talk; for mothers #197 Finding Thanksgiving in prison (retro)

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