#210 Prison Testimony of One

May 28, 2010 at 5:20 pm Leave a comment

Prison Testimony of One

Before I begin, make sure you take the time to read, “Do Prisons Lie”, because it has apparently been a hot topic of late here on my blog.

I got several emails from people who appreciated the detail of my discussion, where I talked about how prisons intentionally twist the words of the rules to say what they want it to say, to defeat the arguments of inmates.

Now I am not ignorant, in that sometimes inmates whine about things that are not worth arguing about, or that inmates themselves can twist words to try to make a federal case against a prison.

On example was when I was at Pasquotank Correctional, and during Thanksgiving, the prison served us a great Thanksgiving lunch…technically it was lunch, but it really was the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, just served at lunchtime since it required much preparation, and was easier to serve by preparing in the morning than in the afternoon.

Yet one guy in our dorm was whining about how he felt the portions weren’t enough, and wanted to write a grievance about it. I remember thinking to myself, “this guy is an idiot!”. He actually tried to solicit many of us to write a grievance because the Thanksgiving meal wasn’t enough…oh come on!

So I know that sometimes inmates make up silly reasons for a grievance, and obviously that kind of argument would not float for a second on paper. But not all grievances are that frivolous. Sometimes inmates have a point to make, but all too often, the prisons reject the voice of the inmate, purely because they can.

The situation that happened to me at Robeson Correctional was a perfect example of how foolish a prison system can act instead of simply trying to make a resolution that benefits both sides of the prison.

Again, you might want to read that blog on “Do Prisons Lie” and in it you will see how detailed I was in my argument. But one thing I also remember about that time is how very stressed I was…almost on the brink of anger. It is a very hard thing when you are trying to voice an educated opinion, but the prison absolutely refuses to acknowledge that you have a brain.

So today, got some emails from people who appreciated that blog, and I decided to look for some more on this issue. Remember folks, I saved almost EVERYTHING I wrote while in prison. Several years ago I sorted all my works in prison based on the camp I was on. I put them in separate folders and wrote the name of the camp on that folder. That way, if I wanted to talk about Tyrrell Prison Work Farm, I can go to that folder (or folders) and pull it out and see all the things I wrote while I was there. Anything from grievances, journals, letters or anything else, I kept. In this case, I looked for and found the “Robeson” folder.

Because I was not at this camp very long, the folder wasn’t as big as my “Pasquotank” or “Tyrrell” folders. I was at Robeson less than 2 months…have to check my notes to give you a more exact time frame.

But there are lots of things in it that trigger a LOT of memories. I found a few of the rejected grievances, still intact, that the prison improperly rejected. I have letters from the DOC, the NC Prisoner Legal Services (which is a complete joke), and other people I wrote to.

But what I also found was something interesting…something I forgot I wrote.

A self written document titled “Testimony of One”.

I wrote this document either while I was at Robeson, or after I was kicked out and sent to Dan River Prison Work Farm, in Yanceyville, NC. In fact, after looking at the end of the document, I am pretty sure it was written while I was at Dan River, because there are points that indicate my removal from the prison: as such, I would not have written this at Robeson if I had been removed.

So technically this belongs in my Dan River folder, but because it happened at Robeson, I guess I kept it there.

This document goes into EXTREME detail of what happened while I was at Robeson Correctional. If you thought what I talked about on “Do Prisons Lie” was detailed, you really have no clue.

Because I had forgotten all about it, I sat in the living room, looking at this thing I wrote years ago. It actually wasn’t uncommon for me to write a document while in prison, I had actually written several on different prison issues. But what was so interesting about this one was the length…

25 Pages!

Wow, I must have been some kinda pissed!

But you know, just reading it almost puts me right back on those days, and it also includes the internal stress and frustration that came with it. Even now folks as I am blogging, I am almost feeling the same way I felt when I was going through those times… and it is not a very comfortable feeling.

I cannot explain what it was like, a very, very stressful situation where you feel there is nothing you can do, but you simply cannot give in. This was quite literally pure persecution, because there was no reason why Robeson Correctional, and DOC in general would fight me so hard for such a simple request. They clearly was NOT going to give me an inch, simply because I am an inmate.

I didn’t ask to get promoted, I would have been fine staying in medium custody, but the prison system says that moving from a higher security level to a lower one is a “promotion” meaning it is something that is earned. You don’t promote a guy doing 100 years to minimum custody inside of his first 3 weeks in prison. You don’t promote an inmate to minimum custody if he is known to start fights. It has to be earned.

I hated minimum custody folks, I would have been so much better if they left me alone, and let me do my time in medium custody. I didn’t bother anybody, I did everything as best I could, and no officers had any problems with me. Ironically, it was also during that time I hated God…go figure.

Now, if you read “Grades of Honor” you know the details of that, and you also know that after awhile, I went back to God, but that was when everything changed, and I was “promoted”.

I was no longer in my safe zone, with everything going well, I was now in a new environment, which was different from what I was used to. It was also more stressful. But this new environment triggered me to start doing what perhaps I was meant to do… write about prison issues.

But this came at many hurts. I was being “removed” from one prison to the next, not because I was breaking the rules, but because the prisons didn’t want to deal with me. From one prison to the next, I was bounced around. The document I wrote, “Testimony of One” was based on what happened at Robeson.

As I read it a short while ago, my intention was to share it with you, word for word. That was when I thought it was a few pages… but when I saw I had written 25 pages, I was like, wow, no way I can do that today.

And what was also happening was that as I was reading, I was getting back all those emotions, and the newness of the anger really bothered me. I am being honest folks, I was upset at how deliberate the prison was treating me.

There is a section in my document where I talk about Case Manager Teresa Jones, and I tell you folks, I have rarely been so angry to want to do something to somebody. I was so angry …..

Let me back up and share that part with you folks.

In the middle of this document I wrote, after I was having my grievances rejected one after another, I was called to the office of Case Manager Teresa Jones…I have absolutely NO respect for this person for what she did.

The idea was to discuss to me why they kept rejecting my grievances. This was not really a discussion, but a brow beat down. She told me that grievances are a privilege and are thus “optional” and if the DOC decided to do away with the inmate grievance procedure, there was nothing that we as inmates could do about it. She was clearly implying that by such foolish ideas, the prison didn’t have to acknowledge the grievance procedure if they didn’t want to.

I countered her by stating that in Webster’s dictionary, the word “privilege” was defined as an EARNED status, NOT optional. But in the middle of my counter, she cut me off and said, “Don’t play schematics with me”.

Mind you folks, this was a discussion just between me and her, in her office…if ever there was a possibility to provoke rage, that would have been it for me. I am very sure it was the grace of God that kept me from doing something that I would have regretted, and likely something DOC would have been glad to punish me by.

Can you imagine how I felt, in that office, when this lady cuts me off on my discussion to impose her superiority? It was clear that I was not supposed to make a case, only to take what they tell me and like it.

She continued to belittle me by saying that until I learn how to write a proper grievance, they will continue to reject it, and coldly handed my grievance back to me. I took the grievance and bitterly left, but before walking out, I said, “expect another grievance”.

I was so upset, so angry that my hands were shaking. I knew I had a valid point, and I also knew that Robeson was not going to even try to admit that maybe I had a point. This wasn’t even about the grievance procedure, this was about control of an inmate.

Even now folks, I can feel some of what I felt back then, and my hands almost shake in anger as I type this. So you can imagine how I felt then, while being spit in the face by people like Teresa Jones.

The easiest thing to have done was to quit, to just resolve that no matter what you do, there are people on DOC that just refuse to acknowledge you as a human being. They are people who feel they have a God-ordained mission to persecute every inmate by total denial of any help.

But I could not quit, I just could not. As angry and depressed and stressed as I was as I left the office of Teresa Jones, I KNEW I was right. I had a right to write that grievance, I knew the rules and knew I could have written about that situation because it involved me as well. But what do you do when you have the doors closed in your face, with people laughing at you?

It seemed like the situation was hopeless, and I was powerless. Like most inmates, you start to believe that there is nothing you can do, but suck it up and do your time as best you can.

But I didn’t stop…I just could not.

Call it ignorance, call it determination, but I was not going to let the camp beat me simply because they say they can. The truest foundation of rehabilitation is when an individual resolves to do his best to change a situation, to do GOOD things, even in the face of apparent defeat. Inmates need to learn that you simply cannot just give up because DOC says you are wrong. This is the same story that they tell society, and many politicians tell the public, and although there might be some truth to it, it only served to stereotype every ex felon who tries to make amends on their faults.

We don’t forgive, because we are taught NOT to.

But for every inmate, there must be a time where he or she is willing to press on, even with absolutely no proof or chance of winning. That sounds like insanity, and maybe to many of you it is, but there was just something about this situation, and many others like it, that may have defined what I was trying to do.

If I had never been a writer, or a good one, I certainly would not have continued in this situation; I would have given up. If I had never started writing journals while I was in college, I would never have written so much while in prison. And if I had never believed in God, I would have believed that there was no way I could win this fight.

Those things, and likely many other characteristics, had to have played a major role in how I was going to react to this situation. But all those factors came together in me to influence what I would do. Do I give up, and hate the authority and try to do my time as the average person would, or do I fight for the little I have left in me, which is my dignity. I might have just been an inmate, and a lowly one at that, but I was determined that no officer in DOC was going to outright lie to me and make me accept it. I was not bending my knee to these people, not this way.

So after being so rudely dismissed from Teresa Jones’ office, I did exactly what I said I was going to do, I wrote another grievance. I wrote a journal about the situation, so that I would not forget the details, and kept it with my belongings. This was now a fight, a war if you will. Robeson was determined to undermine all my grievances, and had the backing of the DOC. All I had was me…

And God.

Sounds blasphemous to say that? Not really. The way Robeson conducted the grievance procedure was nowhere near righteous, nor fair, nor constitutional. I don’t mind being wrong if one can fairly and accurately point out the reasons for the rejection, but as I detailed in “Do Prisons Lie”, what the prison were clearly doing was twisting those words, and thus clearly obstructing the procedure.

The huge disadvantage on my side is that in theory, nobody believes what inmates say, because DOC encourages the public to think that all inmates do is whine and cry and make excuses. It reminds me of a guy I talked to in the mall a couple of months ago who mocked a guy that said he was innocent while in prison. He was like “yeah right”. I told him that sometimes that can be true, as there was an article about a guy that had to be released from prison after doing 30 years, when they found that his DNA was not a match…

Sometimes inmates can be telling the truth.

Or when a disciplinary officer tried to tell me to not trust inmates, because there are no “friends” in prison. He obviously believed that no two inmates could find enough respect for one another to consider another a friend. His belief was to not trust any other inmate, to which I REALLY wanted to counter, but somehow, I kept my mouth shut.

When society believes the worst in inmates, it makes it very hard to hear them when they are telling the truth. We’ve been condition to not care, and this is quite true with it even comes to prison employees.

All this translates to the frustration I had, as written in those 25 pages. I arrived there on a retaliation, and was eventually shipped out on another retaliation. And each time I tried to make an educated point, through letter or grievance, the DOC would ALWAYS side with the prison, sometimes sending me in circles that if I had a problem with the grievance, maybe I need to write a grievance.

How stupid is that?

So it may well have seemed that I fought against the prisons, losing every battle. No one ever gave place that I MIGHT have a point, but that what DOC did was appropriate. And because I was limited to information, I had to go off what I knew, and any info I might be able to find from fellow inmates.

It would seem I lost those battles, because I never got resolution from those issues…but then, here I am today.

If I didn’t go through those situations, if I didn’t write them, if I didn’t save them, and if I didn’t have faith that I could endure, there is no way I could have shared what I did today. When I shared that blog about “Do Prisons Lie” I got a lot of emails from people who found encouragement that an inmate CAN make a difference. And understand this folks, even if it meant be being labeled a “troublemaker” by the prison, I had a lot of respect from the inmates, because they believed that if there was a problem, I would do my best to try to find a solution. In the course of my incarceration, I had many inmates ask me for some help, whether writing a grievance, or writing letters about things that concerned them. I wasn’t everybody’s friend, but I know that from my actions and not willing to fold up when DOC snapped their fingers, I had actually earned respect from other inmates.

Today, what I write can reach anyone, rather than when I was in prison, and limited to whom I sent a letter to. So the things I suffered through at camps like Robeson can be shared so that you can be in a position to understand it, and hopefully, to know wht to do about it. Just because I didn’t get a resolution does not mean you can’t. In fact, knowing what I went through gives you a greater advantage. If Robeson was to try that stunt again, you have a ton of information available to you. You can write letters and forward them to DOC, public officials, the media, and even blog about it on the internet. The huge advantage you now have is that in my case, DOC was able to suffocate my problem, seeing that it never got out, and thus able to control it entirely. But from a citizen, that cannot be so easily ignored.

The prison might not care at all about the plight of their own inmates, but I wager they must listen to a credible letter written by someone that thought the situation through. Remember folks, prison officials are accountable to public officials, which are accountable to the VOTERS.

You have a powerful voice, if used the right way.

So I hope to maybe share “Testimony of One” but it is quite long. I am thinking of writing it out as a separate document, and making it available with my books or cards, have to think on it.

Anyway, I will try to relax today, reading that document really spiked some feelings for me, but that very feeling is one that a lot of you may feel. I am confident if I was to continue to share prison issues like this, many of you would get a strong idea of how to help your loved ones. Maybe I’ll do that in the future. At any rate, email me or make a nice comment, until then…


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.

#209 Too much or too little #211 Top 3 Prison blogs, ch3

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