#223 Current list of works (retro)

Current List Of Works

Books

Grades of Honor: Craven Correctional (77pgs)
Grades of Honor: Pasquotank Correctional Pt.1 (97pgs)
Grades of Honor: Pasquotank Correctional Pt2 (107pgs)

Prison Encouragement Certificates

Angel Feather Award
Blessed Hope Award
Certificate of Love I
Certificate of Appreciation I
Certificate of Hope
Certificate of Grand Love
Certificate of Peace
Certificate of Holiday Joy (xmas)
Certificate of Unconditional Love
Certificate of Love II
Certificate of Joy
Certificate of Appreciation II
Certificate of Love III
Gold Encouragement Award
Certificate of Tranquility
Certificate of Remembrance
Certificate of Hope II
Certificate of Holiday Peace (xmas)
Certificate of Hope III
Eternal Hope Award
Hope of the Faithful Award
Certificate of Imani (Kwanzaa)
Certificate of Appreciation II
Merit of Encouragement
Merit of Peace
Certificate of Peace II
Certificate of Peace III
Certificate of Support
In Appreciation
Peace Be Unto You
Rose Encouragement Award
Stratosphere Award
Certificate of Christmas Hope
Christmas Joy Certificate
Christmas Spirit Award
(more being created)

Cards

No Two Snowflakes Are The Same
Bringing Life To You With Hope
Broken Wings
Virtues From The Wall
A Special Wish Of Encouragement (1-5)
Encourage For The Incarcerated
Encouragement I and II
In Difficult Times
Simplicity in Faith
Finding Peace
I Love You (from mom)
Hope Card
Incarcerated Or Not, You Are Loved (1-8)
Words of Encouragement
Kwanzaa (1-4)
Love Is Forever
The Path In The Wall
The Rainbow Unseen
Thinking About You And Missing You
Hang In There
We Think The World Of You
From One Who Knows
Celebrating You
Hang In There We Love You
Thought You Could Use A Card Today
Waiting For You To Come Home
Hey Sweetie
Just A Card To Help You Feel Better
Hang In There II
Thinking Of You
Sending You My Pleasant Thoughts
Thinking Of You, Missing You
For Someone I Love
Lessons From Nature (1-5)
A Candle For The Incarcerated
Missing You So Much
A Card Full Of Love
Sending The Best Wishes To You
Warm Wishes To You
It’s About Faith
Two Simple Words For Inmates
There Is Faith In This Card
Be Encouraged Today
Silent Night
The Game And How To Win
Words Of Wisdom
Christmas Cards (1-16)

There are also many other prison issue works written, often included on purchases of my books. There are also several documents on key issues in prison, from canteen to the grievance procedure, as well as a blog book in the works. Email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com for any questions you may have about my works.

June 7, 2010 at 12:01 am Leave a comment

#222 Y I Left FOI (retro)

Y I Left Families of Inmates

I had gotten a few emails on this, and actually got a few new readers from the Daily Strength group “Families of Inmates”. I guess I need to discuss that with you guys so you can see where I stand.

As usual, email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com to ask how you can support my works and to ask me about issues to blog about.

I actually submitted a post to that site many months ago, under my original name, “masonik4”. I had forgotten all about it until a few months ago when I saw my post still there. I decided to join and see if I could share a few more posts.

This was going against myself because at that time I had already realized that prison support sites don’t really help others cope, they only share problems with others, with almost no venue for resolution. I learned this at Prison Talk Online and every other prison support site I have ever been on.

I joined the “Families of Inmates” and quickly started sharing posts with two goals in mind. ONE, to help people. TWO, to hopefully earn the respect of some members so that maybe they will consider me for my projects.

This is where a lot of idiots miss it…like moderators and the such.

My goal was not to “hawk a book”, it would have been the offspring of my main goal, which was to HELP PEOPLE. If I can get you to believe in what I say, and to find hope and faith, then you will naturally believe in me and thus would be more inclined to consider my “Grades of Honor” books or cards or such.

But people at sites like Daily Strength, Prison Talk, Lost Vault, Write A Prisoner and others foolishly think that an ex con is OBVIOUSLY there to sell his junk, or to con people out of money.

Idiots.

But despite me running into that problem every single time, I decided to try Daily Strength. So I posted numerous posts taken from my blogs, and nearly every one of them were well received by the members. I got lots of emails of people wanting to add me to their friends list, I had emails and many comments about my posts.

But during that time someone made some unfair comments on one of my posts. I take it very personal when someone tries to tell me that I don’t know what I am talking about, and I also know how that goes. I respond, they respond with more anger, and it gets out of hand, and the whole post gets removed and I get either banned or warned.

So I left.

But I kept getting comments on my posts, emails from members and friends requests by members. One person touched my heart in telling me how much my posts meant to her, and I could not leave her without at least trying again. So I went back.

At the time, I was sharing my first couple of parts of “Prison 101: Communication”. When I share a post on Daily Strength’s “Families of Inmates”, this is how I do it:

I copy straight from my blog, then edit it before I send it on the Daily Strength site. I try to edit out anything about my promotions or emailing me. But on part two of the “Prison 101” blog, I forgot to do that.

I posted it wondering if I should go back and take that part out, but didn’t see how to edit a post after you post it. So I left it. I got a few good comments from it and one or two friend requests, so I went back to check it out. When I did, I saw that my post was removed. I was so pissed that I immediately decided to get the hell out of there.

Now, why am I upset?

Because it is sad to see a so called “prison support” site that claims to really care about people, but in actuality treats people like common criminals. Yeah, I know there are rules, but let’s understand something about these prison support sites:

The BOTTOM LINE in these sites is to encourage help. I say once and I say a thousand times, a prison site filled with people who have never been in prison is as lost as a blind man in a fog with landmines. Sure, some people might be able to say a word or two, or talk about what their “man” did in prison, but if there is no foundation of TRUE EXPERIENCE, then the site has no basis to begin with.

I don’t care if there are 1000 wives, mothers or girlfriends on a site, if there aren’t people there that can speak from experience, or enough people to speak from experience, then the site is nothing more than a cackling hen’s party of misery.

My beef with Daily Strength is that whoever is the lord of the site never bothered to weigh options; they decided that after about 20 posts, my last words weren’t good enough and deleted me without the benefit of the doubt.

Lots of you don’t understand that, so let me explain. If I had just joined the site, and the VERY first post I shared was about my “Grades of Honor” books, then any member there can easily see that I didn’t come there to help. My post would appear selfish and self serving. Under those conditions, the moderator would have been much more justified to just delete the post or even warn the member.

This is based on the character of the writer. He didn’t contribute anything, he has no value to the site, so his words are treated as ill. I get that. But as I said before, I contributed at LEAST 12-20 posts, NONE of them being of any problem to the moderator, and most brought a lot of supportive comments. Many of those members made it clear to me of my contributions, which obviously was not common. In my contributions, I established a level of some respect that I didn’t come there to sell you a book, I came there to help you if I can.

This is something the people at Prison Talk, Lost Vault and Write A Prisoner will never understand, and until they do, those moderators will continue to treat ex felons like common criminals, while crying in the moonlight about why their loved one is having such a hard time. Be careful how you treat folks, sometimes it comes full circle.

My disappointment with Daily Strength is that whoever is the “lord” of that site never considered my past works, but rather found fault and swift punishment. You guys understand how similar this is to what ex felons go through? The person who deleted my post never thought about what I contributed and decided to at least give me the benefit of the doubt. If I share that many posts to help you, and my last one mentions my books, I would not be that upset if you deleted and then sent me a private message about it….

And NO I am not talking about one of those automated messages informing me that my post was deleted because of some rules. I mean TALK to me like a person…not like a criminal.

If what I shared had value, then the writer of it (me) has some value, and thus ought to be given a chance to be told in person why it was deleted. I am not saying to kiss my butt, I am saying treat me like a person. See many of you won’t understand that because to you, it just looks too simple. The post was deleted, get over it, right?

Yeah, say that when your son can’t get a job because the employer did a background check…deal with THAT.

Say that when your husband can’t get his life back because of his criminal record…deal with THAT.

Say that when your boyfriend tries to start an honest business, but can’t sell anything because nobody wants to support an “ex con”….deal with THAT.

It seems so simple to overlook the prejudice involved because it isn’t you. But when it happens to your son, your husband, your boyfriend, then it becomes a national crisis. But we are all a part of the problem, and also part of the solution.

This reminds me of when I made a post months ago about how a Christian radio station cheated me in wages, and how I had to get the Department of Labor on them. One idiot wrote to me challenging the idea that I was making it seem like I was never at fault.

Note to that idiot…you WORK, you get paid MINIMUM WAGE. That Christian radio station did not pay me minimum wage, and lied to the government that I was a volunteer…until I proved them wrong with the check stubs…I might be wrong in hell of a lot of things… but not that one.

But it proves that ex felons can “afford” to be treated bad because after all, that’s just the way it is…just deal with it.

When a couple of idiots on the NC forum of Prison Talk spat all over my posts and I tried to argue my point, the moderator of the site warned me of banishment by saying, “if someone says something that you don’t agree with on your posts, deal with it”.

Stupid idiot.

All these things are small bits of proof that some of the very people that claim to be involved in prison support really have no clue of what that means. People like that are going to make it very hard for an ex felon to prove himself, because even if he does right 99 times in a row, and messes up the 100th time, THAT is going to be the one they remember.

I have over 1200 posts on Prison Talk under “masonik4” and “Nolaw97”, and thousands of people have read and emailed me from it…but in the end I got banned because some stupid moderator didn’t like what someone said in support of me and they have apparently been reading my blogs… (and many STILL do).

Daily Strength is no different…and no better.

And the true shame is that for every idiot on these sites, there are a hundred people that my heart goes out to. There are lots of people who really appreciated what I shared, and I would have shared 100 more posts just to help them out. What problem would it be for me to copy and paste any of my 160+ blogs and share it on the site? I’ve got over 600 pages I can share!

But there is always someone who feels that they have to be the warden, the one in charge that takes no crap. And let’s be honest, I am not saying I was right in this situation. I told you that I forgot to edit that part out. But when you are dealing with support, then the strongest force of that must be compassion to humanity. That’s not what Daily Strength showed, and it shows me that they are not really that interested in helping.

But here’s the irony. Somebody will make a post about some prison book they bought at some book store about prison, and everybody there will swear by it like it was brought down by Moses himself. But that same author would have never made a post in his or her life, and would not take your email if you had a question to ask. But I get up there and after only one mention of my books, I am a con man.

Prison Talk treated me the same way.

It’s the great hypocrisy I live by, some of the greatest ironies of prison writing. While in prison, I was actually kicked out of prisons (transferred to another prison) in retaliation for writing about prison issues. When I got out, I was cheated in wages by one Christian station, and had my job stolen from me from a second Christian station after helped rebuild it when their General Manager died.

I have been banned from numerous prison support sites for even mentioning my books, but in the same forum there are members swearing by other prison books written by people who either never been in prison, or never made a post in their lives.

Folks, I don’t get it.

It is strange how to HELP folks, I got to go through all this hell. I know there is something spiritual in it, but I just felt like I had to share this with you. It was really bearing on me, even though there is a preseason football game on, (Bears vs. 49ers). I’ll catch the second half and enjoy it from there on.

I just had to get that off my chest because it ticks me off how you can try to do your best and get spit in the face by the very people you are trying to help. Lots of you have loved ones that is going to go through similar situations, so I share these feelings now so you will understand later.

Oh well, I am tired. Not so much mentally, but just a little bit. Nothing a cold pizza can’t cure, with some soda. Anyway, I hope you understood the underlying theme of what I shared. This isn’t about just a mistake, this is about how people deal with other people. When you deal impersonally with people, you lose that sense of human compassion. And if you run a prison support site, then you have undermined your own beliefs.

As for me, screw all those other support sites, I was never wanted there anyway.

June 6, 2010 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

#221 The day after prison… 2 years later (retro)

The Day After Prison: 2 years later

I want to share with you something that I wrote 2 years ago for a program called “Open Source”, a radio program that debates critical issues.

Before I do, I again want to remind you about emailing me about any issues you may have, and to ask me about my books. I am also quite open to support from you if you find my blogs to be of some help. I am most grateful to a person who sent me a gift today, which will certainly help me buy some ink and paper to produce my books…

As well as a delicious meal at Burger King…which is important too.

I don’t take it lightly that I am very grateful for any gifts a person sends, because it reinforces in me to want to do more, and to do it better. If a person believes that much in me, I have to do my best to not let them down.

So I try to work more on writing, and giving you perspectives from one who has been in prison. I am also about half way done with my first blog book, and it features blogs I wrote back in 2005 and early 2006. I hope you ask me about that.

Now, about two years ago, I was writing for a bunch of different sites and had recently been blogging on my original prison blog, called “Grades of Honor”, after my books. I was sent an email by someone asking if I could participate in a radio program called “Open Source”, to which I was pretty intrigued. I told them I would be interested, and actually blogged a bit about that, but as it turned out, they ended up not needing me. Kinda depressing, but I can’t complain.

The article of discussion was on the idea of what to do for inmates after they get out of prison. The actual title was “The Day After Prison”, and the program had several different guests to talk about how society can help inmates who are recently released from prison.

One comment they said was around the old idea that when you finish doing your time, they give you a bus ride and drop you off with $20. Well, the reality is pretty close to that. When I got out, I was given a check for $45. I was fortunate enough to be able to have a home to go to, but for many other guys who don’t, you are literally begging them to fail again.

So the discussion was on this issue, and the debate featured a director from a college of criminal justice, a commissioner of NY DOC, a detective in a police department and a former inmate who spent less than a year in minimum custody.

I guess that was who replaced me.

Anyway, there was a discussion on this, and I added my comment, which is the following:

April 28th, 2006 at 2:38 pm

I think the problem with society is that we are too quick to place people in groups without knowing all the details. I mean, if you say you don’t want killers or rapists or whatever, how much do you REALLY know about their situation, or do you simply assume that every person in prison was correctly judged and condemned?

Let’s be fair about a few things, yes there are some people in prison who need to be there, but there are also some that are there on circumstances. For example, if a female falsely accused a person of rape, and got that guy sent to prison, by some people’s own words, they are forever condemned, even if you don’t really know what happened. This can go for any situation, and creates a very unfair judgement of people by those who are not willing to consider that MAYBE some of the circumstances wasn’t as clear cut as a CSI episode.

This isn’t fair to the inmate who did his time and is trying to change, because by some comments here, society could really care less. I kinda agree with the other ex felon, because I am one myself, that some of the people doing the most talking are the ones that are only doing that to assure themselves that at least they talked about it. But put the real issues to them and they won’t touch it.

But I have always believed that every person deserves a chance, regardless of what others think. If a guy coming out of prison really wants to change, and does his best, society (especially a Christian society) ought not judge them and see if they can help. I write alot about that in my prison blogs, and to me, the biggest point in almost everything I try to share is that there HAS to be hope…

who are you to take that away from them?

My comment was made after on person commented on how he felt society can help ex offenders. But I wasn’t in full agreement to what he said. In his comment, he said that he felt that killers, rapists and child molesters should never come out of prison, but right after that he talks about how society should try to help ex offenders get their lives back together.

He kept talking about “making it possible” to do this or that, but in my opinion, he is already part of the problem because he has already segregated 3 groups of inmates. You can’t pick and choose who you want to help, if the top priority is TO help.

My comments made on that debate addressed the essence that until you know all the circumstances of every single person, you cannot group them without prejudice. For example, let’s just take rapist.

Now understand here, I am NOT endorsing in ANY level this sort of behavior, so don’t go twisting my words. My blogs have always been about prison issues, but my heart is never far from victims of crime. I hope you understand that before I go on.

Having said that, I think anyone who is convicted of rape SHOULD do time…but AFTER HE HAS DONE THE TIME…

Let him try to get his life back.

And lots of people don’t like that, they want these people to stay in prison forever…but if a court of law convicts a man and gives him his time, then JUSTICE WAS SERVED.

Again, don’t twist this to make it sound like the victim wasn’t important, I understand how very traumatic this can be to a victim and their family, and as I said before, my heart goes out to each and every one of them.

But if the LAW says he has to do 10 years, and he does it, why then are you going to impose more damnation? When does the justice system end, if you continue to condemn after a court of law?

By doing this, you are refusing to allow a person to change his life. What if that person was very, very sorry for what happened, and swore to himself and to God that he would do what he could to make up for what he did?

Doesn’t matter, since society has already decided that he is worthless.

So when does mercy come in? When is a man who has served his debt allowed to pick up his life, if he has done his time?

See, lots of people don’t understand that part because they are too busy bashing the fallen with a cross, acting like the faults of a man is an eternal sin. Rape is wrong, no two ways about it, but any crime is wrong, and should be treaded the same way, by letting the judicial system run it’s course.

There’s another side too, every case is different, and some cases are not as demonstrative as the crime says. Some of these cases are very iffy, and the results can depend on who has more money, the race of the person and whether they have a court appointed lawyer or not.

In short, not everybody in prison is 100% guilty…sometimes the courts are wrong. Justice may be blind…but not the people who hold it in their hands.

I say all this because what it proves is that anyone who isolates a group of criminals is purely ignorant. You cannot say that every case is clear cut, because you don’t know the details of every case in the country…all you know is that they were found guilty. I will not argue that there are some guys that NEED to be in prison, and I also know there are some that, when released, will go right back to prison. But nobody living on this planet can tell me that every single person in prison deserves to be there. To do that, you’d have to know every single case and the details…

You’d have to be God.

And you’re NOT.

So my comment was based on the idea that this guy made a comment out of ignorance, choosing to believe in an absolute, when that is not possible. There are some guys that fit in those categories that DESERVE to be in prison, no doubt about it, but since I don’t know the exact details of every case, I cannot point the finger and say, “ALL” rapists, or ALL of anything should do this or that.

I just don’t have that power to condemn that much humanity…knowing I myself am not perfect. My house is made of cheap glass, and there are lots of rocks along the road near my home…

(get it?)

And the comment I made, with the ones before it, almost expose a greater issue than helping inmates, it’s the identification of the ex offenders. Until a person looks at an ex offender and says, “you have a second chance, what will you do with it” with sincerity and honesty, then for the most part, guys coming out of that hell will just enter into a secondary hell.

You can’t help these people until you first free your heart of their past. If you can’t do that, you’ll never be in a position to help an ex felon, because you’ll still be condemning them.

If a person told you they did time, it ought not matter what they were there for, should it? If so, then you are more likely to give place to a guy that did 30 days for trespassing than a guy who did 20 years for child molestation.

You’re pre-judging because you ASSUME the person with the lesser sin is better than the person with the greater sin. So the person with the greater charge loses a chance to better himself.

What if the person that did 20 years is absolutely devoted to changing his life and doing whatever he can to make amends? What if the person who did 30 days just doesn’t give a damn about anything?

In the most general of scopes, if both of these guys did their time and return to society, they OUGHT to be looked at as citizens, and welcomed back to society IF they are willing to respect the law and be a positive influence in society. But that’s not how it works, and we all know that.

We have put the crimes in grades of evil, and award the lesser evil the most privileges, while continuing to punish those with the greater evils. What this means is that we have NOT forgiven.

And if not, then you can’t possibly help them…because you still don’t give a damn.

I have lived this since I got out in 2001, and may continue to live it until I die…

(Lord I hope not…)

I sometimes wish I could hit the lotto for $500,000,000 so I can uproot and move out of this country and live on an island and enjoy life…

But if I did that, I would not be blogging now. And it has been pure hell trying to talk about prison issues on sites where many readers like to pick your brain for stuff, but won’t give you the time of day. I learned this the hard way from Prison Talk, and many other sites.

But I have also seen people that I have really touched because I took the time to help them. There are emails I get from people that let me know that my problems in prison and after gives me a unique place to share and help others. I know I am doing some good, even if a speck at a time.

And when someone sends me a gift to help me support my writings, I see that there are indeed people out there that care, and understand that nobody is perfect. I understand that there IS hope for guys who do time and get out, needing a second chance. There ARE people who don’t try to be selective of one sin or another; you look at the character of the person.

I didn’t see that when I got out of prison in 2001. But now in 2008, and after thousands of pages of writing, and thousands of emails over the last several years, and all the posts, blogs and other writings I have done, there are people that want to help.

So there is hope for the inmate who comes out of prison…if they are willing to earn it. The day after prison is more than a transition from one place to another, it is a transition of LIFE, and if the inmate can make that change, I think he will be fine…

But it also takes society to discard their prejudices about ex felons and give these people a second chance…heck, God would.

But ironically, humans don’t…go figure.

Anyway, gotta run, email me about my books or how you can support my writings at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com

June 6, 2010 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

#220 When inmates must defend the honor (retro)

When Inmates Must Defend The Honor

Today is a nice cool Sunday morning as I start this blog; as many of you know I didn’t blog yesterday because it’s been kinda quiet on the email side. I did get some emails from some of you wishing me well in my war against allergies…

Today I feel almost perfect. Thanks for your well wishes.

I say “almost” because I learn that unfortunately there is no soda in the refrigerator…so looks like I have to drink water…not that I’m complaining (much).

But I feel pretty good today, yet with no emails asking about prison issues I wanted to write something today. It would have been easy to just go back and copy and paste a blog I did months ago, but I didn’t want to do that. So I went to my room and pulled out a folder of journals, letters and such that I wrote while in prison. I figured I can use something to share a blog with some of you today, and I found one. It actually is something I touched on a few blogs back.

I mentioned several blogs back about how we tried to petition the prison as inmates about how the road squads were fed? Well, I actually have the letters I wrote with me, and I wanted to try to cover this situation for you.

The reason for this is to share with you that sometimes inmates MUST work with one another to defend their honor…or dignity if you will. Now, I know that as some of you read this, you might feel that this may be foolish. I mean, inmates deserve whatever happens to them, right? They ought to just do their time, shut up and learn their lesson.

But that is not the definition or “correction” or “rehabilitation” is it? And isn’t that why they were sent there in the first place?

There is indeed a lot of discipline involved and very restrictive lifestyles in prison, I ought to know, but that does not mean a person gives up on his right to believe, think and reason. Often times the path to rehabilitation begins when an inmate respects himself and the humanity around him. Isn’t that what society wants?

But you won’t get that if every inmate is treated like a dog, only to be released after being institutionalized yet expected to have a halo around his or her head. Society is only fooling themselves, but will be quick to point the finger at the person the moment he or she fails again.

Well, in prison I learned that if you did everything they told you to do, you would be a complete failure to yourself. Prisons don’t condition you to respect humanity, they condition you to embrace failure and submit to a life of damnation. It’s easier for them to control inmates when they can put this burden or yoke over them, rather than inmates who are trying to change.

And for an inmate to change it often means starting while IN prison, not after they get out. Odd, because prisons don’t encourage that. This situation of the road squads is a perfect example.

I have not gotten to this part in my books of “Grades of Honor”, because at this pace, this actual situation might be in book 5 or 6, which of course I have not written yet. This takes place at Pasquotank Correctional Institution, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The camp is actually 2 camps, one is, as I understand now, close custody (used to be close/medium) and the other is a minimum custody camp. The latter is where this situation takes place.

While I was there, I worked as a dorm janitor, which I HATED, but the job had to get done, so there was no need trying to complain. The camp wasn’t big, maybe about 120-150 inmates there, and a good number of them worked on the road squads.

For the novice reader, “road squad” is the jobs where prison inmates get to leave the camp and usually work on the sides of roads picking up trash. They can do other things, but most people have seen inmates on the sides of streets or highways picking up OUR trash.

Most guys actually like the job, because it keeps them busy and gets them off the prison grounds for a few hours a day. I’m not kidding, most guys I knew looked forward to leaving the prison, and sometimes the weekends or holidays were a drag for them, especially if they didn’t have a visit.

Anyway, I had gotten to know a lot of the guys, since it was a small camp and I stood out like a sore thumb. Guys knew that I liked to write and that I “looked like I went to college”. Some guys called me “professor”, although I clearly wasn’t older than most of them.

But when you do your time, while also respecting the other inmates, there becomes a sense of trust or at least understanding. Society believes that every inmate wants to fight every other inmate, not true. Many prisons are full of guys that just want to make their time as easy as possible so they can go home. I spent quite a bit of time on the Pasquotank camp, and after awhile was quite comfortable.

Add on to this that Pasquotank was notorious for denying transfers. It was almost IMPOSSIBLE for an inmate to get a transfer, because let’s face it, Elizabeth City is on the edges of North Carolina, right on the Atlantic Ocean. That means a much, much further distance for visitation travel for anyone who lives further inland. It made it difficult for a lot of guys, and made the camp less desirable.

But because it was hard to leave, we all stayed together longer, meaning you got to know almost everybody pretty well. And maybe that’s where the connections began to get stronger. You get to know someone and what they can do, what they believe and what they stand for.

On the camp, they have what is called a “Town Hall Meeting” once or twice a year. This is a meeting held by the administration of the camp to help address issues that the inmates have. Think of it as a public grievance meeting.

I was told how bogus these meetings can be, and I wanted to go. From what I understood, only one person per dorm (4 dorms) could be designated to actually speak for the inmates. I actually had several guys ask me to represent the dorm, since they knew of how I liked to write about prison issues. My dorm already had a guy, and I was not about to challenge that. So I went as a participant and took notes.

One of the biggest complaint was that of the meals served by the prison to the road squad. Generally speaking, because they work off the camp during the day, it would be an inconvenience to bring them back to the prison to serve them lunch, so they have bagged lunches. These lunches consists of bologna, cheese, an apple and water….

OK, LET’S PAUSE HERE FOR A MINUTE.

I have to stop here for a second because I know what some of you are thinking. You all have heard the myths of inmates only getting (or deserving) bread and water, so some of you might be wondering why I am making a fuss over this lunch that these guys are getting. To many of you it isn’t important.

That’s where you are wrong.

The next time you go out working in the sun doing a lot of physical work, take a lunch break and have a sandwich, apple and water and see how much energy YOU get back before going to work. Society has the options of taking an extra break, grabbing a candy bar or one of those energy drinks. Some of you go down to McDonalds, or maybe Applebee’s or some other place to eat.

The human body needs food to replenish the energy, otherwise the body is not in the best shape to continue the work.

Prison is not about destroying an person’s body (or at least it should not be). Those guys on road squad are out there cleaning the city for hours every day, and in order for them to do their best, they need to replenish their strength when they take their lunch break.

So what purpose do you serve by giving them a skimpy meal?

“Well it’s not like they’re being fed less than inmates on the camp!”

That’s where you’re wrong again.

And this was a strong argument by the road squad. While they are out there working in the sun, eating bologna sandwiches, the inmate population back on the camp was having pizza, or hamburgers or some heavy meal. The fact was that an inmate ON camp ate a better lunch than road squads OFF camp. That wasn’t fair to those guys.

A third point was that the road squad argued that they were supposed to get a rotation of meals. Maybe today was bologna, tomorrow peanut butter and jelly, maybe the third day pimento cheese sandwiches (which I hated).

But being served bologna sandwiches every single day wears on a person. No variety in the meals can break a guy’s spirit. I heard many guys argue about this, and because a large part of the camp was road squad, you heard it more than once.

So this was all brought up at the Town Hall Meeting, and they were promised that this would be resolved…and it never was.

Guys were getting more and more upset because it just seemed that they were not being treated with any respect. After all, minimum custody is called, “Honor Grade”, and to be moved to minimum custody is called a “promotion”. If these are positive changes, then the position of being in minimum custody ought to be one desired. Guys in the camp were becoming more disappointed each day, going out to work and being fed a bologna sandwich and apple, while we on the camp had a much better meal, AND the options of going to the canteen.

To me, it seemed like a problem they have to deal with, after all, I was a dorm janitor. I actually hated the job because I did more work and was paid less than when I was in medium custody. At 40 cents a day, and being broke, it was very hard getting week to week with no money. And working 6 days a week, that $2.40 was all I could look forward to for months on end, until mom sent me something.

I was still adjusting to prison life, even though I was finding my spots, but to be sure, I had my own problems. It would have been easier to just let it be and let them handle their own problems.

But I could not do that because those guys were part of the environment I was now in. They had a problem and if I turned my back and ignored it completely, then what kind of person would I be? I have been in situations where I welcomed help, and sometimes you don’t need a bolt of lightning to encourage you to help someone. You have to let your heart lead you.

Besides, I had made a few friends who were on road squad, and when they told me of their situation, I had to help. Or at least try.

See, this isn’t about changing the world, it’s just about helping. But in a strange way, it changes YOUR world. My world at the time was Pasquotank Correctional, minimum custody. Everything on that camp was part of my world. If things went well, we can all do our time better, but if there is stress on the camp, then everyone on the camp feels it, whether it is road squad or inmate population, because we are all connected to that camp. If 60+ guys on that camp are stressed because they are tired of being fed the same sandwich every day, that stress affects the entire camp, which also affects how I do my time.

So indirectly, we are all connected. So their problems were also mine. And if so, then I felt the need to try to help. That’s where the petitions came in.

One of the inmates had suggested that if we write a petition, they would HAVE to listen. But nobody was willing to do it. So I did. I identified 3 targets to send these petitions to: the warden of the prison, the Unit manager and one of the case managers. I asked the guys that if I wrote a petition and signed it, would they sign it as well. Many said they would so I got started.

This is the letter I wrote, addressed to the warden, Mr. Sutton:

“We the inmates of Unit 5 write to you in grievance of this camp’s poor attempt to provide the road squads with decent lunches. As minimum custody inmates we are supposed to enjoy privileges that medium and close custody would not have, but instead has not been so. To make matters worse, the road crews have been poorly attended to regarding lunch.

Every day the road squad receives bologna, cheese, an apple and water. According to Ms. Smith, the Food Service Supervisor, we are supposed to receive a rotation of lunches. Unfortunately this is not so, yet inmates on the camp eat pizza, tacos, cheeseburgers and so on. We don’t need to tell you that this is grossly unfair, but typical of how we are treated in a camp that is supposed to be “Honor Grade”.

We are out of options on how to change this situation, so we have started writing grievances. If this does not work, we will start writing to DOC, Legal Services and as many sources as it takes to find answers to our problems. We truly hope you can rectify this situation soon, as we are quite tired of the runaround”

That was what I wrote, and when guys saw it, I could tell that there was some sense of hope in it. Not that I had solved anything, but these guys now had something credible to debate with. Up until now it was just talk and I am sure one or two guys wrote a grievance before, but if so the camp might retaliate by taking them off road squad. But what are they gonna do to me? I wasn’t on road squad to begin with.

I had 7 guys sign the petition at that time, which was written on August 26th. I dated the top when I wrote it, so it is correct. I then wrote a second petition to Ms. Smith, the Food Services Supervisor, which goes as follows:

“On August 6th, at the Town Hall Meeting, you were addressed the issue about how CWC, DOT, ECSU and other road crews were being fed the same food every day. These packouts consisted of bologna, cheese, an apple and water. We believe this treatment to be highly unfair, especially when inmates on camp can eat pizza, tacos, cheeseburger and so on. You told us at that meeting that the road crews should be getting a rotation on the lunches, and that you would check on it. That was 3 weeks ago.

We are tired of eating the same food every day, and have tried to be patient while Unit 5 attempts to rectify this situation, but to this point it has been “all talk”. We are supposed to be “Honor Grade”; isn’t it time we were respected as such?

We await some action on this matter. If nothing changes, we will write as many letters to DOC, Legal Services and every source available to see that we are treated in a fairer way than we have been.

Now, to clarify a couple of things.

I mentioned “Legal Services”; that is, in my experiences, a complete joke. I can write a blog on how I think the state of NC is paying millions to these people to reject inmates claims and help, when law libraries would have been cheaper. But I’m gonna let you guys continue to think that the NC Legal Services actually is better….learn the hard way…

Second, I mentioned “CWC” and other groups. Those are each different groups of road squads. “CWC” stands for Community Work Crews. “DOT” stands for Department of Transportation, and “ECSU” stands for “Elizabeth City State University”, where a couple of inmates work.

I had 6 guys sign that petition and wrote a third, to Mr. Futrell, the Assistant Unit Manager of the camp:

“We are writing in grievance to this unit’s poor attempt to provide the road squads fair meals. For well over a month the work crews have received the same packout, consisting of bologna, cheese, an apple and water. At the same time inmates on the camp eat meals consisting of pizza, tacos, cheeseburgers and various other meals. We have voiced our opinion to this unit numerous times, only to receive no change in the situation.

At the Town Hall Meeting on August 6th, Ms. Smith, the Food Service Supervisor, assured us that she would change this situation. Three weeks later, nothing has changed. As inmates of what you call “Honor Grade”, we expect to be treated better than we have been by this staff. If PCI cannot feed their work crews fairly, then you leave us no choice but to start writing grievances on you and this camp as well as writing to the Division of Prisons, the Department of Correction, Legal Services and any other source to make sure we, the minimum custody inmates of Pasquotank Correctional Institute, are treated fair.”

That petition was signed by 7 inmates.

When I finished writing the petition, I started going around the camp, soliciting signatures. Some signed, others read it and liked it, but were afraid to sign. Others were completely afraid to sign, and warned me of the idea that I could be charged for possibly starting a riot, which is a very heavy charge.

(something I actually was charged for while at Sanford, but beat that charge)

The petitions took off pretty well, and lots of guys knew about it. I think even an officer or two read it, so I know the word got up the ladder. My goal was to get enough signatures and present them to the unit managers, or mail them directly to the warden. The fact that I have the original papers with me now clearly shows that we never finished the act.

Why?

I’ll have to check my journals to get the exact reason, but I do know that the prison changed and DID start changing the rotation for the guys on road squad. In fact, I think one of the road squad guys said they got double portions sometimes. I think I remember one of the guys on the road squad tell me,

“Somebody in the office must have heard about them petitions and it scared the hell out of them”.

But whatever the reason, it is clear that it was those petitions, or the THREAT of those petitions that changed the situation. I am also quite sure we wrote grievances on this as well, but I have to find that in my folders to prove it. But it was no secret that we were putting a petition on this issue, the officers knew it and several had read it. And I am also very sure some of those who were afraid of signing it were the first to tell officers about it.

The end result is what we all wanted, for those guys who work out there to have a better meal than what they were being given. Like I said, I didn’t work road squad, but I knew enough guys on that camp to be concerned when they all started getting down on this issue. I had the advantage of a better meal on camp, and if I had a couple of dollars, to buy me a cold soda or some snacks when I wanted. Guys on road squad had to wait until they got back to camp to make canteen.

And because we all lived together, their stresses can be mine as well, I mean, having 60+ angry guys on the camp can make anybody’s time harder. Yet I think it goes deeper than that, maybe something I didn’t fully understand at the time. Deep inside, you have to CARE about other guys to do something like that. Not like an angel or some saint, just a humanistic quality to care about other’s welfare.

I didn’t HAVE to write those petitions and I sure didn’t have to sign my name first, but I did. I didn’t HAVE to go around soliciting signatures, but I did. I didn’t have to do anything to help, but deep inside, I knew these guys needed some help. I could not promise anything, but at least I could try.

As bad as prison is, there are times when inmates have to stick up for one another to help another person out. Now sometimes guys get this twisted when it comes to doing things in prison, but I truly believe that if you heart compels you to help a person in need, then it is a very compassionate spirit about you. I have had guys stick up for me while in prison, and I have been in positions to return the favor. Sometimes inmates have to stick together if they are going to cope with their incarceration.

Anyway, as I said, the issue was resolved and the guys felt much better about it. I actually felt kinda good knowing I helped a bit, but knowing it wasn’t all me, since the petitions were never formally sent. But I do believe that the unit manager and assistant manager had gotten wind of what we were doing, and certainly many officers knew, so the camp was quite aware of what we were doing.

Sometimes you don’t have to always put on the armor and grab the sword to go to war, you just have to be committed to do it if things don’t change. I think the prison saw that we were going to do what we could to get a resolution, and they realized that we were indeed serious.

That was one of many situations that happened at that camp, some of which I hope to share in future books of “Grades of Honor”. I would eventually be kicked out of the camp for a pretty controversial issue, one that sent me to Tyrrell Prison Work Farm. But that is another story.

Anyway, email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com to ask how to support my writings, or ask about my books or even ask me to blog about prison issues.

June 6, 2010 at 11:54 pm Leave a comment

#219 Dinnertime in prison (retro)

Dinnertime in prison

I think the more correct jargon here is “chowtime”…

I wrote a blog earlier and got a few emails from it, it is always nice to get emails from readers that like what I am sharing. I hope you understand that I write because I really do care about you, and it is my hope that what I share can help you get through these tough times.

As usual, email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com, and while I am at it, one person asked why I break up the email like that, instead of just spelling it all out. Well, the reason for that is because apparently there are a lot of people who use software to crawl through the internet seeking emails to send spam and trash mail to. It seems that if you give your email online almost anywhere, somebody is going to find it and often times use it for ill will. But it seems that if you break it up, it makes it harder for a software to identify it and use it. It seems to work, since when I used to spell out my address, I was getting as many as 10 junk mails a day. Now I might get one or two a week.

Anyway, email me if you have questions about prison, or curious about my books or if you feel you want to support my blogs. It always helps.

Today as I write this, it is just after 5pm, and one of my favorite tv shows comes on in about a half an hour. (Pardon the Interruption, on ESPN if you must know). But I was thinking about dinner (or supper as some call it) and what it was like when I was in prison. No doubt many of you might wonder what your loved one is doing right now as well.

As it is, right now would be feeding time, or chow time, or dinner, or supper, in most prisons. Every prison I was in started feeding about 4:30 to 4:45, so at this very moment I am typing, there are inmates all over NC going to dinner. If I asked you to ask me the 5 most common questions one might have about prison and dinner, what would they be?

“Is the food good?”

Good question, and I really can answer that with a lot of honesty. I am not going to lie to you and tell you that it’s like going to Texas Steakhouse or Ruby Tuesday’s, but I am not going to tell you that they get slop and a cup of water either. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being dogfood and 10 being a 5-star meal, I would say it’s pretty much a 6.5.

I say that because the myth that prison food is terrible is a lie, although we must admit that sometimes it isn’t what you WANT to eat. I was never a fan of fish, so when the prison had fish for dinner, it was a lost cause for me. But the meals they have in prison are a little better than average. Sure, sometimes they miss the mark, and often times you may not get as much as you might like, but trust me folks, it usually is ok.

“Do all the inmates eat the same thing on the camp?”

Actually they don’t. There are different meals made for different inmates. For the most part, the general population eats the same thing, but keep in mind in many prisons there are guys that cannot eat certain foods. They are called “special diet” and they have to have different meals prepared. Some might have high blood pressure or diabetes, and thus need to eat a different meal from other inmates. Those inmates do at times eat a different meal than most other inmates.

For example, something very simple…an egg.

Most times prisons don’t feed inmates REAL eggs, usually it comes from a carton of yokes…I oughta know, I used to work in three different prison kitchens. But you can go years without the pleasure of eating a real egg. Think about that next time you make breakfast.

And this would apply for dinner, but even lunch meals can be different. Remember that by dinnertime all the inmates are back on the prison grounds, but during the day, many inmates might be on road squad or work release. Those inmates would not eat the same meals as an inmate on the prison grounds. They get what is called a “snack bag”, which generally has a sandwich or two, a fruit and a desert…not as much food as an inmate on prison grounds, I can tell you.

“My loved one likes to eat…can he have seconds?”

Well, the general rule is no, because prisons try to make just enough food for the population, and if they allowed inmates to get seconds, then guys would start manipulating the system to make sure they were the last ones to come eat so they can be the first ones to get seconds.

This is a tricky subject, because I know many prison actually DO give out seconds after everybody on the camp has been fed. I mean, how would it sound if you heard they were throwing away food?

This answer is kinda split, because by rule, they cannot give seconds, but sometimes the kitchen officers don’t mind. I remember working as a line server at Sanford Correctional and sometimes we had leftover eggs (remember, not real scrambled eggs) or grits and on rare occasions, pancakes. Sometimes the kitchen supervisor would let us give away the food, so we would yell, “seconds!” and guys would rush up to get more food. So yeah, it can be done, but officially it is not.

“What kind of food do you eat in prison?”

Well to be honest, almost the same kinda stuff you’d eat. Now I understand that I cannot speak for every single prison in the US, nor would I want to, but what most people fail to understand is that the prisons of the country are held accountable for the health of the inmates, especially when it comes to food. If you still think inmates get a scoop of slop with two slices of bread and a warm cup of water, you really need to stop watching those movies.

Today being Thursday I think these were the days that NC prisons actually served Fried Chicken. Most times the Thursday meal was a good one, and most times it was chicken, or I think sometimes Fried Fish…which I hated. Sometimes they had spaghetti or something else nice. I think Thursday was one of the best meals of the week maybe because it also coincided with shipping day. Tuesdays and Thursdays were when most inmates were transferred from one camp to another.

Inmates can eat hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza or other meals for dinner. Now, the hamburgers they served in prison were NOTHING like what I dine on at Texas Steakhouse or similar places, but I guess it filled the belly…for awhile.

“Well why do you eat so early?”

That is a good question, it is kinda tough to eat dinner by 5pm, knowing that your next meal won’t be until about 7am. That means you’ve got to go over half a day without a meal, which can make it kinda tough.

I have been used to eating late, nowdays I might eat dinner as late as 10pm, usually by 9pm. But I rarely ate a dinner as early as 5, and even if I did, I still had options to snack some more before going to bed. But that was when I was much younger. Being in prison, this can be a problem because if for some reason the dinner was not “spot on” then you’ve got a growling stomach until breakfast the next day…unless you have canteen.

This is why I sometimes talk about how inmates can do their time a little better if they had a few dollars in their pocket. To me, when I had the assurance that I could make canteen and get a cup of soup or some Ramen or some chips, it made a strong safety net when the dinner wasn’t on the mark. Trust me folks, it saved me many times, as I am sure it did for many other inmates.

Well, that’s 5 questions, I don’t know if I answered yours, but you can always email me to ask more…I gotta run, my show is on!

June 6, 2010 at 11:51 pm Leave a comment

#216 Double Jeopardy in the media (retro)

Double Jeopardy of the Media

It is almost 8pm as I decide to do a blog about an issue I have dealt with, one that deals with inmates who are judged for their past, even after the original judgment has been served.

With the Superbowl coming this weekend, I am excited to see the Steelers and Cardinals, and I really don’t have a favorite. I like Kurt Warner because he has had a tough road after the Rams dropped him, and it is good to see him back in the Superbowl. But I like the Steelers too, so I can’t call it, although I think the Steelers may win this one.

Again, thanks to those emailing me, those supporting my blogs and the like. These are the last couple of days for the free prison encouragement certificate, I will have sent them all out by Monday, February 2nd.

Now, before I begin, let’s define “double jeopardy”

“subjection of a person to a second trial when he has already been acquitted of the same charge”

This is important to remember because this is very, VERY common in society. Most think it happens in court cases, but it happens in society every day. Too many people in society are hell-bent to see that any ex felon with a job should not have it, and give it to “law biding” citizens. Too many people in society are too busy trying to condemn a person for his past, even after he has served his time.

I bring this up for two different situations, one from an email I got from a wonderful reader. She told me of a local news I think in Cleveland where an ex-felon got a job as a traffic controller, making $12 an hour. She told me that after that news report was shown, the job got emails and phone calls from angry “citizens” because that person should not have that job when so many are out of work.

What you see folks is our society continuing to judge a person for his past. The man did his time, he paid his debt to society, why then is he still being put on trial? I read that and it reminded me of the blog I shared with you guys about a newspaper that wanted to do a story on my blogs. I got an email from them asking to do a story about my blogs and how I was able to get through prison. I thought it was a nice idea, and asked what they needed from me.

The email I got from them had me concerned, because the info they said they needed was a little too much for them to have. Mind you, I am not hiding from anybody, but as an ex felon trying to get my life together, I am NOT submitting my whole name, address, phone number, picture and charges for my incarceration. I asked the person if all that was really necessary, and they said that it was, because without it, they cannot do this story on me, because it might seem that it was made up.

So now I am put at a crossroads…I would sure like to do a newspaper article, but at what price? I had already done this before, and the result cost me my job. The only reason I would now do this story is for vanity…and that wasn’t enough.

So I have decided not to do the story, because I believe that even if done in good faith, I would be judged again for something I already paid my debt for. And the sad thing is, lots of times the media is quite aware of what they are doing, but for the idea of selling another newspaper, they are often willing to throw an ex felon under the bus to make some money.

Now, that sounds harsh, and for that I apologize, because I believe some media have very honest intentions. But I cannot buy that any credible paper or television program could sincerely do a story on an ex felon and NOT know that the backlash of it will likely cost him a second condemnation.

Example: Let’s say I worked at Wal-mart, and I am an ex felon. If I gave that newspaper my name, address, phone number, place of work, nature of crime and all that, what do you think will happen if they published that story?

I say again, even if done in good faith, the newspaper will not take responsibility of what happens next. What if some of our society felt it was wrong for Wal-Mart to hire “criminals”? What if they protested and wrote letters to the store, saying they won’t spend another dime in that store if they are hiring “criminals”?

Businesses operate on public relations, and would likely have to address the matter. If I never told them I was an ex felon, but needed the job, I would be fired because I was not honest with them on the job application. (odd, because if I was, I would never be hired). But if I was honest, and they hired me anyway, they would have to “let me go” because of public displeasure.

Either way, I lose my job.

So what did I gain by doing the article? Sure the newspaper made some coins off the story, and can probably make more on the “follow up” of that story…but it won’t get me a job. After all is said and done, I would have been judged again and found guilty.

We don’t live in a world where this won’t happen…it will because there are too many thick-skulled individuals that seem to think it is their mission in life to keep condemnation on ex felons long after they have served their time.

It reminds me of an idea a lady had on one of the prison sites, one I…for lack of a better word, though was absolutely STUPID. She wanted to create a list of businesses owned by ex felons, so that “we” could support them.

Now COME ON! Do you REALLY think a list of businesses owned by ex felons would be helpful to anybody? The moment such a list is made, those owners would be treated as lepers. There is no sincere belief that a list of such businesses could be taken sincerely, and would not rather be used to condemn each one. You are literally asking those people to lay their lives out there and HOPE that society won’t judge…but if something goes wrong, their lives are ruined and you can’t help them.

This is why many guys who did time are trying to keep their past in the past, because they know that we as a people delight in finding the worst in mankind, and using it against them.

It really surprises me that newspapers and television don’t know that…but then again, I think they do. Heck, I wrote for a college newspaper, and I know about the backlash of writing an ex felon story. And I had it happen to me, so I see it from both sides. I would hate to think that the newspaper actually expected me to give in to my vanity and do the article. Pride makes people do stupid things. If I had, and things got bad for me because of that article, that same newspaper that put the story out there would throw their hands up and say, “hey, it’s not our fault, we just report the news”.

But by doing that, you also created the news, and cost a person his livelihood. And no newspaper is going to give a dollar to help them get it back. So I am resigned to not do that article, it’s not worth it. Sure, the paper said it might help others, but the cost is far too much for me to pay. I would stand to lose MUCH more, and the newspaper would stand to make money. So no, I can’t put my life in the hands of a neutral party, because they would throw my past to the wolves.

Kinda like that scripture, give not that which is holy to the dogs, and cast not your pearls to swine. For they will trample it and turn to rend you. Don’t give something that is important to you to people who will not respect it. My life is important to me, and giving that to a newspaper just for a story will surely result in something negative. If they are not willing to at least meet me half way, then I have nothing to gain.

Anyway, I better go, hope to get more emails from you, email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com.

June 6, 2010 at 11:47 pm Leave a comment

#215 Prison Drop Test (retro)

Prison Science: The Drop Test

How many of you ever heard of that…the Drop Test? I’ll tell you more about it in a little bit…

My thanks again to those who email me and ask me about my books and other products; the goal in a humble way is to create a financial support for my writings so I can spend more time writing books, blogs and other things to make available for those with loved ones in prison.

I am working on a blog book, which will be about 100 pages long, give or take. I am using blogs originally wrote in my very first prison blog back in 2005. Most of you never read those; some have not read my second reincarnation of blogs either.

At the pace I am working on, 100 pages is almost too easy to do, and won’t even scratch the surface of the books I am writing. But I have to limit my works so that expenses won’t be too much when I go to Staples to get binding, and then to ship them off, so I am keeping the books to about 100 pages.

When I make a little more progress, I will give you a heads up on what some of that content includes. Right now I am already 1/3 of the way through, and I haven’t even been working on it a whole week.

Anyway, I was sitting here thinking of a subject to blog about, when I heard my brother saying something. I went in the living room and saw him changing batteries on the remote game controller. As he switched out, taking out the old batteries and replacing them with new ones, I went to get the older batteries, and mentioned to him about the “Drop Test”.

So what’s that about?

I never heard of it myself until I went to prison, and when I heard guys talking about it, I thought it was the dumbest thing I ever heard. But where are my manners? Let me set this up for you:

Say you’re in prison and you have a small radio that requires 2 AA batteries. You find out one day that your batteries are going low and you don’t have the money to buy new ones. You go to one of the other guys and ask them if they have any batteries you can use, and he pulls out a cup full of batteries. He says to you, “I know some of them are good, some might not be, you’ll have to find out for yourself”. What do you do?

Well, you can do the Drop Test.

The test is supposed to determine whether a battery is strong enough to use or too week to bother with, and thus likely thrown away. An inmate can determine which batteries are best to use to extend the use of his radio.

“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard!”

Well, I used to think that too, but there apparently is some value in it.

Now I can go online and look up the properties of batteries and how they are made, but that wasn’t practical to guys in prison, so I’ll just leave the true science out of it. But I will tell you how this test works.

Basically, you are literally dropping the battery to the ground to determine if it still has some “juice” in it. But there is a proper way to go about this, so pay attention:

First, get the batteries in question, and find a hard floor surface. It has to be a very solid and strong floor, so don’t look for a wood floor or carpet. Brick or cement floors are best because they don’t absorb much impact. They don’t “give” if you understand that terminology.

Once you get your batteries, take ONE battery, hold it the long way, so your fingers are touching both ends of the battery. Stand and hold the battery about knee high, and drop it.

If the battery bounces and turns a few times, that means the battery is weak. If the battery bounces and does not turn, it is strong, and can be used.

“I don’t get it”

When you drop the battery, you’re looking to see what it will do once it makes impact on the hard surface. Every battery is going to bounce, much like almost any other object that impacts a solid surface. But if the battery is “weak” then it won’t have as much “juice” in it, and thus the battery (in theory) is more hollow, and more prone to “flip”.

The more “flips” it does, the weaker it is.

If however the battery makes impact with the floor and does not “flip” it then would appear to have more density, and thus not as likely to “flip”. Replace the word, “density” with “juice” and you can see where in theory a battery with more juice is less likely to “flip” and thus is a strong (or stronger) battery.

Try it yourself. Get a brand new battery and one that you know is weak. Try the drop test and see which one “flips”. If you do it right, you should know immediately which one is which.

Now, granted that sounds like backwoods stuff, and I scoffed at it too. I thought those guys were nuts to do that stuff, but after awhile I tried it. After several tests, I realized that maybe there WAS something to it. And if done right, the accuracy of a strong and weak battery was very high.

When you are in prison, things just have to last longer because we didn’t have the means to run down to the nearest store and buy fresh batteries. I know when I was in prison during my more financially challenged times, batteries had to last as long as possible until I could afford to buy fresh ones. It’s important because for a lot of guys, the radio was their only personal means of the outside world. Sure there was television, but in NC you are not allowed to own one; they were always in the dayroom of the dorm. Sure we got newspapers, but most guys don’t read anything except the sports section (or the funnies, like me).

But in prison, the radio was the only thing an inmate could own that required batteries. That meant for me, the window to the audio world was all I had to find comfort. If that meant catching an NFL game on the AM station, or some jazz station on a nearby college, or Christmas music on some Christian station, I needed that venue to escape.

All the more reason those batteries had to work. And if they did not, I had to know how much “juice” I had left on it. Many guys kept weaker batteries just for an emergency when they may really need them, but over time you may end up getting a handful of them. You’d have to know which is good, and which is not.

Thus the Drop Test.

I don’t suppose this idea was started in prison, I just found out about it when I was in prison. I didn’t have such a problem when I was in college because we had outlets and I could always plug something up and be good as new.

At home it was never a problem either, or anywhere else I can remember. But when you are in prison, your resources are at a minimum, so things just have to last longer. You just could not throw batteries away because you got fresh ones. Often times other guys would ask you for your older ones, rather than seeing you throw it away.

You know, even after all these years, I still have my old RCA radio somewhere in the attic. I don’t use it because frankly it was a piece of crap. DOC made us spend about $15.00 on a radio you could quite easily go to Radio Shack or any convenient store and pay about $5 to $7 for. Whoever cut that deal with the state made a boatload of money.

Anyway, that is what the Drop Test is about. Email me if you have any other questions about prison issues, and ask me about my books and other products at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com.

June 6, 2010 at 11:45 pm Leave a comment

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