DAY ONE HUNDRED FIFTY-SIX
Federal Prison Camp
NOTES FROM FEDERAL PRISON
I was cleaning up in the cafeteria after the noon meal this
week. A new inmate was the only person still eating. When you
are in charge of the eating area, there is an unwritten rule
that when the lights are flashed on and off, it’s the
signal that it's time for everyone to leave so that the person
in charge (me) can finish cleaning up and preparing for the
next meal. Being new, he didn't understand my signal. The normal
procedure would be scream out a string of four letter words,
turn off the lights and intimidate the inmate out the door.
I just let him eat.
waved my way and introduced himself. John from the New Orleans
area. He had an insurance license, and knew the history of my
are you here for?" I asked.
Possession and distribution, " he answered.
is the first inmate I've met who was involved with heroin. Up
till now, it's been marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines.
the street, heroin might be called smack, gear, brown, horse,
H, junk, scag, jack or boy, John calls it "boy". It's
made from morphine, which is an active chemical in opium, and
referred to as opiate. Addicts take heroin by eating it, snorting
it, by "skin popping" (injecting it under the skin),
by "muscling" (injecting it into a muscle), or by
"mainlining" (injecting it into a vein).
tells me that in 1981, he was involved in an elevator accident
where he smashed his pelvis. His doctor prescribed percodan
for the pain. It is heavy with codeine. John says it wasn't
long before he went from pain relief to "feel good,"
and was taking ten to twelve percodans a day. It became a recreational
drug for him. But he got off it in 1986 and went "cold
turkey" for two years. Then he had a knee replacement.
was prescribed vicodin (similar to percodan). But the euphoria
of the drug came back. "I just felt so good taking it,"
he told me.
started out taking three or four a day for the pain. But to
keep the same feeling, I went up to twenty a day. It was costing
me three to five dollars a pill on the street," he told
asked: "What do you mean, on the street? How did you get
all the extra drugs?"
actually pretty easy," he said. "You 'make a doctor'.
Call five or six doctors to make appointments. Go to them all
giving the same symptoms of pain. It's not hard to get a number
of the same prescription. Or you can ask around for a 'source'
to do the same thing for you, then you get it from the 'source'.
You also ask the doctor for a muscle relaxer like Soma. You
can get a high off of them. Two to three dollars a piece on
the street," he explained.
try not to get hooked, but once you start, the chase begins.
I sued to spend the whole day looking for pills. One day, I
couldn't find any, but a fellow I knew suggested I try 'boy'.
Heroin. He had it in powder form and told me one sniff would
last 8-10 hours. At ten dollars a 'hit', one time would do what
it would take ten vicodin to do. I was saving money. But my
tolerance built up, and I kept needing more and more to get
the same 'high'. I went up to six or eight bags of 'boy' a day
and was spending $150.00 daily. 'Boy' was much more addictive
than the pills.
to John, he "snorted" heroin, but it took 15 to 20
minutes to kick in and he would generally waste 30% on the drug
in the process. "Shooting it directly into your veins gives
you a warm, high sensation within 30 seconds. All over your
was on heroin for three years before being caught. He says he
didn't actually sell it, but would often tell someone how to
get it and ask that he be given a few himself. He was caught
in December of 2001 when a friend who had been arrested for
drugs turned him in to a federal DEA agent.
was lucky in that the amount of heroin involved when he was
arrested was only six grams. (enough for around 80 snorts).
He was sentenced to eight months here at Oakdale.
is not the typical drug dealer. He is extremely candid about
what he did and how it happened. In his case, the motive wasn't
money, as is the case of the majority of those here because
of drug related crimes. He represents a lesson to be learned
about how easy it is to get hooked while using legal drugs prescribed
by a doctor. And this is a lesson not just for our kids. It
should hit home to a number of our friends who always seem to
be taking and sharing valium, xanax, ripinol and a host more.
Without meaning to, it's easy to get hooked.
* * * * * * *
mailroom censors here at the prison really struck a low blow
this week. All mail is opened and prisoners do not receive what
is deemed to be objectionable material. I was notified by an
official form (see at the end of the column) that listed a number
of objectionable items. Specifically listed as items not permitted
include body hair, plant shavings, electronic musical greeting
cards and sexually explicit personal photos.
was my objectionable item? Read for yourself. A Krispy Kreme
Donut Hat. That's right. Krispy Kreme hats have been labeled,
I can only assume, as morally objectionable and pose some sort
of danger. Maybe the temptation of one day eating a really good
donut in the outside world might incite the inmates to riot
and even try to escape. I'm not sure what the thinking was of
the higher-ups here. But it's final. There's no appeal. I won't
be getting my Krispy Kreme Donut Hat. But it will be waiting
for me when I get out of here in three weeks.
* * * * * *
you read the story that appeared in newspapers all over the
country last week about the Oakland, California city official
convicted in federal court for growing marijuana? If he was
breaking the law, so what? That's what the jury thought when
they convicted him. But there was a lot more to the story.
Rosenthal was an Oakland city employee paid to oversee the cultivation
of starter marijuana plants in an Oakland warehouse, and was
licensed to do so by the State of California. Nine states allow
marijuana to be grown for medical purposes under a doctor's
prescription for seriously ill patients.
the federal judge in the case had barred Rosenthal's defense
from telling the jury he was legally licensed. Five jurors called
a press conference after they found out the whole truth, publicly
apologized and demanded that the judge give him a new trial.
The jurors issued a statement that said:
good faith, we as jury members allowed
ourselves to be blindfolded to weigh the evidence
before us. But in this trial, the prosecution was
allowed to put all of the evidence and testimony on
one of the scales, while the defense was not allowed
to put its evidence and testimony on the other scale.
Therefore, we were not allowed as a jury to properly
weigh the case."
faces up to five years in jail. His lawyers are asking for a
new trial. He is fortunate not to have been tried here in the
Fifth Circuit where he would receive little consideration.
this whole scenario sound familiar? A judge keeping vital information
from the jury that would have found the accused innocent? A
juror coming forward saying to the press that the conviction
was a mistake and that the accused should not be in jail.
luck Mr. Rosenthal. I know exactly what you are going through.
* * * * * *
have never particularly enjoyed political biography. Being a
part of political life for more than 30 years, I have generally
picked literature as a diversion from my chosen profession.
But a friend and neighbor, Scott Crawford, has urged me to make
an exception and read Rober Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson,
Master of the Senate.
United States Senate is a far cry today from the body that LBJ
led in the 1950s. In these troubling times we currently face
in our country, it seems that the Senate does little more than
rubber stamp or oppose policies proposed by the Executive Branch.
Not so 50 years ago when, as Caro describes, LBJ ran the Senate
with an iron hand.
of the Senate is the 3rd of a proposed 4 volume series
on the life of LBJ. Caro makes it clear that the Senate was
Johnson's favorite time in political life. I had the good fortune
of having dinner and sitting next to Lady Bird Johnson in the
mid 1970s one summer evening in Natchez, Mississippi. She told
me that Johnson's 12 years in the Senate were certainly his
does a first rate job in describing how Johnson negotiated among
the Senate factions; the Republicans, Southern Democrats, and
liberal Northern Democrats. He was the youngest elected majority
leader, and was the driving force in passing the 1957 Civil
is portrayed by Caro as relentless in working an issue to hammer
out a compromise. He quotes Georgia Senator Herman Talmadge
as saying: "He would tell us (segregationists) I'm one
of you but I can help you more if I don't meet with you."
But at the same time, he was quietly cultivating NAACP leaders.
Caro is a great storyteller who fills his work with rich detail
in his examination of political power in a compelling and vivid
way. It's a long book, some 1000 pages. But if you have an interest
in following the Byzantine struggles for power during an important
time in our history, you will enjoy reading the years of Lyndon
Johnson when he was Master of the Senate.
* * * * * * *
love your enemies--
nothing annoys them so much." ***
and justice to you and your family.