DAY ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-FIVE
Federal Prison Camp
NOTES FROM FEDERAL PRISON
I recently wrote about three inmates caught with alcohol. We
are randomly stopped around the camp and required to blow into
a Breathalyzer to be sure there is no alcohol in our system.
question then is raised, how do you get alcohol in prison? Simple.
Inmates make it. That's right. Homebrew. It's made in prisons
all over the country. In some places it's called "hooch"
and in others it's "juice" or "pruno". Generally
it's a fortified wine made with a hodgepodge of ingredients
that inmates can slip out of the dining hall. Items that work,
include milk or anything that contains sugar, raisins, prunes
(as in pruno) and anything else that can be fermented.
of course, is no tolerance for pruno hear at Oakdale. If an
inmate is caught with alcohol in his possession or in his system,
he is immediately removed from the camp and taken behind the
wall to be thrown in the "hole". Solitary confinement.
And this is a place no inmate wants to go. You are alone in
a small cell with no contact around any other inmates. Meals
are slipped through a slot in the door. You are handcuffed and
led to the shower, which can be taken for a few minutes twice
a week. Exercise is allowed for an hour a day where you are
can walk around the prison yard. Again, only several times a
week. Eventually an inmate in the hole for alcohol use will
be transferred out of state to a different prison.
don't worry about me. With one and a half months to go until
I'm released, there is not a chance I will be making up any
homebrew. But, if you want to try it yourself, here's a popular
orange peels, fruit cocktail and water and heat it for fifteen
minutes in your sink with hot water. Keep mixture warm with
towels for fermentation. Leave hidden and undisturbed for
two days. Add sugar cubes and six teaspoons of ketchup. Heat
for thirty minutes. Wrap and leave undisturbed for three more
days. Reheat daily for fifteen minutes for three more days.
Skim and serve.
be anxious to know the response from your guests.
* * * * * * *
Inmates are beginning to ask me how many days I have left before
going home. They know I'm a short timer and my days of being
in the Camp are dwindling down. 44 days to go. But I really
don't keep a close check. Many inmates keep a calendar in their
locker and mark though as each day passes.
I would rather lose track for a few days and let them slip away.
I think when my number drops below 20 that I will be a close
counter, and perhaps start marking off my calendar. If I stay
busy, which I do, the time will take care of itself. I know
it's hard to believe, but there are some days that I wish would
not end. I still have so much to do. Writing a weekly column,
finishing my book, beginning a second book about life here in
prison, handling and trying to answer the hundreds of letters
that come in each week, a job to do, some cooking on the side,
exercising, and reading…the days go by surprisingly fast.
telephone restrictions are a huge handicap. 300 minutes a month.
Nine minutes a day. I have decisions to make concerning my appeal,
a family with four children to call, and other basic calls to
keep my world afloat. Phones are always available, so there
is no reason to put on limits except to heighten the punishment
no computer access, the law library is of little value. So I
am prohibited from helping in my own defense. I feel sorry for
inmates with much longer sentences who are continuing to appeal
their case while trying to stay in touch with family members.
At least for me, only 44 days remain.
* * * * * * *
There is an educational outreach program here at the prison
camp. Certain inmates are allowed to go into surrounding high
schools and talk to students about the consequences of crime.
Usually, the inmates convicted of drug violations are picked
to participate. It's a good program that should be used more
extensively in schools throughout the country.
inquired about my participation. After all, I am certainly the
most well known inmate incarcerated anywhere in Louisiana. I
have made thousands of speeches in my 30 years in public life.
It would seem I would be a natural.
would you say to the students?" I was asked.
the simple truth," I replied. "I will tell them to
study current events, and pay close attention to those in public
office. Register and vote when they are 18, and particularly
keep an eye on those officials in law enforcement."
would tell them at length how I was violated by the criminal
justice system, and I would tell them I'm in prison for all
the wrong reasons. That I love my country, but fear my government."
supervisor rolled his eyes. "There's not much of a chance
you will be doing any outside speaking while you're here."
I really think otherwise?
* * * * * * *
There have been numerous recent news articles of controversy
over insurance claims due holocaust survivors. One of my great
disappointments of not being able to continue my work as Insurance
Commissioner is that I have not been able to serve on the International
Holocaust Commission. The commission was an outgrowth from discussions
with several other Commissioners over the failure of certain
European insurance companies to pay insurance claims of numerous
holocaust survivors throughout the United States.
coming to prison, I spoke at length with one of the key Jewish
participants in our efforts, who was also a holocaust survivor.
He called me to offer his support. In the conversation, I asked
him a question.
me your reaction to the following events. An official was indicted
and charged with 56 crimes just weeks before his re-election.
On the same day the charges were filed, a judge gagged him so
that he could not defend himself. The trial was shrouded in
secrecy. Most of the documents filed were hidden from public
view. The jury was anonymous. When the jury was selected, all
spectators and the press were ordered to leave the courtroom.
The key evidence that would have cleared his name was not allowed
to be seen by the jury. It should be no surprise that under
such intolerable conditions, he was convicted. What does this
remind you of?"
replied: "Why of course. That's typically how it happened.
That was the normal procedure carried out by the Nazis in the
1930s and early 1940s. That's how they did it. Where state in
Nazi Germany did this farce of a trial take place?"
paused and shook my head. "It wasn't Nazi Germany my friend.
It was Baton Rouge, Louisiana in the year 2000."
was a long silence on his end of the phone. "I'm shocked.
This cannot be so. Not today. Not in America."
we said our goodbyes, he reminded me of the words of German
Christian scholar Pastor Martin Niemoller:
First they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.
* * * * * * *
I have always wanted to go to the top of the world - Mt. Everest.
I knew I would never be able to climb to the summit, but just
the thrill of getting close. Perhaps trekking from Katmandu
up to the base camp where the climb begins. My son and I are
talking about just such a future trip.
closest I have come so far is to read Jon Krakauer's extraordinary
true story, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount
Everest Disaster. It's a riveting description of how eight
people died including celebrated Everest guide Rob Hall.
learned of Krakauer through his outdoor adventure articles in
Outside magazine. And I had read his earlier book,
Into the Wild, a strange and true story of a young Georgia
man who becomes trapped and dies in the Alaska tundra.
was commissioned by Outside magazine to join an Everest
climb, and report on the commercialization of ascents and the
dangers of less qualified climbers on the mountain. He got more
than he bargained for. A freak blizzard caught numerous climbers
near the top that led to disaster and death.
little mountaineering skill and $65,000 will get you to the
top. That, according to Krakauer, was how several of the expeditions
were sold. Mountain guides trying to lead unqualified climbers
to the top of Everest, then urging them to flee the coming storm
led them all to tragedy at the roof of the world.
you read the book, you are right there at 29,000 feet (the cruising
altitude of an Airbus jetliner), and read of climbers leaving
dying friends. I remember hearing the tapes of Rob Hall, lying
in a snow bank and dying, making a final call on his satellite
phone to tell his wife goodbye.
of the survivors of the climb was Dr. Beck Weathers from Dallas.
I heard him speak in New Orleans and describe how he was left
for dead and spent the night blindly staggering around, out
of oxygen, and exposed to the horrendous wind-chill conditions.
He lost some fingers, toes and his nose, but was still able
to crawl into the camp the next day.
book is the best adventure survival story I've ever read. If
you have any interest in Mt. Everest or mountain climbing, this
is a good suggested read.
* * * * * *
Trials, temptations, disappointments-all these
Are helps instead of hindrances, if one uses
Them rightly. They not only test the fiber of
Character but strengthen it…Every trial endured
And weathered in the right spirit makes a soul
Nobler and stronger than it was before.
Peace and justice to you and your family.