NOTES FROM PRISON
important development in my life here at Oakdale. Now this
is big! I have finally been assigned a permanent job. What
is it you ask? Well first, a little background.
I first arrived here six weeks ago, a number of inmates suggested
I ask to work in the law library. The position to oversee
the library was open, and has been available for several months.
There are both law books and general reading books that need
organizing and indexing, and the librarian would be expected
to assist an inmate who needs help in finding legal information.
I would seem to be the perfect candidate for the job.
it wasn’t that I was competing against any other inmate.
The job was open. Still, I felt I should outline my numerous
qualifications to one of the supervisors. I’m a lawyer,
and I have a degree in English Literature. I was Secretary
of State where I administered hundreds of thousands of books
and documents. My personal library has three times the total
number of books here at the prison. I was a natural fit.
job assignment was posted on the bulletin board last week.
I’m assigned to the kitchen. That’s right. Kitchen
Man. I will initially be wiping tables and stacking a supply
of clean trays, spoons and forks (no plastic knives allowed
here, you cut your meat with a spoon). I also sweep and mop
the floor after each meal. Gladys is ecstatic. She already
envisions all the cleaning I will be able to do when I get
tuned. I will be wearing a chef’s hat before you know
it. Remember, I’ve written a cookbook, “Jim Brown’s
World Famous Squirrel Stew and Other Country Recipes.”
So my day will come. And there is an incentive to move up.
As a kitchen worker, I make 12 cents an hour. As a cook, I
could move up to 20 cents an hour or more. I will keep you
posted on my advancement efforts.
. . . .
inmates have questions about my website and my weekly posted
column. Inmates have no computer access, but my columns float
throughout the prison. A number of employees here tell me
they are regular readers, and print it out for others to see.
It’s no secret inside as to what I’m sending to
recent column on cocaine (power and crack) stimulated discussions
about other illegal drugs. Several white inmates volunteer
their personal experiences, as makers and sellers, of the
fastest-growing illegal drug in this country, methamphetamine.
called “ice, crystal, or crank” is a synthetic
drug. As one Shreveport inmate who is in here for selling
it told me, “you don’t grow this stuff. Everything
you need to make it can be bought at Wal-Mart.”
drug has been used for years by truckers trying to stay awake,
and bikers for a quick and extended “high.” But
just recently, Mexican methamphetamine producers have built
scores of so-called super-labs, which according to a recent
article in the New York Times, turn out 10 to 20 times the
amount of drugs that biker gangs and other traffickers historically
experts here tell me that other synthetic drugs are gaining
popularity, including MDMA and ecstasy. And they are all produced
right here at home, out of homemade labs.
“kick” is supposed to be stronger and the “high”
longer than cocaine. It therefore poses a great threat. You
don’t stop synthetic drugs at the border, because the
border has become our own neighborhood.
me say it again. These synthetics are the fastest-growing
illegal drugs in this country. If you haven’t had a
frank, candid discussion with your children about the dangers
of ice, or crystal, or ecstasy, you are making a big mistake.
I picked up a book this week that has been in my stack for
several years—Rogue Warrior by Navy Captain
Richard Marcinko. He was the founder of the Navy’s top-secret
counter-terrorist Seal Team until he was abruptly “set
up” by the Navy. We share something in common that I’ll
tell you about in a minute.
is about as much fast action in this book as you could want.
Lots of suspense, bigger than life characters, guerilla warfare
in Vietnam, and a Special Forces commander who stops at almost
nothing to achieve his goals.
could make five or six Rambo or Schwarzenegger movies from
this book, as Marcinko regularly faces one crisis after another.
1973: While training with Cambodian Navy officers who disappear
on him, Marcinko is left floating in a snake-infested river
above forty pounds of C-3 explosives rigged to explode—with
Khmer Rouge guerrillas shooting at him from both shores.
Island, 1981: At 19,000 feet, Marcinko’s first parachute
failed, then his backup chute collapsed. He was spiraling
wildly at night toward a target he believed held armed terrorists,
a hostage, and a hijacked nuclear weapon.
continually points out how unprepared we are for terrorist
bottom line is that we’re not prepared. The Navy is
prepared. The Navy has thirty manuals about community
relations, but not a single piece of paper about what to do
faced with the possibility of a suicide bomber, or a remote-
controlled speed boat filled with semtex. We stamp millions
papers Top Secret, but our most sensitive installations are
to attack twenty-four hours a day.”
the end, the Navy bureaucracy brings Marcinko down. His blunt
approach crossed too many people and he burned too many bridges
in his effort to do it “his way.” After thirty
years in the Navy, he was charged with conspiracy to cover
up over-buying of equipment by several men under his command.
key evidence that would clear him, including his various statements
made to Navy investigators, was kept from him and he could
not use this information in his defense. Boy, can I identify
with that. They hid evidence that would set him free. And
they hid the evidence (the FBI agent’s handwritten notes)
that would have set him free.
1990, Marcinko began a twenty-one month sentence in Petersburg,
Virginia Federal Prison.
was as tough a thing as I’ve had to do. Not because
prison—God knows I can take care of myself—but
knew I’d been railroaded. I was furious with the system
it had done to me.”
goes on to say he spent his time in prison reading, writing,
and working out each day. Have I found a soul mate or what!
That is except for swimming in snake-infested rivers and jumping
out of an airplane at 19,000 feet.
you are looking for a good read full of riveting military
action with the sad ending of the government letting a decent
man down, I suggest you try Rogue Warrior.
. . . .
of my fellow inmates stopped me last week as I was on my way
to the exercise area. His name is Troy Rogers from Galveston,
Texas. His nickname is “G Town.” I just call him
“G.” He’s built like a middleweight boxer,
has a large cut under his right eye, and reminds me of boxing
legend Sugar Ray Robinson.
you have a minute? I’d like you to take this and read
it. I know you read and write a lot. Tell me what you think?”
handed me a sheet of paper with a poem he had written. He
tells me he writes lots of poems as his personal outlet for
dealing with the loneliness of daily prison life. His simple
words speak for most of the inmate population here, and I
would imagine inmates just about everywhere.
Late at night I can see no stars,
My views are blocked by still gray bars.
I dream and miss my woman’s touch,
It’s her I love and want so much.
The nights stretch out so long and blue,
I dream of what I’d rather do.
As the long hours pass you feel so sad,
For the little ones at home that call you Dad
Are now living in the misery of the mistakes of your past,
I wonder how long this pain will last.
I dread each night, as a child lost without light,
I pray to the Lord to help me keep up the fight
So I can make it through each sleepless night.
Peace and justice to you and your family,