CURRENT STATUS

If you have any questions for Andy about the prison system, what it is like, what goes on there, or anything, please leave the question in a blog comment and Andy would be happy to answer it. It keeps him occupied and allow us to learn about the system.

Also, for his friends, he would LOVE to get pictures of anything, so if you have his address, please send them to him, or if you would like to email them to the blog editor, you can do that and he will print out the pics and mail them to him.

He is now attending the class he must take before his release, and he will mention the journal entry memo they discussed that day in class.

Even if you don't know Andy, feel free to comment on his blog entries, which he gets and will respond to.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

THE PUNISHMENTS YOU CAN RECEIVE WHILE IN PRISON AND WHAT I AM IN PRISON FOR (UPDATED 4/26)

I wanted to respond to comments asking about what I was charged for, and the charge was theft and I got three years.  I was ordered to pay $94,000 restitution and it has been paid in full.  I was originally charged in May of 2005.

To respond to another comment asking what a lay in is?  It actually has two definitions here.  The first is the slip of paper that is handed out each evening to an inmate that details an activity for them to attend the next day.  For example, when th eguards show up at about 7 pm each evening we, as the inmates, say "The guard is here to pass out lay ins."  The second definition is a synonym for appointment or scheduled event.  For example, I received notice that I need to go to the education department tomorrow at 9 am.  Therefore, I will leave my job at 8:55 in order to get to my 9 am education lay in.

To address another question, if you don't show up for work, the worst thing that could happen would be to receive a "major" case and get moved to a segregated cell.  Then you lose commissary, visitation and recreation privileges.  Or often even get shipped off to a less desirable prison unit.  I think the warden has unlimited discretion when dealing with discipline problems. 

Now would all this really happen?  Almost certainly not.  Attendance is not taken at my particular job.  If I wasn't needed on the day I was missing then no one would probably even be aware.  If they did need me and I wasn't there then they would just page me in my form and I would go in.  I think most of the other jobs around here have more of a direct supervisor than mine has, so my situation is probably somewhat unique.  My co-worker took the day off yesterday and I covered for him which was no big deal.  Personally, I will never take a day off..just in case.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

ARE PEOPLE STILL READING?

I have not received any comments (or very few) for the last couple of weeks.  I just wondered if there were people still reading (want to make sure if I invest this time, there are some people actually still reading it).

(Editor's note - I saw he had six comments on his last post, so he will be happy to see them.  Another blog entry will be posted Mondayy.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

MAYBE THE NICKNAME FRIDAY IS A GOOD OMEN

I’ll start with the story of “Friday”.  First off, does everyone understand the nickname?  If not, I’ll explain next time, if needed.  Friday is a very cordial black man that is probably 6’2” tall, in good shape, and about 46 years old.  Definitely, a really nice and intelligent guy, but probably lacking any sort of formal education.  His front teeth are not teeth.  They are tooth.  His mouth looks like that of a beaver, but with only one tooth. No joke. Friday is in here on a 10 year sentence for some sort of drug charge.  He is married and has kids.  He has served prison time before, but I’m not sure where or for how long.  

The logistics of our job put Friday and I in a position of exposure to prominent people within the parole system here.  A little over a week ago Friday started explaining to me that he recently had two meaningful conversations with a particular parole “higher up”.   He expressed to me that he really felt like he had made a positive influence to his chances for parole.  Please note that Friday has been locked up for just a little over a year.  Technically, he is eligible for parole after 1 year and 2 months of being locked up.  I blew off Friday’s comments as nonsense.  I knew he had a snowball’s chance in h
ell of making his first parole on a 10 year sentence.  Last Tuesday he came to me with a letter that his wife had Jpayed to him. In the letter his wife explained that the same parole “higher up” had phoned her about 4 days prior to inquire about Friday’s potential parole.  His wife explained that the conversation had gone well.  

This sounded peculiar to me, because, even with the limited knowledge that I carry about the parole system, I knew that if this truly did take place, that it was a very BIG deal.  Friday then showed me the next Jpay letter from his wife, and his wife was ecstatic!  The same parole “higher up” had just telephoned her again and personally told her that Friday was actually approved for his parole.  He had obtained an FI-6 release.  FI-6 means that he is to be released as soon as he completes 6 months of therapy.  At this point, this story is nearly unheard of!  A second personal phone call about parole, as well as, being paroled after only a year on a 10 year sentence is really not even much of a possibility.  

I have heard stories in here of inmates receiving parole with the condition that they complete treatment first.  Some will be required to undergo 3 months of treatment, but they will have to wait for months on end to be transferred to another unit to receive the required treatment.  Therefore, these people will often be locked up for an extra 4 or 5 months just waiting idly for a transfer, or for their treatment to commence.  Well, in prison, just as in the real world, it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.  Last Thursday, merely two days after learning he was approved, Friday caught chain and was transferred to another unit to begin his treatment.  

All in all, as long as he completes his six months of therapy, Friday will have spent just under 19 months locked up on a 10 year sentence, and then he will be released to go home.  Friday’s situation inspires me as I work towards being paroled myself.   

****Special note:  Friday had asked me just before he left the tank for chain if I could have my mom call his wife that he was in the process of being moved.  I phoned my mom the next morning to ask that favor.  I’m curious as to how that conversation actually went between my mom and his wife.  Does my mom have a new BFF, and how did Friday’s wife react to the good news? 
    
It’s now Sunday afternoon so I’ll wrap this up.  Basketball is about to come on and I also need to exercise. Thank you so much, again, for continuing to read and for all of your support.  I haven't gotten any comments sent to me in a while to respond to, but I expect to receive them soon, and I will be sure to respond promptly.

Monday, April 12, 2010

NICKNAMES FOR THE CHARACTERS IN MY ROOM

So, for the characters in this unit…they are in no particular order other than the way our bunks are arranged in this room.
1) "Banjo" - named so because he looks like the unfortunate character in the movie “Deliverance”. (Wasn’t it Ned Beatty?) If you’ve seen the movie , you’ll understand. If not, then ask a friend. I’m not going to explain it.
2) "Mr. Clean" –because he is a spitting image of a shrunken down Mr. Clean figure.
3) "Bernie" – named after Bernie Madoff. He’s almost 70 and is in here on some type of white collar theft.
4) I’m laughing as I try to write this and the name is escaping me. What is the name of the gorilla that learned sign language? It is a female name…Oh, I just remembered. It is Koko. So, this guy will be named "Koko" because he has a funny looking gorilla tattoo on his back.
5) Next up is “Code Blue". This is one half of my Blue collar comedy duo. He is the one in here for arson. I was going to name him “Code Red” after that old fireman show from the late 70’s early 80’s , but instead, substituted “Blue” for “Red” because of his redneck look and humor.
6) “Code Blue’s” counterpart will be a name that is escaping me right now. Can someone look it up? Who is the artist that produces the pictures of the dogs playing poker? That will be this guy’s nickname. He is by far the best artist (drawing) I have met while in here. That is actually saying something, because there are some really good ones! Unfortunately, he also sort of looks like and acts like he’d be on the dog poster himself.
7) "Friday" – because he works in here as the staff barber
8) "Walmart" – because he is my only friend in here that has a job at the commissary
9) "Axel" – this is my bunkmate with the band
10) "HOA" – this is one on my “suitemates”. To explain- there are 29 sets of bunk beds in here. Most of them are arranged where 2 sets are in a little partitioned off area. Therefore, 4 people are together as “suitemates” on 2 sets of bunk beds. HOA stands for Home Owner’s Association. This guy is very funny and made a joke about all of us suitemates starting our own group in here as a homeowners association.
11) My second suitemate will be called….not sure what he will be called, yet. I have some ideas, but I’ll need to come back to it.
12) "Sketch" - is next and you know him already.
13) The “Prez” - I’m sort of reaching on this one, but here goes. This guy is probably about 60 years old. His entire life has been made up of various prison stays. He also sort of looks like John Hinkley, the guy that shot President Reagan.
14) “Jonah” - I was about to call this guy “The Disciple” because he runs around 24/7 with his Bible. On the surface, that is not a bad thing, but this guy is way too much “in your face” with it. I could possible call him “Hare Krishna”, but instead, I will refer to him as Jonah, because I wish a whale would swallow him.
15) "Hitch" – named after Alfred Hitchcock. This guy works at the law library and annoys me for no important reason. I feel the same way about the Hitchcock movies.
16) “Scrabble” – named so because I think this kook has memorized every single 2 letter word in the scrabble dictionary.
17) “Calli” – that’s his real nickname. Not sure why.
18) ”X” – named so because it seems he would have been a fitting character on the movie “American History X”.
19) “Singen” – named after the professional volleyball player, Sinjen Smith. This guy tells too many stories about the volleyball tournaments they “used to have” at his old unit the last time he was in prison.
20) “Wilson” – named after the volleyball in “Castaway”.
21) “Arkansas” – named so because he has a HUGE gorilla tattoo on his entire back. However, I think it looks like a wild boar. The school mascot for Arkansas is a Razorback Hog.
22) “GJ” – for George Jefferson. This guy has a laundry business in here. Enough said.
23) 24) You already know “Four Four” and “DZ”.
25) Lastly, there is “Ink” – always talking about tattooing.
I am certain that I’ve left off more than a handful, but I’ll let you know about more of them as they come into play.
Coming shortly, the story of “Friday”.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

RESPONSES TO BLOG COMMENTS

Comments:
MamaB  3/12/10    I’m not sure how the guards keep track of how long we eat.  There are rows of tables and they call us to leave row by row.  If you are the first to be seated at a row you will have a little longer to finish your meal. There is zero consistency in here as far as discipline and rules, so I think that the guards pretty much just ask us to leave whenever they feel like it. 
I’m sorry about all of your recent anxiety. I don’t know how much of the stress you feel is based on your son being in prison, but it obviously contributes.  Try to keep in mind that it’s probably more difficult for you on the outside than it is for him on the inside.  I’m not sure how much time your son has behind him, but try to carry the thought that you will never again have to suffer  through the beginnings of all this ever again.  The hard part is behind you.  Now it’s just a waiting game, and you can definitely prevail. Keep taking it in pieces.  By the time you read this, Easter will be one more Holiday that you won’t have to deal with.  Next up… the month of April.
Does your son expect to stay where he is or be transferred again? My unit here in Beaumont is 100 times better than where he is.  If he is at all apprehensive about leaving his current situation, tell him not to worry.   Please let us all know how things are going.

Big Daddy  3/12/10   Be careful.  There are already too many drug dealers in here. LOL. Get your tail on the prison diet.  It will make you feel a lot better.  Did I love that girl at the Old Absinthe Bar, or did we dream that story up?  Did I tell you that I went back to that bar with my ex, and I saw that bartender?  She looked the same.  Good times!   I’m assuming you figured out the Jpay stuff by now.  Send me one with your address so I can get back to you.  We may need to put together a trip to see Momo. I was just telling the guys in here today stories about us betting on the dogs in Mexico.  Take it easy!

Ginger 3/16/10  Thanks.  I’m definitely settled in at my new place.  The only thing that could make it better would be keys to the front door!

Mark’s Queen 3/19/10  Thanks again.  The job I have is great.  I’ve never been fired before from a job, so I sure hope this won’t be the first.  I do NOT hear the hoe squad calling my name.  What jobs did you have while you were locked up?  Yes, I’m SSI.  It stands for S.?... Service Inmate.  I’ll have to check on the significance of the first S.

Eddie C  3/21/10  Hurricanes to drink or the weather?  I saw a funny sign painted on the window of a bar on Bourbon Street.  The time was 2005 just before Hurricane Rita.  It was painted in red shoe polish and said “We don’t run from hurricanes.  We drink them.”  Sketch may be soft.  You want Derek as your compadre the next time you are on 6th Street.  Trust me. I know.  Ask him about the Buffalo Club.

Maria  3/22/10  I’m all swell and healthy.  Thank you for caring to ask.  I’m excited about seeing pictures of your town and the Braveheart Bridge.  So, Mel Gibson’s accent didn’t do much for you in the movie?  You should expect a letter from me soon.

Anonymous  3/24/10  Our outdoor recreation yard has a basketball court and a volleyball court. It has a hardball court and a universal weight set.  The yard is totally fenced in and the entire ground area is concreted.  It’s not really like what you see on TV. Most everyone outside is exercising or playing a game. There isn’t much loitering and there is no gang stuff at all.  There are also no rock hammers!

Chris  3/25/10  Thanks for clearing up the name thing.  I think more people would agree with your liberal thoughts concerning controlled substances if they could see things from inside a prison.  There are definitely too many people in here locked up for minor drug charges.  However, most of these people are also involved in a plethora of other illegal activities.  I don’t think that simply legalizing the drug trade would be a good fix.  I have actually thought about this quite a bit, since I’ve been in here, but I am still perplexed when I try to dream up a solution.  I do feel the solution needs to be based on a punishment that will be a deterrent for younger people. Possibly, the punishments need to be more individualized. Probation would help some, while manual labor would help others, while a monetary fine would help another group.  There are just so many different variables to consider. 
     Lengthy sentences do not deter crime.  Lengthy sentences only teach people how to do time.  Once someone does 5 years in here on a 10 year sentence, they are no longer frightened of having to come back for something minor.  Two or three years to them seems moot after they have served five years.   As a whole, it is virtually impossible for prisoners to get back into the “normal” workforce.  Expecting ex-cons as a whole to be productive members of society is a pipe dream at best.  I have no idea how to “fix” the system, but it definitely seems to have too many holes as it is. Chris, do you have any ideas concerning sentence lengths that you think would help the US society as a whole?
 

Monday, April 5, 2010

LOCKDOWN

3/28

Our unit was on lockdown status from last Tuesday morning until yesterday morning.  Lockdown is when everyone is confined to cells. No excercise yard. No visitors. Some cells will be searched for illegal drugs, knives etc. Security is tightened. Guards armed. Every prison employee must go through an extensive search of their property and their body.

I have spent quite a bit of time recently preparing documents for my parole attorney.  I finished up what is hopefully the second to last major round of information to him yesterday evening.  It was a good feeling when I completed it all and sealed the envelope to him last night.  I'm very pleased with the letters I was able to prepare and write to him to present to the parole board.  I even made a rough draft of the letter that I considered to be most important and then copied it after I had made corrections.  I haven't hand drafted a rough copy of a letter since the onset of Microsoft Word.  Have you?

As for how I am feeling, I am actually feeling really good.  I'm starting to already feel how the challenge of this sentence is going to better me in many ways.  Before now I only surmised in my head that there would be benefits, but this past week I finally started to feel the knowledge being absorbed.  I finished reading "The Green Mile" the other day.  It was a great book, and I'm sure better for me since I never saw the movie.  Life here has seemed much more in order since I was able to go to commissary last Tuesday.  Simply buying a handful of files and a storage folder has made me feel much more organized and put together. 

I have been wanting to discuss my sentence length and parole possibilities with you for quite some time now.  That feeling is even greater now, but I'm going to try and refrain as long has possible.  If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask, but I'll try to hold off a little longer.

I'd like to try and introduce you to some of the characters I have met here at my new unit.  Some of these guys have nicknames already.  Everyone is aware that I am writing quite a bit, and in this situation the pen is truly mightier than the sword.  I'm going to go through some of the characters in my next entry.   Hope your week has started off well.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

COMMISSARY, H1N1 SHOTS AND FINALLY, THE PHONES!

3/21/10
Sunday - noon. Dang…it got cold! I actually woke up to have the 3:30 am breakfast this morning, and it was cold, windy, and rainy. Absolutely a miserable combination, considering I have no jacket. The rain has left, but it’s still cold and windy. I’m not sure what the forecast looks like for the next few days, but it‘s gotta be better than this. I worked all yesterday on a letter to the parole board, and I revised and completed it this morning. I think that it turned out well and will effectively relay my thoughts to the board. I have completed my commissary list in anticipation of being able to go tomorrow. It will be such a welcomed relief. It has been almost 5 weeks to the day since I’ve been able to preplan and purchase everything I needed. I’m down to one envelope and one working pen. I have started to feel more cut off from the outside, since I haven’t been able to mail letters at will. By tomorrow afternoon I should be re-stocked on supplies and be completing the final process for telephone registration. I’m not sure if I will actually be able to make phone calls tomorrow, but if not, it shouldn’t be too much longer. I’m definitely looking forward to making a few calls. The delay has been well over a week from the time I mail a letter home until I get a response. Since leaving county, I feel like I haven’t been on the same page as everyone on the outside. It will be nice to communicate by phone to determine what letters have or haven’t been received and where certain books have been lost along the tangled mail route. I didn’t receive any blog comments this past Friday, so I wasn’t able to respond back to any of those over the weekend. (editor’s note – he really didn’t get any that week.) I’m hoping that I’ll get some tomorrow (he got them Friday the 26th).


3/22/10
11:00 am Monday. I am waiting in line right now to register to use the phone system. Thank goodness for a little fortune this morning! At 6:00 am this morning they decided to lock my form down to administer H1N1 shots to everyone. They weren’t letting anyone leave the dorm for any reason. As I understand it, this telephone registration only happens once every month or two, so I was very worried that I wasn’t going to be able to meet my 10:30 am appointment to get registered. I know that there is at least one of my friends who is stuck back at the dorm right now who also needs to register. I don’t know if he’ll be able to register today or not. I hope he makes it, because he really needs to call his wife. Anyway, luckily for me, I somewhat knew one of the guards that was working our dorm this morning, and I was able to get her to move me to the front of the shot line and then, miraculously, she even let me leave the dorm to come to register! I checked in quickly at my job and then came to register. I ended up only being about 15 minutes late, but they still allowed me in. So, at this moment, I am awaiting my turn while sitting on a hard metal bench. FYI, I carry a pen and a couple of sheets of paper around with me most everywhere. Our shirts that we wear here have nice big front pockets so it’s no big deal to carry the paper and pen around.