Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
As I walked back from my prison job at the library, I overheard two men arguing about which restaurant had the best drive thru fried chicken. One man in his 60’s insisted “Kentucky Fried Chicken” had the best fried chicken, and the other gentleman, in his 20’s, insisted “KFC” was superior. Neither man realized they were both referring to the same restaurant. Indeed, based on the restaurants unchanged “secret” 7 herbs and spices recipe, the were actually referring to the very same fried chicken. Nonetheless, the fiercely contested debate lasted around four hours, and spanned the evening meal –a very tasty hotdog served with a white substance, possibly Cole slaw, with a glass of water. Around lights out, it dawned on me the reason for the impasse was the prisoner in his sixties had been in almost 31 years, and still had 8 to go, and therefore when he was on the street the restaurant was called “Kentucky Fried Chicken.” He clearly was not aware of the revamping of the name. On the other hand, the younger man in his 20’s was either not yet born or was too young to remember the original name; he only knows the initials. #prisondivides #KFC #itsstillnotbetterthanmymommas
My daughter may only be 20 months old, but there are plenty of things I admire about her. She has the uncanny ability to focus on the here and now. She is totally fixed on the present. She does not lament what occurred last week or concern herself with the oatmeal stains I am sure are on her onsie. She’s not looking forward to the walks we will take when I get out of prison (though, I certainly am). She’s just focused on the moment, and the joy she gets from experiencing the world around her. She’s not buried in her cell phone (she doesn’t have one) — nor do I (at the moment).
I admire my daughter’s tenacity. She never quits. She focuses on tasks that she is interested in completing. She never gives up.
I admire the fact that she is so tough. She may fall down, but she always gets back up. She is resilient.
I love her love of books and learning. She inspires me to work harder as a parent.
My daughter is strong of mind, body, and spirit. She is mighty!
Most of all she is kind, loving, and friendly to all. She is a blessing.
When I get home, we are going to the zoo….
If one gives a man a fish, he feeds him for a day. If one teaches a man to fish, he feeds him for a life time, or so the old saying goes. I’m not sure who coined the previous adage, but it has been around for a long time. I guess the saying offers an enduring lesson. I have no doubt, based on experience, teaching a man to fish is infinitely rewarding and beneficial to the future of both the student and the teacher, but sometimes giving a man a “fish” is a far more prudent investment.
One night while luxuriating in the comfort of my 8×10 cube (prison talk for cubicle), I was finding it difficult to sleep. My thin mattress was wreaking havoc on my lower back, so I decided to read for a while. Because the lights were out (lights out after count time around 9:00pm or 9:30), it was pitch black in the unit. I borrowed a small reading light from my 72 year old cellie (short for cellmate), Sid. As soon as I turned the reading light on, the man in the next cube objected loudly. I had seen him earlier in the day ironing his prison gear. He was now posted up in the corner of his cell, seated in a plastic chair. He had the build of an English bulldog. He had been stepped down in security level from ADX, the federal governments version of Supermax, an underground prison in Colorado. He was a grumpy fella who muttered something about taking my head off if I didn’t cut off that light. I later learned he had been down (prison talk for incarcerated) thirty nine years. He was steeped in prison “etiquette”, and the unwritten rules of survival at every level of the prison system. Although I knew better, I gently challenged him. I asked if the rule to shut off my light included a caveat for being able to hear his music blaring every night even though he was wearing headphones. He stared at me blankly. He was either shocked that I was challenging him, or he was contemplating the many ways he could shank me without jeopardizing his newly acquired minimum security status. I think to some degree, he had not realized his music was so loud, but nonetheless he mumbled something about snuffing me out in my sleep, and then he went back to reading his bible. As I laid back down, I could hear my mama in my head saying; “Fool, he just might have the wherewithal to snuff you out.” I imagined having to engage in hand to hand combat with the bulldog in the confines of my small cube. I figured my 72 year old cellie would probably be no help. The thought was fleeting, I decided to lower my light, show deference and respect to the bulldog, and I quickly fell asleep.
The next morning came quickly. I was up by 5:00am, and so was the Bulldog. He was back in his chair hard at work doing his resistance training. He was in the middle of a set of curls. The bulldog’s routine was disciplined. He got up around 5:00am, quickly made his bed, shimmied down the ladder of the bunk beds, and on to his chair for a vigorous resistance work out. After his workout, he showered, donned his pressed prison gear and his shined prison boots, and headed off to work at UNICOR (the federal governments version of New Aged Slavery). It dawned on me more than once that the Bulldog would have made an excellent drill sergeant, but for being busted at 22 for drugs. (he was originally given life plus forty years in a historical dope case, but was given clemency by President Obama whereby the life sentence was removed. Therefore, the Bulldog is serving the remainder of a forty year bid (prison sentence) with 10 years of supervised release to follow) As an aside, a historical case is where people come into court to testify, for various reasons, that they engaged in drug transactions with the defendant. There is rarely any actual dope. In prison this is known as a “ghost dope” case. The amounts to which the witnesses testified are aggregated into a total weight. The total weight is then applied to the defendant as if he had trafficked in the amount the witnesses or co-defendants attributed to him. This type of case is a tactic utilized mostly at the Federal level, and can result in some hefty sentences for drug offenders. Anyway, after I made my bed, folded up my extra sheet and blanket, and transferred my reading light back into the confines of my locker, I headed off to breakfast. Of course, I had to wait until the “big voice” came over the prison loud speaker authorizing us to leave the unit. I was not the only hungry soul. The line was long. I waited for whatever it was they happened to be serving. As I stood there, I noticed how various prisoners trade bread, fruit, or milk with one another. I decided I would get the milk, even though as most of my friends know my stomach certainly could not handle it, not to mention the fact that it comes in a bag. I figured I would offer it to another inmate on my way to sitting on the “Black/Hispanic” side of the chow hall. (Black people had the main part of one section with the Hispanics occupying a few tables in the corner. White people had the other section to themselves–these types of informal seating arrangements in prison are troublingly common, but true.) As I walked toward a seat, I spotted the bulldog. He saw me too! He offered me a seat, I politely declined, but offered my two bags of milk. He accepted, thanked me, and smiled. Phew!!!! I ate my banana feeling relieved.
After breakfast, I walked back to the housing unit. As I turned to enter my cube, I heard a voice— “Aye, Aye Big Homie!” Uh oh, it was the bulldog. He stuck out his hand and apologized. He thanked me for the milk, and he told me if I needed anything, to “see him.” He went on to say that often times he may seem angry at various prisoners, including me, but in actuality, he was “angry at what the system did to him.” Prison is a very complex place. Clearly I have a lot to learn. There are many rules, it can be dangerous, and interestingly enough, respect is paramount, but giving a man a “fish” can go a very long way.
Several days into my sentence, I walked into the prison library looking for a book. I was in desperate need of a quiet place to read, and I wanted to get started on some of my other prison goals. Specifically, I was looking for some of those “How to for Dummies” books or perhaps a book to assist me in my quest to become fluent in a foreign language. It should not have been a surprise that this was prison, and not the County library, so the selection was not as complete as one would think. In fact, most books are donated or left behind by inmates who have completed their term, transferred, or thrown in the “hole” (prison vernacular for the Special Housing Unit aka “the SHU” aka solitary confinement). As I perused the selection, I noticed a very large collection of Danielle Steele books, larger in fact than Tom Clancy and John Grisham combined. Without thinking, I exclaimed, “What the heck??? (or something to that effect :>)—I am working on that as well)—I thought this was a men’s prison! Who in the heck is reading all this Danielle Steele?” Looking around the room for agreement and a few chuckles, I was stunned to find…silence. In fact, everyone in the library was staring at me with disapproval, and it wasn’t because I wasn’t whispering. I quickly exited the library, embarrassed at my lame attempt at humor, and returned to the unit. While walking down the “boulevard” (the walkway separating the cubicles) I noticed several guys lying in their racks (military term for bed) reading, who would have thought, none other than Danielle Steele. #lessonlearned #prisonromantics #intellectualporn #stereotypesarefordummies
My wife and I woke early on July 18, 2019. I had a mandatory report time of 12:00pm at the Institution, and I wanted to eat breakfast prior to departure. My days at The Citadel and in the Military taught me to arrive early. My target time was 9:00am (not early in Citadel or military terms, but early for federal employees, and probably prison, too). I wanted to be first in line. I wasn’t sure why, but I would later learn my early arrival was spot on for the very same reasons it would have been advantageous in the military. I was feeling anxious because I did not know what to expect. I had definitely seen my share of television shows, so I could only envision some very unsettling images. I fought to be upbeat and positive for my wife whom I knew was terrified for me. She fought to be positive for me for similar reasons. In the months leading up to my imprisonment, I spent many nights searching the internet in order to get some idea of what to expect. I found it difficult to predict based on the fact that people’s experiences varied from prison to prison, from custody level to custody level, and from correctional officer to correctional officer (CO). My YouTube investigation paid off in terms of determining what to wear. #Alldressedupandgoingtoprison. I chose to wear a pair of Crocs that needed to be thrown away, an old t-shirt, a pair of shorts I should have donated to Goodwill long ago, and a forward stare I had learned to utilize thirty years earlier during my time as a freshman at The Citadel.
The intake process was more dehumanizing than humiliating. Though being naked, lifting ones testicles so that a complete stranger could examine my “under carriage” for contraband or turning around to squat and cough was not an experience I would recommend, it was secluded and professional. From there, I was given some temporary prison gear, and led to a full body scanner. Once completed, I stole a quick glance at the screen containing my body image. I had not realized the toll the Oreos, couch sitting, and daddy duties had taken on my physique. My insomnia was normal, but my weight gain needed to be addressed ASAP. The thought led me to think about my first goal–Hit the ground running. I promised myself I would knock out 30 push ups upon entering the holding cell, and then I would practice the meditation techniques I have been learning at the VA. I must have “passed” the scan because the CO seemed satisfied I wasn’t carrying anything that God didn’t give me. Shortly after being photographed, I was led to a holding cell. Over the last several weeks I pictured entering a packed holding cell with numerous inmates glaring at me, but in actuality, the cell was empty. The concrete walls were white, the cell contained a concrete bench and the world famous stainless steel toilet I had vowed never to sit on. I quickly knocked out 25 push-ups but ran out of gas (I had planned to do thirty–See Oreo cookies, couch sitting, and daddy duties). Exhausted by my sad attempt, I moved on to meditation. As I struggled to relax, the thought of being in prison continued its assault on my mind. I have no idea how much time passed, but at some point I was finally escorted into another cell after being told to change into yet another prison outfit. This time it was in order to transport me to my “quarters”. I was given a greenish t-shirt that I believe was supposed to be white, another set of ill fitting trousers, and some “Mr. Rogers” type slippers. As we rode to the prison, I worried the pants they had issued me were way too big. I had no belt, so when I entered the prison I shuffled along holding my pants up. It wasn’t exactly what I had imagined. In fact, it was humiliating in a way that I had never experienced. There were inmates standing in front of their assigned units watching as the new guy came onto the yard. It was strange because they looked at me with familiarity. It wasn’t the first time they had seen a new guy shuffle in. Because I arrived early, I was told to go to the laundry where my bedding and permanent prison gear would be issued. I emerged from the laundry with two bags of prison gear. I wasn’t quite sure how to feel as I walked to the door. Though my entire life had been reduced to two bags of government gear, I knew that everything I really cared about was outside the confines of my new reality.
As I crossed the courtyard with my gear, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I knew there were rules in prison, but I wasn’t sure what they were. I had no experience in prison etiquette. I decided it wasn’t wise to act tougher than I was or to appear more scared. I chose to simply be myself. With my hands full of gear, I smiled, gave a few head bobs to acknowledge the onlookers, and headed towards my unit. As I walked, someone yelled, “wassup South Carolina”, and a friendly face appeared to showed me too my bunk. I soon learned the 171 at the end of my redshirt number indicated the district in which I was convicted. Therefore, anyone with -171 was convicted in South Carolina. As I unpacked, several guys poked their head in to welcome me. Some brought some items by that they knew I would need. A fellow former lawyer brought me some used tennis shoes that were just about my size, some tattered shorts, and a work out regimen that would make my old Coach Charlie Taaffe proud. The tattered prison gear wasn’t much, but it was exactly what I needed to begin my redshirt year in prison.
The vulnerability of redshirting has caused me to question my utility at home. Therefore, when I am incarcerated, I fear my wife will realize she does not need me. I’m afraid my daughter will forget me, and I have accepted the fact that the dynamic between some of my friends and me has been inextricably changed.
Redshirting creates insecurities, but I have never been an insecure person. I want to make this experience as positive as I possibly can while recognizing this year will be much tougher on my family. I owe it to them to utilize my Redshirt year to return as a much improved person. Here’s to having a plan, and working on it every day. I believe in the WIN principle. (What’s Important Now). First up on the agenda, survive the first day with my dignity intact (I actually intend to thrive rather than survive but that’s neither here nor there). During intake, I plan to capture my experience while enduring the process, to stay focused on where I want to be not where I am, and to listen more than I speak.
Family and Friends,
The first athlete to extend his eligibility in the modern era of redshirting was a guy named Warren Alfson. Alfson attended the University of Nebraska in 1937. Alfson marched into the coaches office and requested he be allowed to sit out his sophomore season due to the number of experienced players ahead of him. Furthermore, because he had not started college until several years after graduating from high school, he felt he needed more time to prepare physically. The year off was good to Alfson; he was All-Big Six Conference in 1939 and an All-American guard in 1940.
Athletes may be asked by coaches to redshirt if it becomes apparent the athlete needs more time to prepare physically or intellectually. In short, the purpose of a redshirt year is an opportunity to get better.
The term Redshirt has also been co-opted by some in the pre-k academic realm as well. It is the practice of postponing entrance into kindergarten of age-eligible children in order to allow extra time for physical, socioemotional, or intellectual growth.
I intend to adopt the term “Redshirt” for my own purposes. As many of you know, I was convicted in Federal Court of one count of wire fraud. As a result, I will be spending my Redshirt year at the Federal Correctional Complex, Butner. I expect to use my Redshirt Year for physical, socioemotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth.
In college my number was 21, during this Redshirt Year my number will be 33778-171. I guess that’s too long to put on a jersey, but it fits on a letter if you’re interested in writing. There is a process to corresponding, visiting, or contributing to my commissary account. Information on processes associated with contacting me can be found at the BOP.GOV website.
I am already working hard to prepare and grow from my experience. As such, I would like to invite you to follow my blog, and hold me accountable. Yes, I have created a blog to share my experiences as my family and I navigate this process. The blog site is Myredshirtyearinprison.blog. I have also created a reading list on Amazon. Feel free to send me a book if you think it’s something that will help me to reach my goals.
My wife and I are determined to use this time as a period of personal growth and intellectual enrichment. Notwithstanding this Redshirt Year, we are blessed beyond measure. We are also very thankful to all those that have chosen to reach out.
I will miss my wife, daughter, family, and friends, but I’ll be back sometime soon. I think it was Arnold Schwarzenegger who said; “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”
See you soon!
Top Five Reasons Why My Redshirt Year Will Be Harder On My Family
1. My wife has to try to run a household, take care of the baby, and work at the same time. Deep down I know my wife is more than capable of doing whatever needs to be done, but I have an overwhelming feeling of guilt having to leave her at our family home while I go off to prison. The pain that I have caused my family is immeasurable. I know when my daughter yells “Dada”, I will not be home to answer.
2. My wife and I are a team. My actions and inactions have caused my teammate to carry the total burden of carrying on with our lives on the outside by herself. I know she is the one who will have to face the judgmental scrutiny of those members of the community who have apparently never made a mistake.
3. My daughter is too young to understand my absence. She is wonderful, but she is also a handful for someone who has been teaching all day. Furthermore, we have always held the belief that a child needs a mama and a daddy that are present. While I am away, my wife has to be the mother and father to our daughter. When my wife lays her head on her pillow at night my side of the bed will be cold, and she will be keenly aware of my absence and inability to assist.
4. Today, 22 days prior to my departure, my wife found a tick on her side. She was obviously distressed. I was able to calm her down, and remove the tick (before she burned our house down trying to “burn it off”). With my departure looming, I can’t stop wondering what would have happened if I was not here to help. Of course there is another part of me that knows she is quite capable of removing the tick on her own.
5. My wife’s life is on hold while I serve my time. In the last year, I have gone from our homes biggest bread winner to our homes biggest bread eater. I lay awake at night thanking the lord that she is so patient with me while I work to rebuild myself. I know our shared future is at stake.
Thank you for visiting my blog. As you may know, I am new to the blogosphere. I never dreamed that I would be blogging, but of course, I never dreamed I would be accused and convicted of a federal crime either. Obviously, this experience has been rough on me, my family, and my friends. We are determined to turn this very negative occurrence into a positive and enriching one. As such, I have decided to chronicle my experience as I progress through the system. I plan to write about the affects this experience has on my family, lessons learned, my thoughts and feelings, my wife, my toddler, and other things going through my brain that I think may be worth talking about. I also must say that I mean no disrespect to anyone else’s experience. I recognize that I am fortunate, in that I have one year and a day while others are serving much more time. I can only comment on my experience and observations as a guy with no prior criminal history. I hope to reach my family and friends, and at some point others that are going through a similar experience or friendly people that are just curious. That’s all for now. -Prisoner 33778-171