GOING TO JAIL: THE INCARCERATION EXPERIENCE
I was a lot more open to knowing new people in jail than I am outside. One was a young Middle Eastern guy who told me that he had converted from Islam to Christianity. He was proudly born again. In the common area he read me the first Chapter of Matthew and we discussed a few questions. I agreed to do some reading. It was the first time that I had read much of the BIBLE since my teens. For a while then I would read a chapter as penance for each time I masturbated, but I got so far behind I gave up. I am now at Chapter 18 and realize that Matthew contains many of the most familiar fundamentalist quotations from the BIBLE. Chapter 18 notably, Verse 6 contains the seed of much contemporary child abuse concern. The well known: better for him a millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depth of the sea is there. It is not harming any child but, But whoever causes of their little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would better a millstone etc. It goes on to plucking out the offending eyes. But its not all children, just the ones who believe in Him. Some peoples faith is frightening. One answer fits all. After I finished Matthew I read the Book of Job: Ah, the games God plays. Although I like talking with Christians, I dont think Ill read any more of the BIBLE for a while. The nastiness and the intolerance of the Religious Right is all expressly laid out in the Gospels. The point is that this attitude permeates other aspects of life as well. The newspapers gave some prominence to a Conservative MP advocating a minimum 2 year sentence for possession of child pornography. What must his concept of the power and menace of child porn be? A type of radioactivity that corrupts the mind? The paper put it very uncritically. The same type of fundamentalist thinking or attitude or simply faith of some sort is there. A simple requirement of hard evidence, not moral posturing would save us from creating the worst laws. If there was at least some statistical evidence that child porn was harmful to those who use it, more harmful than masturbation say, it would be possible to rationally debate the subject. However as long as the evidence against it is testimonies of moral outrage, often by stakeholders in its prohibition, nothing can be done. Reason doesnt have a chance against aroused Faith. Sometimes it seems we have lost the ability to ask the basic questions. Perhaps most dont dare.
I feel that I have been marking time for ten years. I feel that I have been losing creativity, that my mind is not as clever, as original as it used to be. I dont compose poems anymore, I havent since 1996. My mind doesnt roam freely, its not as open. I have become focused on my problems and its become deadening. I may also be suffering from old age. I have always prided myself on the agility of my mind.
In February I got a letter from the Deputy Director, Mr. MacIntyre, which left me very curious. It says:
A letter addressed to you was received at FMCC and some of the letters content was considered to contain information related to an illegal act.
In accordance with CCCR&R, Section 20, Sub-section 2(B), your letter was seized and content forwarded to the police.
Portions of the letter considered to be appropriate were forwarded to you.
Ive never been quite sure what it was about but it may have been an unsolicited European boylove newsletter. Maybe they thought I was re-offending already. A letter from a friend and former Ford Mountain inmate had sections excised with black felt pen and another letter was turned over when I was released.
My daughter visited me several times at Ford Mountain and I always looked forward to seeing her. Face to face contact is so much better than phone calls which are monitored. Early in 2005 when I was expecting a visit I did not notice my name on the list of those receiving visitors and phoned my daughter before she left. She confirmed that she had made an appointment. I went up to wait for her and spoke to Mr. Palmer a senior guard and asked him about it. He was insistent that if my daughter had made an appointment my name would be on the list. It wasnt, and that the visit would be denied if she showed up. He adamantly maintained that it is absolutely impossible to make a mistake. He said that in thirty years they had never made a mistake. Mark my words, he added pompously. I phoned her later. Anyway my daughter arrived but they would not let her in the gate. A guard who was not that pleasant took an envelope she was bringing me which I picked up at the Bubble later. She told me the time when she phoned and said as it was a long distance call she expects it will show up on her next telephone bill. She feels this will be proof that she did call. I dont think this proof, or any proof short of a confession, will get the administration to acknowledge that they, or one of the guards, made a mistake or mishandled things in any way. The burden of proof is something that can be applied in different ways. While it is theoretically true, for example, that guilt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt, it also true as in the case of Detective Waters search warrant of 1996, as contended in 2002, that police evidence must be accepted unless it is provably wrong or malicious. The search, and search warrant as I understand it, while flawed were accepted because it could not be proven (beyond a reasonable doubt) that Detective Waters acted with improper intent.
The inmate who had been giving me the most trouble, Parker, who cut up my clothes in the laundry room, who slams my door, deposits sweepings in my room, and bad mouths me has been released. He also stole from my canteen but I never asked the guards to look at the surveillance records. Unfortunately he was soon back having been busted again.
At times of major holidays like Easter and Christmas the camp has a series of tournaments; 8 ball, snooker, crib, horseshoes, and hearts. Prizes are awarded out of an inmate tax on canteen items. At Easter I entered the hearts tournament and was surprised to come second, and won a bag of goodies including half a red bale of tobacco. This is a problem as all sorts of people are on to me, to buy (with canteen items), to share, give for a story, or simply begging with a meaningless promise to repay. I dont need canteen goods, I will probably also get some things in the bag that I dont need or use. I am thinking of simply giving it away to people I know after rolling it up first. Then this guy who works at the woodpile tells he may be able to get me a burl I could use for a hobby project which interested me. I traded the tobacco for a big chunk of maple. Technically the wood belongs to the company that brings in hardwood logs that Ford Mountain contracts to buck and split for peoples fireplaces. It is not only contraband but stolen. I could rationalize that burls are very difficult to split and holding the tobacco was a hassle especially as everybody almost was out it waiting for canteen. It was a beautiful chunk of maple and I got started on turning bowls in the hobby shop. The instructor who came in once a week demonstrated how to turn wet green wood which cuts more easily than dry seasoned wood. I turned eighteen bowls while I was there. By making a contribution to the Native Brotherhood I was able to legitimize my possession of the contraband wood so I could ship out the finished bowls.
Although we are allowed few possessions where to put them can be a problem. The rooms in Holloway House only have a cabinet about five feet high and 14 inches wide. The upper 19 inches has a door in which you are expected to store your things while the lower part is for hanging clothes and keeping shoes. I had a number of legal documents I needed and stationery and craft supplies. Using pieces of cardboard I appropriated from the recycling shed I divided the upper part into spaces for medications, pads and forms, and envelopes with a space for folded clothes, towels, etc. above. I also made a wooden shelf to support the TV set so the small desk surface was more usable. I made two more for inmates who liked the idea. One day I return to my house after work and find my things on my bed. It seems that Mr. Gamme and another guard removed seven shelves from our rooms including my divider. I was quite angry at the time. The shelves were correctly, I suppose, considered contraband. A couple of days later, Gamme removed my TV shelf and the other two Id made. My TV is back under my bunk which is not a problem as I seldom watched it. I knew the TV shelves were vulnerable, but if everybody had wanted them and had them, in both the East and West units, 24 rooms, they might have been allowed. I had tried to get the inmate committee to push for them. Anyway I caught up with Mr. Gamme and he will allow me to put in a new piece of cardboard. The incident reminds me that I am in jail.Jail Journal menu
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