The following poem was written back in June of 1996. Back then I was a drug using, drug selling, violent little badass. I was at Walla Walla, living with Mikey and Jeff. When we were using drugs and smoking joints people use to walk by our cell, look in, and fiend. A lot of guys would stop at our bars and try to make small talk in hopes it would lead to a free hit, or a joint.
(To read more about this crazy time in my life, please check out my ebook called, STONE CITY: LIFE IN THE PENITENTIARY. Specifically, Chapter: 7.)
TAKING THE EDGE OFF PRISON LIFE
Waking up slow to the practical jokes,
where coffee is a must and everyone smokes.
Take a deep breath you can smell the green,
as the broke walk by they look in and fiend.
People say I’m gone how I wish that was true,
the fact is that I’m here so let me tell you what I do.
I kick em in the face sometimes I choke em out,
But then I get away with it and that’s what its about.
So please don’t mess because I gotta confess,
when it comes to fighting dirty I’m one of the best.
So what if I’m small so what if you’re tall,
within ten seconds guarantee you will fall.
The hell with taking the edge off prison life,
its more like taking your head off with my prison knife!
That poem illustrates just how sick my thoughts were. As a result, my actions were extremely destructive. I was oblivious to the fact that I induced my own suffering and hardships.
Now, it is with a joyous heart that I share a more recent poem that was written on 10-25-13, in the midst of enlightenment and spiritual awakening. I am so blessed to have this gentle love in my life. THIS is what takes the edge off of prison life for me these days.
THE MAGIC OF HER LOVE
Love is like magic, at least it is for me.
I pulled a rabbit out the hat, and her name is Suzie.
She transformed my world, a cold hard place.
By showing me a warm soft glow, within the beauty of her face.
Our situation is unique, and to some very strange.
But there’s nothing in this world that love can’t change.
Her love is so pure, understanding and kind.
She loves with all her heart, body, soul and mind.
Her love is so powerful, it reaches my core.
Her love is a love I’ve never felt before.
Her love is a love in which I’ve been seeking.
Her love is a language in which I’m now speaking.
Her love is the love that inspires my life.
Her love is the love that I’ve found in my wife.
We’re looking for someone who can expose my ebook “Stone City: Life In The Penitentiary” to millions of people worldwide. For more details please contact us.
“I think it would be helpful for the audience to understand how you personally were affected by Occupational Deprivation.” ~Sandra Rogers
That single sentence stood out to me and is where the title of this post came from. First, I had to understand the meaning of Occupational Deprivation (OD). As far as I can tell, it means: The lack of meaningful activities. Hmmm…all of my activities have had some type of meaning behind them.
I hustled, gambled, sold drugs and tobacco.
The Meaning: to make money.
I got in fights.
The Meaning: to earn respect and to release pent up frustrations and aggression.
In a Penitentiary, or a Correctional Center, these truly are meaningful activities. If I want to spend the rest of my life locked up and miserable! Early on in my incarceration I knew I had to change. I wanted to change! (For an in-depth look, please read my ebook, Stone City: Life In The Penitentiary)
The cure to Occupational Deprivation is Meaningful Activities. But for years, I was denied. I asked numerous DOC employees for help. The answer was always the same, “No. Those programs are for short timers…you have too much time.”
My misconduct would continue and I’d end up in the hole. Again! I shed many tears in The Hole. Because that’s when & where reality really hit! Prison. 43 years. The pain I’ve caused others. Isolation. Being a failure. A loser. The list goes on…
One time when I was in the hole they cuffed me and escorted me to the recreation enclosure. On the way there I saw a flier advertising Anger Management and Victim Awareness. These classes were available in the hole. Two classes I desperately needed. So I submitted a kite requesting them.
To my surprise, they denied me. The reason: I wasn’t doing enough time in the hole.
That pissed me off! While in population I’m denied for having too much time. And in the hole I’m denied for not having enough time. But if I seriously hurt someone and get, let’s say,12 months in the hole, then I’ll get the classes and my long prison sentence is no longer a factor.
It’s logic like this that’s so discouraging.
Lucky for me, I have a strong will and a burning desire for redemption (see: Redemption, It’s My Choice). Despite set back after set back, I continued to seek understanding as I took moral inventory of myself. As I write this and reflect back, I now see that I had the desire to get better, but I severely lacked in the “meaningful activity” department. Therefore, I struggled.
Occupational Deprivation was my program! And I suffered greatly because of it.
Today, my life is full of “meaningful activities.” And as a result, I’ve never been happier or more productive.
I go to NA Meetings, which I gain so much wisdom & knowledge from.
I’m in The Dog Program and I have the privilege of loving a dog named, Yahoo.
I graduated from my Redemption and Roots of Success classes because I wasn’t told, “No. You have too much time.”
I’ve started reading Influential Books, which I thoroughly enjoy.
I mentor those who are ready to hear positive messages. I lead by example so my words have greater impact.
I’m the nations leading blogger from behind bars.
I have meaningful relationships with the people I call Friends.
I have a job passing out commissary to thousands of guys.
I prepare healthy meals for myself and I workout regularly.
The list of “meaningful activities” goes on and on….and my most treasured one is my marriage. I have the most caring, loving wife any man could ever hope to have. Suzie has blessed my life beyond what I thought possible. The love I feel for her in my heart is stronger than any other feeling I’ve ever known.
All these “meaningful activities” have completely wiped out OD. Perhaps I should’ve titled this post, “How I Am Affected By Meaningful Activities.” Because this is where the beauty is. This is where true transformation is realized.
Its great to learn new terms and articulate my journey under the umbrella of Occupational Therapy. But the truth is: If someone wants change, they must want it for themselves, then relentlessly pursue it everyday for the rest of their lives.
It is now, after I am well on my way, that I make the connection between “meaningful activities” and rehabilitation. It would’ve been nice to learn all this years before I did. Better late than never.
The place: Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, WA.
The year: early 90’s
Gordon was entering his 35th year of incarceration for a variety of convictions, including 1st degree murder. Although he stands 5’8” and only weighs 140 lbs., he’s a heavy weight amongst his peers.
Don was entering his 18th year of incarceration for a variety of drug and weapon convictions.
One day the 62 year old Gordon approached the 35 year old Don and said, “Hey man, wanna make some easy money?”
Don gave him a skeptical look. “Doing what?” he asked.
Gordon turned and faced the handball courts, then said, “I got this fool right over there,” he pointed, “that says he can whip your ass at handball.”
Don says, “Who you pointing at? Larry?”
Gordon replies, “Yeah! You know him?”
“Not really,” Don says, “We’ve played a few games, but that’s about it.”
“I know,” Gordon says, “I watched you beat him yesterday. That’s how I know you can beat him. That’s why I want to bet on you!”
Don pauses for a second. Then asks, “How do you know he’ll bet?”
Gordon gets stern and says, “Listen, I already talked to him. It’s all set up. All you gotta do is bring your ‘A’ game and go whip his candy coated ass! Can you do that?”
Don is a little reluctant because he knows he could lose. Gordon watched ONE game that Don just so happened to win. That doesn’t mean Don will win all the time. There have been days when Don loses 3 or 4 games in a row to Larry. And vice versa.
But Don doesn’t want to look like a Chump to Gordon. So he says, “These shoes are trash,” as he shows the left side all blown out, I can’t run in these at all!”
Gordon is wearing a new pair of Nikes. He asks, “What size you wear?”
Don says, “10.”
“Here! These are 9 ½.,” As he slips them off.
Within seconds the shoe swap was done.
As they walk to the court Gordon says, “Win and I’ll hook you up with some of that sh*t.”
Don says, “Sounds good…I got this!”
The first game is a very close game. Don loses.
Before the second game starts, Gordon pulls Don aside and says, “Listen you little f*cker, I’m betting fifty bucks a game here! Now get your sh*t together and win!”
Don wins the second game.
Half way through the third game, Don grabs his chest and falls to the ground. He’s having a massive heart attack!
“Man Down…Man Down!!!!” Larry yells up to the gun tower. The guard calls a medical emergency.
Gordon runs out on the court and tries to untie his shoes that are on Don’s feet. But the guard up in the tower yells, “Get back! Get back NOW!”
Gordon backs up. It’s either that, or risk getting shot. These Walla Walla guards don’t play. They will shot and kill!
Within a few minutes a team of prison medics and guards are strapping Don to a big orange gurney.
Everyone is fairly quiet until Gordon yells out, “Hey man! Those are my shoes!!!”
A chorus of sick laughter ensues as a few dozen sick minds find humor in Gordon’s antics.
Within a few hours the news started to spread that Don died of a heart attack. Gordon never did get his shoes back.
And life in the Penitentiary went on.
Convicts want to control as much as they can. Back in the day (prior to 2004), everyone sat in the same seat at the chow hall. New guys were constantly getting ran off until they found a seat that could be theirs day in & day out. This caused so much drama, that prison officials now enforce assigned seating.
Back in 1992, at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, there was a new guy that went by the nickname “Cat Piss.”
Seriously! He introduced himself as “Cat Piss.” Why? Because he cooked so much meth, and he used so much meth, that he literally smelled like cat piss. It continued to ooze from his pores and scalp, even months after he got locked up.
His first day at the Washington State Penitentiary, Cat Piss sat in the wrong seat. Cat Piss is about 6’4” and 200 lbs.
Matt approached him and said, “This seat is taken. Go ahead and finish your meal, but don’t sit here again.”
Cat Piss just looks at Matt, then continues to eat. Matt dumps his tray and leaves without ever sitting down.
Matt is about 6’ and 190 lbs. He is in prison for robbing and stabbing to death a pill dealer. He got 60 years. When he was 27 years old.
The next day Matt comes to the chow hall to find Cat Piss in his seat again.
Matt says, “Hey man, I was nice enough to let you finish your meal yesterday. But today, you need to get the f*ck outta my seat.”
Cat Piss stands up and towers over Matt.
Matt backs up and re-thinks the situation. Then he says, “Look man, just find another seat. I won’t tell you again.”
Matt dumps his tray and leaves again without eating.
A few hours go by, and its chow time again. And sure enough, Cat Piss is sitting in Matt’s seat.
Matt doesn’t say a word. He walks up behind Cat Piss and pulls out a razor sharp 3 inch plexiglass shank. Before Cat Piss can react, Matt has stabbed him in the side three times. Then four-five-six-seven…
Matt has Cat Piss on the ground as he grips his hair with his left hand and drives the shank in & out of Cat Piss’s mid-section.
By the time the guards break it up, Cat Piss has been stabbed over 40 times. And that’s how Matt got the nickname “Slash.”
Moral of the Story: Don’t come to prison and disrupt the flow of things. Find an empty seat, and get in where you fit in.