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.
A lot has been going on. I do my best to remain positive and stay upbeat. But I must admit, sometimes it’s super hard. Back in August I was on a softball team that was argumentive, disorganized, and dysfunctional. So I quit.
Soon after I quit, I hear a knock on my cell door. It’s the coach. “Why’d you quit?” he demands! Right away I see he’s hostile and emotional.
I tell him, “Because it’s too stressful and I’m not having any fun. Guys are arguing with each other and we’re loosing too many games.”
He says, “Well then f*ck you! I’m done f*cking with you!” Then he slammed my door.
I immediately get an adrenaline rush. I almost open my door and call him back. But I don’t. I accept it and let him walk away. Because the last time I entertained such irrationality, I ended up knocking out the dude. And that cost me my EFV’s for 5 years. (see: How I Lost My EFV’s For 5 Years)
Today I’m a changed man. I’ve learned from my past. I try my best to avoid conflict.
So what could I have done to avoid this entire situation? It’s actually quite simple. I should’ve finished out the softball season with a positive, optimistic attitude. Regardless of our record and all the negativity.
I’m getting pretty good at avoiding physical confrontations. However, I need to work on avoiding confrontational situations all together. This has proven to be very tricky. I can be minding my own business, doing my own thing, and then suddenly find myself in an undesired situation.
So shortly after this whole softball fiasco, the Sergeant calls me in his office. He tells me that my celly, Dicky, is requesting that I be moved out.
Dicky is disabled and bound to a wheelchair, therefore we are in an ADA cell. These cells are bigger and have wider doors for wheelchair access. Which means Dicky always has top priority to live in these spacious ADA cells. So if he wants a celly gone, it’s always the celly who gets the boot, never him.
I’m genuinely surprised by this news the Sergeant it telling me. Dicky and I get along fine. So I ask the sergeant, “Why?”
Basically, Dicky said I’m too clean. I clean the cell too much. And that I organize his area when it gets too messy. Which I do. But Dicky and I have had discussions about this. And he said its all good!
So as the Sergeant is telling me all this, I’m confused. None of this is making any sense. REALLY! I’m getting the boot for being too clean and organized. What’s really going on?
Well it didn’t take long to figure it out. As soon as I moved out, Dicky moved in one of his dope fiend buddies. Dicky is an addict himself. He’s a pharmaceutical junky. He goes to pill line multiple times everyday. He keeps hundreds of pills hoarded in his cell constantly. But I guess the legal drugs aren’t enough.
Since I got kicked out, Dicky has been going downhill fast. Some dude ran up on him and in front of everyone and said, “Listen you punk ass bitch, that sh*t you gave me was bunk and I’m not paying you a f*cking dime!”
Wow! In front of God and everybody. Dicky was now exposed. Shortly after that, someone must’ve went and told. Because they suspended his visits. Tore up his cell. Took apart his wheelchair (looking for drugs). And subjected him to a piss test. Dicky refused the UA because he was dirty. Refusing a UA is a Major Infraction. Dicky is now out of the dog program.
It all makes sense now. Dicky kicked me out of the cell because he wanted to get high and sell drugs. And he knows I’m not down with any of that. So he reverted back to his lying manipulative ways to get what he wants. (see: Living With A Compulsive Liar)
When the Sergeant first told me I was getting kicked out of my cell, I was upset and stressed. But now I’m very thankful. It took me over 6 years to get in The Dog Program. By living with Dicky, he jeopardized my livelihood with his sneaky manipulative misconduct.
In a piece I wrote called, Stone Catchers: I Quit!!!, I talk about overcoming these exact type of challenges.
I know what I need to do. Now it’s all about having the strength, courage, and intelligence to successfully cope with any and all situations that come my way.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
I quit softball. I temporarily quit Stone Catchers. And sometimes I feel like giving up and smashing out some of these fools. It’s time I quit quitting. Giving up is NOT an option. Violence Is Never The Answer.
MY PRAYER: Please God, continue to give me the strength to endure and overcome. Guide me, guard me, and protect me as I continue my journey. Amen!
If it ain’t yours, leave it alone. Jealousy is a motherfucker no matter where you’re at.
Back in the mid 90’s there was this punk running around Walla Walla. He went by the name Tiffany.
Tiffany was in a relationship with Shadow. Tiffany is white, Shadow is Mexican. For months the two lived together. Until one day administration broke up the two.
Tiffany got moved into a different cell. Inside his new cell lived Terry. Terry has been in prison for years and has several more to go.
It wasn’t long before Terry was butt-fucking Tiffany and making him suck his dick. Tiffany told Shadow. Shadow was pissed.
Shadow approached Terry out in the yard and said, “Hey man, Tiffany is my bitch. Leave her alone.”
Terry laughed and said, “Her? That punk has a dick bigger than yours.”
Shadow wasn’t laughing. “Just stay away from her, alright?”
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Prison is full of drama, negativity, and hate. But thanks to programs like NA, prison also offers hope, time to reflect, time to heal, and plenty of time for rehabilitation.
Some of the tools I’m finding from within NA are very effective and powerful. They go beyond addiction and can be applied by anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Here are just a few that I cultivated after reading Chapter 9 in the big blue NA book (sixth edition). I’m calling them, “JUST FOR TODAY” tools. I’ve written these down and posted them above my mirror. So now, when I look in the mirror, I look deep into my eyes as I recite my newly found JUST FOR TODAY tools. This is what I tell myself:
JUST FOR TODAY I will live in the spirit of love.
JUST FOR TODAY my thoughts will be on love and understanding as I enjoy my blessings and all the things that bring me happiness.
JUST FOR TODAY I will have faith in my abilities to avoid conflict and maintain a circle of harmony with everyone I encounter.
JUST FOR TODAY I will be impeccable with my words and only say things that are positive and encouraging.
JUST FOR TODAY I will be the best person I can be as I treat everyone with dignity and respect.
After I read these to myself, I give Yahoo a big hug and kiss his nose.
Over the years I have slowly learned how to use my hardships as a pathway to peace. As I reflect back on the many negative incidents I’ve imposed upon myself, I am now able to use them as stepping stones within my pathway to peace.
I understand where I went wrong in the past.
If someone challenged me…I’d beat them down! If I felt disrespected…I’d beat them down. I didn’t know any other way. Fighting was a way for me to be victorious. Today, victory comes with effective problem solving and the ability to co exist with the most challenging of personalities.
Fighting and violence is no longer an option for me. A Pyrrhic victory is an epic failure! That’s why it’s crucial that I find a better way and create effective tools that work for me. That way, if I’m ever in a situation where some fool runs up in my cell wanting to fight, I’ll have the self control and strength to refrain from hurting that man…and ultimately hurting myself and the people who love and support me.
I’ve come a long way…but its evident I still have a long way to go. I’ll continue to work hard as I try my best to always do the right thing.
Hello! Over the last 12 months, I’ve been doing a lot of moving. I moved from H4 to the Honor Unit in H6. Then I moved from H6 to the Dog Program in H3.
Moving from unit to unit can be stressful…if I let it. Because to some I’m the new guy, and certain people try to take advantage of that. They show a lack of respect and push boundaries. I try my best to view moving as an opportunity to meet new people.
Most of these new people don’t know anything about me, except for what I show them. So now is my opportunity for new beginnings by showing them love and respect as I treat them with honor and dignity.
For the most part, the universe has been responding favorably to my positive efforts.
However, in the game of life (especially in prison) I must be prepared to deal with every force that comes my way. Especially the negative.
Here’s a little situation I recently found myself in:
I was in the dayroom, conversing with a few of the fellas.
Then all of a sudden, JP walks up to me and asked me a question. JP is a S.O. The fellas hate him!
There was a time when I hated him too. Fortunatly, I’m on a different path these days.
I treat ALL people with dignity and respect…that includes wierdos and S.O.’s.
Before I responded to JP, I tell him, “Let’s go over here.”
And then we move to a table away from the fellas.
I do this as a curtisy to the fellas. Because I know they don’t want these type of people anywhere near them. Plus, I don’t want to be the subject of their gossip, talking about I’m the one attracting misfits to their little area.
TOO LATE!!! As I return I hear one guy saying, “I don’t get it! I just don’t f*cking get it! I don’t understand how anyone could f*ck with that sick son-of-a-bitch! He’s in here for f*cking his own kids!”
No one speaks after that. They’re all looking at me. I feel uncomforable.
My instincts push me towards aggression. Years ago I would’ve lashed out whenever I felt this way. But today I am able to recognize and control my emotions. I’m able to think clearly and concise as I demonstrate self-control.
My mission in life is to treat everyone with respect. That includes these very fellas that are making me feel a certain kinda way right now.
As all eyes are on me I say, “Sorry about that. I meant no disrespect. That’s why I took him over there…away from you guys.”
One guy asks, “Why do you even f*ck with that chi-mo?”
I feel like I’m on the spot. Like I’m the one getting “paper checked”.
I keep my cool.
I respond by saying, ”I’m committed to a positive lifestyle. That includes being kind to all people. I’m not nice to that guy because he deserves it. I’m nice to him because I desire inner peace. And being nice to people brings me that.”
One guy who was shuffeling a deck of cards this whole time, drops the cards on the table and says, ”I’ve heard enough BULLSH*T for one day…I’m outta here!” He gets up and walks away.
I take offense. But I say nothing. My heart is beating fast and I am trying my best to stay focused and composed.
I’m in a situation I’ve never been in before. And I’m responding in a way that is relativly
new to me. I’ve never really responded like this before. But then again, I’ve never been in a situation like this before.
We eventually all go our seperate ways. But I know our paths will cross again…several times. So I go to my cell to self-reflect, meditate, and re-compose.
Because it did cross my mind to tell everyone to “F*ck off!” But if that’s the case, I might as well have told JP to F-O! I mean whats the difference? Mean is mean, regardless of who it’s directed to.
None of this F-O talk is an option for me. I know what I need to do…STAY FOCUSED!!!
I will use my strength and intelligence to continue to rise above all the negative influences as I impose my own goodwill.
Now my focus is on being kind and respectful to some of these fellas who now look at me differently. It would be so easy to stoop to their level and be an ass. But I know that could lead to bad things….for them! I’m not that man any more.
And my actions will prove it!
(Please read the Glossary of Prison Terms for clarification on terms used in this post)
“This book is a rare insight into a world most are not aware of except for the hollywood portrayal. This is a story about real events and real people who are sons, brothers, and fathers that have been put in situations that have caused them to make the wrong choice. People grow, people learn, and people change, they just need a chance.”
“This book had me reading from the start to finish, the context of this book gave me amazing pictures/images of the events and downfalls. I’ve known Steven for over 27 yrs, hearing the true words about his real-life story adventures captivated me to complete the book in less then 6 hrs and two readings. Moreover, I’m proud to say that I look forward to seeing the person who taught me how to ride a motor bike…my friend…Steven Jennings!”
“I couldn’t put the book down! It was very gripping and intense. My hat goes off to Steven for everything he’s been through and all of the positive changes he’s made.”
“A great true story about a mans personal transformation amongst an environment that is built to cause hate and anger. A rare look into an environment that is chaotic and cruel and an inspiration to see a man better himself in the face of adversity. A must read for all!”
“Talk about innovating yourself and the power of resilience! Talk about change from within and the force of Faith! Talk about triumph in the midst of Darkness! That darkness in which the author found himself from the tender age of 5 or so when he learned to fight. It matters not today who taught him, it matters not where that fighting led him, what matters is what he is now fighting for? He is fighting to be and stay a changed man right there in Prison where it is near impossible nor feasible. There you have to do all it takes to survive, and I have hung in there with the lots in my country for 6 months to understand some of what the author shares with us. Yet I was coming in daily from the outside, just coming in to visit like the US President did recently. He said admitted that what some of the guys did, he also did. He just didn’t land in Jail, just like I didn’t too although I did some pretty hard stuffs in my context. However, what is remarkable in this story is the author’s determination to not remain in the statusquo. He disciplines himself to channel that fierce energy and strength he has, to no more kick others asses, but to kick his ownself up to stay determined to his resolve. I like saying that ‘Do not be afraid of Your Breaking Point because that’s when the Turning Point occurs”, The author got that in Segregation for yet another merciless and senseless fight, but he did. As he says: ” When I was free, I took everyone I should have loved for granted”, and this definitely includes his ownself, but now he resolves after all these years and experiences which includes pet love with chirpy, that: “From within these dark walls, trapped in Stone City, I will defy all odds and come out a better man”. I couldn’t give such a hurtful, helpful, soulful and holistic book any less than a 5 star, and would recommend to all it with no hesitation.”
“This book held my interest from the first page and kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next. It was also a insightful, rare perspective of our prison system that one cannot get anywhere else. The author’s personal journey was also very moving and emotional.”
“I’ve read a lot of books in this genre. Most books about prison life linger on the bad, but give no glimpse of anything else. Steven Jennings weaves a story that will grip you from the beginning to the end. What I enjoyed most about the book was I felt like I was in his head as he honestly recounts all of his life journey, including life committing criminal acts, how he survived as an enraged and addicted inmate, and finally how he changed his ways and proceeded positively forward while in prison. I think the book should’ve went into more detail about the events, and conclusions that made him change the course of his life while serving time. They were there, but I think the book could’ve benefited from delving deeper. I was left feeling like I got all the details before and after, but the actual epiphany was understated from what I think it actually was. Despite that, I think it was an enjoyable and insightful read. It’s not your typical “prison book.” I highly recommend it – you’ll be glad you read it.”
“This story blew my mind. I’ve heard about things like this going on and thought maybe it only happened in movies. I’m impressed by Jennings’ attitude and ability to remain positive in the prison environment. Reading about what really goes on leaves me speechless.”
By Steven Jennings
In order to see how far someone has come, you must first realize where they started.
My dear readers, I warn you, my book “Stone City: Life In The Penitentiary” is violent, graphic, and raw. The content will be disturbing to many. To this day, I am very disturbed by it. However, I feel it’s necessary to share. I held nothing back while writing this book. And at times, it was hard for me to speak the truth. The truth hurts.
In order for me to heal & forgive myself, I had to confront the ugly truth head on. Stone City is the result of that confrontation. As I wrote the pages of this book from my prison cell, it taught me a lot about myself. It mainly taught me how I was and how I don’t want to be.
Today, I continue to work hard on redemption and on changing my ways.
Here’s a little glimpse of my book, Stone City: Life In The Penitentiary.
“…Please understand I love you all, but when people f**k with me, kill ‘em all.” Those were the last words I wrote in my journal before I did a crime that got me 43 years in prison…” (chapter 1)
“…I wanted to convince these people they had f**ked with the wrong person. In my sick mind, everyone must acknowledge my superiority and treat me with respect. If they didn’t, it could cost them their lives…” (chapter 1)
“…everyone else was huddled together, backed into a corner…the screams got loud as I pointed the gun toward them and pulled back the hammer…” (chapter 1)
“…As I walked into the chow hall for the very first time, I looked around at all the people and I asked myself, “Alright mother-f**kers, who’s first? Which one of you a**holes am I going to make an example of…” (chapter 2)
“…As I let him up, he was a mess. Blood mixed with tears rolled down his face from both his bright red eyes, both sides of his upper face were already starting to swell, and he had two gashes on his left cheek, one from my top set and one from my bottom set of teeth…” (chapter 2)
“…Even in prison, life consists largely of choices. When will I start making the right decisions? Will prison make me worse, or will I find a motivation, or inspiration, or strength, and genuinely change?…” (chapter 2)
Keep your eyes on your own. If you get caught looking at someone’s visitor, whether it’s their mom, sister, grandma, wife, girlfriend, whoever, and you could end up looking at some boots upside your face back in the cell block.
Bruce is a nice young fellow serving 14 years for second degree murder. All through his school years he played sports and had lots of friends.
One night he went to a party with friends. This was a high school party, so everyone there ranged from 15-18 years old. Bruce was 17.
The party was going good, everyone was laughing and having fun. Then it happened.
Eight football players from the rival high school walked in. They were loud, rude, and disrespectful. When asked to leave, they refused.
Push come to shove and a brawl broke out. Most people ran. Within seconds, Bruce and his six buddies were getting man handled by the bullies.
Bruce panicked. He ran to the kitchen and grabbed a random kitchen knife. He had no intention of using the knife. He just wanted to break up the brawl and persuade the bullies to leave.
It didn’t work out. One of the bullies attacked Bruce. Bruce stabbed him. The stab wound was fatal.
Two years into a 14 year sentence, Bruce was enjoying a nice visit from his mom and sister. As the conversation flowed and the mood was light, his sister leaned in close and said, “That creepy guy keeps looking at me.”
Bruce turned his head and saw exactly who she was talking about.
It was 37 year old Ray Ray. A known sex offender.
Bruce turned his chair, then pointed his finger directly at Ray Ray and said, “That guy right there? That’s the guy who can’t keep his f*cking eyes off my sister!”
From that point forward, Bruce kept Ray Ray in his sight. The mood shifted. Tension could be felt. Bruce was pissed!
After the visit, Bruce confronted Ray Ray.
“Why were you staring at my sister!” he demanded!
“I saw you. Don’t f*cking lie to me.”
“I’m not lying. I wasn’t looking at her.”
Bruce snapped! Talk time was over. Bruce kicked Ray Ray in the nuts without warning. Hard!
As Ray Ray bent over in pain, Bruce grabbed him by the hair and kneed him in the face 3 times. Ray Ray fell to the floor. Bruce stomped on his face twice, then said, “Don’t you ever look at my sister again you piece of sh*t rapist.”
Moral of the story: It doesn’t matter what you’re in prison for. Don’t look at other peoples visitors. Period!
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.
#1) SNITCH ON SOMEONE
Snitches get stitches…bitches!
If you tell, prison is hell.
#2) SIT IN THE WRONG SEAT
Convicts want to control as much as they can. In the chow hall everyone sits in the same seat every day. If you’re new, this could be a problem. Sit in the wrong seat and that could be reason enough to get your ass kicked.
(After decades of seat related issues, DOC finally implemented assigned seating. DOC is much safer because of it. Thank you DOC.)
#3) DON’T PAY YOUR DEBTS
Gambling is huge in prison. So are drug debts. If you wanna shoot heroin, snort meth, pop pills, and smoke a joint before you bet on professional sports, dominoes, cards, and dice, well then you better have a fat bank roll. Pay up or get beat down.
#4) LOOK AT SOMEONE’S VISITOR
Keep your eyes on your own. If you get caught looking at someone’s visitor, whether it’s their mom, sister, grandma, whoever, and you could end up looking at someone’s boots up side your face back at the cell block.
#5) CO-SIGN A PIECE OF SH*T
If you say he’s an alright dude and he turns out to be a rat or a sex offender, guess who gets beat up along the way? YOU!
All that dead skin, hair, and lint has to land somewhere. And it’s usually in front of someone’s cell. Mad Dog Killer ain’t going for it. Mop that sh*t up, or get mopped up. The choice is yours!