Friday, June 14, 2013

Whole lot of crazy going on...

Yes, it's been a while since I posted anything on here and as usual, much has happened.

Lorne's father passed away while he was incarcerated.  His father had been in poor health when he made the move to Vegas and being as old as he was (in his 80's) and not having anyone to take care of him (his parents are divorced) he was dependent upon his own skills and the kindness of neighbors who checked in on him occasionally.  Lorne always knew that he would never see his dad as a free man.  His father's age and the corrupt Nevada Parole Board pretty much made that a sure thing. 

I can't imagine being behind bars and having a parent pass away.  Admittedly Lorne and his father had a strained relationship which complicated Lorne's feelings about his passing.  How can you mourn a man that you pretty much loathed?  Lorne's father controlled the purse strings and it frustrated Lorne to no end that he had to continually beg for money in order to do silly things

The other day as I was speaking with Lorne he flat out told me that should be not get his next parole he will refuse all parole board actions.  He thought I would freak out about that because it means that he is looking at another 17-21 years inside.  However, he would not be the first inmate to expire their sentence rather than get out on parole.  There was another inmate who was part of my Wiccan group who did the same thing. 

Before you go all crazy on me, follow an inmate's logic...when you are out on parole, you still do not have a life.  Everything you do must be approved by your parole officer.  Jobs, housing location, who lives with you, etc.  You also forfeit the right to any privacy.  At any time you are subject to search by law enforcement personnel.  Any interactions with law enforcement must be reported.  And worst of all, at any point you violate, even inadvertently, any of your rules, it is back to prison you go.  Knowing how traumatic this experience has been for Lorne, the thought of getting out and then having to worry that he will be sent back, would send him over the edge mentally.  Prison changes you and in most cases, not in a better way. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Yes, its been awhile...sorry about that

And to be honest, not a whole lot has been going on.  Not in my life or Lorne's.  Lorne was working for a while translating books into Braille but he was bored witless with that job.  Now he is sorting cards and while that job pays a bit more, it doesn't make him happy in the least because it is manual labor.  Lorne does not do manual labor.  I have to laugh...the last discussion we had about this he told me, "his intellect was too superior to be doing manual labor".  I almost fell of the couch I was laughing so hard!

To a degree, Lorne is correct.  He has an IQ above 145 which means he is extremely intelligent.  However, prisons have no programs for intellectually gifted inmates.  Sure, if you are below average, have no high school diploma, they have a program for you.  And you get days off your sentence if you complete a GED program while you are inside too. 

But where does that leave those inmates who are gifted? College courses for the most part are unavailable to them since most colleges have moved to an e-learning format.  E-learning requires internet access and that will never happen inside a prison.  Look at all the jobs that are good paying and NEED people in them...the technology sector is always in need of people and yet prisons do not allow any type of educational resources along these lines. 

I get that internet access poses a problem because of the potential abuse problems.  But with all the blocking programs out there, it seems to me that prisons could figure out a way to allow inmates to access the internet for educational purposes and still minimize abuse of that privilege.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Your entire life in 13 boxes...

With the recent passing of Lorne's father, his mother, with Lorne's consent, sent all of Lorne's worldly possessions to me.  Here it is...Lorne's life in 13 boxes that arrived yesterday while I was at work.

My new task is to go through all these boxes and determine what is keepable (I'm not keeping 13 year old clothing) and what isn't.  I don't even think that Lorne knows what is inside these boxes...certainly after almost 13 years, his recollection would have been diminished anyways. 

At this point I have gone through 2 boxes and managed to find a ton of t-shirts, lots of legal documents, some amazing photos of Lorne when he was a child growing up (lots of school awards and newspaper clippings as well) and cutest of all...a hand crocheted Tigger...down to the curly, springy tail! Once I get through all these boxes, I will need to organize them a bit better and repack them so that when the time comes and Lorne does get out of prison, then they will be waiting for him.

I hope it will be sooner rather than later.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Death in Prison...

Well, that which I feared has happened.  Lorne has lost one of his parents while he was incarcerated.  There are many things that would make people go "well, it was bound to happen..." Yes, it was.  Death is a natural part of the life cycle; as a Witch, I know this.  The part that saddens me is that it was Lorne's father, a man with whom Lorne has an extremely long and contentious relationship with.  So much of the man that Lorne, is today, good and bad, are as a direct result of the influence that his father had on him.  And trust me, it was no small influence.  His father brought out the worst and the best in him.  The last few months of his life, Lorne's father, I believe was trying to reach out to Lorne and apologize to him for all the pain he had caused him.  I truly believe that Lorne's father did love Lorne, deeply, but was one of those very flawed human beings who were unable to show true love, tolerance and acceptance of their child but did so in a very controlling and demeaning way.

It's sad really, that Lorne's father did not know how to show such emotional kindness to Lorne.  The funny thing is that Lorne has adopted many of the same traits as his father, but Lorne doesn't seem to see that.  Lorne had told me stories of how strained his relationship with his father was and how it developed over the many years.  For Lorne, I can't imagine what it must be like to lose a parent and not be able to attend to their funeral or take over those duties that a child should when a parent passes.

As for Lorne, I am deeply saddened that he will no longer be able to heal the relationship with his father.  The only option left open to Lorne is to forgive him and I don't think that is in the cards.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

View from the Inside...Lorne's Voice Pt. 10

The day before my cellmate left, we had a conversation about slavery, and we both agreed that it is alive and well in the United States today.  Lest any of my readers be offended by that statement, it is most definitely not true, and certainly not meant in the traditional Southern plantation, African-American context.  Anybody who knows me will tell you that I am not a racist and that I associate myself with people of all ethnicities and walks of life.  No, the slavery to which I refer is truly insidious, because the populace at large is completely unaware of its existence and because it is unbounded by ethnicity.  The slavery to which I refer is this" the United States enslavement of its citizens who are convicted of crimes.

Any American with but a scant education likely can tell you that slavery was abolished in this country during the Civil War by executive order - Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.  A percentage of the whole may know that the abolition of slavery was incorporated in this country's constitution.  But, I daresay that very few outside the fields of history, law or political science are aware of what our nations constitution actually says about slavery.  Please allow me to enlighten you.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.  US Constitutional Amendment XIII, sec. 1 (emphasis added).  I strongly suspect that this provision is the root of chain gangs being sentenced to "hard labor" but I do not have the research material at my disposal to bear out my suspicion.  Of course, in this day and age, chain gangs and hard labor largely are things of the past, at least here in Nevada.  Their legacy in my opinion, is fighting wildfires (for minimum custody inmates) or yard labor positions, and a certain amount of voluntariness is involved. I cite the Warren Court of the 1960's and 1970's as the most prominent cause for the decline and disappearance of chain gangs and hard labor camps, as that court promulgated and vastly expanded the scope of prisoner's rights, but again, such a statement is made without benefit of research.  Therefore we inmates, aside from those of us who fight wildfires or voluntarily accept a yard-labor job, are not longer slaves compelled to long hours of physical exertion under the scorching desert sun akin to those of yore who under threat of pain were encouraged to spend incredibly long hours out in the plantation fields picking cotton. 

But that doesn't mean we aren't slaves.  A surprising number of parallels exists.  The correctional facility, be it camp, prison, transitional housing, or whatever, is our plantation.  The warden is the owner of our plantation.  the lieutenants are our foremen, and the correctional officers are the field hands who send us into the fields (order us about our day), watch over us and whip (discipline) us when we disobey their orders (or violate the rules and regulations).  The housing units are the ramshackle buildings, fallen into disrepair, where we sleep and spend our lives when we aren't working.  And, our work area and job assignments are our fields.  We are even told when and what we can eat, if we're unfortunate enough to be unable to purchase commissary.  Our lives are controlled and governed in almost every conceivable way, just like our African-American predecessors were in the pre-Civil War South.

To those who have no experience with the prison system, neither firsthand nor via contact with family or friends on the inside, indeed, what I've stated may come across as hyperbole, as gross exaggeration by one of the "oppressed".  I invite them to use their imaginations and consider how much drearier their lives would be without many of the choices and freedoms which are taken so much for granted that they have become almost entirely unnoticeable.  Imagine what it would be like to be told when you can eat breakfast.  What about when you cannot go to work until you are told to do so, regardless of the time or of how late you would be? How about being confined to a space of less than 100 square feet for more than an hour at a time, with a constant companion of the same sex who is little more than a complete stranger, when you're not at work? Add to that being told when you can stand and when you can sit at least once each day.  Dinner is a repeat of breakfast and so is lunch - if you're fortunate enough to be in a facility which provides a hot lunch.  Had enough yet? I could keep going, but I think I've sufficiently made my point. 

Some may argue that this isn't slavery, that the prison officials merely are standing in loco parentis to us inmates.  Others may argue that prison is very similar to military boot camp.  Perhaps.  My childhood in my parent's home was similarly oppressive, at least from my point of view, though perhaps not quite as extreme.  I have never been in the military so I have no firsthand experience with boot camp, but judging by what I've gleaned from various media sources, it too is similarly oppressive.  Maybe slavery , child rearing, and military training are all the same or all variations on the same theme.  But at least in this country, military training is a choice; you voluntarily enlist.  And, the point of childhood is to prepare for adulthood; adults are not meant to be treated like children - just ask your teenager. 

I am a modern day slave.  So are my fellow inmates.  We are the property of the State of Nevada, and our prisons are where slavery is alive and well in the 21st century. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

View from the Inside...Lorne's Voice Pt. 9 (cont.)

I also worry about my ability to adapt and adjust to a society, which will be at least two decades more advanced than the one which I left.  Consider first that my arrest occurred in the early half of 1999 and what our society and culture was like at that time.  For example, cellphones were not commonplace; cars were simple key driven affairs with nothing more than a CD player in the dash; the Pentium II was Intel’s newest processor; Windows 98 was the OS of choice; DVD players had just debuted at Comdex, flatscreen TVs were unheard of on this continent, etc.  Then consider what the world was like in the early half of 1979.  For example, the Atari 2600 was THE home video game console; cellphones were practically unheard of; disco was in; fuel injection was for high end sports cars; Sony hadn’t even invented the compact disc (remember cassette tapes?) and the top of the line personal computers were the Apple IIe, the original commodore and Radio Shack/Tandy’s TRS-80 (seen one of those lately?).  Now imagine that a person inadvertently stepped into a time machine (Dr. Who style) on a spring day in 1979 and came out on that same spring day in 1999.  How would that person feel and react, especially if they knew they couldn’t go back to 1979? Would the world feel familiar or utterly alien do you think? I wholeheartedly believe that the time traveler would feel as though they were an utter and complete anachronism, even after a lengthy period of adaptation and acclimation.  And, feeling that way is very scary, not just for me but for many a convict who has served a lengthy term of incarceration.  I mention it now because after more than 12 years, the world has finally changed enough where its alien qualities are too prevalent to remain subtle and unnoticeable.  It makes me wonder if 12 years is the threshold value for institutionalization; interestingly enough, as I recall, Sweden does not have a term of incarceration which exceeds 12 years with the possible exception of a crime against humanity.
The obvious question is why I don’t seek treatment.  There are a few reason for this.  First and foremost, I have taken antidepressants before, and in my experience, they do little to alleviate my depression and do little else other than make me feel “fuzzy”, make it difficult for me to think straight, to be sharp and quick as I know I can be.  That scares me to death, because my intellect is everything to me, my strongest asset. And under no circumstances can I afford to permanently damage my intellect, which these drugs may do and may have already done.  Second, surprisingly, despite these new found deviations from my traditional thought patterns and personality traits, I am still too comfortable with the person I am to tamper with how I think; I like myself and that’s the bottom line.  Third, I don’t trust prison mental health staff to have my best interests at hear.  I truly believe that they’ll just give me whatever drug they think will get me out of their hair.  Fourth, inmates are penalized for being on psychotropic medication.  It adds an extra point in the penal system’s mathematical formula for determining custody level of an inmate (minimum, medium, or close/max).  the parole board has, in the past, seemingly taken a dim view of inmates who require psychotropic medication, making them out to be more dangerous than mentally stable felons.  Plus it necessitates going to pill call and dealing with that hassle, because inmates are not permitted to keep psychotropic medications on their persons or in their cell.  Fifth and last, I am confident in my belief that all of the disorders, which I am currently experiencing, the OCD, the bipolar disorder and the depression or at least many of their symptoms will be largely, if not completely ameliorated by my release from prison.  I will then be able to exert a greater degree of control over my life and environment, although I may then have to deal with PTSD and adaptation issues. 
By the time this article is posted, my cellmate will finally have been released.  I am very happy for him, especially as I believe that he will be one of the very few who avoid returning to this hell.  As for me, however it means that I have the added stress of anticipating whatever random guy whom they stick in my cell to replace him, the “lop of the draw” as many in here say.  I dread that the replacement will be some racist knucklehead who’s constantly “in the mix” and brings heat on my cell.  I am concerned that such would be the proverbial straw that breaks the camels back.  And yet, there’s one thing that would instantly make all of this more eminently bearable, if not downright trivial: the certainty of knowing that I had less time left to serve then the time which I’ve already served, or in other words, that I’m over the hump, the halfway point.  It seems so insignificant on its face yet it truly means everything.
Nevada is one of the only, of not THE only state in which an offender does not know the date of his/her release until two weeks or even less prior to release.  An inmate cannot even be sure of the latest possible date of release-expiration of sentence as opposed to release on parole- because  that date fluctuates as well, based upon a number of factors such as job, disciplinary status, meritorious credit for completion of programs and the like.  And sometimes, the difference between release on parole and expiration of sentence can be vast, especially when multiple consecutive sentences are involved.  Such is the case with me.  As things stand now, I could potentially return to the community in a wee bit more than six years if I am released on parole. (Based upon prior appearances before the parole board, I find that to be extremely unlikely, but it is possible) But in the absence of release on parole, my return to the community is more than 18 years away!  That is a disparity of – hey, what do you know?- 12 years, almost the same amount of time which I’ve already been incarcerated.  That is an enormous uncertainty for me to contemplate and accept.  In contrast, had I been incarcerated in California, Arizona, Colorado or any number of states, I would have known beyond a shadow of doubt exactly when I was to be released from prison within a month of arriving at the reception facility.
I have come to believe, based upon my experiences, some of which I have related in this blog, that the Nevada penal system maintains a secret, unspoken policy of mentally abusing, punishing and perhaps even torturing its inmates.  It starts with the statutes for sentencing and for the penal system, which creates the sometimes enormous disparities which I previously outlined.  It continue with the statutes which empower the parole board, granting that body practically unfettered discretion in the granting or denying of parole and stripping those subject to the decisions of that body, any recourse, meaningful or otherwise.  It appears in the attitudes of court officials, our judges, our district attorneys and their deputies, and our Attorney General and her deputies, especially when we have valid, meritorious claims to litigate, (be the proceedings civil or criminal).  But perhaps it is no more readily apparent, at least to us inmates, on a daily basis that in the attitudes of prison and penal system officials, from the Department of Corrections on down.  Onerous, oppressive regulations are written which place very few restrictions upon correctional officers, yet those regulations never seem to be enforced when an officer’s conduct is so abhorrent and abusive, that it violates those regulations.  For example, here at Southern Desert Correctional Center, a vast majority of officers yell and cuss at us, violating Admin Regulation 339.  Associate warden of programs, Cheryl Burson, denies all such grievances, responding that we don’t need to quote regulations to her because she knows them.  This is behavior, which isn’t even allowed in our nations military boot camps anymore, but apparently, we have to take it because we’re lowly felons; the dregs of our society, the worst of the worst, human garbage better off discarded. 
Nevada is ranked 43rd among the states in the care and treatment of its mentally ill citizens, so I heard on the local news tonight.  With such a poor track record, I suppose that it really is no surprise that such little concern is given to the impact this omnipresent mental anguish has upon the states inmate population.  Being mathematically inclined, it makes me wonder what percentages of Nevada’s total inmate population are mentally ill.  I would be really interested to know what percentage of the inmate population developed at least one mental health disorder while incarcerated and what percentage of the total mentally ill population are felons and ex-felons.  Perhaps the Bureau of Justice Statistics or some other agency can shed some statistical light on this subject, but I unfortunately lack the data at hand.  Maybe, just maybe, its worth looking in to. 

As a note to you faithful readers whom I’ve alienated with this personal and revealing article, this article took more than a month to write.  Although I endeavor to keep article flowing without excessive delay, some topics, especially deeply personal ones it seems, do not proliferate as easily as others, and I am by no means immune to writers block.  All I can ask is that you please bear with me, because more will come, eventually though it may be.
As it happens, the delay provided an interesting final thought for this article.  A week or so ago, a new arrival on our tier, an older African –American fellow, asked me during the course of a conversation about how much time I’ve done and have yet to do how I manage to keep it together after so long.  I looked at him quizzically, and he explained that practically everybody he knows who has served a decade or more is messed up in the head.  I truly did not know how to respond.  After a few moments of speechlessness and stammering, all I managed to say was something to the effect of “I just take each day as it comes.  What else am I going to do? Nothin’ but keepin’ on keepin’ on.”  Apparently, I was convincing enough because he accepted my answer.  And yet, as this article aptly demonstrates, its all a lie, a fa├žade which I unconsciously  project out of force of habit because it is not the socially nor culturally acceptable for me to be the way or feel the things which I have described and related herein or share these thoughts, feelings or revelations with other inmates.  We’re all supposed to be big, tough, strong, hard men right? Yeah right.  So at least now, YOU know.  And now, I’ll go back to trying my best to keep on keepin’ on.  I just don’t know if trying my best is going to get the job done. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

View from the Inside...Lorne's Voice Pt. 9

February 25, 2012
At the risk of alienating some of my readers and unduly alarming my girlfriend, I recently have begun to suspect that I have become mentally ill, or perhaps what were once mild mental health disorders are worsening and becoming noticeable to me.  I am also concerned that if I am aware of the symptoms, they may be apparent to others as well, affecting how those others relate to me and, in turn, how I feel about those other people.  When it is taken into account that existence in a prison, perhaps even, or much more so than in normal, everyday society, if largely defined by a person relationship with others.   After all, an inmate in constantly surrounded by and interacting with his/her cellmate, the other inmates who live on the tier, the unit officers, other officers throughout the facility, the unit caseworker, coworkers and bosses, not to mention periodic interviews by a panel of parole commissioners.  It is quite evident why my concerns and suspicions exist and how serious they in fact are.
I have known for about five years that I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  This disorder takes two forms.  First, I am a “checker”, meaning that I have to check and re-check all of my calculations, data, facts and figures to ensure their accuracy and perfection.  The second form of this disorder manifests in my need for everything to be in its assigned place as defined by my highly intricate system of organization.  I become mildly distressed and frustrated when I am unable to satisfy or even am delayed in satisfying, these compulsions.  Fortunately, they distress and frustration does not rise to the level of severe disruption of functioning, but it is noticeable to me.  The second form is also noticeable to others as evidenced by the many comments from several different people who have gotten to know me over the last five years. 
Within the last six months, I have begun to notice that I experience severe mood swings consistent with bi-polar disorder.  One or two other inmates who live on my tier have noticed this about me as well, as they have commented about it to me but my own suspicions arose prior to the comments.  I do not believe that being bi-polar is a recent development but rather is a condition which I’ve had for quite awhile but which has only recently worsened to the point where it have become apparent to myself and others. 
Depression is a component of bipolar disorder, although it is a mental disorder in and of itself, and one with which I have dealt with for much of my life, certainly since my teens and perhaps prior.  I do not believe that my depression could have been described as anything other than mild prior to my incarceration but being incarcerated and repeatedly denied parole given the facts and circumstances of my case, coupled with my family moving on without me (which I know as only normal), without a doubt worsened it.  I have begun to recognize, though, that it had become worse still, certainly since my transport to this facility on July 27, 2011, and perhaps even a month prior to that when the incident with Correctional Officer Sean Lagier occurred.  My depression now is what I would categorize as pretty bad.  My thoughts are…well, very dark, darker then they’ve been in a decade or more.
When I arrived at this facility from county jail on April 17, 2000, I was pulled aside from the other “fish” and interviewed by a mental health worker.  During the course of the interview, I remember I told the worker that I wasn’t doing 12 years in prison, that I would exhaust every legal avenue, then go over the wall and if that failed, leave in a body bag.  The twelfth anniversary of my arrest was May 23, 2011, a few scant days more than a month before the incident with Lagier.  I obviously am still here, alive but perhaps not so well, with a legal avenue or two still unexhausted, too physically out of shape and decrepit to make a try at the fence.  Every night now, for perhaps the last six months, maybe less, I plead with the gods before I go to sleep for their mercy in not letting me wake up but they have not seen fit to grant my nightly request.  What gets me through each subsequent day are my parents and my girlfriend.  My father is 88 years old, doesn’t have too many years left to him and has already had to bury one son; he shouldn’t have to bury another.  I can vividly imagine the pain my mother and girlfriend would experience if I were to deprive them of my unique individuality, of the person I am. 
Thoughts such as these are not new to me at all, although their frequency and regularity are.  What is new, and quite terrifies me, that that I no longer seem to care about anything which I previously valued, aside from the three aforementioned people.  For example, I have always cared about and placed a high value on my possessions, the items and conveniences, which make life comfortable and bearable.  Yet for the last six or seven months, I have seriously contemplated stripping myself completely naked and throwing every last possession, including clothing, food and even the state owned mattress upon which I sleep, out on the tier just to deprive correctional officers of their most potent weapon; the cell search or “shakedown”.  The cell search essentially uses our desire for possessions, conveniences and comfort against us.  After all, an officer can’t threaten me with a shakedown if I have nothing to shakedown can (s)he? On the plus side, I used to cringe at the thought of a shakedown, sometimes so much so that I experienced physical discomfort, and now I don’t.  On the minus side this is a major deviation from my normal behavior and personality. 
What is also new and terrifying is the considerations and contemplation of the very likely possibility that new mental health disorders will manifest after I am removed from this severe and ongoing mental trauma that is my incarceration.  My worst fear in this regard is the manifestation of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which I believe to be almost a certainty.  My girlfriend has already suffered through the disintegration of a marriage caused in a large part due to PTSD, and it pains me terribly to think that I could end up putting her that again, unintentionally of course.  I have begun to seriously consider never stepping foot outside of my residence once I am released back into the community, premised upon the theory that if I never leave my residence, I will never encounter a peace officer.  I believe it to be likely that a mental health professional would consider such to be of evidence of a sever phobia of peace officers, strong enough to cause major disruption of functioning.  Such irrational fears are one of the many precursors and symptoms of PTSD and they may already be forming.