Prison Pete

Wednesday, June 30, 2004
  Name the mystery meat!
I have requested, via good old snail mail, information on the particular printer we have. It is a RICOH Priport JP5000.

I have not heard back from them, perhaps they have a website? I am looking for the cost of the ink and masters the machine uses. I would also like to get the general information on the machine in terms of cost and the options available.

It is now 7:21 PM, I had started your letter at 11:30 PM and then they actually had something they needed printed so I was on the clock for one hour until 3:30 PM when I returned to the unit for the 4:00 PM stand up count, then a rather interesting dinner of meat loaf.

The joke I like is when you have a contest to guess the name the mystery meat and the winner gets the antidote. Anyway, tonight’s dinner featured jalapeño peppers. They were mixed into the meatloaf and also in the carrot and cauliflower salad.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
  Printer Guy.
It is now 1:30 PM Sunday and I am in my little office up in the Education department. Here is a rewrite of a letter I drafted to you at 4:01 AM a couple of weeks ago. OK, so I am a little behind in the rewrite and edit department. Actually it got placed with a bunch of other papers and I was doing a little cleaning out of my "current stuff" pile. Herein is the text of the letter:

I’m sitting here listening to Jazz After Hours on NPR. It is a six-hour jazz show on each Saturday and Sunday from midnight until 6:00 AM. It is based out of Seattle and is good because not only do they cover all kinds of jazz, but the DJ explains who is playing on each track and even the discography information.

I went to sleep at 8:30 PM so I awoke around 2:00 AM and have been sitting here doing some dreaming.

I'm not sure if I gave you a job update. After leaving the chapel and "slumming" for a while emptying the garbage cans, a tough 15 minutes five days a week, I am now the "Printer Guy". We have a 120-page-per-minute Ricoh mimeo-type printer. It has a built in scanner. You place your original on the glass and 20 seconds later the stencil is cut and your first proof is printed. The unit comes with extra drums that slide in and out for doing color work. You still need to run the paper through the printer one color at a time and I am not sure how close the registration is, but it should be able to do some basic line-type drawing and color mixing.

I am actually combining an assignment for my English writing class; an essay entitled "Are You Using Technology or is Technology Using You", with a way to save the good old USA a ton of money. We have eight or nine major-sized digital copiers within our little humble compound here at Club Fed, and it is my point that using these copiers to mass-produce standard forms and to copy various requests to staff forms instead of using a two-part carbonless form, one copy for file, one copy returned to the inmate, is costing major league tax dollars. Like yours for instance.

If I am successful in my drive to lower the cost of running a federal prison, maybe you will get an even bigger rebate from good old boy George W. (If you believe that you are not as sharp as I thought you were.)
Monday, June 28, 2004
  Yes, I have erred! Does that mean I should die?
One of the downsides to having pled guilty to both the Federal and NY State charges is I never had the opportunity to challenge any of the information the various law enforcement departments were spreading. While even sharing this little bit with you sounds so lame, I am only saying that you should certainly not believe everything you read in the papers.

But I am not saying that I am an angel. I have spent eight years (so far) locked away and the better part of the last five years in therapy on a biweekly basis!

While I am hopeful that my appeal of my pending NY sentence will be successful, and that I might actually be out of prison this year (2004), I ask you the question that I deal with everyday: Yes, I have erred! Does that mean I should die?

While I very much want to live, the thought of spending another 10 years in prison makes me wonder what the use would be! If I do have to actually go to NY State, from some of the stories I have heard from others, well, let us just say that this place is like the Garden of Eden compared to NY.

So for now I take it one day at a time. I know more about myself each day and I get stronger each day! Working on one’s self is never easy, but it is basically all I have to go on at this point.
Sunday, June 27, 2004
  More about prison jobs and work schedules.
As I said earlier, yes, in theory, everyone is supposed to have a job. The thing is, some jobs are more "work" than others and on some jobs you do not even have to spend much time at work.

For example, one lucky inmate is assigned to the AW (Associate Wardens) offices. He goes in and cleans for a half-hour and is back in the unit until lunch. Perhaps he goes back for a half-hour after lunch, but maybe not. Yet he gets paid for a seven or eight hour day.

My orderly job was emptying the trash cans at around 9:00 PM Monday to Friday and yet I got paid for a seven-hour day. Plus since I was technically assigned to work 4 - 12 PM, I was free to move to Rec and Library during those earlier mentioned moves during the day.

And while the orderlies in the unit were not allowed to leave if they were assigned to the 7AM - 3PM day shift, I could still go out in the evening in addition to going out during the day.

You got all that?

Anyhow, on Saturday, Sunday, and holidays we run a slightly different schedule just so we know it is a weekend.

Well, this afternoon we ended up staying in our unit after lunch. Today’s lunch was a very plain breaded chicken patty. Lunch didn’t finish until 1:00 PM and since they were having what they call an early recall, they scrubbed the afternoon work call. So I finished off the Sidney Sheldon book The Best Laid Plans, but lost another three hours of work time.

Enough bullshit about prison life. I almost want to say at you really have to be here to understand how utterly ridiculous the entire thing is, but hey, you asked, so I will donate several pages of each letter to the "you would not believe what they did this time" files.
Saturday, June 26, 2004
  Prison inmates hard at work or hardly working?
UNICOR and Facilities get to go to lunch directly from work once all the rest of us are safely tracked back in the unit. They feed UNICOR, then Facilities, and then they start calling the units. So depending on your cleanliness, you could eat lunch anywhere between 11:15 and 12:30 or even later.

UNICOR and Facilities get called back to work at around 11:30 and 11:45 respectively so they do work a seven-hour day. The rest of us have to wait until the end of lunch, usually 12:30, so we only get a six-hour work day.

I am currently earning at a Grade 2 rate of $0.29 per hour. That is up from Grade 4 at about 12¢ but still down from the Grade 1 (42¢) I was making at the Chapel. Monthly, the pay works out to $15, $50, and $75. So I am really missing the Grade 1. I need about $2.00 a day to feed myself and stay out of the chow hall.

Are you keeping track of all the valuable information? There will be a quiz afterwards, so please have you #2 pencils ready.

Let’s see, lunch is done and back to work we go. They check us in, and then we have the 1:30 and 2:30 moves and the great 3:30 RECALL. That means we all go back to our housing units and get ready for the 4:00 PM stand up count. Sound impressive, doesn’t it?

Well, with the exception of fifty or so inmates working on the dinner, the rest of us are locked in our rooms and then counted.

Oh, and since it is a stand up count, we actually have to "stand up" as opposed to lying down on the bunk or sitting at the desk.

These lock down type counts take about an hour, so by 4:30 we are back out, and if it is Monday to Friday we have mail call.

So now what does this all mean you ask? Well let us see if you can get some of those questioned you asked answered.
Friday, June 25, 2004
  How many inmates are going to Saint Ives?
So, we have controlled movement. For breakfast and dinner you can sort of come and go from the dorm to outside once they call your unit, until they close the chow hall. Then they have a one-way move back to the units, and, as they like to announce, "The compound is closed".

So for the morning, once they have served breakfast, the hardy souls out at Rec can then return to the units.

Then at 7:20 AM they start the work calls. First it’s UNICOR, AKA the "factory". Each Federal prison has a UNICOR that makes different things. Our humble factory makes ergonomic-type chairs. That involves about 300 inmates.

At 7:25 AM they call Facilities. Those are plumbers, electricians, painters, etc., about another 200 inmates.

Then at 7:30 they call General Work Call and all the Generals go to work. Actually the General Work Call is for all the rest of us.

You asked, do you have to work? Allegedly yes, but most of the jobs involve very little "work". It is just a question of how bored you want to be and where you want to be bored. But we will get back to that.

So once they are done with work call and they check that all of us inmates are where we are supposed to be, then they run the two-part moves at 8:30 AM, 9:30 AM, and 10:30 AM.

Two parts you ask? Yes, due to the overcrowding. We should have about 1,200 or fewer inmates (present population is over 1,600). So we have one-way moves. The first is one way to the units; the next is one way from the units.

So at 10:30 AM we all head back to the units for lunch. Well, not all of us.

I hope you are keeping track of all this. There will be a pop quiz at the end and you will have to figure out exactly how many inmates are going to St. Ives.
Thursday, June 24, 2004
  So let’s begin to build a Federal Government Dictionary.
Controlled Movement - Basically, we are only allowed to go from one place to another once an hour on the half hour.

The day starts with a one-way move to the Rec Yard for those that want to exercise at 6:00 AM! You stay there until breakfast is over. If you do not go to Rec, you wait until they call your unit to chow.

We have three "V" shaped housing units, each four stories tall. They are sub-divided into four sub-units on each side of the V, and each are two stories each.

I live in the Poplar unit, the other two are named Oak and Pine. The Poplar subdivisions are Pop-A-Upper, Pop-A-Lower, Pop-B-Upper and Pop-B-Lower.

They use a three-letter code for each division and the brain surgeon that picked the unit names did not notice that Pine and Poplar both start with the same letter, so depending on which system you are looking at, Poplar is referred to as either "R" or "A", so I live in RAU.

Why they could not pick three trees that started with different letters is beyond me. Even the staff gets confused.

Here's a quick quiz to see if you have been paying attention: which unit is PAL?

OK, stop scratching your head - it is Pine-A-Lower.

So the reason that this is need-to-know information is because each week they rate the twelve sections on cleanliness and give out points. The highest points get you to chow first.

For breakfast, this means somewhere between 6:00 and 6:30 AM, but for lunch on burger or fried chicken day this could mean the difference between 11 AM and 12:30 PM.

The chow hall only seats 250 people and we are currently at 1,650 inmates, so you do the math. Luckily there are 300 or so inmates on average that do not eat each meal.
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
  The Fog.
Yes, the doors are still locked, they will open again around 10:30 PM and then we get to roam around the day area until 11:30 PM when we get locked in until 6 AM, provided there is no fog.

Ah yes, fog! Let me tell you about our fog. The problem with the fog is that although the fence has motion detectors and the coils of razor wire are well, still razor sharp, that if you made it out past those two barriers, and one of the two roving trucks fails to arrive while you are pulling the missing pieces of your flesh off the razor wire, well to keep this run-on sentence running-on, if you managed to get past all that then the fog becomes a problem for the guy in the truck, you see he is the only one carrying any firearms, and if it is foggy, then the guy in the truck might not be able to see to shoot the bloody mess of inmate fleeing through the trees.

But as I started saying before, the most important thing I have learned is that I feel best about myself when I do take care of me. This means doing my own laundry, as opposed to taking it over to the big commercial washers where your net bag of dirty clothes are tossed in with a whole bunch of other guy’s dirty clothes.

The same goes for preparing my own meal instead of eating the fried mystery meat patty the other night. The "healthy" alternative was two slices of American cheese, a total of 90 calories and 2 grams of protein. One can of salmon or chicken is 19 - 22 grams of protein. Just a little difference.

Ah, 10:30 PM and the doors just opened. This letter is not going out tonight. Let me stop and drop you a quick note and then this missal will continue over the next 24 hours!
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
  Prison life, minute-by-minute.
9:40:25 I got your letter and book package today at mail call. That usually occurs around 4:30 PM Monday to Friday.

9:41:28 Wow, a whole minute has gone by already. Frankly, I think telling you what I am doing every minute is going to be a drag, but hey, whatever turns you on. We (9:42:29) here at Club Fed aim to please. I am sitting in my room, locked in for the last twelve minutes or so (9:43:45) as per usual each and every day. Basically, by 4:30 PM everything is pretty much shut down.

The hell with the minute-by-minute stuff.

So at 9:44:49 seconds it has occurred to me that you are being obsessive about my schedule. So let’s go for a half-hour type schedule. Ha Ha.

See, a half-page and still nothing earth moving or enlightening. That probably is one of the basic truths I have come to realize in the last eight years. On a minute-by-minute basis I am just like every other human being. I have to decide what I am going to do next.

Well going backwards, back to mail call, it was so nice to get the books and a letter from you. I also got a letter and some jokes from my friend Bob. Humor is in short supply here, so please feel free to send any and all jokes this way. It would help if you put them on a separate page since that way I can share them with others!

I almost broke down tonight and stopped in the chow hall for dinner. After eating in the chow hall for the last two months, I have managed to live off the commissary since last Thursday! That is the best. I just finished eating some of the refried beans, a 3 oz. serving of pink salmon mixed with some of the squeeze cheese, a few sprinkles of Mrs. Dash, and five chopped up Jalapeno peppers and voila, dinner is served. I now remember how important it is to stay out of chow hall. For example, at Saturday’s lunch they found metal in the Philly cheese steak sandwiches so they shut down the whole lunch line for over an hour while they broke out frozen hamburgers.

They usually serve lunch from 11 AM to 12:30 PM on a Saturday, but this one lasted until 3:00 PM. The bad news was that those people that opted to go to the Rec Yard instead of lunch got stuck there until 3 PM instead of being able to leave at the end of a normal lunch at 12:30. My friend Dave was stuck there and he is still in a negative mood.

I was lucky since I was able to feed myself and then ended up going into work for a few hours. I am listening to NPR as I write; they are doing the classical thing. The best part is that there are no commercials. I do not have to hear about all the stuff I cannot do or have. Two and a half pages and I have not started to work my way through your letter. Sorry this is messy but I have so much to say and I want to get this back out to you tonight.
Monday, June 21, 2004
  My time vs. your time.
One thing I want to share is the thought on my time vs. your time. So many things to do, BUT I AM WRITING TO YOU!

We both have the same time 24 hours/7 days. I do feel that one thing our generation is so sucked up in is the "more, more, more" thing. Even though we do have different priorities and pressures, we all have to decide how we spend our time.

For example, we usually get our mail at 5 PM right before dinnertime. Most nights I skip dinner and walk the track while listening to music and the NPR news. They keep us down at Rec until they have fed everyone else dinner. Tonight that happened at 7 PM.

When I came back to the unit, my roommate was showing me a printing project he needs and I heard the CO calling names. It seems a whole bunch of mail got dumped off in the wrong unit earlier. So I got your letter.

I needed to take a shower, eat dinner, watch a couple hours of TV, and then read some of my books. Well, since I got your letter, I did take my shower (just so you can’t say my letter stinks!) but I have skipped TV and have not had my dinner yet. I will eat something, so do not feel too guilty, but it will probably be peanut butter and banana instead of chicken burrito.
Sunday, June 20, 2004
  New job.
Well, as one door closes another opens, and starting tomorrow I will be responsible for running the mimeograph machine. It is a one-person job and comes with its own office and access to a typewriter. The typewriter will be handy for doing my schoolwork! Unfortunately it is real basic and has only a one-line memory so one still has to type carefully!

I will get copies of my schoolwork so that you can become familiar with what I am studying.

Thanks for allowing me to be a part of your life. For now it is not easy to think of the future, but one day at a time is the best I can work with.
Saturday, June 19, 2004
  Abuse and Neglect.
I will probably send you some copies of my homework and the final paper (10-15 pages) from my Abuse and Neglect class. To read both how I was "neglected" as a child and how that contributed to my actions is very painful.

I am not blaming my parents; they did the best they could. But while I do have a very high IQ (140+), it does not guarantee that emotionally I know how to act.

I keep seeing pieces of myself in the non-fiction books I read and it is so painful to realize that I should have stepped out and yelled for help along the way instead of thinking that I was OK and knew better than anyone else about what I was doing.

So to recap the above, I am not claming victim hood as the excuse for my actions or saying that what I did was not abusive. I am learning for the first time that life is not something you should just let happen to you.

You should always question what you are feeling and when thing are crazy, seek someone out for balance to be sure you are not going down a wrong road.
Friday, June 18, 2004
  I have left the Chapel job.
You need to feel good about yourself and not be afraid to walk away from some of life’s battles. You do not have to fight every one!

To make a long story short, and since a lot of the issues would not make much sense to you, I have left the Chapel job after 22 months when it became clear that my talents and abilities were seen as a detriment as opposed to a benefit.

I am now a unit orderly where my sole responsibility is to empty four trash cans at 9PM each evening. The Chapel job was paying me $70 a month and this one pays $15; talk about downsizing! But it is truly amazing the improvement in my mental health by removing myself from what was a very tension-producing job.

It has reinforced a life changing aspect of how I need to make decisions in my life. There are situation where, no matter how good or right I may be, I simply need to move on.

In the past, my behavior would have led me to stay and fight to the bitter end, and then end up feeling a sort of entitlement to do other things. While this is a very, very simplistic and superficial example, I am saying that in the past my false sense of entitlement was certainly a contributing factor to some of my less-than-honorable behavior.

I am still a person of value. The giving up of the Chapel job has taught me that sometimes money can be a blinding spot. I am missing the time I had on the piano but I have learned that through hard work I can accomplish things that in the past I would not have thought possible.
Thursday, June 17, 2004
  We are all equal, but some are more equal than others.
My case in general also shows how the justice system is not necessarily equal by any stretch of the imagination. My current lawyer in NY who is handling my appeal submitted his brief. Now we wait for the DA’s response and then the Judge’s rule. If that gets denied, I have one more shot at the top NY court which is the Appellate division. In NY State, Supreme Court is lowest, not the highest court like in US courts.

I am very aware of the poor thought processes that I followed that led me to where I am today. I am lucky to have access to a PhD psychologist whom I have been meeting with almost every two weeks. Over the last few years we have covered lots of stuff and while it is not quite as easy to show as, for example, replacing the engine in a car and then it works so much better, my inner workings are under constant adjustment.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
  There is No Safe Sex.
I have signed up for that college class I mentioned recently, so I am now taking two classes from Indiana State University. I just got back my second of ten assignments on my writing class, and the teacher said he looked forward to my future work.

It was to annotate an essay entitled "There is No Safe Sex". At one point the essay mentions two studies, one with a 12% positive response, the second with 42% positive response. I pointed out that this was a 250% increase and the teacher wrote, "Good eye recognizing that 12% to 42% is a 250% increase". Yes, it's nice to get complemented once in a while.

I am listening to NPR and they are about to play one of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos - love that NPR! (Now playing, it’s Number 3).

As we share letters, I am sure you will see where I am now and how my life is indeed on a very different path. My Federal sentence is actually ten years with 1½ years off for good behavior.

Yeah, I got excessive jail time.

There is a slight chance my NY time will be overturned but maybe not.
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
  The day the music died.
I got tossed out of the Protestant choir for thirty days. The alleged offense was my failure to get along with one of the other inmates, who was also removed.

So since I am the sole music reading person, we have no instruments for either the choir anthem or congregational singing. They also have now taken out all electronic instruments, so all we can use is the piano. My one-finger melody playing really sounds plain on the piano. I still play for the Saturday Spanish service and their choir, and also the Sunday afternoon Catholic Mass.

The Protestant Chaplin needs some help on his people skills. Anyhow, I am still going to keep working on my piano skills and start working in earnest on my left hand.
Monday, June 14, 2004
  If you think airline food is the worst, you haven't had prison food.
As I mentioned earlier, I love pipe organ music and am listening to Pipe Dreams now as I write this. I went out earlier for my daily exercise walk with some short jogs added just this week to further punish the old bod. I came back to my humble room, took a nice hot shower (yes, we do have individual shower stalls), and made dinner.

When I worked in the kitchen several years ago, in both the bakery and warehouse areas, I learned that "they" do not want to do things correctly. The #1 objective of most of the inmate workers is to see how much vegetables and pizza crust (baked in bakery overnight) can be smuggled out. So going in and getting an overcooked, dried-out slice of pork roast that I know for a fact started out as a perfectly good "raw" product is depressing. Anyhow, if I do not eat in the chow hall it’s one less thing to whine over and complain about how come we feed ourselves such garbage.

So I have found it much healthier emotionally, physically, and intellectually to prepare my own food. I have always had a hearty appetite and the meals here are very low-protein high-starch type. I always leave chow hall hungry.

We have a large ice machine and three microwave ovens to cook with. Mom and Dad send me some money each month so I am able to keep myself in healthier food and also some treats. Tonight for dinner I mixed up some refried beans (they come dried pellet-like, just add water), fresh-chopped garlic, Mrs. Dash, a little "squeeze cheese", and a 3 oz. can of chicken. To wash it down, I had a can of Coke on the rocks.

I try to stay away from the fats, so I only get pepperoni once every couple of weeks and no chips etc. I get the plain fat-free pretzels to munch on, and the microwave popcorn. But I sometimes treat myself to a pint of ice cream, which obviously you have to eat right away. They used to sell chocolate chocolate-chip Hagen-Dazs and that was deadly to both the pocketbook and the waistline. The current choices are the store-brand type and not as good as Hagen-Dazs or even Breyers but also half the calories of Hagen-Dazs or Breyers.

I know, tough life. I am in prison.
Sunday, June 13, 2004
  Electronic entertainment in prison.
My usual Sunday schedule involves the 8:30 AM Protestant worship and 1:30 PM Catholic Mass. Since the Protestant is a non-liturgical service, you mix with Catholic, and bingo (no pun intended) it feels like Lutheran. Today the Catholic priest left before Mass and picked a couple of religious videos to show in lieu of Mass. I suggested the one we have on Martin Luther and he said only if we surround the TV with a bonfire first Ha ha.

We have four TV’s in our day area and two small (15 persons max) TV rooms. One TV room is only Spanish. Then usually the other TV room plus one day area TV is on BET. Two more day areas, one is always on sports so that leaves only one that I might want to watch.

Thanks to some "great" Senator, we are only allowed to see PG movies, no R’s. We get approximately two movies a week that they broadcast over the TV’s in each unit.

To make matters worse, we get locked in our rooms at 9:30 PM until approximately 10:15 PM every night so that sort of screws up any 8PM network movie. Well, who needs to watch all these commercials for all the things we can't have such as pizza, burgers, cars, etc.

One used to be able to possess all kinds of electronic instruments here but now the Feds are bare bones. I am allowed one AM/FM radio, one SAT-type calculator, and five books.

I have this hi-tech Sony Walkman that eats AAA batteries at the rate of two every 3-4 days. But it is mostly tuned to the West Virginia Public Radio station that simulcasts in seven or eight WV cities.

Besides the real news programs in the morning, I love listening to Pipe Dreams each Sunday evening for great pipe organ music. Every once in a while they feature "Theatre Organs".
Saturday, June 12, 2004
  Did I mention that I read a lot?
I have read three books in the last four days. Unfortunately, new rules here dictate that paperbacks can no longer be sent directly to an inmate from an individual, they have to be sent by a store. Furthermore, they must be sent "USPS Book Rate" and must have the words "paperback books enclosed" written on the outside of the envelope.

Hard cover books have to be sent from the publisher or a reputable bookseller. Have you ever seen a place called Hamilton Bookseller? They have a catalog-only web site and only sell via checks, no credit cards, but they have great prices. They will ship up to 30 books for only $3.50 shipping. They have books for $1.00 and up.

My 2½’ by 4’ locker is jammed with the "five" books I am allowed to own. Let’s see, I have four hymnals, three crossword puzzle dictionaries, my electronic circuit textbook and workbook (a $70 value, $8.95 from Hamilton), my Digital Circuitry book, and my three or four English writing books.

This does not count the five or so paperback books including some sociology books on the black/white progress in America.

On a worst-case basis, they could force me to ship my books out and I could eventually have the paperbacks sent back. Unfortunately, the hard covers would not be able to be shipped back in.

Why do I have the English writing books you ask? I am currently taking an English basic composition class from Indiana University. I have not officially enrolled yet, but I can apply for student status down the road and the classes will all be credited.
Thursday, June 10, 2004
I have one inmate here who I can talk to about lots of things, and we try and top each other with the stupidest thing we have seen on any given day. The answer is our word: BOP!

Yes, it happens to be the acronym for "Bureau of Prisons" but to be able to answer each other with, well, BOP! (Say it loud and proud) lets us let off steam and feel somewhat smug too.

We joke about if they had a satellite that took pictures based on the IQ of a given area, this place would be a black hole!

Here is a good example. I had to set up the chapel area for an annual memorial service held by the staff to honor the correctional officers that have died in the line of duty - a total of 23 since 1901.

Well, I ran six microphone cables into a homemade (i.e. prison made) junction box in the front of the chapel. One of the staff members playing the banjo insisted on standing on top of all the cables where they were laying just before being plugged into the wall.

Sure enough, although I tested all the mikes 20 minutes earlier, half way through the first song one of the mikes goes out because of a bad cable.

The answer -- BOP!
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
  Prison Violence.
Due to a "beating" I received while staying in a County Jail in 1998, I got my first pair of reading glasses at the age of 42. I was taken, wearing handcuffs and leg shackles, by the Sheriff’s Deputy to an eye doctor in town. He said that it was just because I turned 42 (yeah right). So now I must wear glasses for music reading and my late night or small print reading.
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
  The old-fashioned art of letter writing.
Thank You! I was waiting, not too patiently, for your letter. And alas you wrote a great letter. Yes, life is faster with email, but as you say, old-fashioned letter writing is not only an art form but also a true gift of oneself.

And for that blessing I am honored. It is so hard to find true friends in todays busy "me me" lifestyle, but we can do it. My perspectives on life and how to live it have obviously undergone some drastic rethinking in the last few years and I hope to be able to share my journey with you as you also feel you can share with me.

BTW all letters are opened before I get them. They are checked to be sure they contain no contraband, prison lingo for the stuff we cannot possess. The specific items include no stamps, body hair, plant seeds, or clippings from plants. So please be sure to keep those curly locks from sneaking into each envelope.

As far as what you can send me: short of blueprints, escape plans, nude pictures, or direct correspondence from another prisoner, any subject matter is pretty much OK.

Yes, I can receive photos, although they frown on the Polaroid type as you might hide drugs between the layers. I would love any picture of the outside world and will certainly send you one of me as soon as I can get one. The process takes about two weeks.

First I buy a ticket for $1.00 at my weekly commissary shopping then I go to the Rec yard on a Sunday evening and wait around with 200 to 300 of my close, favorite inmates to have a 35mm picture snapped. Then they are sent out to be developed and come back to our crack investigative staff for review to make sure that no secret signals are being sent out via the photo! Eventually you will get the photo.
Monday, June 07, 2004
  The major hot buttons in here.
So I know you are busy, but I hope you can spare some time to send me a letter or two. About the only thing better than a letter from the outside is when my Mom and Dad come down for a visit, which only happens two or three times a year, so letters keep me alive!

The other problem is the lack of any access to people who can intelligently discuss various topics. The major hot buttons in here are: the latest BET videos; how much the stolen produce from the chow hall is going for this week; and the latest line (i.e. gambling odds) on the current sports in season. These are all just things I choose not to participate in!

So as Regis might say, you are a lifetime; your time would be valued and well spent.

Okay I’ll stop shoveling the bull.

Seriously, I am sorry that I let life get the better of me and did not actively spend time pursuing healthy relationship with my peers.

I know now how important each day is in life and putting things off until later is not always the best approach. Of course the big problem is knowing what you as an individual want and need, and being healthy enough to follow your dreams and apply your efforts toward those goals. Said goals should not only be legal but also morally, spiritually, and intellectually uplifting.
Sunday, June 06, 2004
  Grin and bear it.
It is 9:27 PM, and all Federal inmates are being locked into our cozy, 2-man rooms so we can be counted. It is sort of an awkward time in that any good TV movie goes 8-10PM and we will be in our rooms until at least 10:15 PM or so.

While I can see the four TVs through the 6" wide x 2’ window in my door, the TVs are at least 20-30 feet away.

I know, I hear you say, "Hey Pete, you’re in prison".

Instead I am listening to a local rock and roll station playing an ad for the local "gentlemens club" with "the finest looking girls in the two Virginias". Yeah, like that does me a lot of good.

Now Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple is playing! God bless Rock and Roll for lifting one’s spirits!

Rats, I just finished my Nestlé’s Crunch Bar! Writing this letter, listening to rock and roll just lends itself to the munchies!

We get to go to the store once a week, and this month my day is Thursday, so if I eat all my goodies tonight, it is a long wait until next Thursday! Besides which, even though we get paid the grand sum of 40 cents an hour, we still pay "retail" for our commissary stuff.

At 45 cents per candy bar and $1.95 for a 6-pack of 12 oz. cans of soda, you can see how one could easily eat one’s weekly wages in one sitting!

So suck it up Pete, grin and bear it.
Saturday, June 05, 2004
  I live in a bathroom.
I had to move out of my room so my cellie could use the toilet. My cell is a 7' x 11' room (8' ceiling) that contains a toilet, sink, 18" x 3' writing surface, and a 6' x 2 1/2' bunk bed. I have the bottom bunk. The other fixture in the room is a pair of side-by-side 2' x 3' x 2' deep lockers, one of which is for me to keep all my worldly possessions in.

Right now I am sitting in the "common" area of my dorm. It is a two-story area with 32 cells on each level. We do have doors to our rooms and the only bars are on the windows. I have my headphones on and I’m listening to NPR (National Public Radio). I am very lucky to have a transmitter for public radio right near here in town.

We have four TV's hanging up in the day area and you tune your radio to hear the audio. We do not get any "premium" channels. Most of the time one TV is always on BET and two are on sports, usually basketball and/or football, leaving just one that might actually have a show worth watching, but with all the commercials for all the things I do not have access to. Well suffice it to say, God Bless NPR.
Friday, June 04, 2004
  To say that this is a lonely existence is an understatement.
My job here involves working for the Chaplains. After all those years of "working" for the church I am finally getting paid for it. True, it is only 40 cents an hour, but hey, it is a paying job.

Surprisingly I have actually become more spiritual since my arrest. I have always taken my religion, as opposed to faith, for granted, while at the same time I had some deep-seated anger at how the church had robbed me of a normal life.

I have come to appreciate that life is what you make of it and I continue to develop a stronger sense of who I am and what I can do to keep myself spiritually, physically, and emotionally healthy. I do not always hit the mark, but I am much better at getting back on the road when life tosses as curve at me.

Again, while there are no excuses for my actions, my therapy is forcing me to examine my past and deal with a lot of pain deep inside that might have been a contributing factor to my improper behavior.
Thursday, June 03, 2004
  Believe me I am paying dearly for my actions.
I have been meeting with a psychologist here at the prison for the last two years plus. We usually meet for an hour every other week. I have done a lot of emotional work on who and what I am and I continue to work on my faults.

There is nothing I can say that will ever take back the harm and hurt that I have caused, but believe me I am paying dearly for my actions.

My Mom and Dad have been supportive of me as their son but are not able to understand "what went wrong". They send me a monthly allowance and help buy books and magazines. Yes, I do read a lot.

The bright spots in my life now come from the few people who are willing to love and accept me as a person without condoning what I have done in the past.

I have had some major thinking errors caused by a wide variety of issues that I never properly dealt with. I have sort of rediscovered myself, and I am working every day at being an honorable and trustworthy human being.

I hope you will allow me to share my journey with you and I appreciate any time you can share with me.
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
  Will I be a free man in 2004? Maybe, maybe not.
As far as my release, at this point I am due to be released from the Federal system in November 2004. Then I have an additional 5 to 15 year sentence in NY State. I would probably serve at least 8 years in NY, possibly more.

There is a possibility that I may be able to appeal my New York time on the basis of double punishment, but that is not yet decided. Obviously there is a major difference between being released in 2004 and going on to serve another eight plus years! But more on that later.

I am still very interested in computers and see the Internet and my programming skills as my way to earn a living upon my release. You should see how screwed up the systems are here! This is another topic for future letters.

[Editor] Updated Dec. 17, 2004: The good news is Pete is no longer a Federal prisoner. The bad news is that he is now a New York State prisoner. His NY appeal is still pending. If this appeal is unsuccessful, he will not be a free man until 2009 at the earliest.
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
  All my mail is subject to reading by the prison staff.
By the way, all my mail is subject to reading by the prison staff, both out and in. So sometimes I might not seem to be as clear as one could.

Hey, at least that is one excuse.

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