Prison Pete

Monday, June 25, 2007
One of my valued readers made a comment about a lack of emotional connection in my writing.

While there are some areas that I do not feel able to share in this forum, I want to spend some time putting forth the point that I exist in an environment that while in theory claims to benefit those inmates that do strive to better themselves and stay out of trouble, it is in practice the exact opposite.

What ends up happening is that while there are certainly consequences for bad behavior and there are enough rules to break, the system responds to those occurrences and deals with them, but the ones that are lifting themselves up bit by bit do so with little or no help from the system.

One example of this is the food served here. While on the whole as I left Club Fed they were working their food plan to less original meat; pork chops, roast beef, sausages etc., you still were able to fill up on salads, beans and other vegetables. At breakfast you could have all the milk you wanted.

Here in the NY State Prison System, all items are portion controlled, and the main filler food is of the starch variety, white rice or potatoes. I know that if I limit myself to eating only what is served at the mess hall, my cholesterol raises, I feel somewhat less sharp intellectually and while I might lose a few pounds, I end up feeling weak and tired and do even less physically.

Were it not for the financial support I receive from Mom and Dad, I would not be able to keep on my high protein, low fat diet. Without the outside support, I would not have all the books I read, the typewriter, the blog, my keyboard etc., etc., etc.

The point I will be dissecting is at what point do you say to a person incarcerated, okay, show us how you are going to be a law abiding citizen when you get out.

If you are of the thought, look, you broke the law, though, you are still alive, we are throwing you away. Then why not just kill us all now and be done with us?

Okay that is a little over the top, but now that I have written that, let me calm down and say, at some point it the prison system should begin to say okay we have punished you now let us work on lifting you up. We all need to have someone in our life to let us know we matter.

Here in prison and somewhat more so than my experience while at Club Fed, if you have no contact with the outside world you are left floating in a place with very little emotional support or even activities that you can do to lift yourself up.

Please do not start posting comments about no one but ourselves put us in prison. This is true. One of the many questions I would like to throw out there is what happens once you put someone in prison.

One of the inmates I work with was talking about how this was his fifth prison sentence. He is not a stupid person, has a supportive family on the outside, but obviously his time spent in this taxpayer financed secure locations has not changed his behavior in ways that would keep him out of here.

One major difference between the Federal and NY State system is the view on weight lifting. In the federal system they are working toward a recreation program that all but outlaws any muscle building activity with the exception of cardio type exercise.

The newer federal prisons will not only have no weights of any kind, even chin up bars and incline benches are not being provided. Here in NY not only do they have a full shed of weights and exercise bars, one of the few organized contest is a power-lifting contest.

There is a sizable portion of the inmate population that gear their recreation schedule to which set of muscles they are working on which day and then come back after the workouts and spend their time flexing and posing in the bathroom mirrors.

This last part is not all that coherent and is not the last work I want to write on these issues, I have just wanted to get back to putting something meaty back on the blog and hope if nothing else this will get me going.

If you want to add your two cents feel free, but please I am not writing this to evoke a Pete Pity Party. Please do not dump on me, I am hoping to be able to provide a broad critique of the system and not solely focus on my personal plight in the system.

This is just the beginning, and hopefully the follow-up to this post will be more coherent and insightful.

Thanks for reading the blog and go out and enjoy life.
Friday, June 22, 2007
  My Second Half Century.
Monday I successfully completed my first year of living in my second half century.

I celebrated this wonderful day by calling home to Mom and Dad only to find Dad was out and Mom started off the call (after accepting the charges since all calls have to be collect) by asking me what was wrong. I hinted "Oh I’m just calling my Mom on this wonderful day in JUNE, you know just another day in JUNE, and then it clicked, and Mom said "Happy Birthday, didn't you get our card?"

I told her no, but I am sure it will arrive any day. She was sure they mailed it before the weekend. Well it is Wednesday now and it still has not arrived, so perhaps it never made it to the mailbox.

My dinner on Monday was an octopus pasta salad. I used a whole can of diced tomatoes that Mom and Dad brought along with them when they visited. I used two cans of octopus, one can of mushrooms, some Italian dressing, plenty of Parmesan cheese and about half a pound of spaghetti.

Olive Garden eat your heart out. I love how using a few simple ingredients, I can whip up a meal that is rich in protein and low in fat. Try it at home but you all can use fresh vegetables instead of the canned stuff I must use. Fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, green peppers, some chilled pasta and the seafood of your choice, and dinner is served.

The thought that was running through my mind is how often I would not take the time to prepare a 'special meal' at home, instead rushing out to the local chain mass produced processed food server. Spend more money than had I invested in some special food from the supermarket and mixed up a dish a home.

I have spent a bunch of time opting out of my environment reading over the last three weeks and have finished off fifteen books. Three by Robert Parker: Thin Air, Back Story, and Sea Change. Let It Be Love by Victoria Alexander. Deadly Embrace by Jackie Collins. The Alibi by Sandra Brown. The Collectors by David Baldacci. The Cove by Catherine Coulter. The Short Forever, Dirty Work, and Dark Harbor all by Stuart Woods. Hidden Prey, and Night Prey by John Sanford. Last Man Standing by David Baldacci. Chill Factor by Sandra Brown.

All that reading has left me with a slight backlog of letter writing and other paperwork which I will hopefully catch up on over the next few days. I managed to get my handmade Father's Day card out last night, and I need to get a birthday card out to a special hard working blog editor, (but if you read the blog please do not tell him about it ha ha), so perhaps I will stay among the productive for a bit.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
  Sick Again.
The weather last weekend was very hot and humid and by Monday I needed medical attention for breathing problems. The asthma would not go away. After two treatments Monday afternoon and evening, I needed yet one more at 2:00 AM Tuesday morning.

I was lucky to get to see the doctor on Tuesday morning and he immediately put me on both oral steroids and an antibiotic. He then had me follow up with him Thursday morning.

When he saw me on Thursday, he confirmed I passed the Jewish mother test, I was smiling, and some color in my face and did not appear to be struggling for breath. I commented that I had a couple of good nights of sleep, was certainly breathing easier, and in general was feeling pretty up.

His response was, "Sure those are a couple of the side effects of the steroids you are taking." That was the good news.

The bad news was that the chest x-ray I had taken the day before, confirmed that although my lungs were certainly not suffering from any major disease, and my previously permanently clogged sinuses were relatively open, he could see some signs of arthritis on my spine, and the side view of my lungs showed some degenerative damage to my diaphragm that decrease my ability to expel air. I will be seeing the doctor again tomorrow and will see if the radiologist finds anything else.

The dosage for the steroids starts off 40 milligrams for four days, and then steps down to 30 milligrams for four days, and then 20 milligrams and 10 milligrams each step for four days. So when I saw the doctor last Thursday, I was on the fourth day of the 40 milligram dose; tomorrow I will see him just starting the last four days of the prescription taking only 10 milligrams each day.

He was right, I have now returned to the rather normal feelings of the blahs, and less restful sleep as my body is weaned off these great happy pills.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
  It has been a long few weeks
here at my humble abode. While it is usually hard to decide when one series of events, for lack of a better word, ends and another starts this last few weeks started with yet one more, and possibly the last hope, denial from the U.S. Court of Appeals.

My latest case has just been sitting around the court for over two years. And all that time to tell me, "Sorry Charlie, you failed to raise a constitutional issue that we can look at." The irony is the issue I am raising is ineffective assistance of counsel, which is one of the basic rights in the Bill of Rights, and they said that is not good enough.

At this point my next possible time for release from living in the lap of luxury and off the over taxed citizens is in November of 2009. And that is not by any means a sure bet.

Last weekend my parents came up to visit me and through a tragedy (as opposed to a comedy) of errors, I only had about two hours to visit with them on Saturday, and ninety minutes on Sunday. It was great to be able to see Mom and Dad, but it was way too short a time. Unfortunately the location I am at only has visiting on Saturdays and Sundays.

The special event that took place on Saturday did give me the opportunity to play the keyboard for my parents. I was able to have them sit right next to my keyboard. I told them I wanted to show them the different ways I used the features of my Yamaha keyboard.

I started singing the opening verse to "When I Fall in Love", while playing live, as opposed to using the sequencer option. Since I did not have the actual music, and the intro part is not quite as familiar to me, I had to fake it melody-wise.

But once I got to the "When I Fall In Love..." part, Dad grabbed Mom's hand and started singing along with me! That was probably one of the most emotional moments of my life since being incarcerated.

Mom is a little hard of hearing, and it took a few minutes afterwards to convince her that I had actually played the song, and not had a pre-recorded copy of it. I did use a jazz beat with three major chords but while the left hand had to keep up with the chord changes the right hand played melody.

Special thanks to Tasha from Australia for sending me the lyrics.
Friday, June 01, 2007
  Just took a break
to make a PB&J sandwich and a mug of tea. It is a little after 9:00, and as I was milking the last of the hot water out of the 30 cup coffee pot, noticed that some of my fellow inmates were watching the Mets and Yankees. Wow, people packed into good old Shea Stadium enjoying life.

Thanks to Tasha in Australia. I was really hoping for the music, as I thought my ability to figure out the tune would not be that good. I surprise myself. I have figured out something that is fairly close to the melody, and have even picked out one of the preprogrammed rhythms (Jazz style) and even the chords.

Another one of those things I hate to admit to, but the many hours I have spent practicing on the keyboard have certainly improved both my playing and my ear. It is certainly not big leaps, bit each day, I am a little better than the day before. Practice, practice, practice.

I am still not sure how to respond to the press. I have yet to write anything of substance to H in Canada, and by now I figure she has given up on me. My concerns are still two fold: one being what this place would think about a letter address to a newspaper, even though the rules clearly state we are allowed to freely communicate with the press and the possibility that the eventual story would tie my name and the blog together. Part of me would certainly love the idea of becoming a "celebrity" if only it was limited to Prison Pete.

Even if that was a guarantee, there would still be the possibility that someone directly connected with the NYS Dept. of Corrections would decide to do some snooping around. I am way too sure of the system that keeps me, that if needed I could certainly end up in a whole bunch of trouble. One of the most basic "tricks" is to plant a weapon, (even a bent over can lid) inside my cube, do a search, and all of a sudden I am off to the box and even possibly facing a new charge. Not to mention the numerous roughing-ups I would be subject to from people that work in the boxes.

They have just taken the 10:00 count, so it is lights out and time to shut down for the evening.

I need to write a nice long letter to J, but this time you ended up on top of the pile. I have received two letters from her in the last two weeks and not written her back.

Yes, I do realize, like a lot of my grand plans, this letter was not proofed and printed. It is a direct-to-paper creations and as such I apologize for all the errors, although as I type this line I have yet to read the result to see how badly I have done.

Hope life is good to you for a bit, and the wife, the plumbing, and all life's other problems do not weigh you down too much.

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