It's perhaps fitting that I write this introduction...
Posted: Dec 08, 2013 (07:19:06 PM) | Updated: Dec 09, 2013 (09:33:33 PM)
It's perhaps fitting that I write this introduction in jail-that
graduate school of survival. Here you learn how to use toothpaste as
glue, fashion a shiv out of a spoon and build intricate communication
networks. Here too, you learn the only rehabilitation possible-hatred
of oppression. Steal This Book is, in a way, a manual of survival in the
prison that is Amerika. It preaches jailbreak. It shows you where
exactly how to place the dynamite that will destroy the walls.
The first section -SURVIVE!-lays out a potential action program for
our new Nation. The chapter headings spell out the demands for a
free society. A community where the technology produces goods
and services for whoever needs them, come who may.
It calls on the Robin Hoods of Santa Barbara Forest to steal from
the robber barons who own the castles of capitalism. It implies that
the reader already is "ideologically set," in that he understands
corporate feudalism as the only robbery worthy of being called "crime,"
for it is committed against the people as a whole. Whether the ways
it describes to rip-off shit are legal or illegal is irrelevant. The
dictionary of law is written by the bosses of order. Our moral
dictionary says no heisting from each other. To steal from a brother
or sister is evil. To not steal from the institutions that are the
pillars of the Pig Empire is equally immoral. Community within our
Nation, chaos in theirs; that is the message of SURVIVE! We cannot
survive without learning to fight and that is the lesson in the second
FIGHT! separates revolutionaries from outlaws. The purpose of
part two is not to fuck the system, but destroy it. The weapons are
carefully chosen. They are "home-made," in that they are designed for
use in our unique electronic jungle. Here the uptown reviewer will find
ample proof of our "violent" nature. But again, the dictionary of law
fails us. Murder in a uniform is heroic, in a costume it is a crime.
False advertisements win awards, forgers end up in jail. Inflated
prices guarantee large profits while shoplifters are punished.
Politicians conspire to create police riots and the victims are
convicted in the courts. Students are gunned down and then indicted by
suburban grand juries as the trouble-makers. A modern, highly
mechanized army travels 9,000 miles to commit genocide against a small
nation of great vision and then accuses its people of aggression.
Slumlords allow rats to maim children and then complain of violence in
the streets. Everything is topsy-turvy. If we internalize the language
and imagery of the pigs, we will forever be fucked. Let me illustrate
the point. Amerika was built on the slaughter of a people. That is its
history. For years we watched movie after movie that demonstrated the
white man's benevolence. Jimmy Stewart, the epitome of fairness, puts
his arm around Cochise and tells how the Indians and the whites can
live in peace if only both sides will be reasonable, responsible and
rational (the three R's imperialists always teach the "natives"). "You
will find good grazing land on the other side of the mountain," drawls
the public relations man. "Take your people and go in peace." Cochise
as well as millions of youngsters in the balcony of learning, were
being dealt off the bottom of the deck. The Indians should have offed
Jimmy Stewart in every picture and we should have cheered ourselves
hoarse. Until we understand the nature of institutional violence
and how it manipulates values and mores to maintain the power of the
few, we will forever be imprisoned in the caves of ignorance. When we
conclude that bank robbers rather than bankers should be the trustees
of the universities, then we begin to think clearly. When we see the
Army Mathematics Research and Development Center and the Bank of
Amerika as cesspools of violence, filling the minds of our young with
hatred, turning one against another, then we begin to think
revolutionary.Be clever using section two; clever as a snake. Dig the
spirit of the struggle. Don't get hung up on a sacrifice trip.
Revolution is not about suicide, it is about life. With your fingers
probe the holiness of your body and see that it was meant to live. Your
body is just one in a mass of cuddly humanity. Become an
internationalist and learn to respect all life. Make war on machines,
and in particular the sterile machines of corporate death and the
robots that guard them. The duty of a revolutionary is to make love
and that means staying alive and free. That doesn't allow for cop-outs.
Smoking dope and hanging up Che's picture is no more a commitment than
drinking milk and collecting postage stamps. A revolution in
consciousness is an empty high without a revolution in the distribution
of power. We are not interested in the greening of Amerika except for
the grass that will cover its grave.
Section three - LIBERATE! - concerns itself with efforts to free
stuff (or at least make it cheap) in four cities. Sort of a quick U.S.
on no dollars a day. It begins to scratch the potential for a national
effort in this area. Since we are a nation of gypsies, dope on how to
move around and dig in anywhere is always needed. Together we can
expand this section. It is far from complete, as is the entire project.
Incomplete chapters on how to identify police agents, steal a car, run
day-care centers, conduct your own trial, organize a G.I. coffee house,
start a rock and roll band and make neat clothes, are scattered all
over the floor of the cell. The book as it now stands was completed in
the late summer of 1970. For three months manuscripts made the rounds
of every major publisher. In all, over 30 rejections occurred before
the decision to publish the book ourselves was made, or rather made for
us. Perhaps no other book in modern times presented such a dilemma.
Everyone agreed the book would be a commercial success. But even greed
had its limits, and the IRS and FBI following the manuscript with their
little jive rap had a telling effect. Thirty "yeses" become thirty
"noes" after "thinking it over." Liberals, who supposedly led the fight
against censorship, talked of how the book "will end free
speech."Finally the day we were bringing the proofs to the printer,
Grove consented to act as distributor. To pull a total solo trip,
including distribution, would have been neat, but such an effort would
be doomed from the start. We had tried it before and blew it. In fact,
if anyone is interested in 4,000 1969 Yippie calendars, they've got a
deal. Even with a distributor joining the fight, the battle will only
begin when the books come off the press. There is a saying that
"Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one." In past eras, this
was probably the case, but now, high speed methods of typesetting,
offset printing and a host of other developments have made substantial
reductions in printing costs. Literally anyone is free to print their
own works. In even the most repressive society imaginable, you can get
away with some form of private publishing. Because Amerika allows this,
does not make it the democracy Jefferson envisioned. Repressive
tolerance is a real phenomenon. To talk of true freedom of the press,
we must talk of the availability of the channels of communication that
are designed to reach the entire population, or at least that segment
of the population that might participate in such a dialogue. Freedom of
the press belongs to those that own the distribution system. Perhaps
that has always been the case, but in a mass society where nearly
everyone is instantaneously plugged into a variety of national
communications systems, wide-spread dissemination of the information is
the crux of the matter. To make the claim that the right to print your
own book means freedom of the press is to completely misunderstand the
nature of a mass society. It is like making the claim that anyone with
a pushcart can challenge Safeway supermarkets, or that any child can
grow up to be president. State legislators, librarians, PTA members, FBI
agents, church-goers, and parents: a veritable legion of decency and
order already is on the march. To get the book to you might be the
biggest challenge we face. The next few months should prove really
exciting.Obviously such a project as Steal This Book could not have
been carried out alone. Izak Haber shared the vision from the
beginning. He did months of valuable research and contributed many of
the survival techniques. Carole Ramer and Gus Reichbach of the New York
Law Commune guided the book through its many stages. Anna Kaufman Moon
did almost all the photographs. The cartoonists who have made
contributions include Ski Williamson and Gilbert Sheldon. Tom Forcade,
of the UPS, patiently did the editing. Bert Cohen of Concert Hall did
the book's graphic design. Amber and John Wilcox set the type. Anita
Hoffman and Lynn Borman helped me rewrite a number of sections. There
are others who participated in the testing of many of the techniques
demonstrated in the following pages and for obvious reasons have to
remain anonymous. There were perhaps over 50 brothers and sisters who
played particularly vital roles in the grand conspiracy. Some of the
many others are listed on the following page. We hope to keep the
information up to date. If you have comments, law suits, suggestions or
death threats, please send them to: Dear Abbie P.0. Box 213, Cooper
Station, New York, NY 10003. Many of the tips might not work in your
area, some might be obsolete by the time you get to try them out, and
many addresses and phone numbers might be changed. If the reader
becomes a participating researcher then we will have achieved our
purpose.Watch for a special edition called Steal This White House,
complete with blueprints of underground passages, methods of jamming
the communications network and a detailed map of the celebrated room
where according to Tricia Nixon, "Daddy loves to listen to Mantovanni
records, turn up the air conditioner full blast, sit by the fireplace,
gaze out the window to the Washington Monument and meditate on those
difficult problems that face all the peoples of this world."
December 1970 Cook County Jail, Chicago
"FREE SPEECH IS THE RIGHT TO SHOUT 'THEATER' IN A CROWDED FIRE."
- A YIPPIE PROVERBAIDING AND ABETTING- Tim Leary, Tom, Geronimo, Pearl
Paperhanger, Sonny, Pat Solomon, Allan Katzman, Jacob Kohn, Nguyen Van
Troi, Susan, Marty, Andy, Ami, Marshall Bloom, Viva, Ben, Oanh, Robin
Palmer, Mom and Dad, Janie Fonda, Jerry, Denis, LNS, Bernadine Dohrn, a
wall in Harvard Square, Nancy, an anonymous stewardess, Shirley
Wonderful, Roz, Gumbo, Janis, Jimi, Dylan Liberation Front, Jeannie,
God Slick, John, David, Rusty, Barney, Richard, Denny, Ron Cobb, the
entire Viet Cong, Sam Shephard, Ma Bell, Eric, David, Joe, Kim Agnew,
the Partridge Family, Carol, Alan Ginsburg, Woman's Lib, Julius Lester,
Lenny Bruce, Hack, Billy, Paul, Willy, Colleen, Sid, Johnny Appleseed,
the Rat, Craig, Che, Willie Sutton, Wanda, EVO, Jeff, Crazy Horse,
Huey, Casey, Bobby, Alice, Mao, Rip, Ed, Bob, Gay Liberation Front,
WPAX, Frank Dudock, Manny, Mungo, Lottie, Rosemary, Marshall, Rennie,
Judy, Jennifer, Mr. Martin, Keith, Madame Binh, Mike, Eleanor, Dr.
Spock, Afeni, Candice, the Tupamaros, Berkeley Tribe, Gilbert Sheldon,
Stanley Kubrick, Sam, Anna, Skip Williamson, UPS, Andy Stapp, the
Yippies, Richard Brautigan, Jano, Carlos Marighella, the Weathermen,
Julius Jennings Hoffman, Quentin, the inmates of TIER A-l Cook County
Jail, Houdini, 37, Rosa Luxemberg, the Kent 25, the Chicago 15, the New
York 21, the Motor City 3, the Indianapolis 500, Jack, Joan, Malcolm X,
Mayakovsky, Dotson, R. Crumb, Daniel Clyne, Justin, The FBI Top 10 (now
16), Unis, Dana, Jim Morrison, Brian, John, Gus, Ruth, Nancy Unger,
Pun, Jomo, Peter, Mark Rudd, Billy Kunstler, Genie, Ken, the Law
Commune, Paula, Robby, Terry, Dianna, Angela, Ted, Phil, Jefferson
Airplane, Len, Tricky Prickers, the Berrigans, Stu, Rayanne, J.B.,
Jonathan Jackson, the Armstrong Brothers, Homer, Sharon, Fred Hampton,
Jean Jacques Lebel, A. H. Maslow, Hanoi Rose, Sylvia, Fellini, Amaru,
Ann Fettamen, Artaud, Bert, Merrill, Lynne, and last but not least to
Spiro what's his name who provided the incentive.
Posted: Dec 31, 1969 (05:00:00 PM)
29th March, Hog Hill. Showtime!
Miss ANTONIA ABBISOGNI MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling
Ms Zoe Armstrong Scott Contessa Epic
Ms Katerina Avramides Brighton Mitre CC
Miss Alice Barnes Scott Contessa Epic
Miss Hannah Barnes MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling
Miss Emily Barnes Condor Cycles
Miss Rohan Battison MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling
Mrs Fran Blake Southdown Velo
Miss Karla Boddy MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling
Mrs Mary-Hannah Bonnett Abergavenny Road Club
Miss Sian Botteley Squadra Donne - Shutt VR
Miss Lydia Boylan Team CTC
Miss melissa Brond MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling
Miss Lauren Brown Abergavenny Road Club
Miss Vittoria Bussi Zappi's Ladies Team
Mrs Sian Cahill Zappi's Ladies Team
Miss Karen Chisnall Team Milton Keynes
Miss Anna Christian Scott Contessa Epic
Dr Clarice Chung Twickenham CC
Mrs Louise Clowes Squadra Donne - Shutt VR
Ms Beth Coley VC Norwich
Miss Clemence Copie High Wycombe Cycling Club
Miss Natalie Creswick Team Mulebar Girl - Sigma Sport
Mrs Tracy Dresch Squadra Donne - Shutt VR
Miss Kimberley English Scott Contessa Epic
Miss Vikki Filsell Les Filles Racing Team
Mrs Solveig Findley Twickenham CC
Miss Susan Freeburn In Gear Quickvit Trainsharp Racing Team
Miss Coralie Glaunes Les Filles Racing Team
Miss Amy Gornall Scott Contessa Epic
Mrs Julie Granshaw WyndyMilla
Miss Natalie Grinczer Abergavenny Road Club
Mrs Lisa Gunn WyndyMilla
Miss Bethany Hayward Scott Contessa Epic
Miss Amy Hill Abergavenny Road Club
Mrs Catherine Hills WyndyMilla
Miss Jennifer Hudson VC St Raphael
Miss Rebecca Hunt Scott Contessa Epic
Miss Nicola Juniper Team CTC
Miss Emily Kay Scott Contessa Epic
Miss Jennifer Lake Squadra Donne - Shutt VR
Miss Manon Lloyd Abergavenny Road Club
Miss Louise Mahe Sutton Cycling Club/De Ver Cycles
Ms Elizabeth Malins www.twenty3c.co.uk
Mrs Louise Marsden VC Norwich
Ms Laura Massey Abergavenny Road Club
Ms Helen McKay Team CTC
Miss Anna McNuff Les Filles Racing Team
Miss Paige Milward Squadra Donne - Shutt VR
Miss Jasmijn Muller Kingston Whls CC
Miss Nicole Oh Les Filles Racing Team
Ms Tamina Oliver Team CTC
Miss Rachel Przybylski WyndyMilla
Miss Helen Ralston Les Filles Racing Team
Miss Anna Reid Zappi's Ladies Team
Miss Anna Reid Zappi's Ladies Team
Ms George Schwiening Cambridge Triathlon Club
Ms Maryka Sennema Kingston Whls CC
Miss Alexie Shaw Les Filles Racing Team
Ms Julia Smith Twickenham CC
Dr Phoebe Sneddon Team Mulebar Girl - Sigma Sport
Miss Gillian Taylor Abergavenny Road Club
Miss Laura Wasley Scott Contessa Epic
Ms Astrid Wingler Team CTC
Miss Aimee Wright High Wycombe Cycling Club
Posted: Dec 31, 1969 (05:00:00 PM)
CHAPTER 25: “The Tomato” and The “Banana Song”
I look at my entire history; I know I am close but may be off by a few days on some of these dates or months - it was such a chaotic and weird journey and sometimes I lost track of days and weeks. They blend together and I really want to forget - but I am very close to being on point. I never want my readers thinking I am exaggerating.
I will begin this chapter at the end…
“# 71719...PASSMORE! Pack it up for pre-release!”
I had been waiting for those five words for the past three years whether I realized it or not. In the beginning of my stint I only expected to serve six months in a Community Based Correction Facility (CBCF) - a lockdown behavioral modification program. In the end, I served my entire sentence of three years and four months. Before I take you to The Franklin County Pre-release Center I must present you with the three months before my departure from The Ohio Reformatory for Women.
Once I made my dramatic exit from my in-house intensive treatment program in prison, Tapestry, I was out in the “REAL WORLD” of general population, which inmates refer to as GP. In Tapestry we address our ‘sisters’ only by last name; I never thought I would get used to this but eventually it became second nature and I did. On the day I was moved from the Tapestry dorm, so was my ‘sister,’ Ms. Howard. Ms. Howard had been made cadre - the highest honor in Tapestry and she had been in the program for 17 months. The program is a 9-18 month commitment; Tapestry is funded by a business out of Columbus, Ohio named Comp Drug. Comp Drug does urine screenings for the courts and is also a methadone clinic.
Surprisingly, Ms. Howard became angry with the Tapestry counselors and just up and quit right before she was at her 18-month mark. She and I packed our things and lugged them out of the cottage and into Kennedy One (K-1). I was pretty proud of Ms. Howard for not selling out on the fact that she deserved the respect she had worked for all those months and she went out standing up for herself and with her head held high. Ms. Howard is a very polite and petite black woman - thin to the waist and then the baby had back. I am thinking there are a lot of fellows out there who would really appreciate her voluptuous figure and she wears it well. You would never guess that Ms. Howard would be in prison and until we both got the boot from Tapestry I thought of her as having a “better than” attitude. I did not go out of my way to spend any time with her.
That all changed as we were walking to K-1. Ms. Howard and I decided we were going to stick together. The buddy system is how we would adjust to GP. I was very excited to be in GP and had purposely signed out of the program so that I could experience General Population and then write about it for you. Still, half the reason I wanted to write about it was because I knew GP was going to be off the chain and boy GP did not disappoint me.
By the grace of God, Ms. Howard and I were placed in the same dorm and assigned to the same row - our bunks practically right across from each other. About 15 minutes after we arrived, I heard a shrieking scream and then just a scramble of five voices at once. I could hear things like “That nasty bitch thinks she can get it off to not pay her debts on two for ones” and “fuck that dirty scandalous bitch I knew she was broke down when she first got here and I told them bitches to leave her where she’s at.”
It turned out that a younger girl, in the row behind me, had ‘loaned’ a few snack cakes from the woman who was running a two for one store in our dorm; on shop day the young girl came back with some crackers but nothing else to re-pay her debt. A two for one store is not permitted and is a “hole-able” offense but unless you have a sign in front of your bunk saying, “I am a two for one store” the guards have more significant problems than trying to keep up with all the women running the two for one game.
Instead of beating the girls’ ass and then going to the hole, a “store associate” took a bird and killed and bloodied it and then proceeded to put this bird into the box of crackers the young girl had purchased instead of the snack cakes she owed the ‘store owner.” When the girl reached into her crackers she felt the blood-soaked, dead robin and consequentially was the cause of the shrieking we heard. It is pretty mob-esque if you think about it, and I don’t like people to be sad but I could not help but be exhilarated with the excitement of it all and for this to be happening in the first 20 minutes of our arrival. I could tell Ms. Howard was entertained as well but also slightly second guessing her rash decision to up and leave Tapestry - our prior, very-sheltered prison world.
This bird incident was nothing compared to what happened next - people were about to go crazy “up in here.”
After the situation with the bird, things died down pretty quickly and I left Ms. Howard in the dorm so that I could go and see my GP friends from whom I was banned while in Tapestry. I also wanted to stretch my legs and spread my wings because I had not made it to the level in Tapestry where I could kick it out in the big yard and walk or jog. If I wanted to walk or jog. I had to do it in the tiny circle right in front of the Tapestry dorm where all my ‘sisters’ could see me and hold me accountable if I strayed and said hello to an old friend walking by from GP.
Ms. Howard was not into the outside clique-thing like me. Just like in high school, I was one who fit into almost all the cliques but I did have my main group and we were looked up to because we always laughed and ran “reality therapy” in the yard and people just loved it. My group ended up being Gia, Felecia, CoCo, Rashida, Sheena and Vanilla Bean (my favorite boy/girl and I named her Vanilla Bean) plus Mookie (but Mookie ended up “flipping the script” and going to the dark side). Mookie’s bad and her loss. She was a sought after boy/girl as well; she and Gia were booted from Tapestry for having a young love affair…
As soon as I walked into the light of the big yard it felt right. Ultimately, the thing that led me to leave Tapestry was when I was made into a Ghost over a weekend. A “ghost” is an LE… a learning experience. This term is used in treatment to explain a consequence you will suffer if you go against the grain. I was very entertaining and my counselors decided to make me a ‘ghost’ for three days so that I would be forced to look at myself as opposed to focusing on making my ‘sisters’ crack up. When you are a ‘ghost,’ you may not speak to anyone or even look anyone in the eye. They, in turn, are also not allowed to speak or look at you. You eat by yourself and you are treated as if you are invisible.
While serving my ‘ghost LE,’ I kept a journal during most of those three days and I just wrote what came to mind - I was wrapping up my thoughts for the day and my last line came effortlessly onto paper and it went like this: “If I could be anyone in the world, it would be me.” I never thought I would write that statement after everything that happened to me; and all the stupid mistakes and decisions I made - especially in the last three years. A few grateful tears dripped down to my lips and I caught them with my tongue. I then listened to my inner voice and it told me: “Your journey here in Tapestry is done. It is time for a different lesson.” I knew without a doubt I had to go. There was nothing that was going to change my mind.
The big yard was so alive - alive in a different way than Tapestry - nothing was forced. You were accountable for the way you behaved by choice not because you were motivated by fear or shame. It was like moving from a suburb to the big city - electricity in the air, a million things to see and so many new and different types of people to meet. It would drive Felicia batty that I was all over the damn prison yard getting to know everyone and everything. Felicia believed in “staying out the way” not getting yourself “hemmed up” and not to show your inner self to anyone. Felicia was tough and intimidating but I was little and very trusting and it scared her to death that I would get hurt. Felicia always said: "I cannot watch you all the time and be wherever you are Amy, and even if I could you are all over the damn yard and campus so this is on you.”
Still everyday she would send for me and shake her head with an annoyed smile. I would tease Felicia saying: “I thought you had had it with me and were not going to be my BFF anymore.” Then I would cop a squat by her and Jess for a while and story swap about our county and reminiscing about life on the outside.
As I mentioned, Ms. Howard - who was my age of around 40 but who was much more mature - was not into the social scene of the big yard but she did like to hear the stories I would collect and bring to back when the yard closed. And after the second thing that happened to us within 26 hours of being in our new dorm - my drama and the yard stories were not disturbing to her at all. The situation I am referring to occurred the second evening Ms. Howard and I spent in K-1. I was on a bottom bunk and there was a young girl - of around 21 - on the bottom bunk to the right of me. Young people just love me and always open right up. I cannot remember her name but she was at the prison for a crime that would have been publicized. It was just too uncanny all the bunkies and roommates I had in this 3 years, 4 months to be anything other than God placing them there right next to me or above me on the top bunks.
This young lady was in prison for [I think she said] nine years because she and her boyfriend had two small children removed from their custody. The reason was suspicion of selling pills. A family member, or neighbor, had reported them. These two wanted their kids back and the caseworker for the county children’s services was not giving them the time of day. These young and disturbed parents snapped and hired someone to put a bomb in the caseworker’s car. The car did blow up but fortunately the guy was not in the car at the time. The man who placed the bomb in the car was caught and came clean and told the detectives everything. Of course, I would never do anything that extreme to my kids’ caseworker but I knew that great pain and frustration and it was such a shame to me. It really broke my heart knowing all they really wanted was to have their babies back but they did the stupidest thing they could do. Now, not only would they not see their kids for years - mommy and daddy were in prison for a long time, these two would lose their youth to these prison walls and not have the comfort of one another to get them through the loss of their children until better days. It was senseless, just a totally senseless crime. As she cried, I tried to comfort her and tell her my story… I just wanted to ease her pain. She had done what she had done, she was doing her time for it and I was not going to judge or condemn.
After 4:30 count was over, we were permitted to leave our bunks, and out of nowhere the girl got up, put on her robe and told me that she was going to go take a quick shower but that she really liked talking to me and it would make her feel better if I were waiting at my bunk when she came back. Maybe she was just a bit overwhelmed telling me the whole story of her separation from her children and on top of that her crime, of course I thought that must be the reason for her abrupt departure. I really could tell if she really wanted to talk more but I stayed put being my social butterfly self and waited for her to come back. She did. When she said that she would be right back the girl was not kidding. It was the most frantic, discombobulated, chaotic and tragic event that I saw my entire in prison. (Not including the county)
She came sprinting back to the bunk, blood all over her and she was screaming to her friends to take this and hide that. It happened so damn fast that I could not tell who took what or even which rows they were coming from. Then all the cops swooped in and they snatched her up, she look wildly and desperately into my eyes and she was taken away. I just sat there in utter disbelief. What the hell had just happened? Once again it made no goddamned sense; I looked over to Ms. Howard and we just stared- dumbfounded - back at one another.
It turns out the girl had an issue with another young girl in our dorm. Some people just do not have the capacity to react in the way most of us do. This girl’s mental state was what most "normal" people believe an inmate’s mentality would be like. My book seems to surprise people as I humanize the inmates. This 21-year-old girl was obviously very mentally ill. If you could have listened to her tell the story, as I did, you would have gotten the eerie feel that she did what she did but to her it was more just a story in a movie she had watched over and over again and it had now become an obsession in her mind. It was not real to her. I feel like she was not even a real person in her own mind. She was a fictitious character and therefore could do anything - no matter how twisted - and she would wake up and it would just have been a dream. That is the very best I can do to describe this to me seemingly little yet rough girl.
The other girl with whom she was having the issue was around the same age and size. My girl was pretty petite but curvy like me. There were different stories going around within the next week of why they were enemies but basically it was a jealousy thing between two young girls who were very similar. We have all been teenagers and can relate to how it must have gone down. The thing is we were not in high school and in prison you better be careful to not underestimate anyone- no matter what their size. I have seen a five-foot tall person literally beat the teeth out of an inmate who was five, eight and twice her weight. One girl beat a much larger girl so badly in the yard that the big girl’s maxi pad flew across the yard.
The young woman was placed in the prison hole until she was taken to court to face additional charges of aggravated and felonious assault on the girl she attacked in the shower - a needless crime with enormous consequences.
Ms. Howard and I both decided to apply to the new prison unit, which was religious housing. I wanted to go to the religious housing dorm because they had a lot of programming and you were assigned a mentor who would come visit you from the outside. Mentors also help get support for when you arrive home. I am a programmer when I am in prison. I have too much guilt when I sit around and do not work on myself while I am doing my time. Everyone does time differently and I do not judge at all. For me, I had to grow and make daily strides to show my kids and also their judge and caseworker that I did not take my imprisonment for anything less than a chance to grow and get an education. Not only was I out to prove myself to them, I also wanted it. I was led to the water and I was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. I was a thirsty horse and I continued to drink all the “water” the prison had to offer me. After about three week of being in K-1, I heard a Guard shout out “Passmore,” and it was my time to move to the religious housing unit.
As usual I got the butterflies in anticipation of what would come and the things I would experience in my new living quarters. I quickly packed up my things and said good-bye to my friends in K-1 and off I went to my new dorm. I struck gold in my newest dorm, as Rashida was living there as well as most of my fellow Tapestry sisters who were no longer in the program. My new row was electric and aside from my nightmare of a little bunkie I was blessed. I had also been chosen for a mentor program newly implemented in our prison named “The Seven Circles of Hope” and my favorite thing about this non-profit organization was it did not turn its back on the lifers.
As I have mentioned, there is not much in which you can participate as a lifer. I realize –due to funding - the spots available in our classrooms must be saved for women who will be released into the world and need to have an education for a head start when they get home. Still, I cannot help feeling sad for the lifers as second chances - or however many chances a person gets - are not supposed to apply to some and not others. The prison programs specifically target women who are released within four years. The lifers do get a shot at being licensed in plumbing and drafting/wood class and also the blood spill team and minimally the cosmetology program.
Religious housing, Tapestry, and classes at our Columbus State on-site location are off limits to women serving more than four years. I propose that lifers are able to work more jobs; I would make the prison more self-sufficient by going back to an agrarian standard where the prison is financially and emotionally self-supported. The lifers and long timers, for the most part, would love to work and be useful. They were not put to a death sentence - therefore to be as useful as possible would mean prosperity for all of us. Of course, there would be lifers who do not want to do anything more than the minimum requirements and this is where a merit or incentive program would be formed to motivate all inmates to participate in their prison community.
Since I knew I would be writing this book; I had been dying of hunger to talk to the women in prison for terrible crimes. There are rumors and then there are facts. I was able to interview a woman who was in my religious cottage who shot all four of her young children execution style. I found out about this woman when she came roaming through our row asking if anyone could give her a pack or two of ramen noodles. Her eyes were very glassy - as if a tear was about to fall out - and she was a black woman and spoke very slowly. She looked like she was only half in the world and like her mind could not accept reality so her other half was somewhere far away from this prison. Maybe Debbie Beal’s kind mind had allowed her to go to a place where she had her children and none of her crimes had happened. I had no idea of Debbie’s crime and no one was even looking at her as she dazedly walked down the row. There are a lot of women like this in prison and we refer to them as inmates doing the Thorazine-shuffle. I felt so bad for her and I gave her three packs of noodles and an RC cola. Debbie did not thank me - which was fine but uncommon - as Ramen noodles, and especially the RC are a sacrifice to give up. It may not sound like a sacrifice but in prison the commissary gets backed up, or a commissary worker becomes ill and you ca not shop for weeks at a time. It is a very stressful situation and it happens regularly, so most of us are forced to be very stingy because of lack of funds or lack of accessibility to our shop time. It is survival of the fittest.
Once Debra roamed away, all the women verbally attacked me for giving these “gifts” to her and they told me the details of her crime. In a way, it scared and disgusted me but my curiosity was intense. I had to know how she could shoot all four of her babies and how she felt about it now 20 years later. It took me about two days to get my nerve up to ask her what had happened that tragic day that changed her fate forever. If Miss Beal could execute her small children- how would she respond to my asking for an interview? Because of her odd behavior, for all I knew she had gone mentally insane and would go off on me. In prison, you would see women similar to Miss Beal and they would just wander around quietly keeping to themselves - their minds in another world - and then something, even a small thing, would annoy them and snap them back into our world and they would just lose it - screaming and yelling at no one in particular… it could be they talked to a tree perceiving it to be someone they knew. It was spooky and to feel this experience. The closest I can come are the homeless in downtown Columbus that you see as they ‘travel’ to a distant world and sometimes they just snap.
I took my chances on whether or not this would occur and went ahead and gently approached Miss Beal. I went, said hello and I told her I was a writer and wanted to know what happened so I could tell people her side of the story and she could help so many and maybe someone reading this would get help before it was too late. She very much liked the idea of helping others and it must have been a God thing that I said those words as when I approached her I really did not know what I was going to say to make her feel comfortable enough to speak to me. Hard core criminals do NOT like to be asked about their crimes; they will go off or for the rest of your bid all the lifers will shun you. But Debbie was one of the rare lifers that choose to live with all of us in GP (general population). Debbie did not request to live in the lifer/long timer’s cottages so I knew she was not in the typical lifer mind set.
Lifers do not like seeing people come and go. I am sure it makes them sad and also resentful and the highly frustrating thing is that some women - depending on their county - have committed very similar crimes and did not get near the sentence that these long timer/ lifers did. If they were tried years before the rules of the courts were very different. It is literally the roll of the dice when it comes to going to trial. It depends on the judge, the amount of experience of the public defender, and the mercy of the prosecutor assigned to your case. I think the prosecutor is more important than the judge sometimes and in a lot of cases the judge simply goes with the prosecutor’s recommendation. And as I have said before it is a waiting game - sitting in the county jail to go to court every thirty days hoping that each time the prosecutor will offer a better plea. Normally the prosecutor does offer a better plea, as the state would prefer not to go to trial. Lifers try to keep separate from short timers and I understand why. You have to keep your head in the gates if you want to keep your sanity in your head. Thinking about what people are going to do and eat and buy when they get home is no way to do a life bid in prison.
Debbie Beal and I had many short series of interviews. I had to do the many interviews in very small bits and pieces; she would drift suddenly out of the conversation as if two questions became too much for her to think about. I can only imagine what Dateline would have paid for these interviews... I was happy to ‘pay’ Debbie for her time - it is the way it would be done on the outside and it made complete sense to me. I do not take advantage of anyone.
Debbie said she was increasingly suffering from mental distress. She remembers the shooting but was out of her mind. She believed her children would be in a better place without her; her family had washed their hands of her. She had no one to help her take care of the babies and shooting them would be the most humane way of sending them to heaven ending their suffering at the hands of her depression and psychosis. She loved them very much and she had gone to a hospital for the mentally ill only to be turned away because of lack of insurance; she reached out to others the best she knew how and no one reached back. It was not until it was too late that anyone cared what her mental state had been; then all of the doctors and specialists came out of the woodwork to pick at her brain. One of her sons survived the shooting only to be killed later in a car accident. Debbie said that she did have a few visits but it was few and far between. Debbie also seemed to believe that she would be able to survive in the world outside of the gates but did not have faith that it would ever become a reality. I asked her about the feelings she had about the parole board and the questions she was asked. She conceded that they asked fair and politically correct questions.
I lived out my time for the next two months in the religious cottage in a peaceful and productive manner making many new and some good and some not so good friends. I was eagerly awaiting my move to Franklin County pre-release so that I could experience and write about the final destination and arm of prison time. I had been to CBCF, the community based correction facility twice, I had been to the women’s halfway house, I had spent 11 months in our county jail, The Workhouse, also known as Franklin County Correction two, I had been to our prison hospital, I had spent a significant time in the Tapestry Program, done religious housing in prison, spent time on suicide watch, taken three 90 day classes at The Neighborhood House, been chosen out of hundreds of women in the prison to be a part of The Seven Circles of Hope mentor system which was approved and was given special attention by the warden. I spent months in a lifer cottage which was very odd for a short timer, I read at the prison mental health dorms several times and finally I had been chosen and participated in my favorite of all these amazing experiences The Prison cosmetology program with Ms. Scott.
It my last journey down this road and if I went to pre-release it would be a full and perfect circle. Once I got to pre-release I think it may have also been the most intense and moving leg of my journey. Beginning with my new bunkie - Miss Amy Ramsey (aka Amy Baker) who had gotten away with one of the most horrific crimes I ever encountered out of all the people I met in the institutions’ programs. A pure sociopath, a young, cute, seemingly innocent girl without a soul or remorse for what she had done.
I was relentless when it came to Amy Baker. I had to be the voice of tiny Marcus Feisal. There was no one else do to speak for him.