My First Time in Jail

» Gandhi. Socrates. Voltaire. Apostle Peter. MLK Jr. Liu Xiaobo (« 2010 recipient of Nobel Peace Prize). Dostoevsky. Solzhenitsyn. Joseph. Apostle Paul. His traveling partner Silas. Thomas Paine. Nelson Mandela (.. before being elected President of South Africa), Hanani the Prophet, John the Baptist ..

.. Jesus of Nazareth himself. What similarities, pray tell, do these men share in common?

Go to Jail - MonopolyWhile you're pondering that, permit me to mention that I was released from JAIL earlier this morning.

Very early. About 1:30. (You were likely sound asleep .. in la-la land. Snug as a bug.)

Yes, it was dark out & chilly .. with cop cars racing this way & the other. Cuz it's not a very nice part of town.

Unfortunately I didnt have enough money for a taxi and the busses dont start running until 4:30.

I used that time to jot down notes regarding the experience (.. in my Moleskine, of course) .. tho they're rather sloppy, given the hour. Barely legible in some places.

So I've been awake since midnight. That's when they woke me to begin my out-processing. "Roll up!" (.. your bedding).

So really, I've been awake since yesterday morning .. when I woke in a JAIL CELL for the first time in my life .. (.. you havent lived 'til you've woken up in a jail-cell. Let me tell you.)

.. sleeping on the lower bunk/rack, beneath perhaps one of the Greatest Snorers in all of human history. (I wadded up sheets of toilet paper and shoved a plug deep into each ear.)

So I'm tired. Very. And a little space-y. Everything seems a bit surreal. Dream-like. Cuz less than twelve hours ago I was literally in another world.

GandhiAnd two cups of coffee after no sleep for a few days will definitely spread you thin. (Experience with shift-work here helps you hold it together.)

Yes, I need sleep, but first there are a few thoughts I'd like to capture while they're still fresh in my mind ..

.. before my memory has a chance to fade. "I can sleep when I'm dead," (.. as the Dog likes to say.)

I've been thinking about this topic since the middle of the night. Seems to be writing itself (in my head).

» Fear is Normal

Yes, I was scared. Everybody is scared the first time they go to jail. It's a normal, healthy response. Especially when they put on "the bracelets."

Let's call it » fear-of-the-UNKNOWN (.. "and that's the way I wanna keep it," a friend replied) where you enter a potentially hostile environment .. a place where violent types are brought ..

.. and where people have been killed for seeming trifles and understandable misunderstandings ..

.. given the close-quarter mixing of people from diverse cultural, racial & socioeconomic backgrounds.

When people get scared, they sometimes act tough. You know » false bravado. Bad idea .. especially in jail. Best to chill.

Nelson MandelaRemaining Sensitive to the Experience

Despite my fear of the UNKNOWN however, I consciously sought to TAKE IN as much of the experience as possible .. which means, of course, that I needed to remain » sensitive.

[ This inner-openness amid outer-ugliness, surprisingly, required less courage than I anticipated it would. ]

Go with it. Dont fight it. Become one with the jail. Enjoy the experience (.. as best you can). Learn from it.

It's not every day that somebody like me gets a chance to go to jail.

I mean, it's not like you can say, "Here's my thousand dollars. I'd like to spend a few days in your jail, please ..

.. to experience first-hand, what it's like to be incarcerated as an inmate." Doesnt work that way.

[ Could be wrong, and hope I am, but I doubt most judges (who sentence people to jail & prison) and legislators (who write the laws that judges use to send people there) have ever seen the inside of one. I'd bet money I'm right. ]

Rather it's a selective process (.. tho entrance standards seem to be deteriorating). At the root of which you find the notion of » paying-your-debt-to-society.

But the idea of 'Society' varies .. certainly among cultures, but even person-to-person. And who I am to say that my idea of society is better than yours?

So right from the git-go we have this area of competing values. And two of the main contenders here would be representatives from two camps of »

  1. MORALS (.. led by Dostoyevsky, who wrote the book on Punishment, having experienced the topic first hand, in conditions few would want to repeat) and
  2. STRENGTH (.. led by Nietzsche, and his Will to Power).

Looks like we might be getting into some tall cotton here. Because just because a person does not have a driving desire to power ..

.. does not mean that he is incapable of exerting power, if necessary. If motivated.

[ Finances would be considered a form of Strength. Besides allowing you to purchase influence with legislators, thereby giving you entrée into the rule-making arena, money also can keep you out of jail, even when you do bad things. Really bad shit.

It's no secret that prisons are populated disproportionately by the poor. In other words, the message seems to be » if you have lots of money, you dont need morals. ]

So whose idea of Society are we going to use? Answer » whoever makes the rules. In other words » legislators .. or people who have made it known that they're not averse to the idea of "earning" a campaign 'contribution'. Cuz "Hey, that's how we roll up in here, dawg."

Should be obvious .. that these rules will be moral only to the degree these people are moral. No?

Pause a moment to reflect & consider the idea, the notion .. of » punishment .. and what should be our CRITERIA for the type of punishment we decide upon.

Somewhere during our reflecting, we will probably come across the notion of this punishment serving as a » deterrent to crime. This should be, along with the notion of paying your debt to society, one of, if not our #1 top priority. No?

Go directly to jal; Do not pass Go. Do Not Collect $200One set of questions will revolve around WHAT activities we want to deter (.. murder, theft, reckless driving).

But another consideration involves our » method (.. the best method?) by which we deter crime..

.. and by which this 'debt' (.. to 'Society') should be paid. The method we currently have is » incarceration.

Now, the idea that incarceration is the best method of punishment ... that, my friend, is an ugly but interesting rabbit hole. You know .. right up my alley. =)

So if I was going to "do time" (« interesting phrase) in the Rabbit Hole, I wanted to make the experience count. I introduced myself to, and talked to as many different people as I could. So I learned a lot during my incarceration, and gleaned much INSIGHT in the process.

When they first take you into custody, that's kinda exciting (.. because it's a new experience). And it's cool to meet & chat with the other inmates (.. during the in-processing phase). But after that, it quickly becomes BORING. Mind-numbingly boring.

Jail was always a place 'other' people went. Ya know? Unsavory types.

Not any more. Tho I do not feel unsavory. No. Not in the least. Trippy experience (.. for sure). But a big question mark I've always had .. regarding "how ugly" the inside of a jail is .. has now been filled in.

Could it have been uglier? Sure. But you neednt be incarcerated for life to get ugly.

Fact is .. I been thru plenty of ugliness & torment already. The kind that messes with your head. So it's like I been in training.

Speaking of ugliness & torment ..

Dostoevsky» Crime & Punishment

I almost brought along a copy of Dostoevsky's » Crime & Punishment. But that somehow seemed a bit too cute.

So I merely brought along the book he wrote just before Crime & Punishment » Notes from the Underground (.. much thinner, too).

[ I learned however, that they dont let you bring anything into jail with you. Absolutely nothing. Not even your underwear.

If it isnt growing on your body, it gets bagged & tagged, and awaits your release.

Only way to bring stuff in is to » stick it up your butt. (Preferably wrapped in plastic, following an espresso enema.)

Ah, the things you learn in jail. But there was nothing I wanted/needed that badly. Everybody gets an x-ray, so dont put any metal up your butt.

The #1 thing I missed inside was » my READING GLASSES. I signed all kinds of papers I simply could not read.

Who knows what dastardly deeds I might've confessed to while in jail. "Sign here. Here, too. You missed one." All I could see was the red X. Everything else was a blur.

I later got my cell-mate to read to me. There was a fascinating article about how the mind/brain connnection works from a neurological perspective .. in a copy of a National Geographic .. that was left in our suite. Uh, I mean cell.

I must admit, it's kinda weird .. sitting there, on the cold stainless steel throne (.. no liftable seat) ..

.. taking a SMELLY KRAP, in full view of a guy you met only recently (.. and in plain sight of the deputies' command post and their cameras. "Hi there, guys." ) .. while this person (.. "Excuse me. What did you say your name was again?" ..) is reading to you. Literally within reach of your outstretched arm.

Not one of the experiences most Americans are likely to have enjoyed. "Pass the toilet paper, dawg." (He uses the TP as a pillow.) "Sorry to be using up so much of your pillow."

I somehow doubt a pair of 1.25X reading glasses would fit nicely up my butt. Nor do I think a toothbrush (.. which was the #2 thing I missed) would feel very pleasant .. no matter how carefully inserted.

In the article my cell-mate read to me, the main character happened to share the same name as his ex. And every once in a while, after uttering this name, he would pause from his reading and say, "bitch" .. as tho calling out to her. =) ]

••• today's entry continues here below •••

Voltaire» Getting Released from Jail

When you finally walk out of the front gate -- even after staying for only a few days, like I did -- it is such a sweet feeling. Oh. My. Gawd.

Totally bitchin'. So sweet that it almost makes your stay there seem worth the trouble. Almost. =)

That's how the movie Wall Street 2 -- Money Never Sleeps -- begins .. with Gordon Gecko (played by an aging Michael Douglas) getting out of prison.

[ Worth watching for that opening scene alone. ]

After they call you to begin the check-out process, the first thing you do is drop off your bedding and mattress, which is a surprisingly heavy mat, some 2-inches thick that looks like it has been wrapped in heavy duty silver duct-tape.

Then they stick you in a holding pen/room, where they bring a sealed plastic bag that contains the street clothes you were wearing on the way in (.. now badly wrinkled). Then you bag-up and return your jail clothes.

JolietLastly they fingerprint your right hand .. (the left is done upon intake when you arrive .. not sure why it is done that way .. but too weird to not have a reason)

.. and they return to you another sealed plastic bag .. that contains your personal belongings (.. the stuff that was in my pockets, and my NorthFace hip-pack & its contents .. which included Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground.).

Note that they took/kept/trashed all the food I had .. such as Clif Bars and trail mix. They also kept/trashed my little bottle of Advil, a brand new bottle, which I was really looking forward to ..

.. cuz the mattress they give you suks and your back gets sore after a few days .. despite the yoga stretches I was doing. Those things were all gone/missing when they returned my personal belongings.

Also note that, during check-out, they dont re-inventory each item individually, like they do in the movies, and like they did with Michael Douglas. No. They just slide a sealed clear plastic bag across the counter top. They dont even say, "Here ya go."

So the 'feeling' of the moment is decidedly less cinematic .. more like » "Get the f*ck outta here and take your shit with you." =)

I processed IN with countless others, but my check-OUT was done alone. Only me. Nobody else.

The absolute last/final thing they do before letting you go is » return your $money (.. of which I had a measly $21 and change). There's a separate window and a separate guy for that. The money is sealed in a small, clear-plastic bag.

It also surprised me that they replaced my three 5-dollar bills and five singles with a single 20-dollar bill. (Busses do not make change.)

"Ya ready?" the small Asian guy asked (.. a well meaning but stupid question). Then he pressed the buzzer and away I went .. down the long corridor .. to freedom.

"Adios, amigos! Hasta la vista, baby!"

What a feeling. Exhilarating. [ "This should spruce up my resumé nicely." ]

Martin Luther King Jr» The Most Surprising Thing

The single most surprising thing I saw/learned in jail .. is » how polite the inmates are.

One inmate, who had been transferred there from the prison system "upstate" (as they call it) put it this way »

"People get shanked in the pen for all kinds of stupid sh!t. And you dont wanna get killed for something stupid, like disrespecting a fellow inmate. So you learn to be humble and treat people with respect, dawg."

I never heard the words "please" and "thank-you" so much as I did during these last few days I spent in jail. People were simply very respectful.

At least, until they had a chance to get to know you better. But until then, they spoke softly and politely. Guess I was expecting to encounter lots of aggressive types. Billy bad-asses.

Only afterwards would they joke around with you. And some of them are very funny indeed. Inmates can be very entertaining. Even more than some comedians I've paid money to see. They had me laughing pretty good.

I'm talking about during the INTAKE process, where they stick up to a dozen inmates in a single room during the various stages of the DAY-LONG intake processing .. where you meet and mix with a variety of people.

Several said things to me like » "Excuse me, sir, but you seem like a smart person. Let me ask you this ..." In other words, I seem to have found favor there .. with both the deputies and the inmates.

I have long tried to cultivate the ability to get along with people from all levels of our socioeconomic strata .. no matter how low or high.

And I've found, as you likely have, too, that at each rung of our very long socioeconomic ladder, there are some who are noble and some who are slime.

Inmates are definitely some of the most resourceful people I've ever met. They have to be. Because they must make due with very little in a challenging, unforgiving environment.

Jail CellMy impression of the other inmates I encountered there was that .. for the most part, these were not bad people, but those who had simply made bad decisions. Stupid decisions, they'll be the first to tell you.

The (second-) SADDEST thing, tho .. was that it became clear that jails are just a HUGE WASTE .. of humanity. I'm not sure I have answers, but lives and potentials are being wasted there on a mind-blowing scale.

I mean, jails are about » Warehou$ing. And Warehou$ing is about » processing, supply & inventory. Not cultivation. Rather » anti-cultivaton. The supression of growth .. of life itself.

Nothing much therapeutic about a concrete & steel environment. In fact, it's so sad, that I dont even want to think about it. (But I *do* have ideas.)

The COOLEST thing about jail .. is the part where you finally get your jail clothes. You "strip naked," hand them your street clothes, and get issued your jail clothes, which smell clean, but look dirty »

» pair of boxers, a tee-shirt, long pants and a short-sleeve shirt stenciled with big black letters that spell the name of the JAIL. Black socks and the god-ugliest rubber sandles you ever saw.

That's the moment you finally feel like a real, bona fide inmate (.. and no longer like a new recruit). =)

Socrates» Assorted Oddities of Incarceration

One small item worth noting, perhaps .. is that there are NO CLOCKS in jail. Anywhere. None that are visible, anyway.

Not even behind the smoked glass booths where the deputies work. I looked.

Maybe this is by design. But I never knew what time it was. I mean, yeah, you can figure out the general time (.. from meals, etc.).

But I never knew exactly .. not until I walked outside and turned on my cell phone » 1:32.

Jail is like the military .. in more ways than you might imagine. Such as the mass-processing technique of » hurry up & wait. (Made me feel like I was back in boot camp.)

And jail is not very different from the inside of a nuclear submarine. (No plants growing. Blah color scheme. Lots of guys everywhere. No women anywhere. Meals provided at regular intervals. Should I continue?)

And the military taught me how to do one-day-at-a-time (.. for 6 years, or 2192 days). So I'm familiar with the concept of being patient and 'doing my time' .. no matter how badly life might suk.

More than once an inmate said to me, "You seem to be doing good for your first time."

No matter how nasty things might seem (.. and yes, they do seem nasty) the clock is always ticking, and you keep getting closer to your release.

That's right .. no matter how many times they waterboard you .. the clock keeps ticking.

I cant recall, during my time in, anybody ever asking, "Are you comfortable, sir? Is there anything we can get you? Would you prefer the shrimp scampi or the veal marsala?" No. And no mint was found on my pillow at bed time, either. Heck, there was NO PILLOW!

Do you know what we used for pillows? » paperback novels. That's right. One paperback when you lay on your back and three when you lay on your side. Try it sometime. Maybe sleep on the floor tonight.

Go directly to jal; Do not pass Go. Do Not Collect $200Paperbacks novels actually work surprisingly well. I slept good. On your side, you stack them so your ears dont rest on them. Just the upper half of your head.

Some also use rolls of toilet paper. But since my cell-mate let me have the lower rack/bunk, I let him have the toilet paper. Compromise.

You can also wad up your bottom sheet to use as a pillow, and sleep directly on the silver duct-tape matress. No, they dont give you any pajamas. What a souvenir those would make, huh?

My cell-mate started freaking out a little, saying he was feeling anxious. I said, "Dude, Nelson Mandela did 30 years of hard labor. You can do a week of laying up in that rack."

They leave the LIGHTS ON ALL NIGHT. Dimmed, but not very dim, if you ask me (.. presumably so they can see if you've escaped). So I wrapped a towel around my head .. to cover my eyes.

The WORST part .. came Saturday afternoon .. near the end of the USC-Syracuse game (.. which I could see from where I was laying in my rack). That's when my coffee headache started.

Ouch. "Oh, this is great," I thought. I'm stuck in this echo chamber with the Olympic Snoring Champion and a blinding headache. (No coffee in jail. Caffeine withdrawls.)

Easy to see how JAIL could be a very bad place for someone addicted to drugs. The word 'twisted' comes to mind.

No, you dont go a cafeteria. Rather, they *bring* your meals to your cell (3/day). Room service, if you will. I donated lots of my food to my cell-mate, a large man. "You dont eat very much," he said.

The MOST IMPRESSIVE thing about jails .. are » their toilets. They have the most powerful flush ever. And loud. If you can clog a jail house commode, you are one impressive dude.

Nelson Mandela» The Longest Days

Before hitting the sack myself, I feel compelled to note that .. Nelson Mandela (.. uh, before he was elected President of South Africa, that is) spent 30 years in prison ..

.. which you already know if you've seen the movie » Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman & Matt Damon. Directed by Clint Eastwood. (Reviews » here.) ..

.. much of it on Robbin Island, which sits 4 or 5 miles off the coast of Cape Town (.. thanks to Stephen from Jo-burg for the great photo).

In other words, he served 10 years for every day I did. No matter how good your imagination might be, I doubt you can come anywhere close to imagining what it's like to spend 30 years in prison. I know I cant.

I can only do the math. That's 30 trips around the sun, or » 360 months, 1560 weeks, 10,950 days .. not counting 7 or 8 leap-years. And note that the time you spend incarcerated moves s.l.o.w.l.y. (Trust me on that, dawg.) Remarkably so.

And he forgave the people who put him there. Who took away such a huge chunk of his life. That's even more remarkable. No? Could you do that? Could I? I dunno. I really dont.

Remarkable story. Unbelievable, almost. Boggles the mind that a human being can endure such injustice and not become bitter.

When he was locked up, everybody thought he was a bad person. But after he got out, his true nature became apparent to the world (.. cuz he was elected President of his nation).

It's a well-known fact that innocent people have been incarcerated. Many of them. And we won't even get into the number of innocent people that have been put to death (.. wrongly executed). But it's a non-trivial number. And those are just the ones we know about.

The notion of jail (.. which has been hanging over me for a while) used to scare me. Maybe it was a fear of the unknown. Or maybe it was Hollywood, and the way they tend to sensationalize everything in movies, including our nation's penal system. Or maybe I could simply see that justice does not always prevail.

Now I'd rather not return to my cell (.. which was located in cell-block 5). That much is certain. But the *idea* of jail no longer frightens me. I no longer have that forboding sense of DREAD.

[ So, in many ways (.. for me, at least) the threat of jail was worse than jail itself. (And yes, jail suks. Quite nicely, I might add.) ]

This might be cuz jail no longer represents an unknown, sure. But I really feel that it's cuz I've realized some things (INSIGHTS) while there. So there's something to be said for facing our fears .. in whatever forms they might take.

So in a weird way, my JAIL experience reminds me of climbing Half Dome .. cuz that was another physically challenging experience in which I faced my fears.

Not exaggerating when I say that climbing Half Dome was one of the coolest things I've ever done. (Uh, come to think of it .. I climbed Half Dome twice.)

Liu Xiaobo» Justice & Injustice

The concepts of justice & injustice have been banging around my brain recently .. because we all have an internal compass .. that is able to discern a sense of justice from injustice.

When the other inmates asked, and I told them what I was there for (a popular topic of discussion among inmates), many expressed disbelief » "Get the f*ck out, homes. You cant go to jail for that."

But others spoke up and said they were in for the same thing. "Man, that's f*cked up, dawg."

One thing that has become clear tho (.. my JAIL-HOUSE EPIPHANY, which seems unrelated, but it's not) ..

.. and that's how different people can view the SAME event .. and each will come away with a different perspective (.. to one degree or another) .. because (because!) each person's perception of "reality" is colored by that individual's life-experiences.

Kurasawa did a famous film (Rashamon) on this very notion/phenomena. And I knew about the film and its implications, but the concept never struck my consciousness .. at least, not like it did in jail.

It became clear how two people can see the exact same event and each will come away with a different impression. A different story. A different view of "reality". Of the truth.

But everybody is CONFIDENT that their recollection represents the one true version, and that all others are in error .. to the degree that they disagree with them. So while "truth" may be absolute in theory, as some contend, it seems our perception of the truth (in reality) is obviously relative.

People will protect, above all things, it seems .. their irrational beliefs .. because their lives have been built on them (.. from early on) and they would be too difficult (annoying) to modify mid-stream (mid-life). Easier to just stay in the canoe and go with the flow.

Doesnt matter where the flow is going or the effects it might be having on 'others' .. long as it's a reasonably pleasant ride. "Yes, some river music would be nice, thank-you."

DostoevskyNote a passage from the final chapter of Crime & Punishment (.. 3 or 4 pages from the end), which details a portion Raskolnikov's dream (from the McDuff translation) »

Some new kind of trichinae had appeared, microscopic creatures that had lodged themselves in people's bodies.

But these creatures were spirits, gifted with will and intelligence.

People who absorbed them into their systems instantly became rabid and insane.

But never, never had people considered themselves so intelligent and in unswerving possession of the truth.

Never had they believed so unswervingly in the correctness of their judgments, in their scientific deductions, in their moral convictions and in their beliefs.

Contrast this with what Socrates said (.. you know » the founder of Western Civilization) » "The only thing I know .. is that I know nothing."

Dostoyevsky is, by the way, the only author to place four (4) titles on the list of » the 100 Best Books of All Time .. in any language. Ever. (Shakespeare, Tolstoy & Kafka each place three.)

Note that the title of that web page is "Best Books" .. tho not necessarily the best Writers. Few would dispute that Shakespeare is a better writer than Dostoevsky. So why does Fyodor place more titles on the list? (.. than anyone else?)

Recall, too, what Einstein said (.. you know, the guy who said » E=mc2 ) about Dostoevsky.

DostoevskyThe concluding text of Crime & Punishment continues thusly »

Each person thought that he alone possessed the truth.

No one knew who to make the subject of judgment, or how to go about it. No one could agree about what should be considered evil or good.

No one knew who to blame or who to acquit.

In jail, it somehow becomes CLEAR what Fyodor (pronounced » 'FEE-uh-dor) is talking about there. Very clear. Depressingly clear. Discouragingly clear.

[ Kinda reminds me of what Jesus said (.. quoting Isaiah). ]

I could attempt to explain WHY that is .. but it would take me a while, and I'm exhausted.

As a future reminder to myself, let me simply interject here by saying that (.. uh, we're still talking about how our experiences can help shape our perceptions) .. it should be obvious that .. a limited/narrow set of experiences can lead to a myopic perspective.

So much in fact, that if you know a person's life history, you can construct a fairly accurate personality profile, and this info can even predict our biases. Marketing 101.

Anyway .. if you've ever tried to conduct a logical debate with an irrational person, then you're familiar wth this hopeless, sinking feeling of my jailhouse epiphany .. which Dostoevky seems to echo.

In the photos I've posted here, look in Dostoevsky's eyes and try to imagine what he sees. Then look into Gandhi's eyes. Same look, no? Like they see something.

Dostoevky has been called 'dark'. That's because he sees in the dark. Remarkably well. Like a bat. His 'night vision' is perhaps the best. Ever. Certainly one of.

GandhiMorality & Immorality

I happen to know a little something about injustice. And the California system of criminal justice is famous (notorious) for its dysfunction.

It's no secret that 'Corrections' is a business. Big business. Lots of broccoli changes hand.

And any time there's money to be made .. well, you know.

And there's lots of money being made .. especially here in America .. which is the world's leading Incarcerator. The perenial gold medalist. Nobody's even close. (The Russians place a pitiful distant second.)

And no, these incarcerated men are not considered 'Unemployed.' Rather they're doing their job, it would seem.

Now, of course, you need to hire lots of people .. to guard all these ugly people.

'Hiring' .. that would fall, presumably, under the heading » employment. High employment makes politicians look good to voters, and is a statistic often cited during re-election campaigns.

So you kill two political birds (.. maybe even three) with each additional sentence.

But wait! If you act right now .. and sentence enough people to jail/prison (.. under the guise of being "tough on crime") .. you get to BUILD a NEW JAIL.

Here the word 'hire' should again come to mind. (And my uncle Vinnie just happens to own a construction company, and he's looking for work.)

Maybe it's just a coincidence. But maybe not.

Which naturally raises questions regarding » MORALITY. Especially since California spends more on Corrections than it does on higher education. Does this not shine a sad but telling light upon our state's priorities? 

Difficult to see (from a common sense point of view) why the state would want to spend the money to lock up somebody like me .. when their budget is in such bad shape.

[ Update - It wasnt the State who locked me up, but rather the County. And I guess they are not in such dire financial straits. ]

Go to Jail - MonopolyThe issue of prison overcrowding began to be taken seriously only after it became clear (.. due to the financial crisis of 2008) that the pensions of government employees (.. which were based on rosy economic predictions that had suddenly collapsed) might be in jeopardy.

"What's that? We might not have enough revenue to pay my retirement? Then why are we spending so much to lock up all these non-violent guys?"

Only confirms the sorry state of affairs in our government.

Does it not seem strange .. that the Supreme Court has ruled .. that the State of Californa is violating the Constitutional Rights of inmates ..

.. and yet these men remain locked up in these same over-crowded prisons (.. where their Constitutional Rights continue to be violated)?

Seems as tho the vaunted 'Rule of Law' works only in selected domains .. but not in others. It would be but a short hop from here over to the word 'hypocritical' .. but I'd rather not go there.

Reminds me of the SEC (another governmental enforcement agency that enforces selectively) .. and how they had no problem whatsover (.. for years, no less) with Rating Agencies that rubber-stamped bundles of junk-quality mortgages with their #1, top AAA rating.

Yet, the moment they dare downgrade US Debt (.. now some $15 trillion.. and continung to grow at a furious pace .. with no freaking end in sight) even the slightest (.. to AA+) » Boom! You guys are under investigation. No, I'm not joking. But I digress.

Is it any wonder that few gov'ments have a Ministry of Morality. Very few. Like uh, none.

I could continue ad nauseum on this tack, but the bed is calling .. ever so sweetly, I might add. Could very well sleep straight thru 'til morning (.. 18 hours). =)

VoltaireOne More Thing (Uno Mas Cosa)

I tried to cheer up the other inmates .. by telling them the names of famous HISTORICAL figures who had also spent time in jail. (See the beginning of today's entry for a sample. *** )

And the stories of these guys .. especially that of Dostoevsky (.. who got screwed beyond that which most humans could endure).

In other words, I was trying to give them (and myself) » perspective (.. namely, it could be worse. A lot worse.).

I also recited to them (from memory) » Invictus. A great jail-house poem. Mandela's favorite. (Notice how Henley includes the word » punishment .. where he puts it, and what he has to say about it.)

This seemed to boost their spirits. And I think it made everybody like me.

Later in the day, when I saw some of these same inmates pass by (.. in another group, walking along the 6-inch wide blue line that runs on the floor in front of the many temporary holding pens), I recognized them & waived, and they flashed me big SMILES, and I saw a SPARKLE in their eyes .. where before there had been only a distant, vacant stare. (Can still see those smiles.)

[ I have moved some 26 times (.. since my 18th birthday), so I'm PRACTICED at making new friends .. in a VARIETY of environments (and states). ]

Consider this quote taken from The Brothers Karamazov:

"Even there, in the mines, underground, I may find a human heart in another convict and murderer by my side, and I may make friends with him, for even there one may live and love and suffer."

So .. if you ever find yourself staring at the prospect of DOING TIME, may I suggest you prepare by learning about these men, and especially how they were arrested for unjust reasons and subsequently incarcerated. (Some were sentenced to hard labor, others were executed. One was crucified.)

And you'll realize » you're in GOOD COMPANY, and that you likely got it relatively easy.

You probably wont do anywhere near 30 years, and it's unlikely anybody will nail you to a cross (.. tho certainly, it might sometime feel that way). =)

Grim ReaperIf that doesnt do it for you, and you're bitter at injustice, you can always find consolation, I guess, in the fact that, someday, we all end up as food for worms. Those of us inside the walls, and those without.

And that, that day will likely come sooner than expected (.. if it's like everything else in life).

Nobody here too big too fail (.. in the end). They can run, but they cant hide. Not from the dude with the sickle.

But that's no way to live.

Rather I'm reminded of a passage of scripture .. about helping those in need, particularly » visiting those in prison. Which I feel like I've done.

Unfortunately, I wasnt 'visiting'. (Whatever it takes to get me there, I guess.)

Another good way to prepare .. for JAIL, that is .. would be to ask all your biggest friends (.. at least 3 of them) .. to plunge their hands into your pockets .. especially your pants pockets .. pulling out whatever things they might find there.

Your wallet. Your cell phone. Your pocket change. Your keys. Yes, very good practice. (Trust me.)

Along these lines, I guess it would be good advice .. to wear loose-fitting clothes .. to make it easier for the deputies to do their job.

Note *** I have sometime thought how much fun it might be (.. in the ages to come) to attend a baseball game in which one of the teams was comprised of these men.

"Ladies and gentlemen .. now introducing at shortstop, wearing number 18 (.. for his century), from Paris .. And their manager, wearing double-aught, from Nazareth..."

Everybody should make a LIST .. of the people they respect & admire. Because you can do a lot with such a list.

Makes me think of my new JavaScript book, which is dedicated » "to all who teach peace & resist violence." I will close today's entry with a quote from Dostoevsky:

"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons."

Good night. ■

Ernesto Che GuevaraAddendum [ Sept 22 ]

In reflection, I gleaned some INSIGHT into one of the problems of jail. (There are many more, or course.)

But one 'problem' (.. if you will) is that .. on the one hand, you want jail to be an 'unpleasant' experience ..

.. because, presumably, these people have done bad things. Right? And maybe even some very bad things. No?

Here we have the concept of » punishment .. of which Dostoevsky writes so insightfully (.. based on world-class first-hand experience).

Now, if you are somehow worried that your tax dollars are making life for convicts a little too breezy, let me put your mind to rest. Jails are not designed to be a pleasant experience. True that.

But on the other, it would seem to be in Society's best interest (i.e. » yours, mine) to 'rehabilitate' these people (.. tho not in everybody's interest, unfortunately).

Even a small percentage of success (.. via reprogramming?) affected inside .. can have a significant effect outside the prison walls.

[ Tho it seems like just the opposite is occurring. Folks are somehow being programmed to return. If 70% of inmates return to prison, then it seems the 'deterrent' thing mentioned above is not working. ]

But, in order to 'rehab' these ugly people, you might  (or 'must') make their TIME more pleasant. Right? Or, at least, less unpleasant. Might have to let them out of their cells for more than an hour each day.

So it's a wierd dynamic. And therein lies the rub. Clearly perceptible inside. And the rub becomes an irritation if efforts to rehab co$t anything.

From an intuitive perspective tho, here's a place where it seems like a nickel could easily buy you a dollar.

But if my insights into people are any good .. and I believe they are (.. seeing I been around the block a few times. In the military, for example, I met people from ALL OVER our country, and I've also LIVED (after getting out) all over our country .. in a dozen different states ..

.. my impression is that these people (.. for the most part) are not 'bad' people. And they are not even stupid people. They are just people who've made BAD DECISIONS. (Something no human being has not done .. many times.)

Get Out of Jail Free CardMy whole time, I saw maybe *one* dude who did indeed look 'bad'. Or, at least, like he could be bad .. without much effort. =)

He was being escorted down the hall by 3 deputies. (They had first cleared the hall. Normally, one deputy escorts a dozen inmates.) And they gave him space.

He wore a bright RED wristband (.. everybody else's, including mine, was WHITE), he held his head high and walked with full, confident steps. Looked like he knew his way around a jail house. Like he was home.

Wasnt very tall, but he was stocky and solid. Like a bull.

He did not walk along, following the blue lines, like we did. No, sir. He walked down the middle of the hallway.

I am not surprised such a large percentage (70%) of inmates are returning to prison. Because the message inside is » "You deserve to be here .. you ugly thing, you. You animal .. that needs to be caged. You number on a wristband."

And yes, some do belong there. (Some actually deserve much worse .. but that's another discussion.)

My point is .. if you take somebody .. for an extended period of time .. and keep hammering into their their heads that they DESERVE to be in jail, in prison, incarcerated .. it shouldnt surprise anybody that these people start BELIEVING it and thinking along those lines. And then ACT accordingly. It's not rocket science.

With the Bug, for example, I keep trying to do the exact opposite. I'm continually telling him how beautiful he is. How handsome. How smart. How cool .. how funny .. how clever, how important he is to me, how much I love him .. how much I enjoy spending time with him.

All positives to build & reinforce his self-image, his self-esteem. And of course, I cant do that when I'm in J-A-I-L. That's the #1 SADDEST thing.

For more along these lines, here's a Google search preconfigured for the query » going to jail for the first time

If you enjoyed today's entry, I bet you'd also enjoy another, tilted » Reflections on the Hitchcock Economy | The Missing Trillion-Dollar Lollipops (posted January 29, 2012), especially the section labeled » Curious Coincidence

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This page contains a single entry by Rad published on September 18, 2011 9:18 AM.

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