Recently in incarceration Category

The Pope's Skewed Priorities

» Here is something I find interesting and curious .. Pope Francis calls "evil" (not merely "unwise") substances with known medicinal properties that can help people deal with things in their lives ..

Pope John Paul II Gives a Warm Papal Embrace to Marcial Maciel.. yet he calls "a saint" a man who has repeatedly embraced a known pedophile

(.. because the pedophile provided a financial benefit).

I like what you are doing, dawg. I appreciate what you are doing. I respect what you are doing.

I admire what you are doing. I am even impressed by what you are doing. And I am not the only one.

But I think you need to rethink some of your priorities.

The Catholic church has long had a problem in the area of misprioritization, and I don't want you to fall into the same trap.

You are basically embracing a man who has repeatedly embraced a known pedophile.

Christ the Redeemer | Rio de Janiero, BrazilActually, you MORE THAN embrace him. You gave him your highest honor.

Your highest blessing. Your ultimate seal-of-approval.

I was not going to give you shit about making the pedophile-embracer John Paul II a "saint" ..

.. because I can see the ecclesiastical expediency behind it.

But if you want to start calling innocent people "criminals" and saying they should be incarcerated ..

.. then I will start comparing values. (Just watch me work .. watch me go-to-town .. like mister James Brown.)

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Solitary Confinement

» I hesitate to use the term "solitary" to describe the time I spent in jail .. because I did such a short span. (Four days. Friday to Tuesday.) In other words, I dont want to insult the man who has done decades. (Yes, decades.)

Man sitting alone in a jail cellBut if you go back and read my old Incarceration entry, you will see that I left myself a spot ..

.. to fill in my thoughts and observations under that very heading ..

.. because I could see that it was a topic of much consequence. For many people. Powerless people. Helpless people.

I sense that today would be a good day to discuss this topic in greater detail. And I have a few nice spins that my fingers are itching to twist.

And also because you might consider life aboard a nuclear submarine anything but private. Anything but solitary. With 150 dudes .. up close & personal. So that represents the expanse of my experience. My range. Respectable, no?

I would feel comfortable sitting around a campfire in Yosemite or Big Sur, discussing the topic of solitary with pretty much any intelligent person. (Long as it wasnt too cold out.)

So I feel like I can provide nicely nuanced perspectives. Either way, I am stoked about it.

Go to Jail | Go directly to Jail | Do not pass Go | Do not collect 200 dollarsCuz even if it suks, the illuminating quality of intelligent dialogue will be therapeutic.

[ Oh, this is an interesting development, no? ]

Yes, I was alone during my most recent visit, but I would call that 'isolated,' not alone.

Yet I specifically tried to monitor myself .. to observe how the isolation was affecting me ..

.. to be aware, conscious, whatever term you care to call it when you are checking up to see whether you are freaking out ..

.. especially after what that dude told me about his experience.

"When They Opened the Door » I Exploded Out & Started Crying"

So let me tell you about the dude I met during my first time. To be honest, I forget his name. He had been in before, and he was sorta showing me the ropes, which is nice. Cuz he was good at it.

Tho he snored like a volcano for 20 hours a day. And when my coffee headache came, it was not pretty. Not in that concrete-n-stainless echo chamber. Not hardly.

If a representative from the Guinness Book of Records had been walking by our cell during that time, I am confident that he would have felt compelled to award us some certificate-of-achievement.

He told me how he had previously done six days in solitary and he was so freaked out by the experience that when they finally let him out .. he "exploded" out and started crying. Like it fucked him up.

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Did you see the Frontline special on the Vatican? (Released Feb 25. Two weeks ago.)

Pope John Paul II Gives a Warm Papal Embrace to Marcial MacielOh. My. Gawd. I was raised Catholic and I never knew this.

[ Yes, I knelt down and kissed the ring. ]

Pope John Paul II .. not cool, dude.

That's him with arms wide .. embracing Marcial Maciel, the pedophile.

"Come here and get your warm papal embrace, you beautiful coffer-filler, you."

Why would a pope embrace a known-pedophile, you ask?

That's exactly the question I had myself. Watch the video, yourself. I dare you. I double-dog dare you.

This gives new meaning to the phrase » the system is about the money. I did not think that the sentiment in my earlier entry could get any uglier. I was wrong.

And all this has an interwoven narrative that involves the new pope. The job .. is to put the child-abuse scandal behind. But old ways are entrenched. It is really a battle of epic proportions.

And the side of good has been getting its ass kicked for one decade after another. And this last pope, the one who quit (.. Benedict, real name » Joseph Ratzinger, a German) something that hadnt happened in 600 years .. it was *his* job the bury that thing.

And he failed.

Pope Francis Does Not Judge GaysThis is why I feel that such a radically different pope was chosen.

The first-ever Jesuit. The first non-European pope in many centuries.

It is as tho the Catholic church is saying, "We're willing to try pretty much anything right now. Cuz we been getting our ass kicked by this child abuse sex scandal for so long."

When I heard what the new pope said about gays .. it made me think about what Peter said » here.

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» This entry is PART THREE, continued from » Part Two. It was split into three pages in order to adhere to principles of web site optimization. Here you go...

» The Two Sides to the Denial Method of Coping

It may seem easier to simply deny the presence of a faulty circuit in our lives, and indeed, for the Fifth Grader, that may be his only option » to lock the sparking monster-of-pain in his closet and hope the ugly beast doesnt try to escape.

Monster hiding in the closetBut my experience has been .. that these sparking monsters, if not dealt with, continue to zap us thru-out our lives .. that these monsters never stay put.

They always escape .. and affect our lives (.. usually when we are least able to deal with them).

Then we grow up and develop skills, but we forget about the sparking monster that we stuck in the closet ..

.. or we simply get accustomed to him .. cuz he has been there so long .. even when he causes trouble and misbehaves.

They are never as scary as they seem. Tho they do indeed seem scary (.. especially for little people). But as adults, we now have SKILLS to deal with these things (.. and friends, and people who love us) .. that werent yet developed when we were small.

Some people simply rename their monsters, giving them adorable pet-names.

Me: "What the hell was *that*?
Them: "Oh, that's just Pookie. Isnt he cute?"
Me: "Uh, he looks pretty damn scary, if you ask me."
Them: "Oh don't worry. You'll get used to him. We're the best of friends. I've known him like forever."

Now yes, people can wallow in their misery. Yes, I've seen that. But I think you'll find it is rare, compared to the number of those who partake of the blessings of Denial.

I am not talking about the wallowers. Because far more people are in denial about their limiting problems than those who wallow in their misery, and all wallowers have much bigger problems than their wallowing.

[ There is a ditch on BOTH sides of the road .. that we need to avoid. ]

In general .. if you follow-the-fear .. follow the sparks .. it will lead to your monster .. to your bad, faulty circuit. Most people plant flowers along the path to their ugly monsters .. so it doesnt seem so bad.

Once you've found it, you can reach out touch it. Consciously. It's a conscious thing. Usually involving much emotion. But it's not about the emotion. That is simply a related function.

Don't wrestle with it; rather just reach out and touch it. Yes, it will zap you .. but that will be the beginning of its end. The rest will come intuitively (.. and Dostoevsky will suddently start to make sense).

[ What is the difference between denial and forgetting? ]

» This entry is PART TWO, continued from » Part One. It was split into three pages in order to adhere to principles of web site optimization. Here you go...

» Purpose of Jail » Convey the Message

Now you might think, as I once did, that the purpose of jails and the purpose of prisons is basically the same » to incarcerate (warehouse) inmates. And you'd be wrong.

Rotting in a jail cellWhile it is certainly true that jails do indeed incarcerate inmates .. that is not their primary purpose.

Prisons incarcerate, yes. Prisons warehouse. But the primary purpose of a JAIL is to » convey a message. And that message is [ drumroll, please ] » "You do not want to be here."

Jails (at least from my admittedly limited experience) do a good job at conveying this message. Very good.

They have a variety of methods and techniques at their disposal by which they communicate their message. (More about this later.)

Seems that JAILS are designed to warehouse inmates up for to 1 year. PRISONS, on the other hand, are designed for longer-term storage (> 1 year).

Now, you do not have to tell the man-in-prison that he "does not want to be here." No, sir. Because » he already knows. [ He GETS the message, which he has had plenty-of-time to ponder and interpret. ]

That is why inmates who come down to jails from prisons "upstate" (.. at least, the ones that I talked to) .. hate life in county jails. "They treat you like shit here," they say.

And treat you like shit they do. As a matter of policy .. sort of what you might imagine how slaves are/were treated.

And the younger kids are treated worst of all. So it seems that they obviously want to convey the message to them most clearly.

» Conveying the Message | Conveying it Clearly

The Sheriff Deputies, who run the jail that I frequent, admittedly have a tough job. I can't imagine anyone actually enjoying it .. cuz the environment suks. The polar opposite of a park ranger stationed at Yosemite.

Nelson Mandela, who spent 30 years in prisonAnd they do an admirable job at executing their duties. Professional, given the circumstances. Tho nice they are not. Not hardly. Oh, contraire.

They are mostly large men .. fit, muscular. Some are VERY large.

Now, in public, they bark orders and ride inmates. For example, I saw one deputy tell an inmate to slide down the bench ..

.. at the nurses' processing station .. in order to make room for more inmates who had just arrived (.. they never stop arriving).

The inmate STOOD UP in order to move down (3 or 4 steps). "Did I tell you to get up?" the deputy yelled.

He then went to considerable length to stress upon this man the importance of following orders. "Is this your first time in jail?" he inquired. "That's your last warning."

I must admit, he was good at what-he-did. I mean, he only had to tell that one guy and all those other new-recruits (inmates) got the message.

The volume of inmates they deal with remarkable. So the multiplication factor becomes the key to efficiency.

I am totally impressed every time they return my clothes (.. when it's time to get out). If they said, "Dude, we lost 'em. Sorry." .. I would certainly understand. Jails are a serious machine.

But in private they can also be surprisingly kind, even tenderhearted, trying to find a solution to your legal dilemma. [ Everybody wants to know why you're there. ]

How they can go from one mode to the other .. interests me. Cuz I don't think I could do it. And they seem to do it so effortlessly .. like sipping a Coke .. or not sipping it.

One of the ways they communicate their message .. is by taking ALL NIGHT to get you into your cell. So you spend all night moving from one temporary holding cell to another. By the time I finally got to my cell, they were serving lunch (.. the next day).

So you're pretty much up all night. Interview with the nurse, fingerprints, mugshot, chest x-rays, classification interview (my favorite part) where they give you your hospital-like wristband, assigned jailhouse duds and bedding.

No medals would they win for speed. No way would the Hilton, the Marriot, or even Motel 6 hire them. Imagine arriving at the check-in desk at two or three in the afternoon .. and finally getting into your room around noon the next day.

» What happens to the avalanche of feelings that engulf the boy who is suddenly confronted with things too terrible to handle? .. by things too confusing and too overwhelming for a little guy to deal with?

I'm talking about [ for example ] the Fifth Grader .. who learns that his parents are divorcing .. that his elementary little world is coming apart at the seams ..

Wolf howling at the moon.. the very same boy .. who learns that the guy who he *thought* was his dad .. really isnt.

.. that his REAL dad (.. who he now realizes that he never knew, that he never met) .. never-never wanted anything to do with him. (His own flesh-n-blood.)

Those kinds of feelings.

Perhaps the boy, in an attempt to salvage what's left of his family life-as-he-knew-it, courageously adopts a position (.. not unlike what you or I might attempt) ..

.. with a cri de coeur that says » "This man will always be my dad," [ regardless of the divorce ].

It aint long however .. until the only-dad our fifth grader ever knew .. wants nothing to do with him (either). Both the dad-he-never-knew .. and the only-dad-he-ever-knew. Neither one .. want anything to do with him.

Those kinds of feelings. Psycho mind-fuck feelings. One piled ruthlessly atop another .. in rapidly-devastating succession.

[ » Lance's Dad Dies of Cancer at an Early Age

A dying parent is bad enough. I grew up across the street from a boy (.. who later became an All-American wide receiver) whose dad died when we were young. It was obviously difficult. For everybody (us friends included).

I remember wanting to, but feeling powerless to comfort him (.. while he was crying, as all us kids sat silently, watching cartoons) .. that morning when all the neighborhood parents had left to go to the funeral ..

.. cuz I was a little freaked out myself. (Death has a way of freaking out the living.) We're talking grade-school age.

Over the years all the other neighborhood dads tried to pitch in here-n-there .. to compensate. For example, they took him on vacations with them. And when we were going for pizza, a parent would usually say, "Run across the street and see if Patrick wants to go."

Utopia ManBut a dad who doesnt want anything to DO with you .. with his own son. I cannot quite wrap my head around that ..

.. I can only imagine what it must be like (» crushing).

That must really mess with a boy's sense of self-worth, no? His self esteem. His self image. His very sense of self. ]

The kind of shit that can eat you alive .. little by little .. by gnawing away at your soul. Until you don't even know that it's gone.

Until you don't even remember what it's like to have one. *Those* kinds of feelings.

I am not talking about the emotionally-distant concept of 'abandonment' and its associated 'issues'. No. I am talking about real-life emotional trauma .. the kind that can crush a 10-year old beyond all repair. [ Only the truly fortunate don't know the difference. ]

I'm talking about the particularly vicious storms-of-life that are too much for anybody to handle .. even the most mature adult .. which makes the prospect of our 10 year-old weathering such a storm .. seem sadly remote.

Things that most Americans, I suspect, would be hard-pressed to even imagine (.. much less be prepared to walk-a-mile in-the-shoes thereof). Because these are wounds that cut deeper than any knife. No stitches will sew up those wounds.

We'll return to our Fifth Grader and his newfound life-in-a-whirlpool .. but right now, let's shift gears .. to something a bit more cheery. =)

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. =) ]

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