Early July, 2016
Once again - another birthday missed due to being in Prison. My son just turned nine. He has now experienced two thirds of his life without me. When I dwell on that, the ache in my heart can not be described. He does not know who I am anymore. Am I being punished - "Sufficient but no greater than necessary"? Meanwhile, I dream of ways to be able to guide my son. Try to keep him
from the pressures of others, whom may lead him astray. I thank God for his mother whom I expect uses her strong will to keep him pointed in the right direction.
I have to ask myself what I could even try to recommend to my son. Do I even have that right any more? I really do not even know what he likes and does not like. The lose of my son, out of my life, simply hurts. When I divorced, I accepted the divorce as the best way to protect my family against any repercussions due to the nature of my criminal charges.The limited retirement accounts, and all other assets, had to be sure to fall into my ex-wife's hands and not some attorneys. They needed what ever I had for their own survival.
When you come under criminal suspicion from the Federal Government, a bomb hits the family. Everything turns to chaos. A great job, gone; Beautiful wife and two fine children, gone. All your friends disappear. No doubt the hardest hit I took was losing my wife and children. I thank God that my sisters, brother and my mother still stand by my side. Without them, I am not sure how I would continue counting the days until I am, once again, free to get back on the water.
A little about prison life. Just this Saturday, for instance, the CO (correction officer) decided to “shake down” our housing unit. The night before, there was a bottle of hooch found wrapped up in a laundry bag. Hooch is jail house alcohol. Shaking down my locker, the CO torn off my only picture of my daughter that I had, a newspaper article where she was meeting a dignitary from the troubled parts of the world. That picture was just torn down. And there is nothing I can do about it. There were six different COs who did the shake down, each one deciding what they took and what they left alone. Absolutely no consistency between one CO and the other. While one CO took my newspaper article, hundreds of prison porn pictures were left alone. The funny part was that my cellie's locker had what we call 'food porn' pictures posted on the inside of his door. Steaks over a charcoal fire, inch thick pork chops finely seasoned; Shrimp and lobster platter’s. A fine picture of a hamburger loaded with cheese and bacon; all gone. I dream of eggs over easy with crispy bacon, toast with strawberry jam, grits with cheese!
Do you realize how much inmates dream? Like a survivor on a life raft, dreaming of what's not possible at the time. Dreams of the touch of a loving spouse, the laughter of your kids; laughing at some corny joke. The firing up the Bar BQ,a quiet dark bedroom. A shower where you can adjust the water! No rush sitting on the commode. I now live to sleep and dream! My mental escape. I sleep twice a day. Usually in the afternoon between 1p.m. to 3pm, then again from 12:30 - lam to 6 am. About 7 to 8 hours a day. Wasting time?
I try to stay busy. I read. If I could tell my boy something, I'd tell him to read a variety of books, expand your interest. Since my arrival to FCI Loretto in December, 2011, I have read around four hundred books. I keep track of almost every book I read.
For a nine year old boy with above average intelligence like my son, would he enjoy Charles Dickens' 'Oliver Twist' or 'David Copperfield'? Perhaps he should be older for 'Great Expectations', but then his sister might enjoy all of Dickens. Of course my son could read the great western classics of Louis L'amour. My son might like Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles or other Sherlock Holmes. He may also enjoy Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
As for me, I enjoy books like David McCullough's '1776', 'The Great Bridge', and 'The Path Between the Seas' which offer great American history. I've enjoyed books written in the past which teach me a lot about human nature. John Steinbeck’s 'The Grapes of Wrath', and 'Of Mice and Men' gives us a glimpse of life in the great depression. And even before that, Upton Sinclair's 'The Jungle' about the slaughter houses of Chicago in 1900's. One book I liked was written in 1884, a true account of a man walking from Ohio to
California, called 'A Tramp Across the Continent' by Charles F. Loomis - part of the Forgotten Book series. I tend to stay away from the serial writers where the same character gets the bad guys over and over again.
I do like the Florida theme books. Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey, Randy Wayne White. I have would tell my son how I learned a great deal from Wilber Smith. He writes great fictional history taking place in Africa. James Clavell, and Ken Follet are also writers I enjoy reading; believing that they do some research before they write their stories. So many books, and now, I am reading. Not much else to do. I have read Tolstoy’s 'War and Peace', finding a beautiful love story taking place as Napoleon treks across Russia. Many John Grissom, Daniel Silva, and Stuart Hood novels; lots of books. All I can say is that if I spent my free time reading instead of wasting time on-line I would have been much, much, much better.
When I am not reading, I type up legal motions for other inmates. While I did complete a correspondence course from Blackstone, and I received a certificate for "Paralegal" studies, I do not prepare any motions for others. I only type what others have written. I do not believe I am qualified to even suggest any plan of action, since we have lots of Jail House Lawyers already here. However, we are very limited in our resources. Our legal library, called the LexisNexis CD Electronic Library has Federal Court Jurisdiction and has limited research compared to what you would find in a professional attorneys office. Here in prison, we have to pay to print out cases. Then, without storage space, we lose them because there is no way to file in an organized way. What about the success rate of our Jail house lawyers you ask? So far, as I have seen at this Federal Correctional Institution, hundreds of motions have been written and submitted to the courts.I’m trying to think of any that have gotten any positive results. Still thinking.
The government has a 95% rate of convictions with less then 10% ever being successfully appealed. Common sense tells us that there is no way the Government gets it right that great amount of time. Oh well. I do not type "frivolous" motions to the courts, or "grievances" against the BOP (Bureau of Prisons). I have learned that it is what it is and there is no winning against the BOP. Yet let me tell you something that happen the other day.
Just last week, the COs should have been arrested for severe destruction of government property. Honest. I am not trying to get anyone in trouble but, willingly destroying government property should never be tolerated. Here is what happen, and I was thinking about sending this to Washington, such disregard. Two hundred to three hundred pounds of ground mystery beef was destroyed by the CO's in charge of the kitchen. While making 'meatloaf' maybe the directions called for 40 minutes in their large ovens, but no one apparently knows how to follow cooking instructions because they must have cooked the meatloaf for four hours. Lumps of coal are what meatloaf cooked for four hours looks like. As I see it, while in the kitchen and under so called watch of the union COs, this is government property. Only after it is served does it become the inmates! But I will save it as nobody really cares. The so called grievance system is only a system in name only. The BOP can say that they 'have' a way for inmates to express problems with Correction Officers,
Team Counselors, or Case Managers, And no way would the medical staff ever have any grievances tossed their way. Many times, the ones that you may have a grievance against are the very ones that read and decide the outcome. The wolf guarding the hen house. Like court battles, inmates very seldom have any positive results from filing grievances.
Now, I have a sincere thanks to all of you that have written to the United States Sentencing Commission. There has been progress and I am in for a fight when a clarification becomes effective in November of this year. I received a five level sentencing enhancement that should have only amounted to a two level enhancement. If I can get some relief, that will I take my sentencing level from a 37 down to a 34; or from 210 months to 151 months. The reality of my life is that I remain in prison. Once again, I missed my son's birthday. I fell into a hole called the American Judicial System. The deck is stacked against me but I will keep trying. I am doing time for allowing myself to become addicted to on-line pornography. Yes, I was guilty of being very stupid. However, after 69 months in prison, do I need more time to learn my lesson? what do you think? Listen Up. If you or someone you know, looks foreword to getting alone to view online pornography - beware. whether you are 16, in your 20' s (dozens of young men in their twenties here for viewing) 30, to 70's, on-line pornography can become addictive and then lead to dangerous results. Not only can it hurt you and your own family, many innocent children are being exploited around the world in the production of child pornography. And God knows, I'm so damn sorry I ever viewed any at all. We need to open our eyes to realize destructive nature of this addiction. Please check out www.CAUTIONclick.com., a web-site that tries to fight to make sure law makers distinguish between viewers and producers. Also check out RSOL.org (Reform of Sex Offender Laws) because once you plea out to any kind of pornography related charges you now become a so called
'sex offender' •
Another group fighting for reform is 'Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errant’s, an international grassroots effort by people in prison, their families, and other concerned citizens to reduce crime through criminal justice reform. www.curenational.org Lastly, and finally, there is Sex Addicts Anonymous. Based on AA and NA, rinciples. They have their own "Green Book". They are there in many cities
and states - Google them. Please - Get help before it is too late, don't lose like I did.
A Birthday Message, tossed out to Sea in a Bottle
March 5, 2016
Dear Sweet Pea,
A loving, heart felt birthday wish for you. You are always in my thoughts, prayers and dreams. There is not a day that goes by that I do not see your shining eyes as I remember you looking up to me for answers to your many questions. I love you more than you can imagine. While I worry and pray for you, I’m proud knowing as you reach toward the future your eyes are wide open for the needs of others. I am reassured that your heart is in a very good way.
Messages in bottles occasionally washed up on the rocks where I receive bits of information which I thread together to learn about you. I study your progress in your journey towards adulthood. In these tidbits of information I notice that you are interested in the quality of life of others; from the problems facing the homeless, to being informed and involved in “Peace Initiatives”. Your mother has to be as proud of you; as am I. These glimpses of your life from afar are a welcoming shining light, a beacon of kindness that guides me today in my journey towards freedom.
I often wonder what books you are reading, the kind of music you like, and how you and your brother get along. So many questions that pass every day unanswered. Yes, my greatest joys in my life, you and your brother are missing from my life, but I strive for release so that one day I will, once again, regain a place in your heart. I hope to earn that place and pray that one day you will believe that I deserve it.
If I could give you advice now what would I say. All your life I told you to look up, down and all around; know what is around you. Today I believe you are aware of life around you. Did you notice, you are starting your 16th year with a “New Moon”? While the moon will take another 13 days or so to become full, you will spend the rest of you life becoming the full you!
Sweet Pea, now that you are a young woman, be ready to experience the emotion of falling in love. Perhaps you have already. It will not always be possible to be in control of your feelings of love. While I never understood how or why I fell in love with your mother, I did, and she was the greatest love of my life. I regret that I no longer have her love, or the opportunitiesto write her love letters. Yes, love does hurt. Yet to me, the hurt reminds me that I am alive. And for me that is good. Dead men feel nothing!
In my current shipwrecked location, I see men that have no one on the outside. Forgotten and lost men, their tears dried up. They are nothing but bitter. But I am blessed because I feel deep pain not being with my family. Tears freely flow from my eyes. This pain reminds me that I have a goal, to earn my children's respect. So it is good that I have plans once I
sail away from this barb-wire prison.
Sweet Pea, never let a man take complete control of you. I once cut a newspaper article out so that I could read it and explain it to you. I never got the chance chance. This article was written by a wise father as a note to his daughter. He told her to never let a man hit or strike her. That if a man did, to leave him, for his behavior does not deserve her and most likely,
will never improve over time.
Be confident in your own intuition. Respect your partner as they respect you. And when you have serious questions about love, talk to your mother. However keep in mind that she has been deeply hurt by my illogical behavior, so you’ll have to sort through her pain.
You have wisdom beyond your years. I see it in your eyes. Never, I mean never, let any man put you down. Remember that you come from very strong willed parents. Your beautiful mother's spirit, and forgive me for saying, her stubbornness, which can be a very good trait to have. Of course, your mother's natural intelligence was passed to you.
I also believe that there are parts of me you can be proud of. Now that is a tough thing for me to say, because of where I am today. Yet, you should realize that during my life, I was considered a very honorable person before I succumbed to an addiction. I led my life honestly and decently. My reputation was a hard working, honest individual. I worked for people that trusted and depended on me. Those people trusted their property and their lives with me as Captain of their vessels. Today, I continue to have respect for most people and I find myself drifting towards values that were inherent in my own father, your grandfather.
So Sweet Pea, be careful. Continue doing what you have been doing. I am so very proud of your school record. Look after your brother and give respect to your mother. Remember that you
have aunts, an uncle, and a grandmother that wait for any opportunity to help you. You are loved by many. Remember my love for you on you 16th birthday.
Christmas Present from my Daughter
January - 2016
Once you find yourself behind a barb-wire fence, a cloud of fog descends over you. You are engulfed with doubt and confusion. You soon become lost to the outside world. Lost and mostly forgotten. The saying “out of sight, out of mind” becomes true all to quickly. For many incarcerated inmates this includes becoming lost to their own family.
I am very lucky. My mother, brother and sister make sure that I have visits. My 82 year old mother is accompanied by either my brother or my sister several times a year. Visits, along with phone calls, helps me keep track with what is happening with the family. But I hear nothing from my estranged wife and children.
The other day I received a great Christmas present in the mail, some articles that my daughter wrote for her school news-paper. Having virtually nothing but school report cards as the only news concerning my two children, when I read articles written by my 15 year old daughter, I said “WOW!”
Reading between the lines I had realized that she is not the young girl that I remember, but now a young woman with very adult ideas about others. When I read my daughter's articles about the cities 'homeless' population I saw tremendous courage. Just bringing up the subject of homelessness in her school paper may not play out well in such a wealthy community. I felt great. I was able look deep into her mind to “see” my daughter. Through her writings and graphics I could not be any prouder.
Most high school sophomore students would not have picked the subject my daughter wrote about; the local homeless. An article that showed she had done her research, and then written better than most professional writers today. Courage because of the city government's failure with the way they deal with the local homeless population. The article revealed many things about my
daughter. The important lesson I received from reading the articles is that my estranged wife is doing a good job raising my two children. Second, my daughter has compassion. She has the ability to investigate and draw conclusions for herself. This realization was a relief to me as I constantly worry.
When I hear nothing from my ex-wife or children, my mind fills with all kinds of unhealthy thoughts. Worrying about things that are out of my own control goes against what all counseling dictates; yet it is what we do. Worry about things out of our own control. Was that part of the plan? That the punishment of sentence includes all the worry about family? Yet with this Christmas present of receiving these articles, I now have knowledge that my daughter is thinking for herself. Not just as a writer, but as an artist. Included in the paper was several graphics she drew. Two of the graphics were informational charts. The one I liked and felt great about was an artistic rendering included in a story following another student's personal journey towards adulthood.
Yes I am beached on a rocky shore, but I did get a very useful and satisfying bit of news this last week. Sometimes you never know what the next tide will wash ashore.
Remember, do not screw up like I did. If you find yourself looking forward to
logging on-line for foolish behavior, think again!
One last item, I wish I could write as well as my daughter!
TALKING TO MY SON
Early November 2015
Halloween was just this past weekend. I look out the prison's library window I see that there is a large moon in the western sky. That moon reminds me taking my daughter trick or treating around the neighborhood about six years ago. I was then looking forward to taking my son the following year, but I fell weak and allowed myself to get caught up to an addiction to on-line
pornography which ended the life as I knew it. Now five years later, I think about my 8 year old son. Did he have a Halloween costume and go trick or treating?
The prison psychology staff tells us how important it is to stay in touch with your love ones. Statistics show that children have more self confidence, and do better knowing that their incarcerated parent, father or mother, has not abandoned them and still care about them. Never abandon your children. I, for one, could never even imagine doing that. Every morning, several times a
day, and the last thing I think about before I fall into sleep, is the well- being of not only my two children, but the well-being of my estranged ex- wife. Never give up. That is a lesson I want my children to under stand. Yes I made a horrible mistake, but correct your mistake and move on the best that you can. What choice do I have? Remain bitter for the rest of my life? No, I don't think so.
Oh if I could only talk to my son, what would I say? "Son, always look all around you. I have told your sister many times and
you have heard this before, always be aware of your surroundings; especially on a dark Halloween night."
As my son and I continue walking through the neighborhood, we would both look around to see what the other kids are wearing, laughing and joking about. "What house do you think has the scariest pumpkin?" "Are you really scared at those house decorations?" "No?" "Well good. But remember, if something does notfeel right, where you have a funny feeling in your stomach, be extra careful;
because there are some bad people out there too. Son, most people are good,however it takes only one bad person to harm you and take you away from your mother and me. So that is why it is so important to 'see' all around you."
"When I say look up, look down, look all around, this is what I mean. By looking up, you notice if it’s cloudy or not. You may or may not see the Moon, but you may know what phase the moon is in because you had seen it earlier in the week. You would also know if it is likely to rain or not. That may just come in handy knowing to expect rain. By looking down, well of course you would see if your shoes are tied, or maybe that your socks don’t match. Nothaving matching socks, boy that would be crazy. Maybe the kids at school would laugh at you, which is not really too bad if you like making people laugh. But looking all around, that is important. Is there anyone that looks strange, any wild animals, or stray cats around? Where would you be able to run too if some mad dog was prowling about? And of course, by looking about you all the time, you might just see many beautiful things that others may miss."
"Son, do you smell that? That is night blooming jasmine. Shine your flash light up there in the tree. See that? That is a black crowned night heron; strange to see him here tonight as he is
about two miles from the bay." As we walk along, a rustling, a cat chasing something. "Over there, see it? a snake slithering under the bushes. That one is not dangerous. It looked like
racer. He was afraid of the cat and of us. Do you know that more snakes are good then bad? Yep it's true. Maybe that one just ate a rat that carries sickness." This past Halloween, I was not able to talk to my 8 year old son like this. However, I can still dream about the talks I would have had. I am not without thoughts, I am just incarcerated, and I’m still a father, still filled with love. I am heart broken since I know that my young son may have forgotten about me. We haven't talked or communicated since he was just 4 years old. If
he wanted, I still could give him advice. I am still a man and I still have wisdom to offer a young man. After all, I was 8 once, and even now at 57, I am sure that I could help him. He will have many questions about life; Questions about love and respect, Questions about right from wrong, lessons that can be learned from me. One day, as he becomes a young man, he will know that while his father was not perfect, his father loves him and prays for him every single day.
Remember, any addiction can get out of control. Seek professional help before
it becomes too late. Don't lose everything you love.
DAY BY DAY
Behind the Barb Wire
by Captain Shipwreck
Just thought about touching out to the outside world; I do
not hear too much from others except from my family these days.
My brothers Fred, along with my sister Lisa escort my mother and
try to visit a couple of times a year. Being so far away does not
help my visitors. For Lisa, she drives from her home in New
Hampshire, about a nine hour drive. When Fred comes, he flies
from Tampa Florida to Pittsburgh. Loretto is about an hour and a
half to the east of there.
The facility here is located up in the Pennsylvania
mountains, giving us somewhat cooler temperatures than
Pittsburgh. A view from the walking track includes farm lands in
the distant, and on the far ridges, you can see wind farms. Our
last bit of snow flurries was just a little over two weeks ago.
On campus here, a trip to the commissary requires us to walk
through a courtyard that has now been planted with beautiful
tulips of various colors surrounded by rich green grass. The
compound does not use any weed and feed so just before a mowing,
the grass is intermixed with bright yellow flowers and white
clovers. Shopping is very limited in this complex. We are only
able to shop once a week and then the choices are few. Nothing
can be sent in from the outside other than reading materials.
The commissary allows us to buy over the counter hygiene
products, medication, some snacks, clothing (grey sweats, t-
shirts, shoes) and sodas.
The food menu at FCI Loretto is a national food menu
developed by nutritional specialist at the Bureau of Prisons. It
is rotated weekly, consisting of five different weekly menus. Our
next menu change will be this coming October the start of the new
Today, Wednesday, and every Wednesday, is burger day.
Wednesday nights has different items, tonight is chicken
cacciatore (but not really). For lunch we have a roll, burger
patty with some liquid cheese product spooned over. Also included are,
depending on the week, fries that are baked (no fryers here),
baked tater tots or chips. The garnishes are a little bit of
lettuce, possibly onion, pickle slices and a pack of
The kitchen workers (inmates) steal most of the fresh
vegetables that are to be added to the recipes. Later, these
onions, green peppers or other vegetables are sold in the living
quarters. The price is a “Mack” (for Mackerel packet) for some vegetables chopped up and put into a disposable serving glove. One baseball size onion, and an average green onion, chopped and mixed together into a combination will cost about 8 to 10 portions, or 8 to 10 mackerel packets.
That is a common theme, the hustle. If you come to prison
unaware of the criminal mind set, you become numb to the corruption. The barter system is thriving here and the currencies in use are mackerel packets, honey buns, soups, and books of stamps.
A mackerel packet cost $1.25 from the commissary. A book of
stamps, $9.80. Once on the compound, the “Macks” are trading at
about $1.00 and books of stamps $8.00. It is possible to buy
items without going to the commissary by using a store man. Two
cold sodas from the 'store man' cost a Mack. Credit with the
store man is 1.5 times the cost at the commissary.
All inmates are required to have a 'job'. Somewhere the
concept of slave labor in the prisons was put to rest by
requiring some payment for the job. My job pays 13¢ per hour,
giving me a total of $14.40 a month. Since FCI Loretto is still
overcrowded, there are many jobs that are designated as standby
jobs that pay anywhere from ¢32 a month to $5.20 a month.
However, commissary workers can make up to $200 or more by
regular pay, plus what they can steal. Kitchen workers have been
known to make a book of stamps a day in pilferage of food stocks.
I will continue to write about daily life in prison. It is
the most depressing experience. By writing, I hope to inform the
real world what is lost, and what to expect when someone like
me makes a mistake and you become clutched into this incredibly unjust and corrupt justice system.
I continue to fight for my freedom. The statutes that I was
charged with had a mandatory 5 year minimum. That will be up the
end of September of this year. Actually-with what is called good
time, I would be ready to be released now. Unfortunately, I was
sentenced to not 60 months, but 210 months. The concept of
sentencing is "Sufficient but no greater than necessary".
Unfortunately, that concept is on paper only. My crime included
so called sentencing enhancements that included 7 different
enhancements that are already the nature of the crime, therefore
double sentencing. Only the court system does not see it that
way, but common folks do! These seven enhancements are what I am
fighting, not my guilt. I was wrong, and that I freely admit. I
was wrong, stupid and extremely careless putting the future of my
beloved family into an unjust situation. But I am not a coward, I
am embarrassed, but I will not run away and bury my head in the
sand. I will make it up to my two children in the future...
Till the next time.