Category Archives: Views From The Inside

Free Novel by Robert Booker, Sr. – Incarcerated Author

On October 13 and 14 Robert Booker, will be running a two day promotion for his book Tales From The Yard: Volume One. This is his fifth novel, and Robert Booker’s work is urban fiction at it’s finest. From prison – authors can’t promote their work. So, he is offering these free kindle editions in the hope of getting some Reviews. Get a free copy, and if you like what you read – leave him a review! All of his books are available through Amazon.   Times running out – get it quick!

Click HERE for your copy!

The World According To AARP

I never thought much about old people growing up.  I mean, I never really noticed the daily things that go into being elderly.  I used to hear my grandfather or my grandmother talk about their rheumatism or arthritis or the famous ‘creaking old bones’ or how their knees hurt before it rains, but when you’re twelve years old, you’re more concerned with riding your bike to town or buying comic books at the drug store.  When you’re twelve years old you’re immortal, full of ‘piss and vinegar’ like my dad used to say.

That being said, I’m starting to see the light at the nursing home entrance.  I’m surrounded by walkers, canes and crutches (oh, my).  It’s like a geriatric Wizard of Oz, without the magic slippers.   I live  in a minimum security unit in the Southeast corner of Texas, south of Houston.  There are around 1,500 inmates here, 450-500 of which are medically unassigned  – pardon the expression, ‘the broke dicks’.

We don’t work in the kitchen, the laundry or the unit cannery.  We don’t clean dorms or floors or anything.  Most of us are over the age of fifty.  Most have done the required amout of ‘flat time’ to be eligible for parole.  Most have little or no disciplinary problems or records.  Some have families to parole home to.

Some have everything an incarcerated individual could dream of, three meals a day, a hot shower, a bed to sleep in, a phone available to call their loved ones, and $95 every two weeks to spend at the unit commissary, where they can buy things like stamps, paper, envelopes, soft drinks, snacks, coffee and tea, or hygiene products like soap, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.

But you can’t by time.  You can’t buy a visit from your family or friends.  In most of our cases, time is the enemy now.

I’m not a soap box kind of guy.  I’m not a crusader or an advocate, however, I’m a very emotionally connected person.  When I watch the television or listen to NPR and I hear of a tragedy or see human suffering, I’m deeply affected. When I see a man in his 70’s and 80’s being set off for parole after twenty years or more of being a model prisoner, I ask myself two questions.

Why?  and How much longer?

I’m starting to ask those two questions in reference to myself.  I was 32 years young when I arrived here.  Now I’m 57, and I came up for parole ten years ago.  I have less than a dozen minor disciplinary cases over the last twenty-five years, most of these are directly related to my being a diabetic.  I’ve been a Type I diabetic since I was eleven years old.

I’ve never been in a fight.

I’ve never tested positive for any drugs.

I’ve never extorted anyone for anything.

I’ve never disobeyed a direct order or had any problems with staff or guards.

I’ve done every possible thing these folks have asked of me to go home.

Yet, I’m still here, and I’m not alone.  And I’m getting older, and so are my brothers and sisters.

It is stated that it takes $30,000 to feed, house, clothe and guard me, plus medical expenses.  That’s over $750,000 for the time I’ve been here, plus two visits to the hospital – close to a million dollars.

How many books could that buy for students?

How may hospital wings could that build?

How many roads and bridges could that repair?

How many homeless could that feed?

I want to make one thing clear – I’m not saying that prisons should be abolished. They are, as my dad used to say, a ‘necessary evil’.  There are a group of people who should be incarcerated for what  they’ve done.  But everyone deserves a chance to redeem himself, because everyone, incarcerated or not, makes mistakes.  Everyone has momentary lapses of reason.  Everyone is human.

No one is above the law and no one deserves to be abandoned by it.

I’ve met some truly amazing individuals in the last 25 years, people who would give anything for a second chance.

My dad used to say, ‘We live life forwards, but we learn from it in reverse’.  Those who learn should be rewarded.  Those who do not should continue to be guarded.  I’ve seen inmates leave here only to return two or three times because they were uneducated, unprepared, and overwhelmed, but there are some of us here who are not.

I consider myself lucky.  I had a father who was my best friend, who loved and trusted me, and who, in his 56 years on this planet, never let me down.  And I cry every day, not because I’m behind these walls, but because I miss him and I let him down.  And because my time on this earth is growing short, and I might not get the opportunity to right what I did wrong.

I can’t undo what I’ve done, I can’t change the past.  But I can undo some of the damage and I can change the future, and I will if given the chance…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR  ‘Shipwrecked, Abandoned, Misunderstood’, but he still has the things his father instilled in him – humility, respect and love.  In spite of 25 years behind bars, he continues to wake up every day holding on to his humanity and on a mission to change the world for the better.

John Green #671771
C.T. Terrell Unit A346
1300 FM655
Rosharon, TX 77583

Visiting Room

If I could touch your hand
I would caress your soul.

The glass between us
Like a gap in time
Longing for what I see.

A strong desire for contact
Petal soft feel of skin
That is your touch.

Through the glass I gaze
The beat of my heart reverberating
Letting you feel the tremble of my want.

My hands are not tied
Locked away into an existence of loneliness
Devoid of the physical realm of life.

The Necessity Of Breaking The Rules – Part III

I could go on and on about how prison society is and the many rules broken on a daily basis, not with malicious intent but as a necessity to survive, be comfortable and feel as much normalcy as possible. I’ve been told it’s selfish that I risk phone calls and visits to have an extra piece of chicken or survive in comfort, and I don’t care. It has nothing to do with selfishness and not caring.

I am serving LWOP in prison in a very, very harsh, restrictive and oppressive environment. I take full responsibility for my own actions, and it’s no one else’s fault but my own that I am in prison, regardless of the facts and circumstances of my case. I don’t live in prison, I survive in prison. I must go through the pain, the torture, the dehumanizing, the mistreatment, the restrictions, the oppression, the chaos, the violence, the disrespect, the boredom, the monotony, the loneliness, the confusion, the scariness, the coldness, the darkness, the hopelessness, the loss and the constant unstable unpredictability of prison life. I don’t function in my daily life of ‘prison survival’ not caring about family, friends, loved ones and connections on the outside.

Mail is a right in prison that the prison cannot deny; phone calls and visits are a “privilege” that can be taken away at any time, whether I do something wrong or not! I love being able to call people on the phone, but phone calls in prison are expensive, and not everyone accepts collect calls or sets up phone accounts for us to call them. The times we are able to actually use the phone is not always a convenient time for those on the outside. They are either at work or unavailable to answer the phone. So, for me, I don’t get my hopes up, nor depend on phone calls.

Visits – what person in prison would not love to receive a visit either contact or noncontact?  It’s a wonderful thing. Someone actually is thinking of you and wants to see you and spend time with you in person, that is a very wonderful feeling indeed. They drive, fly and subject themselves to searches etc., to spend quality time with you and make the effort to share comfort and a sense of normalcy with you. But not everyone receives a visit. Many people, even your own flesh and blood, do not think of you, do not have time to visit, do not try, do not want to visit or whatever the reason may be. Visits are a luxury many, many, many prisoners do not get or have. It’s just a privilege that is not guaranteed and can be taken away at any time.

Visits and phone calls are great, but I do not expect them. Yes, I may hope, wish and yearn to share in these things, but in our reality, they probably won’t happen, so I don’t survive in my everyday life thinking about a privilege I may or may not get. It doesn’t mean I am selfish or do not care, I just survive this life realistically in the moment from day to day because even tomorrow is “not guaranteed”.

People in the free world live their lives as comfortable as possible and that’s all we do as well. I’m not talking about breaking the rules with malicious intent or doing wrong because we are reckless and do not care. There are so many petty, restrictive and oppressive rules in prison that make our lives harder than they have to be, which is not right at all! I survive LWOP in a manner that is as comfortable as possible, even if it means breaking rules, for it is worth the risk.

Many prisoners do not want to lose privileges nor have to break rules, even the most petty, but it’s a fact of life behind these bars and walls. When I got locked down, I asked someone I was cool with if they could give me a pen, some paper and an envelope so I could write my loved ones and let them know my situation, since IDOC violated their own rules, policies and procedures and did not give me any of my personal property, not even sheets or a blanket to sleep with at night, so I broke the rules. It was a necessity, not selfishness or not caring about what privileges I may lose, but a necessity for me. Maybe people will understand and maybe they won’t, but to truly grasp it, someone must put themselves in our shoes and understand most of it is not with malicious intent nor because we are selfish and do not care. It’s all part of the many different ways that we survive in such an unpredictable dirty, cold, lonely, boring, monotonous, chaotic, restrictive, mean, harsh, inhumane, sad, confusing, dark, bleak, unforgiving and oppressive environment.

I just wanted to give some clarification and understanding on that, especially for those who do not understand or think it’s selfish and carelessness when it’s not.  Any questions, comments, etc., post them or you can get at me directly always. Take care.
Gerard G. Schultz Jr. R55165
Pontiac C.C.
P.O. Box 99
Pontiac, Illinois 61764
U.S.A.

Sharing My Thoughts From Inside The Cesspool of IDOC Part II

We break the rules, not to be assholes that just want to get in trouble, but out of a need to be as comfortable as possible in such a lonely, cold, dark and very oppressive and restricted environment.

There is a rule for ‘trading and trafficking’ which is selling, trading, sharing, giving, letting each other borrow, use, see, hear and have anything we have, make, get. etc.  In the hole we are limited to only certain personal property items. In most holes you cannot have a TV or radio, so reading is a big pastime that helps.  Some prisons do not have libraries and the ones that do have a system that is a catch 22, more trouble and risk to use than not, so many guys find other ways to acquire reading materials. There are some non-profit organizations that will send free books if your particular prison allows it. Some prisoners are blessed and fortunate to have family or friends in the free world whom care and send them reading materials or money to purchase such items, but a lot of prisoners don’t have that.  We will share reading materials with each other, but this is against the rules.  We do it anyway.

Food is nasty in prison, and in IDOC we don’t eat any red meat or pork. We are fed a lot of turkey by-products and soy stuff that is not appetizing!  So, again, in the hole – where, for some reason, the portions of horrible food is smaller – grown men get hungry, so they trade food items. I might not eat something that someone else does, and visa versa, so we trade, which is against the rules. Those of us who are blessed and fortunate to have money sent to us, are able to buy food items off the commissary to make meals with. We are not all heartless bastards, as many think, and we share and give some commissary food items to buddies or guys whom do not have money to buy these things. We have all been there, and a little generosity goes a long way.  Sometimes, a lot of us will pitch in commissary food items and make a big meal together. We love making foot long burritos and cakes. But, again, these things are against the rules, and it can land us in the hole from 30 days to six months, but we do it anyway, because it’s a petty rule and not done with malicious intent, but rather part of trying to be as comfortable as possible.

Local churches, restaurants, organizations, etc., will sometimes donate food intended ‘for the prisoners’.  They may have excess, day old, or expired items which are real food items, generally the kind of things not seen or served in prison – things like pork, steaks, pastries, vegetables (not normally served), ice cream, drinks, etc.  But 99% of this food is not served to us. It is fed to the officers for their enjoyment, and even given away to them.  Leftovers that are not deemed enough to serve to the entire prison population will be, literally, thrown away – even though some good people were generous enough to donate it for the purpose of feeding the prisoners.

IDOC is not only corrupt, lazy and deceitful, but it is also wasteful. Millions of tax dollars are wasted and thrown away by the system on a daily basis.  A lot of prisoners in the general population will steal food from the kitchen and sell it to other prisoners.  Some of the officers and staff actually allow certain prisoners to take the excess food or make their own meals since they work in the kitchen, and they will even use the prisoners to make them a good meal. So prisoners will prepare great meals like steak with fries, real beef hamburgers with cheese and actual fresh tomato, lettuce, onions, jalapenos, and bell peppers (items we never get), fried chicken with seasonings, chicken quesadillas with onions, jalapenos, tomatoes, bell peppers, hot sauce, several types of cheeses, fried broccoli and cauliflower with ranch dressing, and even a real salad with lettuce, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, celery, cucumbers, cheese, mushrooms, yummy! (Something we never get). So guys will break the rules to wheel and deal, paying $3.00 to $5.00 for a special meal made that is against the rules – but, oh so, so worth it!!!

When I was in general population, guys liked my style of art and would commission art projects and they loved my cards which were in high demand, so much so that I was a bit overwhelmed and had to maintain lists and even then would only do business with certain guys.  I bartered my artwork for real food with a bunch of kitchen workers, too.  My last cellmate didn’t have any outside support, nor did he go to commissary, so I made sure he got to eat with me. This is against the rules, but it’s what we do to be as comfortable as possible, in a place where the officers get to enjoy the food donated to the prisoners.  It’s not right, so we do what is necessary for us to do to feel human in this oppressive, restrictive and dehumanizing prison system.

I mentioned how I’m good at making some creative cards that prisoners like.  Guys think about their kids and family, wives and loved ones all the time, and they want to send something nice to them.  They are willing to pay, trade, barter and hustle for it. There are many, many talented artists of all kinds in prison and many others who are creative in other ways. Guys make all kinds of beautiful artwork, paintings, drawings, cards, roses, models, paper jewelry boxes, bracelets, rings, necklaces, pillows and other cool items, sometimes, literally, out of nothing.  But other guys do not have such talents, and they will obtain art from other prisoners to send to their loved ones. Again, this is against the rules and it can land us in the hole anywhere from 30 days to a year, all for something petty, nonviolent, not malicious and done with only good intentions.

THIS STORY CONTINUES…. STAY TUNED FOR PART THREE……

 

Views From Inside

When I read this journal, I knew it had a place here, and I am grateful to the author for sharing it.  There are so many ‘words’ that we use – prison, incarceration, jail, etc.  None of them paint the picture though.  The picture can’t be painted in a word, and probably not even on a blog.  I mean no offense to those that serve our country and defend our freedom when I say that this is not the land of the free for so many – not when we are the most incarcerated nation in the world.  I honestly believe that the government is doing our servicemen and women a great disservice by turning our nation into one that is caging a large segment of our population and destroying hope and families.  Our country is worth fighting for, and we are so much more than this.  We have compassion and there is more strength in compassion than strong arming, any day of the week.  We ARE the land of the free, and as citizens we need to demand that our government remember that.

So, here’s to a new catagory on this site –Views From The Inside.  This is Part One from a journal by Gerard G. Schultz, Jr., titled, Sharing My Thoughts from Inside the Cesspool of IDOC.

Survival: The Necessity Of Breaking The Rules

People on the outside barely get a glimpse of the surface of what life is like in prison and all the things we must do to survive. Survive mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, educationally, socially, financially, and comfortably, as much as possible, under these circumstances.

Life in prison is a constant paradox, not always in black and white or truly understandable to people on the outside, and sometimes not even to ourselves. We are called many things, from inmates to offenders, detainees, wards, convicted felons, prisoners and convicts. Prison is full of convicted felons and criminals, which are not the same. There are innocent people in here, there are guilty people in here.   There are good people in here and bad people in here. Many have made mistakes and others bad decisions. There are good prisoners and bad corrections officers, and there are bad prisoners and good corrections officers.

Prison is a menagerie that is overcrowded, yet still a very lonely place. The daily life can be very monotonous, robotic and boring. It can be loud, chaotic, stuffy and scary. Gloominess, depression and the flu are contagious in here. We were punished by the courts to serve time in prison, but upon entering prison, we learn immediately that prison is full of additional punishments and restrictions that we are oppressed by. The conditions of our confinement are inhumane, the food is horrible, and every moment of every day is unpredictable. I’ve learned to live in the moment, yes, I have hopes, wishes, and dreams like anyone else, but in here, we learn that tomorrow and many other things are not guaranteed.

Survival is just not the physical dangers we face, but we must survive mentally, emotionally, spiritually and financially. Prison is a cash cow that milks us for every penny we are lucky enough to get. Many of those in society believe we have it good in prison, life is easier, that the government provides us this or that – which is just not true at all. The state put us in prison, so they are legally responsible for providing us some of the bare necessities that they have physically deprived us of the ability to obtain for ourselves.

By IDOC (Illinois Dept of Corrections) policy (though they bend, break and do not follow their own rules, policies, laws and procedures) we are supposed to receive three pairs of pants (not always new), three blue shirts with buttons (not always new), three white t-shirts (one time only, you must buy your own after that), three pairs of socks, three pairs of boxers, a coat during the winter time (if you come in outside of winter, but it is raining or cold, you are out of luck) and one pair of thin deck slip on shoes, which we call Gilligan shoes or Jan Brady’s. We also are to receive two sheets, one pillow case, one towel, one washcloth, and one wool blanket. We can submit a clothing exchange once every six months for new boxers, socks and shoes, everything else will be used.

There are seven days in the week, and only once a week do they do laundry, a communal service – you turn it in one day and get it back the next day or so. Three pairs of clothes is not enough for the week, so we must buy our socks, underwear, and t-shirts.  If you want warm clothing or maybe shorts to wear in your cell or to go out and exercise with, you must puchase them yourself.  You must purchase your own baseball cap, beanies, ear warmers, gloves, thermals, sweatshirt and pants, real shoes that last longer than a month, or boots to work in or to walk in the snow. The communal laundry service is once a week, on a designated day, depending on where you are at. We have a personal laundry bag, a mesh bag, that they also give us one time only. We put all of our dirty laundry in there, colors and whites together, tie it up, and they are all washed just like that. We must purchase laundry soap to wash our clothes by hand, and if our prison doesn’t allow or sell laundry soap, we must improvise by using body soap to clean our clothes. It’s better to wash by hand so your clothes don’t smell, make you itch, and don’t turn brownish grey as they do in the communal laundry.

It’s ironic they sell us laundry soap, because if we wash our own laundry by hand, we have no way to dry it. So we break the rules. Part of survival is to try to have some sense of comfort and normalcy, so we break the rules. Why is it against the rules? Well, in a lot of prisons, especially IDOC, we are not allowed to hang things in our cells, not even wet clothing. Most cells in IDOC are not set up with any storage shelving, tables to write on, shelves for appliances, hooks to hang clothing, etc., as some prisons do. So, even to hang and dry out wet towels and wash clothes, we have to hang them on a makeshift clothesline. We use a variety of things, from shoe strings, torn strips of sheets, or strings out of the waist bands of our boxers or socks to make clotheslines. It’s a risk we can get a disciplinary ticket for, anything from unauthorized property, destruction of state property, possession of dangerous contraband or even security obstruction. We can get anywhere from 30 days to a year in the hole, locked down in solitary confinement and losing all privileges, such as phone, commissary, contact visits.  It’s a risk we take just to have clean laundry. Prison is a very dirty place, yet we are forced to take risks and break rules just to do something as simple as our laundry by hand.

On that same note, locked in a small cell with another person, there is little room for privacy. Our toilet is literally right next to our bunks, six inches to maybe a foot away. We hang up sheets to block our view of the toilet whenever we use it, as a courtesy to the other person. This is against the rules for the same reasons as stated above, and carries the same punishment. But it is a necessary risk, because we are being respectful to one another.  We don’t want to watch one another use the toilet or wash up in the cell. This kind of respect for each other also stops any unecessary violence from erupting in that kind of situation.  We even do a courtesy flush every time you drop in order to lessen the linger of stink in the cell, and we never use the toilet when one or the other is eating.

Part of survival is breaking the rules, it is necessary to be respectful, comfortable and avoid violence.