|Oct/Nov 1998 From the Inside|
Since May 1, 1998, I have been subjected to harassment and attacks by prison officials who wish to suppress my writing about the world I live in and, failing that, to discredit me in the hope that what I have written, and will write, will also be discredited - the stain of their accusations camouflaging the truth of my words. I have been accused of theft, deceit, smuggling, provoking prison unrest, even of being a pornographer. As a result, I am no longer permitted Contact Visits with my family; I am restricted from any computer use; I am no longer permitted access to my job in the Correctional Industries program, a job and wage that, for seven years, permitted me to be self-supporting and provide an additional, albeit meager, income for my family; my personal computer and disks have been confiscated; at one point, my cell was searched and a draft essay was confiscated; and I have had incorrect and false information placed in my records, which could have a negative effect on future parole and classification hearings. These restrictions on my activities have already been in place longer than if I had been found guilty of drug use. Then again, all of this has been done without any actual disciplinary proceedings or a hearing at which I could defend myself.
My mother, Loretta Beaver, called the Spring Creek Correctional Center to inquire as to why she must visit me through a glass partition and to find out when she would be permitted to sit and hold her son's hand. She was informed, by no less than Assistant Superintendent Colleen Ewert, that I was found in possession of "legal work and pornography." The editor and publisher of Eclectica (www.eclectica.org), Chris Lott, received a similar response to his queries, except that my articles and essays were also mentioned.
Anyone who has read my essays can easily recognize the apparent alarmed response of prison officials to be a knee-jerk reaction to the possibility that a bright light might be shown upon the more seamy underbelly of the Correctional Culture, rather than a response to its actual exposure in any essay that was merely critical of current correctional practices and the public perceptions and political forces that drive and support those practices. My essays have generally been about my own development of character, my perception of the environment in which my growth and development took place, and, hopefully, how that environment can change to make healing and positive social and spiritual development more attainable for other prisoners, their families, and community members.
Believe this: Had the focus of my attention been strictly upon the negative aspects of my incarceration or, more to their fears, those of the guards and administrators of the prisons where that incarceration took place, I could have produced a constant stream of vitriolic pieces. Examples of bad behaviors, unhealthy mental states, and even crimes of my Keepers have always been readily at hand, i.e., the Guard (Hendrickson) and a Trainee who stood outside a Black man's cell and swung a noose, telling him that they would be returning later with their sheets to hang him; that same Guard (Hendrickson) was later terminated after being arrested for molesting a child family member; a current Correctional Sergeant (Charron) who was permitted to plead guilty to a misdemeanor sex crime for an incident involving a group of young Scouts; the Correctional Sergeant (Mandregan) who reportedly sexually assaulted a subordinate female Trainee after she had passed out from drinking, and who accepted a demotion and transfer to another facility in lieu of felony charges being filed; another Correctional Sergeant (Seton) has been permitted to plead his 4th and 5th arrests for Driving Under the Influence down to Reckless Driving in order to avoid mandatory felony penalties and record, even though he had been arrested while driving on a revoked license that was taken for a previous arrest; or the Guard whose spouse narrowly avoided being murdered by numerous gunshots the Guard fired in their home, yet was permitted to plead to charges for the illegal discharge of a weapon and maintain employment with the Department of Corrections.
Although examples of such behaviors - behaviors that directly effect, or are reflected in, their professional performance - are rife, I have chose not to spend my time or efforts harping about them, because I believe it is much more productive to share how I was able to find and develop positive qualities in spite of the poisonous environments I have lived in. I have learned over the years that people do not hear the words of a ranting and screaming man, and I deeply desire that my words be heard, that by sharing my lessons and perspectives others may avoid the path I took, that others who are already on that path may find solace and understanding in some of the same places I have, and still others, particularly free citizens, may find questions to ask of their government representatives in order to change the pits of our prisons into places of healing, enlightenment, and benefit for all.
It took me a very, very long time to rise above the pull of the 'Us vs. Them' mentality that is so pervasive in America's prisons. That I have not been crushed into conformity with that mindset is tantamount to a miracle, for in the worlds I have occupied - the jails, "correctional centers," and penitentiaries - all life is governed by the gravitation of those polarizing forces and those who wander between 'Us' and 'Them' serve as fodder for the True Believers and, with rare exception, are used and abused by those hard-core Lifers in both the Prisoner and Administration camps. I will not, now, bow to 'Us, ' nor be silent for 'Them. I will continue to write, not to complain about my circumstances, but about the development of positive spiritual and social characteristics under difficult, sometimes seemingly unbearable, circumstances. I will write about the forces that make positive development unlikely or impossible for the nearly 87% of those prisoners who represent the current recidivism rate, and either to suggest possible solutions or to point in directions where solutions may be found. I will also continue to assist other prisoners in their efforts to find remedies for their grievances in Administrative and Legal forums. And, should my wife again desire that I write for her an erotic story, as I did on the 7th Anniversary of our weddingwell, I guess I will be a "pornographer," again, too.
The present actions taken by prison officials to discredit me, as well as the resulting deprivations, have had a curious and unexpected effect upon me that is difficult to describe. There is a small ripple in the quiet pool at the very heart of my soul wherein resides my tiny, but much cherished and hard-learned, reserve of acquiescence. Resolute in my belief that my actions are correct and that writing of my experiences is a responsibility that I cannot shirk, my wife and family, who now share my deprivation, should see in that ripple a bubble of joy that is found in my recognition that we possess the strength to accept the consequences of doing the 'right thing.' At the same time, those who are the instruments of that deprivation may want to give that phenomenon a more primal consideration; approach that pool as would an antelope of the African Savannah approach a water-hole - grateful for its thirst-quenching contents, yet ever so aware that a ripple could indicate something moving ominously below the surface.