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#66 Coops Weekly - I'm DONE!!! (asterisk I still have supervised release)


Everyone who knows me (especially If I care about you) knows I am a big fan of writing letters. Well as I wind down this adventure I have one last letter to write.




Its to the BOP



My favorite scene in the movie "Shawshank Redemption."





I heard this fantastic quote that was so good I had to pull over while driving and write it down. Ironically the DRC called and asked me why I had "diverted from my route." You are not supposed to just pull over while on home confinement (driving from place to place) unless there is a emergency (and even then you should call and tell them first). But anyway here is the quote...

"Americans have champagne tastes for imprisoning people but a Dr. Pepper budget. We love to throw people in jail but hate to pay the bill for it." (Attorney Kenneth White - Former Fed prosecutor)

So the 64 million dollar question is....Why is the BOP such a mess? Everyone asks me this question? I have spent so much time thinking about this. I know plenty of people who want to try and save/fix the BOP. I want to see the logic in this ....However after MUCH deliberation on this subject I do not believe you can fix something that is this broken, has no desire to be fixed, and genuinely promotes some of the worst traits in society. I am not sure it can be fixed. I think it needs to be torn down and we need to begin again.


But as to my answer why I think it's broken, here goes.


The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) relies heavily on the brilliant theory (or idea)...that harsh punishments will magically deter crime. There is mountains of research that disproves this theory. Yet we continue to believe it will deter crime so we continue to hand out long sentences. Politicians (on both sides) use this as red meat to scare voters and put or keep them in office. When their solutions don't solve the problem they just increase the scare and blame tactics. Always deflecting.


Prosecutors are not driven by a need to find justice instead they are rewarded for winning at any cost. Mix in society's love for revenge, and misplaced Justice…..We end up imprisoning way too many people... for far too long, often for non-violent offenses like drug-related charges or financial crimes where rehabilitation or allowing that person to pay back society would actually make much more sense.


Then comes the highlight of the show—we let the wrong people play boss.  We give power to people who shouldn’t be allowed to sharpen pencils or build paper airplanes.  


It begins with a flawed belief in punishment, handed to the most inept crowd imaginable (now this is a general statement, there are good people at the BOP, my views on this has changed somewhat). Surprisingly, despite evidence that it doesn't work, we build more jails, throw obnoxious amounts of money at incarceration, and keep locking more people up.


Meanwhile, other countries have successfully experimented with different ways to punish people who break the law. For a country that prides itself on innovation we refuse to even try new methods of incarceration. Norway sits there with a recidivism rate under 20%, showcasing a system that's a fairy tale in comparison. The US is fighting to get below 80% (so almost 8 out of 10 people go back to prison). They seem to understand that stripping away someone's dignity doesn't exactly fix things.  


But America refuses to learn from our mistakes & now prisons and punishments are such a part of our identity it would take the equivalent of a nuclear explosion to change things. 


Hopefully, things will change as more people, especially influential individuals, personally experience incarceration. The discussion is happening now more then ever as both presidential candidates are feeling first hand the potential for prison in their lives. This can lead to a greater understanding of the topic, prompting positive transformations in how society perceives and addresses it. Until then it will continue be a topic most people would rather ignore.


My last week at the DRC


Every week I joke with a buddy of mine that the key to surviving the BOP is living "BTB," (BY THE BOOK). He is super careful and often cautions me against doing stupid things. At Leavenworth, Goetz was the man who helped me, in moments of frustration with what I was experiencing (actually he helped many of us) with this issue. Through these last few weeks a DRC buddy has been my biggest fan/supporter. So you can imagine my surprise when I went to my LAST CLASS and he was not there. Hes always early and he saves me a seat. Not today.


Where was he at you ask?


Well....He is on his way back to prison for allowing his ankle monitor battery to go dead while he slept. WOW!!!!


The marshals came to his house and woke him up...and now he in route to another institution. He will likely lose his ETC (Earned Time credits) but who knows. This guy is super smart, plays by the rules, but his one problem was the ankle monitor (his Achilles heel if you will.....literally). He forgot to charge it all the time.... so he is always scrambling to borrow someones battery during class (we used to bring an extra battery for him to use). I have no idea what happened this time around but I have been around him (and others) when there battery has almost died (The unit alerts you "Battery LOW!!!!" in a loud voice REPEATEDLY). This time he slept through the warning. The marshals woke him up. What a nightmare.


Now I have found people fall into one of three categories with reactions. The "what an idiot," category... or "are you kidding, he was sent back for that?" category. OR lastly "That sucks, but its not surprising," category. I think for most of us (including you wonderful people that have followed my adventure over the last 15 months) we fall into category 3. Personally I cannot believe he was sent back to prison for that....But does it surprise me?....NO....Not at all. Nothing surprises me anymore.


But I am reminded once again just how easy it is to make a mistake. Mistakes that often times lead to consequences that are far worse than a slap on the wrist. He had just bought a new car, and rented a house for his mom and him....what happens to all that? It continues to amaze me how much the focus is on watching inmates screw up rather then promote us into reintegrating into society.


For those of you still in BOP custody....Please remember each step feels like you get more freedom, it lulls you into taking chances, but overall you are still in BOP custody. Things undoubtedly get easier each step. But the mistake is forgetting the BOP is still the boss. Don't get complacent because certain things get easier (flexible case managers, laxer rules).


So I am done. After 450 days in incarceration if I want to go do something I can. I don't need permission today if I want to go get McDonald's, or go for a walk, or look at some questionable content on my phone. There is so much I want to say about this whole experience but I don't even know where to begin. The biggest change for me is that my eyes were opened regarding a topic I never would have cared about. The United States truly fails, on every level, in the area of incarcerating individuals.


This past week a judge stopped an inmate from being sent to a prison because the conditions in his opinion were "dreadful & unacceptable on every level,"


"What Judge Furman persuasively sets out is that there are compelling humanitarian grounds against putting people in jail," The term cruel and unusual punishment sadly now applies to conditions in which we imprison people in the US. This used to be something we only said when referring to other countries. Now sadly the US is the country that is failing the most.


The way inmates are treated in unacceptable and embarrassing. The conditions inmates are forced to live in is unacceptable and embarrassing. We spend insane amounts of money each year on the prison industrial complex. I truly wonder where all the money goes. Because it sure as hell isn't on the prisoners. So I have mixed feeling talking about my experience. Prison did change my life. I met some amazing people that taught me things I would have never known. I broke a cycle of addiction that has plagued me for decades. I saw it change the lives of so many people. But the change occurred almost in spite of the terrible brutal conditions we faced. I think the point that was made by most of us is that you can treat as badly as possible, you can make our lives hell, but we will survive & thrive in spite of that. We will make it out of this stronger.


Thinking back on Prison (a story I never told anyone)


I remember walking up to the prison over a year ago terrified thinking that my life was over....it would be forever until I'm out. I could not even fathom an ending it seemed so far away. I remember thinking I failed so miserably, and let so many people down.


I remember wanting to bring 2 things in with me. My crosses/necklace (which are important to me for sentimental reasons) .... and my wish pill. What is a wish pill (see below)??? It is a pill that you write a tiny wish in and seal it up. It unscrews like a container and you roll up tiny pieces of paper and put them inside. I don't know why but this pill meant everything to me. I will be the first to admit I am a strange guy who likes this kind of stuff but even for me I was surprised it meant so much.


I expected I was going to get shit about it so I put it in with my prescriptions. They wouldn't let me keep the crosses so I sent those home in my box with my clothes. But I was determined to get the pill in. I couldn't believe my luck when the intake Dr. (Actually I'm not sure who he was...he probably wasn't a Dr.) didn't say anything about it. I was paranoid the whole time I thought I was going to need to swallow it to avoid getting in trouble. But luckily he let me bring pills in (since he said it would be sometime before my prescriptions would be ready). So my wish pill made it in with my other pills. They were wrapped up in paper towel he gave me and I put it in my sock. The wish pill traveled with me my whole time in incarceration (i just kept it in a prescription container).


Pic from that nite in SD (before sentencing)



The nite before I was sentenced (back in SD) my girls took me out for dinner/drinks (Marie, Sparger, Jessica & Erica).....I call them my girls because I love each one of them so very much. They are part of my family. We had an amazing time. Prior to trial Jessica had bought me the wish pill for good luck. I had written the first message prior to trial which read "I wish I win my trial."  Wow....how did I expect to win at trial when I can't even make a wish using proper grammar/sentence structure. That's probably illustrates better then anything how much this experience messes with your head. While we were at a bar we got the idea to write out additional wishes. .... each of us wrote a wish and it took me forever to wrap them up and fit them inside.


On the other side of the original wish I wrote. "I hope I make my life better." Now I didn't win my trial so that clearly didn't happen but I did make my life better.



Here are the other wishes the girls wrote up. Looking back on it....it seems like they all came true. I laugh at how big a deal this pill was to me. But it wasn't the pill that mattered, it was its meaning. It was my friends/families love and support.




That is what I want to touch on. I know that none of us could have made it through this without our family and friends. So I want everyone who reads this newsletter to know how grateful we all are for the support you have given us. I wish I could thank all of you. Someday hopefully I can. But us going to prison didn't just affect us... you suffered along with us. I guess the only thing left to say is thank you. Thank you for sticking by us and helping us through the darkest part of our lives.


FINAL WARNING


That being said... I have made some interesting relationships with inmates at every level of the prison experience. As you transition from your institution to the Halfway House, to Home confinement, to supervised release please don't forget your still in BOP custody. They can still mess with your life. As I am writing this newsletter 2 of my friends are being messed with on a level that is almost unbelievable. But yet we know better--it is not unbelievable.




Take a look at what just happened when it was determined that this inmate was being "overbearing," (and needed to be reminded of his place). This is at a Halfway house...so it doesn't stop at the camp.


Grown adults did this. (BOP contractors at the RRC residential reentry center.) Smashed everything, put it in a corner .... why.... to prove a point....for fun?






All of us experienced this in some way shape or form. Until you are done remember the power they have.





Most readers favorite section of my newsletter has been.


Craziest thing I have seen or heard in incarceration. I have so many stories that I was not able to get to.... I have been saving a few for this newsletter.




The Bagel


There are all sorts of urban legend stories in prison. Crazy scenarios where you heard about something happening to someone so you tell everyone to be careful. But you don't really believe it happened.


One of my favorite horror stories involved drug testing myths. There were all a sorts of weird unverified stories about inmates taking a vitamin, or eating something strange, and then testing positive on drug tests. The scariest version was based on inmates who had never even done drugs before. But they tested positive and were punished. So I thought this was an interesting fable...until I met someone to whom it actually happened.


This occurred in a LA halfway house. An inmate who has never done drugs before in his life had a bagel at a local bagel shop. Now he knew about the premise that POPPY seeds on bagels can cause a positive OPIATE/DRUG test SO HE MADE SURE HE ORDERED A REGULAR PLAIN BAGEL. What he didn't know is that this bakery didn't wash the bowls after it mixed the different kinds of bagel dough. So he tested positive for OPIATES on a random urine test. He had people in his corner that knew this was mistake but it wasn't his call. He was determined to prove his innocence on this and he put up one hell of a fight. He appealed the decision and assembled everyone involved. This inmate had some money so he was able to pay for the testing (show the science behind his positive result). He proved the levels were so small they had to be from a source other then opiates (I am not certain of the science part here so bare with me). He even had the baker from the bagel shop and the staff that sold him the bagel come in and testify about the ingredients being mixed. He ostensibly proved it came from a bagel, on that day, & that it was not opiates he had taken. Unfortunately it didn't matter. Despite that convincing case he was sent back (he spent a couple months in transit) and now he is currently back at his institution. He lost his credits & will likely do another 6-12 months all for eating a bagel. Interesting prison urban legend that is true.


Getting caught with a phone got him out sooner.



With each level of incarceration there is substantially more cost. So at a camp incarcerating an inmate is the cheapest, at a low it's significantly more, at a medium higher, etc etc (with a super max prison being incredibly expensive to keep an innate imprisoned). So there are situations where there is incentive to get a person home when you are at a low/medium/high.


An inmate who happened to be a strong advocate for Justice impacted individuals is out now because of a weird occurrence involving being caught with a cell phone at a camp. Getting caught with a phone can be terrifying, you can lose your credit & immediately be shipped to another institution. For the most part we only hear that part where the individual is transferred. After this inmate was caught with his cell phone at a camp he was transferred to a low prison (higher security than a camp). He had a decent amount of time left (in excess of a year). At the low his point level was so negligible they immediately sent him to home confinement. So he was home almost 12 months earlier then he would have been had he remained at the camp.

I am not in any way suggesting this as a strategy...he would be the first to admit his luck but I did think it was interesting to hear a story about a inmate doing well after he was shipped to a higher security institution. We never hear what happens to people after they are sent away. We assume its bad....well not in this case.


All you can eat Tattoo Removal



This is one of my favorite stories that I have been saving. I met this inmate at the Fresno Halfway house. HE stood out because he had a crazy hatred for cops/staff/officials and he showed it every chance he got. I mean a DEEP DEEP Hatred that you would have to have been blind not to notice. Now if you heard his stories in prison/life you would understand....you might not agree but you would see why he has such strong feelings. He made it his mission to mess with anyone who had any authority. He actually was super clever so some of the stuff he did was hilarious in preparation alone.


To add context to this story this guy was a big guy (about 6' 2....maybe 275).....he had tattoos covering his entire body. He often joked that as he had run out of room to add ink, he would have to erase everything on his body and start over.


He decided one day that he wanted to get another tattoo. He went to a place that he learned was owned & run by law enforcement. He asked how much for a particular tattoo he wanted. They laughed saying what's the point you already are fully covered so there is no room on your body. But he kept pressing so the owner in an attempt to get him to leave walked over and grabbed a business card and wrote on the back of that card that they would give him unlimited tattoos on any open skin for $250.00.


He kept that card and used it as motivation when he worked out. He would walk around the Halfway House cussing under his breath. Well all that obsessing turned into an idea. He started researching costs for tattoo removal. He was told a single tattoo removal can cost a few hundred bucks. So he shopped around. He had learned that there were several places that offered all the tattoos you want removed for a set price. His girlfriend had got it done and it was a couple grand ($2,800 to be exact). So he went there & started getting tattoos removed (the long game he played on this situation was impressive, it evidently took a long time to get tattoos removed & somewhat heal). He got some of his chest done (the removal process is not perfect it just diminishes it and it supposed to be painful). He then went back to the Tattoo Shop (that the cop owned). He took his sister as a witness (I guess think of her as back up). He gave the owner the "remember me," comment and then stated he wanted the first of many tattoos to come. The owner was so stunned he just starred, after a few seconds his face went from anger to busting out laughing. He told the inmate he had seen some wild stuff but this took the cake. " A DEAL IS A DEAL." The inmate over a period of weeks/months had some of his chest, arms, and back tattoos removed and then after things healed a bit (he wasn't one to do what was best for his body) the tattoo parlor put new ones on. What's funny is the tattoos looked pretty bad,...the laser doesn't quite get it all so it's looks like things are drawn over one another (it just looked off, maybe his skin hadn't quite healed, but he didn't care). But the best part is that the sister ended up getting a job working for the owner & although the inmate won't ever admit it.... my take was him and owner were begrudgingly odd friends. A sort of respect has arose out of the exchange.


That's it....More stories that aren't meant for a newsletter will come out in my book.




Closing


I got some updates from friends that are still at the camp.


Emas "Ahk," Bennett will be finishing his 139 month sentence and will be out in April of this year.


I asked a couple of the remaining Leavenworth crew what they want to do when they get out.


From Freeman (grasshopper)


My brother, I think you have an idea, however I am going to get a degree in hospitality management and work towards creating a restaurant group called "Hop Stops" Love brother hope everything is going good


From Kennedy (the President)


My experience is manufacturing - supply chain and sales expertise is my go-to, but prior to my incarceration I found a position as a recruiter or head hunter.  Matching making employees and companies together is something I'm leaning towards because I felt it very rewarding.  


From Andy (told a hilarious story about taking food out of the chow hall at Leavenworth I wanted to share)


"For reasons only known to them, one of the RDAP DTSs and the PhD psychologist who is the program coordinator stood outside the lunch hall and stopped people from taking anything out yesterday. they said something like "we didn't make this up; it's a rule that's right there on the door."


They had to repeat their line over and over as guys exited, and then the officer standing with them joked "well, you're assuming they can read the signs." "HAHAHA," laughed the corrections officer, the drug treatment specialist, and doctorate-level psychologist right in front of various inmates, some of whom, no doubt, are indeed illiterate due to the dysfunctional homes where they grew up. not to mention the fact that the GED program here has not been functioning for over one year.


Well, one of the guys from my unit was listening to this, and he has a short fuse and little or no filter. He actually walked over to these staff folks who were standing in front of the main bulletin board in the hallway, and said, "you know, there are lots of signs posted around here. here's one: it says I'm entitled to see a counselor to help with my needs here in the prison camp, and that he is supposed to be here four days per week. but he has literally not set foot in the building since June, and since he's the union rep, no one has been able to coerce him to show up here. oh, and here's another saying that my case manager's hours are such and such. but i just heard one case manager tell a guy to "get the fuck out" of his office, and my manager tells me he will not take the 4-5 minutes it would take to write one email to my halfway house to see if they have room for me when i am supposed to be released because he's already got me a date. but that date keeps me here more than 2 months longer than I'm supposed to be here. so i guess i CAN read these signs, but this place isn't enforcing any of the signs that are about my rights or help I'm lawfully entitled to. but thank god we're stopping people from taking some chicken or bread out of here to put in their lockers full of other food they bought from commissary."


LOVE IT.



I also wanted to give some updates from the people that are out. I wanted to show people there are huge wins outside of Halfway Houses, Home confinement, and supervised release.




Here is Mike Hinton who after 15 years in prison passed his drivers test and will be going to work in his truck.








Doc Randy (Halley) got approved to leave the state and was able to visit his grandchildren in Alaska. All this after a total disaster getting his FSA credits. Things have been better on supervised release for him.











"Good morning from Skagway, Alaska We’ve been here since the Wednesday before Christmas and leave on the ferry Tuesday, headed to Juneau. (Pictures)"







Cortez wins the award as the unluckiest inmate. He just purchased a brand new Cadillac this past week and while driving he was plowed into by a guy driving like a maniac. The guy fled the scene and was captured shortly thereafter. However his new car was totaled. Luckily insurance is picking up the tab....But can you imagine having that conversation with police while you are wearing an ankle monitor. Evidently they were super cool about it.


So that is it. I have wrote a newsletter every week since I began my incarceration. It seems like forever ago I made the promise I would detail my adventure. I wanted to document everything I went through (the good and bad). What an experience it turned out to be. This does not mean I am going to stop writing an occasional newsletter/update. I will be updating everyone on the terms of my supervised release and anything worthy of reporting going forward (but doing it every week is overkill). But I kept my promise. I still want to make sure people have a blueprint for what they are going to be going through.


But now I am done. My ankle monitor is off and I am on supervised release. To me this is the official start of being able to put all this prison stuff behind me.













I'm not sure what I expected (finishing up Home Confinement)....If I am being honest I am actually pretty nervous. Its hard to describe....I just feel off.


Hopefully I will find a way to set things right in my life. I definitely need to make up a lot of ground. I need to make up for the disaster I created. No doubt it will be hard but I will figure it out. I feel like for the first time in years I am closer to being the "CARPER" my friends remember. But that is for them to decide.


Thanks to everyone who followed and rooted for me. It means more to me then you can imagine. I can promise one thing.... I will be there for you if you ever need me.


Time to move on....as the great Andy Dufresne said its time

"to get busy Living." That's what I will go do.


I love you all.










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12 ความคิดเห็น


Guest
17 ก.พ.

I am truly looking forward to your book, and hoping each and every prison, camp, and halfway house has it available. I’m sure it will be a ‘best-seller’ on Amazon as well!

Take care of yourself and God bless you and your family.

Randy

PS I love rereading your posts.

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Guest
16 ม.ค.

Yo have had an unbelievable journey. Best of luck.

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Guest
15 ม.ค.

The commitment you have made to do this every week is remarkable. Following along has been a joy. I have feeling you will find success in whatever you. Love the letter to the Bop. Brilliant.

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Guest
15 ม.ค.

did you know that your last few newsletters are on Substack? Thats where I came across these. You should publish all of them there. They are getting a good response.

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irishcoops
15 ม.ค.
ตอบกลับไปที่

Actually I’m pretty sure I’m the one who did that. I wasn’t sure I did it right. But yes I put some of them up on some sites.

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Guest
15 ม.ค.

I couldn't put down your newsletters. I read every single one like I was binge watching Netflix's. Thanks for the help and guidance you provided. Your blend of humor & sarcasm reminded me of the princess bride in prison. Inconceivable! Best of luck moving forward.

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