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COOPS Weekly - Life from Kansas #52

There were a couple things I was curious to see how I felt about when I got to the halfway house. One was being able to use a cell phone again. I realized that in camp I liked not having a cell phone. Sure, I like the convenience of having a computer at my fingertips but the way it disconnects people, I don’t like. As many phones are in prison, they still are used sparingly so they play less of a role in dominating everyday life. Everyone here at the halfway house are on their phones constantly. They just sit around buried in their phones (I say this knowing full well I’m doing the same thing right now). With the compound being so small (and we are stuck here) it’s super boring. Maybe it’s supposed to be that way. Who knows? But I still will have a different relationship with my phone when I’m out. We have group meetings for RDAP every week…it’s called process group. It’s hilarious…nobody pays any attention. Process groups at Leavenworth are generally well liked by Inmates (you talk about problems, what’s going on). They can get very spirited but overall people were on their best behavior. Here while the therapist is talking people are on their phones. What??? That’s bold. We are still in prison. Our counselor started kicking people out and it has made zero impact … everyone brought their phones this week again. It’s crazy how much people rely on their phones for not only information…. But, I assume, to also avoid the uncomfortable situations life presents (don’t want to talk … just act like you’re on your phone). The second thing I was curious about was would there be ways I could help people here (after all, the closer we get to the door, and farther away from the BOP, we start interacting with people who do their jobs). After a couple weeks and very limited conversations with inmates here I said to myself looks like I will just focus solely on my myself. Bummer, I like helping people, I like to feel useful. Also simply staying busy, helps pass the time. I spoke too soon. It started with an ask to help someone with an online resume. Then word spread and I am back helping everyone with everything from BPs (BOP action forms) to résumé’s/interviews. Fantastic. Best case scenario for me to stay busy. Craziest thing I have seen/heard at the halfway house.

So, we have this barber that comes on Thursdays. I thought this was weird since we get passes to go out. I asked some other inmates “how come he comes here?” Turned out to be an interesting story. Evidently the shop he works at…. the owner was letting other people skip in front of the inmates. This barber stuck up for the inmates and called that BS. The owner was pissed and cut his shifts. So, in a show of solidarity nobody from this halfway house gets their hair cut there anymore and the barber comes here once a week to cut hair. He’s booked every week. We have a full time cook here and he seems to be pretty good (now maybe my bar is super low). I was surprised to see how much grief the cook gets from some of the inmates (petty complaints). He made homemade cinnamon rolls on Sunday and put the frosting on the side…he got a ton of shit for not putting it on the roll. He was trying to be nice (wasn’t being lazy). So, every day after cooking he asks if anyone wants to help clean up for seconds. After watching for a week and nobody saying “yes,” … I offered (after all I am doing absolutely nothing). So, I helped clean up and do dishes…. He offered seconds…. I said No…. but he insisted on wanting to figure out something for helping…so he asked what I liked to eat. To which I have a long list of post Leavenworth prison food I want to have. So, he let me pick out the next week worth of meals. Here’s the Carper menu (for those that know me this will not surprise you)

Monday - chicken strips Tuesday - turkey bacon sandwich (plain/ only Mayo) We’d - cheeseburgers Thurs - chicken fajitas Friday - Hot dogs. Sat - French toast sticks & eggs. Yes, I’m supremely boring, but this may be the first week I eat normal food in 11 months (I sometimes went 3/6 days without eating at Leavenworth’s kitchen…. the only day I consistently ate was Tuesdays…chicken Pattie’s). Lots of us ate off commissary the majority of time and avoided kitchen food. That was nice of the cook. A little kindness goes a long way. I know I bang on most of the BOP staff and for the most part the staff is a whole level of bad that has no equal. But when I come across someone good/decent they deserve credit. My crime: I know lots of people don’t know my entire legal situation…just bits and pieces. It’s a very complicated and long story. I was initially charged with trafficking Methamphetamine. But what I pled guilty to was….” lying to a federal officer (the border agent).” The lying part (not my proudest moment) …. I am 100% guilty of. I admitted that from day one (and even in trial). The knowingly trafficking meth part…No…that I didn’t do. It’s always interesting to hear what people think about with regard to me going to jail. Sometimes it’s hard to hear.

I had a candid conversation was someone who questioned whether I knew about drugs in the car. If I’m being honest this person pretty much intimated, they felt there is no way I couldn’t have known (they said it nicely but that’s what they meant). As much as I don’t like this person questioning this …I get it. I should have known…I was an idiot. However, my answer WILL ALWAYS BE….NO…I didn’t know. Believe me or not. It’s the truth.

Let me be clear about my relationship with drugs because like most things I have some rules I do not break from no matter what. Whatever involvement I had with them, in my mind, I was able to justify because the harm I caused was only to myself. I could never have a role in trafficking drugs because I could would NEVER participate in something that hurt others (if you truly know me you know this to be true). If I bought drugs for me (or my friends at their request) I did so because everyone involved, knew what they were doing. This is not a perfect theory since my actions did affect others (something I didn’t come to realize until going to jail), but at the time, my belief was my drug use was only hurting me (that was something I could live with).

But here’s the kicker and what I feel is most important….it doesn’t matter what happened. I should have never been in Mexico. I should have never been in that situation. It’s 100% on me. I have no excuse. I wasn’t going to Mexico for sightseeing. Not a day goes by where I don’t shake my head and think “how could I have been so stupid?” But if I’m asked honestly…I will answer honestly. And if you think I would have willingly brought in illegal drugs as part of a grand master plan to be a drug international kingpin…which was the governments theory (without any evidence of that) … then again, you don’t truly know me.

But in the end…. Does it really matter? Here is the way I look at it. I paid the ultimate price regardless of whatever I/you believe. If I was innocent, of my original charge, then there is some injustice to me being incarcerated. If I was guilty well then, I paid the price society had decided for me. But either way…I have the responsibility spectrum covered. According to society’s rules (which I am not a fan of) if you did the time, you have paid the price and we move on. Regardless of how it went down I have accepted responsibility and faced punishment. I spent 11 months in jail…I’m a felon. Nothing will change that. I would argue that the humiliation and damage I have done to my family, friends and myself is a pretty spectacular punishment. I mean if you’re picking a way to hurt Scott Carper drop kicking my ego and putting the people, I care about through the ringer is the holy grail of punishment.

That being said I want to be crystal clear on a couple things (because I do think it’s important to take responsibility for one’s actions). One, I was a mess, going to prison saved my life. Two, my actions warranted a punishment (I will not debate HERE whether prison was the right punishment). But if I didn’t get in trouble here what might have happened? Something worse I’m certain. I needed something to shake me out of the incredibly mediocre life I was leading (I’m better than that). So as terrible as this whole experience has been I am also beyond grateful. I look at this as a second chance and I will not let this opportunity go to waste

Weekly newsletter.week 52
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