If you have to go to prison, choose the federal system over any state prison. And if you don’t have to go, don’t, because the person who walks out the door will not be the same one who started the sentence.
Prison may or may not represent mans inhumanity to man, and that depends far more on who we choose to lock up than on any of the conditions that we incarcerate in. Even using a true "Country Club" setting to deprive a person of freedom whom we really ought to be able to see the wisdom of simply leaving alone is obviously far more of an injustice than imprisoning real serial killers in the most hellish conditions imaginable
So, anyway, one thing I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that I never spent a single day locked up during the marijuana merchant phase of my life that was not far worse than the worst day of the life that people in society freely choose for themselves to live in. And during the War on Drugs it’s inarguable that we have sent many millions of our sons, daughters, other family members, friends, neighbors, and, yes, even ourselves into any number of months or years of suffering that cannot possibly now be justified (and, in fact, was not justifiable when it happened).
On to a small story then!
Fred and I served honorably together for a number of months at FCI Texarkana in the mid eighties. When we both next met at FCI Phoenix (Black Canyon, for the locals) in 1991 there was no bond, but there was at least the kind of mutual favorable recognition that passes for one.
We were both still down since Texarkana but Fred was heading for the street, and landed at Phoenix on the way out because he had finally climbed the list for drug treatment program eligibility. I, on the other hand, had just humiliated a Warden at a lower level place, and was in the process of being punished. Fortunately Phoenix Warden White didn’t want the liability that would have come with putting me into full population in a Level 5, so he sent me over to the trailers that were being used for the drug unit.
Anyway, I ignored everybody over there but Fred, and he was on pretty much the same program. And then came an evening when I saw Fred sitting in front of his open locker giving away his weight belt, sweats, commissary, top of the line shoes (for that time and place), etc. to a small group of large looking young guys. He was thirty days short by then, but that was going to be a bad picture under any circumstances.
Almost no one I ever met inside fell with as many of their resources safely in place as Fred did. Which, of course, explained why his time was a tiny bit easier, and why his personal property far nicer. And why he had that big, fat, target on his back. But, also, the package he was clearly said to anyone paying attention, that he had something going on. And I dutifully asked him the next morning at lights on what I could do, and he just smiled, and said that the fun hadn’t even started.
Yeah, Fred was smart, and he was rich, and he built a proper foundation at all times. And he went out on the yard and had the right number of conversations with the right number of the right people who owed him, and the scene back on the unit that night was like someone had played the tape in reverse. All the stuff came back, brought back by all the bangers, smiling obsequiously, and walking away pissed, because as much as they wanted the goodies, everyone of the powers that be in that society had spoken unequivocally during the course of that day, and everyone involved knew that there was nothing in that inmate locker that was worth dieing for.
So, the next night I awoke to Fred screaming from the next bunk over when he was
startled awake by being whacked on the ass by a fox tail cleaning broom (made by prison industries, by the way), hit by a chickenshit motherfucker who didn’t want to risk picking up a new case, but who still wanted Fred removed from population until his walking papers could be processed.
Fred was sent to isolation before being sent home, and nothing else changed for any of the rest of us.
The real War On Drugs, yeah, you wouldn’t even want to go there!