Monthly Archives: March 2017

Mar 21

SHU Derangement

Prison Life

Friday, September 16th, 2011 |

I’m totally losing it!  Call it – SHU Derangement.  I’ve been sending cop-outs to my case manager to get an answer on when I will be transferred.  Silence … Nothing … Until today. He visited me this afternoon and we had a conversation through the closed cell door.  Very frustrating.  Essentially, the case manager said that there was nothing he could do.  He had no answers for me and did not know how long I would be in the SHU.  He said that he would “try” to get approval for another call to Christine.  I pressed him but it did no good.

He was very business-like in his demeanor, but I lost my patience.  I started yelling at him and I could care less that I was.  What was he going to do – throw me in the SHU!  It must have been very strange for him.  My hair and beard have gotten long.  I look like shit.  Here was this crazed guy yelling at him.  It was probably very stupid on my part.  I still need him to work my case to get me to the camp.

I am about as far down as I can get.  Need to make a change in my attitude – and fast!


Mar 20

CO Nearly Breaks My Arm

Prison Life

Thursday, September 15th, 2011 |

It was a very nice sunny day so I decided to go outside for rec today.  I just didn’t think that today was the day that a CO would nearly break my arm.  The CO’s walk by in the morning and ask each inmate if they want to go outside.  Most inmates agree just to get out of the cold dank cell.  I rarely go out myself.  Today was different.  I needed a break from my cell.

SHU Procedure for Rec

The CO’s take a group of inmates outside for 20 or 30 minutes at a time.  I don’t think there is any rhyme or reason for who goes out when, but I could be wrong.

This is a good representation of what the SHU cell doors look like. But, we had a small window in the door and this picture is actually of a former prison of the East German state police stasi during communist era. Copyright: mathess / 123RF Stock Photo

The CO will come to the cell door and alert the inmate that it is time for their rec.  He will open the food tray pass-through door which doubles as a door that is used to handcuff the inmate.  The inmate will approach the door and turn his back to the door.  Then, the inmate will put his arms together and to his back and back-up to the trap door.  The CO will handcuff the inmate through that door and then open the whole cell door.  Next, the CO will put shackles on the inmate’s ankles.  The inmate will be escorted down the hall to a door leading to the outside rec area.

SHU Rec Activity

The whole area is fenced in every possible way, including above.  There are a series of cages about the size of racquetball courts where different groups of SHU inmates are given their rec.  There is nothing in these cages so the inmates can only walk around, or do body-weight exercises such as push-ups or sit-ups.

Most of the inmates socialize by talking to other inmates in the same cage, or in the surrounding cages.  I generally just walk around in circles.  In addition, I always get a cage by myself since I am under protective custody.  I noticed that it is rare that other inmates have a cage to themselves.

By the way – It is interesting overhearing some of the conversations during rec.  I once heard two inmates discussing how one of them had taken a pencil and stabbed another inmate.  There is also a lot of trash talking and gossip but this conversation was over the top.

CO’s Take Me Out

Two CO’s escorted me to the outside today.  I was handcuffed and shackled in the normal fashion.  I knew one of the CO’s from visitation.  He works the SHU when he is not working visitation.  This also happens to be the CO who warned me about showing my emotions in the visitation room when Christine visited the last time.  I’ve seen the other CO before and he always has a nasty attitude.  Other CO’s are not friendly, but this dude is out and out a nut-job, if I ever saw one.

As soon as we get outside, and I am sure out from the view of the security camera, the nasty CO wrenches up my handcuffed arms behind my back – totally unprovoked.  The natural reaction is to lower your legs by bending your knees and folding forward at the waist to resist the CO’s pull up, which I do.  He starts yelling at me not to resist, but by this time I am in a lot of pain and start yelling back to him to stop.  He doesn’t and my arms go higher behind me and I fall to my knees.  I look around at the other CO, as if to say “help me”.  He just stares at me with a blank face.  He is not going to help.  My arms are stretched about as much as they can go, and the CO held them there.

The CO knew exactly what he was doing and the pain he was inflicting.  After about a minute, he simply let go.  The two CO’s grabbed each of my arms and got me back on my feet.  They escorted me to a cage where I was placed by myself.  I looked around and it was obvious that no one could have seen what just transpired.

Mar 20

No Communication from the SHU

Family Impact

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 |

We can’t communicate while Kevin is in the SHU, and he can no longer call us.  This is very frustrating since I will not be able to visit him for at least the next three weeks.  I have found that the easiest way to keep him updated is with snail mail! There is a wonderful system called Send Out Cards.  Someone can send real cards from an online portal for very little money.

I packed all of Kevin’s clothes…couldn’t be brutal. Every time I thought about giving something away, I would see Kevin wearing it. Too many memories. I got space bags at Costco and vacuum sealed all his clothes in the bags. They have a chance of keeping without mildewing due to lack of oxygen!

As I get closer on finalizing the house sale, I am looking for a place to live.  This is so hard without Kevin, especially since I can’t talk to him about the possibilities.  The reality is that I am on my own.  The families truly have it bad.

Mar 16

Problems in the SHU

Prison Life

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011 |

It has been some very troubling two weeks with all my problems in the SHU.  State of depression is the best way to summarize my frame of mind.  So, nobody has any idea how much Chris’ visit meant to me.  I miss her so much and regret that I can’t help her with the house sale and move. She could arise to any occasion. I am very proud about how she has been able to pick up the pieces.  Peacefully, I continue to pray for God’s blessing; for him to make sense of my loneliness. and I ask for peace, strength, wisdom and redemption. But most of all I thank God that I have Chris in my life. She is loyal, kind, loving and full of generous spirit. I will love her always.

Boredom in the SHU

Yesterday was such a let down from the weekend. I literally read the entire day. Mail call was a real delight because I got two packages intact and a bunch of mail.  I read until I couldn’t see at all. In the quiet evening of the cell, all my feelings about separation, and doubt about how long my transfer will take, permeated all my thoughts. I wanted to cry. I’m doing a lot of religious reading during the day so I can suppress these feelings and look for help in Christ!  This solitary is driving me crazy.

My “rec” today was in a cage about the size of a racquetball court with chain link fencing on all sides. I walked in circles for about 15 minutes. The sun was too intense so I asked to come in early.  Also, I did get in 25 crunches and 25 pushups in my cell. This was my entire physical activity for the day.

I’m still eating a fraction of my food. They served the same entre as yesterday for lunch and dinner – chicken and rice. I ate the salad.  I have lost more weight but I do not know how much.

Noise in the SHU

I don’t think there is any way to get used to the noise in the SHU. There seems to be a lot of guys here from Washington, DC right now.  I think that they are gangbangers that all got in trouble at the same time.  Some guys are carrying on conversations with each other by yelling through the cell doors and air vents. Other guys will just yell in frustration with being locked up in the hole. Some of the guys just bang and bang on the cell doors.  The CO’s won’t do anything about the noise.  They just ignore it.  I tried asking them to make these guys shut up, and the CO’s just stare at me like I am crazy for asking.

CO’s Don’t Care

In fact, the CO’s think nothing about yelling themselves down the hallway during the day.  Also, it is common for them to have loud conversations in the hallway at night when I’m trying to sleep.  Even when I try to get their attention for some reason, they just ignore me.

Another case in point – They picked up laundry when I was in visitation with Chris and didn’t tell me upon return. I asked about laundry on Monday and was told that I had to wait to Thursday for them to pick it up next. The CO wouldn’t give me a clean change of clothes. This is a real problem because I have the same three changes of underwear, linens, socks, etc. for 10 days!

All the CO’s know why I am in the SHU but I can’t catch a break. They treat me as if I’m in here for disciplinary reasons.  Furthermore, I haven’t heard anything about my missing property.  Obviously, no one has told me when I’m getting transferred.

Shutting Down the Compound to Move Me

I didn’t realize it until Sunday but they shut down the entire compound when they walk me to the visitation center in handcuffs. They don’t want my co-defendant to see me in handcuffs. The concern is that an inmate will bum-rush me to hurt me.  I would have no way to defend myself.  This means that there are 1400 inmates that are confined to their units so I can walk to visitation. On a few occasions, they walked me around the back of the building and through medical to keep from shutting down the compound.




Mar 15

Four Days of SHU Visitation

Criminal Justice , Family Impact , Prison Life

Saturday, September 10th, 2011 |

We have been blessed that we could spend 5 hrs./day together these last four days to talk, hold hands and “drink each other in”.   It was hour after hour of brainstorming/strategizing about the house being under contract and all the negotiations with the bank. We also got a chance to talk about the broken prison system and Kevin’s experiences in the SHU.

There is no doubt, since we were relegated to a small area of the visitation center on very hard plastic chairs, that the bottom gets numb!  The other difficulty at visitation is the lack of decent food in the vending area.  And, the vending machines don’t work half the time and eat up your money!  But how can one complain when you see all the other atrocities going on with what Kevin must endure?

Kevin Gets His Personal Belongings

I tried in vain to leave a message for Kevin’s counselor, unit manager and case manager to find out why Kevin didn’t have access to his personal belongings.  I made a call to the Butner general number.  The good news was that I was lucky enough to talk to a nice guard.  He said he would make a call to the head of the SHU.  I was so grateful when Kevin came into visitation flashing his wedding band! It meant he finally got some personal items after eight days. But, they wouldn’t let him have a razor (he might slit his wrists), and many of his books and photos weren’t there. Frustratingly, he forgot to pull his stamps out so he couldn’t mail the letters he had written to everyone.

Kevin thought I had talked to the head of the SHU, but I told him it was a just guard who answered the phone. Normally, if they get a call like that from the outside, they put you at the back of the pile and you must wait longer! We got lucky, if you can call it that!

Broken Prison System

There is no doubt that this system is made for people with loose screws, not for the likes of Kevin. Sadly, there are far more men like Kevin in the system than we first realized. What we discussed is how to revise the system. Truly, it would be a miracle if anything this broken could be revised. I think it would be like undertaking the revision of the IRS code, if not worse! The overcrowding is one thing that must be addressed for several reasons. Our government doesn’t have the financial ability to build more prisons.

Our solution was that it should stop sending in first-time white-collar offenders (and perhaps all non-violent first-time offenders) to prison.  Let them have home confinement with restitution. The fact that felons can’t find work is punishment enough, given the impact on the family and their self-esteem. In addition, there is a proposal that time off for good behavior should go from 52 days/year served to 120 days/year served. Those two things would probably send 25% of the inmates back on the streets.

While that might be a scary thought, what is scarier is that there are so many old men (80+ years) that rely on their walkers and wheelchairs in prison. Can you tell me how they could be dangerous to society if they are released? They don’t even know what life on the outside is like. For this, the taxpayers are paying $50+k/year to support those that are living in this broken system!

There’s so much money involved to support the criminal industrial complex – from law enforcement to the prosecutors’ offices to the defense attorneys to the prison employees and all the industries that support the prisons – that it seems very unlikely that true change can ever occur.  There isn’t enough time for me to tell all the stories about how broken this system is!

Sad That I Won’t be Able To Visit For A Month

Even though we were satiated after our four days of visitation, we knew the next 4-8 weeks were going to be bad.  I can’t come to visit until after I sell the house, pack, move and unpack, all in the next 25 days.  There just isn’t enough time for me to take-off four days for another trip to Butner. In addition, it is costing $300 in gas for every trip, so $600 for this past month! And, now I have the expense of a move!

I can’t begin to think of what Kevin is going to endure.  We just don’t know when he will finally be moved out of the SHU.

Mar 14

1st SHU Visitation

Family Impact , Prison Life

Thursday, September 8th, 2011 |

I had a late evening last night after having a 3.5 hour showing of our house.  I only got the buyer’s offer at 11:30 pm and countered just after midnight. By the time, I had wrapped up all the business for the day, it was 2:30 am.  I got up at 4:30 am to get ready for the drive to Butner. I was dragging, but excited to see Kevin!

Visitation Check-In

The drive up was hard and I stopped numerous times to shake off my sleepiness. I stopped by the condo on my way up to take a nap. I slept through the alarm and woke up 30 minutes later than I needed to. That almost cost us the visitation.  If a visitor doesn’t check in by 3:15 pm, they wait over an hour because the prison does count at 4 pm.  They won’t allow anyone in during count and for 45 minutes thereafter! Luckily, I made it! When I got to the visitation center, there were two men in orange jumpsuits (uniform for the SHU) as well as other visitors and inmates I had seen previously.

You know the drill: I went immediately to the vending machines while waiting for Kevin, but there was NOTHING but a few drinks and candy. Just like the rest of the system, this vending machine operation couldn’t even run a business properly in the prison system. To make matters worse, the vending machine ate up my money without dispensing any bottled water! When I called the vendor the following day, it was just like the BOP: leave a message and we’ll get back to you.

Visit with Kevin

When Kevin walked in, he was so relieved to see me he almost cried and started running to me. However, SHU inmates have a restricted area they must stay in. I went to him and we hugged and hugged. He was shaking with relief. My poor sweetheart, my heart was bleeding for him. Since we hadn’t had any contact for the last week, he had hoped I would come but didn’t know for sure.

When he went past the guard desk, a guard called him over to tell him that he should curb his emotions.  Otherwise, some inmates might view him as weak and take advantage of him later. We understand it was good advice.

When I really looked at him after hugging, I was so shocked! As good as he had looked the last time; he looked beyond bad this time. He had lost more weight and hadn’t shaved in over a week!

In quickly sharing, he told me that his personal property still had not been delivered to him. Naturally, he is frustrated since others in the SHU had their things.  When I called the SHU the following day, the CO said they were processing him in the order they came in …. SLOW isn’t even the word, more like TOTALLY inefficient!

Kevin pointed out a very famous son and father who had been convicted of using their company’s funds to pay for personal expenses, allegedly. The father is 86 and the son is Kevin’s age. They have been in for four years already. The two men have already spent $30+M on legal fees!  After count, Kevin went to talk to the father and son. He was immediately told by the guards he couldn’t talk to them and told to go back to his corner … just like putting kids in time out!

SHU Living Conditions

He had finally gotten a jumpsuit for his size.  The initial jumpsuit was an extra-large and he had to roll up the hem so he wouldn’t trip. I knew he would be in orange, so I had worn my orange sweater set in support.

He had gotten the snail mail from friends and family who had sent him books, articles and cards.  Kevin had already finished almost all the books. There was nothing to do in his cell but read and write. He had written me and others several letters of thanks for their mail, but was unable to mail them since his stamps were in his locker.

Kevin was getting bruises because the mattress was only 1.5” thick on a steel platform bed. There is a small desk and steel stool, and a very small shower without a shower curtain. He asked for a curtain, and received one—a miracle, since there are only two in the SHU! Kevin told me he wasn’t going to give the women guards the pleasure of seeing him naked.

Kevin’s life as he knew it in Low had totally changed again. He said that the food was disgusting but he was getting salad every day.  They feed him two trays full of food, but he can’t eat it because it is so bad. He thinks he is the only inmate giving back a tray with food.

When asked if he wanted recreation time, he said yes. They handcuffed him to walk 20 yards outside.  Then when he saw they were going to lead him to a cage about the size of what a tiger would be put into, he said he would forfeit his rec time.  We discussed how vital it was for him to exercise, so not to atrophy.  I know it is hard to exercise on a concrete floor. I told him he should go to the cage, if only to sit and get fresh air.  Otherwise, he will suffer from depression and lack of vitamin D, especially with the weather about to change.

Wrapping Up SHU Visitation

I finally told him about all the worry I had not getting through to his counselor. She wasn’t returning calls so I had to go over her head. He knew I had called the unit manager, because the unit manager casually mentioned it to Kevin.

When I told Kevin that the house was under contract, his face lit up. He was so relieved, knowing all I was doing, and not sure I could get it all done. Then we strategized on how to deal with the bank to get this all done in time for a mid/end of October closing!

The four hours went by much too quickly, but we were both at peace now that we had seen each other and we knew we were going to survive this as well. Talk about the patience of Job! We are living it and then some!

Mar 14

Talked to Unit Manager

Family Impact

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 |

I tried calling Butner several times again today and finally got through. Rather than leaving another useless message to his counselor, Ms. Butler, that would go unanswered.  I went over her head to Kevin’s unit manager.  I almost dropped the phone when he answered! The unit manager was less than cordial, especially when I wanted to find out if Kevin had been charged with anything.  He told me he couldn’t talk about it for legal reasons.

The guy finally agreed to talk to me about whether I could visit Kevin this weekend. It was like pulling teeth to get him to look up Kevin’s file.  I still don’t understand the visitation point system. I wanted to make sure I could visit before traveling from Atlanta to Butner.  If I got turned away on Thursday, I would have someone to hold accountable. He verified that Kevin had gotten his CPAP and his meds, but that was all. How unfulfilling, but at least I was going to be able to see Kevin!

Trying to Sell Our House

We have been fighting foreclosure on our house and we had come to an agreement with the lender on a settlement.  Now, all I had to do was sell the house … fast.  I had priced the house aggressively to attract an immediate offer. A buyer said they would offer $50k less than asking.  I told them not to even bother. I was firm and I had another buyer appointment for the following day, even though it was a travel day to see Kevin. Later that evening, the first buyer submitted a less than full price offer.   I countered hoping that we would get into a bidding war with the next buyer. However, they signed my counter! Yippee! One down and a thousand more steps to go to get this sold! Wait until I can tell Kevin about this; he is going to be so relieved!

Sometimes I wonder if life ever slows down? I know it does when death comes, but in the meantime, it really can be a rat race! And we don’t have children to complicate it more!

Mar 13

Day 5 in the Hell Hole

Prison Life

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011 |

I’m into my 5th day in this SHU hell hole.  I have no idea when I am getting out. I finished my Patton book last night. My Thursday mail was delivered on Friday and I still haven’t received Friday’s mail yet. I’m going stir crazy which is a factor of sitting in a small cell, and the uncertainty of when my situation will get resolved. In addition, I still don’t have my property yet.  I have no effective way to demand it.

I sent a Cop Out to my case manager this morning asking that I be sent to FMC today if there was no bed for me at the Camp.  There is no guarantee he will get it today.  There is nothing I can do to force the issue. I am so very frustrated that I cannot talk to Chris or send my letters to her since I don’t have access to my stamps yet. There is no one here that cares for the welfare of the inmates, cruel, but true!

I have developed some bone bruises from sleeping on my bed so lying down is very painful. I put in a Cop Out to see a nurse but that hasn’t been answered yet either. I’ll try to get an egg crate mattress to put over the worthless mattress that I have now.

I really feel for Christine though. I know that she is going nuts not hearing from me.

As much as I am suffering right now, I am not alone. There are about 1400 inmates in Low that have families and friends that they long for. Of all the guys I have met, I have the shortest sentence. Given the circumstances, I feel blessed that my time is as short as it is.

Mar 13

Labor Day Weekend Without Kevin

Family Impact

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011 |

It’s been a brutal weekend, not knowing what is going on with my poor sweetheart! Fear of the unknown is the worst! Truly it is the devil working his craft, creating more fear. So, the seesaw of life begins, between fear and hope… hoping that Kevin is at peace and that nothing can touch him and his equilibrium.

I talked to Kevin’s attorney on the Friday of Labor Day weekend.  It became clear that the attorney had no control of the situation. The attorney couldn’t get to anyone in authority at Butner to get Kevin out of the SHU. I tried to call the SHU but I gave up after 36 hours. I finally had to leave a message for his counselor on Saturday mid-day knowing I wouldn’t get a call back until Tuesday, at best!

The attorney told me that it took the AUSA and the attorney for the other co-defendant over 72 hours to get a separation order to the BOP on an emergency basis! That’s the government for you…. too many people to do a few people’s work, so they can drag it out and make more money. Sick of Government! This is far worse than the Army ever was!

Mar 11

More Impressions of the SHU

Prison Life

Sunday, September 4th, 2011 |

I have already written a bit about the SHU cell but here is some more. They locked up more guys in here over the weekend so there is more activity.  The SHU is very loud, more on that in a minute.

The cell doors are positioned between the two cell doors opposite of the hall. I cannot see beyond these two doors down the hallway. One of those cells is occupied by a guy that looks like a crazed lunatic. I can only tell that he is stocky with no neck and has prison-issued eyeglasses. He stares at me when I go to the window. The other cell is empty. There are guys on either side of me.

There is no floor or wall covering of any kind, just all concrete. So, it is very loud when anyone is talking (mostly unintelligible) or moving down the hall. The COs peer into the cells about once an hour on their rounds.  They will come around to deliver food trays, toiletries supply and linens. The toilets are extremely loud. Imagine a commercial tank-less toilet and multiply its sound by three or four-fold. In addition, the toilets are not effective in flushing so many guys must flush multiple times in a row.

I’m sure I am the only “political prisoner”. The other guys probably deserve to be here based on the conversations I overhear. I have only left my cell twice since I was locked up on Thursday afternoon. Once to meet with the case manager regarding my transfer and another time to see the nurse. I had a small infection and I was given antibiotics.

The CO will not open the door unless the inmate is handcuffed. I was so proud of the fact that I have never been handcuffed, arrested and thrown into a jail cell prior to this point. No more though. I am being treated as if I am one of the really bad guys, including just one phone call every 30 days.  I was given useless toiletries and no access to my personal property.