What Is It Like To Get Life in Prison?

By: Leonard Andre Scovens, Jr., Contributing Writer I spent the first few years of my natural life sentence muttering incoherently to myself and chewing my fingernails to bleeding nubs while I contemplated the most painless methods of suicide for American prisoners. How’s a 23-year old kid supposed to process having to spend the rest of his life in a cage? [...]

Is Prison The Right Place for Zach?

Getting a visit can almost be harder than not ever setting any at all. The pain of seeing them walk away, for what can seem like forever, or the feeling of being nothing more than a burden or a pity, can be more painful than the high that seeing the person brings.

Former Cop, Now Inmate, Says Mentally Ill In Prison Are Abused

By: Edwin Garcia, Contributing Writer It is no secret that the state has used the Prison system as a dumping ground for the mentally ill. Common sense would lead an observer to conclude that an environment as degenerative as prison is not the best location to place a person who is suffering from mental illness. Yet the people who run our [...]

Institutionalized Racism in Prison

By: Arthur Longworth, Contributing Writer In prison, it's not necessary for you to be a racist in order for you to act like one, to live within the confines of a strict racial divide, to discriminate. These are things you have to do in here, because the race barriers are institutionalized, embedded so deeply into the way the prison is managed, [...]

I Count Four Social Classes in Prison

By: Paul Gardner, Contributing Writer Inmates, just like people in free-society, are divided into social classes. After years of incarceration in Arizona, I’ve noticed four distinct social classes of prisoners: The Indigent-but-Content The Beggars The Hustlers The Supported Two things work in unison to determine which social class a prisoner belongs to: his access to money from the outside and [...]

Bonding In A Native American Sweat Lodge — in Prison!?

By: Mustafa Zulu, Contributing Writer Mustafa, the author (L) and "Looking Back" (R) in front of a prison backdrop. "Looking Back" is the name of my Native American comrade I met when I first arrived to North Dakota state penitentiary a few months ago. He's about 5'8, bronze complexion, with a traditional Indian ponytail-braid hanging down to his [...]

Party-Boy Has His Best Birthday on Death Row

By: Charles Manou, Contributing Writer I turned forty recently. (Please hold the applause.) Never in a billion years would I have ever envisioned that I would hit the big 4-0 on death row. Courtesy of Charles Mamou When I was free, I was known for having grandiose and extravagant parties to celebrate my birthday. Everything was free, i.e. food [...]

I Was Born With Heroin, Meth, LSD and Alcohol In My System

By: Valerie Baker, Contributing Writer If you’re standing up, you might want to take a seat! Because I truly believe my story has the potential to blow your mind!  (J/K LOL.) At least I think it’s that interesting. Anyway, especially if you’re the “average joe” type of person. Both of my parents were heroin addicted “hippies.” On April 11, 1983 [...]

My Rehabilitation: The Pen Beats The Sword

As we know, I am currently in prison, which I have learned does one of two significant things to its occupants: brings the best out of them, or the worst...

The Convict Code of Conduct — From a True Convict

By DANIEL H. HARRIS Many claim the title of "Convict," but few live up to the Convict Code of Conduct. Convicts are not made, they are born a breed apart. A true convict is incapable of snitching. No convict is ever a bully. The convict's word is more binding than any contract. It is a convict's nature to seek out [...]

How The State Of Indiana Killed Michael Daniels

BY TY EVANS On September 14, 1979, Michael William Daniels’ sentencing order directed that he be executed “in a manner prescribed by law, before sunrise on March 28, 1980.” Within an hour he was triple-shackled and in a van on his way to death row at Michigan City, Indiana. He was 21 years old. He had 196 days left to [...]

Life Behind Bars As A Convicted Sex Offender

By: Cougar Newquist, Contributing Writer In prison, there are a lot of vulnerable people. Many of them probably should not be in a prison setting. It's been estimated that at least 30% of those who are incarcerated have some sort of mental or emotional disability. I suspect the figures are a lot higher. But, in many states, including the one [...]

How One Prisoner’s Girlfriend Starts Trouble Between Rival Prison Gangs

BY SAUL MARTINEZ Deception and propaganda is an every day theme in prison life. Some utilize it to disguise their fears and insecurities, to create a façade of fearlessness in order to keep the wolves reconsidering their initial intentions or to brainwash a mass of individuals with a persuasive lie. Elmira Correctional Facility, New York State, January 2009:  My cell [...]

Sleep on Death Row

BY LYLE MAY The sound echoed around the cell block, crashing against the concrete wall with the force of each angry blow. A few guys yelled out, “Hey man, why the noise?" I say the blows were angry because there's no other way to describe somebody mule-kicking a steel door with everything they have. All of the frenzied emotion generated [...]

What Can Be Done With A Prisoner Like Maurice Smith?

BY JASON WALKER From the first day I stepped foot in a jail cell, I immediately got a good taste of what it's liked to be housed around the mentally ill. These prisoners are nothing like your average prisoner, starting with how they live and smell. While it’s common to walk past a mentally ill prisoner's cell and see him [...]

One Prisoner’s Fight To Beat The “Thorazine Shuffle”

BY TY EVANS COURTESY Ty Evans Scottie McLean still remembers the exact words the Wabash Valley yard officer said that made him go off, back in 1994: “Give me the bandanna, and quit acting like a bitch.” Twenty years old, and with a fresh 190-year sentence, Scottie McLean wasn’t going to let anyone call him a bitch, especially [...]

Only In Prison: Silencing The Sound of Stabbing

BY TY EVANS If you woke in the middle of the night and heard your neighbor being robbed, you could hear that he was about to be stabbed, and anticipated that he would soon be screaming... would you put in earplugs and roil back to sleep? That’s what I did one night last month. It’s the screaming that’s the unnerving [...]

A Letter To Young Fathers In Prison, From A Long-term Inmate

BY JOHN GRIFFIN I would like to share with you, especially those of you who are younger than I am, why my children are so important to me. I am not proud to say that I have been incarcerated now for over 39 years. But I feel blessed, and I am very thankful that I have had the opportunity to [...]

Prison Nicknames

BY KENNETH KYLE Prison Nicknames. Some people have them and some don't. I fit into the latter group. Here are some of the nicknames I’ve encountered during my 14+ years of incarceration. There are the ubiquitous ones - Stretch, Preacher, Shorty, Lucky, Cowboy, Solo, Fats, Junior, Nephew, Deuce, and Viking. Sniper's a little guy, five foot nothing, 100 lbs. wet if [...]

The Raw Truth About Living Around Mentally Ill Prisoners

BY DANIEL HARRIS, Contributing Writer Where did they expect psychiatric patients to end up when they cut Federal Funding for mental health beds? Whatever they thought, I know where they are. Here, in prison, with me. I've had two certifiably insane cellies. My cell is 5'x 8' feet. Imagine living in your bathroom with any of the crazies you've seen on [...]

Dying Prisoners Deserve Dignity

BY LARRY BRATT Over the past 18 months, twenty-three incarcerated men died at the Jessup Regional Hospital (JRH), according to an unnamed staffer at JRH. The youngest was in his mid-fifties. The oldest was 69. Official causes of death ranged from various cancers, heart, liver and renal diseases, hepatitis, and wear and tear on the body from decades of alcohol [...]

How My College-Educated Cellmate Changed My Life

BY RICHARD TAYLOR Only the strong survive. Those were the words I was told in 1999 when I was sentenced to 20 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. I was only 17 years old, charged with 5 counts of aggravated robbery. So I made up my mind that I would not take no disrespect from nobody once I [...]

What Would My Old Friend Willie Sutton Say About Today’s Prisons?

BY JOHN RUZAS The sun was a brilliant orange ball dropping slowly behind the Adirondack mountain range. As far as the eye could see, spring had dressed the landscape in shades of green, and the scent of fresh cut grass paid a welcomed visit to my four gallery perch.  It was the kind of late May day that makes a [...]

Is California’s Experiment with Racial Integration in Prisons Working?

BY SHERMAN DAVIS In the past several years, there have been numerous court rulings that have declared segregation in prison housing unconstitutional. The United States as a whole has abandoned old policies of segregation for 50 years – everywhere but the prison system. For prison officials, who have to deal with violence and other security concerns, integrating prisoners is the [...]

Trouble in The Prison Visiting Room

BY JERMAINE ARCHER, Contributing Writer Jermaine Archer is M.C. for a TED Talks offshoot event, TEDx at Sing Sing Prison. Photo Credit: Andrew W. Dwyer FWOP! It shocked me even though I saw it as it happened — Snake walked up to the woman, punched her in the face and then roughed up her husband. About a month [...]

The Early Death of Rascal the Rock Kicker

BY LES EARL RAYMOND One of the best ways to insure that you can make a bad situation in here worse is to become a "rock kicker." A rock kicker is someone that does nothing all day except hang out on the yard [outside recreation], seeing what trouble they can stir up for themselves and others. A rock kicker doesn't [...]

Cerebral Palsy in Prison

BY CHRIS DANKOVICH, Contributing Writer "Hey, did you see that kid in the wheelchair today?" "No." I say. "When did he get here?" "I think he just rode in yesterday or today," said Greg. "He break his leg or something?" "No, he's, like, seriously in a wheelchair. There's something actually wrong with him. He's got some disease, I think. Like [...]

An Illiteracy Tale: Getting Out After 20+ Years

BY ERIC SANTANA, Contributing Writer “Young brother,” said Old Man John, trying to get my attention away from my computer screen and the furious typing I was doing. “I need you to send an e-mail to my granddaughter.” The author at his college graduation in prison. I laughed, not because I thought it was particularly funny, but because [...]

Acts Of Kindness in Prison Are Rare But This Really Happened

BY JERMAINE ARCHER, Contributing Writer What would you expect to find in a maximum-security prison? Convicted felons? Of course. Spontaneous violence? Check. Gang members? Plenty. Humanity? Come again? “This is the last place I’d ever want to be sick,” I thought as I stared at the steel walls and matching bars. Jermaine Archer, an inmate at Sing Sing prison, [...]

My Funny Story About Prison Love…

BY KEVIN MICHAEL BOYD Courtesy of Kevin Boyd with the grand birdhouse he built, complete with an LED lit porch, outhouse, well and fire pit in yard, handcrafted furniture and more than 1200 shingles. Guys, let's let our egos go for just a brief moment to talk about love. For me, I readily admit that every night I wish [...]

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