Jeremy Farler-medAs I stared at the cell phone screen prompting me to register and start to build my own Facebook page, what was shining back at me was the light of opportunity.

I had already done the impossible. Even I couldn’t believe how quickly I was able to talk her into bringing in a cellphone. But hey, it’s not everyday a Corrections Officer gets to experience the excitement of doing something illegal with a real convict.

Ninety-five percent of COs [Corrections Officers] would never bring anything illegal into a facility. It’s not a common occurrence, but when it does happen, the opportunity cannot be allowed to pass. Officers smuggle contraband into institutions for a myriad of reasons, but at the end of the day, all those reasons generally fit into one of 3 categories: Money, Excitement, or Love.

As an inmate, it’s my job to be able to fill a void in the officer’s life. Being able to quickly identify what an officer needs, then having the ability, and the balls, to act on fulfilling that need shows that you’re in the top tier of the game.

Being able to find a way to offer money, excitement and love into one officer — that makes you elite. What may appear to be dumb luck to an outsider is actually a carefully crafted skill, honed through study and marked by constant preparation and readiness.

But for all the people skills I may possess, I feared I may not have possessed the skills needed to operate a new smartphone. So I made sure to let the CO know she needed to go to the Dollar Store and buy a $20 flip phone from T-mobile and to get a prepaid card to be refilled every month under a fake name. I only chose that phone and that company because it was nearing Christmas at the time and I’d seen a Dollar Store commercial that said you could get unlimited talk, text and web for $50 a month, which seemed like a good deal to me. So primed with the possibility of love and excitement, and bolstered by the promise of some extra money to boot, the CO agreed to get the phone, hoping I could then satisfy her missing needs.

In California, prison officials confiscated 15,000 contraband cell phones in 2011, ten times the amount seized in 2007. 

Now, all that was left to do is reconnect with the outside world and launch my takeover. That is, as soon as I figured out how the hell to work this thing! Jesus Christ! I swear to God, whoever invented texting needs to be shot! QMG!!!

cell phones confiscated

Mobile phones seized by Mississippi authorities at prisons across the state are seen in this undated handout picture provided to Reuters by the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Having been essentially cut off from society for the last six years, I no longer had anyone’s phone numbers, addresses or any information to know what anybody was up to these days. A friend had briefly helped me construct a MySpace page before I got locked up, but I had seen too many commercials and television shows making fun of people who still used MySpace, so Facebook was my only logical choice to reconnect.

All I knew about Facebook was that everyone supposedly had a page and it was somewhere for people to brag about how wonderful their lives are or at least let everyone else know how great the fries they just ate at Wendy’s are!

A world of people I had lost contact with lay just beyond this screen, and with them, an endless array of possibilities. Repair old relationships, build new ones, and last but not least – get money.

To my surprise, building my page was actually pretty easy. I mean, I’m not a moron, I’m just a bit “technically challenged” after being locked up for these last few years. I followed the instructions, answered all the questions I could (I couldn’t very well post my real address), and smiled a devious grin as my journey began.

But first, I had to get some air! You see, the best place I could get service on my phone was lying in my rack. Problem is, the spot I’m locked up in is open dorm style living, so you’ve got 50 people in your business at all times. So, I found it necessary to play asleep and lie in my bed, covered up under my state-issued coat, seeking the privacy needed to carry out my plans. Let me tell you, it gets fucking hot under that coat! So, as I poked my sweat-drenched head out from under my khaki tent, I glanced at my friend/buzz man to confirm the coast was clear.

Now, back to business.

The first person I contacted was inevitable. You see, we had been together for six years prior to my incarceration, had been raising 2 children, and dysfunctional as it was, we had weathered some rough times together. However, one week after my sentencing, and just after she realized that I wouldn’t be eligible for parole for 8 1/2 years, I got the official word that we were through. So naturally, I felt it necessary to look her up and let her know how fantastic I’m doing without her stinking ass anyway and that 6 years later this train was still rolling.

Just a quick “Glad to see you’re doing well” humble-brag message, and it was on to greener pastures. (After a slight breather, mind you. Son of a bitch, it was getting hotter!

“People you may know” was the heading page, based on the zip code you put in. The first person displayed made my heart jump. Brittany. Now, I instantly knew I couldn’t get money with her, but I didn’t care. This is a girl who used to be a close friend of mine and of all my old pals, and we had been intimate at one point as well.

After dealing with these so-called hard-ass convicts for years, I just wanted a soft, familiar friend to talk to, if only to feel normal again for a moment. I shot a quick message, and amazingly, she responded immediately! Instantly we transformed into old friends again, catching up on years apart. She told me about her new family, how she was getting married soon, and that she had a daughter. She told me where she was living, what she was doing for work, and that she was happy.

I, too, was happy for her, truly glad she was doing well. When she asked where I’d been, I realized she didn’t know what was up, and she naturally thought I was out somewhere because I was on a cellphone. But no matter, she’s a cool chick, one who was by our clique’s side through lots of shit before. So I revealed I had been in prison for 6 years and was still in right now. When she asked what I’d done, I thought nothing of telling her.

Armed robbery and unlawful imprisonment kind of sounds bad on paper, but surrounded by murderers and rapists all day, I’d lost touch with that. I waited for what seemed like an eternity for her response, and when it came, it really got hot under that coat!

Blocked?!? What does that even mean?? As I read her farewell message, my blood began to boil, and I popped out of my protective shell, motioning emphatically for my friend to come with me to the only other private spot – the bathroom.

“What’s up man, does it work?” Drew said as he entered.

“This bitch just blocked me on Facebook, man!” I immediately noted his confusion, stemming from his decade-long incarceration, so I elaborated. “The bitch made it so I can’t contact her in any more, and sent a fucking message saying some dumb shit too!”

“What’s it say?” Drew said, not grasping my full anger yet. I looked at the phone and read a short part.

“She said, ‘With you being a felon, and me having kids, I don’t feel comfortable with you viewing my page!’ You believe that?!” Drew’s face contorted, and I saw he had read something more into that message.”

What is it?” Then he said it. “I’m saying, she calling you a fucking cho-mo or something?”

I hadn’t even seen it! My mind raced as I considered her words… “kids” … “viewing my page” …

What the fuck was happening? A child molester?!? It’s an unforgivable sin to be called a cho-mo, and I instantly went back to my sweltering bed and coat, only this time I was looking for something different. My charges. This bitch had me checking my own charges to see what the fuck she saw to call me a cho-mo! Satisfied there was nothing, Drew and I conferred again. I gave him some backstory about Brittany and me, knowing my friend would then understand and help me bash this broad’s name for a minute.

“Can’t believe she blocked you, dog” Drew said apologetically.

“Me either man, this shit is nuts.” I replied, with a far off stare.

“Seems excessive to me,” said Drew. Confused, I asked, “What’dya mean, excessive’?”

Then he said “I mean, you’re in the joint already! You’re blocked by these walls, blocked by those fences, blocked by these cops. How much more blocked do you really need to be? Just seems like overkill to me.”

I stood looking at my friend, who was doing time for murder, and listened to him try to pick me up by referring to my Facebook blocking as “overkill.”

It was at that point I realized life was different for me. You want my advice? Find a good penitentiary friend or two. Bet they don’t block you when life ain’t so sweet.


Epilogue:

Amazingly, I was able to hold onto the cell phone for 18 months, which is no small feat, and which I believe may be some sort of record! I was able to make contact with multiple people from my past, as well as build the foundations for future relationships with new people. With the phone, I was able to help facilitate many different smuggling operations, lookup questionable inmate’s charges and learn a little about the world as it is now.

Did you read about the South Carolina prisoner who received 37 years in solitary confinement for posting on Facebook?

I did eventually get a response from my ex, Danielle, which was bittersweet to say the least. I had spent six years having the conversation that would take place between us, but when the opportunity came, I froze. I can bullshit my way through any conversation with anyone, except her that day. So when she told me she missed me, instead of saying any of the scripted responses I’d come up with, I said the one thing I swore I wouldn’t – I said, “I miss you too.” Then when I felt the tears well up in my eyes and the knot begin to form in my stomch, I hurriedly told her I had to go because the cops were coming. Truthfully though, I had to go because I had been brought face-to-face with some emotions I thought I’d locked away, and they scare the shit out of me. It wouldn’t be the last time we talked, but it’d be the last time I was caught emotionally unprepared.

I was always ultra-secretive about the whereabouts of the phone, often moving it from place to place or employing various people to hold it along the way.

In the end though, it came down to a combination of the Correctional Emergency Response Team, or CERT, and horrible timing to bring the operation down. Just when I thought it was safe to get the phone out [of its hiding place], the CERT rolled in, about 40 deep, and shook down [searched] the entire dorm. We, as inmates, have to be good every time, but they, as officers, only have to be lucky once.

As I was escorted out of the dorm to the hole (I was eventually sentenced to 135 days in solitary confinement at a disciplinary hearing) I smiled, knowing I’d at least had one hell of a run.


 Jeremy Farler is serving 10 years in Kentucky for robbing an auto parts store.  


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