When you google TommyLee Dean, you will not find a full description of everything I am passionately pursuing today, but you will find legitimate productivity and a more law-abiding individual than who I used to be.
For most of my life I have been a violent, terrible screwup. When you google “Thomas Lee Dean”, you will not get full disclosure pertaining to everything I had done, but you will find a pretty serious collection of events that sound as if they belong in an action movie featuring criminals and their daily struggles.
Raised by my biological mother’s aunt and uncle because she was only a child, herself, at the age of 13, when I was born. I was loved by these folks I came to call mom and dad, and granted a lot of leniency. Don’t get it wrong, I’m not trying to say that it’s these people’s fault I turned out the way I did, because, in their
own way, they did try — I was just such a hardheaded, strong spirited little turd that nothing stuck. When I would get in trouble and receive a beating or end up locked in the bathroom with no light or supper (and listen, before someone goes calling Social Services, I’ve got to point out that this was the 70s and parents who were born in the 30s; it was a different time and disciplinary strategies were not the same as today), I’d make sure my next screw up was 10-times worse because if I was gonna have to pay for it, I was going to make sure it was worth the punishment. Take this attitude and pit it against two people who had raised two boys twenty years before I came along, were in their 50s by the time I was a teen, and is it any wonder?
Punishment was fully given up on; the whole strategy had become trying to reason with and guide me away from wrong choices, but, because they loved me so and could not see their adopted son suffer, actually hid me from authorities and attempted to cover my wrong doings when I was adamant about being the Antichrist. Imagine being a God-fearing redneck, born in Tennessee during the depression and raised in Kentucky, with a third-grade education because you have worked your whole life for an honest dollar, living in a Denver trailer court, raising a little heathen like me.
I put this man through Hell. Stealing from him and mom; the smell of pot coming from my room; sometimes 20 to 30 of us in that room having a keg-party, multiple others stopping by outside my window; disappearing for weeks on end before returning home; I had dropped out of school by the eighth-grade because I had warrants for my arrest and mom and dad helped me avoid being picked up by the police by sending away for the proper papers to change my identity back to who I was at birth.
By the time I was 16, I exchanged gunfire with a Denver Police Officer inside this house some friends and I were living in. This, ironically because the cop entered through a window, never became much of anything, but my old identity and probation did catch back up with me…. I returned to probation, but, with my age being what it was, actually beat them out of a year because I would only have to serve until I was 18. It was the 80s, what can I say? As a condition of returning to probation, I did have to serve ten days in Adams County Detention Center. Other than fourteen days in Gilliam’s Hall (thirteen spent in medical because of a beating I received from a bunch of gangbangers who knew each other and did not know me), this ten in ACDC was all the juvenile time I ever did.
By the time I was 18, I ended up in Jefferson County Jail facing aggravated robbery charges stemming from a convenience store stickup I did when I was 17. Dad came to see me once during the six months I sat there and cried during the visit. This was the second time I had ever seen tears come from those eyes. The first?
When I was 9-years-old, his oldest son was shot and killed at the age of 25. Basically, seeing me in jail was as heartbreaking, for dad, as was the premature death of his oldest son; that was why he simply couldn’t handle a second visit. Again, I got probation, but this time it had a suspended eight-year Department of Corrections’ sentence attached to it. I violated that probation about a year later when caught out after the curfew set by my PO and in possession of a .357 revolver.
Young, first time in prison, 165 pounds at 6’1″; yeah, I was intimidated. Sent to “Gladiator School”, I ended up gang banging with the best of them. Back then there was no 211 Crew in the CDOC, we were simply known as “The Woodpile”. Insecure and scared, I spent most my time proving myself through working out and fighting. The other white boys liked that about me, and, even though they thought the “Straight Edger” thing was a little odd, because the majority or all of them partook in the drug culture I had gave up on at least two or three years prior, the fighting made me an acceptable individual within their structure.
Since 1989 I have been in and out of prison on numerous occasions. Each incident stemming from a robbery, even though I was not charged with robbery every time. Possession of a fully automatic machine-gun; attempted murder in the first degree dropped to first degree assault; aggravated robbery. The last two run-ins ending in shoot-outs with the police; the first leading to me being shot four times, the second coming to its conclusion when a K9 latched onto my biceps.
This time back, I have done the longest stretch yet: about fourteen years in on a thirty-two-year-sentence.
I had been in for about a year before a pretty violent assault landed me in administrative segregation. Most of you probably know this as “solitary confinement”. During four and a half years locked down 24-hours a day, I did some serious soul-searching. There really wasn’t much else to do locked in a 6’8″X14′ cell, 23-hours a day, with the remaining hour split between an exercise room the same size as this cell, small shower room and no outside time at all. The thing is, they have got something for you when you act up — you cannot beat them this way. During a cell extraction, I was bound so tightly with my arms behind my back that I couldn’t move them. This resulted in permanent shoulder damage because I was left in such restraint for around 15 to 16 hours straight. To this day does the physical damage from that binding affect me worse than being shot four times and operated on. Yes, they will hurt a person permanently and there doesn’t seem to be a damn thing we can do about it because they then hide behind the endless labyrinth of bureaucracy that protects all that they do wrong.
Sure, I could let it all turn me bitter and resentful, and, yes, I have been very angry at CDOC staff, administration, the world in general and myself. Mostly, though, I have found that I was angry at myself. I had been giving these sadistic sickos all the reason they needed to fulfill their twisted “whatevers” (fantasies, sick kicks or sexual proclivities excited through treating fellow humans like they do, vengeance or just plain meanness) on me! I, like so many others, have been serving as these unsound keepers’
meal ticket for years heaped upon years. Because of the way I continued to act, I have been allowing for these people, who spawn and feed their own families off the suffering of countless others, to survive at my loved ones and my own expense. Now what sense does that make? An epiphany!! Around forty years of life did it take, but an epiphany all the same. Something had to change…. I had to change.
While some guys allowed for the total lockdown to drive them crazy to the point of freaking-out and verbally assaulting all their neighbors (otherwise known as “cell-banging”), I wrote the material for my first and only published book. I’d wake up and write, exercise and write, watch a little TV and write, read a bit
and write, then I’d write and write some more.
It took some discipline, at first, and, of course, all that idle time in administrative segregation, but I wrote the material for my first book, which is now at Amazon. It’s an anthology of prose, poems, art and short stories because I was not originally shooting for a book publishing — a whole different story in and of itself. What I wanted was magazine or literary journal placements and Web postings to put my name out there. Having always had a love for the arts of scripture and illustration, along with no access to power tools for pursuing a place in other career fields, I decided to utilize what I had at hand and follow my heart. Pen to paper, I began.
Looking back, I realize that I never truly enacted change in character until the writing, itself, became that change. I was like a former drug addict replacing all of the old bad habits with new positive ones. I also found it to be a positive way to purge myself of some of the negative energy always getting me in
trouble; mostly writing in more of a sinister genre.
Yet, even though, change did not come easy — back in general population the first yard did offer some obstacles because I was given “the keys” (meaning I was the top guy for the white prisoners on that yard —
a shotcaller or acting general, if you will) and my “jacket” (how the police label and/or see a prisoner), as that bad dude from before, it followed me. Most of the trouble I got into was the cops trying to stick petty, and sometimes untrue, write ups on me in an attempt to keep me shackled in the role they thought I
should continue. Ironically, it was all the so-called troublemaking criminals who were my most positive supporters of this change.
Over time I was distanced from the day to day, sometimes violent, politics of these other prisoners. There was even one point when my typewriter broke and I didn’t have my own money to purchase a new one and those gang banging, drug using, cop killing “prison gang” buddies all pitched in and had enough money put on my personal account so that I could legitimately buy another. Out of the last four yards, I have had the keys, at one time or another, for two of them but have been buffered more and more from the day to day regular prison antics until eventually distanced enough to pursue what is now important to me and my change. Those guys do not want a wishy-washy dude involved in serious affairs, anyway.
The writing, itself, keeping me out of trouble because I have no time for anything else but to write. After all this time spent at the desk, I became eligible for the incentive unit, but, at first, did not want to go. Then came that day when I decided to ask my case manager to put me in for that unit after all; she put me on the list and I moved to the incentive unit, it was that easy.
When I now see the homeboys in passing, there are still hugs and much love and respect exchanged. The conversation usually revolves around them drilling me about my writing and art success. They beam with pride when I have a new accomplishment to report and give me support when I don’t. ” Well, you’ll get there, homeboy. You’ve got talent and smarts,” they tell me. ” We’re proud of you, Mugg, keep up the good work.”
TommyLee Dean’s book, Brain Pulp, can be found on Amazon.
60919 SCF SW 01
PO Box 6000
Sterling, CO 80751