I received a letter from Sean today. Sean, if you remember, is the young White Supremacist with a long history of trouble with the law – at least for his age. Sean is a good kid, with the opportunity for a bright future. Sean is experiencing the first, and possibly the most important aspect of getting himself together, and it is something of which we all should take note: self -awareness. Sean is experiencing it for the first time, and you can feel it in his letter to me:


Yo…What’s up dude? I swear to God, stupidity follows me everywhere I go! It’s like my fuckin’ shadow or something. I’ve had 3 roommates already! One was really dumb and dirty, the other was and (sic) old dope fiend, and another seamed (sic) cool until I figured out he had A.D.D. like a sonofabitch!”

Further along he continues:

“Oh dude, I’m at court, right, well this 20 year old kid was trippin cuz it was his first time being locked up. He robbed a house. I told him he might get released on ‘O.R.’, that’s where you promise to go to court. But anyways I had gotten O.R. out here when I first got in trouble out here for an assault and battery with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury, so I thought he had a chance. But when we all went to court (in a chain gang) I heird (sic) all his shit. The judge was like, ‘Count one, first degree burglary, Count two, possession of a fire arm, Count three, possession of a fire arm, Count four, possession of a fire arm, Count 5, possession of a fire arm, Count 6, possion (sic) of fire arms for intent for sale’ – then the public defender asked the judge for ‘O.R.’ and the D.A. said that the kid told police he sawed off the barral (sic) of one of the shot guns so it would fit in his car! – I looked over at the kid with fuckin’ wide eyes. I couldn’t believe it, who says that? When we got back to the holding tank I asked the kid why he told the cops that & he said, ‘The cops fucked me’ (like they fucked him over) but I said back with a snap, ‘They fucked you too? Damn your just not having any luck now are you?’ Ha ha! I don’t know Adams, that was yesterday, and it just blew my mind – Oh, ya, he didn’t get O.R. J hahaha. Who would have guessed that. You should have seen the judge’s face when the Public Defender asked for O.R.  It was classic. It was the ‘are you fucking kidding me?’ look. Dude, I wouldn’t have even O.R.’d the little bastard.”

I wrote Sean back by sending a letter through his mom. From conversations I have had with him, she sounds like a wonderful lady who is really working hard to help him get back on track. In my letter I congratulated Sean on recognizing bad behavior in other people, and warned that the real secret is to recognize it in yourself – before it happens, at the thought stage. Then you can do the kind of things you need to do to head it off. The object here is to stop your own bad behavior at the thought stage, so that it never makes it to the level of an action in the physical world. Nonetheless, so far so good, and like I said, I think Sean’s well on his way to making huge changes in his life.

I certainly intend to keep him focused on his goals and what it takes to get there. If you want to change the world, you’ve got to start with yourself.

I also got a letter from Tyler through my mom. We do that because sometimes the system won’t allow mail between inmates. Rather than go through a hassle, we just use the “underground mail route.” While I understand the concerns, most of it is just giving a little support to a guy who’s trying to be better. In that regard, Tyler is way more along in his spiritual development than I. I envy his peace.

Tyler writes:

“The good thing about rebuilding is that you start from nothing. Now what can we lose? It’s all gain from here on out. Plus, it gives that drive that pushes us to show folks that, ‘hey, we’ll be ayte.’ I am anxious for my chance, and like you said, we’ll all sit around one day and laugh at the stories we lived to tell.”

In my return letter, I pointed out that “we, all of us, weren’t starting from nothing. We now had the benefit of experience.”

That was about all deepness I had to add. Tyler’s pretty much on his way, anyhow. He just needs the system to get out of the way and to get on with college. He’ll do well, of that I am sure.

That, however, is not something I can say for a lot of my colleagues. I fear that for most of them, this “hell hole” is about as good as it’s going to get. And the reason is one of the greatest crimes in America: education. It’s never going to be any better for some of these guys because literally, in America in the year 2009, they can’t read or write. That is a shame. We’ve failed them; we failed ourselves.

That was astounding to me: to find out that the mass of guys in here are illiterate. Some can’t even read the legal documents that the guards thrust at them. No education means no job; and no job puts them right back in here.

In a sense, those, I guess, are the lucky ones. The real sad cases are those who simply will never learn; the sociopaths who have been developed by a society and a system that didn’t care and now has to decide what to do with them. It’s not a matter of education or smarts; it’s simply that they are out of step with humanity. Danny V, my former celly, is one of those. No mater how much you counsel him, he’s not going to get it. His distant drummer is very far off and the damage done to him as a child will never be healed.

He readily admits to never having had any friends, and as a sexual predator in here, he’s not going to make any. But despite that Danny V seems to be able to alienate himself even further – if that’s possible – from anyone he meets.

He has already been moved up and down the tiers at least three times since I’ve been here. No one wants to bunk with him, and yet, he still refuses to get the message. The rules in here aren’t difficult. Basically, all one has to do is keep his mouth shut; and stay out of other people’s business. Danny V can’t seem to do either. He is even having issues with the “Christians”.

The prison Bible freaks, as near as I can tell, are the angriest group of people in jail. Do not confuse them with Christians on the outside. Their hellos aren’t requests, they are confrontational demands. They are also involved more often in confrontations with the guards.

For some reason, and the reason probably is that no one knows, our module has three Bible study events each week, two on Thursdays. For those genuinely interested in discussing the word of God, it is an opportunity for communion. For some it is simply another opportunity for “unlock”.  And time out of the cell is something that is guarded carefully.

Innocently enough, but stupid nonetheless, at an afternoon Bible study, Danny V asks the chaplain, “Why do we get two classes and I-mod gets none?”

The chaplain was unaware of that, as were the guards and the other ministers that visited Solano County. The inmates on the other hand were quite aware.  Needless to say, the chaplain set about changing his schedule immediately. As a result, H-mod got one less unlock and Dan made a lot of enemies – that frankly, he really didn’t need. Worse of all, the most offended group was the white supremists. And in here, if you can’t count on members of your own race, then you are “shit out of luck”.

It began with Casey grilling Dan on how could he be so stupid, but it very quickly progressed to the Nazis threatening him when he got off the bus at San Quentin.

Apparently Danny V’s celly wasn’t feeling well. As a result, Danny V was forced to wait in the day room while the nurse attended to him. So as Danny V is sitting out in the open, the chaplain walks in and announces he won’t be coming by on Thursday afternoon.

That was the signal for the Nazis to go on the attack. From the upper tier it began, “Hey Daniel, see how you fucked it up for everybody?”

Well, Daniel lacks the social skills – and despite more people than me trying to offer him advice like just shutting up, he offers, “I didn’t know. You can’t blame me. Besides, if you guys were so Christian, you’d have a little forgiveness so don’t blame me.”

I don’t know if you have ever been to an animal shelter, but I volunteered at one in L.A. When a human walks down a corridor the dogs run to the front of their cages and begin barking and the noise level is deafening.

Well, after the chaplain’s announcement, the dogs in H-mod began to attack Dan. “See what you’ve done, you stupid fuck.”

But Dan continued to make his argument. Only rather than apologize, he challenged the Nazis’ genuineness (in terms of religion, and then it turned personal. “You know,” one of them said, “we all take the same bus to San Quentin. When you get off, there’s going to be a welcoming committee. You’re gonna get fucked like a little girl.” That was it. Danny V’s worst nightmare come true. The crazies were targeting him for rape.

Luckily for Dan, they would be shipping out soon. His trial may not even get started for another year, hopefully. Unfortunately for Dan, there’s nothing to do here and so memories are long.

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