16 October 2017

Kids These Days

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alex sesame street

“My dad’s in jail. I don’t like to talk about it. Most people don’t understand,” the doll said on the news. The announcer went on to say that one out of 28 kids have a parent behind bars which was why Sesame Street was introducing the blue-haired, orange-skinned Alex, the son of an incarcerated father and newest puppet on the block.

“I mean, that’s kind of interesting, no?” I asked all the women in the TV area.  “They aren’t making that character out of nowhere. They either got a lot of feedback that kids watching couldn’t identify with the stories or they read some demographic data that says that this was a good idea. We’re talking millions of kids.”

None even responded.

I’m not an abolitionist but if there is any argument that every prison should be razed to the ground it’s the effects that separating children and parents have on little ones. It is pure violence yet it looks as calm and procedural as these ladies sitting here in the rec area, ignoring another one of my pathetic goads to get them to talk about current events.

I waited for a legal visit once when another inmate came in and told the visits officer she was there to see her daughter through DCF [Department of Children and Families]. There’s a window where you can see visitors before they come into the visiting area and I turned to spy the cutest little girl I had ever seen. A small red bow wrapped itself around her tiny, dirty blonde ponytail and her shirt, a navy Ralph Lauren polo shirt dotted with white polo ponies, topped off jeans and Nikes.

“Is that your daughter? She is so cute. I say that to a lot of the inmates but really mean it when I say that to you. She’s spectacular,” I told the mom

“Thanks. Yeah, I know. It’s the last time I’ll see her for 14 years. They’re terminating my rights.”


“I can’t have contact with her again until she’s 18.”

And with that, the door opened and mother and daughter reunited like it was any other day and went into the play area, DCF supervisor lurking in the corner. They sipped non-existent tea and stirred invisible macaroni in a toy kitchen, both remaining composed about the fact that a system was killing each of them to the other. They’re dead to each other. For fourteen years.

Then [Attorney] Ruane arrived and we were escorted into one of the private rooms where I burst into tears. Literally. My face exploded at the thought of the conversation that was happening between parent and child in the play area.

“I get it. You wanna get out of here,” Ruane said as he unpacked carefully labeled folders. He works with his son, sees him every day.

“No. That’s not…” I shook my head. “You wouldn’t understand.” To this day, I can’t remember one word in any of those folders and my freedom was filed in there.

I hadn’t seen the mother here before and I haven’t seen her since so she’s not a lifer; she’d be living in this unit, watching the news with us if she were. She probably did something to kick off the termination proceedings, but how bad could it have been if she isn’t even doing the type of time I am? And DCF allowed them to say goodbye – would they do that if she posed danger to the child? Sure, a social worker stalked them from across the room, but would DCF permit that toddler to connect with a person who had beaten her or neglected her in a dangerous way? I assume there’s some theory of trauma that would prevent that. Let me rephrase: I’m sure there’s a theory of trauma – why didn’t it prevent this?

I bet that wasn’t the case but they still took her daughter away, to what appears to be an upper-middle class family that already loves and dotes on her. The girl will be okay but she won’t be the same.  Doubt will follow her everywhere she goes, even after she gets wind of what happened to her fourteen years into the future. No accusation or conviction can extinguish a child’s love for and pride in her parents, but criminal charges make that love and pride smart in unending waves.

Why wasn’t I good enough to make you good? And if you didn’t do it, why didn’t you fight or fight harder? How did you take care of me when you can’t take care of yourself? I ask myself those questions every day. This entry has more queries, question marks and open ends than anything else I’ve written so far. And answers? There are none. I’m tenacious and introspective enough to find them if they were somewhere. They’re not.

Accepting that you’re a fuck-up is easy; no one knows how bad you are more than you do. But accepting that the person who you thought was perfect – and who was supposed to perfect and lead you – is more than just clay-footed and may have some very real problems navigating the world is excruciating. They call this adulthood, but it’s really just abuse.

In front of a blaring TV set that had stopped reporting on Alex, I zoned out remembering all of this: the polos, the puppets, the parents, the pain.

“Winks, what’s wrong?” someone asked.

“I don’t wanna talk about it,” I told them and headed back into my cell with my forefinger pressed against my lower eyelid. They can’t understand.


A former federal halfway house.

It’s really happening now…Our “law-and-order” president and his administration are quietly cutting funding for halfway houses. I refused halfway house placement because, to me, it was just moving prison to the street and allowing people to wear their own clothes. However, for someone who doesn’t have a place to live once they leave custody, halfway houses provide essential transitional living space. This is a guarantee of crime.

I attended the John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Smart on Crime conference this week which had embattled Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. on the agenda. Conference attendees figured that he wouldn’t show up because he would have to face some questions about accepting graft guised as campaign contributions after giving the Trumps and Harvey Weinstein passes for obvious criminal conduct. Vance did appear at the conference and simply told people during the Q and A session (which was not recorded) in the audience that everything he did was legal. I have two thoughts on Vance’s reply that everything he did was legal. They are: 1) no shit, that’s the problem; and 2) he laughs at this as a defense when he prosecutes. Maybe he needs to open up to the fact that he’s more like his targets than he wants to admit.

And the Supreme Court of the United States just accepted (or granted certiorari to you legal eagles) a case, McCoy v. Louisiana, where a defense attorney ignored his client’s claims of innocence, refused to investigate an alibi defense and admitted that his client committed the crime over his objections. A Yale Law School clinic wrote a brief in support of Mr. McCoy and they argued that McCoy’s attorney switched sides and fought for the prosecution. The issue of attorney disloyalty needs to be addressed and outlawed by our highest court but I doubt it’s likely. The same court has already approved of conceding guilt on a client’s behalf in capital cases like this one. Plus, the standards of effective defense are so low now than nothing an attorney does is cause for reversing convictions. You should follow this case because if you think defense attorneys protect their clients. They don’t.


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9 October 2017

Pity The Fool

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“He who represents himself has a fool for a client, Bozelko,” the strip search C/O said when I got back from court. She told me to make sure my lawyer doesn’t force me to take so many court trips. I didn’t have one, I told her.

“I’m different,” I replied.

“Oh, you’re smarter?” she huffed.

“No.  He who represents himself does have a fool for a client…because he’s a ‘he.’ I’m a female. Totally different game.”

Representing yourself is a different game, but it isn’t always a losing one. According to the limited data available on the subject, pro se criminal defendants usually fare no worse than their represented counterparts. Erica Hashimoto, a law professor, conducted one of the only studies of the effectiveness of self-representation and found that, at the state level, pro se defendants fared better than their represented counterparts. Half of all pro se defendants walked away without a conviction; only 25% of attorney-represented people cleared the conviction hurdle. Of the self-represented people who were convicted, only half of them were convicted of felonies whereas 84% of represented people who lugged convictions out of the courtroom carried the extra weight of felony status.

Only 42% of self-represented defendants entered into plea bargain agreements while almost twice as many represented defendants, 71%, folded and pleaded guilty. Of those pro se litigants who displayed their layperson chops at trial, 2% of them were acquitted of all charges. It doesn’t sound promising for the DIY legal set – until you learn that only 1% of represented defendants were acquitted of all charges after trial; pro se defendants are twice as likely to get themselves acquitted.

The results in federal courts were comparable, and both upended the idea that counsel is necessary for access to a criminal court.

And this pisses off everyone in a courtroom  The right to counsel doesn’t exist (if it does at all) for the protection of the defendant. It exists to make lawyers feel needed, like they have some knowledge that no one else can get from reading the same books.

So far, I’ve had one lawyer who told the jury three times that there was no reasonable doubt in her closing argument and used Buck Cherry’s “Crazy Bitch” as her ringtone (Angelica Papastavros), another one who didn’t know I was going to be sentenced and cried when I got screwed (Tina Sypek D’Amato) and who needed me to write out the direct examination questions for her in another trial, a third who never contacted an alibi witness and lied about hiring an investigator (Dean Popkin). I have a habeas attorney who went to the trouble of subpoenaing necessary phone records yet made sure that he secured only half of them.  Even after all of that, I dared to hire the dude who represents the WWE star who’s here – I’ve never heard of her, Sunny, but apparently she’s big on the wrestling circuit – and then she told me in the medical unit that he was removed from her case for “inappropriate behavior,” whatever that means in reference to someone who fake fights other people in costumes. I mean, would she mind if he threw her against a wall? What’re we talking about here when it comes to propriety?

With these fine legal minds barricading me from injustice, what kind of an asshole would I be to get another lawyer?

The right to self-representation was established by the Supreme Court in 1975 in Faretta v. California and it’s supposed to be absolute.  In practice, though, it’s not; lower courts have tacked on limitations to the right: the request has to be timely made, it cannot be made for the purpose of delay, it must be made prior to the start of trial. Because of these conditions – rules that are essentially made up because they don’t appear in the original decision – many people are denied the right to represent themselves. I was denied when I wanted to represent myself and prevent Papastavros’ perfidy because my request was made after the jury was selected. There are at least 2509 defendants who were also denied that right if appellate decisions are any indication. That many people appealed court’s ruling denying their motions to represent themselves.

Another, older Supreme Court decision has enabled these encroachments on the self-representation right.  Gideon v. Wainwright, the seminal 1963 case on the right to counsel, held that due process rights are violated when laypeople are left to represent themselves against criminal charges. When Faretta was decided twelve years later, the right granted to defendants to represent themselves wasn’t so much an individual right to self-determination as it was the right to reject a court-appointed, taxpayer-funded attorney who would be assigned to you without your even requesting him.

Even though the petition that launched the right to counsel into the nation’s highest court was handwritten by a pro se petitioner – Gideon himself – the idea that self-represented defendants are very unlikely to receive a proper defense  was part of the Gideon Court’s reasoning and ended up creating the welfare model of criminal defense that we use today. As many as 90% of defendants in various jurisdictions are indigent and qualify for appointed counsel. Many of them languish in jail because there aren’t enough attorneys for them and the lawyers that are available are so overburdened that they can’t even render effective assistance. But people’s cases won’t move without them.

It would be unjust to force all, or even most, of these defendants to represent themselves just to jump-start prosecutions. Too many people facing criminal charges are functionally illiterate, don’t know how to do legal research and even more have trauma histories that affect their self-concepts and confidence to challenge adversaries in a meaningful way.

But data shows that many people can represent themselves effectively, better than the lawyers that they’re waiting for. This isn’t a total vindication of the collective ability in prisons, but more an indictment of modern criminal defense.  If there were a way to combine the defendant’s knowledge of the case with the attorney’s expertise and experience into a representative team, we might move cases through criminal dockets more quickly and effectively.

There is a way; it’s called hybrid representation and, while constitutionally permissible, it’s disfavored by courts because the see the right to self-representation and the right to counsel as mutually exclusive; Gideon and Faretta can’t work together. But this isn’t true. It’s the lawyers and the courts who won’t work with defendants if they want to keep their cases moving.

The Faretta decision actually says the right to represent yourself and the right to a lawyer are the same right, just different facets of it. Yet courts will either create situations which amount to self-represented suicide or they force government assistance on litigants. They rarely allow anything in-between.

If I could get over my anger at my attorneys, the in-between might work for me, too. Working as a partner with someone so I can shape my own fate yet still feel some trust in someone who fulfills their duty of loyalty to me might help me from having to flip the bird to the judicial branch.  That’s how pro se representation is interpreted. I don’t kid myself that anyone, including me, sees it as a mere constitutional exercise.

No defendant in Connecticut can have hybrid representation; it’s outlawed for everyone. Instead, the pro se defendant has “stand-by counsel”; the attorney can’t jump in and correct something he might do against his interests. All the attorney can do is answer questions when asked – if the fool knows to ask them.

If more courts recognized hybrid representation and allowed a team to represent defendants – the client and the lawyer together – then we might be able to start moving this backlog of people who are waiting for counsel around the country.  And produce fair results.

Hybrid representation does more than clear court clog. There’s an empowering message in hybrid representation which is that the defendant has the ability – and the duty – to clean up his own mess. Rather than being served by a “public pretender,” the defendant can get real and contribute to the resolution of his own legal problems.

Not enough defendants have demanded hybrid representation – it’s banned in many states – because they don’t know about it or they think they’ll never win if they try to help themselves. Statistics say that they can prevail – or at least fare better – if they pitch into their own defense. Hybrid representation holds tremendous potential for relieving the criminal defense problems around the country. Refusing to explore this solution makes fools of us all.

Even me.



Obviously, the news was filled with stories of the Las Vegas concert shooting, one of the largest crimes in the history of the country, including the fact that the shooter – amazingly enough – had no criminal record.  Many terrorists don’t have rap sheets and convictions.  Looking for them amongst convicted felons is a waste of time.

The New York Times reported that prison guards in Alaska put collars and leashes on naked inmates while forcing them to walk in front of female staff members and left them in cold, filthy cells without proper covers. The investigation that discovered these abuses isn’t notable just for the horrors within it, but because it was written by an ombudsman, a dying breed of correctional supervisor.  If Alaska didn’t have an ombudsman, these human rights violations may never have come to light. (Translation: this kind of correctional chicanery is happening in facilities in states without an ombudsperson.)

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. took two hits this week. First, ProPublica, working with The New Yorker, dropped the bomb that Ivanka and Donald Trump, Jr. dodged a felony indictment for fraud years ago, after their attorney, Mark Kasowitz, made a $25,000 donation to Vance’s re-election campaign, only to have it returned prior to Kasowitz’s meeting with Vance. After the prosecution was shuttered, Kasowitz reappeared with a $32,000 donation to the same campaign, a contribution that was returned only recently. Then, days after this Trump bombshell, it was revealed that embattled Miramax founder Jeffrey Weinstein’s lawyer donated $10,000 to Vance’s campaign four months after Vance decided not to charge Weinstein with sexual assaulting a model. I’ve said it before; I will say it again. Prosecutors are inherently dirty.







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2 October 2017

T and A in A&D

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A guard’s desk at a Central Prison Mental Health Facility in Raleigh, North Carolina.

In here, the sign of seasons’ turning is waiting in a line. One in the fall to get a coat. Another in the spring to hand it in. The good coats are the army-green barn jackets and they usually go to the long-term inmates, women like me. The low lottery numbers catch the nylon ecru short ribbed jackets. Anyone wearing one of them is clearly in the lower prison caste because no O.G. wears those swingy, cream-colored jokes. I went coatless all winter when one was thrown at me when I came through the doors of A&D [Admissions and Discharges] in December 2007 and the autumn coat waiting lines had long dispersed from the building.  I used it as a pillow instead because you couldn’t buy a pillow back then. Now, for my sixth jacket, my unit had been called the day before for the line-up, when I was at court, so I left work early to dodge the fate of flimsy, light-colored winter gear because I don’t need something soft and superfluous to rest my head. I bought a nylon bag of air, labeled “pillow,” years ago.

“[C/O] Boxman such a motherfucker. I hope they tell his wife how he be fuckin’ [C/O] Questionable Taste up in here in A&D on third shift!” First-in-Line announced. She must have just been yelled at by him before I joined the queue.

“Oh, shit. He fuckin’ her? I knew it. And they doin’ it here in A&D? That’s nasty.” Third-In-Line declared.

But I was laughing, hard.

“That’s hilarious.”

“You think it’s funny Questionable Taste a damn home wrecker?  How they get you is how they leave you,” First-in-Line instructed me without turning around.

“No, I mean someone having sex in A&D.”

“It’s nasty, right? This shit look dirty,” Third-in-Line checked with me as she looked to the floor and the walls, made a sour face.

“It’s funny. Intercourse in Admissions and Discharges? That’s hilarious. I had no idea the staff was so euphemistic,” I told them before I broke back into giggles.

“What that mean?” Second-in-Line asked.

“A euphemism is a polite way of saying something out of bounds in normal conversation. So…you know. Admissions….discharges. Instead of saying ‘sex.’ Like sex is a series of admissions, get it? Followed by a discharge…?” I explained, haltingly.

Between the kids they had, the prostitution charges they racked up, this crowd in line had way more sex than I ever could and they still didn’t get what I was saying. I felt like Steve Buscemi in [the movie] Fargo when he’s trying to explain the old “in-n-out” to the outcall girl with him in the nightclub. They were nonplussed  by my wit and uninterested in the language lesson.

Originally, I thought the name they gave to the prisoner loading dock – “Admissions and Discharges” – was odd, like anyone was giving consent for us to enter; we’re wanted at the prison’s front door – which happens to be way in the back – as much as we wanted to arrive there. It’s not like that second-shift crew, headed by the C/O who sits diagonally in the corner of the front desk, is psyched to unlock the doors and let our shackled feet short-shuffle in.

Then I thought “A&D” was just a nod to the mental health epidemiology within, which is extensive and screaming for remedy. I read that the Cook County jail in Chicago is the largest mental health provider in the state of Illinois. It was reasonable to assume that,  through using that name, they were treating us like patients. But any medical etymology is purely accidental.

“Admissions and Discharges” was the terminology used by English workhouses in the 13th century until not that long ago, places like the one where Dickens’ character Oliver Twist dared to ask for more. It was England’s welfare program; poor people had to turn themselves in to get food and shelter and live in government custody. Workhouses were prisons without the prosecutorial prelude. And all you had to do to be admitted to inpatient welfare was have nothing and be hungry.  So the place didn’t turn into a hotel, they enforced hard labor as a incentive to avoid getting yourself in such a jam that you couldn’t handle your own business anymore.  In short, to get your gruel, you did grueling labor to align yourself with (former prisoner himself) Saint Paul’s rule that ‘He who shall not work, shall not eat.’ When they thought someone had a chance to fend for themselves outside, wardens got even more Christian and tossed them into the warmer weather.

The same thing happens here every autumn. As chill reluctantly admits itself to the air in September and October, and sleeping in a tent on any patch of land whose owners aren’t around to call the cops won’t work anymore, women intentionally place themselves in justice’s way and turn themselves in for shelter and food.  Proposition a police. Surrender themselves on an old warrant. All to get meals and dry, warm lodging for the winter because poverty’s a crime.

Now you can get the food and shelter without being in physical custody. I don’t get how modern society has liberalized itself enough to recognize the dignity inherent in being free yet still allows people to exist in such indigence that they’re willing to give that liberty up in order to survive the winter. And, if they’re lucky, score a green coat in the style the fashion industry calls a “work jacket.” It makes me wonder if the person who chose them for the modern workhouse knew that.

“That what you call sex? Additions and discharges?” Second-in-Line asked me and shook her head and said “Motherfuckin’ white people.”

“Admissions. Admissions and discharges. And no, I don’t. Well, maybe, after today. I’ll call it ‘gettin’ a little A&D’.” And then they started laughing with me.



No smartphone cameras allowed in court. Ergo, no courtroom sexting.

Former New York congressman and mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner is going to prison. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison last Monday for sexting a teenager, although his real crime is enabling the rise of Breitbart News (no one paid attention to Breitbart until they broke the “grey underwear” story).  Here’s  what former prisoners wanted him to know about the public service venture he’s headed into.

Hannah Kozlowska, a 2017 John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Criminal Justice Reporting Fellow, a fellow Fellow of mine, reported for Quartz on Walmart’s extortion of shoplifting suspects. If you get nabbed for allegedly boosting something from the retailer, you get a chance to take a 6-8 hour course which costs you several hundred dollars. Or you can choose to have them call the police and get arrested, whereupon you get another chance to pay several hundred dollars in bail.  The program was created because, in many districts, the majority of calls to law enforcement were from local Walmarts so it might save taxpayers money in reduced police costs, but it will also make Walmart and the private company administering the program a lot of money.

James Holmes, the man sentenced to life in prison for the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting, was moved to a federal penitentiary in Pennsylvania because Colorado corrections officials didn’t feel he was safe in the state system. This comes after fits and starts over Colorado’s failure to disclose Holmes’ location to victims’ families. I understand the need for transparency in corrections and I agree that victims and their families are stakeholders in the process of justice, but I do not understand why the victims are so invested in knowing where Holmes is sleeping. Is it fear because they think he’s likely to escape? If so, how would knowing where he was in custody help prevent that? I know these people have been indelibly harmed by Holmes’ actions, but too many times the whims of victims run the system.




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25 September 2017

Per Matthew and Howard

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This is supposed to be Howard as Jesus, even though it looks like a cross between Fran Leibowitz and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Once it was a typical Lifetime-style movie.  After a tragic setback, the heroine relocated to a new town where no one knows her.  In their unfamiliarity with her, the community underestimates her until she reveals – piecemeal –  her mysterious past and the strength that kept it entombed inside her.

That story might have worked in the 1980’s and 90’s but it would never fly today. The heroine’s new community will know her life story before she can change the name on her mailbox because, well, Google. The fact that no one is the keeper of her own narrative anymore makes TMI impossible. Society’s savage when it comes to secrets. If he could have seen society’s modern insatiability when it comes to secrets, F. Scott Fitzgerald would double down on his (alleged) observation that there are no second acts in American lives.

I’m wouldn’t have been so bothered by my felony convictions and imprisonment if they could’ve been concealed; that’s how narcissistic I was when I got here. The fact that someone would know about my prison stint bothered me more than the actual conditions of custody themselves. Nights on these two-inch mattresses were filled with divine bargaining. God could extend my prison sentence – a significant one already – if I could just be sure that no one would ever know I’d been here.

My skyward offers have gone unheard and I can now accept that my thinking was delusional. But I found my cure reading two gospels that confinement forced me to examine more closely than I ever would have before: the Bible and Howard Stern’s Private Parts. Amongst other lessons like “poor in spirit” has nothing to do with a bad attitude, disciple Matthew teaches that it’s not necessarily love that wins; it’s humility. “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled” – which I knew because I thought I was too important to be jailed and yet, here I am – but sometjing I hadn’t even considered: “Those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

It’s exactly what happened to Stern. After vowing to his audience he would never lie to them again, he let loose truth all over his listeners, revealing genital realities, lecherous inclinations, bodily functions and unabashed humanity. His failures and embarrassments coronated him the King of All Media.

I have no idea if Howard knows this, but he ripped a page right out of Jesus’ playbook in structuring his kingdom. The disciples, according to Deacon Dolan, were a bunch of outsider weirdos, the Beetlejuices and Nicole Bass’ of ancient Israel. Matthew himself was a tax collector, which at the time, was worse than being a robber and a snitch together. Saint Peter was a manic hot-head who nobody wanted around, “the stone the other builders rejected.” Others were bumblers. I’m sure one of them had a high-pitched voice like Eric. And yet they, too, built an altar where millions worship. The apostles were a Wack Pack.

The proof that you have real power is an ability to take people at such deep margins of society and make them revered, historical. And you can’t do that unless you get to their level by exposing yourself as the most rejectable incompetent ever, so reviled that they want to nail your Fartman costume-covered ass to a cross.

You’d expect a system of rehabilitation to recommend radical confession, but even they know what I’m planning to do is dangerous. Correctional staff advises you to conceal your past for as long as you can get away with it.

“Admit it only when asked,” instructs the re-entry counselor at the prison.   From employment to school applications to any endeavor that requires acceptance, the general wisdom is to let people do a few things – like 1) get to know you; 2) learn that they like you and 3) stay seated on the other side of the table – before you detonate your details on them.

Not only would I feel like I was springing essential information on people after well after it was opportuned, the wait-to-reveal strategy doesn’t work if what all these recidivists tell me is correct. Even the legal protection from these Ban-the-Box laws that are bouncing around to prevent potential employers from asking about a criminal record until everyone’s about to seal the deal – will make me look like a liar when I don’t disclose my past right away. People will hold the convictions against my character anyway and my explanation – Everyone told me not to say anything and you didn’t ask yet! –  will probably undermine any promise I might have projected.

That’s why I know I need to tell people I did time very soon after I meet them. Almost immediately. Like, before I tell them my name.

“Oh no, you’re not feeling the effects of a felony conviction, are you?” the nice people will fear, knowing that collateral consequences assure that punishment never ends in this country.

“No, I’m feeling the effects of thirteen of them,” I will say.

I’m flattering myself that this practice will be efficient and extremely honest, but it will really be a form of aggression, classic preemption. When I tell people I’ve been in prison, a silent “You got a problem with that?” will hang in the air with all the subtlety of swinging nunchucks. Subconsciously I want to retain a victim mentality, so if anyone is going reject the other, it can’t be me pushing someone away.

Pretty much everyone knows someone else who’s considered as bad as I’m made out to be. Sometimes that person is themselves. I was in prison and revealing it is not only true, it gives people permission to have problematic pasts. The sinkhole of mass incarceration has sucked in so many lives that new acquaintances might even reveal their own justice involvement after I lift the shroud of shame.

Especially if their convictions pre-date a digital age, many of them probably never told anyone outside of their family because they didn’t have to. No one could unearth their histories without their consent but their secret burdened them with a heavy thought: what will happen if someone eventually finds out? As the first person they’ll come out to, I plan on relieving them because, per Matthew and Howard, there’s no need to be ashamed of anything that’s real.

Others have very good reasons to be wary of an ex-con. I feel no obligation to convince them of any other way to behold someone with a criminal record. Take me. Leave me. Your call. That’s freedom.

Besides, this is an efficiency matter. Spilling a sordid past is a great social sorting mechanism. If someone is going to hold it against me in the future, I want the rebuff up front and to waste no time.

Abject rejectability might not make me a queen but I think it will be my edge when I re-enter society.  Opening the interpersonal trench coat and exposing all that deserves cover is likely the only way I can compete when I leave. Instead of putting my name on my mailbox, I’ll put: Inmate No. 330445.

When people ask me:

“Paper or plastic?” (I don’t even know if that’s still a choice being offered), I’ll answer:

“Prison. I was in prison.”

“Do you want fries with that?” someone will pose to me over a cash register. I will reply:

“I want you to know I was with the worst of the worst in prison. And sort of I fit right in.”

When a server asks me:

“Have you decided on anything for today?”

“I’ve decided that this meal is better than anything I ate in prison for years. I worked in a kitchen there, you know, a unique place where the customer and the server are both always wrong.”

When a physician inquires as to how I’m doing, I’ll answer:

“My health’s okay, but I’m terrible person. I think I’m smarter than you, yet I wasn’t smart enough to keep my ass out of the joint, much less finish graduate school.”

When some perfect, stable person whose quick moves dodged them right out of dysfunction uses that collected, cucumber tone with me:

“Hey, what’s going on?”

“Prison exacerbated my every disorder I have and made my mind a sieve, so nothing.”

Eventually they’ll get so tired of of this that they’ll get very stern with me:

“Ma’am. I have other things to do here. It doesn’t make any difference in my life that you were in prison.”

And I will say:


And I will win. So I will fix my crown upon my head, whereupon it will crash down on my knee or my foot, making me shriek in pain and display my weakness for all, because that’s what the powerful winners do.



In an attempt to control the opioid epidemic, drugstore giant CVS is going to limit new patients with new prescriptions for opioid drugs to seven days’ worth of pills –  which means all of the prescription fraud is about to shift to Walgreen’s and Rite-Aid unless they follow suit. This is a good idea overall, I think, but someone I spent time with in prison pointed out that she takes opioids legitimately (meaning she has a non-forged script) and pain makes it hard for her to leave the house. If this rule applies to her, she needs to leave the house four times more now. I hadn’t thought of that because I was concentrating on a memory I have of another woman I met at York CI who forged a doctor’s signature so well, the only way he could tell if he wrote it was to check his patient files. Her forgeries were for people whom he never examined. I bet she’ll avoid CVS now. It won’t be worth the risk of arrest for seven pills.

A $75 speeding ticket case has reached the Iowa Supreme Court and it’s not some diehard self-represented person who won’t let it go. The case is actually very important because it’s about privatizing police services. Cops with a private company are writing tickets to bad its bottom line. Innocent people are getting caught up in someone else’s agenda. Congratulations, Marla Leaf (the petitioner who got the bogus ticket); now you know what prison discipline feels like.

Another lawsuit was filed, challenging the wages paid to detainees by private prisons, this time in Washington State. The last one was filed earlier this year in Colorado. I have always said this is bad move. If anyone has to pay detainees or inmates a minimum wage, they’ll just hire people outside the facility and then people inside will have nothing to do. These lawsuits might shut down the entire job program within these facilities and that’s a bad idea. All it will cause is more idleness for people inside. Do you need directions to the Devil’s workshop?

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18 September 2017

Oh, Sandy

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Sandy’s wrath in Connecticut.

“Yo, Patriots, don’t we gotta be evacuated or nothin’? Go back to our cells?”

Hurricane Sandy was thrashing everyone else in the state – and the seaboard – but if you didn’t have access to a TV or radio in here, you’d never know, even though York CI is almost beachfront property. At least on the maximum security side, there aren’t many trees to lurch and spasm in the wind. To me, right now, [Hurricane] Sandy looks like heavy rain.

“Prison is the safest place you can be during a hurricane…” Patriots assured us. He fills in for Bengals on Friday mornings and he might be right. When society shifts into every-man-for-himself mode during a disaster, inmates are some of the few people who someone’s looking out for, mostly because we can’t – and no one want us to – flee. We’ve already taken cover in an impenetrable bunker when we were sentenced. Generators wait for years to be called into action to keep our ‘home’ humming. My life – crappy as it may be – was totally un-interrupted by Sandy. Even though I couldn’t move, I still escaped the storm. Don’t let anyone tell you there isn’t an upside to incarceration.

We were lucky to work but Patriots might have the Freaky Friday curse. Man-made disaster has struck every Friday he’s come in when Bengals was off.  One kettle broke as it was stirring 200 gallons of American Chop Suey. I had to run alongside the kettle, back and forth, with a piece of cardboard to catch the Chop Suey castoff so it wouldn’t pile up on the floor cause a worker to slip and bust her ass.

Another Friday morning brought with it a broken pump machine that sprayed a steady stream of 212-degree black-eyed peas into a black inmate’s eye. If I made up a story like that, people would say it was over the top; it was almost like someone set it up.

Now, in a natural disaster, he came in to cover for Bengals again to supervise us as we made 1000 gallons of chicken tetrazzini.  If I were him, I wouldn’t have tempted fate.

But this Friday morning was calm. Three kettles rotated silently, spinning chicken and green pepper strips in sauce made from dry milk and butter. No other creature in the facility was stirring. Food Prep probably was the least-disrupted, smoothest-running place in the state.

“Bozelko, can you pull out two racks of chicken and prep ‘em?”

“Sure,” I agreed and went inside the walk-in cooler. I pushed the metal rack on the cooler door, cleared the vinyl curtains and had just come through when:

THUNG! THUNG! THU..THU…THU…THU…NNNG!  rang out at 20 decibels, followed by an inmate voice from some far recesses of the kitchen:

“Some shit is broke.”

And the kitchen went dark.

Power usually goes out without a sound. It’s the silence from deleted TV screens and extinguished fluorescent bulbs that helps alert you that something happened. Not this time. No one lives to describe the noise of Armageddon but I’m guessing it sounds like this.

“RECALL! Everyone back to their units!” Patriots boomed. “Bozelko, back that chicken back in.”

“How’re they gonna force an evacuation of the tetrazzini?” I asked him. “You have three kettles to pump and chill.”

“Bozelko, we don’t have power. No pump machine, no chillers.”

What Patriots meant was that 600 gallons of a hot, creamy meat-and-vegetable concoction were going to crust over in their containers unless he scooped it out, by hand, into the garbage. Another disaster. I felt really bad for him but I had to trudge back to my housing unit like everyone else, for the opportunity to hide from the storm with my cellmate and not move for days. That’s how Sandy finally struck me.

I was looking more glum than usual when I walked to Mr. K’s desk in the unit. Before I could even say anything, he shot instructions at me:

“Quick, quick shower. PTA only [inmate-speak for ‘pits, tits and ass’] and you gotta get back in your cell fast.”

“Have I lingered before?” I asked him. Storm or no storm, I always scurry inside.

“No, seriously, Bozelko. Because the fuckin’ back-up generator blew, all of the doors are unlocked. Scaring the shit out of me.  You guys can come out and do anything.”

“I thought prison’s the safest place during a hurricane.”

“Not for us it’s not.”


harvard sucks

1. Van Jones wrote an op-ed this week for CNN blasting correctional administrators in Texas and Florida for failing to move prisoners during the recent hurricanes. But it is also worth considering how many more prisoners were properly moved this time around  than during previous hurricanes. The New Republic and Houston Press reported what happened to inmates s during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, respectively, but those stories didn’t appear for months, years, while this time many news outlets ran stories of evacuations, or lack thereof.

2. So, basically, Harvard University doesn’t like felons. Last week included two stories of the Number 2 school in the nation rescinding offers to women convicted of felonies because of their crimes.

The New York Times and The Marshall Project broke the story of Michelle Jones, a woman who served more than two decades in an Indiana prison for killing her 4-year-old son. While behind bars,  she became a published scholar of American history, which is almost impossible. Her academic work was so good she was accepted into Harvard University’s vaunted doctoral program in history — until two American Studies professors raised questions about whether anyone who had committed her crime deserves to be admitted – and whether Fox News would drag them for accepting her.

Then the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government decided to take back an invitation to former prisoner and Wikileaker Chelsea Manning to become a Visiting Fellow because Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, flaked on an appointment to speak at the school and criticized the decision.

And in case anyone needed a reminder, here’s the scoop from Business Insider on why Princeton is really better than Harvard.

3. If you’ve got a warrant out in your name or are undocumented, Motel 6 will drop a dime on you, at least to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Phoenix New Times reported this week. The irony in this story for me is that Motel 6 knows it’s not family or luxury lodging; many people who stay there probably have a real need for privacy, and not just because they might be cheating on their spouses. In short, if Motel 6 keeps out the “riffraff” they’ll lose their clientele.








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11 September 2017


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At 8:46 AM, the minute the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, York CI holds a moment of silence, a minute to honor people who died on this day. I thought the place was unfeeling enough not to conduct a memorial like this at all, much less include the inmates in it, but they do. I suspect it’s because the C/O’s compare themselves to the brave souls we call “First Responders” and feel some comity with them even though denying a confined woman a tampon – or even giving it to her freely – doesn’t really compare to running into tons of melting, burning steel that are about to collapse on your head, just so you can free someone else who’s been imprisoned by it.

If I haven’t heard the 8:46 AM announcement on the overhead in, then I hear it from the kitchen supervisors’ belts; their radios announce when it’s time to pay our respects. The control room transmits the request for one minute where




And the 1000+ women here haven’t been able to pull it off once. Ever since I’ve arrived, the 60 seconds of silence gets hijacked and driven into some foolishness.

2008:   “Yo, the TV gotta be off for it to be silent?”

2009:   “I don’t give a fuck about no planes. I’m gettin’ my shit [commissary].”

2010:   “Is medical [building] open?”

The ten-year anniversary should be different, I thought. Advance notices that this shut-the-hell-up moment was coming, I decided, might minimize the interruptions. Because prison is noisy, silence might be jarring for some women in here if they don’t understand why the human sound that surrounds them the other 525,599 minutes of the year has vacated the space around them. Especially if they’re PTSD’d out, any change in the atmosphere might trigger their hyper-vigilance, panicking them, causing the careless decision to open their mouths at an inopportune time.

“Okay, listen, listen up. It’s the 10th anniversary of 9/11 this year, remember? And we do a moment of silence at 8:46 to honor the people that died. So, around that time, let’s pay attention to our surroundings and, if everyone’s being quiet and not talking, then let’s not say a word until we know that moment is over, right?” I announced to the other food prep workers. The kitchen’s been under renovation for months and we were just sitting around.

Amongst the vacant stares and less than diligent nods came:

“Somebody always fucks that shit up.”

“I know, but I think it’s because they forget that it’s coming if they haven’t heard the announcement. So I’m announcing it now, ahead of time, so that people remember: don’t interrupt the silence.”

And I interrupted their conversations three more times with reminders.

“Remember: no talking.”

And when the minute-hand lapped the stubby hour-hand and stretched straight out to the “9” on the clock, I prepped people again with a one-minute notice, until that thin sliver of a second- hand did its round.

Then I held one hand to my lips and the other up in the air like I was asking for help, which I was. Please show me you can do this.

And it worked for about 25 seconds until Tracey, the “new” lady who’s been here twenty times, came in from the hallway.

“What’s going on?”

When fifteen sets of glaring eyes set upon her, she realized.

“Oh, it’s that thing she was talkin’ about?”

This, for me, wasn’t about the tragedy of 9/11 or the fact that people perished for no reason other than criminal masterminds, full of rage, beat the United States aviation system at its own game. It was about our potential. It’s really no wonder we can’t get any respect. We’re incapable of honoring anyone’s valid instruction, memory or humanity. This realization telegraphed itself from my pursed lips and rotating head. But I still never said shit.

“You tried,” [Kitchen Supervisor] Bengals said, reading my disgust, only after we’d firmly hit 8:47.

“If they can’t shut their traps for one minute, when they get multiple advance warnings from a pain-in-the-ass like myself, how likely do you think it is that they’re going to have the willpower to stop using drugs, not beat the piss out of someone or just generally rise to the challenges of being a good citizen?”

“It’s not likely at all,” he conceded.  “But you already knew that.”



prisoners hurricane
Inmates evacuated after Hurricane Katrina.

Prisons and hurricanes are a bad combo. Check back next week for a diary entry on what it was like to be in prison during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. But the storms are upon us now, causing some serious problems.

The New Yorker ran a pretty interesting piece about inmates in Texas during Hurricane Harvey, using the inmates’ own words. Note that prison locks don’t work when the power is out and people were excited to have Port-A-Potty’s delivered…so they could eat again.

Grady Judd, the sheriff of Polk County, Florida, threatened to take into custody anyone with an outstanding arrest warrant who sought shelter from Hurricane Irma’s path. Most of the warrants in the county east of Tampa stem from unpaid traffic tickets and other low-level offenses and the people who would be pulled in on them posed no danger for anyone in the hurricane shelters. Given the fact that state and local authorities are at a loss of how to evacuate all the prisoners who need to be moved, I think it’s safe to say that Sheriff Judd is less concerned about public safety than he should be. Taking someone into custody when you may not be able to guarantee their safety isn’t a decision to be taken lightly.

Seven thousand prisoners in Florida had to be relocated in buses and vans from unsafe facilities that likely couldn’t withstand Hurricane Irma’s forces. The Connecticut DOC can barely handle transporting about 100  prisoners per day, and only to court and back to confinement. I can’t imagine what it is like for the Florida inmates going through this. They have to be shackled and cuffed and ride in vehicles with no shocks, probably for hours, only to arrive at a place that will, necessarily, be overcrowded with little space for them to sleep. If I had the choice between prisoner transport or having my roof  blown off, I might just stay put. Seriously.

And, even though it’s an older piece, it’s worth reading Alex Chemerinksy’s article on how Louisiana lost 6,000 prisoners from the Orleans Parish Prison during Hurricane Katrina.

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4 September 2017

Shade and Freud, Part Four of Four

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To start from the beginning, click here. It’s best read that way.

To read last week’s section, click here.

After I did the five-minute shuffle back to seg in dawn’s cold, I crunched up on my bed for hours, even slept a little through the next night, with no sheet still, like a bum.

That new C/O came around for count. He’s been here only a few months and he’s already looking women up when they get out, at least that’s what people are saying. I believe it. He asked:

“Ma, don’t you want to put that sheet down? Might be here for a minute.”

Only in prison would the word “minute” come to mean a long time. He wasn’t being nice.

In a York minute I found out I wasn’t going to be there long when another C/O, Reeger, came downstairs. Supposedly he asks the inmates to flash him.

“Let’s go, Bozelko. You’re moving,” Reeger told me, muffled through the glass in the door. I stopped caring about whether he’s a pervert or not.

“It’s count time, isn’t it?” This was confusing.

“What? You wanna stay?”

“Nope, no, here I am,” as I jumped from the top bunk to the floor.

The move to the medical unit – also the ‘overflow’ unit when they don’t know where to put you – was too fast, occurring during the last count of the first shift of the last day of the workweek.  Wardens and captains wouldn’t be in for the next two days. Something else was happening.

They let me go to work from the medical unit which usually wasn’t allowed. I didn’t mind. Gino was working and he’s always serving up some levity.  When I walked in without a uniform, Gino asked:

“You alright?” He heard what had happened. I wonder what he believed.

“Yeah, I’m fine. It was just a mush.”

“A wha?”


The next few days were busy and buzzy. I worked doubles to avoid the medical unit where I was stationed. There was more activity than usual. Many captains walking around, even plainclothes investigators going into Building 6, the administration’s site. Rumors kept seeping into the kitchen. Keisha’s telling people that I had told her I had sexual contact with the C/O we were allegedly supposed to kill in her cockamamie fantasy. Reports like that get you thrown in seg, too.  So I went to Gino and told him. I needed preventive help.

“Geen, I don’t want to go back to seg,” I was pleading with him to intervene.

“Don’t worry. You’re the least of her problems,” he advised.

“Well, yeah, true, but I’d rather pose low risk to her from out here, not in there,” I explained to him, pointing to the restricted housing unit which was just across the walkway.

“Don’t worry, you’re never gonna see her on this compound again.”

“Unless she comes through the line and threatens to kill me over an extra egg,” I pointed out.

“Don’t worry. It’s covered. Go about your business.”

Which I did, lugging garbage to the dumpster in the back of the kitchen as my friend, Monica, walked past on her way to a medical appointment.

Monica is the personification of the War on Drugs’ failure. Her surgeon mother and professor father (Yale School of Public Health – he helped found Connecticut’s hospice) couldn’t save their daughter from an opiate addiction. She worked as a news camerawoman in New York, shooting on location with the likes of Dan Rather. She had enough money to fill a suitcase with heroin for a vacation on the Connecticut shoreline – all for personal use – before she boarded Metro North. Where she got busted. That was in the 90’s. She’s been cycling in and out since and always felt it was her responsibility to bring me up to date on the language and the ways of the streets, since she knew neither one of us ever inhabited them. Monica is one of the few true inmate mentors I’ve had.*

“Oh my God, are you alright? I heard all about it on the news,” she said as she passed the kitchen.

“The news?” Is this what they’re calling inmate.com now?

“NPR,” and then she went into announcer mode. “Keisha D, an inmate at the York Correctional Institution for Women is facing two charges of sexually assaulting fellow inmates.”**

“When the hell was this?” I asked. I thought she relapsed.

“I dunno. Couple days ago? When you were in seg.”  Everyone knew. Inmate.com operates on high-speed internet.

As she continued down the walkway, Monica turned back, just in case the lesson had been lost:

“You know that was meant for you?”

“Yeah. But all I got was a mush. That’s what they call it, right?” I checked.

“Yes, it is,” she called back as I rushed inside for confirmation. I didn’t know if I believed what I just heard.

“Geen, did you say [Keisha] won’t be on the compound because she’ll be classified to seg because she sexually assaulted two inmates?”


“So you’re telling me that these guys were so anxious to get Keisha to rape or kill me that they set this whole thing up and it backfired on them? She attacked other women instead of me?” I had to get this straight.


“Is that why everyone’s all in a frenzy and captains and state cops are walking around? They’re investigating what she did to these other women?”

“Yes.” Gino jokes around a lot. When he’s serious he has to stop and be still. Eliminate his smile. Which he did.

But I burst out laughing.  That two women had to suffer even four minutes of Keisha’s deafening presence because they were caught in the crosshairs of the Bozelko Beef was unthinkable. The fact that they underwent God-knows-what violation of their will or bodily integrity is serious and a total abdication of the facility’s responsibility to keep its wards safe. It’s incomprehensibly irresponsible and totally traumatizing to these poor women. It was a horrible situation that, quite frankly, thrilled me. Not because two women were hurt.

The fact that Booz et al. were feeling heat for it was hilarious. Even Gino could see how I got some getback without even knowing what happened. He started laughing, too. I need to be clear here; neither I nor Gino thought that it was funny that women were assaulted. We recognize how devastating it is. We were laughing because the seriousness of the matter was falling at the feet of the proper sinners and they deserved it for being this callous and craven with the human bodies they get paid to protect. And the fact that they missed their target was even richer.

“Listen, c’mere,” he waved me toward his desk. “They told Booz he better leave you alone, too!” and he pointed toward the back of the dining hall. On the other side of that wall, the administrative offices of captains and deputy wardens hummed above industrial carpet and around intentionally bland décor, now facing the proof in a local courthouse that they’re incompetent.

“She’s gonna kill someone some day!” Gino laughed.

“I heard she already has!” I squealed.

“I heard you were gonna help her with the next one!” Gino screamed.

And our heads were thrown back in guffaw, laughing in a time when correctional staff actually devoted their workhours to gerrymandering the general population for the sole purpose of harming me. I hadn’t realized before this how important I am to these people and how pathetic this proposition is. Do people in here know that their lives are in danger over imagined personal conflict with me?

Days after I learned about this, I saw Booz on the walkway when I was walking back after work. Before this mess, he used to give me the stink-eye but now, nothing. He wouldn’t even look at me. I could be wrong, but I think he quickened his pace. And I swear, I swear he saw me smile.

When people get nervous and ask me what prison is really like – the marshals at court have asked, lawyers, newbies in lockup – I need to tell them what it is: a see-saw of schadenfreude. Whenever someone in the facility faces a personal problem, there’s someone nearby who delights at their predicament. At least until her fortunes take a dive. Then someone’s laughing at her.

It’s why inmate.com thrives so vibrantly with such sad – and even false – stories. That web of judgment and ridicule supplies us with the bad news about others that keeps us going.

We could, if we chose to do so, level ourselves out with empathy since everyone in here, every member of the staff included, is suffering in some way. I heard through the grapevine that one of the good C/O’s has a severely disabled son and she does this work for its stability and benefits. Booz was losing his house and that can’t be fun. Inmates are separated from their children. They get news that I dread: that one of their parents has passed.

Instead of empathy, though, there’s always someone smug with satisfaction at that suffering… until it’s her turn.  If we were empathetic then it wouldn’t be prison anymore. Everyone on the same, elevated moral plane? Nah. Not here. What do you think this is? A government facility dedicated to rehabilitating people?

I started to laugh again. Out loud. By myself. Walking to my housing unit on the walkway.

As I reached the double doors, I realized how humbling this epiphany was. I am a sick fuck. Just like everyone else here.


*Monica passed away from pancreatic cancer in May 2015 in the hospice founded by and  named after her father.

**I’ve never been able to verify that these events appeared in the news, nor have I been able to ascertain that they were never reported in the media. I did verify that Keisha D. was charged with two counts of sexual assault on February 23, 2010 in Geographical Area 10 of the Judicial District of New London. On July 28, 2010, after she had been released from York CI, she pleaded guilty to one count of Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree for whatever happened to those two women and was sentenced to three months back at York CI, the scene of the crime.


Shown is a witness gallery inside the new lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010. While court righting continues over resumption of California's death penalty, state prison officials conducted a media tour of their refurbished death chamber designed to meet legal requirements. The new facility cost $853,000 and the work was performed by the inmate ward labor program. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

The State of Nevada announced that it will use fentanyl – the opiate that dealers have been using to cut their heroin to make kill bags – in its lethal injection protocol. Because it’s a first, no one really knows how effective it will be, even though it proves quite effective in the streets every day. If that isn’t a statement on where opioid addiction will land you, I don’t know what is.

The next time someone tries to look merciful by suggesting that a defendant should “just get probation” should read the report released Monday Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Researchers found that probation contributes to mass incarceration contributes as much as incarceration itself. Wondering how that’s possible? For-profit probation.

At the publication devoted to covering gun violence, The Trace, reporters found that two-thirds of gunshot wound victims aren’t insured. Medicaid, hospitals cover much of the costs, but the most is paid by victims themselves. Either this is a fact unacceptable in a country that claims to be concerned about crime victims or it shows how much drug gangs make if they can afford to self-pay for the bullets their members take – at least $20K per hospital stay for a gunshot wound.

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28 August 2017

Shade and Freud, Part Three of Four

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To read from the beginning, Part One of Four, click here.

To read last week’s segment, Part Two of Four, click here.

I waited for hours in the medical hallway with Baskin standing right next to me. He walked away as soon as I was summoned into the office, now staffed by nursing students trying to prove to themselves that they would treat all patients the same once they snagged their RN’s.

“What happened?” one asked. Her hair was shiny, like mine used to be.

“Nothing, really. I didn’t ask to come here. I’m fine,” I said and touched my frazzled bun.

“They called and said you got hit by your roommate. Are you okay?” she lamented, over-concerned.

“Oh, no, it was just a mush. That’s what they call it, right?”

The student in a lab coat examined my forehead more closely than the doctor did when when I got the spider bite or when the C/O shot the laser pointer in my eye. Took my temperature.

“Um, do you know if I’m moving or not, because it’s after count time…” I  asked leaning in closer to one of the students and she didn’t look at me. Instead, she locked eyes with Shiny Hair in silence, which was as clear a signal that I was fucked.

The door pushed open – a huge HIPAA [Health Information Portability and Accountability Act] no-no since it’s an examining room and any patient could have been undressed or receiving treatment – but rights will not stand in the way when you can bust Bozelko.

The door’s pusher, Lt. Booz, had returned to the scene and stood outside, flanked by C/O Brokowski – who doesn’t need rumors because all of the inmates watch him jump from jellies to every goddamned jam possible – and C/O’s Lambert and McMurray, who I heard is dating the operating captain. I don’t know if it’s true but I believe it.

Three C/O’s, along with one lieutenant, is the magical combination to disappear someone in solitary confinement.

“Lieutenant Booz, may I ask a question?”

Booz made sarcastic movements and expressions, like he would listen to me politely and intently, when everyone knew he wouldn’t.

“Can you tell me why I’m going and when I’ll be out?”

“You’re going because we need to investigate you. And, when you’ll get out? I have no idea. Turn around.”

McMurray cuffed me and the posse walked me down the hallway of the inpatient medical building out the door and to the right, to solitary confinement.

After McMurry strip-searched me and watched me don the red scrubs, she left, locked the door and slid the notice to me that they were holding me in administrative detention, in case the cuffing, strip search and being dropped into a basement room hadn’t tipped me off. “Pending Investigation.” 

I didn’t even spread the pistachio-colored sheet out. I just hoisted myself on the black metal frame and landed on mattress with a crunch, the hunter green weave of fibers sounding every time I moved. At first, I was still, supine, as tears rolled out of my eyes sideways like the string on a mask.

The saline burn scolded me: you shouldn’t have said anything! But the alternative was to have Keisha needle me forever, deny me sleep and cause as much chaos as possible. If I hadn’t said anything, I would’ve still ended up on this human wrapper in this dungeon anyway, because they would have blamed both of us for Keisha’s quite remarkable ability to escalate any dispute infinitely. That is, if she didn’t beat the brakes off me.

I realized then that I never had a choice; that nothing would have kept me from the Restricted Housing Unit. It was impossible if I were assigned to live with Keisha; she would either kill/harm me, or drive me to misbehaving, or I’d hoist my own petard by asking for distance from her. I was never going to win. Assigning Keisha to me as a roommate was a set-up from minute one.

I turned and rested my cheek against the vinyl – sheet still by my feet where it couldn’t even pretend to protect me from the years of use on this mattress that I know was never washed once – and I could hear the tiny tap of each tear against it. Eventually my tears’ trickle tickled my nostril as a puddle collected. My nose ran, too, into a mass of moisture that I fell asleep on.

“Bozelko, get up, we’re coming down to get ya,” came a tinny announcement through the intercom.

“What time is it?” I asked and craned my neck toward the window. Still dark, but no thud-thud-thuddd of the trap doors for breakfast trays.


“I don’t have court,” I said to no one. Wake up time for court is at 3:30, not 2:15, in the morning, but mistakes thrive at York CI.

“Not court, investigation, at the LT’s office,” tinny voice told me.

“I have to go now?”

“Fuck! Yes. Why else would I wake you up?” he shrieked.

And, with that, another C/O appeared at the door and told me to kneel on the chair outside my cell. With my feet behind me, dangling off the edge, he shackled me and took me toward the the door.

As approached it, noticed it was a deeper dark outside than I remembered of night, like a navy rug. Runoff from a drainpipe was matte white, frozen so completely that I could see the icicle’s dryness, no heat in the air whatsoever to give it rinse with moisture.

I shuffled, shackled, though the still of cold so severe that it made me catch my breath. It was the only thing I could have caught, being cuffed the way I was. No one had delivered any underwear or bra to me when I was brought into the building and the red scrub set included pants that sagged on me, down low enough that a brisk pace could pull them right to the sidewalk and expose my unshaven legs and ass to blistering cold and burning humiliation – as well as a charge of indecent exposure. I wouldn’t have even been able to pull my red chinos back up quickly because that asshole held my arm to “balance” me. I’d been, in essence, hogtied and asked to walk that way through a freezing gauntlet, barely covered in cheap cotton.

So I walked even more slowly to prevent my pants from dropping, only extending the time I would spend in winter’s tightening clutch. What should have been a two-minute walk to the administration building became five, with the guy holding my arm in a jacket, gloves, hat and neckwarmer. The mist of human life coming out of his mouth while my teeth chattered uncontrollably. When I saw my reflection in the glass near the door of the lieutenant’s office, the soft ducts where my tears had depleted themselves puffed under my eyes. I was way beyond pitiful; I was ghoulish and twitching when he led me to Lt. Booz, bald and paunchy, sitting at a desk, ready to do his investigation into the matter, racking up overtime.

“It’s two in the morning,” I hiccuped out.

“I say when we do this investigation.”

“Oh-kay.” I was still shivering.

“So, your roommate, she spoke to us. She said you and her have some plans when you get out.”

Booz then went on to explain, in his wanna-be-cop delivery, that Keisha had told him – even wrote in a statement – that  she and I were planning to meet up on the outside when we were released and she would, from her prostitution perch, induce C/O  X to pay her for services and drive her to her usual spot, where she and I would proceed to kill him.

Booz et al. thought this was a real plot; they were sure Keisha had been talking about this – she’s tried to make the same plan every time she’s been here – but I hadn’t reported it, which convinced them that it was a real plot. I was in on it and a threat to Mr. X.

“Well, Keisha said that but I thought it was about as likely as her becoming secretary of state, so, no, I didn’t report it.”

“You got jokes, Bozelko? Think it’s funny that an officer’s life would be endangered.”

“No, sir. One-hundred percent serious. That’s what I actually thought. I mean, for that to be a real risk, C/O X would have to be in the habit of picking up prostitutes. I think we both know that isn’t true, despite what’s reported on inmate.com. And by Keisha herself.”

Booz’s face dropped like I just announced it was Law Day.

“We’re done here,” he announced.

“We are,” I agreed. And I knew I wasn’t getting out of the restricted housing unit for a while.

“Here, take these statement papers and write out what you just told me in the no-contact visit room, you know, since you’re such a good writer.”

So I did. Wrote it all out, still shivering. Shade and all.

Click here for Part Four of Four. 



Many lessons emerged last week. Three of them are:

Jefferson County Common Pleas Court Judge Joseph J. Bruzzese Jr., who has carried a gun for years fearing “nutcases out there who want retaliation,” was ambushed and wounded last week as he was entering his courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio. The judge and a court probation officer fired back, killing the assailant, who happens to be the father of a young man convicted of rape in the same courthouse four years ago. Shooting a judge – or anyone for that matter – is unreasonable, unlawful and morally wrong, of course, but I would be remiss in not allowing this story to opportune a dragging of some members of the bench.

A study from Harvard Law School published last year found that judges follow the law far less often than we expect, particularly in criminal cases. Even when the law is followed, a disturbed litigant/defendant can act, well, disturbed, but those “nutcases” who want retaliation might have been screwed by a judge – and had no further remedy. A way to prevent another situation like this: everyone – including jurists – follow the law, in every case, in every way, because we’re all equal under the law, remember? LESSON: DON’T TRUST JUDGES (but don’t shoot them, either).


When it comes to sting operations, what counts as entrapment is about to get debated again. The Santa Fe Reporter and New Mexico In Depth looked at one case out of Albuquerque where an undercover ATF operative seemed to go too far. Jennifer Padilla thought she’d found a new boyfriend who cared about her kids and her effort to stay clean after several stints in jail and a long battle with drug addiction. As it turns out, Padilla was targeted by the informant, who encouraged her to relapse.  After two months of dating, he asked her to help arrange two meth deals. Now Padilla’s back behind bars and the informant (who has a much more serious criminal record than Padilla) is still working for the feds…and probably dating someone else with a criminal record, low self-esteem and a future clear of lawbreaking…if she can get away from him now. LESSON: ON SECOND THOUGHT, TRUST NO ONE.


White nationalist and convicted felon Christopher Cantwell turned himself in to Charlottesville police last week on a warrant for one count of malicious bodily injury by means of a caustic substance and two felony counts of illegal use of tear gas, but surprisingly not for possessing a firearm, which is illegal in Virginia for people with criminal records – and clearly depicted in the Vice News special on the Charlottesville march that featured him.

But the real story here is that Cantwell was denied bail, a condition usually reserved for defendants charged with murder, people like his fellow white nationalist James Alex Fields, the driver of the Dodge Charger that killed counterprotester Heather Heyer on August 12, 2017. It’s true that Cantwell doesn’t live in Virginia, but fleeing and failing to appear later would have been hard for this dude after his cameo in the Vice News special and his subsequent celluloid hysteria about actually having to take a collar. While none of the media coverage of Cantwell’s arrest say this explicitly, a judge made a legal finding that Cantwell is dangerous and it’s not clear if the court knows about the guns or the threats from the Vice special. It’s entirely possible that the court found Cantwell to be dangerous for his beliefs, which is a very dangerous place for American courts to find themselves – and very uncommon as courts are usually glad to post a bond to get an accused person to inject some cash into a local economy.

I wonder if other white nationalists have been/will be treated the same way when they appear in criminal cases, as many of them have and will likely continue to do. While we’re on the topic, Cantwell’s video is a prime lesson in how to be a punk bitch when you find out there’s a warrant for your arrest. For Christ’s sake, there are bougie white chicks who’ve never cried before, during or after being arrested. You’re reading one right now. LESSON: TRUST ME, CANTWELL’S A SNOWFLAKE.



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21 August 2017

Shade and Freud, Part Two of Four

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 Read Part One of Four here.

One advantage – there are a scant few of them – that I have over other inmates is speed. I entered the room and within 3 steps I was halfway up the ladder to my bunk, raised above the one-woman fracas.

“I am a bad bitch! I am – baaad motherfuckin bitch!” Keisha sang along with Janet Jackson’s If I Was Your Girl which was blasting lyrics other than those… like “the things I’d do to you”…. into her ears because the song doesn’t include those words.

The shift had changed since I was sitting in the common area. Now it was Suarez, bald with no internal rap because he’s new. A clean inmate.com record made him suspicious to me – no one in prison squeaks like that. When the nurses came in for medline and they opened all the doors, I alighted from the bunk and scurried to the C/O’s desk.

“Mr. Suarez, I don’t know  if you heard what’s going on here…”

“I did,” he said as he shrugged. He didn’t give a fuck.

“And there’s nothing you can do?”

“I gotta witness what she’s doing,” he said from a desk that’s mere feet away from her screaming. “I can’t just send her to seg.”

“I’m not asking for that,” I explained, but I guess his response was justifiable since so many women here don’t seek to avoid trouble as much as they want to cause it for someone else and watch them suffer. Seg isn’t about security; it’s about schadenfreude. But not for me, so I was blunt:

“I just don’t want to live with her anymore. Move me – anywhere.”

“If she starts her shit again, hit the buzzer and I’ll come over,” he offered.

“Yeah, except I’m staying up on my bunk and the button is down by the door. You want me to come down near her to press it? Besides she’ll just stop doing what’s she’s doing and you won’t have the evidence you say you need.”

“So, then, if she starts again when you go back in, walk back and forth in front of the window and I’ll see you and beep in so I can hear what she’s doing, ‘kay? Catch her in the act.”

“Alright,” I said, like I had another choice.

And when I went back in, Keisha was praying at the window:

“Dear God, please help me kill dis bitch to make (sic) her dead, real dead…”

As she prayed, I paced, back and forth, over a four-foot span, passing the five-inch window like some asshole duck in a shooting gallery. If I appeared in that window once, I appeared maybe 300 times. Step, step. Pivot. Step, step. Pivot…for about 20 minutes as she tore through various prayers. And Suarez never looked up. Not once. I swear, I swear he was smiling.

Then, when divinity seemed insufficient, Keisha went to the sink, opened my toothpaste, stretched her arm out, rotated her wrist 180 degrees and squeezed a long, taffy-like drop to the floor.

Step. “Keisha, don’t!” I warned her from my gallery. Step. Pivot.  “I can’t order another for 5 days and I won’t get it for another seven. And I have teeth. So cut the shit.”

And at the next Pivot, a woman easily twice my size was coming at me.

I’m dead. Real dead.

But all she did was press her palm against my upper cheek and push it slightly, with a twist.  Her size made me think that Keisha could pack a wallop, but she can’t even pack a toothbrush. If all fights are like that, I can take all comers.

But I won’t.

“That’s it!” I screamed and swung my hand in that horizontal chop that always tells people that whatever’s happening is about to end real quick. The doors opened for rec[reation] and I barged out of the room.

“Suarez, she just put her hand on my face. Move me, please, alright? I want to be moved. There’s no reason for me to have to endure this when I have to go to work in the morning.”

“Can’t move you without calling an L.T.,” he said, like this was some insurmountable barrier.

“Suarez, alls I did was mush the bitch in the face,” Keisha added from behind me. According to inmate.com, mushing is an official fighting move. You put your hand on someone’s face and push in a rotating manner. I never knew this.

“Fine, call,” I huffed. “I mean, may I impose upon you to call a lieutenant?” is how I corrected my tune and lyrics. Suarez picked up the receiver.

Within minutes, Lieutenant Potash swashbuckled through the door, wry smile between his hunched shoulders and his I-just-fell-off-the-set-of-Anchorman mustache. Like he had won. Like this was expected. Violence could have been predicted earlier and, in fact, was. But doesn’t that make me the winner? That I was right all along?

“So, what happened?” Potash asked as squared his hips in a power stance.

“The same thing that’s been happening all day. I don’t care if she goes to seg. If I can just move, so I can sleep, that’s all I’m asking for.”

“Well, that’s not fuckin’ happening,” he decided.

“So I’m required to go back in the cell with her?”

“Nope. You reported violence so you’re gonna be seen by medical. Baskin here will take you over,” and he jerked a thumb at the guard who used to call another cellmate out of the room every time he worked third shift. She would disappear upstairs for an hour for no reason whatsoever. That’s no rumor.

“I’m not hurt. It was nothing. She didn’t hit me. It was just a mush. That’s what they call it, right? A mush?”

Potash just stared at me.

“Alright….Wait, why do I need to be escorted?” I asked, because I was never in on the game. Or its goal.

Read the next part, Three of Four, here


Orange County Superior Court Judge Judge Thomas Goethals reads a portion of his ruling which takes the death penalty off the table for confessed killer Scott Evans Dekraai, 47, because he concluded law enforcement would not ensure the defendant a fair penalty trial, on Friday, August 18, 2017 in Santa Ana. Dekraai pleaded guilty to killing eight people and wounding another in an October 2011 shooting spree at a Seal Beach salon. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

This is huge: a judge ordered the death penalty off the table for a defendant in a mass murder case because prosecutors and sheriffs had engaged in misconduct. Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals said for him to ignore the misconduct – which included shredded documents, jailhouse informants used illegally to get confessions, deputies who lied on the witness stand, deputies who pleaded the Fifth in court so they wouldn’t be charged with perjury – in the case against Scott Dekraai who shot 8 people, including his ex-wife, in a hair salon in 2011 would be “unconscionable, even cowardly.” In prosecuting this defendant, the state ended up saving him because their actions were so dishonest. This development does raise another question of how far a prosecuting team has to go into misconduct for an entire case to be thrown out.

All Florida prisons were locked down last week, indefinitely, because the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March that was planned for – and occurred on – Saturday, 900 miles away in Washington, DC, would cause unrest among the 97,000 inmates within the facilities; the Department of Corrections said it had credible threats to security within. The March received not one mention in mainstream media, so it likely didn’t deliver the millions it advertised. This reveals a lot about the nature of prison lockdowns. The Department of Correction kept almost 100,000 people locked inside small cells for days because a non-event was happening a large distance away. Supposedly, the lockdown/shakedown netted some weapons and cell phones but that’s standard for Florida prisons. Totally unfair and counterproductive, this was not a safety measure but a show of non-physical force.

“I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio,” President Trump told Fox News, talking about the controversial Arizona sheriff recently convicted of ignoring a federal judge’s orders to stop racial profiling. Arpaio was one of the biggest supporters of Trump’s plans to crack down on immigration.  The ACLU says a pardon would be “an official presidential endorsement of racism.” As far as I’m concerned, because Arpaio was notorious for humiliating inmates, he’s made himself ineligible for any mercy, especially since the maximum sentence he’s facing is six months, in a federal facility that never suffered his management. He’ll be fine no matter what.

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14 August 2017

Shade and Freud, Part One of Four

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One thing that overcrowds every prison is unsubstantiated rumor. It can be about someone, anyone in here. They call this virtual – and sometimes downright ignorant – grapevine “inmate.com,” I guess because we can make the dumbest stuff go viral pretty quickly, even though no one ever clicks a mouse – or knows what they’re talking about. For accurate facts, this wire is for the birds.

Whenever tittle-tattle reaches my eardrums, much of it sounds outlandish, if not for its content, then its accessibility. How would inmates ever know this stuff about other people from the outside?  I mean, I’m the only one in here who does research and it’s not about this nonsense. I can’t fathom how these facts smuggle themselves inside this place.

Despite my disdain for it, inmate.com has created for me a new motto, words I doubted I would ever utter, especially since my standards on evidence became more stringent after my trial: I have no idea if that’s true, but I believe it. I am becoming an uncritical thinker, which would make me a match for Keisha, my cellmate.

We were assigned to the handicapped room that is isolated from the tiers and close to the staff desk. The handicapped room was apropos for Keisha. She screams and shakes people down for junk food and then break into a dance routine. She cries herself into hysterical laughter. Freud wouldn’t have a field day with her; he’d shit in his diaper and cry for his mother, two things I myself was on the verge of doing with her.

When Keisha moved in, I knew she was here for stabbing another woman in the chest and puncturing her lung (she lived) but scuttlebutt was that she was a prostitute on the streets who’d murdered a number of johns to get the remainder of their money, a la Eileen Wournos. I will say just this: I believe it.

In her past sentences, because Keisha’s had many, she’d pummeled guards, spit at them. She wants to brawl with all.  It’s almost like it’s her default mode. If she says: “I will kill a bitch” once, then she says it ten times a day.

Naturally, she believes everything she heard on inmate.com.

When her anger officially turned on me, it was because I had refused her an extra egg in the breakfast line. They aren’t mine to give away.  So she did the only reasonable thing and threatened to kill me to the girl assigned to distribute the juice cups who reported it, which I never thought was a bad idea. One of the good guys, C/O Roman, wanted to lock Keisha up but a ludicrous lieutenant, Booz, refused to sign off on it.

The buzz on Booz was that he was losing his house because he was underwater on a subprime mortgage, some peculiar dirt because these guys certainly earn enough. But, given how much of a dick Booz is, I believe it.

Yet another supervisor, Lieutenant Smith, stood by as Booz was listening to what happened.

“Why don’t the two of you just bang out back in the room?” Smith asked me, his overly intricate facial hair shape-up reminding me that I am not at home here. No man I have ever met would try to turn his facial hair into art.

“I don’t bang,” I said flatly.

Smith is new so there’s no intel on him but I don’t need any.

Then, throughout the rest of the day, as Keisha intermittently threatened me and threw her plastic bowls at me in a cell merely feet away from the C/O’s desk where they could hear everything and see something, one guard would peer in our 5-inch window and ask her, after losing every trace of the tough-guy schtick he uses with behaved inmates:

“Please calm down.”

She didn’t.

So they pulled me out of the cell, told me to sit at one of the four-man tables in the housing unit’s lobby.

CTO Walters [Correction Treatment Officer] came in, one half of his backpack slung over his shoulder as he departed for the day.

He’s supposedly a bodybuilder who’s show name is “Chocolate Thunder” but he seems more to me like an apple with legs. The unsubstantiated rumor about him is that he moonlights by posing, either nude or close to it, for women’s calendars.

“Umm, excuse me, Inmate Bozelko. Why are you out of your cell?” he sing-songed at me.

“The C/O’s told me to sit here because, well, my roommate is kind of wilding in there,” I answered him and pointed to the handicapped room.

“Who’s your roommate?”

“Keisha D.”

“Oh boy. Oh Lord. All of this drama is making my uterus hurt. Please!” he yelled at me. And to the guard at the desk:

“Listen, DO NOT let her back in there because, if anything happens, if she (pointed to cell) does anything to her (points to me), we are liable.”

He then put on his shades and fled fast, uterus, backpack and all. I will never be able to prove it, but I swear, I swear he was smiling as he left.

Lieutenant Potash must have passed Walters on the walkway because he came in so soon after the walking uterus left. Potash is all thunder and no chocolate. Unsubstantiated stuff about him is that he had undergone severe discipline for allegedly using his DOC badge to make obscene citizens’ arrests of regular citizens, one he normally couldn’t get his hands on. Supposedly he was acting like a legit cop, pulling over women who were driving but subjecting them to bizarre questions and searches. I don’t know if it’s true, but I totally believe it.  If you saw his hunchbacked anger, 80’s-style glasses frames and acidic attitude, you’d believe it, too.

Whenever I think of this story about Potash, I laugh hysterically and think: These DOC dudes kill me with their craziness.

“Bozelko, what’re you doing out of your cell?” Potash boomed at me.

“The C/O’s told me to sit out here because my roommate is out of control.”

“Yeah, well, it’s about to be count time so get the fuck back in there or go to seg,” Potash yelled, like I had asked to hang out with the staff or wasn’t following their orders.

Now I thought: These DOC dudes are going to kill me with their craziness as I pulled the curved metal plate that served as my cell door handle and walked back inside where Keisha was dancing in her underwear to music piped into her ears from my radio and headphones.

For Part Two of Four, click here.


A vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. /The Daily Progress via AP)

Taylor Lorenz, tech reporter for The Hill, reported that Charlottesville police officers suspected that James Alex Fields, Jr. wasn’t malicious in his intent when he plowed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of protestors in at the “Unite the Right” rally on Saturday. The cops who talked to Lorenz claimed Fields was scared because people were acting violent around his car and he panicked. Their chief, Al Thomas, said at a press conference that Fields’ actions were “premeditated.” I don’t know how you view that but, from my experience, police don’t usually sympathize with a murder suspect or explain his actions in a quasi-exculpatory way to a reporter, especially when the viral video of the crime shows he floored it into people who were actually a good distance away from his car. My guess is that there are some Alt-Right cops down in Charlottesville.

Before President Donald Trump failed to condemn the attacks adequately and instead tried to say that “all sides” were responsible for a terrorist’s ramming his car into a crowd of people, the Cato Institute reminded us that you don’t need to have committed a crime to be impeached. Read their explanation here.

The difference between jurisdictions on what constitutes a larceny is startling, so startling that I’m sure that shoplifters target certain places that define the crime in the most generous way. For instance, for a larceny to become a felony in Connecticut, the value of the item(s) stolen has to be more than $1000. The same misdemeanor/felony threshold in Florida is $300. If you were going to steal, where would you do it? Don’t think people are above long-distance travel to commit crimes we usually dismiss as minor and simply short-sighted. One of my cellmates drove from Connecticut to Pennsylvania because she thought the penalties for larceny were less severe there and she had heard she could find more malls to hit than she could at home. In case you’re wondering, she got caught down in the Keystone State but didn’t get sentenced to term of imprisonment like she did up here.


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