27 April 2015


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“I can’t find my sneakers…Did you ask someone to clean up all the shoes again?”

A gleaming example of the “skippy,” what female prisoners wear.

Every couple of months, one supervisor would order one of the workers in the food prep unit to round up all the black rubber workboots that members of the food proletariat hid so no one else could wear them on another shift. The gathering always included a few unintended inclusions, namely the Reebok “Classic Black Running Shoes” that circumstance forced me to buy from the prison commissary.

“No. Look again.”

“I already looked again.”



“I can’t find them. They’re not there.” Walking back to my cell in my rubber work boots was not allowed. Either I found the Reeboks or I would be sentenced to wearing a pair of used white canvas Keds with zero arch support – “skippies” the inmates call them – and the ultimate sign of inmate indigence as skippies were the sole footwear option for inmates who couldn’t afford the $30.00 sneakers I was searching for at the moment.

“What do they look like?”

I wore these, exclusively, for years.

“They’re black Reebok running shoes,” I said as I looked down, a little ashamed that I had to admit owning such footwear. When I bought my first pair in 2008 to relieve my feet from walking on cardboard-thick, texturized rubber that qualified the soles of skippies, I was practically giddy about the Reeboks. My elation apparently transmitted itself through the phone as I told my sister I got new kicks.

“Oh. What kind are they?” my sister asked with relatively genuine interest since she had worked in the fashion office of Saks Fifth Avenue and for New Balance. I described the suede and nylon upper, the foam platform, white as chalk.

“Oh. Eww. I’m so sorry,” she said, the condolence in her voice so complete. She knew that, even if my feet felt better, drier, I was still sloshing through fashion’s underworld. I heard more sympathy in her voice at my sneakers revelation than when I told her I lost my appeal.

“Oh, them Reeboks? You didn’t give them to the blond butcher?” inserted Skinny Marie, a nosy one who always offered to wash the floor because she could stand nearby with a mop when others were talking a pretend to work when she was really ear-hustling. I know the Gospel of Matthew’s instruction is to give your tunic as well as your cloak when pressed but neither Matthew nor Jesus ever walked a mile in my skippies. If they had, they would have kept their tunics, cloaks and sandals and told the blond butcher to fend for herself which is what I was thinking at that moment. I wanted my Reeboks back.

This is how you feel when you’re shoeless in prison.

“No, I didn’t give them to anyone.”

“Well, she put them on and walked out. I seen her,” Skinny Marie said, pointing to an area with wet streaks on the floor, proving she had been in there surveying.

Before Skinny Marie had the words out of her mouth, I noticed Green Bay’s pressing the phone receiver to his ear, calling the blond butcher’s housing unit.

“Yeah, hi, it’s Food Prep. Can you send Plinsky back to work and tell her to bring the sneakers that everyone watched her steal? Thanks.”

Within minutes, Plinsky the blond butcher appeared, clad in Reeboks, and underwent a brief interchange with the supervisor. She walked to me, blushing.

“I am so sorry. Someone who left yesterday –  you know Glossy? She works second shift here?” Plinsky asked me.

“No, I don’t know who that is.”

“Well anyway, Glossy left yesterday and someone told me she left me her sneakers so I thought these were them. I’m really sorry. I had no idea they were yours.”

At least wear your own shoes when you make a mistake.

“OK. No problem. Mistakes happen.” She slipped them off and I put them on as she scavenged for the pair of skippies she had abandoned behind a stainless steel sink. Giants snuck up on her as she foraged.

“Did you get your sneakers?” Giants asked me.

“Yeah. I got ‘em. Everything is back to normal,” I assured him as he squinted at Plinsky shoehorning her skippies on with her forefinger.

“You mistook black running shoes for white skippies?” he asked her incredulously.

“I thought someone left them for…” she started but he cut her off.

“Either way, you’re outta here. Come to my desk to sign the paper before you leave.”

The “paper” is the rock that prisons use to scissor apart an inmate and her job. Supervisors never formally fire anyone anymore with a ticket.  Instead, the bosses ding an inmate with a poor work evaluation that lacks the traditional sanctions of discipline – loss of commissary, loss of recreation, loss of phone privileges – but would cost Plinsky her job and the chance to earn time off her sentence for months. Her unofficial sanctions would be loss of freedom and loss of feeling worthwhile.

“Please, no…” Plinsky pled.image

“Nope. Sorry. You’re done,” Giants told her and with a head heavy with “What did I just do?” she followed him to sign the paper that would punish her for what appeared to be an honest mistake. I felt that acidic plunge of regret in my stomach and, to relieve it, I did what every typical inmate would do, I sought to play one person with power against another.

“Green Bay, Giants is firing her for the sneakers. I never wanted that. I don’t think she knew they were mine.”

“She did seem sincere about it…” Green Bay agreed.

“So… does she really need to be fired? I mean, she wasn’t stealing-stealing. She just thought they were left for her.”

“That’s Giants’ territory. She’s his worker. It’s up to him.”

imageBut Giants wouldn’t budge and he was right. Plinsky knew the shoes didn’t belong to her. She thought they might belong to her as a gift but she didn’t know for sure. So she guessed and got it wrong.  And thus the blond butcher got axed for this mistake.

Mistakes carve a wide swathe in criminal justice as if the description as error covers all offenses. Stabbing a child to death? I made a mistake. Persistently stealing from CVS for fifteen years? I’ve made some mistakes in my life. Setting a house ablaze with someone inside? I don’t deny it was a mistake. “Mistake” is probably the most frequently used word before the parole board. We act like crimes are just like forgetting to carry the seven on a math test or spelling the word robbery with only one ‘b’.

Everything anyone does wrong is a mistake; the difference is whether it’s a capital ‘M’ MISTAKE like murder or a lowercase ‘m’ like misspelling. But for the most mistaken among society – convicts – no one tolerates innocent mistakes. It’s as if the people least likely to be perfect must be flawless in all that they do. I think some of the people whom I’ve pegged as lazy must just be frozen, fearful that a false move will always be considered a fraudulent move. Rather than suffer misinterpretation of their actions, they do nothing. And we wonder why ex-offenders fail. They’re not allowed to make mistakes so they end up making MISTAKES.image

When we use the word ‘mistake’ when we talk about crime, usually we mean that it was an abberation in the person’s life, something they can correct or have corrected in them. But we end up taking the intentionality out of crime with this language. Sure, crimes are mistakes in judgment, but they are also very often completely planned. As in not accidental, not mistakes. In fact, for something to be a crime for sure, it can’t be a mistake at all. I didn’t realize that I understood this – despite all the language around me – I heard another inmate talking about how her and her husband murdered an elderly woman who let them stay in her house and then murdered her son when he came by the house to check on his mother after he had not heard from her.

“We made so many mistakes,” she confided in someone as I stood seven inches away. “I would have done everything differently.”

SOTP making mistakes. Somehow I believe a prison work detail did this. If it’s not that type of mistake, we’re in trouble.

I hope she meant she would have done everything differently, as in not ever stayed in the woman’s house, not hurt anyone, maybe would have gone to school, married someone different, but I have the feeling she regretted mistakes within her MISTAKE, not the MISTAKE itself. I hope I am mistaken.

I think I made a mistake even saying anything to the supervisors. I never intended to turn Plinsky’s mistake into something it was not; I just wanted my shoes.  Knots formed in my stomach when I looked at the Reeboks. If I had a spare pair, I wouldn’t have cared or asked where they were when I couldn’t find them. Because so few women here can afford even these crappy shoes, I always gave my old ones away when I bought new ones. I wonder if I should stop doing that so that the next time someone makes a mistake and takes my shoes, I could just forget about it and wear my spares. This must be what they are talking about when they use the phrase “generous to a fault.” I gave my shoes away and now all of this was my fault, my mistake.

imageWhen I put the Reeboks on, I noticed the treads had worn flat, incapable of those trails of sand pebbles that lodge in the crevices that trace the instep. I came back to my cell and checked off a new pair on the commissary form, this time the instead of the Reebok I chose the New Balance, a grey, black and white running shoe, so I wouldn’t remember how made the MISTAKE of killing someone’s job with her mistake. Sneaker-buying takes a while but when my waiting period reached four weeks, I asked the guard at the commissary window about my order.

“Have they come in yet?”

She licked her thumb and paged through the orders and located mine, without an accompanying box of shoes which meant that no one filled the order.

“No. No one ordered them yet,” she told me as she pointed to the line that should have contained “330445” – my inmate number – in my handwriting but was blank. “You made a mistake on the form.”




From kicksonfire.com: Remaining Defendants Plead Guilty for Stolen Nikes Worth Over $680,000

One of the plea bargain agreements requires a defendant to turn over all the names of people who bought the sneakers and how much each buyer paid.

Why is the prosecutor seeking the names of the sneaker buyers and the amounts they paid for the stolen Nikes?

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20 April 2015

Get to Steppin’

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Prison management is just reinventing the wheel while letting the rest of the wagon rot, rust and cake with debris.

Sfety requires that staff never introduce any object – food, reading material, clothing, cosmetics – into the facility that hasn’t earned approval for inmate distribution. No one can share a kernel of popcorn with us or lend us their copies of the Norwich Bulletin. Much less can they bring in lip gloss, perfume or, the worst: gum.

When found in an inmate’s dirty little hands, the Smartfood, the newspapers and the makeup might see an investigation unfold. But finding gum ignites such an inquiry that lieutenants may come running. image

In a prison, a stick of Big Red is more dangerous than any food or beverages that mask the smuggling of drugs, or any periodicals that enlighten an inmate to something she should not know about her victims or any L’Oreal Colour Riche lip color in True Red that changes an inmate’s look so that she no longer matches her ID photo.

Anyone can impress a dropped key into chewed gum and make (through accomplices on the outside) a copy that can aid an escape once someone smuggles in the key duplicate. Gum is downright dangerous in a prison. A stick of gum gets good civil servants fired.image

Because of the perpetual state of high alert on gum, I assumed that the Department of Correction would axe the guard – a married, Born-Again Christian man (I called him BAD for ‘Born-Again Dude’) – who was  handing out Bibles containing sticks of gum between the pages. First,  a Bible from the outer environs, unapproved by the chaplain’s office, is contraband. Second, the gum was dangerous contraband. And the third, screaming no-no was how the guard asked the inmates who received the gum-laced Bibles to don white T-shirts, braless, with nothing covering their bottoms but their underwear and dance for him. Actually, their panties never really covered their butts because he asked the inmates to fold up the six-inch side panels of the state-issued panties so as to convert them to bikini-style bottoms.  Nothing promotes “Love Thy Neighbor” more than bikini-style drawers because the devil wears granny-panties.  While inmates pranced about their cells in the white tee-bikini combos, the guard regaled them with a tour of his tattoos and the stories behind them. And everyone chewed gum.

It’s tame on the outside, but this is a party on the inside.

BAD’s folly looks innocuous but it’s not. For one, white tees, much like the gum, carry a very different significance inside a women’s prison than they do outside. In here, white Hanes short-sleeved shirts are, technically speaking, underwear. Once I wore my white tee outside my cell with a bra underneath – and no maroon uniform shirt on top of it – and a guard acted like I had streaked through the housing unit; he banged the glass window and screamed “Get the fuck back in your room!” Watching a female inmate at York in a white tee and underpants is scandalous, like toms a’ peepin.’

Many women in prison come here because they were victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment, sometimes even sexual slavery. Numbing the pain caused by the abuse with drugs often starts their cycles of crime. This guard’s objectifying inmates in this way threatened more than just facility security; it further endangered inmates’ concepts of self-worth because their trauma histories taught them – incorrectly – that their only value in this world is for sex, stripping or gratifying men. To protect the women in the facility, this guard needed to go, as in be fired.image

An investigation commenced into BAD, but the lieutenants dragged their feet and were more intent on implementing the new rule on inmate movement. Rather than going from one destination to another, like from an inmate’s job at the prison laundry to the library, all inmates would not have to walk back to their housing units and check-in/check-out to their next destination. When they left the next destination, they would have to return to the housing unit to check-in/check-out again. Even if only ten yards span the distance between the laundry and the library and the inmate’s housing unit is four football fields away, it did not matter; every inmate has to tag home base before going anywhere or risk being called out of place. Foot traffic on the compound has grown exponentially.

As they usually do, inmates exploited this new rule to serve their own purposes. Prior to the new rule, meeting another inmate on the walkway had been relegated to chance. But now, because both prisoners use the same sidewalk for these required homing missions, the two plan and time their trips so that both would be returning to their housing units simultaneously. I hear them plotting, agreeing to pass skeins of yarn surreptitiously, or toss each other a double-A battery when their paths go parallel to each other.

imagePrison safety and security should minimize contact between the state’s wards and, by extension, limit penal travel opportunities because not only contraband passes between the women when they intersect; they trade barbs, exchange punches. The increase in traffic resulting from the new check-in/check-out rule brought with it more traffic accidents, incidents, allegations. Less safety, less security.

“Bozelko, go to Property before your legal visit,” came the order at my prison job, located approximately 50 yards from Property. Inspired by BAG, I decided to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and abide by the new rule. Food Prep → Housing Unit → Property → Housing Unit→ Visits → Housing Unit → Dining Hall→ Housing Unit. No crows fly here at York because the shortest distance between two points has been threaded through the housing units.

Another day, a return to Property, I marched the sequence. Food Prep → Housing Unit → Property →…Fight between someone leaving her unit for her methadone dose and someone returning to that same unit….Housing Unit→ Food Prep. I was walking in planned palindromes. Food Prep→ Unit→ School → Unit→ Dining Hall→ Unit→ School→ Unit→ Food Prep. The voyages were often perfectly symmetrical unless something disrupted the pattern, something like waiting against a brick wall while a guard busted a kitchen worker for stealing frozen cookie dough and handing it off to her friend as they passed each other on the walkway. One Saturday: Housing Unit→ Outpatient building→ Housing Unit→ Church→ Housing Unit – despite the fact that the church is right across the way from the outpatient medical building.image

One Tuesday I clomped from my job. Food Prep→ Housing Unit (passing Commissary) → Commissary → Housing Unit → Food Prep. I wasn’t traveling in circles but K-turns. Jesus, take the wheel and pass the Juicy Fruit.

The new kinetics brought more friction. Our direct routes “back in the day” – September 2012 – were much safer and rarely overwhelmed the guards posted in the housing units because each inmate’s usual check-out/ check-in never turned the housing unit doors into turnstiles. Now, the guards beep into the cells, unaware of who is coming or who has gone.

“Bozelko, are you in there?”


“Okay. I didn’t check you back in.” If it happened to me once in a month, then it happened twelve times. The new security travel rules have made it so that the staff doesn’t know who’s in or who’s escaped with a key they formed with BAD’s Bible gum.image

Meanwhile, news descended on the walkway that the Department of Correction had transferred BAD to a men’s prison where he can drop Doublemint to the male inmates of Connecticut. By his own admission, this is BAD’s fourth transfer in three years. I hope their white tee-shirts are clean and ready to go. If they don’t have white Tees, then maybe they can wrap themselves in the red flag that BAD has been carrying for years.

I heard about BAD being transferred at the exact same location where I had heard, years before on April Fool’s Day, that my favorite guard had been fired for misconduct much tamer than BAD’s. I thought it was a bad joke at the time but it wasn’t. The joke was that BAD was considered a better officer than my favorite, Plucky. Apparently, BAD followed the rules whereas Plucky had not.

“What, Mr. K.,  they transfer this fuckin’ Bible thumper but they had to fire Plucky?” I asked my new favorite as he was posted on the walkway, which was now a thruway.image

“Bozelko, the problem is that DOC doesn’t follow their own rules. They just make more,” he conceded.  Plucky was my favorite because he would bring me piles of my mail that the other officers had tossed into a file cabinet rather than do their jobs by delivering it to me. With magazines slipping sideward out of large stacks that filled both of his arms, Plucky would ask me: “You want this mail, right, Bozelko?” as if there might be a legitimate reason for storing two months worth of correspondence in one of the housing units’ filing cabinets.

“You’re right, Mr. K. It’s not management by attrition, its management by addition, adding more rules until the new rules cancel out the old rules. Pretty soon we’ll all be walking around like there are no rules…”

“You already are. Chewing gum…” Mr. K continued.

“We already are.” I said and he nodded. “Soon someone will make a key…”

“And get the fuck out of this place.  I know. We’re going backwards.”

And from that point on the sidewalk,  I continued to head forward→ Housing Unit→ Outpatient medical building →  Housing Unit → Food Prep → Housing Unit → School → Housing Unit→ Property → Housing Unit→ Food Prep→ Housi- . My footfall felt something cushiony, uneven on the ground. A wad of gum the size of a hamburger bun, probably Wrigley’s because the grey of the gum blended so perfectly with the pavement.

A Jamaican accent came from behind me.

“Who da fuck stupid enough to spit out dey gum when dey lucky enough to get it?” The woman watched me inspect my sole and then trailed behind me as I limped to our unit to prevent the gum – an especially unwieldy wad – from fusing with my sneaker.

“I don’t know,” I sighed. “But whoever she is, I’m sure she has a stack of Bibles six feet high.”image



FROM CNN.COM (VIA WQAD.com): What Prison Life Will Be Like for Aaron Hernandez  Because he’s famous, Aaron Hernandez’s life might be different than that of other prisoners

Should prisons have special management plans for high-profile inmates like Aaron Hernandez?

  • No. The saying "Do the crime, do the time" means do the time like everyone else. (100%, 3 Votes)
  • Yes. Any inmate can make a name for himself/herself by raping/maiming/killing a celebrity or high-profile inmate. Even famous prisoners have a right to stay safe and unharmed. (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 3

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13 April 2015

Likewise, I’m Sure

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hello im inmate

imageMy roommate and I felt sorry for Reba when we met her. A CPA/soccer mom in her 50’s, Reba landed in the assessments unit on the inside of the prison right as her son graduated from high school on the outside. Crying, she would flip photos of her children, freckly permutations of Reba. She posted on her cell wall shots of her daughter playing lacrosse like I did, wearing age-appropriate tank tops that were so different from the metallic miniskirts other inmates’ daughters wear in their photos, bent over, exposing the backs of thighs that should never see sunlight because of their youth and their dimpling. Pictures of Reba’s son were similarly dissimilar to the other inmates’ sons’ pics; Reba’s son wore UnderArmor shorts while others’ boys donned teal tuxedos beneath patchy facial hair, aside “pimp sticks” they carried to school dances. Unlike so many others at York, Reba had a decent, upper-middle class life with a husband and healthy, successful kids.

Until police arrested her for sexual assault on a minor for having sex with a 14 year-old boy.

imageReba swore to me and Sally that she didn’t do it, that the boy had assaulted her. From personal experience I know that police are seldom right. When others tell me that all in their arrest warrants is not as it appears, I give them the benefit of the doubt. I felt terrible, though, about the impact of her case on her children regardless of its truth. And I worried about what York would do to Reba. Being upper-middle class and white in a state prison paints a perfect bullseye on an inmate’s back. Mine has almost worn off because each hit flakes a piece away. But Reba’s was wide, pristine and vibrant practically to the point of fluorescence. Sally – a nurse raised in Farmington, a wealthy enclave outside of Hartford – and I both tried to prep Reba as much as we could while she lived in our unit. Eventually she moved on.????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

“Reba, is everything OK? You’re all right?” I would ask her when I saw her and she would smile and say:

“Yeah, I’m OK. Don’t worry about me.”

“I’m worried about her, ” I told Sally when I got back to our cell.

“We’ll just time our lunches with her unit and we’ll keep eyes on her,” Sally said, somewhat resigned.  She knew that our line of vision into Reba’s unit wasn’t that clear.

But then gossip bulletins started running themselves in to us. Reba had her first kiss with a girl.

“No. A fifty year-old mother of three is not going to start kissing women in jail. Wait… Did someone force herself on her?”hello im lying

“No. She kissed her roommate, Dullman.” Dullman is HIV+, here for murder and uses both of those facts to manipulate people: “I’m on my last T-cell. Wanna be on yours?”

“No. Come on. That is not true,” I chided the gossip reporter whose only retort was:

“I’m just sayin.’”

The reporter was, in fact, sayin’ the real dirt on Dullman’s easy seduction of Reba. As Sally and I kept eyes on her, Reba had flings with other inmates and eventually landed herself a steady, Sienna. Sienna, too, has been convicted of sexually inappropriate behavior with a four-year-old. I assume that it had to be that commonality that drew Reba and Sienna together because Sienna looks nothing like the 14 year-old boy who is Reba’s victim.  Sienna looks like an 11 year-old boy. At 24, she has zero breasts, no hips. If you saw her you’d expect that she’s foreign to bikini waxes because she never sprouted public hair. She looks that young.amoral predator

Involvement with Sienna is legal because she’s in her twenties but involvement with Sienna undercuts any of Reba’s claims that she did not intentionally fuck that little boy. If Reba were innocent, she wouldn’t be fucking around like that in here. She makes the case against her after she’s been convicted and sentenced.

Everyone thinks that because you’re forgotten when you’re in prison that you’re not also in the spotlight. Prison isn’t a grave; it’s a stage. And the action goes on after the characters are introduced. The disbarred lawyer who denies that she manipulated her boyfriend to kill her brother-in-law? She claims she’s innocent yet one thousand women and hundreds of C/O’s watch her manipulate other inmates every day. The only method of interaction she understands is manipulation. Whatever faults there are in her case – maybe there are many – shrink next to the guilt of her behavior in here. When  you meet her, she presents a different story, a different person entirely, like her introduction is her identity. I’ve learned that guilt doesn’t come out during a trial; it comes out during the punishment.

Sex offenders are penal piñatas; everyone loves to get a whack at them and see what comes out. I suspect that they suffer more in a men’s prison than they do here. Women and C/O’s, even the allegedly even-tempered counselor, toss scorn at them rather than throwing punches.hello im dangerous

I can’t blame them. Some of the female sex offenders’ stories are severely twisted. One put her younger brother out to stud to try to impregnate her girlfriend. Another older woman performed oral sex on her five year-old grandson.

But other stories are less perverted than they are perversions of justice. These cases show up the hypocrisy of the criminal courts that leverage the strict liability of statutory rape laws. One sex offender here had intercourse with a fifteen-year old boy (age of consent in Connecticut is 16) who worked with her. A strapping young lad, he drove himself to work – alone – in his family’s car and lied about his age, so she reasonably understood him to be 18.

hello i am a predator

But after their liason, he left his cell in the car he drove illegally and his nosy mother read the sexts he exchanged with his perp. The mother then reported the tete-a-tete texts to the police claiming that her son had been “deflowered” when only females get plucked when they get first fucked. His mother also predicted to the court that he would never be able to handle a relationship with a woman. She left out of her report the fact that her lamb had been out, at age 15, drinking and tooling around in her Prius without as much as a learner’s permit, lying about his age. The future of his relationships wasn’t so hot before he met his plucker but now she’s a sex offender inviting ridicule and contempt wherever she goes, even though all signs about him pointed north of the age of 18. This situation does not seem fair to me.

But Reba’s does. No one’s background excuses her from responsibility for her actions nor does anyone’s pedigree incapacitate her from making bad choices. Even though she’s had dalliances with other women, Reba’s been with Sienna for years now, exerting a repugnant maternal-sexual control. Reba’s family has money and sends her some of it while she’s down and takes care of Sienna, fostering a dependence that allows her to pucker up with other inmates without infidelity’s usual fallout. Even with no pimp sticks in her kids’ pics, Reba keeps her pimp hand strong.


And it will grow stronger once she leaves because Reba learned how to manipulate entire systems in here, rather than just individuals. She usually does it to reverse the separations that squeeze between her and Sienna. Either Sienna will act up and go seg, landing herself in a different housing unit or a guard, realizing exactly what he is witnessing in the Reba-Sienna entanglement, moves Sienna out of Reba’s building. Like a homing pigeon, Sienna always flies back to the nest Reba created by having sex with a child. Her flight path is usually drawn by a unit manager who has been nagged to the point of his own sexual confusion. No rehabilitation takes place for either woman.

It’s not entirely the inmates’ fault. Sex offenders require specific treatment that targets distorted thoughts about sex, anger and a lack of empathy, the triune behavioral curse that is aid to make pedophiles. But, to my knowledge, this treatment is unavailable here. In fact, a counselor once told a cellmate of mine that the “Sex Offender Class” that constituted her Offender Accountability Plan was offered on the outside, not in the prison because “there just [weren’t] enough,” sex offenders to justify running the course. I know of five here right now and I took a seminar in college that contained three students. There’s enough enrollment here to run the class already but they don’t do it, almost like their disgust for female sex offenders makes them leave them in their sickness, like their crimes are also their punishment. Maybe this is why sex offenders’ recidivism rates are so high.image

Besides most sex crimes are not borne of the offenders’ wonky brain chemistry but really just disregard for other’s rights and a focus on one’s own immediate desires. The way that this prison handles Reba and Sienna – allowing them to live together in the same unit, permitting a consequence-free environment to cushion each of their transgressions – only hurts them and their victims, past and future.

Today when I saw Reba with Sienna I realized that I never met her at all.   I have lived in cells with almost one hundred different women and I walk a tiny patch of land with another thousand women every day. I probably haven’t met one of them.



FROM ABC NEWS: Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau twenty years after their illegal affair, married with two teenaged daughters

Is Mary Kay LeTourneau a pedophile?

  • Of course she is. She had sexual intercourse with a minor child. (71%, 12 Votes)
  • Well...her behavior doesn't really match the pattern of a pedophile but she did get pregnant with a teenager's child. (18%, 3 Votes)
  • Not really. Sometimes love doesn't fit society's definitions. They are happy and their family is intact. We can't choose the people we love. (12%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 17

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6 April 2015


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imageI looked around the Discharge Planner’s office. A collection of your standard-issue, public health announcements about HIV/AIDS, suicide prevention, Department of Social Services hung on the walls. On the bulletin board behind the computer was a list of what I guess are re-entry programs. New Life Ministries. New Beginnings, New Start. Fresh Start. New Creations, New Horizons.  Everything new was new to me.

Take a good look, Red. You'll never see them again, even if you want to.
Take a good look, Red. You’ll never see them again, even if you want to.

“Bozelko, finally you’re about to go,” she said without diverting here eyes from her computer screen.

“Yeah. It’s the Easter of the my life, all this newness of going back to my old life.”

“Easter is after you get out,” she told me.

“Yeah, I know. It’s just all these ‘new ‘ programs,”

“Nah, they’ve been around for a while,” she said, as she pulled out a file drawer.

“No, I mean like…all these programs have ‘new’ in their names. Everyone leaves here older than they came in but they leave new.”

Someone just went home.

“I guess that’s one way to look at it. You each have your own little resurrection,” she nodded. “Do I need to sign you up for food stamps?”

Even the inmates who leave are on death row because, ideally, every departing inmate dies to the institution and never returns. Her resurrection and afterlife keep her away from this place. I console other women about other inmates’ discharging all the time. “Don’t worry she’s in a better place,” I tell them like we’re seated before a casket.

It’s probably why so many people find God in prison. Faith and re-entry promise not only a resurrection but an afterlife if you’re good.

Not something you want when you leave prison.

Just like earth after you die, his isn’t a place where you might stop in and see how everyone is doing after you leave. Sure, I can write to people but they might not write back. And I can’t call.  An inmate will have to call me. Regardless of what our contact is, I will never see many of these women again because they will never leave.  I can’t have contact with people who leave everyday like the C/O’s or anyone who works here. I can’t call them nor can they call me.  In fact, I was never really supposed to connect with anyone who works here at all. You can’t remain friends with someone who was never your friend in the first place. And your stuff? You can’t take it with you. You can but you won’t. Discharge is definitely death.

Don’t forget.

I loved working for the prison kitchen supervisors every day for four-plus years. Through occupational osmosis, they know about my appeals and my habeas corpus trial. I know about one boss’ vacation to Italy. That another fought with his ex-wife for lightly slapping his son when he was out of control. That new guy’s was taking airbrush painting classes. The warden would spin in his ergonomic desk chair if he knew I reminded a supervisor to buy gummi cheeseburgers for his children’s stockings every Christmas. I wasn’t supposed to know he had children at all.

A few weeks ago, when the warden decided that inmates who had worked in the prison library for a long time might have developed undue familiarity with the librarian,  he axed them. None of it was a big deal. The workers knew that he had a dog. That he had seen a movie the night before. That he graduated from a small liberal arts college in New England. From just these few facts, a “Familiarity Overload” sign flashed in the warden’s mind. Instead of acknowledging that the superficial familiarity was effortless and inevitable for people who had worked together for eight years, the warden made sure that the library workers died to the library. They were resurrected at the gym and other work assignments.

It’s fine with me as long as I get to go right back.

When I heard the fate of the library workers and feared that my unbroken attendance record might be cut into, my outlawed closeness with the supervisors severed, I ran to one of them.

“Fire me. Please.”

“And why would I do this?” he asked with one eyebrow raised.

“Then I won’t have continuous employment on paper. Just hire me back and my work assignment will start again. Officially, next week I will have worked here for only a week, not four years. On paper, I’ll be new,” I explained what happened in the library.

“Bozelko, you’re not going anywhere.”

“But they’re reassigning workers who worked in anywhere for more than two years,” I insisted.

“We know. We got this.  Don’t worry. You’re staying.”

I cried relief in my cell after work that day. Having to die to my prison job and my supervisors would have been the worst abuse I could have suffered. I can’t put my finger on how or why, but the supervisors were my salvation while I’ve been here. Stacey, one of the other workers in food prep, probably said it best when she said:

“When I’m here working for them, I feel human.”

imageThat’s basically it but there’s more to it for me. I died a million times before I got here. I am dead to so many friends, my schools, my plans. Then when I got here I died a million times more, losing appeals and other cases, swimming in a sea of women I never wanted to know, accepting my first million deaths. The only thing that kept me alive was working for these people. Maybe it was because I had value to them. Maybe it was because they were consistent and kind mentors to me. Or maybe the daily details that divulged themselves in close contact developed a certain intimacy in spite of state-mandated reserve. Human connection may be prohibited but it can never be prevented. Stacey was probably right.

And now, as I go home I am going to have to die to them, too. And they to me. I’m sure that if I blocked my number and snuck in a call, they would talk to me, maybe even secretly chuckle at the chance to catch up with me. But it would be awkward.  I just have to accept that we will be people we used to know.

My resurrection, the event I have fought for, waited for, prayed for and stayed for, is going to make me sad. I think everyone who gets resurrected is a little lonely without their old life nearby, regardless of what that life was.



FROM NEWSWEEK: Recent Prisoner Escapes Have One Common Factor: Hospital Visits A majority of prison breaks occur when the inmate is already off the prison property.

Is there a good reason for inmates to leave the prison?

  • Yes. They need to go to hospitals and other places because the healthcare is so poor in there. If the escape risk bothers people so much, then prisons should provide more and better healthcare. (50%, 2 Votes)
  • Yes. Funerals and memorial services for deceased family members but that's it. (25%, 1 Votes)
  • No. Their punishment is staying in prison, not leaving it. No trips outside, period. If they need something, going without it is part of the punishment. Tough. (25%, 1 Votes)
  • No. There is no reason why all services cannot be provided behind prison walls, particularly with advanced technology. (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 4

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