An Incarcerated Christmas, II

There was no stocking hung by the chimney, with or without care.  There were no chestnuts roasting by an open fire. (Actually, an open fire would probably be good for another year or two.)   I didn’t set out any cookies or milk for Santa, either because someone would have eaten the cookies and drank the milk and it would have been the fat man. It might have been A fat man, but not THE fat man. Continue reading “An Incarcerated Christmas, II”

Only in America…

By Tony Casson

Only in America would the constitution require us to take better care of our prisoners than our children.

I am fed three meals a day, and while I would rather go to Wild About Harry’s in Dallas (Texas) for a chili dog (JUMBO) and some frozen custard, no one in federal custody—and there are nearly 300,000 members—is going to starve. We also have clothing provided, and a bed to sleep in which is more than can be said for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of America’s poor.

Within the Bureau of Prisons are different security levels. None of what I’m going to talk about is “top secret”, it just isn’t known, because let’s face it, the only people concerned with prisons are those who have to go to one, right? Well, a lot can be learned browsing the B.O.P. websites and other inmate-related sites.

There are some very bad, very evil individuals incarcerated throughout this country on both state and federal levels—this is true. There are some very high security, very bad prisons where the unspeakable happens because the individuals in them don’t care—they have nothing to lose, so violence against another inmate and/or correctional officer means nothing.

I am no expert on the different levels, nor do I intend to ever become professionally experienced with the topic. I hope to just do my own time and salvage what remains of the rest of my life. Oakdale is classified as a low security institution and individuals are placed in a certain level initially based on a ‘point’ system, which the B.O.P. website discusses. Points are accumulated based on age, criminal history, violence history, and other factors. The lower your points, the lower your security institution. My points are probably low enough to qualify for camp status, but sex offenders do not qualify for camp due to our public safety factor. Drug dealers, bank robbers and the like can work their way down to camp. No public safety factor there. In addition, at the end of your sentence, an inmate can qualify for up to 12 months in a halfway house, unless they are a sex offender, and then the maximum HH is 30 days.

Oakdale is divided into 3 parts: The FCI, the FDC (Federal Detention Center), and the Camp. Together they make up the entire FCC (Federal Correctional Complex).

Several high profile inmates have come through the FCI or Camp, including some who still remain. I am told that several Enron (or former Enron) executives came through. The former WorldCom executive is serving part of his 24 ½-year sentence at FCI. The former governor of Louisiana also served time at the Camp, I’m told.

All in all, there are approximately 2 ½ million people incarcerated in America.

The prison business is BIG business, and over time I’ll explain that further. Some or what I have read and heard is pretty amazing. This is not all about keeping society safe, or rehabilitation, or doing anything that actually benefits society.

But a lot of it IS about big business and keeping more people incarcerated for longer periods of time and the many public, and private, individuals who benefit financially from theses incarcerations.

For many of the people incarcerated, there are many more effective methods of punishment that are not only less costly to the public, but actually could benefit society as a whole.

In the meantime, drop me a line and say hello!

New Acquaintances and Dynamite Dreams

By Tony Casson

Once the pecking order is clear and everyone knows his place, life isn’t so bad–for prison, of course.

I must say that Oakdale is very clean and in very good repair. The staff seems to do their jobs and no one seems abusive.

I’ve found that, like most situations in life, prison life can be worse than it actually is if you allow yourself to dwell strictly on the negatives.

As time passes (and I have little of that ahead of me), I will talk about the different types of facilities within the prison system and the different philosophies and approaches to incarceration and rehabilitation as perceived by myself and my fellow inmates and acquaintances.

I believe I am fortunate in being placed where I was placed and meeting the people I have met. We share ideas and thoughts on a wide range of subjects that should provide fodder for this blog for as long as this story lasts, and for as long as anyone cares to share these times with me. Continue reading “New Acquaintances and Dynamite Dreams”

“D.W.B’s and S.O’s” part IV

By Tony Casson

The following morning (April 7), I got up and went out to get my laundry issued. I returned my elastic-waist pants and canvas shoes; I was issued 3 khaki shirts, 3 khaki pants, 3 pairs of tan boxers, 3 pairs of white socks, and a very uncomfortable pair of steel-toe work boots—oh yes, and a lovely adjustable nylon belt with a plastic clasp. The pants were sans zipper, buttons only, and made right here in Oakdale, but we’ll get to that later. Continue reading ““D.W.B’s and S.O’s” part IV”

“D.W.B’s and S.O’s” Part III

By Tony Casson

My cellie walked through the door and introduced himself. He is a big guy, but not in a threatening way. He has heavy jowls and a large, soft upper body; he’s white and tattoo-free. He presents himself in a friendly manner, and we talk briefly about my 5 days in the SHU; I told him how happy I was that they had books available and mentioned that I was looking forward to going to commissary on Wednesday (this was Tuesday) so I could get some reading glasses.

He seemed rather friendly and even got a pair of glasses out and said I could “buy” them for $5 worth of commissary purchases if they worked for me. He even gave me a choice of a few books to read. I picked up a Sandra Brown—“Witness”—and thanked him.

He was pretty chatty, and it was apparent he had something on his mind. I gathered that, IN THEORY, your charge is YOUR business, but I also knew that sex offender charges were not popular ANYWHERE, in or out of prison. Continue reading ““D.W.B’s and S.O’s” Part III”

“D.W.B.’s and S.O.’s” Part II

By Tony Casson

Senegal informed me he was giving me a bunk on the first floor “with a white guy. The blacks have more of a problem with my type of charge,” he said—a statement I would soon learn was absolutely not true.

He told me to get settled and go to the laundry first thing in the morning and get my clothes issued. I asked where the laundry was, and he pulled back the blinds in his office and pointed vaguely, “Over there, next to the dining hall.” Of course, I had just come from the “SHU” and didn’t know where that was, but I just nodded and said, “OK”.

When I went to the assigned cell, I discovered there was no mattress, so I returned to Senegal and he hollered someone’s name. A burly, tattooed white man with a gray ponytail about 6 inches past his shoulders responded and went off in search of one.

Once I had the mattress, I returned to my cell and made my bed and decided I wasn’t going to leave my cell—EVER!

This was the afternoon of Thursday, April 6, 2010—I was constipated, had entered 5 days before with my allergies flaring (the only negative aspect of an otherwise wonderful 10 days at my sister Kathy’s and brother-in-law’s, Larry, house amongst the blossoming dogwood’s, Bradford pears, and the ever-popular cherry trees in D.C.). The flare-up had since turned into a sinus infection; I also hadn’t had a cigarette since my entry day, I was alone, quite nervous, and wishing that I was Big John Coffey and that this whole thing was “The Green Mile” and I could somehow “take it all back.”

But my name is Tony, this is Oakdale, Louisiana, and I cannot take it back…

I prayed to God for continued calm, and silent strength; and I prayed for understanding and forgiveness from my mother, who passed away a few years ago.

Prior to coming here, I spent a lot of time assuring, and reassuring loved-ones and friends that I was up to this challenge.

The door opened, my new “roommate” (or “cellie) as they are called) walked in, and I knew the game had officially begun.

Chapter 4: “D.W.B’s and S.O’s” Part 1

By Tony Casson

I’ve described the compound and perhaps given you all a rough idea of the physical characteristics. But now, I’d like to try describing for you what it’s like entering the general population and “mingling” with the rest of the “residents”.

Remember, up to this point, I have really only seen my cell-mate and the guards (called “C.O’s” for Correctional Officers). The 5 days in the SHU have certainly been confining, uncomfortable, and boring—but safe! But it’s time to meet the inmates… Continue reading “Chapter 4: “D.W.B’s and S.O’s” Part 1″