This Broken System is Breaking My Heart

I haven’t talked to Michael, Joe’s brother in a couple weeks. He’s in prison, too. I’m sure I’ve mentioned him before. He finally called me yesterday and told me that he’s in the hole and has been there for the last two weeks almost because he was jumped by a gang and then re-assigned to a cell that one of the gang members was in who stabbed him in the arm. Now he is in the hole because of the two write ups that the word “gang” was conveniently left out of. He’s been denied his phone and rec “privileges” and has been denied his right to shower for the last two weeks. He doesn’t have any of his things in this new holding cell and when he sent his clothes to be laundered, they confiscated them because he is refusing to be put back on the compound where the gang member told the guard that if he comes back out the compound, he and his brothers will kill him. There’s so much drama in the prison system. More than they could ever believably put on a made up show on cable.

And I’ve been up since the early morning trying to figure out who the fuck I can call to get some help and to get some answers. I know I’m only getting one side of the story, but it was all too reminiscent of the stories that Joe used to tell me about the same exact facility. Michael has been there before. Quite a few years ago. When he was shipped to Maximum Security, it was from “assaulting” a guard at Whiteville. Now he is back at Whiteville and that guard is still there. If I had the money to talk to Michael every day, I could fill the daily pages of this blog with all the ways they are abusing their authority and abusing the rights of those living within those walls. I have so many stories in my head that sometimes I can’t sleep at night.

I know that prison is not supposed to be a joy a ride, but making someone spend 35 years in prison for burglary seems a harsh enough punishment. But maybe it’s just me.

I used to think that I knew way too many people in the system and that I needed to change my circle of friends, but even when my circle expands, I am finding that this system has a lot people in its grasp and once it grabs a hold, it’s nearly impossible to get out of and it doesn’t matter which side of the tracks you come from. Like I said, I could fill this blog with letters from the inside if I just sent in some envelopes and some stamps. And I may just do it. I hear jokes how everyone is prison innocent, but even the guilty ones should have access to a five minute shower to was their nuts and their hair.

So as I said, I emailed a half dozen people this morning from advocates to lawyers to the commissioner to the media. I heard back from the advocate and she gave me the number to TDOC employee.  When I called him, he was on his way out of town for a vacation. It sounded like he was cruising with the windows down until we started talking and then he rolled them up and was listening. He asked me for some information and said that he would have someone look into it immediately. I want to believe him. I want to believe everyone when they say they are going to do something but when it comes to this system, it just seems like they are just saying words to make it pleasant to hang up. I’ve never had my heart broken so many times as I have this past year by people who I don’t even know. I want to fall to my knees and beg God for help, but I’ve done that to no avail so now I question whether it’s time to stand up, hands fisted and attempt to fight the good fight. Complacency has gotten me nowhere. And all of you, “do the crime, do the time” people can politely go fuck yourselves right about now because I’m not interested in the “they shouldn’t have blah blah blahs” right now. What I am interested in is how can I help force change in a system that is not only ineffective but terribly broken? How can I make a difference? Am I going to have to wait until both of these men, who I love like family, are dead? I’ve already lost one. He may not be dead in the literal sense of the word, but he will never say my name again. He will never laugh with me. He will never tell me he loves me. He’s not alive anymore.  I don’t know if I can mentally take losing another without losing my mind. And I want to affect change effectively, but the anger that brews in me at the very mention of the Tennessee Department of Corrections is something I’ve never felt burning in me before. And I need to figure out what to do to make it simmer down.

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