On Monday, after breakfast, most everyone headed out of 3 Wing, to their respective work details. My destination was Detail 6 or Academic Day School. The building that I had to go to was located outside the Castle, in the courtyard but still within the walls of the prison. Making my way out of the wing, I stepped onto the highly polished floor of the rotunda, simultaneously merging with the mass of brown clad inmates from 4, 6 and 7 Wings. We all headed towards the front door that opened to the courtyard.
Stepping outside was wonderful. It was early and the smell of fresh air and green grass was a welcome change from the stale scent of the one hundred and fifty year old prison wing. The building I had to go to was a short walk, but I took my time enjoying the sun and morning air, as I made my way through the courtyard and towards the school building.
I noticed something peculiar on my stroll. A small group of women were being led by a guard towards the Castle. They were all wearing a uniform similar to the one we were but they were a light blue. I found out later that the DB was co-ed. The female inmates were segregated from the males but had some interaction here and there. Mostly in situations like the chapel and the movies. When being led around the DB in a line, the female inmates were affectionately called, “The Blue Bus to 4 Base.” This meant that if any male inmate even thought of getting near the females, you would be sent straight to the hole.
There were quite a few inmates going to school, and most of them were new arrivals to the DB. They were all coming from different wings and other custody levels. It would be here that I would study and be tutored in math. A score of 10.9 from 9.8 is all I needed to be eligible for college classes. My other scores were good enough and so I only needed this one class. Once inside I was directed to go upstairs to a specific room. Each classroom had an instructor that would be available to answer any questions you had pertaining to the subject. The instructors were inmates that were former officers. There is a phrase in the military, “Rank has its privileges.” I guess this was true even in prison. The officers were segregated in domicile and in work detail.
As I entered my assigned class room, and took one look at the instructor, I was so shocked that I almost fell to the floor. The officer inmate who would be tutoring me in math was none other than Captain Steven Tessler. Obviously whoever set this thing up, had no idea that I had testified against him during his court-martial. Saying nothing, he glared at me with complete contempt. By the way he reacted to seeing me walk through the door, I believe he had no idea that I would be in his class either.
Luckily the workbooks we had to fill out were self-paced and the material was not too difficult. My goal was to avoid talking to Tessler unless it was absolutely necessary. There were some times that I did need to ask questions. When I did, he answered with a smug look on his face. One thing for sure, I am glad that I don’t know how to read minds, because I would have probably seen myself die a million deaths. This was motivation to get my scores up as soon as possible. Thank goodness that just like everywhere else in this place, there were always guards within eye-shot.
According to my length of sentence, I was eligible for a custody board hearing in June. This was supposed to be after seven months of confinement. As a result of this hearing, the board would decide if I should be moved up a custody level or if I could have my detail changed from the dining facility to the barber shop.
The problem was that I had only been at the DB for a month out of the seven that I had been locked up. The majority of the time was spent in a civilian jail. So essentially, they had nothing to go off of. Most likely I would not get anything out of this board. I did find out that my parole eligibility date was in July 1991. I would have a parole board a month or two before this date. No guarantees on whether or not I would actually make it or not, but most people said you never make the first one.
My parents said they would send me some magazine subscriptions. They really wanted to send me Reader’s Digest and I wanted to read Spin and Rolling Stone. They set me up with all of them. In a letter, I said that I felt bad asking for stuff from them and I didn’t want them to feel like I was sponging them. They had sent me six hundred dollars for a plane ticket to Germany, to attend my brother’s high school graduation. Using it to survive while I was AWOL, I had never paid them back. This made me feel pretty guilty about making any requests from them.
Even though I had more to do at the DB than at the jail in Louisiana, I still enjoyed the letters I received. Recently some from my Aunt and Grandmother came in. My crime partner Eddie was not with me at the DB, but his mom sent me a really nice letter. She said that she had been praying for me with the women at her church. One of the women from the prayer group had been corresponding with me and took a real interest in keeping my morale up.
My youth group leader from Germany sent one thanking me for the letter I wrote to the group. To my surprise, I had received ten letters so far from the twenty-five middle school and high school kids that were there the night my letter was read. I never expected anyone to reply to me but, the fact that so many did, blew me away.
They were all very encouraging and it made me feel good to know that I made some sort of difference in quite a few people’s lives. I was ashamed of what I had done to end up in prison, but I was not ashamed to tell people about it, and how I was rectifying my situation.
This last sentence was from one of my letters and I can’t believe now, how arrogant I was. I literally thought that I was in control of my life while sitting in prison. Please let me clear up now, that I wasn’t really doing anything to rectify my own situation. All I was doing was serving out my sentence and fulfilling my program obligations that I thought would get me out. My ignorance to the fact that God had me there for a reason and that I would get out when he was ready for me to, is very apparent to me now.
Next post, the USDB was hot during the summer and I started working in the dining facility.
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