Dec 08

Escape

Escape

USDB Cell

Escape

There was an attempted escape.

An inmate convicted of pre-meditated murder in 1984 was currently serving a life sentence. He probably felt like he had nothing to lose. In 1988 his first escape was almost successful. While working in the wood shop, he built a makeshift ladder and scaled a wall to freedom. Later he was found fishing coins out of a fountain in a nearby town.

He tried to escape again. This time, using an electrical cord from a buffer, he tried repelling out of a window. The cord was too short and he had to drop 25 feet which resulted in breaking both of his ankles. The guards found him laying where he landed.

If you escaped or attempted escaping, it would result in another court-martial. After sentencing, your current time stops, your new time starts and once that has been served, your old sentence picks back up. I believe he got three years for this escape attempt, but what’s three more years on a life sentence anyways.

The part that sucks, besides the broken ankles is that much of that time will be served in solitary confinement.

I understand the reason inmates tried to escape. There may be different motives but, in the end it was all for the same reason. We crave freedom. Only problem is, until the “sin” is paid for, there can be no freedom.

There was a point when time seemed to stop moving. Having been locked up for a year was really not very long. Especially when compared to some of the other guys who had been in this place as long as I had been alive. It was relative though.

Escape

TIme

You get to a place where even watching the second hand on a clock seemed to make it slow down. So much time had wasted away and there was so much time left to go. My projected release date was in February, 1993 with good time. An eternity.

There were times in my cell that so much anxiety would build up that I actually thought I could hear an audible snap in my brain when it hit its peak. This was probably the closest thing I ever experienced, to what people called a nervous breakdown.

When my breathing started to speed up and the tightness in my chest got too intense, I would start pacing in my cell. Walking in a line from the back of the cell, to the door, to the back again. Four steps one way, three steps the other way. I’m not sure if this burned energy or added to the anxiety.

The feeling of wanting to scream would not go away. My ears would start ringing, slow and quiet at first but then progressively getting louder more shrill. The sound of the other inmates conversations loud and constant, added to the ringing pushing me over the edge to where my pacing became frantic.

My mind and thoughts began to slip away, become out of reach, then lost. It would be at this time that I would hear the snap in my head and then drop on to my bunk exhausted. Then I would just lay there and zone out. This happened more than I can count and there was no way to control it.

Once the cell door was closed for lock down, that was it.

No escape from the prison, no escape from the cell and no escape from the panic.

My parole eligibility date was quite a few months away, but I needed to get the heck out of this place. It was about time for me to get a parole packet in the works. In order to have everything that they needed from me, I had get my stuff together.

There had to be written proof of a place to stay, written proof of a guaranteed job or interview, substantial cash to prove that I could support myself upon release. This would prove to the board that I was not planning to resort back to crime. If I didn’t have all that, I would be denied parole, until reconsideration an entire year later.

The possibility of parole was slim to none. Other inmates said that hardly anyone makes it the first time. The word was that you needed to have served at least fifty-one percent of your sentence before they would give you parole. Even though, I had only served a fifth of my sentence, I had to try anyways.

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  • Steven Tessler

    Wow, I can’t even imagine what that must have been like and to remember it all. I guess that could be good and bad.

    Did you know of the escape before it happened? Or did you learn of it later? Did the entire place get locked down? Just curious…

    Love this as usual!!

    • David Mike

      Since the guards found him before headcount, there was no need for total lockdown. We found out about it after. Not a lot happened that we did not find out about. Probably the same as on your ships.

    • David Mike

      Because he was found before headcount, there was no reason for total lockdown. We found out about it shortly after it happened. Not much happened that we didn’t find out about. Probably like on one of your ships.

  • On the edge of my seat Mike. I can hear the emotion in your writing. It’s powerful.

    • David Mike

      Thank you. I mentally took myself back there. The pic in this post is an actual DB cell. Also, I remember visiting Alcatraz with my wife. The cells are identical. It was surreal. All those feelings came back.

  • The details must be etched in your mind, you leave the reader feeling like they are incarcerated with you.

    • David Mike

      As I wrote this one, I felt like the reader would be able to actually feel along with me. Thanks for telling me that.

  • “Only problem is, until the “sin” is paid for, there can be no freedom.” The point of it all. Great allusion.

    • David Mike

      I’m glad you caught that subtly, blatant statement. Exactly what I was hoping for. Thanks for reading today.

  • I think this is one of your more powerful posts. The writing and the descriptions and the voice of the piece are tightly wrought and that lends to placing us with you in the moment and in the cell.

    Two of my favorites:

    “Once the cell door was closed for lock down, that was it.
    No escape from the prison, no escape from the cell and no escape from the panic.”

    “My mind and thoughts began to slip away, become out of reach, then lost. It would be at this time that I would hear the snap in my head and then drop on to my bunk exhausted. Then I would just lay there and zone out. This happened more than I can count and there was no way to control it.”

    And I think that this section (My projected release date was in February, 1993 with good time. An eternity.) would hold a bit more power if you reminded the reader what year it was in an unobtrusive way, maybe in the line before.

    Finally, I really like the way you weave in the idea of our desire for freedom and that before we can have freedom, the sin must be dealt with.

    So much good stuff in here. Well done, David.

    • David Mike

      Thank you Judy, I tried to really put emotion in this one. Especially because of the nature of the post. Taking notes for later. I appreciate your input as usual.

  • Kim Wright

    Great post David! So descriptive that it feels like I was there!

    • David Mike

      Thank you, I really tried to convey my emotions, feelings and sensations in the cell. It was terrible, not being able to control my environment. I appreciate your support.

  • One of the most powerful posts yet. Your description of the onset of panic from confinement built up and hit home. When I went through my deployment in ’02 and ’03 I missed my life back home. My wife and I had only been married for 2 years when I left. I know it was not prison but I certainly felt a sense of confinement to my duty there. Sometimes when I imagined the months until I saw her again, it would build up and almost crush me. Great use of words, David.

    • David Mike

      It was awful, I am beginning to think that I have PTSD from this part of my experience.

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