By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

Part 1 – Spiritual Journey Toward Addiction Recovery

Chapter 14

From The Top To The Bottom

Man, almost as bad as being blindsided with this dang transfer “back to my region” was the fact that they sent me back to Yazoo. Let me tell you, I spent 3 years in Yazoo before I went to Petersburg. If there is a nastier more unprofessional prison in this system I haven’t seen it and Yazoo is the worst cesspool I have ever been in.

I had it made in Petersburg; I was able to make jewelry, a major financial lift and had a superior paying job that I loved, again making good money (in prison 300.00 + per month is a killer job) and the medical was finally going to fix my back. I had deteriorating vertebrae, with a chunk of a disk just sheared off and barely hanging on to the disk. By now the pain was getting so bad that nothing relieved it except being asleep, and even then I’m sure my dreams were affected.

But at least I had the 3rd MRI, had seen a specialist and a neurosurgeon, with the obvious surgical solutions clearly outlined and I had agreed to. I had been going thru this since before they transferred me from Yazoo to Petersburg. At the time the pain had been steadily increasing for 34 months. Then all of a sudden they are moving me again?!? This made me feel like they were avoiding the costs of the surgery and wanting to punish me with more pain.

But what the heck, it was too late to do anything except get to Yazoo and work on it so I arrive there for the 2nd time, and while in R&D doing the interview picture and unit assignment, who should walk in but the lieutenant from Coleman Low that had locked me up with that idiot “Chains” and sent me out of Florida to Yazoo the first time. Needless to say the BOP has never done anything but reward and promote staff that are trying to climb the government ladder so he is now a unit manager.

Of course he sees me and immediately it’s, “Well, Well, Well, what do we have here?” He asks the other cop what unit I’m assigned to then says, “No, put him in C Unit, I want to keep a close eye on him.” (great, just great.)

So now I’ve got a unit manager on my chain and I haven’t even made it out to the compound. I couldn’t realize at the time that he wouldn’t be that bad to have knowing me or my past extensive history of behaviors while in custody. He did seem to help me if he could and paved the way with other staff members to “leave me alone” and not try to harass or hassle me like they usually do.

I thought I knew what kind of hell I just arrived at, but when I get to the unit I find I clearly wasn’t ready for this. In the 3 years I was gone a new epidemic of K-2 hit the place, called synthetic weed, with a high that seems to all but zombify people. And the contraband cell-phone problem was the worst I had seen it anywhere. There were so many cell phones that the waiting line to use a bathroom stall was sometimes over an hour because guys would go in there where it’s private to look at porn.

The dorms were open and every vice known to man was rampant, it was horrible. At night the cell phones lit the place up like a city from a distance in the night sky and with the K-2 zombies wandering about, crossing the dorm was like trying to navigate the walking dead. The situation was simply crazy, absolutely out of control, and in fact the cops didn’t even try to control it. The dorm always smelled of weed and cigarettes. Being shoved in this place was really bad when you’re a guy who is real good at being bad but has turned his life around and is trying to stay on the spiritual path of the red road.

I got to the pipe carrier the next day; he was glad to see another Native there and acted like he had heard of me. That would not be surprising in the federal system; I have not always been a good man, but I have always rode native. So I go to the lodge the next Saturday morning and we set it up but I can see that he didn’t really have it down yet. He did know his own songs in Choctaw so it was at least a Native lodge and he seemed to be an ok guy. There was only one other brother there, a Cherokee from North Carolina named “Cherokee” (go figure). So we sweat and I ran a few. He wanted me to run every other sweat but I think it was mostly to share the burden, sometimes it is nice to be able to just concentrate on prayer, so there it was; at least the lodge was a haven from the hell hole of Yazoo, the dorm, and the staff.

The band room was another story entirely. When I was there the first time I had the best band on the yard and prisoners being prisoners let it be known to each other, “Oh walks and them guys are playing, we gotta go.” The place would be packed, standing room only. The other bands, well, not so much. Now, this time I get back, and find myself blackballed. It’s amazing how hateful and petty musicians can be; they went out of their way to keep the bands closed to me, to make sure I didn’t get to build a band or any of that, so I was never in any band nor did I have any band room time for a little “scream therapy.”

So I’m here, it’s all bad, there is no hobbycraft, no chance to make jewelry, no chance to get into Unicor, and if I did get in, the jobs are garbage. It’s a sewing factory but they don’t really work a lot; most of the time they are laid off due to no contracts and or failure to meet the contracts.

I’m living minute to minute, my back is killing me, and now I’m told by medical that they have lost the last MRI that was done so they will have to schedule me for another one. This means a wait of 3-4 months and then they would schedule a consult with a neurosurgeon so I’m looking at another 6-8 months before I can actually get the back fixed.

That’s it, enough is enough, I am not going to go thru this pain anymore. I know what will help me so if they won’t medicate me, I will do it myself. So I started smoking weed as needed for the pain, and it worked, so I just continued to do so. The living conditions were so bad that I finally told my case manager that I had been waiting for more than three years for back surgery, I had been transferred twice having gone thru the diagnostics process and was awaiting surgery, and I’m tired of being in pain.

Then I told him what I intended to do about it. I was going to smoke marijuana for the pain because ibuprofen doesn’t help but weed does and I would continue to do so until, “You people fix my back.”  They acted like I was wrong because I refused to tolerate the medical negligence any longer. Tough.

Now on the outside, I had always been a pot smoker, I love it because it could calm my anxieties and it would help with the aches and pains of growing older after having put my body through years of rough treatment. If I could, I would smoke pot every day. But let me be clear, until it is legal and I am off parole I cannot and will not use this. My will to be free and to stay out of trouble with the law is far greater than my need to smoke weed. So there it is: Hi, my name is Walks and I’m a pothead.

So anyway, all my candor with my case manager got me was a urine test. They called me over, said I needed to pee in the bottle.

“No problem, but I will tell you up front, its dirty for weed and will continue to be till my back is fixed.”

So 14 days later, I’m put in the hole for providing a positive urine sample for cannabinoids. Oops! Tough.

I go to the disciplinary hearing and tell them the same thing I have been saying all along, I did it because pot helps the pain, and I will continue to do it till they fix my back. He says the best thing he can do is transfer me. Now I also see a way to get out of Yazoo! or so I thought. Anyway, they give me 15 days in the hole and a disciplinary transfer, but they also raised my security points and are sending me back up in custody level to the mediums. Fine by me, at least in the mediums I will be in a cell and not a dorm and I’ll be able to get away from all the chaos. All of a sudden a few weeks later they tell me to get my stuff together, I am being transferred across the street to Yazoo medium!

Now, I’m not at all happy with that but at least I can get away from the low, even if it’s just across the street. Once I get there I find out that it’s a “political” yard and they have no sex offenders on the compound, or at least no known sex offenders. So I get there and I’m sent to my assigned unit. It’s ok, but it’s still Mississippi, where the staff is lazy and uneducated, racist and totally corrupt. So this place is rife with drugs and cell phones and problems as well. The only difference is the medium has cells, and I’m happy in that.

I’m still in constant pain and definitely going to medical about the back issues and the need for surgery, but in my mind I’m thinking, “Well, it’s right across the street, there is no way they will not have the same specialists and all that.” Wrong.

Why or how I don’t know, but once again they are playing stupid on the surgery. So I just continue to go about my daily life, but now I’m not smoking pot and the pain is roaring. One day I’m coming across the compound from medical about my back. I’m barely able to walk, kinda hunched over. A black woman stops me and asks if I’m all right.

“No, I’m not,” I say, and then unload my frustrations. I tell her all about how my back is severely damaged, I’ve been thru numerous MRI’s, several neurosurgeons, and three transfers have taken me away from the scheduled surgery I so drastically need. And now medical has just told me they will have to start all over again with the process.

She takes my name and number and I go on to the unit thinking, “Great, another staff that acts like they care but will do nothing.” Little do I know this woman is the warden and when she doesn’t like what is going on, she changes it. After I leave, she gets on the radio and calls medical, has them call me back over, and tells them she wants my medical status upgraded from Care Level 1 to Care Level 2.

So they did it and they tell me I will be medically transferred to a Care Level 2 institution, and I’ll be redesignated soon. A week goes by; the warden catches me in the chow hall and asks how I am doing. I tell her I’m being sent to a Care Level 2 facility. She just smiled and said she was sure things will work out. A couple days later I’m called to pack out to yet another new place; I’m told I’m going to Talladega, Alabama. I have been hearing how sweet this place is for decades.


What angers me are the things I see,
The trouble is the storm will rise again.
It’s what will be, you soon will see,
Now I see that you were never really my friend.

Conscience be your guide, sorrow deep inside,
Vengeance – vengeance. . .
Feelings cannot hide, all the times you lied,
Vengeance – vengeance. . .

Wretched cowards die and blacken the sky,
Enter ye here where there is no hope,
It’s where you’ll be and soon you’ll see,
Life is but a joke and the joke’s on you.

Chorus – Lead – Chorus

So the means will justify the end,
I can’t stop and you can’t win,
The road that strangely bent is now spent,
Nowhere left to go so pitch your tent.

Chorus –

Vengeance we’re told is best served cold,
At least that’s what I heard
Vengeance we’re taught is best served hot
But you must keep your nerve.

Conscience be your guide, sorrow deep inside,
Vengeance – vengeance. . .
Feelings cannot hide, all the times you lied,
Vengeance – vengeance. . .

Don’t say you ain’t never wanted some . . . Payback . . .
Vengeance . . .

Vengeance lyrics Drop D – E flat © Steven Maisenbacher (Walks On The Grass)

Published by Sings Many Songs

I'm an 80-something child of the great depression and WWII. Throughout my life I have been a seeker, an outsider, never quite belonging anywhere, still always looking through cracks in the fences of life, questioning, challenging, learning, trying to make sense of the world and its conventions. A lifelong student with many interests and a love of writing and editing, my elder's path led to encouraging and assisting some remarkable people to write out their amazing stories. This calling became the magic elixir that keeps me growing, keeps me alive.

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