Lights In the Distance. . .
Walks’ Outdate – 137 Days and Counting
By Steven Maisenbacher
Talladega Prison, April 8, 2022
If we all were to be reasonable about the math, we’d agree, the average federal correctional officer makes a whopping 50k annually. Now it’s amazing to see this when the primary job description is basically babysitting a bunch of wayward adults.
Let me tell you about my week thus far… So a few weeks ago the warden posts a memo to all inmate population in regards to “excess inmate personal property.” He says we have a month to mail home all items we want to keep that do not exceed the limits that are set forth in his memo. Wish I had a way to include it all, but it’s got such notable things like we are allowed to have 1 cup, 1 bowl, 5 books (of any kind), 4 pair of underwear, 4 pair socks, 2 sweatshirts, 2 sweatpants. The list is exhaustive and ignorant in its conception, but hey we are in a system that pays 50k annually for 10 cops to stand around and talk for hours to each other while keeping a sharp eye out to confiscate an apple someone is trying to take out from the chow hall, or an extra milk. They will pile up on both sides of the sidewalk like it’s some kind of gauntlet and act as hateful and despicable as they can figure out how to be, talking crazy to people who, all in all, just don’t want to go to bed hungry, so they chose to take the apple or banana or a couple slices of bread back with them to eat later. See it’s a long time between supper, if you can call it that, and breakfast which is even more meager than supper.
So with this edict hanging over our heads, I want to tell you a bit about the reality of this prison. There are more drugs and contraband cellphones here than you would ever believe, as much dope as in the free world per capita, and the same with tobacco. Cigarettes can be purchased for $150.00 to $200.00 per pack and are available all over this compound. Drugs like cyboxin, a synthetic heroin replacement drug, weed, methamphetamine, ice, or the worst of the bunch, K-2 which is bug spray on paper that these idiots smoke and then flip out or vomit all over or freeze up like zombies and then become combative, truly the most dangerous due to its unexpected effects on the users is all right here. Now let me be specific here, you can get this stuff anywhere, and lest we forget the cellphones, touch screens, flip phones, thumb-sized phones designed to be easily hidden.
Now I’m just saying, like the Covid infections that got in here, guess who brought THAT in? And guess who brings all these other dangerous narcotics and devices in? That’s right, it ain’t jumpin’ over the fence into this place, and it ain’t comin’ thru the visiting room, not when you can get these things in the quantity that they are readily available for the right prices. It’s sickening to me in that these sleazy people want to punish me for other peoples’ behaviors, all the while the cops are the ones facilitating the very things they are turning around and busting (or not busting.) Simply put, this facility is the most corrupt and hypocritical place I’ve ever seen, you walk into the units and smell smoke, tobacco, skunk weed, or the burnt chemical smell of the k-2.
Its pitiful, so here I am waiting for the goon squads to come thru and rifle thru the things we have. I have thrown away or given away a ton of stuff, things I don’t need, extra clothes, especially winter clothes since I won’t be here for another winter. I’ve got my books down to 5, everything of a commissary nature is in my locker, it wasn’t hard to do since I don’t have any store to speak of; just went and spent my last $8.00, needed coffee and soap, now I got ‘em. when everyone started piling their excess books in the commons area, I even bagged them up and took them to the library, knowing full well all these guards would do was throw them in the garbage. Saying these things may rub some people the wrong way, but it’s the truth, I no longer care and I’m tired of being bullied by an administration that is corrupt and out of control.
See, at this point it’s not about sound principles in penology, but abuse, oppression, humiliation and vice. They want to have their cake and eat it too, see to treat people like this is just wrong and there is a word for people who enjoy, no, go out of their way to see and relish the suffering of others. In fact there are several words for this type of jerks, but I’m not gonna deviate from my path to get into name calling. I’ll just say this and leave it at that, today at lunch I watched over a half million dollars of the taxpayers money, all hanging out doing nothing more than trying to catch a man with a banana and you wonder why this government is trillions in debt? You wonder that men come out of prison, not rehabilitated, but bitter and resentful at having been victimized by these people for years, sometimes decades? If there is one thing I have had said about me that was asked of me is this, “How did you ever make it thru that without losing your mind?” My answer is the same today as it was 20 years ago: the Creator, my faith and the fact that I never want to be as corrupt as my so-called keepers. Amazing, astounding, baffling, and definitely irritating, but absolutely the truth.
Then the hammer fell. . .
Thursday April 14, 2022
YOU CAN’T PROVE IT! This is what I was told when I went to see the lieutenant about my broken radio (that I can’t replace) and the coffee cup that had been taken and the brand new book that one of my friends had spent her money on to send me, a Conn Iggulden novel that is really good! I managed to get the book back by pushing the dust cover thru the crack in the door and running it up and down like a flag to get the attention of one of the staff that was having so much fun acting like thugs and bullies, taking property from people just because they can.
All this stems from that assertion by the new warden that “we have too much personal property” when the simple truth is that we have barely what we need to get by. The warden instructed staff to come in and take things like books and bowls and clothes and personal papers and radios, almost anything that is kept out in sight they took. Some people got “confiscation notices;” most didn’t and when you complain the line is this “you can’t prove we took it/broke it.”
Here’s how it went down for me. At around 1pm yesterday afternoon, I made a cup of coffee, went into my cell, put my radio on with headphones, got my book off the bed, opened a pack of peanut butter crackers to snack on, and sat at the desk reading, quietly minding my own business. Suddenly, in thru the door comes a correctional officer who says something to me. Now I can see thru the open cell door now that there are at least 20 cops out there. I pull my headphones off and say, “Excuse me?”
He says, “Personal property shakedown.”
I said, “OK, the locker is open.”
“NO!!! You need to step out.”
So I toss the radio on the bed, turn the book over on the desk, take a sip of the coffee and step out where I am herded to the sports TV room and told to get inside. Lovely.
So 15 minutes or so go by and they open the door and call out “cell 1-1,” That’s me.
“Step out, OK get in the cell.”
“Wait officer, that is my book there on the ground, that is a brand new book that I am reading and I was reading it when you came in. Can I please have it back?”
“NO! Get in the cell.”
So in the cell I go. I quickly discover my coffee is not there. I see that it had been poured into the sink, but the whole cup was gone. Now this particular cup I have had for 17 years. It was a thermal cup and I had stuffed it full of feathers. Most guys put pictures inside or stickers or whatever, I filled mine with feathers, not only for spiritual reasons, but practical as well since feathers are excellent insulators. So I’m all warped out about my book and the fact that these cops had done this at the instigation of the warden.
This warden is new here and in my earnest opinion is way too much into punishment and not enough into prevention. This is readily observable in the fact that there are so many drugs and cell phones and tobacco here in this prison that are brought in unchecked by the cops themselves. When the warden is more concerned that I have an extra book or a banana from the chow hall than he is about his own corrupt staff and the threat they pose to his institution, then there’s a problem.
I would love to name names, but I know they would retaliate and I am not looking for more trouble, just a little peace of mind. Anyway, I still had the dust cover off the book they took and I put it thru the crack in the door running it up and down the door until I got one of the cops to come over. I told him what happened, that the book was mine and I was reading it when I was rousted out of my cell. At least he was humane enough to pick it up and set it on the seat of my walker, so there was a smidgeon of civility.
After they left I discovered that the alarm clock I kept sitting on my desk was gone and they even took an elastic band they issued me in medical to exercise with. Then I found my radio. It was on the floor behind the bed and sure enough, it’s now broken! After we went to dinner I went to see the lieutenant about the situation. He suggested I go see the warden about it. So this morning I saw one of the lieutenants that was actually here when all this went on and he told me…and I quote: “You can’t prove it happened or that my officers did it.” Isn’t that nice?
Now I have no clock, and no radio/head phones to watch television or listen to the late night talk shows on. Fortunately, Big John, one of the truly good men I know in here gave me a coffee cup so I can drink my coffee now, but the radio thing is really upsetting me. These things are expensive and here I am trying to save what little money I have for when I’m released.
But here’s the thing… See, I refuse to ever again be the monster that I once was and I refuse to let these people have the satisfaction of pushing me to become mean and nasty. I refuse to go on a tangent and lash out because they have mentally or emotionally brutalized me and or deprived me of my personal property just because they can.
The whole herd of them, from the dumbest, cruelest sadistic “correctional officer” to the most disturbed executive staff member decides to be cruel and inhumane and to torture the prisoners by taking what we have and value or that we can’t replace for whatever reason. This is just what they do. But nope, I refuse to be what they create. Rather I will be what The Creator has allowed me to become. That doesn’t mean I gotta like it, just that I gotta do it and with strength and personal fortitude, morals and integrity, I’ll keep pushing on.
And one more thing… it won’t stop me from telling you…
And one more thing… the very next day was the beginning of the long Easter weekend. I had a short email early in the morning saying they were going on lockdown. Didn’t know why… Bet I can guess… Sings