Lights In the Distance. . .

Walks’ Outdate – 75 Days and Counting

By Steven Maisenbacher

Walks On The Grass

Pardon me while I get side tracked – again. I’m trying to write about the personal process of preparing for release from prison, but having to deal with constant deviations from any kind of stable routine is par for the course. So I must ask the same old question: Why do they do the stuff they do?

This latest fiasco not only ticks me off, but it’s also something I just don’t get. See the entire prison has once again been placed back on red (severe operational modifications), and it looks as though this is all at the control of one man, the hospital administrator, who in fact doesn’t come from a medical background but rather a business administration. Never-the-less, they have 0 cases of inmates with Covid here, and only 3 staff have tested positive or reported the fact that they are out ill with Covid-like symptoms.

I do know that they allegedly base the reaction by this place and the “code” (red-severe operational modifications, yellow-moderate operational modifications, and green-no modifications to operations) by the percentage of reported hospital rates of Covid cases in the entire county. But this is ridiculous. See, we have been under the Covid restrictions since the pandemic began, and it has been one lockdown or loss of privilege after another, be it our activity or amount of freedom  of movement.

I have seen more lockdowns and loss of privileges since this new warden got here and the pandemic mess ended than I have seen in 20 years. That’s the fact, so now we have been back on “red” for several days and the remedy they have instituted goes like this: Half of my unit is locked down for half the day, then the other half the day the other half of the unit is out and we are in the cells. But here’s the kicker, it is still ok for us to all be out and mixed together with no social distancing at least 3 times a day when they make us all walk over to the chow hall and get a styrofoam tray with a little bit of cold food in it, then walk back to the cell to eat it back on lockdown.

This saves them from actually having to just bring food carts to the unit and feed us themselves. (themselves being the lazy inept and usually worthless babysitters that they are, you know – the same ones responsible for all the contraband drugs and phones and tobacco that comes into the institution that all inmates, guilty or not, are always being punished for.) Anyway, so now it’s like this: We get up and are all let out together until they send us to get our trays to bring back. Then we are locked back down, but half of the unit is let back out for several hours while the other half of the unit is forced to endure lockdown conditions, that is of course till the next meal then they hurry up and unlock the other half so that they can push them out the door to go and get the next meal tray, then of course its lock back down.

As for recreation, well 3 times a week we are allowed to go outside to the recreation yard and be locked into a caged area by unit for 2 hours, and you never know where you will end up – the track area? the handball area? the outside tv area? So it’s really not at all worth the hassle. When you come back in after being out in the heat and sweating for 2 hours, you are sent right back into the cell with no shower, no pass go, and definitely no $200.00, unless you happen to be one of the staff members being paid your tax dollar to do absolutely nothing.

Needless to say I’m upset over all this charade. I don’t understand how this kind of foolish abuse can be tolerated, even promoted by the Bureau of Prisons. Of course I’m gonna try to keep from getting sick; I’m trying to keep my sugar levels in check but I’ve had 2 sugar crashes in the past 3 days. My situation only looks favorable in that I will be out soon and can try to regain the good strides I was making with the early morning exercise and diet improving my sugar levels. In the mean time I’ll be right here locked down kinda sorta just enough to keep me uncomfortable, and I’ll make sure to hide from the Covid that the staff is bringing into the institution, cuz it sure ain’t gettin in by jumpin the fence, and I damn sure ain’t been nowhere.

I just wonder why?

Published by Edna Peirce Dixon

I am an elder well into my eighties. I have lived an ordinary life doing all the ordinary things expected of women of my generation. But through it all, I have also been a seeker, an outsider by nature, always looking through cracks in the fences of life, questioning, challenging, learning, trying to make sense of the world and its conventions. A registered nurse by profession, I have long had a strong interest in writing and genealogy with a special interest in Southeastern Creek Indian history and culture. In my golden years, just when I was thinking “retirement,” some unexpected things happened that led me down a totally unfamiliar path. I’ve since learned it took a lifetime of experiences to prepare me for the challenges to come. My journey – indeed my calling – led me to a remarkable man, a Mvskoke & Ani-yun-wiya known as Ghost Dancer, hidden away for decades behind bars in state and federal prisons. Communicating daily by e-mail for the next nine years I had the opportunity to walk many paths with Ghost Dancer discussing many common interests with candor and respect. Most remarkable to me was Ghost’s absolute dedication to his spiritual leadership role within the Native population. With loving kindness at all times, Ghost shared many of his teachings, including lessons from within the sacred sweat lodge. A full index to Ghost's shared teachings can be found at GHOST DANCER'S SACRED PATH. Over time, Ghost gradually revealed his personal life story in small bits, like pieces of some gigantic puzzle. Now with his health a shambles, Ghost Dancer is at last free and has begun putting those pieces together; he wants the world to know the whole truth of his amazing personal journey in the chapters of his book in progress, ALL FOR THE RIGHT TO PRAY. As his friend and editor on JOURNEYS OF THE SPIRIT, I can say this is indeed a story so big that even after these many years, I continue to be astonished as Ghost reveals new details of his solitary walk on the Nene Cate (Red Road). From the day he was born, a happy, loving, gifted child, he felt a strong bond with his cultural heritage in a world where family loyalty was a sacred trust and Native roots were kept secret. As a result the callow youth endured many heartbreaking sorrows, betrayals and exploitations. As a young teen, Ghost heeded the call to learn from the great Native spiritual leaders gathered at Wounded Knee. The influence of the elders and spiritual leaders on his young mind was profound but the political conflicts of the moment ultimately cast this loyal young boy as a target of a system determined to destroy him by any means. For the next 40 years in and out of prison, Ghost would struggle to remain true to his calling both as a teacher and an activist fighting for the religious rights of Native Americans. (Note: Currently Ghost is focused on things he must do to regain his health and has put writing the final chapters about the the wrongful convictions that put him in federal prison for the past 28 years on hold. He still has dreams for the future so he will be back!) Ghost Dancer would later introduce me to Walks On The Grass, one of his spiritual brothers and another federal prisoner. Walks’ story on JOURNEYS OF THE SPIRIT is totally compelling, though very different. In LONG ROAD HOME, Walks has shared his decades-long spiritual journey from deep addiction to wholeness. He follows up with ALONG THE WAY and finally, LIGHTS IN THE DISTANCE as he prepares emotionally and mentally to transition to life outside after 37 years of incarceration.

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