Lights In the Distance. . .
Walks’ Outdate – 19 Days and Counting
By Steven Maisenbacher
In 1986 when I was walking up the steps of United States Penitentiary Leavenworth I wasn’t so much afraid as I was overwhelmed. I mean I had been hearing about this place all my life in movies and whatnot, but once I was there I found it to be like any other maximum security prison, dangerous and tricky, but if you stayed aware and paid attention to what was going on around you, stayed out of the messes that can go on in these places, you were gonna be ok.
Well it wasn’t long and I was transferred out of Leavenworth and sent to USP Lompoc California, where I stayed for a couple years and then transferred out to USP Lewisburg, PA. It seems I just couldn’t stay out of trouble or the hole for more than a few months so I ended up hitting USP Terre Haute, USP Atlanta, and finally “Rockatraz,” USP Florence Colorado. Now I’m saying all this to help you see that I was literally thrown out of every one of these dangerous prisons; evidently too much of a problem for the most dangerous federal prisons in the country.
While I am certainly not proud of some of the things I did to get thrown out of these places, it has finally occurred to me that I started getting thrown out for my behavior long before Leavenworth. I have been thrown out of the free world, and yet, I was to further my exile in each and every danger zone the United States government sent me too. But then the epiphany, I changed and everything changed. I became a model prisoner, I began to give back to my community thru volunteering as a suicide watch companion and teaching Native beliefs and practices to the youngsters as a way of life other than the crime and hate that got them here. I learned how to be a human thru the Native American teachings and inspirations of some amazing people. But eventually, all of a sudden, I became afraid. Not afraid of the prisons, but afraid of the freedom rapidly approaching me because I had changed and I had earned my release date.
So I went thru the whole range of classic reactions to deep fears, from the nervousness and anxieties to sleepless nights, to countless hours wondering “What will I do?” Well, it’s funny how I came to this pass. Now I have just 19 days left; then I will be dropped off at the bus station in Birmingham. I will have no guards around me in a place where the world and predators at large don’t know anything about me but what they see – a little old man with a cane and a walker, a head full of gray-white hair and maybe a look of bafflement about him, almost as if he is trying to figure out the world around him – but what they won’t see is fear.
I’ve made up my mind, I’m not afraid anymore. I may not know what I’m facing, I may not know exactly what I’m doing, but one thing I am not going to do is let the world beat me into fear and or submission. I’m not gonna be afraid of the things I don’t know; I’ll learn them. I’m not gonna be afraid of people and places and all that either. It’s like this, I have lived and thrived where a lot of you couldn’t. I have made it thru the beast that is the U.S. prison system and have become a better man for it. It took all the danger and war stories to make me who I am, and I ain’t been afraid of this in decades.
Hell, I sleep with earplugs in and a stocking cap over my eyes. I know I am ready to get out and do the right things. I know where I am as far as mindset and desire; what I will need to get by is so much less than most of you, so every little thing I get is a luxury and truly appreciated. Now I just want to say this to all of you that have been truly concerned for me in my release to the mean old free world: Don’t be, cuz I’m not afraid of the world anymore. I will deal with it in its own terms and do what I need to in order to stay on the right side of the walls.
Ya wanna know a secret? There are millions of people in the world living their lives and they are not afraid either. The creator has my back and that’s all I need to know; push on into the next “right” thing and the Creator will handle the rest for me. After all what greater protection could there be? So I’m not gonna worry about “what if I cant.” I’m gonna rest on “I will…” and if something comes along that I ain’t sure of, well, I’ll just think about what I am, who I am and what I’m not. I am not afraid…