Saturday, August 15, 2009


Dateline: August 2, 2009


Florida has a new law in effect banning prisoners from possessing cell phones. The penalty is up to five years in prison and a $5000 fine. Thursday, a Tomoka C.I. prisoner who’d been caught with a cell phone had a hearing in Volusia County Court. The judge must not have been too impressed with the law, levying only a six-month concurrent sentence.

I’ve never used a cell phone. I don’t want one. I don’t care for an additional five years in prison, and I couldn’t afford a $50 fine, let alone $5000. That’s not true for others. Texas and California have confiscated hundreds and thousands of phones. One man on Texas Death Row called a Texas state senator and threatened him. The Death Row prisoner claimed he bought it from a guard. Another guard was caught smuggling sixty cell phones inside a compressor into a Texas prison.

To combat the proliferation, the Florida DOC recently paid $6000 or so for a cell phone-sniffing dog. I forget his name, but we met last Friday.

A toilet burst and flooded a cell wing upstairs. A guard woke me up at 3:15 a.m. to mop up water. Another hapless soul and I mopped up twenty-two buckets of sewer water. The sergeant told us we could shower and sanitize ourselves, but suddenly all the water cut off. That’s never a good sign.

4:15 a.m. a large squad of prison guards rushed the building. Cell by cell, “out, out, out,” rousting sleeping prisoners out of their cells in their boxers. Strip searches. Sit on the benches and floor of the day room. Over 200 men sat for hours while several dogs were pointed in and out of the cells seeking drugs and cell phones.

I recognized the cell phone dog from a newspaper photo. He didn’t look like much—like a cross between an anorexic German Shepherd and a coyote. He trotted right by me as I sat on the floor, and I reached out and petted him. We don’t get much dog contact in here.

I wasn’t too impressed with his abilities, though. A Puerto Rican apparently slid a cell phone beneath a nearby laundry cart when he came out of his cell, and while we were being hustled back inside a few hours later, a guard moved the cart and found the phone on the floor near where the expensive sniffer dog had passed.

They knew the cell phone belonged to the Puerto Rican prisoner, “Flaco,” since he’d taken several photos of himself with the phone’s camera and left them in the memory. He’ll be a finalist in next season’s, “America’s Dumbest Prisoners.”

My roommate and I returned to our cell and found a scene out of the recent tornado damage videos—every meager possession trashed, dumped, tossed, scattered, mattresses overturned, cups dumped out. They must have missed that rule that says the guards must put everything back the way they found it afterwards.

Final tally: three cell phones, a knife, and five prisoners taken to lock-up. Considering the overtime, travel, (most of the guards were brought in from other prisons), and doggy treats, I wouldn’t be surprised if that exercise cost the state $10,000 per cell phone. No wonder the legislature instituted a $5000 fine—to offset the costs of the shakedowns!

Meanwhile, the ninety-eight percent of the prisoners in my building who are just trying to do their time and get along, who possess no cell phones, knives, or drugs, must endure the same dehumanizing humiliation as those who brought this down on themselves. It doesn’t seem fair, does it? But then, who said life was fair?

We are still preparing to file a petition for a new parole hearing. With the turnover in Tallahassee—Gov. Crist campaigning for the U.S. Senate and two other Cabinet members slugging it out to replace him, we are obligated to file a clemency application, too. We need a lot of help with this, possibly the first “on-line clemency application.” We’re also looking for a “Facebook” expert willing to volunteer some time to the cause. So, if you know of any possible candidates, please put them in contact with me.

And a P.S. from “Inmate”…as sometimes happens with the chain gang rumor mill, the initial reports of the beating death of the prisoner, “Dave,” were premature or wishful thinking. Like Lazarus, Dave apparently rose from the dead, made a remarkable comeback and is now recovering. Good for him. More later.


1 comment:

Vox Populi said...

glad he's okay. See now if I were in prison or headed there I would assume that I was supposed to check my cellphone at the door. Crazy. AND this is why I loathe lawmakers. You can't legislate morality, commmon sense and prison guards and other human beings one with EVERYTHING one with NOTHING.
I would be very pissed off if the guy next to me had a celly and didn't hit me up with it sometimes. Other than that? WHO CARES? I guess though that some will make bad calls and do stupid stuff. AND, oh yeah, they're not allowed.
I rarely if ever use either one of my cellphones. And, one is usually in my pocket.
Charlie you're going to be shocked when you walk out of there. You might want to go back.
If I left the Florida YOU left and came back out to what they've done to it I'd probably start screaming. Least I've had some time to adjust.
I get the feeling your time is coming. And you can use a cellphone. They're bad for you, yknow.
But probably better than innmate dot com.
how da boss 'posed to run his game wid out his digits?'
Prison is SUCH A SCAM.
More people in prison in the US than anywhere in the world, I think now. AND it's really your family that goes to prison, too.
They've built industries around the industries and keep people in there like caged animals.
No one knows what really goes on.
They like it that way.