Sunday, July 19, 2009


Dateline: July 16, 2009


I had hope to be transferred from this place by now, but the early morning wake-up call, “BAG AND BAGGAGE,” pack up, you’re leaving, didn’t come for me today.

The mailing address may be Daytona Beach, Florida, but you’ll not see the sand or surf from my cell window at Tomoka C.I. This is not a vacation destination, either, unless you want to compare it to the Haunted Mansion at Disney World. Too many people die here for it to be thought of as having fun.

In deference to our tech society, the chain gang rumor mill of yore is now called “INMATE DOT COM.” Rumors are rife in prison, spread by prisoners, guards, and other staff daily. You’re liable to hear anything, and I’m not going to spread any here, unless I have to.

“Where did you hear that?”

“Inmate dot com.”

Oftentimes the rumors start on the prisoner side and quickly pass to the guards, seeking confirmation. If the guards haven’t heard it, it spreads like wildfire among them, seeking their own confirmation. And back again.

While I was in the visiting park with my friend, Libby, on the Fourth of July weekend, much was happening on the compound. A convicted murderer named Demetrius Cason, chain gang name, “Cadillac,” from St. Pete, supposedly bum-rushed a cell upstairs housing two middle-aged homosexuals who were known to hold contraband for drug men. Cadillac beat one, David Michaud, a slightly-built convicted murderer, senseless, but left empty-handed. Michaud’s partner supposedly went downstairs and handed a guard a cell phone, stating that was what the robber was after. Dave was rushed to the hospital. The guy with the cell phone “checked in,” going to confinement for protection. When that happens, lists of names of drug sellers usually result.

While this was going on in “B” dorm, the cursed place where I live, more foul play was going on in lockup.

The story says they were painting. It was hot, no ventilation, no air. Malik Brown, a simple-minded man in his 20’s, heavily medicated with “psych drugs,” complained that he couldn’t breathe from the fumes. The guards told him to shut up and “get off the door” (get away from the door where you can be heard and get on your bunk), or get pepper-sprayed.

Malik was right. He couldn’t breathe. They found him on the cell floor dead.
During the commotion, another “bug,” (psych prisoner), known as “Maestro,” tried to hang himself. This would have been quite an accomplishment, had it been successful (it wasn’t), since Maestro was in a “strip cell,” a bare room with nothing in it, and the prisoner has only a piece of canvas as a skirt, specifically for suicidal people or others who “act up.” Maestro had been pepper sprayed a couple of times recently, and wasn’t too happy about it.

Initially, Malik’s death was blamed on “natural causes,” he just keeled over, they said, but prisoners in nearby cells began telling a different story. Foul play. We’ll see.

The guard in charge at the time was relieved of duty in lockup and sent to the compound to run “inmate movement” and the yard.

One of the problems in prison is that some staff members can’t work around prisoners. Because of their personalities, prejudices, hatred for all prisoners, or just plain orneriness, when they are loose around prisoners, bad things happen. The people in charge know this, and often move around “problem guards” to duties more out of sight. Then things happen, and they get shuffled into an area where sparks fly.

And so it happened. Knowing how to talk to people is important, on both sides. It doesn’t take much to instigate an incident.

The guard had words with a prisoner walking by. He told him to “cuff up,” submit to arrest. The prisoner ignored him, kept walking. The guard ran behind him, pulled out his canister, and pepper sprayed the prisoner. The prisoner stopped, turned, and knocked him out. Game on. Yard closed.

We knew when the robbery/assault happened that the “squad” would be coming to ransack “B” dorm soon. On Monday, INMATE DOT COM said that all the guards were told to report to work at 4 AM the next day. Dead giveaway. And at 4 AM they did come. They took a number of suspected dope smokers out for urine tests, and locked up eight or nine. Then, with the plumbing, toilets, and drinking water cut off, they spent the next few hours ransacking every cell, all 114 of them, strip-searching and harassing the 200 or so prisoners who had nothing to do with any of that.

A few days ago, they released from confinement the guy who attacked Dave, “Cadillac,” and put him back in “B” dorm. I had previously helped him with an appeal in the law library, so we were on good terms.

INMATE DOT COM struck again. Word was that Dave’s brain hemorrhaged at Lake Butler, the main prison hospital, and he died. They came and got Cadillac again. If that were true, he’s facing a new murder charge.

Is Dave dead? I don’t know. INMATE DOT COM SAYS HE IS. We’ll see. All I know is that a lot of people die here, for a variety of reasons. They’re calling it, “Tomoka Death Camp.” I just want out of here before anything else happens. Is that too much to ask?

Monday, July 6, 2009

4th of July In Prison: Somebody Get Me Out of Here!

Dateline: July 5, 2009

4th of July In Prison: Somebody Get Me Out of Here!

Yesterday marked the 233rd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (notwithstanding the fact that the Continental Congress actually voted on July 2nd). My friend, Libby, and I spent my thirty-first Fourth in prison in the visiting park at Tomoka C.I. Down the street at the speedway, the expensive sports cars raced, thousands of sun worshippers crowded Daytona Beach a few miles away, and I reflected on my 11,414 days of continuous captivity. Does that number sound as long as it feels?

I was in a dark cell when the Islamist radicals stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held the American hostages 400-plus days—an eternity it seemed at the time. 479 days seems like a blip on the screen to me now.

I remember watching Congressman Leo Ryan (was it?) and the reporter get shot at Jim Jones’ Guyana mass suicide. Was that 1978? They even had TV’s in the cells. Then John Hinckley shot President Reagan on TV in 1981. He’s been in a posh nuthouse ever since and recently got approved for a driver’s license, so he can drive himself on his weekend furloughs. That would be nice.

Joe Montana was still in college, and Emmitt Smith was in elementary school. They’ve been retired for years. Jimmy Carter was still President. I shook hands with him in South Miami in the summer of ’76 while he and Hamilton Jordan were campaigning. When was the last time you heard that name?

Barack Obama was barely a teenager, hanging out in Hawaii. Hasn’t he come a long way?

Times have changed. Most of the prisoners I knew then are dead, though some of us graybeards are hanging on. Yesterday, while we visited, a young man on psych drugs died in lockup. He wasn’t even born when I came into the system. Another tried to hang himself, but was unsuccessful. Couldn’t take it.

The upcoming year will be crucial to my fate. Get out or die, quite a choice. With the economy and our society so screwed up, some prisoners feel they’re better off inside. “What ‘chu wanna go out there for?” To be free, I say, just like those folks 233 years ago, who signed that paper and fought an unjust system.

Let freedom ring!

Thanks for your help.