Friday, October 9, 2020

An Interesting Morning...

 October 6, 2020

Tuesday morning, October 6,  I was in the prison law library when I was told to report to my classification officer, Mr. Hopkins, immediately. He sat me down in front of his computer and told me I had a forensic mental health evaluation scheduled with Dr. Harry Krop in Gainesville.

We are preparing a filing to the parole commissioners (Florida Commission on Offender Review --''FCOR'') in Tallahassee, seeking a parole hearing---legally called a ''subsequent hearing based on new information,'' asking that the ''suspension'' of my July 4, 2017, parole date be lifted, and I be granted immediate parole, three years after the fact. An updated mental health evaluation is a crucial part of the process.

In 2000, I was preparing for my first parole hearing in 2003. Having been studying parole law and teaching parole planning workshops for twenty years at the time (my, how time flies!), I knew what was required. Many prisoners with my same sentence, life with 25 years minimum before becoming eligible for parole, had gone before me, and I knew the drill.

A prisoner's mental health status is a strong factor in his potential release consideration. Believe me--I live with and must interact with men who are as crazy as loons, as they say, and it is frustrating to see dangerous people released into society, knowing they will reoffend, when I've been surviving the ''Florida Gulag'' for over 42 years. What do the ''experts'' know? Can someone spend 25 years in prison and emerge to become a law-abiding citizen in free society? In many cases the answer is ''yes.''

Time and time again, I've seen men be ordered to take a mental health evaluation from the prison psychologists, for parole review, only to receive adverse evaluations that jam their release dates, condemning them to untold additional years in prison.

It's not to the prison psychologists' advantage to risk submitting a positive ''psych eval'' to the parole commission. If that person gets out and commits more crimes, blame bounces back on the psychologist. I could tell you stories.

So, if a prisoner gets a prison evaluation, most likely it will hurt him.

Some of my Kairos Ministry Christian friends spent two years seeking a top-notch forensic psychologist who was so well-respected and qualified that the state could not impeach his objective evaluation. My view was, if he had to go up against prison psychologists who couldn't find work in free society, it would be a no-brainer.

Dr. Krop had conducted thousands of prisoner evaluations for the state, including every Death Row prisoner. In Florida, the state can't execute a mentally-ill person. Dr. Krop was the expert who decided who was mentally-ill, and who was not. I bet he has some stories to tell, but he can't. The point was, what he said about a person was state gospel. They couldn't challenge their own expert.

In 2001, I was at Columbia C. I., near Lake City, 49 miles from Dr. Krop in Gainesville. He visited me several times, conducted hours of tests, and wrote a glowing report. I didn't think I was crazy, but it was good to be validated by such an eminent expert.

We submitted the report as part of my parole release package. The commissioners ignored it. If it had been negative, they'd have posted it on a billboard, most likely.

Fast forward to 2015. Another upcoming hearing. I was back at Columbia C. I., and we retained Dr. Krop for an updated eval, almost 15 years after the first one. New tests, another glowing report, another hearing in 2017, they ignored the expert again.

Fast forward to 2020. This must be a record for Dr. Krop, twenty years of testing the same person, and I've retained my sanity, against all odds.

It wasn't my first experience with ''remote tele-med.'' A couple of months ago, I had an appointment with the prison doctor to discuss my lab tests. When I got to the medical building, the guard told me my appointment was in the mental health department, I had to see the doctor on the TV. What? That didn't sound right. I did not have any contact with prison mental health.

They couldn't find my medical file.

The nurse sat me down in front of a computer screen and left. A nice doctor from the State Department of Health began asking me questions, my age, weight, how did I feel, did I drink a lot of water, did I get enough to eat, was I exercising?

I asked him what all these questions had to do with my lab test results.

He asked me, ''How long have you known you were HIV positive?''


"Hey, dude, I'm not HIV positive, never have been.''

"You're not?''


''Get the nurse, please. You're in the wrong office. These are HIV interviews.''


As I walked out, I looked at the several men waiting for their interviews. So much for patient confidentiality. They looked at me. I looked back, resisting the impulse to say, ''Not me, fellas. It was a mistake.''

Dr. Krop's interview was much better. I hope I passed.




Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Breakfast in Prison


Sunday, October 4, 2020

It seemed like a good planboiled eggs, grits, potatoes, biscuits for breakfast, not much the rest of the day. I asked a chowhound who never misses a meal to wake me before they call chow.

I DID NOT say wake me at 4:45!!! But he did.

This is why I rarely go to breakfast. Two hours later I was still sitting there, wondering when they would call ''Chow,'' wishing I had my sleep back.

So we left at 6:45. It was drizzling. 140 men from both sides of A Dorm grumbled, standing in the rain until the guards signalled go ahead.

I brought a cheddar cheese squeezer for the grits. They don't season the food. Bring your own or do without. The servings were large, the food hot. The boiled eggs were tiny. I thought they were quail eggs at first.

The inevitable bartering began.

''I got a biscuit for one egg.'' (Biscuits are hard and cold, but some people like them).

''I got two eggs for grits, biscuits, butter and jelly.'' ( You can tell he's from the South. Northerners trade their grits for anything else).

''I got juice for two sugar packs.'' (The ''juice,'' four ounces, is heavily watered down. Guys take the sugar packs back to the dorm to sweeten their coffee).

I see a lot of furtive stashing, men putting food--mostly boiled eggs--in potato chip bags or zip locks, to carry back to the dorm. Some will sell the eggs to men who'll buy tuna fish in the canteen, who'll make tuna salad sandwiches with their friends to eat during the NFL football games on TV. Prison tailgate parties. Others will try to sell their eggs for tobacco or drugs to smoke. Some men get very thin selling their food to feed their addictions.

A man at the next table put his biscuits in a bag and was about to stash it when a guard stopped him. He should have been watching. Careless.

"Gimme that. You can't take food out of the chowhall.''

Yeah, guards can't sell cigarettes and drugs in prison, either, but smoke is everywhere. No visits in six months, so they can't blame the widespread smuggling of contraband on visitors.

There was a momentary tug-of-war as the guard grabbed one corner of the bag and the prisoner pulled on the other. The guard was making a mistake creating an incident, outnumbered 100-to-1.

''Turn it loose. I said turn it loose.''

It could have gone either way. I remember seeing a guard get beaten half to death thirty years ago in another chow hall over a piece of cake. I didn't want to see that now.

The inmate let go. The guard threw the biscuits in the swill barrel.

"They was my biscuits,'' the kid said. ''I was gonna eat 'em later.''

''Here, take one of mine,'' I said. ''I'm not that hungry.''

''You sure?'' he said, tentatively reaching for my extra biscuit.

"Go ahead.''

He took it, smiling.

"Here, take one of mine,'' another man offered.

''You can have both of mine,'' a third prisoner held out his tray.

In moments his tray held six biscuits. "What am I gonna do with all these biscuits?''

"Eat 'em, dumbass,'' an old man said.

Everyone laughed.

The rain didn't seem so wet as we walked back to the dorm.