Thursday, March 22, 2012

Prison Stories–The Squirrel

This is the first installment of "Prison Stories–The Squirrel," a series of blog posts that author  Paul Lemmen describes as "what is hoped will be a long-running series of occasional articles based on my experiences in detention and eventual incarceration in a Federal prison." Paul's blog, "An Ex-Con's View," is gritty, it's dark, and yet  reaffirming and hopeful. Here is an excerpt from "Prison Stories–The Squirrel:"

Newly arrived at Federal Prison Camp-Pensacola located in sunny Pensacola, Florida at a Naval Base known as Saufley Field, the former locale where all naval aviators received their basic flight training, I was assigned to a bed in what had formerly been a barracks for said aviators in training.

Twelve inmates in a room that formerly had been the assigned billet of two fledgling aviators. On the second floor (thank God not the third) I stayed there only two weeks in April of 2009 before being re-assigned to a dorm with only one floor and given a lower bunk designation due to my heart condition.

FPC-Pensacola is a minimum security work camp. All inmates are assigned to jobs ranging from menial ones like lawn care up to facilities support like librarian or electrician. All cooking, cleaning, maintaining and support functions are done by inmates. Work crews are also transported each day to NAS-Pensacola and Eglin AFB for infrastructure maintenance jobs. Most inmates earn about $.17 an hour unless they are the lucky few with friends that can get them into AmeriCorp positions where those elite inmates earn over $500 a month.

All funds earned by inmates are deposited in their inmate account and can only be spent to pay fines and restitution (a minimum per month set by the BOP), purchase telephone time, pay for emails ($.05 each) and purchase basic hygiene products, treats, stationary, stamps, etc. from the canteen.

During the first several weeks all new inmates are assigned to cleanup and raking of the compound while the camp staff determine their talents from their records and past employment in the civilian world.

The majority of inmates in a minimum security camp are non-violent offenders with a low criminal history score (meaning usually no prior felony convictions or other criminal convictions of a serious nature), or a long term inmate approaching the statutory end of sentence with good behavior while incarcerated. In my instance, I was a non-violent offender whose criminal history score (zero, the lowest possible) was due to the fact that this was my first (please God, the only) incarceration and all previous criminal prosecutions in the ten years prior to the “instant offense” were “adjudication withheld” findings, having a zero offense score.

It was during this opening phase of my stay at FPC-Pensacola that I met an inmate I’ll call “Joe”. Joe was also a “new” inmate, being newly transferred in from the medium security prison he had spent the previous 42 years in. Joe was now and old man in a wheelchair. He had only 18 more months on his sentence for cocaine possession with intent to distribute. He had spent the previous 20 years paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair following an incident where he was thrown over the railing on the second tier during a prison riot.
Read the rest of "Prison Stories-The Squirrel" at An Ex-Con's View...

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