My stint in San Quentin and my return to Florida State Prison (Recollections by Geo)
I wanted to devote some words to my time in California’s Prison System. I was only in the free world a few months after my Florida escape. I survived doing Robberies of a few homes, Food Lions, and the occasional Bowling Alley Office. Along the way I picked up with a couple of partners that liked that I was bold enough to be an escaped convict on the run. Stupid? Yes, very stupid. Though there was Eric, who I met on Long Beach outside a bar. We hit it off quickly as he had just arrived in California from out of State fleeing an Arrest Warrant for Armed Robbery. I wonder where he is now? Eric in a very short time was a good and loyal friend to me, who had a heart of a lion and a thirst for adventure. Lloyd, another Robbery partner, was the one who eventually turned me in. We would carefully plan and choreograph a job before doing it. Lloyd called us, The Three Musketeers.
Lloyd went off and did a job on his own and got caught. On the way to the L. A. Jail he sung like a canary and the SWAT Team was waiting for me at the Apartment in Tahitian Village in Downey, California where I’d been staying with Eric. I didn’t have a chance.
The next day the State convinced the Judge to have my prints ran Nationwide on the FBI’s NCIC computer before considering a Bond Amount. The reason being my insistence that I had never been arrested in the face of what he believed were Prison tattoos. Within another twenty-four hours Florida’s Governor put a “Fugitive Warrant for Escaped Prisoner” hold on me and I was effectively caught. After a few months in the Los Angeles Jail, I accepted a Plea Deal to a three year Sentence for Armed Robbery and off to Prison I went. First stop; Chino Reception Center, I spent several weeks in Chino and went to Lock Down almost immediately for beating up my bunky who was in Prison for molesting a child.
Next stop was San Quentin State Prison. The Big House. A real Penitentiary likes of which Florida has never seen. Florida’s largest Prison held maybe 1,200 prisoners. San Quentin held 6,000 of which, ninety-five percent were on Security Lockdown Status. I was placed in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) in South Block, in Badger Section. Death Row was also in South Block in Carson Section.
San Quentin and the entire California Prison vibe is as different from Florida as apples are different to tomatoes. The similarities are superficial. The California system back in 1984 was already riddled with Gangs, something unheard of in Florida to that extent and new to my experience. My very first day in San Quentin was instructive on the violent nature of the environment.
I first heard a shotgun discharge, then a carbine, as screams erupted outside the Recreation Yard door which was almost directly across from my cell on the second floor. Four stretchers were hung on the wall beside that Rec-Yard door, as if they were constantly in use. I watched dozens of bullet proof vest clad guards go out that door with those stretchers, and I watched each stretcher come back in with a bloody body laid out on it. Four stretchers, four bodies, at least two with gunshot wounds. The blood and violence affected me deeply. Where was I at?
Neumiller Hospital was the Trauma Center attached to San Quentin’s South Block, then considered the best Trauma Center in the State. It should have been because on thing I learned during my stay there was that this was a daily event. If a single day went by in Quentin where you failed to hear weapons discharging and whistles blowing, something is just not right. The violence was ubiquitous.
The Prison system in California allowed firearms to be used inside the Prison, unlike in Florida. If it was just a fist fight the guards fired bird-shot from shotguns. If they saw any kind of weapon they fired the Ruger Mini-14 Assault Rifles with .223 caliber rifle rounds, and shot to kill. This was legal in California, and the Prison was spider webbed with gun rails everywhere, the Guards walking the rails with weapons ready. Once, I saw a Chicano prisoner hit full in the face with a load of birdshot, blinded for life, and all he was doing was watching two others fight. His name was Shady and he was going home in three months. On another occasion I saw a man shot with a mini-14 in the forehead and killed. He was fighting and the Guard thought he saw a weapon, or said he did, which was also common. There have been numerous exposes’ about such behavior by the Guards, and each scandal is followed by another. The world cares little about such things. Prisoners are not a big concern like the GOP or the DOW, the consensus of society is, prisoners deserve what they get.
As soon as I arrived I received a note from “Blade”, a guy who would become a friend of mine, his real name was Marcus, the note said, “What Rec-Yard are you going to? The White/Mexican Yard? The Mixed Yard, also known as the Non-Affiliated Yard, or the Protective Custody Yard?” Since I was white, I could not go to the BGF (Black Guerilla Family) or the Crip or Piru Yard. I told Blade I was from Florida where Gangs like this was unheard of and could use some guidance. The White/Mex Yard was for the Aryan Brotherhood and the Mexican Mafia, who got along with one another and shared the same Yard. I did not have to be a AB member to go out to their Yard. I just had to be a stand up white guy and be approved to go out. I elected to go to the White/Mex Yard, was approved to do that by the AB Leader Bobby, aka York, and that became my Yard, my associates, my group. It also made the California Department of Corrections list me as a Member of the Aryan Brotherhood which I was NOT, Never have been and never tried to become.
When I started out on that Rec-Yard the AB treated me though like a brother. I had no income, not way to acquire the necessities of Prison life, like a radio but they supplied me with a second hand TV and a radio. I soon developed my own Hustle to make money. I became the Wine Man. I collected fruit and juice, fermented it in containers with sugar and water, and made my homebrewed Hooch. I became quite the expert at it, and my Brew was constantly in demand. It kept me in hygiene items, like soap, shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste. It paid my Poker bills, dope bills and kept food in the cell. I was a Wine Man.
Drugs were easily available, mostly marijuana, which is all I ever indulged in. I had friends who were actually hooked on heroin, in Prison and maintained their habit year-round. Pills were everywhere, Crystal Meth seemed to be the AB staple. And I only tried it once. I quickly learned that particular high and I did not get along. I’ve never tried it since.
I was not in San Quentin long when, in 1984 a Prison Guard was speared to death on the bottom floor of my Section, directly under me. I was on the second tier and the Cell Block was five tiers high. The killing was allegedly in retaliation for an incident where on of the Gang Leaders were killed during a supervised meeting with another Gang Leader arranged by the Prison Administration. Despite the Prison’s involvement, the strip searches, the handcuffs, waist chains, and shackles, and despite all the overly elaborate security precautions, one of the Gang Leaders comes out of his restraints, pulls a knife and stabs the other Gang Leader to death. The general consensus was that the Guards permitted that to happen and retaliation was ordered.
The Guards death resulted in a Prison-wide riot where the prisoners throughout San Quentin broke porcelain toilets and sinks off the wall and threw chunks of it at the Gun Rail Guards. At feeding times the Guards marched the Tiers with full battle gear and helmets on with shields locked together in an endless wall. On signal the shields parted and bag lunches flew into cells, then snapped shut again. They then went cell to cell extracting prisoners from the cells, collecting all the broken porcelain, and putting them back in the cell. Some prisoners allowed themselves to be handcuffed and extracted, others, fought the Guards at every turn.
That is how I met Pasquale, he fought the Guards and they placed him cuffed in my cell. I already knew who Pasquale was, to an extent, because he went out to the White/Mex Yard also. He was Jewish from Israel, and an Israeli soldier. The Aryan Brotherhood did not want him on their Yard but could not remove him. They tried. A half dozen AB soldiers had already ended up with broken arms, jaws or legs, trying to stab Pasquale, whose real name was James, who was serving two Life Sentences for a double Murder in Palos Verdes, California. The AB did not want this Jew on their Yard, but could not stop him from going out. He fought too good. He aw an elite soldier, raised in combat. A professional. They could not compete with that. He had his own little corner of the Rec-Yard to work out in and chill and they gave him his space.
Pasquale and I both became fast friends, we filled the ennui and boredom by talking and working out. When the riot was over and things returned to normal, he and I worked out daily in the Yard and Pasquale taught me the Israeli Martial Art of Krav Maga and the AB started avoiding us both. Until the AB set up a lynching where Pasquale got cut severely, and I ended up breaking an AB’s man named Pitt’s jaw who’d set up the lynching scenario. Pasquale was transferred to another Institution and I was sent to Carson Section.
San Quentin was where I also met and became a very distant associate of the infamous Stanley “Tookie” Williams, Founder of the Crips. I was just beginning to find an interest in the study of Law and that led me to associate with a Black guy named Double-Life. Whites and Blacks did not associate in that environment, and Double-Life and I both got in a spot of trouble with our own people for having a late night, unsanctioned, conversation about Federal Civil Rights in Prison. After the smoke cleared, however, we both got approval to discuss Law and I met “Tookie” who was Double-Life’s Big Homie, and built like a tank. All they did on the Crip Yard was lift weights.
Likewise I met, played Poker with, and smoked pot with Charles Manson. He was forced by the CDC into Protective Custody while at Vacaville due to an alleged contract on his life for 100,000.00 by the Tate-Leblanc Families. Charley filed a Lawsuit and forced them to remove the Protective Status. They sent him to San Quentin where he chose to come to the White/Mex yard. We spent weeks taking photos with Charley. The Gun Rail had a polaroid camera we could use if we purchased a box of film for ten ducats. I took several photos with Charley. Some Reporter has several of us all playing Poker.
I never understood why the Media liked to portray him as some kind of evil guru, some genius type. Charley was slow, delusional and quite frankly, had nothing to think with at all. Just goes to show you the huge difference between the picture the establishment likes to paint and reality. After I returned to Florida, I mailed out 3 polaroid’s of Charley to family, which claimed they never received. So either a Florida State Prison Guard stole them from my outgoing mail or they are somewhere in my Florida Department of Corrections file with an incident report naming me as a known associate of Charles Manson. I think they are in my file.
In 1986 I was released from the California Department of Corrections and Florida failed to pick me up. I sat in the San Raphael Jail for weeks fighting extradition to no avail.
Prisoners Transport Services was a Florida Company owned by Duane Rutledge in those days, a former Correctional Lieutenant who was at Indian River when I had arrived a decade before at Prison at fourteen. Mr. Rutledge recognized my name and picked me up himself flying me to Dallas, and then to Orlando. Before dropping me off at the Prison he took me to dinner and allowed me to pick the restaurant. I stayed in the car, and ate in the car, but that will always be one of my most memorable meals simply because it was sautéed in human kindness.
To be continued until next time… Geo
Lynie Tru Vinyard with Bring In Light’s Inmate Art, Stories and Issues
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Photo Credit: San Quentin prisoners on recreation
by Zboralski

Being a troubled youth (Geo’s Recollections) Part 2 of 2

“God, If that is what I am suppose to do, show me a way to do it.”

The very next day the Masonry Class behind the Maintenance Ramp came alive. This area was right outside my cell’s back window. One of the guys, Bobby an inmate from Jacksonville was a friend of mine. He brought me writing gear and cigarettes the very next day. My letter was addressed to the Lake City Sheriff’s Department, and it described the two Burglaries in detail, down to the jewelry I took and the suitcase thing of sterling silver I had sold at the Pawn Shop. I gave Bobby the envelope and he put it in the mail for me.

It took a couple of weeks before anyone came to see me, but eventually two detectives came. That is when I learned that one of the Mansions belonged to the lady that owned Gatorade, and the State wanted to prosecute. They questioned me thoroughly about every detail of the two Burglaries. During the end of the interview, the older one asked me point blank why was I confessing? I told him I was confessing because God told me to. The two detectives share a look between them. I continued to play the heavy sedated young man I was supposed to be.

It was another couple of weeks beyond that before I was chained and shackled for a journey to Lake City. I arrived on a Friday and was held over the weekend in the jail. The cell I was placed in already held six occupants, all of them were Pre-Trial Detainees, no one yet sentenced to Prison. The first thing I did was start prowling all over the cell, looking for either a way out or an idea. By the time I gave up the other guys knew they had a certified bug in there with them. I quite frankly confessed to them that God is going to help free me. That God Almighty was going to break me out of jail.

Monday morning they took three of us to Court. Along with the other guys from other cells. We were walked up two stories to the courtroom level. Two stories was more like a modern four stories. This place had twenty foot ceilings. On the second floor behind the Courtroom is the Holding Cell. It used to be a Law Library the conference table and book shelves are still there, and the windows are covered with a heavy iron mesh screen. There were about 20 of us prisoners in there, everyone talking, trying to say something more outrageous than the man before. Everyone was smoking cigarettes. I was looking out the window down into the City Park, projecting myself into a free world setting and asking God how is this going to come about? Some urge made me reach up and turn the steel bolt that held the big iron frame to the window. First one and then another of the bolts came out at my fingertips. I was watching these bolts come out of solid concrete with my very own eyes, listening to the comments from the other prisoners in the Holding Cell. “My God he is taking those bolts out of the wall with his fingertips – That dude last night was in my cell, saying God was going to help him escape.”

I took a total of seven (7) bolts out. Three from the left hand side, two from the top and two from the bottom. The bolts on the right hand side were firm, so what I did is bent the entire frame out on the three remaining bolts. At that point the Bailiff opened the door and called five names from a clip board. All five filed out and across the to the Courtroom staring at me the entire way. What is truly amazing is that all of them kept quiet. The Bailiff turned away and locked the door. I turned and climbed through the window.

It was a long drop to the ground, one I really didn’t want to make. My plan was to hang as far as I could from my fingers and drop. There was an eighteen inch sculptured hedge I could land on top of for a little cushion. I was hanging and about to drop when I noticed that as part of the Courthouse’s architecture there were little ledges built into the outside wall, just like a ladder. I climbed calmly down.

At the foot of the wall was a ten speed bike with no lock on it. I learned later that the bike rack is on the other side of the Courthouse. I jumped on the bike and took off. Through the heart of town at top speed, almost laying down the bike down in the turns. After a few miles I drove into some woods and hid until nightfall. At nightfall I called home and my Father told me to stay put while he drives up from Naples to pick me up. It was sometime in the dead of night when he finally arrived. My Father drove me from Lake City to Georgia, up through Tennessee, into Kentucky to visit relatives from his side of the family. To see where he grew up. Then he drove me onto New York.

New York was where my relatives lived from my Mother’s side of the family. Nana and Aunt Vicky promptly took me out to eat at the Yankee Clipper in West Islip. My Nana got me a studio apartment in Amityville, my Great Uncle Antillius bought me a complete wardrobe.

I was free. Somehow I had went from a cell in the W-Wing dungeon, condemned to a chemical lobotomy on the bottom floor of W-Wing, to being back in the world. The crazy thing is I did not examine my turn of fortune. I did not dwell upon the bolts coming out of that wall at my fingertips. The odds that so many things would result from a simple instruction, “confess your sins”, delivered by a living lobotomy inmate across the hall. I tell you that having Faith is a feeling that you can achieve or you can’t. A feeling that God is going to do whatever He wants to do for His own purposes, and all you can do is strap in for the ride and depend on promises He has made in Scripture or to you personally.

I can’t explain how I went from a Point A to Point B. The journey depends on a series of coincidences so unlikely as to be simply impossible. To this day there is no explanation that could explain my escape to me in terms of chance, coincidence, good luck. Was it good luck that made the masons who built the Courthouse build steps into it for my safety a hundred years before I was born? What was it that caused twenty eyewitnesses to agree that I removed those bolts with my fingers? What blinded the Bailiff standing less than 10 feet away from me with the entire window frame bent open behind me? The 10 speed bike was a nice touch. My feet might have touched the ground one time between the hedge and the bike. Yet, I enjoyed the fruits of freedom, and failed to think about how it all came about. I started breaking in houses again.

One promise I made to God were that I would not steal, break into anyone’s home, and that was exactly what I was doing.

Within a month I was arrested in New York City. The Judge let me go at 2:00am I was so frightened that my fingerprints were going to come back to haunt me that I took off for California and settled in Riverside and San Bernardino for a few weeks. The cops in Riverside and my paranoia ran me to Los Angeles. I had met a little Robbery crew in Los Angeles that use to come together just to do Robberies. There was Eric and Lloyd. It was Lloyd who got busted doing some other Robbery and was telling on us before he even got to the substation. I did a few months in the high-power section of the L.A. Jail, known at Seventeen-Fifty. I was given three years for a Robbery and promptly sent to San Quentin for the next two and a half years.

In San Quentin I met Charlie Manson, and a Reporter doing a story on him, has photos of us playing cards. Charley won a Court case where the Prison Officials had to allow him out of protection status. So they let him on the Rec Yard with us.

Florida put a “Fugitive Warrant for and escaped prisoner” on me and they would be given opportunity to pick me up when my California sentence expires.

I was there with Stan “Tookie” Williams, and personally knew his sidekick “Double-Life” who used to talk Law with me. My first year at San Quentin, a Prison Guard was speared to death on the first floor of my section in South Block. It happened right under me, as I was in Cell 17 on the second floor, and resulted in a Prison wide riot. They scattered inmates and shuffled everyone off South Block.

I tried to kill myself in San Quentin. It was the one time in my life I have ever seriously made such an attempt. I took a lot of Sinequan, not wanting to return to Florida. I woke up once in the infirmary’s I.C.U., then again in San Quentin’s Neumiller Hospital, at that time recognized as the best Trauma Center in the World.

When I was well enough, I was transported back to Florida and I could do nothing about it. I did not really want to look what I had just experienced in that initial escape from Lake City, Florida, from start to finish. What am I supposed to learn from this? What Spiritual insight can I take from this? What does it mean? It meant that, I did not keep any of my promises to God. My whole freedom lasted a few short months from my escape from Lake City, FL. holding cell, getting a trip of a lifetime to New York meeting family, seeing my Mother, then making my way all the way to California only to end up in San Quentin Prison. I’ve mentioned before, that I make a poor criminal.

To be continued until next time, there’s so much to say… Geo

Lynie Tru Vinyard with Bring In Light’s Inmate Art, Stories and Issues

News Clip from the Lake City Reporter Newspaper:
Interesting the article said he used bedding to make a rope, when there was never bedding nor a sheet rope found at the scene.
(Thank you Martha Hicks for getting me this copy from Lake City, Florida this weekend.)

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First Escape

Being a troubled youth was just the tip of my iceberg… (Recollection Series by Geo) Part 1 of 2
It was at Zephyrhills when I was raped by my room mate. He suddenly punched me without warning and put me in a sleeper hold. He tied me to the bed kept like that for four days. Hiding me under a sheet whenever the Officer went by or counted. If I would have tried to call or get help from him, I had no way to protect myself from the attack that surely would result. On the fourth day he went back to open population. As a result of that abuse I had to be Hospitalized at the Reception and Medical Center for two months, wearing a catheter because of urination problems. I had came full circle to where I spent my first nights in Prison.
Three months later the Government decided to release me from Prison on April 1, 1981. I was told less than 24 hours in advance of the release. Given no advice, no pointers, no kind of resource list. No knowledge whatsoever of how to rejoin society or take advantage of any social assistance programs or anything else. I was locked up at 13 years old, kicked out at 18 years old and nothing else. When I was released I had been in Confinement for months, recovering from a brutal and traumatic experience of rape, and not given even basic information with which to survive on.
Years later the Florida Legislature would require youthful offenders to receive education and vocational training while in Prison. It became mandatory. Yet years later the Legislature required “all” Prisoners being released be educated in other ways. The Re-Entry Programs taught you everything from getting your Driver’s License to applying for the numerous Government Assistance Programs. The Transitions Program taught you how to find a job, fill out a Resume, or any dozen other necessary things for living successfully in society. But none of this existed when I was released. I returned to society with the same educational level I had at the age of thirteen. I returned to society as a mental 13 year old who has just been completely traumatized with no knowledge of society or how to function in it. Your taxpayer dollars at work. The outcome was inevitable.
I went into to Clearwater, not far from the Prison, and stayed anywhere I could for a couple of weeks. I slept on the Beach, I ate out of a Dixie dumpster. I once heard it said that a man hasn’t lived until he has experienced the skids, but as an 18 year old I had little taste for the experience. It was not long before I was breaking into homes and stealing whatever I could fit into my pockets. I soon became familiar with a Pawn Shop Dealer in the area. Burglary was distasteful crime to me, and after I finally found a pistol in one house, I stopped doing them. I stupidly branched out and robbed a Motel Office.
I will be the first to admit, I make a poor criminal. The girl was my age, and I told her I needed to use masking tape on her ankles and wrists. I asked about medication needs. I left her fully dressed and unharmed. I did not even want to rob anyone but felt like I had no options. It was either get money to make my way home again or sleep in the streets and eat out of the dumpsters. It was less than five months and I was back in jail, charged with an assortment of Burglar and Robbery Felonies. One of the Burgled houses was the City Attorney’s, who refused to let the State tender a Plea Bargain. In all, I ended up with 75 years to serve, sixty of which was for the Motel Office Robbery.
Then I found myself on a Prison bus once more headed to Prison, this time apparently for the remainder of my life, and I was resentful about it. No one has tried to help me, I was not given the opportunities everyone else was given. That is how I felt. What I did not know was that I had so many options, so many opportunities. A lack of knowledge was my downfall.
But that was okay. What I did not know then was that my life was uniquely designed to lead me in a certain direction, to open my mind to possibilities that otherwise would not have been. If I would have been released in 1981 to go on to have a normal life I would never have become who I am today or learned the things I have about who I am, what life is, and I would not have the relationship I have today with God.
God and I have been through some pretty intense times. Take it from one who has reached deep within, God lives. I am writing to explain how I know this, and what it means. I have reached into places that will interest other minds. I have endured silences, like a silk ribbon falling from the spool, exploding into brilliance after so many years of listening. Being led to understand. My belief system results from direct experience with the sublime, and I believe my words will enrich this poor world somehow.
Florida State Prison’s Main Unit was known as the Rock, Union Correctional Institution. A Prison Complex that was built in the 1890’s and where men have already served a Life Sentence and others have stepped up to take their place. A miniature City where it was possible to get lost in the maze of Prison cell blocks and stairs. This was my first destination back to Prison. No youthful offender institution. This was grown man’s Prison made of old stone and old iron. This was the State Pen back when Prison labor laid all the train track in the State. The twenties and thirties. A thousand stories of life’s struggle have been completely forgotten, unrecorded.
When I first arrived I was interested in those stories. Prison is a wild place where men solve problems in blood to avoid any misunderstandings. There are Legends reaching back decades; epic fights, bloody battles, incredible escape attempts. But soon it came time to write my own story. Trouble comes to everyone in Prison if they are there long enough.
It is difficult to write about someone you used to be and no longer resemble. I was nineteen, slim, young and white. But also uneducated with a serious chip on my shoulder because from my perspective, my life was in ruins and unrepairable. Attitude or not, in comparison to the other prisoners there, I was not a threat. Not dangerous. I didn’t weigh enough to intimidate anyone. In fact, I once again fit the prey profile, and the predators circled like sharks. I found myself back in Confinement for trying to fight off a black inmate named Big-O, I had managed to cut him across his chest in the confrontation. Once again the whole “I am safer in Confinement Syndrome” took over. So I acted up to get wrote up until I was threatened with Close Management or CM as it’s called.
CM was the brain child of Colonel Musik at Florida State Prison’s East Unit. The East Unit held about a thousand prisoners including Florida’s Death Row. It was across a river from the Rock ad actually in the next County, despite being eyeball distance from the Rock.
The East Unit was the end of the line. Its where the worst of the worse were sent. The most assaultive prisoners, the killers and vicious rapists, and those who assault Correctional Staff. In 1977 Colonel Musik came up with a long term warehouse confinement status for the worst trouble makers. CM lasted a minimum of a year and was in two stages. When you have done enough CM-1 time you can be advanced to CM-2 status. As a CM-2 inmate you are able to come out of your cell for work purposes. Most guys on CM-2 were Runners or Orderlies in the CM Confinement or Death Row cell blocks. CM was technically not a punishment status, but rather a security status.
Cutting Big-O across the chest was the act that made Prison Officials send me across the river to the East Unit, September, 1982. placed on CM-1 status I quickly adjusted to being in a single cell, housed alone like everyone else on CM. Each wing held two sides of cells, three tiers high, seventeen cells long. Each wing held 102 prisoners and there were two Death Row wings, three on CM Wings, and four Open Population Wings. Around me were men who had been in such a cell over ten years already. Men like Bob Sheley, who was caught with a .44 Magnum over-and-under derringer in 1974 and had been in a CM cell ever since, beginning before CM was even an official status.
Florida State Prison and East Unit is arguably the most violent Prison in America during the late seventies and early eighties. That building averaged a murder every week. In 1980 the Prison Staff refused to enter the building unless the Administration did something about the violence. Several prisoners filed a suit in Court about it. The case of Vann Vs. Graham from 1980 put forth all the violent statistics and immortalized Florida State Prison as the worst Prison in Florida. U.S. News and World Report designated the East Unit as the most violent Prison in the United States at that time.
When you are locked in a cell twenty-four hours a day year around, that cell and its immediate environs becomes your entire universe. The cell was standard 54 square feet or 9×6. the size of a closet. I once read that a Rhesus monkey that is a small fraction of a human’s size and weight, must be accorded 150 square foot of cage area at a minimum in order to avoid cruelty to animals issues. Why monkeys get more cage space than human beings is a question I would like to have answered. Pacing my cell required three steps back and three steps forth.
Books became my escape. I read voraciously. Now, I cringe to think of the time I spent reading garbage type novels. I read everything I could get my hands on. I read my Bible and every book I could get on the subject of Religion.
Being confined to a closet perpetually forced the mind to ponder life, existence, reality, and develop an acute sense for what is real or true and what is not. Being in such a situation brings the mind constantly back to what is important, understanding reality, understanding life. I read everything from Kahlil Gibran to Shakespeare, and all in between. I obtained my first taste of the Monastic existence that would dominate my life. I prayed regularly for understanding. Then, one day, my life took a dramatic turn.
I found myself fighting off a Prison Official that was trying to “play with me” and I had reached for my razor to defend myself, he was cut, and I was beaten. Wing Officers are suppose to dispense Tylenol, non- aspirin or alamag upon request for headaches, which brought him into my cell that day. He was taunting me, and reaching for my junk. Reaching for my razor was arguably the stupidest thing I have ever done, and other than expressing rage at him by my actions of fighting back is one of the things I cannot explain or attempt to justify because my mind is so far removed from that young man’s, I cannot begin to explain him.
They beat me for days, assaulting Staff brings immediate retribution and I got it in Spades.
W-Wing was the Psych Treatment Wing. The bottom floor was all “Strip Cells” where you were given a bare mattress, a pair of boxer shorts, and nothing else. First, they used Four-Point Restraints, where my hands and feet were cuffed to the bed and in that position, they beat me unconscious. One Corrections Officer punched me in the testicals repeatedly with a fist the size of a ham and 350 pounds of Country Redneck behind it. I passed out more than once. I vomited more than once. The next shift beat me again, and the shift after that.
I was injected with massive amounts of Haldol, Prolixin, and Throrazine, until docile enough to take it in liquid form at the cell door. Everyone who assaulted Staff at Florida State Prison was given the same treatment, years of chemical saturation, a Chemical Lobotomy. Once you were in this situation there were no other options. You were not leaving W-Wing, at least not with any mind left. You could not refuse the brain numbing dosages without getting beat up.
W-Wing was ran by Assistant Superintendent Paul Decker, who would thirty years later be Florida’s Inspector General. I often ask how such a demonic person who oversaw and approved of so much evil on W-Wing, by his own Authority, could be elevated to such a position of Trust in the State Government.
It took me almost two months to physically recover from the beatings and figure out how to avoid taking their Psych drugs. The Nurse would put it in the flap in a plastic cup which I tipped onto the floor while bending over to speak to her through the flap. After the drugs cleared my system, I was finally lucid enough to grasp my situation, and I could find no way out. If I even tried to communicate, with anyone, they would know I was not on their medications. I tried to communicate with the few guys who occasionally moved around close enough to their cell doors that I could see them. No one responded to me.
There were no distractions. I had no books, no magazines, and no one to talk with. There was nothing to do all day and all night but wallow in my situation and analyze it until I gave up. I paced and tried to exercise, I talked to God because there was no one else and it seemed to me that if God really exists, He can hear me. I reviewed my life for Him, and turned it inside out. Day after day, week after week. It began to frustrate me that none of my begging, no amount of pleading, would obtain a response. I became angry with God. I vented an exquisite rage at God’s silence. I cried several times a day. I went through a period where I had no appetite, and did not eat for days.
My situation was hopeless. Has ever a Prison cell been so deep? Twenty years old and my entire life in shambles. I begged God to converse with me. Begged Him to respond to me. Silence is all I could find. I do not think I have ever been so emotionally distraught, so full of anguish. I needed a new start in life, and only one could give it to me. God. A God who refuses to talk to me, to communicate. I asked God to turn my life around, find me a way off of W-Wing.
Later that night I saw under a paint chip some writing left on the wall. I began peeling the paint away to find out what it said. I don’t know how often these cells were painted, but it was several layers down. “For with God are all things possible”. I took it as a communication with God Himself.
I began jubilant, talking to God rapid fire, and acting like God was talking back. My focus became obtaining a 2nd chance out there in society. I made so many promises about my future conduct. One day not long after the written response on the wall from God, I was waved down by a white guy across the hall from me writing on his hand in sign language. He said, I know how you can go home, and, confess your sins before men, and left off the door with no further communication. I puzzled over the meaning to this for days. Why would he suddenly have anything to say to me at all after all this time of saying nothing at all? I could ask the same question of God Himself. Why suddenly so chatty?
Confess my sins before men. To go home this is what I must do. Now, if I could just figure out what that actually meant.
The only crimes I never got caught for were a couple of Burglaries way up in Lake City, Florida. A place I arrived at after riding the Greyhound all day long, from Clearwater. A couple of mansions. But I had no way to confess. I could not send or receive mail. So I said to God, “if that is what I am suppose to do, show me a way to do it.”
To be continued until next time… Geo
Lynie Tru Vinyard with Bring In Light’s Inmate Art, Stories and Issues
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Geo’s Plea for Clemency:
Clemency is the Governor’s Pardon power, and it can be tailored to his whim. He can commute a Prison term to Parole or Probation, by a term of years, or completely. he can fully restore a person’s Civil Rights. The power of a Pardon is limitless.

I believe I have a very good case for Clemency, one of the best. The problem is I cannot afford a Clemency Lawyer, and proceeding without one is hopeless. Applying for Clemency entails a lot of preparation and can be compared to litigation. There are several Attorneys in Florida experienced in Clemency Law with good records behind them.

I have several arguments for Clemency in my Case, beginning with the fact that I was Incarcerated by the State at the age of 13, sentenced as an adult when Statewide, kids my age and older were going to Boys School and Juvenile Detention Centers for the same crimes I committed, some far worse.

I was traumatized by adult Prison, and spent most of my time in Solitary Confinement as the only option to survival. I was released at the age of eighteen with no preparation, no counseling, nothing. From a dark cell one day to society the next. In 1981 there were no Re-Entry Programs or Transition Classes to ease me back into society. In the decades since then, our legislation and evolving society has made such programs mandatory at every Institution in the fight against recidivist (Repeat) crime. But I had no such benefits. I knew nothing about how to conduct myself as an adult, no idea how society works, how to apply for a job, or how to get a Driver’s License, or even Government assistance. The State simply kicked me out into the world over night, with an outlook on the world of a brutalized child of thirteen. It is no wonder within but a few months I was back in the County Jail facing charges once again for Robbery and Burglary.

This time I was given sixty years for Robbery and fifteen years for Burglary, and returned to Prison. Very recently, the U.S. Supreme Court Ruled on a couple of Juvenile crime issues. The case of Roper Vs. Simmons held that the 8th Amendment bars Capital Punishment for children under eighteen years old, while Graham Vs. Florida concluded that the Amendment prohibits a sentence of Life Without Parole for a Juvenile convicted of a non-homicide offence.

Roper and Graham establish that children are Constitutionally different from adults for Sentencing purposes. Their “lack” of maturity and underdeveloped sense of responsibility “Lead to reckless, impulsivity, and heedless risk taking. They are more vulnerable to negative influences and outside pressures.” They have limited control over their environment, and lack the ability to extricate themselves from horrific, crime producing settings. Because a child’s character is not “well formed” as an adults, his traits are “less fixed” and his actions are less likely to be “evidence of irretrievable depravity”. Roper and Graham emphasized that the distinctive attributes of youth diminish the penological justifications for imposing harsh Sentences on Juvenile Offenders.

The same considerations argue that children are not adults and should not be Incarcerated in an adult setting with the unique exigencies that creates for the child simply to survive circumstances that even most adults struggle with.

Roper and Graham also noted that developments in psychology and brain science continue to show fundamental differences between Juvenile and Adult minds, for example, in “parts of the brain involved in behavior control”. The Court reasoned that those findings of transient rashness, proclivity for risk, and inability to assess consequences, both lessened a child’s “moral culpability” and enhanced the prospect that, as the years go by and neurological development occurs, his deficiencies will be reformed.

I am not a Judge, nor am I a Lawyer. But my sense of right and wrong is offended by how the Law treated me as a Juvenile. I admit that I should not have broken the Law, at 13, my desperate bid to migrate from Florida back to New York to reunite with my Mother. But it was my first offence. I was a child.

1976 was a County Election year. The State Attorney ran for re-election on a Juvenile Crime platform, and I was his poster child. All over the State that year and in subsequent years children older than me committed Robberies and went to Boys School. I went to Prison. That strikes me as wrong.

Where was the Constitutional protection of equal treatment? I had to hide in Solitary Confinement to escape the brutality of the adult Prison environment and at eighteen was tossed back out into society without the slightest preparation. I still had the mind of a thirteen year old. That was 1981.

In 1983 there was a lot of controversy in the State Media about disparity in Sentencing; how defendants in different Courtrooms or different Counties who had similar crimes and histories could end up with wildly different Sentences. That incurred speculations of Race and Class and caused a Public outcry that eventually resulted in Legislation and Sentencing Law Reforms.

In 1984 the Uniform Sentencing Guidelines came out, and their advent effectively abolished the Parole Commission. Now a Criminal Defendant was scored according to the degree of crime, severity, criminal history, victim impact, age at time of offence and a dozen other factors. That score indicated the Sentencing Range he fell into and the Judge’s hands were tied. He had to Sentence the Defendant within the narrow range.

I was Sentenced to seventy-five (75) years in 1982 for (1) count of Armed Robbery and (1) count of Burglary. If you score me out under the 1984 Sentencing Guidelines, the most time I could of received is thirty-two (32) years. With the application of Gain Time I would have been legally free by 1999, seventeen years ago. How ironic is it that if I would’ve committed those crimes in 1984, I would have been free in the nineties. But because I committed my crime before the Sentencing Guidelines, I still sit in Prison, under a “Parole Eligible” Sentence. Anyone Sentenced under the 1984 Guidelines were not Parole Eligible.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Estelle Vs. Gamble (1976) stated that proportionally in Sentencing is guided by “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” The Roper and Graham majority cited Estelle’s quotation above as well, discussing Juvenile Sentencing.

If the evolving standards of society dictate that the most time I should have received is thirty-two (32) years, why is there no legal remedy to achieve that? But the Law states that the amount of time I can be given is controlled by the Sentencing Laws in the effect at the time the crime was committed. There are no allowances to adjust a Sentence according to society’s “evolving standards” later on.

The only way to redress the disparity is through the Office of Clemency.

And then there is the Parole Commission. In 1984 with the advent of the Sentencing Guidelines, Parole was abolished. The Commission itself was abolished by Legislative decree repeatedly throughout the eighties. The Commission only continues to exist because if your were Sentenced prior to the Guidelines you are still entitled to Parole Eligibility. The problem now was a conflict of interest. If the Commission Paroles those still eligible, it loses its reason to exist. It’s survival as an Agency itself threatened. Thirty-two years later and that Agency is still existent. But it has changed as much as the Prison itself has changed.

Now there are over 100,000 prisoners in Florida and less than 2000 of them are Pre-1984 Guidelines Parole Eligible. This group are mostly in their sixties, seventies and eighties; the age that costs the State the most in Health Care. A group that presents the least threat to society. But they are not getting Paroled. Parole has never been so difficult to earn. An Agency’s very existence is at stake.

Likewise, the Prison system itself has completely changed over to a Rule Governed Gain Time System where prisoners earn early release by virtue of “Gain Time” days awarded through work, conduct, program participation, etc. on the other hand Gain Time can be lost through violations of the Rules. Since the Correctional System went from Parole to Gain Time controls, the number of Rule Violations has more than doubled. The entire system is geared to a Gain Time System. Before 1984 you had to really misbehave to get written up to get a Disciplinary Infraction. Now you can get written up for virtually anything, without really trying. But the small pool of inmates who are Parole Eligible continue to struggle on and achieve Parole within a system that is geared for Gain Time instead of Parole. How unfair is that?

The Policies of the Parole Commission have changed so much in thirty-two years they no longer resemble the Practices and Policies in place before the changeover. The Sentencing Judge in my Case (and the other Pre-1984 Cases) had no way to anticipate the systemic changes or it’s affect on Parole Eligibility and as a result was handicapped in delivering a just Sentence. Everything he knew about the Parole and Correctional Systems have been radically altered generating systemic disparities that seemingly have no redress. How unfair is that?

It is natural to question oneself; is my perception of fairness distorted in some way due to bias? Is my reasoning specious? It is noteworthy that Florida is not the only State who switched from a Parole to a Gain Time Correctional system back in the eighties and adopted a Sentencing Guideline system. Missouri did the same thing. The difference is that in Missouri, when people complained about the same disparities created by that changeover that I spoke of here, their Legislature made a Law (1989) that permitted those affected adversely to apply for Resentencing under the New Guidelines. Every other State with that problem did the same. Except Florida.

I can think of no better way to vindicate my own rationale than to show that Lawmakers in other States addressed these same disparities by instituting a procedure in the Law to redress the issue.

I look around the Prison system and I am confused. Why am I still Incarcerated? I am in my fifties for a crime committed in my teens where no one was hurt. I’ve never been charged with murder or attempted murder, never had a sex crime. I did what I did because I had a child’s mentality and knew no better, knew no options. The average Sentence for Armed Robbery is 12.4 years; I am doing 60 years; the average Sentence for Burglary is 3.9 years; I am doing 15 years. For the sake of being Parole Eligible in an era of Parole impossibility I sit in Prison doing a de facto Life Sentence generated by systemic disparities.

I cannot describe the feeling I experience almost daily meeting guys doing a ten or twelve year Sentence for my same crimes. When almost every child molester I’ve encountered in Prison have between ten and twenty year Sentences. How can society believe they deserve less Imprisonment than I do? Is an offense involving money more deserving of punishment that an offense against a child? Really?

I will be the first to admit my early Prison Record is fraught with Disciplinary Infractions, Escapes, and rebellious behavior. But the Hallmark of Reform is conduct, and I want to take some time to detail my conduct since 1990, when I decided to stop trying to Escape and strive to earn Legal Release.

I began studying Law in the eighties, and that ultimately led to a deeper understanding of society and the Role of Government, the Courts and Law Enforcement. I studied everything from Plato’s Democracy to the writings of Tocqueville, the U.S. Constitution to the speeches of Presidents. I dedicated my Legal Treatise, the Florida Prisoner’s Litigation Manual (2002, 238pp) to Thomas Paine, who sparked the American Revolution in 1776 with his booklet Common Sense. I became a Patriot through the application of reason and knowledge. I believe the Founders were inspired by God, and that this Country is the world’s Pioneer in the area of personal Liberty and Justice.

This was during the period that I broke the Convict Code against all my environmental conditioning to prevent the Murder of two Correctional Officers in an escape attempt. I advised staff of the conspiracy and the locations of two firearms, placing my own life in danger because in this environment, a snitch is not only ostracized, he is targeted for violent reprisals by everyone. I made a moral choice, and I am proud of that choice. I am not only prevented those deaths, as can be read in my nutshell autobiography, but I prevented whatever other crimes against innocent people would have resulted had those men actually escaped. From that day on I was changed. I never dropped names, I didn’t have to, I just needed to save lives.

Throughout the nineties I worked in the FSP (Florida State Prison) Law Library. I sent many men back to Court, sent some home, was responsible for dozens of Sentencing reductions. I helped people, though because of the long passage of time since my own convictions, was unable to help myself.

In 2002 I published a 238 page Legal Treatise with the help of a man in Arizona. It was distributed to over sixty Prisons in Florida, a thousand copies were sold via the help of advertisement with the Prison Legal News and word of mouth. This Litigation Manual was designed to instruct the average prisoner in Legal research, understanding Law, and enforcing or protecting his Rights in Prison or as I put it in my Introduction, “To be free of restraints and deprivations, of arbitrary and capricious Government action, abuse, neglect, or the essentially unfair exercise of Governmental authority of any kind whatsoever.” I like to think that organizing and distributing this knowledge improved lives and conditions throughout the Prison system, helping people. No other publication like it exists in Florida. Lynie has the DVD and it is still available for print and can be sent in sections to any prisoner.

I graduated the G.E.D Program earning a High School Diploma, and completed a Paralegal curriculum from the National Institute for Paralegal Arts and Sciences out of Boca Raton, Florida, that I achieved through mail correspondences.

I want to attain a Clemency Lawyer, I am fighting for my freedom legally. In no way can I do this alone. Lynie will be putting up a Petition, and I will need at least a million signatures to bring before the Governor of Florida. But first and foremost I need Lawyers to bring my battle to the forefront.

I have a dream for Lynie and myself to one day establish a non-profit organization that promotes grassroots Legislation to address disparities in the Criminal Justice and Corrections fields, publish a Nationwide Newsletter and Legal services that promotes fairness, justice, compassion and fair treatment for Juveniles caught up in the Legal system. There is simply not enough help out there for children who run afoul of the Law.

I once read that nobility of Spirit is not being better than others, but being better than you used to be. I am not who I was as a teenager.

Until next time, Geo
Florida State Prisoner 2016

If you would like to send Geo a letter or to contribute to this cause please send to:
Lynie L Vinyard
PO Box 22
Montrose, MO. 64770
or visit the link below:



I love the Wobbly Warrior’s blogs – Thank You Susan Chandler

Wobbly Warrior's Blog

The Miami Herald dubbed inmate Harold Hempstead the Caged Crusader for his efforts to have those responsible for Darren Rainey’s June 23, 2012 scalding death at Dade Correctional Institution brought to justice by the US Department of Justice. That his monumental efforts have been unsuccessful hasn’t silenced Harold. It instead fueled his efforts to prevent additional abuse, injury and death within Florida prisons.

In the most recent affidavit that Harold sent to the DoJ, Harold describes the difference between Close Management and Protective management, and how dangerous it is for the Florida Department of Corrections failure to ignore their opposing purposes, and treat Close Management and Protective Management as one and the same.

Close Management is for violent gang members, sexually aggressive inmates, etc. Protective Management is for inmates who are most at risk from inmates that belong in Close Management, including incarcerated former law enforcement officers. It isn’t just…

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I’ve been doing tons of research for Geo’s book. I’ve had to pay for several newspaper clippings from when he was 13 years old. Breaks my heart that the township of Naples, Florida wasn’t even going to press County charges against Geo after they learned his vain and foolish attempt to leave Florida to make his way to New York just to be back with his Mother. (Geo’s Father and Mother were separated at the time)

I’d learned from hours of transcripts that he was just a chunky kid who wanted to be desperately reunited with his Mother. He was a kid obsessed with Cop and Robber shows, he was raised in a strong male dominant household that didn’t cry, be sad or show any weakness.

In his young obsession with Cops and Robbers; it’s said in the transcript, he always played with broken guns and pistols since he was a very small child. He and neighbor kids would play and pretend shoot-outs, hiding behind cars and shrubs around the area houses.

Reading the account of this 13 year old boy at 10:30 at night crawl out of his window, determined to go to New York, sent chills up my spine. Then the account of stealing a car a street over from his house, then pulling over to enter a home where a woman was typing in her bedroom. The fuel was about gone in the stolen car, he knew he needed money, the woman laughed at him when he said he was there to rob her. He told her to just go into the bathroom, she complied. He said he was just going to take her money, but not all of it and would pay her back the next day. (He took $50 and left her a $10 and her change)

His next stop was another residence, he walked into a home found an older lady, he asked her if she had a gun, she gave him an empty pistol and when he asked her for bullets she said “they are outside in the shed with my husband”. She hollered for her husband to come assist. (No one at these two robberies took Geo serious obviously) Once he saw the husband he fled back to the running car on the curb and took off with the empty hand gun.

He knew that he was going to need more money, so one last stop, he made was to a house that had an elderly man, Geo asked the elderly man for a drink of water, (Serious, it’s documented) the man went into the kitchen to get Geo a glass of water. Geo saw the man’s wallet on the end table, he reached for it and the man chased after him, Geo took the empty gun from his pocket and aimed and said don’t make me shoot, I am on a mission. He tripped and stumbled, the empty gun had a bullet in the chamber and grazed the elderly man in the arm.

Geo very scared, ran back to the car and fled. Cops were made aware of the three households that were robbed, they were now on his tail in hot pursuit up Hwy 41 also known as the Tamiami Trail (the same street Geo resided on in Naples with his Father).

All of this took just a bit over an hour of time from Geo sneaking out of his Father’s home, rob three households and drive a stolen car across two County lines. He’d made it to Punta Gorda, Florida before he lost control of the car and crashed. The police accounts were that many times they all got up to speeds of 100 miles per hour.

As the car crashed, Geo unharmed took off towards the woods, the police opened fire on him, few minutes later they found Geo trying to hide in an abandoned RV trailer. He was unscathed by the crash and flying bullets.

Charlotte County, Florida brought charges against Geo so the State of Florida tried him as an adult and thus sentenced him thereafter as an adult. Normally in Criminal Cases it takes years to try a case before the Courts. Geo had a $10,000 bond against him, and it only took from July 1976 to December 1976 to put him in Prison. (5 months to be charged, tried, convicted and sentenced) He was locked up in a County Jail from the night of the July event until they took him the R.M.C. Prison December 21st, 1976.

This is my version from the research I’ve done thus far of the July 1976 events of Geo’s life. Soon I will be adding Geo’s story from this night as well…

Sending my love across the miles, Lynie Tru Vinyard with Bring In Light’s Inmate Art, Stories and Issues

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Prison. December 21, 1976, I was transported to R.M.C. the State’s Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler, Florida. The Reception Process remains largely unchanged forty years later. I w…

Source: First recollections (Snapshots from Prison by Geo) 1-5

Prison Life (A small snapshot of a Modern Prison) by Geo


I am the man in the box, paying for my sins. I live out of a box. The rules say that everything I own must be capable of being stored in the standard foot locker that is found in every Prison cell in the State. That foot locker measures 22 x 16 inches and is about 10 inches in depth. Plenty of room to store a life.


Inside my box is a stack of paperwork, in folders, I consider essential.  Assorted handwritten notes on legal issues pertaining to myself; receipts for personal property which I must be able to produce on demand that lists my General Education Diploma; Graduate certificates from Southern Career Institute; The National Institute for Paralegal Arts and Sciences, all studies excluding the General Education Diploma, I paid for and completed, on my own accord via mail correspondence. On top of that stack of paperwork is a stack of letters I’ve saved from Lynie’s hand, the ones I cherish the most. I could not save them all else there would be room for nothing else. Sometimes, when I am feeling down, or neglected, I spread all of her letters out on the bed and read them until I go to sleep. I sleep with them, and my mind is comforted. I sleep so peacefully with her words around me.


Also in the box is my Bible and several books I keep to read from occasionally. My hygiene items; canteen soap, shampoo, antiperspirant, Dial lotion, shaving cream and razor, toothpaste and toothbrush, foot powder and sunblock. There sits my Sony digital radio and earbuds. The earbuds have been repaired so many times they look dangerous, but in Prison when your radio or headphones or earbuds develop a short or break, you don’t throw them away and buy new ones – unless you are rich – you take it to the radio man in your dorm and get it fixed. Every dorm has at least one ‘Radio Shack’ man, and his payment is bartered from canteen items.


The remaining room in my box contains a single sweatshirt I keep for cold weather, and whatever food items I have left over from my latest trip to the canteen or my last tattoo job payment. Canteen food is my dietary staple, because Chow Hall food is bad. It is prepared bad, it is served on filthy trays, and it tastes bad. There are very few Chow Hall meals I consider acceptable. I do however go to breakfast because it’s hard to mess up potatoes and grits. Its really hard to mess up biscuits. The rest of the day the food is generally bad because almost every meal served is made with a type of meat substitute that comes in big tubes. It’s mostly textured vegetable protein (TVP) or soy mixed with chicken tripe and mechanically separated meat, e.g. scraps of cartilage, skin, organs, etc. that there is no other market for. The Media called it “Red Slime”, and it was in the Media only because a couple of years ago the School Districts started using it and the children and parents were outraged. There was all kinds of Media attention here in Florida and though it was taken out of the School District Kitchens, there has been no public outrage due to feeding prisoners. They’re still using red slime in 90% of the meals. The casseroles, spaghetti, chili conquistador, etc., all are made with the red slime meat.


Every now and then it is served spoiled, and it causes projectile diarrhea. Some times its mild, sometimes is real bad. I have seen the entire compound under quarantine, with phones turned off to prevent the news from reaching inmate’s families, while literally hundreds of inmates are lined up at trashcans five deep to empty their bowels all over the compound. Squatting in the grass on the Rec Yard and between dormitories with the Hershey squirts. There are 100 Institutions in this State and everyone of them has seen that at least once. But they still serve us the tube meat, and I only eat it when I am broke, hungry and have no choice. Woe is me.


The Canteen, on the other hand, taxes us on every corner with inflated prices. Ramen soups, for example are .69 a piece and Ramen soups on most compounds are a big seller. Lynie said she’s purchased five Ramen soups for a dollar many times. We’ve always known everything is just slightly higher in Prison than free world prices. But I would rather buy a Ramen soup for .69 then eat red slime in a casserole.


Getting to the Canteen on most Prison compounds is difficult. The lines are so congested, someone towards the front of the line will sell his “spot” in line for five dollars worth of canteen items, so most times buying a spot in line is the only way to make it to the Canteen window. If you’ve ever stood in a Prison Canteen line, in the hot sun all day, dealing with the stress and tension of others trying to cut the line in front of you, and you can’t buy a spot if you don’t know for a fact that your money is on account, cause the guy wants his five bucks immediately. Lynie lets me know when she’s put funds on my Canteen account, which helps manage the long wait in line and chuckle to myself that five dollars starts sound reasonable the older I get.


They will cut the line, I’ve seen a lot of fights start over this. A guy will slide up to the line, just talking; and they will talk for 15 or 30 or 45 minutes until people get tired of paying attention, then he will suddenly appear standing in the line. Most people, being sheep, will pretend not to notice, or shrug it off – not worth going to confinement over; or wait and see if someone else is going to say something, and when no one does, take the attitude that if no else is, I ain’t either. But occasionally a soldier steps up and tells the offender to get out of line or fight.


If a guy is not willing to fight in Prison, it will soon be known n the community. If such a guy gets any money from his family he will soon be sharing it with someone else. If that is a distasteful result to someone, he needs to overcome his fear of physical confrontation. A lot of guys fight-train in Prison. For example, I study Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai. I am a mixed martial arts enthusiast and train doing full contact stand-up and I roll – which is on the floor. Rolling is great exercise, it’s just like wrestling except anything goes. At 53 years old I am in great shape, six foot tall and 190 pounds with a 36 inch waist. I stay in shape mainly because of Lynie, she says to exercise the body and mind daily, and I do it to preserve myself for the free world someday. MMA training to me is not to learn how to hurt someone, it is a sport. I enjoy the exercise and the competition. But all the great UFC fighters have a strong boxing foundation, so if I were to advise anyone to fight train in Prison, learn boxing first.


Fight training in Prison is against the rules. The Prison people believe that preventing you from learning self defense is in the best interest of their security department because a correctional officer (CO) does not want to have to contend with a trained fighter. Their safety is more important than yours. That is the same reason they closed all the weight rooms and took weight training equipment off the compounds. Inmates were becoming too large to deal with; staff were intimidated. The food portion size decreased gradually over the years, and now the calories you get in Chow Hall are not half of what you were getting 15 or 20 years ago. This is by design. Smaller prisoners are less of a security problem. The Department of Corrections develops Policies and Practices for valid reasons. If you say they were just trying to save money, you must not of been following the news in The Correctional Compass (DOC Publication) about the debate over prisoners growing huge, lifting weights on State food, and in the many problems large musclebound prisoners had caused in many cited incidents. Take the weights and feed them less. That is exactly what they did.


Gangs are ubiquitous. They are everywhere. Piru, Bloods, Crips, Folk Nation, Aryan Brotherhood, MS-13, Brown Pride, Mexican Mafia, Nazi, Low Riders, etc. Ninety percent of the violence is gang related. At some institutions, someone is getting a “Buck-Fifty” or a slash from the ear to the mouth, everyday. It’s a way to get rid of someone, whether he is someone who offended the gang or a snitch or a gang member on the wrong end of gang politics. Once you’ve been cut like that, the Prison people are going to transfer you. At some Prisons, this is a daily thing, at the most non-violent Prisons, it still happens more than it’s ever reported, if it’s ever reported in the free world, I would not know.


Contraband cell phones are now common in Prison, and most gangs have the phone numbers of gang members at other Prisons. If you just arrived at a new Prison and was transferred from another, you can bet calls are being made to find out why you were transferred. Every Prison transfers several “Check In” prisoners a week. Guys who ask for protection, and if you checked in owing a lot of money, or if you were snitching, they will find out who and what you are.


Drugs are all over the place. That’s the main reason guys check in, asking for protection. K-2 or “Touchie” as it’s called, is the most common drug on the compound. A gram sells for about fifty dollars, and contains about twenty-to-twenty five dollar sacks. A five dollar sack is just enough to stretch across a rolling paper, what we used to call a pin joint. But K-2 makers are selling such potent stuff that one sack will get two people tremendously high. Some “twack-out” meaning they seize up or start behaving in very bizarre ways; some scream all the way to an isolation cell. K-2 is supposedly a synthetic THC but they add stuff to it much more potent than THC ever was, and highly addictive chemicals to get you addicted to the stuff. Prisoners twacked-out everyday on every compound in the State. In the dorms, everyone is getting high on the stuff.


I admit, I even used K-2 for a while, and then I quit once I figured out that it was poison. I also quit for Spiritual reasons, but that was tied to its poisonous nature. Its evil and destroys whatever it touches.


If you are reading this, and you smoke K-2, let me tell you a story about a roach. When I smoked I used to save my roaches. One day I smoked with a friend and put the roach in my sock, then forgot about it. That night I peeled my sock off preparing to shower and I saw the roach stuck to my skin, I took it off, and noticed that where it had been stuck, my skin was bright red. Touching it, it was tender and stung. Over the next two days that spot abscessed and turned into a sore. It took two weeks to heal and left a scar. That’s what you are inhaling into your lungs. Stop.


When the Florida Department of Corrections took tobacco out of the Canteen in 2009 it opened the door to corruption, because of the black market it created. A two dollar pack of cigarettes goes for fifty on most compounds, and individual cigarettes, called Cadillac’s, sell for eight to ten dollars in Canteen items. Guys will cut a Cadillac into five pieces, and each piece becomes a cigarette rolled in some kind of thin paper.


All this means is there is a lot of opportunity for the hustling a dollar in Prison. A lot of guys get no money on their Canteen accounts at all, and have to “Live off the land”, this is called hustling, and in Prison there are a thousand hustles. Gambling is one arena where many get their hustle on. You have several “Ticket” men on the compound who put out pick tickets, for example, using the NFL games, he will put out a ticket listing 12 or so games. Each game will have the point spread as close to Las Vegas as possible, and if you can pick four winners from the list, you win 12 to 1 odds. Put up a dollar to win twelve. But if you get one wrong, your ticket is dead. Ticket men need ticket writers, who collect the money (Canteen items), take the bets, and give receipts. Writers keep a quarter of every dollar they collect. A good writer will make $50-$75 a week in Canteen for himself. There are also poker games in just about every dorm or on the Rec Yard. Whoever is running a game, being the “Houseman”, holding the bank, issuing chips and supervising the deal, cuts ten percent of every pot. I used to be a poker head, playing or putting my own game down every day. I gave up gambling when I saw a man brutally stabbed to death over a few dollars worth of chips. In the dorms, other guys will run square boards and pools on a specific games scores or who picks the most winners out of the weeks lineup. Gambling provides a hustle for a lot of guys who would otherwise have nothing. Of course, any form of gambling is against the rules. But in any compound, what isn’t against the rules?


The compound Barbershop is as hard to get to, as the Canteen most of the time. So you’ll have guys hustle and who cut hair using a comb and naked razor blade on the Rec Yard or in the dorm. They affix the razor blade to the comb by bending the prongs of the comb into the holes on the blade and go right to work. I prefer a razor cut over the guys who cut hair in the Compound Barbershop, and will pay two dollars in Canteen items. There’s nothing like a razor cut and edge by a skilled Rec-Yard or Dorm Barber. This may all sound a bit confusing because one doesn’t pay the guys in the compound Barbershop, because its their institution job, though even they will do a fade or special cut for a buck or so of Canteen items. Of course, all of this is also against the rules.


The Kitchen is the main source of hustling involving food, when guys are able to smuggle out stolen stuff. Spices are a big item, like glove fingers of garlic, dehydrated onion, or white pepper. It’s a dollar a glove finger. Those who make homebrewed wine have to buy their sugar, juices, and fruit from the Kitchen workers. The cooks will at times make special dishes, like fried rice with green pepper, onion and beef and fill sandwich bags with it; or fries or sandwiches made with the good turkey or chicken that is suppose to be reserved for medical diets. The cook will give twenty or thirty  of these special bags to a hustler in the Kitchen whose job is to first smuggle it out past the Corrections Officer, who is supposed to search everything leaving the Kitchen. Selling it in the dorm, and bringing back the cook half the money. Whether the Kitchen workers are getting their hustle on or not, really depends on that Correction Officer. Some Correctional Officers (C/O’s) allow certain guys to get their hustle on, due to their being hard workers, they’ve been in there awhile, and the Florida Dept. Of Corrections (FDOC) doesn’t pay no one to work. So they allow a few perks.

Some Correction Officers are straight hard asses who allow nothing out. That’s when guys find a way around them. Something is coming out of that Kitchen one way or another. One monkey don’t stop no show.


Speaking of wine makers, I used to do that too, although I’ve never been a drinker. It’s such a profitable hustle. I can take a few dollars of ingredients and make a Hooch so strong, guys will call it Rocket Fuel and buy it for five dollars a cup. When you make 3 or 5 gallons at a time you are getting paid! But Hooch smells, and the cops shake down too much, and there are too many snitches, and a Disciplinary Report (DR) for manufacturing an alcoholic beverage carries 60 days in Confinement and loss of 180 days of Gain Time. I avoid such situations nowadays. I’ve grown older and wiser. I want my freedom. But there are plenty of guys still making it.


Even in Dormitories, there are hustles. A guy will sweep, mop, clean your steel sink and toilet and make your bed every morning for $2.00 a week (Canteen items). There is another guy who will wash clothes for a $1.00 an article. The Prison Laundry is supposed to wash personal (as opposed to State Issued) canteen purchased clothing like thermals, gym shorts, and sweatshirts, etc. But the reality is if you send your personal in the laundry you’ll never see them again. They will be stolen and resold that day. So that provides a couple of guys in the dorm with a Chinese Laundry Hustle, and a guy that runs a good laundry makes at least $50 a week in Canteen Items.


Speaking of the Laundry, everything about it is a hustle. The State is supposed to provide you with three sets of blues, four boxers, and four tee shirts and six pairs of socks; and a net laundry bag so that you can tie your clothes up in the bag to send it to the wash. You are supposed to be issued two sheets, a pillow case, towel and wash cloth and a blanket. The reality is that you will get all that, when arriving at a new Institution, but the blues will not fit, or will be dingy or stained. The boxers will be old with worn out elastic and maybe even skid marks from the previous owners. The tee shirts will be dingy with brown stains in the arm pits far beyond the help of bleach, the socks will have worn out elastic, thin with holes. The blanket and sheets will be raggedy. In order to get good clean clothing, new or fairly new, you have to pay. Of course, that’s all against the rules too. But I do not like wearing ill fitted clothing, and especially wearing underwear another man has worn. It costs me about $25.00 just to get my clothing and bedding right. I want to lay my head down on a clean pillowcase, not some yellowish frayed thing a dozen heads have lain on for a decade.


Another laundry hustle is “Special Wash”. That means your bag will be washed with the special wash bags in machines that are not packed to the gills like with regular wash, and that gets extra detergent and bleach. And of course that extra comes from the issue supposedly for the regular wash. Special wash costs only $5.00 a month. Don’t try and duck it! If your dorm laundry man sees you going to Canteen and thinks you can afford it, your bag will come back just dipped in water and dried until you change your mind about signing up for special wash. Welcome to Prison…


There are other hustles, but this essay isn’t about hustling, it’s about the Prison landscape. I am a tattoo man, for instance, which is a dangerous hustle. First of all, I play in other people’s blood, while HIV and Hepatitis C are everywhere in Prison. If I accidently stick myself while running a tattoo, it could ruin my life. I’ve been tattooing for over a decade, parlaying my artistic skills into a hustle, and I have never once stuck myself. I wear gloves. I always use a brand new needle and barrel when I run, and keep my machine sterile. But it is a dangerous hustle for more reasons than blood. Most of my clients are young gang-related types, thugs and gangstas. Because I am normally the best tattooist on the compound, my name and face are known everywhere. Being a good tattoo man in Prison is like a celebrity status in that everyone knows who you are and you’re living. That is dangerous in itself. Dealing with particular types and groups of people on a business level is dangerous as well.


In Prison it is bad to be noticed, to be seen. Strangers you never met will use your name to check in just because they know it. Snitches trying to trade information will throw your name in the hat just for assuming you must be flush with dope, or own a cell phone, because your name rings so much. Then there are the thieves who target you because you must be making a lot of money, and the robbers who will take what you have at knifepoint.


I would prefer to retire from the tattoo game in Prison despite the fact that it supplements what Lynie puts on my Canteen Card monthly to help me get by. If I get caught with any tattoo related equipment it’s a Disciplinary Report (DR), loss of Gain Time, a trip to Confinement and a mark against my record that will hurt any Clemency consideration. I try hard to be careful. I take only one or two jobs a week, just enough to get by, and work only on the best shifts of officers. The ones that don’t do rounds and really don’t care about much. And I usually pay someone $10 a month to hold all my tattooing odds  and ends. When I can afford it.


There are two kinds of dorms. There is the open-bay dorm, which is just a big room full of bunk beds, and there is the two man cell dorms, which just have two man cells fronting the dayroom area. The open-bays are for the lowest custody inmates. I haven’t been in an open-bay dorm since the 1970’s.


Life in a two-man cell dorm is more private than an open-bay, but you are still locked in a building with almost 100 guys from every Nation and Ethnicity and Religion you can think of. Jews, Muslims, Hebrew Israelites, Buddhists, you name it. Gang members, old people and young. Guys who have been incarcerated for decades, guys with mental issues; bipolar, PSTD, psychotics. You got ex-Military. Most dorms form a sense of community, we all live together. The thievery and thuggery is kept to a minimum. People do business together and try to avoid problems. There are grouches and stinges, couples and lovers, and everyone loves tattoos. In the dorm, I do a lot of reading, watch a few TV shows, the UFC fights, and football. During the day I’m generally on the Rec-Yard working out, or just walking the track enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. I avoid people a lot on the yard, because I get enough of people in the dorms. People equate to the potential for problems. Avoid one, avoid another.


I’ve seen a lot of violence in Prison. I know what it’s like to see a man stabbed to death first thing in the morning within seconds of waking. I’ve watched arterial spray fade to nothing and stop. I’ve heard men’s last breath rattle in their throat. I’ve seen a lot of violence that did not end in death, but crippled, paralyzed, or blinded someone for life. These events can happen over a trivial amount of money, a lovers spat, an insult, a fight where the loser returned with a knife, the TV set and arguing over what to watch. It can occur over anything at all.


It’s said that over sixty percent of the Prison population  are sex offenders, and over half of sex offenders, almost eighty percent, are child molesters. Men who had sexual relations with under aged girls are the most common, but there are a lot of diddlers who’s victims  were under 12 years old. Each and everyone of these types are paying someone to live in open-bay population without fear of bodily injury. Some are getting away because no one checked them out on the Florida DOC website yet. Others, a very few, took the time to purchase a Pearl of Protection before they came to Prison. A Pearl of Protection blanket cast over you by a Gang, and most Gangs are Nationwide, so a Pearl is considered good anywhere. I know a Gang Leader that just arranged for a guy’s protection way out in California.


Dave is a friend of mine, he is in for Armed Robbery like I am. We just found out a guy we’d been cool with for months was sex offender on nine counts. Of course I wrestled within my soul for days, but here is what Dave said, “By society’s standards we are all pieces of shit, and we can’t refute that. Prisons are the cesspools of civilization. We are in here floating around in it together. The only thing you need to decide is what level of shit you want to float around with. That dude’s done some bad shit, he’s sick and has issues but you need to remember Geo, he’s already being punished just like we are. He’s lost everything, his rights, his freedom, his family. He lives in a box and out of a box just like we do. Do you realize how stupid it seems for one piece of shit to turn it’s nose up to another piece of shit and be disdainful?”  Dave had a point, though I still wrestle inside, because in my opinion those who do sex offences against women and children should be segregated to Prisons separate from the rest of us, but it’s not my call.


Prisons are operated by a Government Agency. An Agency cannot afford function without publishing rules that describe its functions and duties and how to implement them. The Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) has rules that govern every facet of Prison life from how to dress to count procedures. They count us five times a day, and we must be on our bunks until count clears. Rules govern everything from mail, to property, canteen, education, vocation, medical, food service, laundry, classification, gain-time, and dozens of other topics.


For the most part, Correctional Officers (C/O’s) enforce the rules. Some of them do so half-heartedly, other are fanatical. Some Correctional Officers just come to collect a paycheck and don’t care what you do as long as you don’t cause them any paperwork. Others act like what they do at work everyday might save the free world from destruction. You can take a tour of the Prison compound and take in the neat lawns, clean sidewalks, orderly lines of inmates going hither and you under the supervision of Correctional Officers posted along the way. Inside the dorms, you can view the tightly made beds with 6 inch collars and hospital corners, everything neat and clean and Institutional looking and come away with the impression that everything is so professionally ran – and never see under the surface at all. In this Essay I am pulling the veil aside so you can see.


Most compounds have Hunters. Hunters are officers who get a thrill out of tracking down cell phones, large quantities of drugs, or weapons. They cultivate a network of informants trading favors like cell moves or cigarettes for information. If a guy says he can do cell moves and move you where you prefer to live for money, odds are he is an informant, and the power do cell moves is one of his perks. Hunters use a Prison compound as their Nintendo game, it’s their entertainment. Some of them are quite good at it too.


According to the Prison Policy Organization “The American criminal justice system holds more than 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 2,259 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,283 local jails, and 79 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and prisons in the U.S. territories.” as per Peter Wagner and Bernadette Rubuy written December 8, 2015


The Criminal – Justice system and the Prison – Industrial Complex together are so inexorably entwined with the Nation’s economy that it has taken a life of it’s own. The growth rate of the machine depresses the National unemployment rate. In other words, the economy is propped up by the Prison population, the jobs it supplies, the ancillary services it requires. Our economy health is now dependent upon it. To tweak the economy Government need but twerk a law or two. Build fewer Prisons. Fill more beds. I live in a box, but I put food on someone’s table.

I am so tired of living out of a box.

I just want to be free.  -Geo,  December 2015

Lynie Tru Vinyard with Bring In Light Inmate Art, Stories and Issues


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Prison. December 21, 1976, I was transported to R.M.C. the State’s Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler, Florida. The Reception Process remains largely unchanged forty years later. I was segregated and locked into a side cell overlooking the large room of wooden benches. The cell was dull orange. Word spread quickly among the orderlies who made the intake machine run smoothly. A fourteen year old was in the holding cell I was quickly sized by both the gawkers and the stalkers, supplied with cigarettes and a couple of extra bag lunches. I discovered a new uncomfortable celebrity status.


I was weighed in at ninety two pounds. I was measured and stood an inch over five foot tall. I wore a size 6 boot and size 24 inch pant, I’d not ever yet shaved. The OIC (Officer In Charge) took a slow careful look at me and had me placed in Confinement; when I asked him why he told me, “Because you wouldn’t survive the night in population. To them, you look just like a girl and I am not going to be responsible for it.”


In the center of the compound is the large multistoried cinderblock building known as T Block. It held approximately 250 Confinement cells in four wings, this is where Corrections Officers and Sergeants created legends such as the mason jar. Sitting on the desk in the I-Block Office, filled with gold caps, the jar was filled about halfway. Gallon jar every gold tooth in there was somehow knocked out of someone’s mouth.


The bars and cell interior was painted a dark institution green. A klaxon sounded every time the doors were about to rack open to warn everyone to pull their arms in. Losing a hand, or a finger, was common. The klaxon sounded throughout the day, cutting into the routine noise of the wing. The cell block was a huge concrete and cinder block construction that sat like a forty foot high rectangle in the middle of the Prison Compound. Lined up opposite that building were five open bay dormitories where Prisoners of less security concerns were housed in a open area dorm filled with bunk beds. Every dorm was equipped with a Television to pacify the Prisoners, most of who gazed at its screen at every opportunity. The biggest enemy in Prison is boredom.


I was, as I mentioned an uncomfortable instant celebrity in the cell block with my thirteen year old voice and little boy appearance. I was placed in I-Block into a cell by myself for my own protection due to my age. The Trustees or “Runarounds” who had the run of the place, congregated at cell front to ask me a thousand questions and simply marvel that someone my age was actually in Prison.


I arrived December 21, 1976 – I didn’t dare tell them that I had just been a 13 year old, 2 months prior to landing here.


Prison is an artificial environment that has quite a collection of oddities. Odd traditions, customs, viewpoints. Odd people, odd attitudes. No one works in Prison for a salary except the Corrections Officers. At least in Florida, prisoners supply the State with free labor while serving time. A percentage of prisoners get gifts of money from family and friends on the outside that they can spend in Canteen for coffee and other beverages, all kinds of snack foods, canteen cigarettes, shoes, watches, hygiene items. The rest of the prisoners who get no money “Hustle” which means they find a service or product to offer to those who get money and subsist thereby. Everything is sold in Prison, from sex from the female impersonating “boys” to drugs of any kind. Everyone is trying to hustle a dollar in here.


People are only free hearted with their goods if they see you as an easily manipulated type, or are afraid and want a friend who can give them a sense of security. I had just turned fourteen and the predators were sniffing around my cell door like wolves around a chicken coop. I was sexually propositioned at least a dozen times in that first evening, glad my door was locked, I chain smoked State cigarettes all that night.


The entire process of integrating into Prison requires a period of “Orientation”. The next weeks were spent in a whirlwind of appointments, or “Call-Outs” in Prison slang, with everyone from Classification to Medical. Education has tests to take. The daily orientation class teaches the more important rules and procedures which must be followed. There is a disciplinary process for those who break the rules and get caught, resulting in Confinement without privileges for months at a time, depending on the infraction charged. Everything one needs to know about living and functioning in the Prison world, from laundry to sick call, is explained during orientation.


I was kept segregated except while on call-outs where I could mix to a large degree with the general population. The supervision was minimal. I was constantly the center of attention, wherever in the large Medical / Administrative Complex I happened to be. The halls everywhere were lined with poured concrete benches where crowds of prisoners were seated, waiting for their name to be called. No Prison I have ever seen provided cushions or even backs to the chairs that were to be used exclusively by prisoners. This is typical in an environment designed to constantly remind you that you are no longer even entitled to comfort. You have joined a class of human being that no longer expects respect or courtesy, that lives in continuous expectation of the next falling whip. For that is all such things are, aspects of the whip, variations on a theme.


I told and retold the story of my misguided quest to dive to New York and return to my Mom, the stolen car and the high speed chase. I believed my exploits accorded me respect to these men, yet now I understand the expressions I remember on those faces. It was disgust at a Government that would send a child into a man’s Prison. In my first years incarcerated, I’ve heard that expressed in a million ways.


I delighted talking to the older cons who had been in Prison a while, listening to war stories as they competed to tell their most radical Prison experience. Such storytelling is common in Prison, an oral tradition alive and well in the Prison subculture. Violence is the general theme of such storytelling. Among the stories, most of the time, one will find instruction. Technically, these are fables. I was like a fearful sponge, skittish as a new calf, but absorbing everything I could in order to better navigate this odd environment.


They finally decided to send me to my permanent Prison. Florida is fond of calling Prisons; Correctional Institutions, and prisoners; Inmates. my next stop was Indian River Correctional Institution, I.R.C.I.. It was freshly opened the same year of my arrival, right before Christmas,1976. I was placed in J-Dorm.


When I was still unconvinced and the Public Defender was trying to talk me into accepting the Plea deal, from the State Attorney, he told me I was going somewhere they have kids my age, go-karts and mini bikes, skateboards and roller skates, pool tables and pin-ball machines. Indian River Correctional Institution had none of those things and I learned later that no place else did either. The youngest on the compound was a fifteen year old, Roland Menzies who introduced himself as Scooter and who lived right across the hall from me. Scooter gave me the gift of a shank, or homemade knife, and when I gazed in fascination at it he told me, “Put it in your boot because you are going to need it.”


That Saturday a prisoner everyone called Boob-Tube because he watched too much television tried to get in the shower with me. He said I was too pretty to be running wild and needed a man like him. I stabbed him in the upper arm and he squealed like a pig and ran out of the bathroom. Word quickly spread that I was the one who stabbed him and I was instantly accorded greater respect. That memory still sickens me, I am not one for violence, I had to put it in my head as survival.


The most interesting memory I retained from those early days was Grandma Ross. I can still remember her address, at P.O. Box 1, Lake Helen, Florida. In 1977, Grandma Ross was in her eighties and had a huge following at Indian River Correctional Institution. Grandma Ross spent her entire week baking cakes and cookies, pies and cobblers, and everything sweet you can imagine that Grandmothers like to bake. Every Saturday she would come to the Prison Chapel and in a room set aside just for her, she would feed any who came to her Service as much as they could hold. Grandma Ross talked about God like he was a dear friend, and Prayed over us all. When I first attended her Service she put her hands on my head and Prophesied that I would one day do great things for God. This woman’s Prophecy has followed me all the days of my life. Grandma Ross became a weekly event for me. I can’t pretend it was not about the baked goods, I was still a kid, of course it was all about the food. She gave me a watch for my Birthday October 17, 1977. I can honestly say her gift is the only Birthday gift I can remember from my childhood.


It was sometime around that Birthday when Grandma Ross asked me to make a request from God, and gave me a week to think about it. What one thing is most important to me? I thought about it all week, discussed it with a few people, and decided to ask for Freedom. If God can deliver on that, He is someone serious. If not, I can return Him and thoughts of Him to the recesses of my mind. Grandma Ross demanded my Freedom from God.


What I didn’t know at that time was that a guy in the dorm had wrote Governor Bob Graham about me. He also sent the Governor newspaper articles of kids my age or a little older who had committed worse crimes than I, with worse past records, and went to Boys School instead of Prison. One kid had beaten another to death with a chain.


They pulled me out to the Classification Department into a conference room to meet and greet with two Representatives from Governor Bob Graham. After discussion I agreed to a modified Pardon from the Governor that converted my Prison time of six years to Boy’s School time and I would be able to serve that time around kids my age in a setting designed for kids my age. I was packed up and in the car within a couple of hours, straight to the Okeechobee Boys School.


Because I was only 14 years old, I was placed in Wilson Cottage on the Junior side. My immediate nickname was Prison Boy, my first few days were peppered with fights, mostly in the locker room which is generally unsupervised. Kids have to get acquainted and the pecking order preserved.


Kids were confined to the Cottage and its immediate area up to the ditches that divided each Cottages Territory. Every activity outside the Cottage such as Chow or Gym, was accessed by marching in line. Overall I had much less freedom at Okeechobee than at Indian River Correctional Institution, and that made me restless. I got into so many fights that I was placed on the Senior side with older kids in Adam’s Cottage, and finally adjusted well enough to settle in.


Okeechobee was ran on a Point System, when you arrive you were given a point deficit you need to earn in order to go home. A certain amount of points were awarded monthly for good conduct. The average point deficit meant four to six months for these guys. When the monthly sheet was posted I became the center of attention because the amount of points I had to earn to leave. It was my six year Prison sentence. What was the point of pretending to treat me like other kids my age if I am still required to do an adult Prison sentence? The other kids that letter to the Governor compared me to did not have to do an adult length of time. They went home in four to six months like every other kid. No one had done me any favors. They just relocated me.


From the time I was thirteen I had been shown the underbelly of Justice and learned its ways. If I was bad, how can I be punished by a system that, in its own ways, was badder than I..? I learned early that there is nothing fair from either Government or my fellow human beings.


America thinks punishment by incarceration is an enlightened way to deal with crime. Incarceration itself is administered as a method to correct behavior. In actual practice, however, the incarcerated are brought face to face with some real world concepts: the only rights you have are those someone gives you, or you are strong enough to take. The mentality of the incarcerated serves personal survival first. Prison is a breeding ground for the types of egocentric personalities that return to Prison repeatedly and pump up the Nation’s crime rates.


I found the only reason I somewhat enjoyed Okeechobee Boy’s School, was there were two girl Cottages on the Junior side, and we frequently had dances in the Gymnasium. In my woodshop class were several girls who were a bit wild. The storage area seen a lot of furtive visitors. As a Prison Boy I eventually obtained permission to cross the ditches and visit other Cottages. I made Canteen runs for guys whose Cottage Canteen day was too far off, and made a profit. I worked in the Visiting Park as an Orderly on the weekends and smuggled in everyone’s marijuana or cigarettes for a cut. After all, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere for many years and I was broke, I was now a hustler at 14 years old.


I’d been there almost a year when I was offered a place on Mr. Picarin’s dog crew. He was a Seminole Indian who drove an old 60’s Chevy pickup truck painted a rust red and supervised the dog crew. Outside the fence about a half mile into the woods were the kennels. Four of the prettiest blood hounds were kept there, and they were used to chase runaways in the surrounding woods, orange groves and swamp.


The dog crew consisted of Suarez who I called Little Mexico, and a white kid named Danny. Our job was to run from the dogs and avoid capture as longs as possible while Mr. Picarin chased us down. That was something we did only once or twice a week. The other days we drove to an old ramshackle shack and Mr. Picarin would teach us to play card games like Dirty Hearts, he let us smoke and drink soda.


On the days we ran, we ran hard. Then Danny went home unplaced. A month later Suarez went home and it was just me. The first time I ran by myself I was out until Midnight in the swamps, longer than any previous run. He was angry about it, and told me to never run past nightfall again. Told me to find a running partner.


He used to brag about being able to beat the dogs, and how his being Indian gave him an extra little something the hounds couldn’t deal with. I waited until Friday, when he usually drank beer and showed him a twenty that I’d found on the grounds. I said “I will buy your beer for the whole weekend if you can beat the dogs.”  Then I handed it to him. He smiled and said “Free money”. I gave him 15 minutes.


The Indian headed West. I headed East. I ran those dogs as hard as I could for two hours before tying them to a tree by a road and some mailboxes. The next day they caught me in Ft. Pierce, skulking around a Publix Parking Lot, trying to steal a car. The Hardware store guy picked up on my vibe and made a call.


The Pardon was immediately revoked. I was sent back to Prison.


In February, 1979, I was sent to Brevard Correctional Institution, or BCI. It was the day I will never forget. Blue cloudless sky, cold crisp air. I was taken directly to the Barber chair to lose my past shoulder length hair, enduring cat calls and comments about how pretty I was. In Florida prisoners maintain a very clean cut appearance with hair off the ears and off the neck. The face remained clean shaven.


Brevard Correctional Institution was suppose to be a youthful offender Prison. In 1979 there were only a dozen Prisons around the State with a Statewide Prison population of less than twenty thousand prisoners. Only three were of those Prisons were for youthful offenders, meaning either someone sentenced under Florida’s youthful offender statutes or someone under 24 years old.


These Prisons were full of violence, robbery and extortion were the most common. But there were also rapes. Since those days, my eyes have seen so much that I can no longer be shocked, I can only be moved to Prayer. Back then my eyes were fresh. I’ve seen a child my age serial raped until his entire personality transformed from a him to a her, all traces of him gone and this totally new person there in his place.


I’ve seen men stabbed or bludgeoned to death over little of nothing. I’ve seen Correctional Officers murder a prisoner and hang him up, faking his suicide. I’ve seen desperate men cut a man open to search for the balloons of heroin he swallowed in the visiting park. I saw all this and more before my eighteenth Birthday. This is where society sent me to learn civilized behavior, to “Correct” me, to prepare me to return to society with a renewed heart and mind. I am still amazed that Prison being what it is, it is still representing the whole “Correctional” theme to the gullible public. What exactly, is being corrected in this picture? While the recidivist rate approaches a hundred percent and society suffers in a million ways. Why is there no one to say something in a public enough forum to get a positive result?


I soon learned that my sanctuary was ironically Confinement. I thought it was great that I could get in trouble, get written up, and be placed as a result in Confinement where none of the predators could touch me. I did endless months in Confinement. I was safe there. I did not understand that all those Disciplinary Reports were being saved in my file and would later be used to characterize me, analyze me, profile me, make me out to be the bad guy. I got in trouble to stay in Confinement where I was safe. I lived a coward, in a sense, because I traded the appearance of being unruly for a degree of safety in the vicious Prison environment. By doing so I generated the paperwork that prison-crats needed to portray me as necessary. Would I be more of a man to go out and stab or kill someone and get even more time in Prison? I preferred the Confinement cell, where I was able to spend hours reading books, talking to others around me, or experiencing the solitude and loneliness that would one day become like air to me.


Riots were common in those years. 1979 up until around 1983 were riddled with dates where this or that Prison compound exploded in racial violence, blacks against whites, vice versa. Every time a riot popped off the National Guard was called in and hundreds of prisoners were bused from one Prison to another in an attempt to quash the violence. I was transferred from Brevard to Desoto to Baker and finally to Zephyrhills.


It was at Zephyrhills when I was raped by my room mate. He suddenly punched me without warning and put me in a sleeper hold. He tied me to the bed kept like that for four days. Hiding me under a sheet whenever the Officer went by or counted. If I would have tried to call or get help from him, I had no way to protect myself from the attack that surely would result. On the fourth day he went back to open population. As a result of that abuse I had to be Hospitalized at the Reception and Medical Center for two months, wearing a catheter because of urination problems. I had came full circle to where I spent my first nights in Prison.

To be continued until next time…  Geo

Lynie Tru Vinyard with Bring In Light’s Inmate Art, Stories and Issues

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First recollection
(Snapshot from Prison by Geo)

Prison. December 21, 1976, I was transported to R.M.C. the State’s Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler, Florida. The Reception Process remains largely unchanged forty years later. I was segregated and locked into a side cell overlooking the large room of wooden benches. The cell was dull orange. Word spread quickly among the orderlies who made the intake machine run smoothly. A fourteen year old was in the holding cell I was quickly sized up by both the gawkers and the stalkers, supplied with cigarettes and a couple of extra bag lunches. I discovered a new uncomfortable celebrity status.

I was weighed in at ninety two pounds. I was measured and stood an inch over five foot tall. I wore a size 6 boot and size 24 inch pant, I’d not ever yet shaved. The OIC (Officer In Charge) took a slow careful look at me and had me placed in Confinement; when I asked him why he told me, “Because you wouldn’t survive the night in population. To them, you look just like a girl and I am not going to be responsible for it.”

In the center of the compound is the large multistoried cinderblock building known as I-Block. It held approximately 250 Confinement cells in four wings, this is where Corrections Officers and Sergeants created legends such as the mason jar. Sitting on the desk in the I-Block Office, filled with gold caps, the jar was filled about halfway. Gallon jar every gold tooth in there was somehow knocked out of someone’s mouth.

The bars and cell interior was painted a dark institution green. A klaxon sounded every time the doors were about to rack open to warn everyone to pull their arms in. Losing a hand, or a finger, was common. The klaxon sounded throughout the day, cutting into the routine noise of the wing. The cell block was a huge concrete and cinder block construction that sat like a forty foot high rectangle in the middle of the Prison Compound. Lined up opposite that building were five open bay dormitories where Prisoners of less security concerns were housed in a open area dorm filled with bunk beds. Every dorm was equipped with a Television to pacify the Prisoners, most of who gazed at its screen at every opportunity. The biggest enemy in Prison is boredom.

I was, as I mentioned an uncomfortable instant celebrity in the cell block with my thirteen year old voice and little boy appearance. I was placed in I-Block into a cell by myself for my own protection due to my age. The Trustees or “Runarounds” who had the run of the place, congregated at cell front to ask me a thousand questions and simply marvel that someone my age was actually in Prison.

I arrived December 21, 1976 – I didn’t dare tell them that I had just been a 13 year old, 2 months prior to landing here. I have much more to say, and to share, not realizing how profound looking back upon my arrival to Prison and writing it out, was really going to be.

Until next time… Geo
Lynie Tru Vinyard with Bring In Light’s Inmate Art, Stories and Issues

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Photo Credit: R.C.M. at Lake Butler, Florida 1976 maxresdefault (1)

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