Greetings from the bowels of a Federal Gulag where I am currently being held hostage with hundreds of thousands of others, all victims of Draconian Federal Drug Laws and the mandatory minimum sentences these injustices entail.
Unfortunately my story is typical of thousands of other. I stand convicted of the \”catch all\” conspiracy statute. The total evidence against me consisted of the testimony of two individuals purchased by the government with a promise of leniency. The fact that I had never even heard of most of my alleged co-conspirators, much less conspired with them was irrelevant. They seized my meager assets and ruined my credit. I chose to plead guilty because they had such an \”air tight\” case against me and promised to let my wife go free. (And of course my wife has since divorced me.)
When I first arrived here at F.C.I. Petersburg in the rolling hills of Virginia, I was actually somewhat disillusioned. I had visions of tennis courts, a golf course, and a state of the art health spa. \”Club Fed\” here I come! Never mind that I had spent the previous five months in a dungeon called the Alexandria Detention Center followed by thirty-seven days shackled hand and foot traveling the highways and byways of the good \’ole USA in order to be transported a mere one hundred and twenty five miles from where I started from. This should have been my first clue that my vision was nothing more than a \”necessary illusion.\”
But it wasn\’t. I had considered myself a well-informed American. After all, I did read the Washington Post religiously and caught the Nightly News with Tom Brokaw at least three nights a week. What more was there to know? Besides, my attorney assured me that he had everything under control and there was nothing to worry about. Wrong!
That was a little over three years ago and I have long since stopped looking for the tennis courts. My \”necessary illusion\” has been shattered by the reality of my nightmare. A nightmare supported by the fact that the United States has a larger percentage of it\’s population in prison than any other country on earth. More than two million human beings currently languish behind bars. One out of thirty five Americans are under the control of the criminal justice system and if the present rate of incarceration holds steady, one out of twenty Americans, one out of eleven men, and one out of four black men can expect to spend part of their life in prison. Upwards of sixty percent of these are incarcerated for drug offences. It makes me wonder what kind of \”message\” current drug policy advocates are trying to send when one out of nine school age children has one or both parents in prison. As this rate continues to climb, the government is sure to be successful in breeding an entire generation of embittered and disenfranchised drug war orphans.
And don\’t think for a moment that you and your family are immune because \”we don\’t do drugs\” or \”I only smoke pot\”. As the criminal justice juggernaut swells out of control, \”innocent until proven guilty\” has lost all meaning. You can be sucked into the prison industrial complex on little more than a whim and spend a lifetime seeking relief and you or your loved ones will be gone – locked up for ten years to life.
I was due to be released as early as April, 1999 but my request for halfway house placement was denied even though a lifelong friend and confidant offered to let me stay at her place for as long as it takes to get back on my feet. The Bureau of Prisons in it\’s infinite wisdom denied my release plan with no reasonable explanation. Yesterday, my \”case manager\” handed me a list of homeless shelters and offered to allow me a phone call in order to make the \”necessary arrangements.\” I told him thanks but no thanks, I no longer have the strength or courage needed to make that kind of call…
Editors note: The author has since been released from prison. He can be reached at:
C/o 612 Green Street
Winchester, VA 22601