Poetry & Prose

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Offender Aid and Restoration, Mental Brkdown

 

Overview of work at jail

dme

part of wall between the Jail and the Metropolitan Correctional Center (used to be Penitentiary) orig. constructed in 1897- one day an inmate or more tried to escape coming down by this tower- guards opened fire and some bullets whizzed by my head where I was standing by my office door- the inmates were shot and dragged back up the wall and tower- they would ha jumped from one prison yard into another- not too bright

My Career at the Jail (Baltimore City Detention Center)

Before I begin- and I am sure that I will use the following in some address or nother- let me mention two books on prison: Ted Conover's New Jack; Guarding Sing Sing and Piper Kerman's Orange is the New Black- about her experiences in Danbury and Oklahoma City and Chicago prisons.

I have written extensively about my prison stay at West St.- federal prison in N Y City and Lewisburg (Pa) in my peace movement memoirs- many mostly amusing stories. I write about prison and jail even more in what follows- about my work at the Baltimore City Jail. I am struck by a couple of things in the interview by Conover of Kerman that I saw on tv in 2010- a good pairing for an interview that aired on the Book Channel- CSPAN, on 5/16/10.

1) Humor- it is ever more important in prison where it becomes a survival tool for inmates AND staff. 2) how the smart inmate realises that violence- sometimes a tool used by a person- like George Bush or Richard Nixon- to get what he wants- has its drawbacks. Fantasies of revenge are - in the end- fruitless. A prisoner can learn the ability to forgive- he or she may forgive the person that snitched them out, or....to forgive....him or her self. the ability to forgive is- to Piper- a "thunderbolt moment"- and so might it be for the rest of us?

2) We send a person to prison to learn a lesson. What is the lesson that they learn? Why- it is....to become a prisoner. Ted talks about an Exxon gas station owner that had a tiger in a cage as an advertisement? One night he left the cage door open? The tigert never came out. It got used to its area!!! And...I have noticed- on the flip side- as they say- how many times I have stood in front of a prson doorway (I have worked in the Jail for over 30 years- and not realised that it was open! All I had to do was to push it. This is another major "aha/ eureka" moment.

3) for many - jail or prison is safer than the streets. Think about it.

Mark Vernarelli- an able and compassionate guy in charge of public relations and media for the Md. Division of Corrections, asked myself and Ms. Wood and Mr. McCoy to do bits of reminiscence as we approached retirement after 30 + years at the jail/ detention center.

O the changes in administration we had seen- the wardens, the commissioners, the ins and outs. When I started in 1977 there were still glimpses of the "old school"- Baltimore as a sleepy, backwater southern town with its southern style jailers (i.e. white racists) - no blacks, no women employees!  And so many fewer inmates! In my stay the jail grew from 900 or so to 3 k +. The warden prior to my coming (in '77) - a Hiram Schonfield- had been fired for stealing meat! But that- and prisoner abuse- was the name of the game in the old days. One officer tells me he would "fire you for a cigarette butt on your post" then tell you the next day- "ah, come on back".

We saw the beginning of the crack epidemic and thus burgeoning inmate populations in the early 80's. We saw the change over from officers with professional bearing to young kids as officers- little different from the inmates and definitely from the same neighborhoods. We saw Governor after Gov. make pronouncements about corrections and then do nothing- inmates after all not being a very courtable block of voters and not a very esteemed block to help. Inmates had no clout- no more than the lower class.

I first entered employment at the Baltimore City Jail in 1977 as a CETA (Poverty Program)  employee in 1977. I had founded a branch office of the national organization- Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR), and by 1980, the then Warden at the Jail- Gordon Kamka- thought well enough of the program to get a couple of us in  O.A.R.(where I was the Director)  onto city payroll.

So somewhat controversially, I was a City employee and yet at the same  time the Director of a non-profit organization-I had to answer to my  bosses at the jail and as well to a Board of Directors for OAR. It turned out  to be an effective example of what a public and private partnership can  accomplish.

Also controversial- I myself  WAS an ex-offender- having done 21 months  at Lewisburg  Federal Penitentiary for protesting the Vietnam War. Felons are not ordinarily employed in corrections, BUT- by 1983 I had a  full and unconditional pardon from President Reagan - so, that obstacle  was met. I am one of the few ex-cons whom prison "corrected" in that,  while I was  incarcerated I saw the benefit of working with offenders and felt I could handle it. My incarceration led to my career. Before that I was an English major who had taught for three or four years.

Restoration of offenders  was not then, and has never been- the # 1 focus of jails and prisons- even though "Corrections" is in the name of  the agency. The main purpose of our  fair institutions is to keep the "wards" from rioting or escaping and to deliver them to Court on time. The "corrections" part is sort of a gravy- but, thankfully- there are libraries and social workers. Imprisonment is a great time to offer programs to the inmates- for, you will have to admit- they are a "captive" audience. And astute corrections officials realise the calming effect programs can have.

Usually, the inmates (especially female inmates)  were eager to receive educational programs or addictions or job finding programs- especially since most of them never got an education in the first place. It's just that often (although I will admit that both Secretaries (of the Division of Public Safety and Corrections) in Maryland- Ms. Saar and Mr. Maynard have been enlightened)- there is often a tension between the custodial staff and the civilians who run programs. The attitude still can be found: "why coddle the criminal" or, "the inmates don't deserve programs- they're here to be punished." Certainly, programs for offenders are often underfunded or the first to be cut. Few people understand that jails house those not yet tried or sentenced.

My troubles with OAR were the worst of my life- leading to- witness the chapter on depression- the worst consequences. I still dream at night about meetings where the Warden’s right hand Thug msan is out to move our office or cripple our operations. I was an anomaly at the jail- here I was a peacenik in a military operation . Many of the guards were ex-military. They neither understood nor approved of our rehabilitation efforts. And- for me- my life’s work, my career were at stake. Forget about the blood pouring- the separations from girl friends incidental- this is where I spent 33 years of my life earning a living and “proving my worth” INSIDE society. I had a lot to defend! My benefits and pension, for example.

Vignettes

Our work provided a steady stream of dramatic and humorous situations. One day we bailed out a blind man. Because he had entered the jail with foul, smelly clothes, they had outfitted him with one of the jail's money saving paper suits. He had no one to look after him and we were going to have to pick him up as he came out the back gate. We hoped it would not rain for these suits melted in the rain. It seemed the best address anyone had for  him was a particular downtown street corner. We decided this was good enough to qualify him for our bail program. How far could he go? We'd be able to catch him. He had lost his white cane while in jail (if he ever had one) (if he was really blind!). We took him by Jim's apartment to give him some second hand clothes and there we outfitted him with a mop handle for a walking stick. Not only did we pay his bail, we took him to his corner. Sadly, he failed to appear for trial, after all.

....if that's too sad a story for you- here's a comical one. In Baltimore City one of the most hated figures is the tow truck company goon who hauls your car away when you've violated a No Parking zone. One day, a tow truck made the mistake of entering the Central Booking Parking lot,- and started loading up a correctional officer's car to be taken away. When other olfficers got wind of this- they actually came out, surrounded the two truck driver in no uncertain terms and he had to let the car down. this was a satisfying story- it never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Two more vignettes: 1, while leaving for the day on 2/16 the quickened atmosphere, sudden increase in scrabbling sounds as a guard pummels and inmate and throws him to the floor in a corridor of Central Booking (the huge new building where I now work) (a friend terms it the "Battlestar Galactica"). "I can't breathe", the inmate gurgles. Another guard comes to assist" the first one and they throw the hapless fool into a cell. I pause to watch, aware that my being there might make a difference. In the old days I might have been tempted to intervene or say, "Be careful" but part of me now just wants to hurry on and not incur any wrath from the officers- I have to work with them every day- the inmate is just some passing madman- probably- OR, he is my brother! The greatest case of violence that occurred while I worked at Central Booking was the case where an obstreperous inmate was stomped to death by one or more officers.

-a sad image in the prison-a sort of symbol, I am thinking: the transvestite (or transgendered?) guy with the long red hair sits glumly in the male lock up where they have put him- everybody is super aware of his odd presence- I can imagine what torture he is undergoing-naturally I don't know the whole story- why he was arrested, etc. but I feel sorry for him.  I think on the ones who do not belong to or fit in with this world. Later, as I drive home, I see him sitting on a stoop, waiting for the bus? At least he got out. A male youth sits beside him- a youth with punkish, dyed? Blonde hair. He seems to be crying.

Some of our clients met tragic ends. One homeless man had his throat cut. He was living under a bridge. Then some one or ones burned one of our clients to death as he slept in an abandoned car. Luckily for us both these deaths occurred after the two had finished our program. In the winter of 1993 Arthur Bolden, a prior baillee of ours was brutally beaten to death. He was the 336th homicide victim according to the state's medical examiner, thus breaking 1992's number of homicides. His sister was quoted in an article in the Sunpapers. He told her he would do drugs til he died. After a four year respite when his family had scraped together enough money to send him to Habilitat (I remember the fabulous area where it was located), he had returned to Baltimore clean. He worked for awhile at a bagel shop. Old friends who were drugees had lured him back to the streets. He had AIDs when he died. How could drugs and the junkie life style be so appealing, his sister wondered. David Simon and Edward Burns would report on this life style in their book of 1997 about Baltimore drug addicts, The Corner (made into a tv series for HBO) and later “The Wire”.

Our clients had monstrous appetites for destruction. Their addictions required great energy, energy they could have spent going in right directions. I had to agree with the then mayor of Baltimore, Kurt Schmoke, a pleasant black person who often seemed retarded in his manner generally, and who did little to actually solve the drug problem, had called for the medicalization/legalization of drugs. With the criminality taken out of the drug trade, these idiots could commit slow suicide; at least they wouldn't be out there ripping and running and terrorizing the rest of us. Yet, as Simon pointed out at a gathering where I met him, drugs were so easy to get, the were already, essentially legal.

The addicts were human like the rest of us, as Simon and Burns ably showed. And I could well identify as I sank into my depression in '96-'97. My son was an addict on alcohol, on marijuana and maybe worse drugs while at Fordham's Lincoln Center Campus in New York City and for a long period thereafter!

I always told the addicts I counseled that they could actually find more pleasure if they stopped abusing drugs, wasn't pleasure what they were looking for in the first place? It wasn't a matter of abstinence or doing away with pleasure, just finding more moderate pleasures. Abuse drugs moderately, legally- alcohol? tobacco? , like I do, I would tell them. A couple of beers at the end of the day, a nice cigar, coffee? I would ask them, do you think there are workers here at the jail who might do a little marijuana on the weekends? AND NOT GET CAUGHT?  Get a job so they could do better drugs!. Weren't these pleasures fabulous enough of a high? But no they had to do more! And I told them to try to work with the pain underlying the craving. Addiction fed a dark, self destructive side. Maybe they were NOT interested in the pursuit of happiness.

The medical model, addiction as disease, served some good purposes: "it lifts addiction out of the realm of a legal or moral problem to be censured and into the realm of a medical problem to be treated" - Abigail Trafford in the Washington Post of 4/18/'95. But there were few medical treatments for addiction. Methadone was one, non-alcoholic beer. I believe it was Ms Trafford who wrote, "For now, sobriety reinforced by support groups remains to addiction what bed rest and plenty of fluids are to the common cold". There has to be a substitute for the bad thing we crave. You have to offer the addict something positive as a way out not beat him or her to death with some negative reinforcement.

We thought of ways to deal with a fellow employee who is rude and defensive because they've done something wrong when their supervisor wouldn't help you with them, i.e. discipline them because he needed them or was himself afraid of them. We began a list of practical tips like "wetting your fingers helps to separate out pieces of paper in a stack". This volume might join the shelf beside my other book, Dave's Gems of Insight. The inmates we dealt w were bad enough- fellow staff members could be considerably worse. There were so many who were crabby, who took out their own pain on others-  the classic “border guard” mentality. Later in 2007 a female guard- who has been nasty to me before- in the lobby of Central Booking- will not let me pass thru because my (crummy little) state phone is “not on the list”. I should realise that this is only a “set-up” for her amusement.  But as I get older I have less tolerance for such rudeness- (she may be right “by the book.”) All right, I’ll walk around. I can think of a word for this…but I’ll save it and give it to some one else”. Or the secretary in the Warden’s office who, when I come in in the morning, and jokingly say “Got anything for me”, says “Good morning!” balefully- to say that I should offer a greeting of “Good morning” before proceeded to any thing else. “O”, my supervisor.

Often I have felt a great sadness to see so many strong, young, black men here- what a waste of resources. We could at least educate them while they're here- but we don't. For instance, the story of Calvin-6/15/09- he is in for failure to pay child support. Now he may have purposefully failed to pay...but..his story is- he was working for the Room Store- as a subcontractor making deliveries- then the Room Store went out of business (due to the current recession) "They never told the court about the money with held that I had to pay once a week," he says- but I am thinking, isn't it on him to inform the court or make sure the money gets paid? Let's say his story is true? Many less educated guys end up here because they were never taught to pay attention to details- many can't even spell, read, write or add. Then they end up in "jackpots" like this- the minutiae of bureaucratic requirements overwhelms them, and the matter is compounded as the payments add up more while he is in Jail!

?/2004- I overhear some inmates on a work crew in the hallway where I work at Central Booking saying: "women get turned on by our brown jump suits- you can see it in their eyes". My reaction- Yeh, right (said with heavy sarcasm!)

Sister Pat and I discuss the recent death of a female inmate that became a Sunpapers article on 10/5. Complexities behind the story, details not reported or misrepresented- the story implies that she was beaten- no- Sr. Pat says, she had AIDS and meningitis- and died of that- the story talked about her head being shaven- Sr Pat says another inmate had cut her hair too short and she just said "take it all off". And bruises reported by the paper as if she had been in a fight were probably because she had fallen. Not that the press hasn't gotten some things right about the abysmal health care system at the Jail- Sr. Pat says that when the woman (a homeless whte woman w meningitis due to AIDS) came from another prison- her medication came with her but that our  Jail had confiscated it- and I know that nmates are not able to get the proper medications here at BCDC (the Baltimore City Detention Center). When papers report on corrections, my impression is they miss the shades of gray; certainly they miss a lot of the deaths  and violence that occurs.

There were so many "human interest" stories over the years. One volunteer we had in the early days when our screening was minimal tried to put a voo doo spell on the inmate to whom we'd assigned him, making a circle of salt around the poor client in his cell.

There were the M brothers, twin inmates, rumored to have once been prosperous but ruined by drink, who came in and out of the jail endlessly...James and Robert.  They were inseparable, usually arrested together. If one was arrested without the other, the other would find a way to join his brother. These two would never be rehabilitated, and yet they graced the front cover of our brochure (they had posed for a photograph as they left the jail).

Another alcoholic, "Pickles", was notorious as the city's record holder for arrests, over 300 misdemeanors. My partner,  Jim once had come across him on the streets drunk plopped down in one of the city's wire mesh waste baskets, singing loudly. Or he would stand in the middle of a busy intersection joking, cursing to himself, a fairly surefire way to get arrested for DP, disturbing the peace.

One guy we'd bailed out was somehow able to get past the officer at Post 200 and came walking down the hall to our office  dressed in an army camouflage outfit holding two pomegranates as if they were hand grenades. One of Jim's favorite clients had written a book, The Evil of Women or some such title; he told Jim about the sequel he had just finished entitled Lonely Man.

I felt that I could make a difference by my job. Many around me did not. In fact, at the jail (as at many huge institutions) there seemed to be a "my life is so miserable, let me makes yours miserable too" attitude. I called it the "border guard" syndrome, the response you so often encountered dealing with sullen bureaucrats. "Job holders" is what my friend Brian Willson at the Moratorium on Prison Construction. Too often, Jim and I exhibited the same bad manners, at least over the phone, for we were constantly assaulted by dumb questions or people who seemed to be hard of hearing who answered our statements by saying "Huhn? Huhn?" For some of our slower clients, I realized, this was a way of stalling for time as they tried to figure out what I had said.

If you thought the inmates are bad news- wait until you meet the staff!

As I knew from Lewisburg, prisons attracted military people as staff and others who couldn't get a job anywhere else, people but one level above the inmates. And the jail, like all large agencies, resembled the stereotypical Byzantine court with intrigues everywhere.

For example, A.B.'s brother who also worked at the jail had been fired for charging a weekender inmate for marking him present when he was not. There was question whether A.B. was also involved.

 

"TO: Mr. C.D.

FROM: A.B.

 

Dear Mr. D.

 

I forgot to mention to you that I received the message you left during my unfortunate situation, It's my understanding your statement was `They finally got the B brothers'.

I have always known who my really true friends were.

 

In reply, C.D. had written:

 

From: C.D.

To: A.B.

 

I received your note on 7/15/'86, that I made a negative remark about you during your unfortunate situation.

You should have learned by now to stop listening to what people say. Employees here at the Jail are very small people who always keep something going. Writing a note without investigating was not a smart move.

A, you owe me an apology. If you want to know who your friends are why don't you look at the list of names and see how much I donated to you during your unfortunate situation.

However, I did tell some of your friends to tell you that if you needed a job to call me. The only reason that I even took the time to address your letter is because I do not want you to make the same mistake with someone else.

 

Respectfully,

 

C.D."

 

We found these two letters, so typical of jail backbiting, inuendo and machinations, in a file that C.D. had labelled the "black ball" file. C.D. was a notorious "scamster", in charge of the inmate grievance program where he was basically known for burying grievances. He spent more time on his own business enterprises than state work, his exterminating business and an escort service for nurses in ghetto neighborhoods.

Inmates at the jail might take the prize for stupidity, but the staff was not far behind. Their antics provided Jim and me hours of amusement as well as annoyance. An inmate might use several AKAs to be slick and "get over". Then the computer might keep him or her in jail because some inmate in California who was still wanted had used the same alias.

The jail's fiendish bureaucrats had no vision (or had right wing vision), the kind whom you've read about who have blocked progress through history, pimples on the asses of the state. Like Pontius Pilate they were the functionaries, the factotums under Caligula or Machiavelli, the inquisitor's assistants, the obengruppenfuhrer's clerks, and so on ad nauseam, basically people who projected their personal problems into the workplace, or persons who had risen far above their capacity by ruthless scheming. If in positions of power they made everyone's life around them miserable. (It must here be said that there were also jail employees who were the sweetest persons you could want to meet.)

 I received the following reprimand from one notorious creep: "On August 16, 1993, you placed several boxes of materials on top of and near a trash can in the lunch room of the Jail Industries Building (presumably to be taken out with the trash). Included in these materials were several documents that were confidential in nature, such as inmate records and "weekender" reporting materials. Also included were several bank statements (from 1988 and 1989) and blank checks."

Instead of stopping by my office and counseling me to be careful, this factotum went on:

"You are in violation of Regulation 50-2. Standard of Conduct, Chapter II, Section B, Paragraph 1 and Chapter II, Section EE. The Pre trial Release Services Program considers this offense to be a serious breach of security and confidentiality....this can and will include your suspension from State Service". Why would these last two words be capitalized?

Our responses to this idiocy were almost as humorous (looking back): my incident report began, "This is to describe for you events leading to and including the placement of certain waste materials in the canteen trash can on the morning of 8/16." Jim's version went, "On 8/16/'93 at 10AM Dave Eberhardt and myself deemed the records to be disposable and carried them to the trash can in the JI lunch/vending room." With "waste materials" and "deemed", we added some ludicrous decorum to the ludicrous proceedings.

The section we had violated had to do with confidential records (a reasonable enough section): "Utmost care is essential in the handling of inmate records, as they are confidential". The materials which we were hoping would be carted away by the inmate janitors did include some ancient records of persons serving weekends at the jail, which detail I had some responsibility for and also included one old check book with checks no one but two board members were entitled to sign anyway. Instead of being brought back to us to throw away, having been warned, or merely thrown away as a harmless oversight, the materials were taken to the dreaded "Internal Investigations", photographed and made the basis of my reprimand. Do you think they were out to send me a message? One of the Detention Center's investigators, it turned out, had been part of the police unit spying on we protesters back in the peace movement days,  spying and engaging in more serious sabotage or disruption of our activities. I joked with him about the incident, "could I get some help from somebody to help me turn a molehill into a mountain"? He laughed, but did not stop what he was doing, causing me grief.

While I worked under this particularly noxious overlord, the originator of the reprimand, I received one nit picking reprimand after another, beginning with a day's suspension for going outside of the chain of command and speaking to a judge on the phone, up until I finally was moved under another, kinder boss; but not before this termigant zinged me one last time, for allowing an person outside the agency to have jail photos (our skip chase person needed them to find bail clients who had failed to appear). Here again the violation concerned the confidentiality of inmate records, with no thought given to the need for my action or its beneficial result. I tried to contest this reprimand, carrying it so far as a hearing at the state's administrative law offices out in Lutherville, Md., the state's kangaroo court, where my petition of grievance was thrown out because my union representative had not, according to the presiding judge, followed proper procedures in filing. It turned out that he had been confused as to whether this "special reprimand" had been a "reprimand" (which required one course of filing) or a "suspension" (which required another course). I decided at this point, much as I hated to do it, to quit the union, although I later rejoined. My hatred of management was not alleviated in the slightest. Looking back it became a bit easier for me to see it from the overlord's point of view. The state was to be included in a law suit against us, and they increasingly wondered how I, as a state employee could be running a non-profit organization. Still, this was never discussed with us openly as a reason for the harassment. It was to come to a head before long.

Looking back I can say some one was out to get us.

Jim and I called this overlord a "skeksis warrior". An animated/claymation film at the time featured evil skeksis warriors who were a composite of scorpions and crabs, forever clicking and clacking their claws and speaking in high pitched evil voices to the skeksis leader, a wizened demon of a figure. This person was warmly hated around the jail, except, of course, by the warden, who used him as his informant and hatchet man. Actually, in fairness, he did rather fine audits of departments around the jail (and there were many) which had flubbed or f  ked up.

Under the state, the jail came to resemble (in a very slight way) that camp portrayed in the book, then movie "Schindler's List", Plazow?, in Poland. The chain of command was rigidly followed, with arbitrary, cruel decisions coming down abuptly from the top out of the blue. One day we received an order to vacate an office. We were given no time to do it, were told it should have already been done. And this was a room with an employee of ours working in it. Where was she supposed to go?  We had our board president call the warden and threaten to go above him to friends we had in state government. The room was returned to us. The warden/ commissioner prided himself on his system of informants and snitches. He bragged about them openly at meetings. His was the "Nigysob" method of management: "Now I Got Ya, Ya Son of a Bitch"! He liked to throw tantrums and would focus on one poor victim for awhile like a search light, then go on to another one. If this had been Plazow, instead of being suspended for days or weeks on a whim, we'd have been shot. At least we could be grateful for that.

Luckily I got a new supervisor (PB) in 1993. Ironically, he had was a Vietnam vet (had he a position of some influence over Lt. Calley when the infamous My Lai massacre took place?). Luckily, his style of management was very loose. His approach to supervising us was: as long as there were no problems, leave things be. As long as nothing negative popped up, fine. He had no inclination to direct us, guide us, hear from us, or see if we were doing good jobs, the usual concerns of a manager. No news was good news! Of course the down side of this was that almost everything we proposed to keep busy sounded too controversial and was therefore nixed. After years of being monkied with, we were finally left alone (for a little while). Jim and I joked that, since PB was a Special Assistant to the Commissioner and was the Commissioner's right hand man, carrying out all his dirty assignments, his "hatchet man" so to speak, we were somewhat untouchable and had thus reached an Andean "realm of the condors". We were among the highest flying birds, birds whose wings were large enough to protect us from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, birds whose wings were so large that it took little energy to float, just find the updrafts of wind and go sailing, and with a magnificent view.

Jim and I could start imagery of this sort and continue "riffing" on it (joking about it) for long periods of time. One image of the jail we enjoyed over the years was that of a reef, with the colorful characters comparable to the various denizens of the reef: sharks, crabs, morays, myriad brightly colored fish, etc. It was plain there were those who used protective coloring to blend into their backgrounds extremely well, so as not to be noticed. There were definte crabs, fun to aggravate by poking with a long stick. There were accomplished clams holding on for dear life.

Work day log, 6/5/`95. "A job with the state": last year has been kind, work wise.  It's not usually been so.  Not that I do no O.A.R. work, I certainly do enough so that I can back up what I'm saying credibly and look you straight in the eye.  I come in. Nothing particularly's cooking.  Naturally I`m going to keep busy. I need something (beside the five minutes when I pick up my check) to look forward to.

I write my niece. I xerox some more cantatas for my collection (a project of mine for the summer- to tape as many of the Bach cantatas as possible (the library has a record collection up to # 139 at which point they appear to have run out of money)). I work on the memoirs you are now reading. For this, the state pays me. Please, future readers or taxpayers, harbor no anger towards the state because of this. I'm spending my time wisely. I'm not in one of those counter productive government jobs, of which there are so many (in the Defense Department, for example).

Jim is having a slow day as usual also, but he actually has two customers for our bail program come by. I joke with him about his "business". "O", he replies, "there are many seasons of the Serengeti." This another of our metaphors for our eco-system, especially as there are so many jackals and vultures around waiting patiently for the kills.

Of course, all this could end in a second, a drought could decimate the Serengeti, a typhoon might blow through and scatter us to the wind to continue the reef imagery. As a matter of fact, my previous supervisor, a monster man to be sure, started an audit of my office last week. That could definitely mean trouble! Indeed we were being prepared for the ax (although at the time we didn't know it).

I was content knowing that, unlike other programs, we had no clients who had committed new, heinous, newspaper making crimes (at least, there were none that came to our attention).  Of the 8,000 we'd released there had been only one possible horror story, and it wasn't necessarily linked to us. One of the persons we bailed was one of two suspects in the murder of a gas station attendant. The crime had occurred after the client's trial date so we were, in a way "off the hook" and we never knew whether our client or the other had been the trigger man. A resident of the halfway house managed by the Richmond office of O.A.R. turned out to be the serial killer of five or more Virginia women. Crime novelist, Patricia Cornwell, used some of the details in her book "Post Mortem". He was executed by lethal injection in Virginia in 1993. I think I'd have quit had this happened to Baltimore O.A.R., although in fairness to Richmond there was no way they could have forecast this man's behavior after he got out of prison and came to the half-way house. He had done his time in the system and they couldn't hold him any more. Still, procedures at the house were called lax and it was closed down.

Incident at a half way house closer to home- I forget the date- must have been in the 80's? The Dept'y Warden had the brilliant I dea of "cross training"- where he would switch us into other people's jobs? so that we would get all around knowledge of the institution? I was placed in charge of the half way house- Graves St.- for an evening.

Two inmates escaped!?!? thru an upstairs window. Everybody laughted- why? Inmates were escaping on everybody at the time; still the idea of a "civilian" or social worker in a security position was mightly enjoyed by all.

conversations up in the library at the Jail- with David Blumberg who later became the Parole Commissioner for the St. of Md.- I would take the Democratic side- he the Republican- we would go back and forth- enjoying each others company- inmates using the library would enjoy each others company also- with no attention to the purpose of the library-books were not a part of their equation

The Rehabilitation Question

"Nothing really works to rehabilitate offenders", it was said. But really, rehabilitation had a long way to go to be perfected and since offenders were a low priority, money for rehabilitation projects was hard to find. In fact, rehabilitation had yet to be adequately tried. It was worth trying for each criminal "turned around" would save society a lot of money, the actual money lost to theft and predation plus the money criminal justice processing and incarceration cost, let alone the emotional anguish caused by criminals on their victims. Most criminals were themselves victims, victims of poverty, child abuse, etc. ad nauseam.

The first question persons interested in our program always asked us was about results: what was our success rate?  We had come to measure success by how many of our bailees showed up for court and so our low FTA rate meant we'd succeeded. The success rate meant by the questioners was success of rehabilitation overall. I would answer that we did not have the staff to follow our clients long enough or in detailed fashion enough to determine whether they stayed free from crime or might otherwise have been successful. Although I dreamed of clients coming back in three piece suits to thank me for changing their lives; only one ever did. I was content to know I was doing good deeds, content to get daily appreciation from the clients we served. Often enough, even our most successful clients relapsed. One whom we had known from the early eighties, the only one I can remember actually coming back to visit in a suit (he had gotten a job with the city's highway division) arrived one day in 1994 to say that he now had a drug problem. There was no way to avoid it, he said, since crews going out on the city trucks used crack cocaine and just to be in the cab with them smoking had addicted him. He was on a leave from his job to get into a program and now had no place to stay. Another success story, an ex-con who was a poet and whom I invited to read at our 1994 Delegate Assembly in Baltimore and who had had a good job with Justice Resources, turned up back in jail in 1995 with a domestic violence charge, his job lost.

The clients may not have showed up rehabilitated in a three piece suit, clients did, occasionally, "make good", especially the ones helped by volunteers to find jobs. We had a service, i.e. free bail, that our clients and their relatives or loved ones very much wanted and they appreciated us. For me, it was challenging to build an organization, direct it and work with many very idealistic persons like our volunteers and board members.

I was content knowing that, unlike other programs, we had no clients who had committed new, heinous, newspaper making crimes (at least, there were none that came to our attention).  Of the 8,000 we'd released there had been only one possible horror story, and it wasn't necessarily linked to us. One of the persons we bailed was one of two suspects in the murder of a gas station attendant. The crime had occurred after the client's trial date so we were, in a way "off the hook" and we never knew whether our client or the other had been the trigger man. A resident of the halfway house managed by the Richmond office of O.A.R. turned out to be the serial killer of five or more Virginia women. Crime novelist, Patricia Cornwell, used some of the details in her book "Post Mortem". He was executed by lethal injection in Virginia in 1993. I think I'd have quit had this happened to Baltimore O.A.R., although in fairness to Richmond there was no way they could have forecast this man's behavior after he got out of prison and came to the half-way house. He had done his time in the system and they couldn't hold him any more. Still, procedures at the house were called lax and it was closed down.

Incident at a half way house closer to home- I forget the date- must have been in the 80's? The Dept'y Warden had the brilliant I dea of "cross training"- where he would switch us into other people's jobs? so that we would get all around knowledge of the institution? I was placed in charge of the half way house- Graves St.- for an evening.

The fact that we offered hope and freedom to inmates every day, regardless of the results, and got paid to do it made my job worthwhile. Also, doing the O.A.R. work, I was able to vary what I did considerably. If I tired of work on the phone I might switch to letter writing, I might go over in the jail and interview clients, I might call volunteers or board members,etc. If I needed something mindless and peaceful to do I could always go run off some copies or work on the finances, "crunching" numbers, reconciling the in/out log book with the bank statement or the bank statement with the checkbook or figure monthly trial balances to see if they came out right. Sometimes I worked on this, the material you're reading! Having a "soul mate" like Jim Como working next door saved the day and I felt that I could not have spent the years I did at O.A.R. without him. Pretty much on the same "wave length", we joked endlessly. There was much to joke about. We considered writing down some of our observations to compile into a book like "Fine Points of Office Behavior" or "Tips for State Bureaucrats" containing such gems as, "If a piece of paperwork can be discontinued, let it die a quiet death. Do not show it around or call it to the attention of others lest it be resurrected" or, "Never leave unclaimed an achievement which may be attributed to oneself in the absence of the true achiever", or, "The secret of good statistics is, don't count them until/unless they represent successes", and so on.

In 1994 our bail project had slowed considerably (due to the conservative judge) but in this ending came a new beginning in that we could now work on the rehabilitation issues that had supposedly been our focus from the beginning. We had never been able to provide many services to our bail clients because we were too busy just getting them out and getting them to court. Now we hoped to better concentrate on the job preparation and finding that had always wanted to do. If there were one solution to the crime problems it was a job; the job holding ex-offender would be less likely to relapse. The fact that society did not provide enough jobs for our clients and ghetto dwellers in general? That was a larger societal issue I wasn't going to solve.

My revolutionary leftist friends, even my democratic socialist friends had answers for it.

O.A.R. became well known to inmates at the jail, for, if their bail was low enough, we offered freedom. We not only bailed inmates out, we tried to help them once they got out, with an emphasis on jobs. Trouble is, not many persons coming out of the jail were interested in jobs. Had they been so they would not have come to jail in the first place! The concept of daily work was not part of their thinking. As I got to know them better and better over the years I realized I should not necessarily think of them as clones of myself. They were an extremely "raggedy" lot. They lived hand to mouth existences with several addresses, temporary jobs and not much money. Many were further handicapped by lack of education and by addiction to alcohol or drugs. They came from situations of horrendous poverty and would return there. Most blamed others for their predicaments. Some lived in worlds of total fantasy. Most had very low self esteem.

Jim had hit upon the perfect metaphor for our clients as I constantly wondered why so few of our clients followed the directions I gave them to become members of our Jobs Club. They're prospectors, he said, looking for a job for them means going here and there expecting to find some nugget lying out on the ground, like winning the lotto. Like the majority of the forty niners, they are failures because nuggets just don't lie up on top of the ground. There are occasional strike it rich stories and that keeps the miners going. Some of the shrewder ones realize that by organizing others to work for them they can get a per cent of each one's earnings, or by building a bigger operation, with flumes and trestles, they stand a better chance of finding gold than by mere panning. Others start a grocery or liquor store to serve the miners. But our guys didn't even want to pan, Jim says.

We were like trash men, making our living handling stuff, our clients, nobody else wanted to deal with. They were society's throwaways, they were throwaways to themselves. They had "bought" society's definition of them, they regarded themselves as trash.

Prior to this metaphor, which was right on target I thought, I had described other reasons why our O.A.R. Jobs Club didn't succeed more: our clients do not really want to work, they are going through the motions. The clients are impatient and do not look down the road, realizing one starts small, works up. They are not motivated, do not think in terms of sacrifice, planning ahead. They don't have the education, the background. Clients may be resistant to our counseling ( we have "made it" and they have not). They do not speak our middle class language. They could only get lousy jobs and would rather just mess around or try to make big bucks illegally. Besides life on the "streets" was fun; the pull of the "streets" was one of the main reasons our clients did not "go straight" with a straight job!

The fact that we offered hope and freedom to inmates every day, regardless of the results, and got paid to do it made my job worthwhile. Also, doing the O.A.R. work, I was able to vary what I did considerably. If I tired of work on the phone I might switch to letter writing, I might go over in the jail and interview clients, I might call volunteers or board members,etc. If I needed something mindless and peaceful to do I could always go run off some copies or work on the finances, "crunching" numbers, reconciling the in/out log book with the bank statement or the bank statement with the checkbook or figure monthly trial balances to see if they came out right. Sometimes I worked on this, the material you're reading! Having a "soul mate" like Jim Como working next door saved the day and I felt that I could not have spent the years I did at O.A.R. without him.  Pretty much on the same "wave length", we joked endlessly. There was much to joke about. We considered writing down some of our observations to compile into a book like "Fine Points of Office Behavior" or "Tips for State Bureaucrats" containing such gems as, "If a piece of paperwork can be discontinued, let it die a quiet death. Do not show it around or call it to the attention of others lest it be resurrected" or, "Never leave unclaimed an achievement which may be attributed to oneself in the absence of the true achiever", or, "The secret of good statistics is, don't count them until/unless they represent successes", and so on.

This was an inmate who did not really need counselling- he knew what he was doing!!

In my 30 + years in "corrections" (of course I don't hang out in inmate areas after hours)  I had only one inmate come up to me, telling me I had helped him in the way I hoped (I always hoped I would meet some ex offender in a three piece suit who would tell me- Mr. Eberhardt- what you told me has made all the difference . This was in 2003 while working at Central Booking. This fellow said my referral to Prisoners' Aid had led to a job that he kept for three years (I think it was warehouse work). I asked him to put this in writing, but never got anything from him- maybe he had not learned how to write. But, as I told questioners, I did what I did because I liked doing good deeds, regardless of the results.  Also as of today- 2011- I run into an ex offender that we helped early on- now a successful apartment dwelling janitor- and he always thanks me.  I'm sure there have been other   success stories. A sad thing about programs is that you can never  really  measure how successful they are because you simply cannot follow ex-offenders once they hit the streets. I also feel that until the whole political system is changed, we running programs are sort of arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Still, the question nagged, had I grown up in the same  surroundings, perhaps I'd have had an equally poor self image. Maybe they weren't so different from me after all. Maybe they'd been dealt a worse hand of cards. It was too easy to succumb to stereotypes of class, of race.

History of OAR

To get back to my story, OAR became a very useful organization for the jail through out the 80's- let alone the rehabilitation part, but because of our bail fund. The Jail was overcrowded  and under a court order to keep the population down. OAR, with the help of some creative financing from then Mayor and then Governor Don Schaefer's right hand man - Charles Benton- (now he DID believe in restoration) we were able to bail people out just on a promise- especially 10% bails payable to the court- and we bailed people out ha n d over fist- even as many  as 50 in one week !. Once we bailed them out they had to, of course, show up for court, and we tried to help them- find them  jobs and conquer their addictions.

After OAR ended, and after my time out for depression- almost a year-  I  mustered up the courage to return and worked in such projects similar to OAR as the Home Monitoring Bail  Release Unit, or in the Inmate Services and Programs and Activities department.

dme

Central Booking- Eager St. entrance- Jim called it Battlestar Galactica- I think it's neo Egyptian or brutalism architecture :

One day some of the wardens are chatting in an office I pass through- reminiscing about the old days- 1960's, 70's. They talk about Warden Gordon Kamka who hired me, in a disparaging way- how the police had discovered persons committing new  crimes on their work release details- some who were supposed to be going to school and didn't- on a kind of honor system- others who were on work details with only one officer in charge who obviously couldn't watch them all. The Police Commissioner- Pomerleau- had lain in wait for the buses carrying these inmates back to the prisons and dramatically had them arrested as he sat on a horse like the Lone Ranger This led to the firing of my old friend Kamka. Without him, I had the thought- I wouldn't be here- and what if I interjected that? These guys would have looked at me  and said, well, maybe you shouldn't be here? Kamka should have exercised tighter control over these wards, no doubt.

There has been progress from the "old days" of corrections- now backs were in the majority of hirees, as in the predominantly black Baltimore they should be. And the guards- who now would be called officers- officers no longer solve problems with black  jacks. Or tie inmates up to the bars and then hold lighters under their feet - yes,. so the story goes).

When I think on persons who have been  kind over the years-  Gordon Kamka (now deceased),  Evelyn Wood primarily, Danny McCoy, Amin Sharif , Clarence Taylor, Cortez Rainey, Jim Como - all of the  staff who worked for me (but not necessarily "with me").... I think another joke that we in corrections know is to say of the institution where we work- "we work with some dangerous and crazy people- but I don't mean the inmates...I mean fellow staff". But I can say of the Baltimore City Detention Center (BCDC) that black white relations were always very good. If you wanted me to get comically negative I could go into stories about some of the Wardens and Commissioners  and Supervisors who somehow got promoted.

A big city Jail like ours can draw upon the City's resources. For me, over the years, this has meant working with the best rehabilitation, re-entry programs and staff of all sorts- whether it was life skills, self esteem, education, jobs training, addiction counselling, yoga, stress or anger management, writing class etc.,  and that has been a great priviledge. I have worked with inspired motivational speakers, gospel groups, preachers, comedians, etc. etc.

In 2011, a year after retirement, Cortez and Evelyn and I got together and among other reminiscences- heard more from Evelyn aboput the many cats she had cared for and befriended and adopted from the jail's Eager St. parking lot. Evelyn had 8 at her home in north Baltimore- and, as she (and Cortez ) described their characters it became clear to me that we are not that removed from our animal friends. Even the sizeable parking lot rats undoubtedly had character. E had taken several to her vet for extensive care- operations- she- who had been the only one concerned with me in my depression- had definitely saved cat lives off that parking lot and it had a community similar to the community of employees at the jail- if that could be called such. and she was a conservative!!!! hmmmm  Of course- saving human lives was as easy!

Letter re : Whitney Houston and addiction…2/13/12 originally to “Entertainment Tonight

 

Thank you for the tributes- to me, the protestor who spent a lifetime counselling addicts and am an addict meself- i feel the media will not cover this in any depth- as they did not Michael...

Nothing but platitudes and cliches: "o, she was ready for a comeback", "haunting tributes at the grammys" etc.

Actually, I am proud to be an addict in the sense Baudelaire meant- when he said- "be addicted to something- even to virtue...but...be addicted!" In other words- be passionate.

To a degree, the addict, like poet Sylvia Plath- developes a skill for dying! The addict can be a series of relapses getting worse. Let's not plaster things over with boosterism, shall we?

Do they interview counselor's at Whitney's rehab clinics to find out what demons she had?- why did she keep on changing color (as did Michael) which they will not cover-having to change hair styles once a week, her appearance once a year?? a chameleon?

Do they interview other artists that cld share light- especially the ones that have had similar problems? do they interview the dealers?

I, (and other persons on this site who have "been there") cld cover this death better than the media- i think- agree? disagree?

Certainly the money and the enablers it buys- plays a big part- but what- in Whitney- was so painful that she had to self medicate? in Michael? still a big mystery. Especially when they could buy the world and had big talent?

Does it have to do with upbringing? (I should think.)

Of course- America? that's not covered by most media either. Especially the dark side!

Years in the Salt Mines

This describes in a bit more detail- some of the years spent developing Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR), etc.- roughly 1977- 87....

In general, I had separated the photos I had of my work, with the prison issues, into scrapbooks which were separate from the personal scrapbooks. I entitled these "The Public Years". I couldn't wait until retirement to change the title to "The Pubic Years", for, due to my OCD, this would not be possible while I was working, i.e. on stage, performing.

The way I had it figured, I would be able to retire at 2003 when I'd be 62 with the state pension amounting to $15,000 a year, but the greater likelihood was that I would hold out until 2006, when, at age 65, the per year amount would rise to $18,000. Then I would also be able to draw social security and my pension and my 40? fund.  I could retire w full benefits but am enjoying my job and its money and have no intention of stopping!)  Back then, I think I wished I could stop. As I write this it is Aug. of 2010- and I cannot stop- why should I? My job is fun, rewarding. I wouldn't want to stop in this recession/depression while capitalism is screwing so many, would I? As of now as I figure it I wld make abt half of what I am making were I to retire- $30 K roughly + Social Security. (I finally retired on 10/29/10, after passing several other dates when I thought I would retire). When I retired I was getting $1900 approx a month from Social Security and 1600 from the City pension system- I received a check for unused "annual leave" for 10 k! I had saved approx 100 k and had  about the same in my 407 (is it) k w Nationwide Retirement Systems.

Of all things- a Pardon! In 1983, I went to the trouble of applying for and receiving a "full and unconditional" pardon from, of all persons, Ronald Reagan or at least his pardon attorney in the Justice Department (by the signature it was apparently Rudolph Guiliani, later to become mayor of NYC). Naturally I didn't breathe a word of this to peace movement friends who might have castigated me as a sell out. Indeed, it was the feds who should have asked us for a pardon, were there any way to do so. Maybe they could have paid us reparations as they had certain Indian tribes (usually too little). But, given my job at the jail where one could get in trouble as an ex-offender, the move was prudent. It was one less excuse they could use to fire me, and it came in handy  not in getting the job in the first place but later when the state took over the jail from the city in 1991. Ex-offenders were not usually allowed to work in "correctional" settings.

Obtaining a pardon meant filling out a lengthy application with my old friends, the F.B.I. It gave me pleasure to walk through the vast room of agents at their desks at their suburban  office in Woodlawn on my way to finally receiving approval. I was also pleased that many friends in corrections acted as references. I guess I reluctantly felt a bit of pride at this "reinstatement" into society even though I knew it to be wrong. I wanted to be "in"/ "of" the world, I wanted out, I wanted to have my cake and to eat it too. I also wanted a pay check!

I had also filed with the Justice Department to see the files they had kept on me, under the Freedom of Information Act. I did not receive the heavily "redacted" (such a ridiculous word) (i.e. many lines blacked out) files until 1998.

From 1976 on I had been working as Director of the Baltimore office of O.A.R.. Jay Worrall founded Offender Aid and Restoration (O.A.R.) in the late sixties after a riot at the Virginia State penitentiary at Richmond. A Quaker by background, Jay had done some work for poverty programs in the sixties and had the idea of matching volunteers with offenders with hopes of rehabilitating them. But, as often pointed out, habilitation (meaning to obtain reasonable success in society) was a better word than rehabilitation for in most instances our clients had never had a habilitation to fall from or to be returned to!

I heard about O.A.R. while working with the Prison Moratorium in D.C. and I started the Baltimore office in '76 about the time I was breaking up with Louise. I was a bit uncomfortable with the Moratorium work because it was so impractical. Here we were, Brian Willson (the person later run over by a train) and I arguing that no new prisons should be built, that alternatives to incarceration were the best answer. Yet plainly new prisons were going to be built, in fact, an argument could be made that they should be built in certain states where notorious old rat hole prisons needed to be replaced and where prisoners were crammed in like sardines. Calling our group the "Moratorium" seemed the most negative approach, putting all the emphasis on a halt, a stop to more building which was not going to take place. Why not call the group "Alternatives", on the positive side?  In a similar vein, some complained about the "Offender" in O.A.R. as too negative. Why be offensive, why stress the negative?

Brian Willson left, he whose legs or leg were cut off  by the train that ran over him-a later protest- me on right- the hirsute ones! He actually tried to stop an on coming munitions train!! Now- this is the kind of non violent activist to be prized!!

Work for the Moratorium and then O.A.R. in the criminal justice field didn't have the elan of the movements for civil rights and peace but it helped me find a paying job. Besides, as I got older, I had less energy for elan. Faye Honey Knopp with the Prison Reform Education and Action Project, Al Bronstein with the ACLU National Prison Project and Milton Rector of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency were exemplary organizers in progressive criminal justice organizations; they and their offices had inspired me as I worked for the Moratorium. O.A.R. was also a national movement with as many as twenty five employees at the Charlottesville, Va. headquarters in the late seventies and early eighties. O.A.R. organizers traveled to start new branches, but the concept never got past the Mississippi River and O.A.R. shrank through the late eighties from some 20 offices to nine in the early nineties. This was partly due to decreased revenues from the federal government and the more conservative Republican regimes of Reagan reflecting "get tough" stances on crime and "lock 'em up and throw away the key" attitudes about prisoners which were at large in society.

I had participated in the great movements of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s- civil rights, peace, womens and now- criminal justice. Although not of the stature of the other movements- the movement for restorative (or transformative or redemptive) justice, for alternatives to incarceration et al, was important nonetheless. At the time I started the Baltimore O.A.R. office one article quoted me, "`I've just moved over to another movement', the former civil rights and peace activist said".

The same government whose policies I had so loudly protested (having crapped out of one of its more idealistic programs - the Peace Corps) was now helping me through C.E.T.A., an off shoot of Johnson's Poverty Program. My civil rights and peace actions had, in way, created the Poverty Program. C.E.T.A. (which was intended for the lower class) supported me as I set up O.A.R. It seems that my life has been one closely associated with governments - federal, city state. Life is full of contradictions - President Kennedy had done a good thing with the Peace Corps as had Johnson with the Poverty Program- and on the other hand the one killed soldiers at the Bay of Pigs and the others had soldiers killed in Vietnam. Kennedy lived by the sword- who cares if he died by it- what goes around, comes around.  Probably all Presidents deserve to die by the sword for the things they've done!

Ironically, conservatives who sponsored get tough on crime measures tended to praise volunteerism as the rugged individual way to solve problems (as opposed to solutions by big government). But they never came up with funding for volunteerism in criminal justice; they expected citizens to volunteer and some did but never very many unless there was someone paid to recruit train and maintain them. In 2001 (or was it 2?) O.A.R. of Arlington actually won a Points of Light award- the program that either the Reagan or Bush Sr. regime had founded.

It is all very well for the person who has "made it" to sit back and criticize others for not "pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps". Given human nature and capitalist society, we are constantly pulled down or undermined from social achievement. A creative new way of governing must be formed and it will take a small group leading many to do it (insertion of opinion by Dave).

Republicans would rail against government programs without realizing that programs needed to be improved, not eliminated. You might "turn the offender around" then he or she left prison only to find that no jobs are available. Programs sponsored by Democrats were inefficient, more and better were needed. But, as always, underneath it all, revolutionary change is needed for the context of capitalism would always undermine the reforms in the long run. The very foundations of our society were rotten!

Having founded the branch office of O.A.R. in Baltimore, having worked as Director since that founding in 1976, imagine my surprise to find that, in approximately 1983, I would have to take a Civil Service exam to qualify for the city of Baltimore Position of Social Program Administrator to continue in my own position- (since I had been a C. E. T. A. employee when we started and had been added (by progressive Warden, Gordon Kamka, to the City of Baltimore payroll),  that others would be taking the test, that I could flunk it and be out of my very own job - the job I had created! In preparation for the taking of this test- which consisted of multiple choice questions of a highly ambiguous sort such as: A good manager always: A. Runs a good office, B, treats his secretaries well, or C. Treats employees fairly.  I took a practice test and did indeed receive a failing mark. I also read perhaps the most boring book I have ever seen- Manual for Managers and Administrators (or some such title). I tried to pull some strings, calling the then Fiscal Officer (Czar) for the City- who had helped me get the City job along with Gordon Kamka- a very powerful advisor to then Mayor Donald Schaefer- by name, Charles Benton (he was the money man behind Schaefer’s throne and was used to many shadowy deals (the Sunpapers even spoke of a shadow government). But was also a fundamentalist Christian and friend of one of our first volunteers- Gil Hurtt- seems both had had alcohol problems earlier on in their lives)  Benton told me this was out of his hands- that he too had had to take a civil service test. When the real test came I found myself down at the same federal Post Office building in which the blood pouring trial had taken place, in a room with some 25 others- one of whom- Gwen Oliver- was already working for me.

It turns out that Benton was O.A.R.’s  (thus me and Jim) protector from '80 when we went on Baltimore City payroll up until the time (1997) when

The Jail's financial officer during this period later confided in me that the Jail officials had cut us out of their budget every year but then realized that our protector (Benton) would put us back in. It turns out that Barry Griebler, whom I never would have thought of, had also helped us survive. Which goes to show that some times you have friends you don't realize you have!

One Saturday morning the notice came in the mail to my house on Ellerslie Avenue- I had passed the test for Administrator, and thus could keep the job I already had!!

O.A.R.'s idea of one to one volunteers was not necessarily an idea whose time had come. It was not even, I came to think, that productive an idea but it did catch on for awhile. It was a quaint, old fashioned and charming concept, that one person could make a difference in another person's life, like a friend helping a friend. It smacked of old fashioned virtues - pitching in and helping for free, helping a neighbor build a barn as do the Amish farmers in Pennsylvania. It made common sense and yet it involved huge difficulties of timing. To make it work you had to find an offender at the moment when that person was willing to change his/her life style, yet offenders are notoriously self destructive. Too often offenders fulfilled the prophesies that they were born to lose. Offenders have low self esteem. If that wasn't enough, you then had to make a good match between this sad offender and a volunteer who was often from a "classier" background. The O.A.R. volunteers were also hampered by prison visiting rooms which were not settings conducive for counseling to take place. They were crowded and loud and at the Baltimore jail our volunteer's client was barely visible or audible through a wire mesh that separated him from the visitor. Either because they distrusted the volunteers or were trying to harass them, security had O.A.R. visits placed in the high risk wing of the visitors' room; we were not allowed to use the general visiting area or the attorney's booths. Generally, security personnel at the jail couldn't believe volunteers were coming to see inmates altruistically, only to help them; they thought there must be some ulterior motive. Also, inmates always promised the moon to get a volunteer or to get into a program when they were in prison. They would do anything to kill time. Once they got out it was a different story, all bets were off on what direction the offender would take; it was usually back into the same ruts with the same peers of bad influence. Nearing retirement in 2009, I became even more jaundiced about volunteerism and the possibility of finding an inmate at just the right moment for just the right volunteer and having any kind of progress take place between themn in the unreal atmosphere of a jail visiting room or cell block or dorm. Inmates tell you what they want you to hear. Volunteering may do a lot for the concerned individual- but the inmate really needs help once he or she becomes an ex- offender and is outside "on the streets" where the "rubber meets the road".

This jaundiced (or more cautious) view of volunteerism came to me slowly. At the start of my work with O.A.R., I supported volunteerism strongly. Luckily, there were persons of influence in Baltimore who agreed, mainly the city jail's most progressive warden, Gordon Kamka, and the city's finance director, Charles Benton. Mr. Benton had a foster child who had trouble with the law and was a very religious believer in prison ministry. With help from them, I was able to set O.A.R. afloat. We set up shop in the basement of Christ Church Episcopal at St. Paul and Chase where I was soon joined by another, very able ex-offender, Jim Como. With money from the CETA program (money actually intended for poorer recipients than Jim and myself), we were able to support ourselves until we were put on the city payroll. Unfortunately, our patron, Gordon, didn't last very long in the criminal justice system. He later became Commissioner of Corrections in Maryland, made powerful enemies who didn't like his many programs to rehab ex-offenders, and had to step down when the police arrested some of the Division's work release inmates for committing other crimes.

“The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes.”  - Pema Chodron- a Buddhist nun.  Sent to me by C’s sister, Barbara;  to which I responded- “absolutes bother me- except that war absolutely SUCKS. Pema’s thought is a great one, I agree, but only to a degree. It’s not good to say “the only reason”…some times some one is a horrible ass hole whom we know will just drag us down and we are un confused and “brave enough” to say, “I don’t want to ‘open my heart’ to this person”…for GOOD reason!

Poo poo volunteerism as one might, realizing that the most important thing is to volunteer for a revolution that would change society completely- away from capitalism to democratic socialism and communism- yet and still- there was something to be said for volunteerism in the sense that Jesus said “What you did for the least of these, you did for me”, or the concept of tikkun ha- olam in Judaism, i.e. “world repair- mending the world with justice and love and shared suffering” (this quoted from Bruce Blackman, President of the Board of Directors for O.A.R. of Arlington, Virginia, or from my old friend Rumi: “How can I, or anyone else, ever cease being astounded that He whom nothing can contain is contained in the heart?” Again from Blackman: “Wisdom and compassion are like the wings of a bird. Both wings are needed”, and Einstein: “The illusion that we are separate is an optical illusion of consciousness.”

I grew to believe that, "Compassion has nothing to do with achievement at all. It is spacious and very generous. When a person develops real compassion, he or she is uncertain whether s/he is being generous to others or to him/herself because compassion is environmental generosity, without direction, without "for me" and without "for them". It is filled with joy, spontaneously existing joy, constant joy in the sense of trust, in the sense that joy contains tremendous wealth, richnesss....Compassion automatically invites you to relate with people, because you no longer regard people as a drain on your energy. They recharge your energy, because in the process of relating with them you acknowledge your wealth, your richness. So, if you have difficult tasks to perform, such as dealing with people or life situations, you do not feel you are running out of resources...There is no feeling of poverty at all in this approach to life." Chogyam Trunga quoted in David Cooper's Entering the Sacred Mountain.

It is hard imagining being this nice to a Hitler, or to some of the people I knew at the jail. But I don't think a Chogyam Trunga or a Ghandi or a Bo Lozoff (an American Buddhist whose writings and prison work impressed me deeply) would necessarily call upon you to treat a Hitler nicely.

The guru's thoughts made my job worthwhile. If you looked for success a la a production line of automobiles, you simply would not find it. One day in 1995 I counseled a despondent HIV positive client about getting a job. He told me there were times when he just felt like giving up. I had just come back from a 1500 mile trip up to my brother's wedding and my son's graduation from Fordham (and trying to deal with my son's depression). I had a vision of all the run down factories I had seen from the New Jersey Turnpike or from the ferry to Ellis Island. I thought of the determination of the immigrants, the desperate job situation around me. I thought of job counselors up and down the east coast trying like me to be positive, trying to urge clients not to give up hope in the face of seemingly hopeless situations. It almost brought tears to my eyes. I imagined other areas in the world, the third world, Mexico where children were at the very moment approaching cars to tap on the window in hopes of a peso, where children lived in old sewer pipes or tried to commit suicide. What, really, is the use? But the Trunga quote always cheered me up.

Luckily, by the time that the national O.A.R. movement started to fade in the mid eighties, offices such as ours, in order to survive, had branched out into other needed services like half-way houses or employment training and placement, or managing sentences to community service. Fewer and fewer jurisdictions were ready to pay for volunteer programs only. Criminal justice funders wisely wanted results! The results of volunteerism were very hard to measure.

O.A.R. survived the leaner, more conservative years in Baltimore because we had started a bail fund in 1982 and got more and more low bail, low risk defendants out on bail, thus providing the city with a service it increasingly needed: reduction of overcrowding at the jail. Since the 70's, the jail had been under a federal court order due to a suit filed by an inmate. The court ordered that population be kept to certain levels and the city could point to us as a positive solution. The same federal court that incarcerated me was now saving my job. Between 1982 and 1994 when our bail project slowed down, I heard of only one bail fund bigger than ours, Philadelphia's Peoples' Bail Project (ended in 1993). We had devised a truly innovative alternative to incarceration and had, as far as I knew, raised more money for our fund than any other project in the country. By 1994 we had bailed out over 8,000 persons from the jail. The figures might be debatable but we could claim to have saved the city and then the state, which had taken over command of the jail, $9 million, five hundred thousand (8,000 x's $40, the per day cost for a resident of the jail x's 30 days, the average pre trial stay). One supervisor arrogantly told me not to use such figures because all it really cost per day to keep an inmate was the paltry amount needed for the usually bad inmate chow and the electricity to run the light bulb in his/her cell. But if you figured in the salaries of the guards, the cost of constructing a prison cell and bed, etc., etc., etc., well then maybe it was 30 or 40 dollars a day. The lawyer for the inmates in the suit, Frank Dunbaugh who was on the O.A.R. Advisory Board, told me our work was worth even more. In the early 90's we usually had about 150 persons out on bail on a given day, the equivalent of a 150 bed facility, a sort of jail without walls, a true alternative to incarceration. Frank reminded me how much such a facility might cost to construct and maintain. (as of 2010- Frank is alive and well!)

At one point we had a volunteer who worked for Deloitte and Touche- the exteemed accounting firm-and he helped me set up books using double column bookkeeping- it was as close to capitalism as I ever came! I had set up a non prfit organization with a Board of Directors to whom I was responsible. Of course it was the City of Baltimore, and then, regrettably, perhaps- the State of Md. (after 1991 when they took over the Jail from the City) - who held the reins!

Some few states had gone as far as to end the practice of bail bonding, leaving it to the courts to establish proper monetary amounts that a defendant should pay- or 10 % payable to the court and returnable upon completion of the sentencing) or, of course, recognizance which meant the defendant gets out free upon his or her promise to return to court.

Also, our FTA (failure to appear at court) rate was respectable. It ran around 12% initially, but our bounty hunter (whom I euphemistically called a "fugitive apprehension specialist") was able to reduce to under 5% by catching our absconds.

Also, credit must be given to Jay Levenson, who became President of the O.A.R. Board of Directors in '86 or '87. J's brilliance and commitment pulled us through many a scrape. All of our presidents of the board had been special people in my mind. J was even more special, that rare combination of a business executive and socially concerned individual.... (see bit on Worrall Memorial service J and I attend in 2010)

I must give credit to my partner, Jim Como, for coming up with the idea of the "bail fund", (we argued about this endlessly although I think that I had read of the Philadelphia one to which we paid a visit). I would tease Jim that he owed his life to me for having hired him and he would retort that, by inventing the bail project he had actually "carried" me and that God knows where I'd have been without him! Partly true! (He parted ways w me for some unkown reason in 2006 or so- a very tragic occurrence in that we had been "best buddies!).

Unfortunately, under increasing pressure from the federal court, our City of Baltimore masters in 1989 began to abuse us, whipping us on to get more and more persons out on bail per week until we had one week where we had posted bail for 60 persons. At such a pace with three persons on staff, there was no way we could monitor or provide rehabilitative services to our clients or bail out worthy clients. Also, FTAs (failure to appear at court) were bound to increase, thus tarnishing our reputation with the judges, on whom we relied for low bails and 10 per cent bails. The jail's reputation (which had never been high) in general suffered during this frantic period of overcrowding. On one of the new programs, home monitoring, that kept track of the defendant by calling him/her at home, it came to light that the home address an inmate had given was a phone booth next to a tavern.

With the numbers of defendants we were getting out, any close scrutiny or coverage by the press of our operation would have brought forth similar stories. Luckily, as they so often do, the press missed this story. Along with our Board of Directors we fought the pressure we were receiving to attain too high a number of releases, drawing up criteria to accept only certain inmates, reserving the right to reject such inmates as those with handgun charges or long records of Ftas, etc. If the charge was battery on a woman, we would get the victim's permission before bailing the defendant. We didn't realize it at the time, but, abused as we were, at least we were needed. Later, in 1994 we faced the opposite problem when a judge who didn't like our method of pledging bails challenged it and shot it down, reducing us to a scant 10 releases a week rather than our usual 20. We were shocked to discover no one cared, no one rushed to our support and we worried whether our jobs would continue. Luckily, by the same token of lack of support, no one cared to fire us, they pretty much let us alone, for the time being. Also, in the nineties, the Republican congress made sure that federal courts no longer enforced the previously ordered population caps and other standards.

Of course OAR also survived yearly attempts to cut us from the Jail budget by the warden (I later found out from the chief financial officer) because people thought that Charles Benton (Mayor Schaefer’s “shadow government” man) would just put us back in.

We thought of ways to deal with a fellow employee who is rude and defensive because they've done something wrong when their supervisor wouldn't help you with them, i.e. discipline them because he needed them or was himself afraid of them. We began a list of practical tips like "wetting your fingers helps to separate out pieces of paper in a stack". This volume might join the shelf beside my other book,  Dave's Gems of Insight. The inmates we dealt w were bad enough- fellow staff members could be considerably worse. There were so many who were crabby, who took out their own pain on others-  the classic “border guard” mentality. Later in 2007 a female guard- who has been nasty to me before- in the lobby of Central Booking- will not let me pass thru because my (crummy little) state phone is “not on the list”. I should realise that this is only a “set-up” for her amusement.  But as I get older I have less tolerance for such rudeness- (she may be right “by the book.”) All right, I’ll walk around. I can think of a word for this…but I’ll save it and give it to some one else”.  Or the secretary in the Warden’s office who, when I come in in the morning, and jokingly say “Got anything for me”, says “Good morning!” balefully- to say that I should offer a greeting of “Good morning” before proceeded to any thing else. “

My supervisor, Ms. Wood, tells me- “she has a lot of health problems.” But does that give her  the right to take it out on her fellow employees? (Actually, Mrs. Wood was a wonderful supervisor- very easy on me in the end, yes, crabby sometimes, but, in the main- extremely fair- and, for a conservative, surprisingly intelligent. I give her credit!) She had me pegged as "abrupt"- and she was right!  She and my broker, Mark McGrath, were the only conservatives who were smart, in my very opinionated opinion (was I always right?)

Another humorous book I could write? Dave’s Guide to Bureaucratic Meetings. How some people love to listen to themselves talk. How many say stuff as a ruse or a feint, to avoid blame or to divert work onto some one else. People become quite adept at assessing where a meeting conversation is going and how it may impact them adversely. Meetings are often like a dodge ball match or a game of ping pong. The tangents people go off upon, the irrelevant, the unnecessary, occasionally, even, the purposefully disruptive.

Scott Adams- the creator of the comic strip "Dilbert" described it wonderfully in a column entitled "The heady thrill of having nothing to do" (8/2011):  "my period of greatest creative output was during my corporate years when every meeting felt like a pl;ay date with coma patients. I would sit in long meetings, pretending to pay attention while writing computer code in my mind and imagining the anatomically inspired nicknames I would assign to my boss after I won the lottery. I too spent a lot of time in meetings....carefully rehearsing the lines I would use, like a character in a play

Jim came up with many sage witticisms about our clients and our work, such as, "always avoid a fellow employee in trouble. for a drowning, thrashing man has a tendency to pull the rescuer down with him".  Jim's maxim for our situation was, "a thrashing man attracts no friends".  He liked to remind me that the jail was like the army in "No Time for Sargeants", where one character tells the other that the army is "like a big lake":  the general's in his canoe, and the lieutenant's in his and the colonel's in his and the sargeant's in his and you've got to remember that any wave you make rocks everybody".

Another maxim along the same lines:  "the person rocking the boat is not at the oars".  If this wasn't the golden rule of bureaucracies or most operations, I don't know what- even revolutionaries sometimes probably don't want to "rock the boat" upon occasion .  Jim called the jail the SU SU place of employment, meaning what the employee is supposed to do is, Show Up and Shut Up. One great tactic for employees of any bureaucracy or state government is simply to promise to do a thing- a task, let's say, and then just not do it. The person expecting the task is moved to another department, or he or she forgets what they told you to do! My girl friend says, "very cynical".

Most people, I observed, do not enjoy their work. Many feel lucky to have work at all, let alone enjoy it. There were days when I wanted to quit but then I would think about the money or the very few rewarding jobs anywhere. I would imagine working on an assembly line, I would imagine the stiff competition for any slightly creative job. I would imagine living in India and picking through a dump for my sustenance. Even on the dullest days, a client would appear and make it all worthwhile. Or I would dream of an early retirement in 1996 (a totally impractical plan which of course never was implemented) (I retired in 2010).

There were too many times on the job when I was simply glad to spend a day free of malicious or unthinking meddling in our office from above by supervisors, glad not to have encountered some brutal, traumatizing unannounced directives or change of plans. I might be glad to spend a night free of tossing and turning as I worried about some hideous meeting scheduled to discuss a reprimand or to subvert O.A.R.'s purposes.

There were times when the whole idea of a job was annoying. Was there ever a steamier, happier pile of merry mother f   ing horse double mother f  ing sh  t than the concept of the "world o work"?  O yes, it needed to be rewarding, it needed to be quote "meaningful". Mostly it just needed to be remunerative, i.e. to put it plain, it needed to be a m f ing paid po sish shun, you dig? Maybe Mozart or Bach enjoyed their work while composing (I knew this from writing poetry), maybe persons with an identifiable talent like singers might enjoy getting into a role, at least in the early part of the run before it became boring, maybe certain farmers who loved the soil, as the cliche went, had moments while digging or plowing or scything or cutting when the weather was beautiful or they had the feeling of doing something as meaningful as taking care of crops which would later turn into food on the table; but for most of us, work was, to often, to be honest, a "drag", a pain in the ass. Of course, lounging around home or going to the beach all day was a drag too. Let's face it, life, life itself, in a way, is a drag. We're just going to have to wait around for the whistle at the end of the day. As the saying of the time went, "Life's a bitch and then you die".

Poem for workers: You want the dough?/ You lift that hoe./Go down the row/ You (bleepin) schmoe!

Prayer for workers:

Dear Lord, please find a way to make the saying "What goes around, comes around" come true, /because we observe that the wicked often rip and run with no thought of punishment whatsoever,/ they do their bad things with impunity;/ find a way to punish those in positions of power who are cutting corners for bad ends or who inflict pain on underlings for no good reason, using such phrases, when the fire the subordinates as, /"This hurts me more than it does you." Lord, please punish these a  holes mightily!

Help us to identify the details of evil from the mass of euphemisms and bad language used to disguise and cover up, teach us to look beneath the surface and make connections always, so that we may expose and draw forth the evil doers. Especially teach this to all media since they are too stupid to see it or they see it plainly and choose to be on the wicked side.

Help us to find real ways to change the world for the better, not phony buzz word advertising and Madison Avenue ways.

Of course, if you wanted to understand "the workers", you needed to study:  Karl Marx, Trotsky, Debs, Muste, Dobbs, Cannon, Mortimer, Hoffa, etc., etc. which most Americans had not!

When, on many mornings, it was hard getting started (impossible without coffee), I had thoughts saved up to ponder which assured me that I was in the right place, that kept me from quitting. Such thoughts as, next Wednesday is pay day, or, it's past 12 noon on a Wednesday and I'm "over the hump" or, compared to so much of the world, starving, homeless, etc., I am truly fortunate.

Just for laughs one day I made up a list of these things that kept me going: I'd been employed at the same post since 1977 while others all around me went from one position to another (as had my own father). The phrase Martin Luther King had used in a speech that was so ironic given his short life often rang in my ears: "longevity, longevity has it's place" being part of society; getting the pay check; having something to do during day/ otherwise I'd have been bored (and I wasn't about to spend the whole day up in my room writing), I wasn't that feeble yet!.

Think of the people in Bengladesh; I'm saving $; I'm still part of a movement;  Louise might feel of me: "he's still unstable" but  I do have a job; were he alive, my father could be proud of me, my consoling thought processes went on and on, ad infinitum.

One nice thing about O.A.R. was, of all things coming from me I thought, tradition. Yes, tradition...the beauty of being part of an organization from close to its inception, knowing the persons who started it, seeing co-directors and other staff members at regular meetings (the national organization held meetings in the fall and in spring an annual Delegate Assembly). It was easy to see the fragility of life, the everlasting changes life puts you through; just to have been a little tiny part of an established "institution"...like my prep school Mt. Hermon or college - Oberlin.

In a romantic mood, say at the fall staff meeting where I might travel to the Quality Motel on Rte. 50 in Arlington for the umpty millionth time and see how Pat Smith from Charlottesville had changed, didn't that count for something? These kind of thoughts usually took place more in memory than they did at the time of the meetings, but in the passage of time, to be still doing much the same thing year after year, to see some of the same people amidst the changing leaves...it reminded me of that lyric theme in Brahms 1st Piano Concerto (have I mentioned this before, the same theme reminds me of lost love), a theme which speaks of time gone, nostalgic reveries, the mutandis tempi? theme so beloved of poets. One of the fall staff meetings took place just west of Wheeling, West Va. in the town of St. Claire, Ohio and has stuck in my mind for a couple of reasons. It turns out that one gal I regretted not having flirted with for several years had been fired.. and I later found out, to rub salt in the wounds, that she had been fired for f  king with another staffer , or inmate? in the jail!

I went on this early morning run with Pat which took us through a cemetery up a steep hill.  The cemetery was precipitously perched, overlooking the Ohio River; there was a sorrowful quality to it, a quality of mournful meaninglessness. I was particularly struck by the cheap plastic flowers at some graves and the thought that these small town Americans hadn't much to commemorate them in death any more than they had in life. What had they done, had there been anything special about them? It wasn't likely, and if so for them, how different could it be for me? It was a graveyard reminiscent of Robinson's Spoon River Anthology.  The Indians before the settlers, where were they buried? what record of them? The piled up eons of generations and where was it leading, the fruitlessness!

This was not a golden, nostalgic memory, it had a scarier, Poe-like, forever we-are-dead feel...it made you want to live life to the fullest.

Anyone For A Tort?

Worse than the bureaucrats and the managers, of which I was one, allegedly, were the lawyers. One with the state felt that it was a conflict of interest for the city, then state to be incarcerating persons and at the same time paying persons-us- to bail them out.

Worse than certain sadistic jail guards and bureaucrats and even lawyers (if that were possible) was the bounty hunter. Sometimes the clients we had bailed out failed to appear for court. Because of that we had hired a bounty hunter/ skip chaser (I jokingly referred to him as a "fugitive apprehension specialist"), a Mr. Wade Adams. This pot bellied, hill billy type was not even a half step higher than the inmate mentality, but for a period he did some good work for us. We knew his tactics to be crude, he told us about keeping captured absconders overnight in his van, or of chaining clients to fences while he had other business to which to attend. We should have taken all that as warning, but, while chasing a certain client for us this goon had occasion to pry a window fan out of a second story window and then, as he walked down her hallway, to surprise the client's mother who was nude in the tub. He then identified himself as a sheriff and brow beat the woman, etc., etc. Unfortunately for him and us, the lady, Ms. H,  had a relative who worked for the sheriff, and she found out that our friend was not a sheriff, and he was charged with breaking and entering and impersonating a sheriff. For this he was found guilty at the District Court level, appealed to the Circuit Court where he got a probation before judgement.

Apparently the aggrieved lady had been waiting for a "suitcase" and easily found a shyster lawyer to team up with and the result was a law suit against the bounty hunter, O.A.R., me and the state for three hundred thousand compensatory damages and one million in punitive, even alleging in Count X, "Loss of Consortium", i.e., "Plaintiffs were husband and wife at the time of the occurrence referred to in this Complaint. At the time of the occurrence they had been married thirty seven years. The intentional and outrageous conduct of ( ) upon first encountering ( ) naked in her bedroom, and his insistence upon further searching the ( ) home after being notified that ( ) (the original client) was incarcerated, all the while being belligerent and intentionally terrifying, more specifically described in Count XII, caused injury to the marital relationship of the Plaintiffs, including a loss of society, affection, assistance, companionship, and loss of sexual relations." This incredible claim was listed as "loss of consortium".

The case did not come to court until March of 1995 as the woman trundled from fake psychiatrist to Dr. fabricating her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (her earlier diagnosis was a charming Anxiety Disorder with Mixed Emotional Features, an ailment that I shared with her). It turned out that there was an industry of thieves who knew each other and helped each other trying to make money on these types of cases.

The shyster lawyer saw O.A.R. (because of our insurance) and the state as a "deep pocket" for damages, a possible cash cow to milk.

So we we were forced to proceed down the tort road, undergoing much strategizing, depositions and a mountain of paperwork until we arrived at the first hearing in the matter, a preliminary settlement conference. At this, a young lawyer, in a volunteer capacity, sought to bring the sides together. It was fascinating to see the process, as our lawyer made an offer of $10,000 compared to the other side's request of $90,000 (by this time the punitive damages had been dropped). After consulting with out insurance, our lawyer raised the settlement offer to $20,000 and the shyster lawyer huddled with the aggrieved plaintiffs out in the hallway.  Apparently he couldn't get them to budge. The probably saw the suit as a lottery in which they might strike it rich.

Next stop was a hearing for summary judgment at which a judge heard our arguments that the charges against us be dismissed. He heard us out for several hours, then, after several days, granted us nothing. This pathetic judge died soon after, maybe at the time he was too sick to deal with cases very competently. Our main arguments were that I was immune as a state employee, that I was immune as a worker for a non-profit organization; that the real culprit was the bounty hunter, W A and that he acted on behalf of his company, not the state nor O.A.R.;  that W A had acted properly in his capacity as a bounty hunter (they are allowed even more leeway than police to capture their prey); that we could not foresee what he did, and that we did not control his actions nor order him to do it (as a matter of fact we forbade him such actions in the contract); that Mrs. H, the plaintiff, was not (and had never been) suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Our lawyer put it well: "The plaintiffs allege that as a result of these incidents, Mrs. Horton is suffering from a psychiatric disorder known to occur in combat veterans, rape victims and Nazi concentration camp survivors. To the extent that Mrs. Horton suffers from any discomfort or anxiety, the O.A. R. defendants submit that it is a result of having (1) two sons in jail; (2) a daughter with Multiple Sclerosis in an abusive relationship; (3) high blood pressure; (4) diabetes and (5) a desire to perpetuate litigation." Happily I realized she had the life that she deserved. Why not throw her a little money in her misery. Wasn't this a sort of redistribution of the wealth we lefties were always calling for?

Had the shyster lawyer argued from a left viewpoint, I could have sympathized. But this shyster's main points were that I was acting within the scope of my employment, that I directed and controlled Wade Adams, that I was negligent and should have foreseen difficulties, that I should have known that Woody Horton was in the jail, etc.

The punitive charges were dropped and the counts against us were finally reduced to four, negligence, trespass to land, trespass to chattels and loss of consortium, i.e., "Plaintiffs were husband and wife at the time of the occurrence referred to in this Complaint. At the time of the occurrence they had been married thirty seven years. The intentional and outrageous conduct of ( ) upon first encountering ( ) naked in her bedroom, and his insistence upon further searching the ( ) home after being notified that ( ) (the original client) was incarcerated, all the while being belligerent and intentionally terrifying, more specifically described in Count XII, caused injury to the marital relationship of the Plaintiffs, including a loss of society, affection, assistance, companionship, and loss of sexual relations."

In our favor we had the bounty hunter, Wade, sign a contract holding us harmless and proscribing "violent or potentially violent activities" and stating that the "skip chase shall hold OAR harmless from skip chaser's actions and for any and all costs and expenses, it being understood that OAR is not in any way responsible for the actions of skip chase, an independent contractor" etc. Our lawyers' main arguments were that the whole mess was Mr. A's fault and that we did not have control over his actions, he was an independent contractor. When this was written, we envisioned the bounty hunter suing O.A.R. because of something done to him by a fugitive, not him doing the bad thing. Our lawyers were also researching Ms. X's claims of illness, having her see their own expert to counter hers. I was apparently immune as an employee for a non-profit as was the non-profit only so far as it didn't have insurance, which we did. The state had insurance so the plaintiffs were trying to show that I was connected to them as a state employee.

The state's main argument was that I had acted outside the scope of my employment. For this reason they didn't defend me.  I had to rely on O.A.R.'s insurance coverage, which we had obtained due to Jay's foresight, although he pointed out that they had come after us due to these deep pockets, and may not have had we been without.

The "directors' and officers'" insurance allowed us to hire top attorneys from the firm of Whiteford, Taylor and Preston. Going to the various depositions, hearings and meetings preceding trial, reading the growing mountain of paperwork, watching our skilled lawyers build a defense was fascinating, although nerve racking in that we/ I was the potential target. It was the second big legal wrangle in my life. As we got closer to March 29th, 1995, the tension rose (as did my hatred for the ambulance chasing lawyer on the other side) (I contemplated several acts of terrorism) (I still do) (one reason why this lawyer does not list his home phone #). One issue that arose was honesty. I had been quite forthcoming in supplying all documents, some of which were incriminating, i.e. linking me to O.A.R. and the state. I was also my talkative self at my deposition, figuring that I had nothing to hide and if I could slant the material I should; but I ended up merrily providing the other side with plenty of ammo in the way of information they could use to expand their case; as usual I could NOT keep my mouth shut. Their best point was that we/I had been negligent in hiring Wade. We had not done a background check which would have shown that he had a couple of brushes with the law (I'm sure we wouldn't have held that against him). It turned out that Ms. X had also been arrested several times.

By the time of trial, we could see that we had a good case, that Ms. X's was weak. Problem was, a jury, especially one predominantly black from Baltimore City which would likely sympathize with the poor little old lady, especially once they heard from our buffoonish bounty hunter. The New York insurance company feared a huge award and authorized our lawyers to pay out $60,000 in settlement on the day of trial.

We learned with dismay that the judge assigned us was our last choice; "she's fair, but not too bright", they said. Turned out in our favor, however, for this portly, female black judge was perfectly suited to talk to Mrs. X. In his chambers before the trial, our lawyers told the judge that they had $25,000 on the table but had received no firm offer from Ms. X's lawyer. The judge browbeat Ms. X attorney when he put forward 120 K, and then later reduced it to 90K. The judge took Ms. X and her lawyer aside to tell her this was not a six figure case. Our lawyers were called back in and offered $45,000, a "final" offer. The other side accepted and settlement was reached.

I was both relieved and dismayed. Relieved not to be going through a four day ordeal, relieved that my employer, the state was going to have its wish that the case "go away quietly". I was dismayed that we had not gone to trial to be vindicated. Dismayed that on this day this dishonest lady had won the lotto for some 25 K, totally undeserved (except from a left point of view) and that her lawyer would probably just about break even with his 20K. Our insurance company was out around 100K, given the settlement plus the cost of defense.

With this in mind (and, when I wrote this, the O.J. Simpson trial was omnipresent)  I wrote the following letter to the papers:

 

A recent letter writer complains about ambulance chasing lawyers and their sue crazy clients. Indeed these duos are modern day pirates of highwaymen. True they steal from honest citizens and insurance companies by writs, briefs and filings rather than by swords and pistols; they steal nonetheless.

Add to these specialists the class of defense lawyers who throw up "fly in the face of logic" explanations to justify heinous crimes, coming up with preposterous syndromes, scenarios and excuses. (Here the Simpson trial came readily to mind, a trial where overwhelming evidence was being presented of O.J.'s guilt and yet he walked free); also, at the same time a trial was proceeding in Baltimore involving an elderly gent who had shot a youth. The youth was part of a gang of delinquents who had been pestering the man for weeks, throwing rocks at his car, so forth, but did that justify the man shooting the youth with a large caliber handgun? His lawyer offered a defense that he was suffering from Urban Fear Syndrome, that is, he lived in a poor part of town in constant fear of the juvenile ruffians and thus somehow was justified in shooting the lad. The prosecutors argued that he should have called the police number-911.

I recently spoke to a lawyer who had defended the murderer of an elderly man in my neighborhood. Her rationale was specious. Aren't you assisting this defendant's depredations in my neighborhood, I asked, and how could you face this victim's relatives? The lawyer put a slant on the facts which showed she did not want to talk about ethics and morality.

I must admit she did mention class, and the fact that persons from poor neighborhoods do not receive the best legal defenses.

Admittedly a defense must be provided, but must it be ridiculous? What do they teach these folk at law school. Are there no ethics courses? They should be required.

I'm not going to "knock" all lawyers, I continued. You will be grateful if you need a good lawyer to mount a defense against a bad one. Just that a class of "dangerous" lawyers (what other term can one use) is definitely out there. Not enough is done to curb their abuses. (see my review on Wm. Kunstler movie at end of C-9 chapter)

One hopes that jurors will see through their arguments. (My experience with the two juries I'd been on had been good; common sense conclusions were reached. But I knew juries could be wacko.)

One of the defenses lawyers used in my discussions with them was that the system is adversarial. True, but does that justify lying just because the money is there?

I learned from Howard Zinn's book, A People's History of the U.S. (a book in which my name was mentioned) that lawyers had been a problem since the country was founded "use quote from 1700's in Zinn. Maybe the law could be changed to allow for prosecution of defense lawyers who would take on a case where common sense showed defendant guilt. To see cases thrown out on the absurdest technicalities when unscrupulous lawyers got a hold of it boggled the mind.

On April 27th, '95 my lawyer sent out the various documents releasing the various parties from the suit. For my protection he had added the language that "the State of Maryland will not terminate or take other disciplinary action or otherwise seek punishment against David Eberhardt for any act or omission related to the litigation styled Helen Horton, et al. v. Offender Aid and Restoration of Baltimore, Inc. et al."

At approximately the same time, my ex- wife Louise was undergoing just as frivolous a lawsuit in Chicago. She had been conducting management training courses for the FAA at O Hare and had designed an exercise to get at some of the sexism in the Control Tower; seems that every time a woman walked down the aisle between the two rows of male workers who manned the radar screens, she would get her ass pinched, etc. and Louise put some of the men through a mock aisle to show them how this felt. One of the men present sued her and her company claiming to have been abused. This suit cost Louise a fair amount of business and made network, national TV. Our litigious society was hurting us both.

The Demise of Baltimore OAR

O.A.R. faced many adversaries over the years. Some wanted us under their control in a "turf" battle. Some gave us things to do that were not part of our mission, others took credit for things that we did without informing us (as we would have advised bureaucrats to do had we written the book) and so on ad nauseam. There were judges who viewed us as misguided liberals, helping people out of jail who didn't deserve to be out.  They thought we had too many FTA's (Failures to Appear). Right wing jail guards looked at us very skeptically.

Bondsmen especially disliked us. They charged a fee of 10 per cent for posting a bail while we would bail persons out with $2,000.00 bails or less essentially for free. We asked for $25 which we refunded to the sponsor unless he or she wanted to leave it with us as a donation. They thought we were trespassing on their turf and cutting into their profits. The bondsmen sent one of their high powered lobbyists to meet with the warden to dissuade the city from sending any more money to O.A.R.. It was not the first or last time I would meet lawyers I despised.

Then the fact that we were being sued hurt us a great deal- the state got to thinking- what is an agency (OAR) with personnel on state salaries doing bailing out inmates that the state has locked up? They saw a conflict of interest with possible damaging legal ramifications. Over ten years, we saved the City a lot of money in incarceration costs  and helped the Jail meet its legal obligations. Unfortunately, our luck at OAR ran out in 1996 and we were done in by a number of forces: 1) the bail bondsmen didn't like us taking their business; 2) some Judges claimed we had too many FTAs- I would dispute that); and 3), questions were raised about the suitability of state employees helping state inmates obtain release- was this kosher? (It is if some one with enough power - like Charles Benton, Gov. Schaefer's chief of finance for the state says it is.) Also we had hired a skip chase man  who got us and me into a bit of trouble with the law - an interesting story told elsewhere (further below). (dave this paragraph is told elsewhere- consolidate!)

By approximately 1997 we had the following four enemies- 1) bondsmen (who thought we were cutting into the profits they thought they should be getting for bail bonds), 2) the judges (who thought our clients FTA’d too much), 3) the state in the character of Bob Weisengoff from Pre Trial questioning how a state agency could be putting up money for bond- in other words questioning the very deal Benton had worked out for us), 4) the Jail’s Commissioner Flanagan (who listened to Bob Weisengoff but who was also put off by the court case brought against us and our skip chaser, Wade Adams).

I remember a very pathetic meeting (from my point of view)- how many present realized I was going off the deep end- and were still friendly- we often don't really recognise our friends! It was in the old jail board room in the JI building and dignitaries were present to discuss the lfutuire of OAR- mainly because we had contacted politicians who wieled considerable pressure. We were moved out of the jail and down town to the court house- to be under Tom Kirk's Alternative Sentencing Unit- only p;roblem was- there was supposed spaced "in the basement"- a squirrel, pigeon, rat infested hole where few had dared to enter in years. I remember a pathetic meeting there also- I was just so miserable- I couldn't "hack it"- see "Mental Breakdown". It all becomes humorous looking back- although at the time was definitely NOT- I have come to look on all hard times as possibly humorous later!  (helps one make it through)! I remember Jay and Cathy assisting me down a hall for a final (before I had to go out on sick leave ) meeting with Tom Kirk- I need to give Jay a call- see how he's doing (it's August, 2011).

After my running Baltimore OAR ended, and after my time out for depression- almost a year- I mustered up the courage to return and worked in such projects similar to OAR as the Home Monitoring Bail  Release Unit, or  in the Inmate Services and Programs and Activities department. OAR continued on for several years- and I became President of the Board. The offices moved out of the jail to downtown Baltimore.

A Reunion

On 4/28/'95 a reunion took place of employees who had worked at the jail before 1991 when the state took over. Jim had decided not to go because too many of those present might give him indigestion, i.e. they had not been friendly to O.A.R., had hindered us in various ways. I well agreed, but also had made friends down through the years whom I hadn't seen in awhile, and even looked forward to seeing the enemies, to see how they looked, how they had changed. It was healing to see them, realizing they could no longer hurt me, to look at them in that milder light, it was a "learning experience".

The event was like other so called milestone events, too many of them - it glossed over what had actually happened in the day to day work life at the jail (now the Baltimore Detention Center - BCDC). The speeches did allude to behind the scenes happenings which at the time few knew about. Joe Wenderoth, once a chaplain at the jail and once also part of Phil's catholic radical movement (Joe had been a member of the Harrisburg 8- see more under my "Movement Memoirs" re Joe's and Neil's problems at that time) offered a prayer for those who had passed on or who wished to be present but couldn't be due to poor health. This prayer meant more to me a couple of years later when I was myself incapacitated by depression and unable to attend another reunion.  He said we were blessed to be there and that even if there were persons also there whom we hadn't gotten along with, we should remember they were only doing their best. This would have been a good opportunity for him to call for more humanity in any work place, but he didn't. Few in positions of power at the jail ever seemed to take into account the feelings of others whom they might be hurting, to realize how actions might be hurtful and might be unfair.

Gordon Kamka, the warden who had made sure that myself and Jim and O.A.R. was placed on the city payroll back in 1980 was there- reason enough for me to go and shake his hand and show my gratitude. I was approaching 18 years of a paid job thanks to Gordon and I told him I would tell my grand kids about his help.

Unfortunately, Gordon's life took a bizarre turn in 1996 when he was arrested for setting his girl friend's car on fire. He had been given weekends to serve in jail and then, incredibly, had not shown up to do them. He ended up getting a month or two in jail and was doing his time in West Virginia. Whatever possessed him? It turned out that he had had a drinking problem for years. No wonder I liked him so much!  (He passed away in 2007,8.)

There was considerable discussion of how bad off the current jail was, due to overcrowding and poor leadership, compared to the good old days and some talk of how good we had it (I never felt I had it good except maybe at the beginning. No "honchos" (leaders) from the present regime were present, and had they been the rhetoric would have probably toned down.

The big boss's main concern at a jail or prison is always security, making sure that no one escapes. In the field of corrections, "rehabilitation" programs like ours would always come second and are the first to go if there are money shortfalls. There are criminal justice planners, auditors and budget wizards always looking for programs to cut, programs that should be privratized, programs which should "pay their own way".

The warden at the jail at this time, F, was now called the Commissioner. He was a very fickle, shallow, dictatorial man, proud of telling everyone that he managed by placing informants (snitches) well and then disciplining miscreants. His searchlight had turned on numerous administrators who were then unfairly punished. The ones who fought, successfully appealed, had good union representation or private lawyers might hold on, being transferred to new positions and thus saving their jobs. They had been banished to such obscure posts as key control (one who was making about 50K a year was placed in charge of making keys and another at about the same salary was put in charge of guarding new the perimeter of a the new Central Booking construction site and its materials). Of course, there were plenty of managers who had always screwed up and deserved to be "messed with".

The "commish" had his pet projects, mainly centering on entertainments for the inmates to keep them pacified, rather than any real decent programs. In '98 I assumed a new job running just such programs. One of the treatments actually being used for drug addicts was acupuncture!

In the spring of 1996, matters re O.A.R. at the jail came to a head. First Jim was transferred to classification. I was the only O.A.R. worker left. It was obvious I would be next. The "skeksis warrior", W, was working behind the scenes with the commissioner to resolve the O.A.R. matter which had troubled them for so long. Then, my marching orders came. I would be reassigned to the newly formed acupuncture program for men. I didn't believe in acupuncture. Worse, I would have to work inside the old jail in a trailer or either a cramped little alcove in one of the inmate dormitories, a hideous spot.

Since this might be our "last hurrah", J and I mobilized all our forces to fight back. We called and wrote all our allies, and one letter, to the Governor, paid off. A meeting was scheduled by the Secretary of Public Safety to see if something couldn't be worked out. I attended in a daze. All the brass of the jail was present against me, J, and a handful of other O.A.R. board members. The Secretary mentioned the need for change. The upshot was that O.A.R. could continue with me reassigned to the Alternative Sentencing Unit (ASU) located downtown at the courthouse. J. was elated. We had stood up on our hind legs and accomplished a victory of sorts. Very few employees at the jail could say as much.

Jay Levenson, then Board President reminded me in 2010 of Judge Sweeney's role- avowing that she had as much to do w the demise of O.A.R. as any one- and she I had actually had a date with long ago- she was  a very attractive black haired lass- with a Judge for a father as I remember- but some thing must have happened to her to turn her into such a two balled bitch. Jay says she told him that the low lifes we bailed after two or three days should have stayed in at least a couple of months for their transgressions. Anyway the hair ball that brought down O.A.R. was a combination of Judges, bail bondsmen, Wade Adams, Bob Weissengoff and LaMar Flanagan- of Pre trial and the Commissioner at the Jail- and, after all, they didn't really bring it down- it continued under the Directorship of Cathy Haggerty- just not AT the jail. The offices moved to Saratoga and then Charles St. After my depression and my return to work at the jail- in the Bail Release Unit, I became President of the Board of Directors. Time moves on...change, like sh t, happens!

As of 2010 Bob W and I would greet each other amiably- we had both survived in out jobs- all hard fleeings "under the bridge". I had concluded that volunteerism works best with volunteers that bring a specific skill set to the inmates- like teaching writing or math-which I ws still organizing in my job as Aministrator 2 at the Detention Center); the one to one thing was less successful in general- although Jay Worrall had had a great idea- just a sort of impractical one.  The 5 or 6 O A R chapters that still existed in 2010- mostly in Virginia- had other more practical programs: drug courts, half way houses, alternatives to incarceration, etc.

A tour of the old Pen

9/22/7- I finally took my tour of the “Center” at Forrest St., mainly built in 1890 with parts going back to 1807! (The book With the Best Intentions gives a history of it). After meeting an officer and endless keys, Andy Strich (who runs programs at the MTC as do I at BCDC) guides me to the execution chamber- the table for injection and beside it the gas chamber. It is all the more awesome for its un prepossessing quality- small- the size of a man, a room that has been consciously made to be a little less sterile, one way windows, benches- one side for the victims, another for the lawyers and press. There are 6 or 7 cells adjacent-0 build in the day when they thought they’d have several executions in a row- but only one has been used by the condemned. Andy gives a little history- shows me the gas chamber and explains how it works, tells of the hangings – was it 80 between 29 and 64- tells me of the way they hung killers of correctional officers or police differently so they would slowly strangle as opposed to beneath the 4th? Vertebrae so that the neck snaps and you die right away- how in the 19th century people gathered on the Jones Falls bluffs so they could look over the wall and watch the hangings.

We go out on the yard- which seems cheerless except juxtaposed to where we have just been. It is a cloudy day- but the yard with its slant has a fair view of the skyline and down to the harbor. Men are milling about- messing with the huge flock of pigeons which they have obviously cultivated over the years. There is a garden area- a weird sculpture- the guys look raggedy- deformed, malformed, mental, lumpen, the familiar inmate sort of defaced quality- faces it would be hard to love- “Born to lose”- a few whites- society’s pitiful rejects.

A tour of Super Max>w Father Chuck-

Being a fiendish monument to the control of hum,an beings, the prevention of their escape- actually this building- at 4 hundred something E Madison St., across from the little castle administration building of my own Baltimore City Jail, is no longer the "super max" which, in Maryland has moved to Cumberland and is now called the "Ultra Max". But this struicture was originally  built as a super max in 1988 and was one of the earliest ones in the country. Modeled after the federal penitentiary at Marion, Ill., is consists of 3 pentagon shaped buildings linked together- 5 levels of classification- from minimum, security to super maximum, 6 pods (is it?) and 48 quads? ( not exactly sure of these numbers). Through the eighties and into the nineties it was the subject of much criticism and review; it is a very clastrophobic layout- with the central security room able to panoramically view cells around- with next to no day rooms and only one small exercise room for the death row inmates. Very depressing.  No light of day to speak of. I am able to see the five inmates who are now on death row. Grandison is the only one I recognize. If an execution does take place- the inmate is taken up the street to the injec tion room I toured earlier with Andy Strich.

Chuck, an ebullient and cheerful priest- the only fulll time Catholic prison ministry person in the state- tells me that the original design led to problems. The idea was to move all of the worst inmates in here together- not those who had done the most violent crimes on the street but those who had committed violent or been a problem once IN prison. Once these guys got together- they started acting out- and for years, Chuck says, there was continual violence we had to walk through halls littered with feces and urine. My old friend, Randy Corcoran, who had been second in charge at the Jail, changed everything when he became Warden at the Super Max- and good for him. Chuck told me he held a meeting and said, we are going to change this culture, which had become tolerable and acceptable, and he did it. Randy went on to work as a consultant to the Bureau of Prisons. The "worst of the worst" inmates were boken up and shipped out to Patuxent, and "Supermax", which is no longer "Super Max"- the title on the wall outside charmingly reads "Adjustment Center", now holds 500 overcrowded, two to a cell, inmates- 90 of whom are federal inmates. a most hideous building and one I dare say few Baltimoreans know exists, nor could they imagine it. But here it is.

Chuck and I meet briefly with Warden Koppel, who seems to be a reasonable, thoughtful person- unlike so many at the top in corrections. He has worked his way up through the ranks. What a job! We share a chuckle at my stint as an inmate worker in the Warden's office at Lewisburg- where I was soon removed as the Warden pondered what I might do to his files.

What follows are a couple of prison related poems I posted on the "Poetry in Baltimore" website, and a couple of comments- we had built quite a little community - one of the true benefits of the internet and computers.:

 

Report from the front- Iowa State Penitentiary

« on: August 28, 2009, 09:41:29 PM »


 

Inmate A to 4 point control- where are his g d meds?!?

Station 4, Christ stumbles, falls to the road.

 

Inmate B, gay in Iowa, very young-"red light over my head"

Can we wash Jesus' hair after he's dead?

 

Inmate C looks "most female, call me 'Countess",but the guard

Says, "Disciplinary detention"- Jesus' dying is hard.

 

Inmate D, 2 lifes and change- "dad chokin on mom...

My little bother and I"... he can't remain calm...

 

Christ borne down from the cross and his beautiful hair

Is all matted, but Mary his mother is there.

 

Inmate A can go back to his seg cell, we assume

No longer a danger- and so Christ to the tomb.

 

 

 


 

frog in bog- There follows responses from various members of the Poetry in Baltimore community- a lively one and a great website!

 

 


 

A unique poignant piece, Dave. The last couplet, nice ending. I used to visit the prison in high school, had access to the whole place, lunch with the inmates in pre-release. My guardian left once to take a call, and a nice man came up, sat down, ate a bit, we talked, and later I learned he was a lifer for killing his wife, seven children. Nice guy. Who would have known? I finished the Inferno a few months ago, for some reason the Hell in your piece made me think of it. Enjoyed.

 

 


 

thank u bardmster-i can hear the schizophrenic screaming in her cell in the back ward as we speak-the pain of mental disease-please give em meds

 

maybe the guy at iowa just wanted some attention-he screams that he enjoys the pain- i can't believe it

 

does he enjoy being strapped to the table- electrocution style? can he relax?

 

i can see the obsessive compulsive who can't drive under bridges- the pain of driving around

 

the mental pain almost worse than death- a "death in life" altho- he/she comes out of it- we feel sorry for him- her

 

NAMI a good organization

 

 


 

the penal system freaks me out. i think we can do better as a society - much better.

 

 


 

this is constantine's motto: "The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act." marcel duchamp

 

 


 

the penal system is barbaric, and that's without taking into consideration all the innocent people that had to stay there for twenty years until DNA released them....

.I saw a guy named Bo Lazoff at the Friends, Stony Run Meeting House one evening that has spent a lot of time working with prisoners.....an inspirational character.

...he has a program called the Prison-Ashram Project......it's worth checking out dave..

...just google his Human Kindness Foundation....i spoke with him after his talk.

..he plays guitar and sings as well...

His book, We Are All Doing Time , is exceptional.........intense work, dave.....creative and sharp....

 

 


 

yes, i'm well aware of bo's work- i have met him several times-ahe was at the jail here

and i ws at stoney run along w you! a friend who knows him says he is moving from

north carolina to hawaii

great thinker and singer too

inspired, in part, by ram dass

 

 


 

saw.....his books are the kind of material you can read over and over again....

 

 


 

Report from the Front: credit to MSNBC's series on prisons and therapy groups

« on: August 01, 2010, 08:52:55 AM »


 

What is the Nature of Forgiveness?

How necessary is forgiveness?

How necessary redemption?

 

"Offender Grief Inventory"- California State Prisons:

 

Level 3, North Walk

at San Quentin,

Hollister,

Vacaville,

Soledad.

Solano

 

Dear Victim:

You may be only remembered

By some one who has been "redeemed"

Years after your death

At the hands of this murderer...

 

"Offender Grief Inventory"-

A Questionnaire-

Survivors and victims visit

The Therapy Class

Offered to lifers

Trying to complete

A "circle of healing"-

 

It is the "thief on the cross's

Time to speak"-

He flashes forward

To his execution:

"I see a man beside me

Also killed by the state:

There is something about him

That overwhelms me;

I do feel healing"

 

Jesus said:

"What is within you

Will save you;

If you do not bring forth

What is within you,

What is within you

Will kill you,"

 

Freedom within

Could be the key,

Forget freedom without:

Images of poets?

Such as skylarks and hummingbirds?

No- don't forget these.

 

"A fierce mistrust of women"

(Or is it of yourself?!?),

"My dad was a gangster"....

 

When you acknowledge

The pain you have caused,

ACKNOWLEDGE ALL OF THE PAIN!"

 

The letter of Paul

to Titus- "I took

A person's life, it can't

Get any worse than that."

 

I live in the

General population or

Max security- I can blend in-

There is honor among theives-

Even thieves on the cross!

 

 


 

 

Memorial to O.AR. Founder, Jay Worrall

Memorial to O.AR. Founder, Jay WorrallOld friend and Chairman of O.A.R's Board- Jay Levenson- and I drive down to a memorial for Jay Worrall, who has passed at 94 years of age- in Charlottesville on 3/27/2010. Some 120 persons attend at the Tandem Friends School- within walking distance of Monticello- once a plantation just outside of Charlottesville. It is a bright, chilly day- the mini mountains splashed w incipient green-the service is held Quaker style-as Jay was an honored Va, Quaker- he had written a grand history of the Quakers in Va. His wife and family sat at the front of the hall- her sufffering from some dementia- also two sons and three daughters. A very moving affair- persons rising to offer memories and reflections. We sing "Amazing Grace"- all the verses. I am moved to offer two bits- "As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free"- Debs and "I think continually on those who are truly great"- Spender. As said elsewhere- by the time I got to Jay, I was pretty much my own man- and he was not a mentor for me as powerful as Walter Carter or Phil Berrigan- but he was the only other great old man I remember from that generation (there were so few!) He had a friendly, less obtrusive charisma and had done so much in his life. As one speaker said- we were like acorns from his oak....and another quoted a poem to that effect about the oak in the storm. Jay was a "founding father" as impressive as the Jefferson I could see striding out of the spring woods from his plantation up the hill. Pat Smith, old friend and still Dir. of O.A.R. of Charlottesville- is there, and, of course, Jay and I drive down together and renew acquaintance. Where is Jim? Like Jay- gone- but not leaving the "vivid air signed w his honor". Stephen Spender must have been a great guy!

As at my mom's memorial- some photos of Jay and family are arranged at a table at the back of the room- along w his signature cap and scarf. What a beauty      was! And here she sits- w white roses- not a wreck, not in shambles but diministed with all her children and grand children at the front of the room. She rambles but says she is thrilled. She holds white roses. O where are the snows of yesteryear- the snow like white roses in the spring sunlight. But- she is surrounded by love- and is taken care of by her kids! Some one mentions the fact that she has moments of lucidity and is jerked back into the awareness that Jay is gone! How horrible that would be I think- like Dante's being aware of happier times in his exile....like I would awaken to the absence of Louise on Lanier Place in DC when I had first moved away from Baltimore and was living w George Mische. Exactly like that! The horrors of life go on- sometimes quite close to the wonderful things- like submerged old drunken boats along side the brilliant sailors!

mirror on wall in restaurant shows ridge above Quaker prep school where memorial for Jay is held- Monticello is over the ridge- "Farewell Jay"

A Workshop at the Jail

On Wed., Aug. 4th, 2010, I helped organise an Urban Leadership Institute workshop on self esteem for male inmates at the Baltimore City Jail (Baltimore City Detention Center),: conducted by old friends, David Miller and La Marr Shields from The Urban Leadership Institute (ULI). The ULI conducts numerous workshops on parenting, black male and black youth issues, black violence and Dave and La Marr have both traveled widely and written several books and produced movies on these same issues.

If you reach their level- you can easily understand the causes of crime- AND- its solution. The cause is poverty- capitalism maintaing an underclass. The solution is more money for education. Realize- 65% of convicts are high school drop outs! Also- parents- you need to read to your children!! Books.

I regretted not having filmed the event. When these two give a workshop to inmates- it's worth bottling- it's that good. Rather than give a second by second reporting job- I can summarise it by saying that Dave and La Marr do not mince words with these guys. They tell them- if you are in here you cannot be a good parent- you are not protecting your kids, your family, your community, can you be a man? (which I as a white, could neverask these guys).

I'm forever urging Baltimore leaders (like the Mayor's Coordinating Council on Criminal Justice)  to call on Dave and La Marr as consultants, but my advice is never taken.

What is the meaning of the African word "sankofa"?, Dave asks.  "It is not bad to go back and seek what you have forgotten."

But there is also a saying by a Kenyan marathoner Dave draws our attention to: "When the lion is chasing the antelope he doesn't look back-He has to eat"- in other words, have focus. Who's hungry here?, Dave asks? Hungry for what? Hungry for change?

The 40 men present (90% African-American) were from the Jail's ACT/SAP Program- Addicts Changing Together/ Substance Abuse Program; they are the cream of the crap, so to speak, to speak cruelly and unfairly- they are the most articulate and smartest and motivated inmates in the Jail and the ACT/SAP, run by Ahmed Muhammed is the best program in the Jail (BCDC) (although I question the efficacy of accupuncture as a treatment for addicts)

These guys are mature enough to take the criticism- they've heard it before. Their program involves N A (Narcotics nonymous) type meetings- where self confrontation is the norm.

La Marr and Dave had the group participate in an activity wherein the men draw two parallell lines on a sheet of paper. Within the two lines they are to write 12 16 18 22; then - above the numbers they are to write first the positive events that happened in their lives at these ages, and beneath the numbers the negative.

I took part in the exercise, along w the inmates. At 12 I was entering prep school, at 16 graduating and getting into Oberlin College, and at 21 I was graduating. Those were my positives- my negatives? developed Obsessive Compulsive Behavior at Mt. Hermon (and all boys prep), goofed around and drank too much at Oberlin- this was all I came up with.

But the inmates- wow! At the finish, three men were invited up to the front of the class to share their writings. At 12 they had all had sex and done drugs. By 22 they had all committed crimes and been to prison. They had jobs (mine were summer)- they had their own apartments-(I was living with my parents after Oberlin)- one had killed his step father for f king around w his sister. They had all been in and out of prison since.

Dave Miller had a friend die in his arms from a gun shot at North and Eutaw sts., Lamarr had grown up in the same Chicago neighborhood as Obama.

"What's the life expectancy of a black male?", Dave asks- 59, he states (is it actually that young?). "Who's the youngest one in here?" he asks- one inmate is 28. The oldest? Me at 69. "So you're all in the last half of your lives." he stated (me the last 8th?!?!)

"What are you going to do? It's not too late" Dave uses Pres. Obama as a good model for blacks- "you can succeed"- you must be able to visualize yourself as successful. I know these guys do not. They do not think of themselves in that way- because it was never taught to them.

"How many of you have been to bull sh t funerals where you know the Reverend is not telling you the truth about the guy who died? Do they ever say, he always wore sneakers, or - he went in and out of prison?"

We all link arms in a circle at the end. We chant the serenity prayer and other up beat nostrums- such as "It is up to me". I know the guys will tell you what you want to hear. Have they owned any of this material?

We get used to the ruts we are in- it is so hard to change- especially as you get older.

If it were me, I would add- you may fail until you die, however. Realize there are swamis in India who walk around naked, begging their food- their sole quest is spiritual and they are not concerned with the stuff we obsess about. This system is geared against you- to destroy you (altho it would never admit it- AND- it is not just racist-more than racist, it is classist). I say you would do more to join a revolutionary group- even if you have to die in a fire like Cinque of the Symbionese Liberation Front or Nat Turner in Virginny- than if you succeeded by making a lot of money or on this society's b s terms.

Or go back to prison like a Phil Berrigan- go in and out of prison- having been arrested by the state for resistance for the cause of non-violence- truly- the highest calling!

I finally do retire- 10/29/10

At my swan song, a humongous Jobs Fair up in the gym on 10/13/10, organized along with now Assistant Warden, Gwen Oliver, who once worked under me and now works over me;...she says "I want 25 vendors" meaning almost every agency in the city, I meet my old friend, Ernest Randolph. He was at the jail as an inmate back in the early 80's and has gone on to succeed- as a Reverend and as the Dir. of an Offender Help organisation. Ernest also plays a fabulous saxophone and is here to provide the entertainment part of the program as well as give brief, inspirational speeches..

He tells me a funny story.

I know there are inmates here under aka's, or false names and IDs- he used on after he had excaped from the Md. prison in Jessup, and had moved to N Y C where he got a job sat the Mayor's Office and used the name Schuyler Lovick.

Then he found himself back in Baltimore in the jail under the new name- he ways before 9-11, IDs were reasonably easy to get- Social Security cards, etc. His ex-wife blew the whistle on him and, under his real name he was carted back to Jessup for the escape.

The day after this highly successful event, I was called into Ms. Oliver's office and almost fired! two weeks before retirement (it would have been entirely appropriate). They caught me doing something I had done for years- to facilitate entry of guests into the jail- I had used a copy of the Facility Administrator's signature rather than the required original, and I had used an outdated masthead (due to abrupt firings, chief personnel changes every other month!)

Ms Oliver says, breathlessly, at the meeting- "I'm shocked" and, "this is a "Level One" offense, which it wasn't....perhaps. I had gone out on a high note- helping to organise the Jobs Fair! at this point- while posting the letter that follows- free webs cut material that was here- it is a maddening, sickening site- but, again you get what you pay for- and in this case I do pay abt 50$ a year.

what was it I said after ...."perhaps"? maybe not that important- something to the effect that they were merciful to me and all this infraction amounted to was for me to write an "Incident Report". I even got a little party on the day that I retired- about 20 persons in attendance, Oct. 29th, 2010- some great photos, and a giant cake with a golf club and ball upon it. My joke had been that I would want a final photo taken with the drug sniffing dogs of the institution in that they were the only ones who had loved me unconditionally and without reservation or the back stabbings of fellow staff or from inmates. My simplistic words of wisdom to the group?: "CYA- Cover Your Ass"- which I had managed to do well enough. I was setting off into the sunset with about 1/2 my salary- 25 k a yrear after taxes and + another 20k from social security. I had saved up 90k with the Nationwide Retirement System and had another 75 k with my wonderful (albeit conservative) broker- Mark McGrath- one of the best in town- my old friend from the Baltimore Symphony Chorus. My position was not replaced when I retired- the pin retired with me- sort of no more molds-I broke the mold?

 

dave's retirement party- photo by Officer Norman Watkins

I realize (from dreams) that at the Jail- I had a structure- a community or persons to whom I related- no matter how poorly- that gave me a framework- let a lone the conflicts and the pay. It is hard for me, now retired, to realize how people survive without work of this kind?

a letter to "The Urbanite" news magazine

Some notes on the article in the Urbanite of Dec., 2010 "The Unreleased" and the interview on the Marc Steiner show with the subject of the Urbanite article being- Mary Joel Davis and her attempts to help female lifer and other long term inmates. (Mary Joel was a friend of mine who had done similar work with her organization that helped female offenders- "Alternate Directions"):

"Mary Joel Davis and other "do gooders" should be given positions like head of the Parole Board, or Secretary of the Division of Public Safety. She understand the issues like few others. A person like Mary Joel is in the trenches- when most do nothing on this issue.

On this issue, the Democrats in Md. want to appear harsh, the Republicans can cut the inmates some slack. Still- neither party helps much- Ehrlich may have appeared a bit better on pardons-and his Commissioner of Public Safety- Mary Ann Saar in terms of proposals- but they did not get passed.

Of course- the cuts began a long time ago- when Pell Grants for inmates were cut- when Prison Libraries were defunded- and work release programs.

Nothing substantial wIill be done to help inmates- it is not under O'Malley or other Democratic governors. And why? -because this constituency- the inmates- has no clout- it will never receive much in the way of services.

A Division of Correctional Services in any state of the union gives scant nod to the "corrections" part. There is no corrections in corrections.

To let you know where I am coming from- which many writers won't (if they even have a point of view)- I see capitalism as maintaining an underclass and a punitive criminal justice system to fool the populace into thinking something is being done about crime- when the truly big criminals- be it Wall St. or war criminals like Bush and Obama- go scot free!

(You can delete this paragraph in that it will be too strong for you to print or voice).

The plight of women in the prison system is particularly horrible- and yet- do not expect anything to change (unless you want to go left). If you took the time to tour the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women- you would see that it is like a college campus- very clean- many programs. Still- the basic issues of clemency, and a second chance- they will not be addressed!

It bothers me a bit that both Marc Steiner and Mary Joel (and the liberal reporters that cover this issue- i.e Dan Rodricks or Richard O'Mara) use words like "it's crazy" or the "insanity of" the system- when- this system operates as it always has- with its logic- the logic of capitalism. It's like they were born yesterday or- do not want to name a thing for what it is! To me this word choice is just sloppy. This system knows very well what it is doing. The fact that it has no logic? Has it ever?

Two statements I also question: success rates- too much is claimed I believe- without precise follow up (do you know how hard it is to follow ex offenders on the streets?).

Or prison costs- when persons say: "O it costs the same thing to keep an inmate in prison as to send them to Harvard"- I would say, no- it is much cheaper to keep a person in prison- let's get real- liberals.

The women described in O'Mara's story are, I think-political prisoners.

Second Chance is a good name for Mary Joel's organization- in that we should all realize that people who have done bad things< can change and that a scond chance is deserved.

Will the Parole Board recognize that- my good friend Dave Blumberg? Not a political chance! And Dave is one of the nicest Republican/Independents you will ever meet!!

Also- in the shades of grey dept? I know from years of working with inmates (and I am an ex-offender myself)- they don't give you the real story necessarily. So let's not exaggerate outr stories- we who criticize the system.

It is easy enough to show where the system is plain wrong- and that ll the sisters Mary Joel talks about could be let go yesterday. (But they will not be).

One big issue missing in the interview and the article? Sexism- the way these women are punished by male judges- it's a flagrant abuse. But then too- isn't that America for you?

Prozac, NOT!!! or The Horror Year or, The Year from Hell (dave get date!)

- add recent discoveries re schizophrenia

At the time of the move of O.A. R. out of the jail and my reassignment to the Alternative Sentencing Unit, Cathy stood by me, even after discovering my diaries about sexual affairs (another candidate for the worst day of my life- along w my attack on Louise and her lover) I had been compulsively having (of this find it if you can-it's buried under a gold bug). It was not long after the discovery (she had moved out of her place (her neighborhood was becoming increasingly dangerous) and , having moved in with me, was cleaning out my basement (her compulsion). Not long after that. because of that and the difficulties at work, I began staying home, found it too difficult to continue. I was called to a meeting with the new supervisor, Mr. K. Cathy and J, my old friend who was the President of the O.A.R. Board sort of held me up as we walked down the echoey halls of the same Court House west on Calvert St. where the trial of the Baltimore 4 had taken place and where K's office was located- (this building has played quite a role in my life). I was going to be transferred under Mr. K's Alternative Sentencing Program, but the meeting was curt and he unceremoniously told me: go on sick leave or I'll fire you. Of the 10 or so months I spent out, 7 and 1/2 were covered by sick days and good or vacation time, for I had never used my sick days and had accumulated lots. I spent 7 months out on this accumulation and then, due either to the inefficiency at payroll or a good friend at payroll- some one later told me- they actually kept me on until forced to go back by the chief state shrink).

I had looked forward, ever so briefly, to working in this new unit and under K at his Alternative Sentencing Unit. I thought the letter (secretly written by me but signed by J and O.A.R.) to Governor Glendening had saved the day for the then Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services, Bishop Robinson, had, after all called a meeting, allegedly to find a place for O.A.R. at the Governor's bidding. It seems that the system was actually trying to help me.

Actually, K told me more than a year later, when I was working for him in the Jail Review Unit, they had told him to sabotage us as best he could. He confided in me that he "could not treat people that way". But he had certainly not shown us any courtesy at the time and was probably just apologizing to me after the fact, in his usual bullshitty, superficial if not downright treacherous way. It was as if I sensed all this at the time. No one was supportive of me except for Cathy and my dear friends from O.A.R.- Jay, Bob and John. Bob and John actually continued running O.A.R. at the Jail although they were NOT even city employees. They did everything they had to to dto keep the thing running. Jim had all ready been transferred.

I had not been prepared to follow through with the change that had been arranged at our meeting with the powers which we had fought so hard to obtain, the reassignment to ASU. There were still forces arrayed against me, mainly the edict to stop doing O.A.R. work. My new supervisor, Mr. K, was having severe difficulties of his own, unbeknownst to me at the time. His ASU unit was being scrutinized for various irregular practices and I was the last problem he wanted to see dumped on his doorstep.

The goofy warden at the jail, Mr. LF, was going to succeed in getting O.A.R. out of the jail. To me at this time, it didn't much matter.

From August of 1996 for a year, I went on a tailspin into a deep and clinical depression. It started with an inability to sleep and a tangible feeling of discontent/despair/nervousness. The words that came to me to describe the feeling were a spinning, a mouldering in the brain. As, upon four or five occasions before in my life ( not taking part in the Catonsville Nine, Jane leaving were two) I spent time ruminating on the past and my problems.

I would show up at work but I couldn't concentrate and began driving to the Druid Hill Reservoir to walk or I took long walks from the JI office around the Gas and Electric office complex. This was the second time that long, endless walks took over my life, as if I were trying to "walk it off" back in the seventies, walking the streets of Adams Morgan in D.C. over and over again.... I called the "family Dr." S and he recommended over the counter sleep aids, such as Sominex and Nytol, but also said he would prescribe the stronger Ambien (banned in Scandinavia? because of memory loss?) if needed. (Looking back, Oxazepam or Serax would have been a good drug to start with for me).

I would doze off at 11 and then wake a couple of hours later only to sleep fitfully, tossing and turning horribly. The over the counter medications allowed me to sleep until around four, then wake up. You can imagine how hideous four and five in the morning became. Now, several years later, I get up then and relish it!

One morning at work, I lost my focus. The room became blurry. I went outside in a panic, it was blurry there too. This passed but I called Dr. K (my eye man) immediately. A few days later when he checked me out, I mentioned the over the counter remedies. Of course, he said there's a connection. They relax the central nervous system. It would have helped had Dr. S mentioned same.

I looked forward (more than I should have) to visiting a psychologist and then psychiatrist to get medication. This led to more problems. I began with (under my health plan) one psychologist who had bio-feedback machines he wanted to wire me to. Sort of a Jules Verne approach. I scoffed at this, but at least he gave me a ticket to the  see a budding young psychiatrist, D, whose diagnosis, at first, anxiety and later depression (I pointed out that I had all the major listed symptoms) was correct.

I believe he was just starting out in his practice. He warned me realistically, that without the state job (if I lost it) I was a bit old to find another job readily. But generally I sensed a lack of empathy. Then too, I did not make him happy by following his regimen to a t. And yet, looking back, his prescription/regimen was actually injurious. He started me on a new drug,  Buspar, supposedly  an anti anxiety drug. The makers of Buspar were advertising in the newspapers of the time...pure snake oil. D prescribed Ativan also in case the Buspar made me to "hyper". E, my friend and ailments sage at the jail told me Buspar had been prescribed for one of her over agressive cats. It didn't work, although Valium did. Nor did it work for me. It would jack me way up, taking away my concentration, then I'd take the Ativan. Ativan is a strong sedative in the benzodiazopan class. On Ativan I truly floated, and tended to babble and made several blunders at key meetings which only complicated my situation.

Although they were loathe to admit it, psychiatrist of the time (well, since the "science" of psychiatry started back in Vienna) were wandering/groping in the dark. They seemed to be required to dispense medication. And there were many meds to play with. It would be interesting to compare the drug abuse and drug pushing associated with psychiatry to that of the heroin, cocaine and marijuana trade.

The Ralph Nader organization had put out a book Good Drugs, Bad Drugs which was helpful. But Dr. D was not humble. Nor did he recommend reading about the problem. He would pull out his little desk reference, leaf through, and, seemingly, throw the dice. Once I started medication, he basically took my suggestions as to which drug to try from this point on. After the initial 45 minute consultation, Dr. D's mo (like all the rest in HMO's) was to see me for 15 minutes, a "meds check", and he always seemed to be rushing me out of the door. For this I assume he got paid pretty well. It was standard operating procedures for the HMOs (health management organizations) of the time. D added to this insult a kind of "can't be bothered mentality". The talking part of therapy was to be covered by the psychologist. Of course, no poor person could afford all this malarkey in the first place.

In the Dr.s defense, they were at least trying to be scientific (unlike, for example the churches of scientology or christian science).

Several friends at the jail were raving about Paxil and that became my next terrible adventure. Looking back, a good combination might have been Prozac and Serax (the lightest sedative I've run into (there may be others). But I had read bad things about Prozac.

Dr. D was happy to get me some free samples of Paxil. "This'll give ya' a kick", he said jauntily and unthinkingly as he gave them to me.  I was going on vacation to Maine. I would take the Paxil and maybe, my friend Evelyn opined, come back to the jail, a new man! The night before we left I felt great (undoubtedly because the chief worry, my job, was not staring me in the face). Cathy hoped I was turning around. Let's hope it's the drug, I said. About half way up the N.Y. throughway, the drug kicked in, rather, slammed in, to my brain. I had gone from mouldering to speeding. This was a horrible moment. We had stopped at one of the restaurants on the N.Y. thruway. Rita, Cathy's mom who had joined us for the vacation, had packed bagels and lox for lunch. We were forced to eat it in the crowded restaurant, and I couldn't sit still. Cath went to the bathroom for a prolonged period and came out crying. I looked back on this to mean she recognized that I was going under although she says no.

Was Paxil related to methamphetamine? Maybe some scientist knew, my Drs. didn't. It was a nightmarish feeling that only one with my metabolism who has taken the drug can experience. I arrived at my brothers in Vermont in a Paxil haze. Paxil, he said, that's the drug that Sarah, his daughter, had been on for so long. Had it helped her? He didn't know, but wondered how much worse she may have been without it. Actually, I might have been able to tolerate the stuff had D started me on a low dose? I had never felt worse in my life!

The next morning we proceeded to mom's in Maine. Should I take another pill? Don't, Tim's wife, Mary Ellen suggested, a voice of sanity. I remember feeling incredibly weak in the little town square at Randolph, as we took a stroll before we left. The breakdown had arrived! The pill had taken over my mental processes.

I felt I had to take it. Everyone had stressed and the directions said you had to give the drug a two to three week chance to work. This formula added to one's torment. Dr. D kept telling me I hadn't given the drug or drugs a chance to work unless I tried them for a month or so. And yet I couldn't tolerate the side effects of Paxil for more than several days. Maybe the strategy was to torture you so thoroughly with the medications that you ran hurriedly back into sanity to avoid them? Cath's mom, Rita, had had several bouts of depression and in earlier days before the plethora of medications. She had actually been through electric shock treatments (I remembered the Williams play "Suddenly Last Summer"). In Rita's case, this extreme treatment had actually helped.

By the time we had got to Conway, N. H., between two great mountains, I was fried, I was sped. Cathy and her mom, who was along for the vacation, ate lunch. I could not sit still but set out walking east along the road towards Maine, telling them to pick me up down the road, my thoughts racing ferociously. Prokofiev composes this mentality perfectly in the first act of the "Fiery Angel", where the deranged girl speaks with the knight. The music goes round in spinning, repetitive circles, da dee dee da-da-da, over and over again. This refrain sang out strongly in my brain! Had Prokofiev ever taken Paxil?  But he had described this condition better than any one. By the time we got to Port Clyde I could feel the gloom lifting off my brain like a weight.

In the Kirov's version of this opera which I had seen in New York, the knight and the lady sit on a bed to one side of the stage. Other figures, dressed in skin tight grey body suits slithered towards the two characters from the wings and then would back away- as if ready to invade the woman's brain, to unhinge her completely and turn her into a maniac. These mime like figures drooped from railings on the walls, sometimes conversed amongst themselves. It was a striking piece of choreography. In a way, it helped me weather the storm- the healing nature of art- for it showed me that this sort of situation could be endured, could be part of an ongoing story. Hopefully, my story would not end as did the female's in "The Fiery Angel"- an orgy in a convent? O well, to each his/her own!!

I stopped taking Paxil the next day, far from the Drs., at a loss, thanks to D, who would never say he didn't know what he was doing. Maybe by now, he has a better idea of his limitations. He had first done harm, violating the Hippocratic Oath. There was no way he would return my frantic calls, either. He was next to impossible to reach. Managed health care and health care organizations were truly "mismanaged" care.

The vacation was not a happy one for me. With Cathy by my side, urging me, consoling me, and being her amazingly upbeat and loving self, pace Fidelio (Beethoven being the genius he was picking the greatest subject of all, loyalty in love, probably because he desired it so greatly and never had it), I spent a week endlessly spinning, mouldering and ruminating. She sat nobly hugging me out on Mosquito Point or perched up on the steep bluffs at Monhegan overlooking the Atlantic (how tempting to jump (although one couldn't be certain one would die, but that one would end up with painful multiple fractures and a horrible recuperation on top of the depression). I would guess suicides have been attempted from the Monhegan bluffs.

Obsessive thought alternated in the brain, one moment it would be the toilet in my son's new apartment; it was set in crookedly, for some reason, at a slant, or I turned over a phrase of Jim's over and over in my mind. He had already been transferred to a new position, which I felt I would not have been able to take. "Better to be bored than fucked with", he had said, forecasting doom to come for me (he was very good at the negatives, and often right!)

It was my usual psychotic refrain played over and over- "could have, should have, would have".

One morning, as we drove to visit Cristina Olson's house, made famous by many Wyeth paintings, and then on to visit Cushing, Maine, roughly across the river from mom's, Rita saw something startling in the woods? She said it looked like a man hanging with something sticking out of his back!! I did not want to investigate. But have wondered ever since about the tarot card, of the hanged man, predicting an early death. It seemed an omen for me, symbolic of my condition. I wondered later, when better, wasn't this the sort of thing Wyeth might have constructed near his property, to scare people away!? His paintings demonstrate his preoccupation with menace and death. If this was something truly supernatural, that would probably be the explanation- a Wyeth, Steven King apparition of horror!

My real ally of the week was my psychologist, Dr. H, who returned my panicked call about the ineffective, destructive, disgusting and terrifying Paxil. Wait until you get back and we'll try something else. H was not opposed to medication, he had seen it work for some. But he was a psychologist, besides being a very wise man. I have since heard of others, mostly male, who had problems with Paxil. Women friends I know swear by it.

I spent the next several months trying one drug after another, annoying Dr. D, it would seem, by abandoning first Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin (must I honor these monstrosities with capitalization?), then Serzone (I was able to tolerate this better than the others (I think it has some sedative in it because it made me feel sleepy), and finally, the grandaddy of them all, Prozac. I came to the conclusion that the passage of time was the cure and none of these medications, so hyped by the big drug companies and so glibly dispensed by physicians. But, as some pointed out, they may have helped turn me around. Of course no one was able to measure their results, Claims were made for them, and they got approval on the wackiest of testings. They were the snake oil of the 90's (and before). I read Listening to Prozac but agreed more with Dr. Breggin's book Talking Back to Prozac.   Listening to Prozac was a very airy, philosophical book. One got the impression the author had not alot of direct experience, that he was more of a professor of psychology than one who had lived it.

Thomas Sasz and R. D. Laing were two other psychiatrists (or psychologists) who had taken anti-medication stances.

The Serotonin Selective Reuptake Inhibitor (ssri) drugs had alarming side effects: I still have trouble describing them: they gave one a speedy, jumbled feeling in the head, they made thought dissolve into a fizz, they caused a lack of focus, actually enabling the repetitive thinking. And this was at a time when you needed focus! They made you sleepy (especially Serzone) sometimes. They diminished the sex life, I guess (that's what the literature all said) (but if you were depressed you'd lost interest in sex anyway, how would you know?!). How could anything that diminished sex life or that wasn't recommended for pregnant mothers be good for you?  All the ssri's came with several pages of scary fine print. Prozac came with a thin strip of paper which unfolded to about two yards, printed on both sides. It was thin, like toilet tissue; I think the idea was to create as little alarm as possible although, to me, this made it more alarming. The script began "Prozac (Fluoxetine Hydrochloride) is an antidepressant for oral administration; it is chemically unrelated to tricyclic, tetracyclic or other antidepressant agents. It is designated (+-N.methyl-3 phenyl.3[(cx,cx,cx tri-fluoro-p-toly) oxylpropylamine hydrochloride and has the empirical formula of C17H18F3NO.HCL. Its molecular weight is", etc.

"Each Pulvule contains", etc. Pulvule? Wnere did this pustulant, ghastly word come from? Why not just say "pill"? "The antidepressant and anti-obsessive-compulsive action of fluoxetine is presumed (my undeline) to be linked to its inhibition of CNS neuronal uptake of serotonin."

Golly, why didn't you say so in the first place? Who chose these words?  Were they trying to scare you? In my case, the ssri's caused skin sores. I had to wait until Dr, K to find a psychiatrist who actually took the drugs he was pushing (a large dose of Zoloft, in his case)(this drug was also taken by President Clinton's "lover", Monica Lewinsky and the young man in Oregon who killed his parents and several school mates, Kip Kinkel). At a later point as I was getting better, I tried the "natural" anti-depressant, St. John's Wort which gave me an up feeling similar to the Prozac, but without the bad side effects.

The thought was that once I became anxious and stewing over the job situation, the anxiety got a momentum of its own. Maybe it had created a chemical which fed upon itself, dragging the brain into a slough, "souring" it, was my word, stirring up other bad juices. I spent of these last days on the job walking, walking, walking, unable to function in my Jail Industries office. I walked around the building, over around the Gas and Electric Building, drove up to Druid Hill park and walked around the lake. It was a hideous autumn, the golden days of yellow and red leaves just adding to the torture.

The psychiatrists talked knowingly of synapses in the brain and said that the ssri's somehow kept the serotonin in the brain on one side of the synapse, thus increasing the brain's serotonin content. How did they know that serotonin was the golden juice? They didn't really; they were guessing. And what happened on the other side of the synapse to which the serotonin originally returned? Dr. K told me that more was made to make up. How had they tested this; it sounded to me as if he hadn't really done any tests. How did they know this?  I heard one TV report that Eli Lilly was testing its Prozac on the winos and homeless of Indianapolis, a story that sounded true enough. The makers of these chemicals deserved many law suits, and, hopefully, were getting same.

There just seemed to be too much imprecision about how these drugs worked and what were their results

I had, grudgingly, to grant that it wasn't lawyers as a class that were bad, it was the lawyers for the sides I didn't agree with. Like those defending the large drug companies, or O.J. Simpson, or Timothy McVeigh. Of course, lawyers with a conscience would find few cases and even less money.

At the beginning of my "exile", once out on sick leave and self confined to my row house on Ellerslie,  I paced alot, round and round like a Rilke's panther at the zoo. I spent most days watching day time tv, which is horribly bad. I didn't even have cable, which meant I was restricted to four or five stations. My tv set was getting old and, before long, the picture looked a little green at the edges. I ate apples and carrots compulsively. I chewed my pens and ice cubes until one tooth fell out and my front three or four were irreparably loosened. I went out on walks at the beginning, then abandoned that. The great fear was, will this keep getting worse? Is this forever? How to find someone I trusted to say, it will pass! It was ghastly to have lost interest in everything; I could feel my "juice" ebbing away, sleep, sex, music, running! For awhile I became paranoid, especially re Cathy, whom I supposed to be having new boy friends. My previous interests became sources of pain. I grew afraid to go out, afraid to meet friends. I would avoid them at the supermarket. Possibly the nadir of this disgusting year was Christmas day. The guys from O.A.R., no doubt at J's prompting came over for a morale boost. My son was there, looking like a scraggly Jesus with long hair. I sort of hid from all behind a post (actually wanted to keep near the door (I had entertained a new phobia since Cath found the diaries in the basement: that the whole house on Ellerslie was polluted and that I would not perform well in it unless I held a seam leading to the outside!) Or the Christmas meal when Chris stopped by and we wouldn't even let him in the house (Cath felt he would bring down the "festive" dinner). It was wet and cold outside and Chris, besides no money for food, had no umbrella! It was like a scene from Dickens.

When I inevitably woke at about four am, at the nadir of this crappy period, I would clasp Cathy tightly, she was all I had left. The lyric to a country song of the time went through my head: "Don't take her she's all I got". Too tightly. Cathy would complain.

Chris had recently been arrested. He too was trying Prozac. You're not supposed to mix the drug with drink. But Chris had. He had flipped out at Club Midnight and they had called the police. He had apparently pissed on the floor and was ranting and raving when they kicked him out. He called me in the middle of the night from Northern Police Station. Then he went to Central Booking. I wasn't about to help him and, had I been sane, should not have.

He was sentenced to community service for this misdemeanor. We then got a letter from the same supervisor to whom I was to report, Mr. K, because he ran the Alternative Sentencing Unit, that his agency could not accept Chris to do his hours because his father (me) was an employee of the unit!! This was an incredible insult. Yet, looking at it from K's point of view, he had been in the papers for the nepotism of hiring the sons and daughters of Judges to work in his unit, as well as other failings, so he was being extremely cautions.

Chris was able to get the Prozac by just one meeting with a psychiatrist, he was in the same health plan, "Free State", as was I. Once the Dr. saw him, I was surprised, and grateful, that she filled his prescription renewals without even continuing to see him. It was helpful for us. This Dr. turned out to be a neighbor of mine.

I have a chapter on C and his schizophrenia- but I won't bore you with it. Suffice it to say that, in 2010- according to an article in the Hopkins Newsletter,

The best book that I have read about depression is William Styron's Darkness Visible. He describes it well and is the only one to do so.

Naturally I considered suicide, who doesn't? My mind just sort of pondered the ropes I had seen in a tree down by Herring Run, maybe I could string myself up with that. I considered different methods; two things that always came up as obstacles- the pain of suicide, the possible mess. I remember thinking, the best method would be drugs, some kind of overdose. But how to obtain? Death by gun? Unthinkable!!

Thankfully, all of my shit began to lift in '97. I began to show some interest, first in reading, books, going to the library and book stores. I began listening to NPR, some of the more intelligent talk shows on the radio, rather than watching in the execrable wasteland of daytime television.

There came a time when I received a letter, report to the state's chief physician to be evaluated as to returning. He took one look at me and said, "Why haven't you returned to work"? Diagnoses from H and, blessedly, a good psychiatrist (as opposed to the evil Dr.D), Dr. K, had not arrived in time for this guy to read.

Dear Dr. O.", read Dr. H's:

 

"I am writing concerning David E., who I have seen both individually and in conjoint therapy with his partner, since July, 1996. Mr. E currently carries a diagnosis of Major Depression (DSM-IV 296.3) with Anxiety. He reports the following symptoms: depressed mood; diminished interest in previously pleasurable activities; sleep disturbance; loss of energy; lack of concentration and lowered sense of self worth.

Mr. E also carries an Axis II diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (DSM IV 301.4)

Mr. E has been treated with a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy (from me) and psycho pharmacology (from several psychiatrists.) Regarding the latter, Mr. E has been tried" (perfect word choice) "on Paxil, Serzone and Wellbutrin. Mr. E had side effects to all of these medicines and they were discontinued.

On March 27, 1997, Mr. E was seen by Dr. K, M.D. a psychiatrist, who began him on a very low dose of Prozac in hopes of seeing some positive results with w minimum of side effects." etc.

 

Dr. K weighed in with "...in addition he has a comorbid Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I have started Mr. E on a very low dose of Prozac...in addition he has been given low dose Oxazepam to manage anxiety symptoms. He continues to have marked fatigue, periods of agitation, with pacing behavior, indecisiveness, irritability, poor concentration and an increase in obsessive thinking which interferes with his ability to complete tasks." etc. The word "comorbid", like "pulvule" bothered me.

When I stopped taking Prozac and decided to stop seeing Dr. K he rolled his eyes and predicted a swift relapse. Had he his way, I'd have been on Prozac for life. As I remember he said as much.

It's also possible that the Prozac had worked!

Shortly after receiving the ultimatum from state Dr., O, I screwed up the courage to return to work.

Shortly before my return, there occurred what might have been the 2nd worst day of my life- the first being that one when C discovered the sex diaries. This was toward the end of my sick/ depression spell when I spend all day of each day lieing on my living room couch on Ellerslie Ave., chewing ice and carrots. My neighbor cut the beautiful ivy that was growing next to my walk in the back yard- true it was her garage wall, and then!, cut vines in the front which had been climbing up the pine trees in front of my sun porch windows! She had never consulted with me in either case, and here I was powerless to do anything- I could barely muster up the gumption to go outside and look!

But I know that the 2nd worst day in my life also had to do with sex- the day, when having been separated from Louise I awaited in a closet up in the old apartment and charged out on her and a lover as they were making love (like some crazed boy friend that you read about in the papers- and you read about them at least twice a year). I think L feared for her safety. I had also spent a night or two on a mattress in a apartment under hers that was vacant (the one where the brain surgeon had committed suicide?) Sex and violence- the society=s two potent markers.

I don't think Dr. O would have listed to these letters anyway. Besides it worked out that it was good for me to go back to work; it wasn't his job to be very sympathetic to the sickness claims of state employees. He didn't necessarily know much about mental ailments. His job was to get the state worker BACK to work. I screwed up my courage and went back to work. On one or two days I left early, but was able to hack it and began to find out what my fellow state workers already knew- it was easy because most were goofing off. We at O.A.R. had actually been working. In fact, the fact that they Agoofed off@ in Personnel and Payroll, had enabled me to be out for so long, even beyond the point where I was covered by sick leave, and then to return! Yagain, the ironies of life!!

It took me a little while to digest and then write about my "year of horror". The obvious questions were, why had I become depressed? There was the family history  (the suicides of grandmother and aunt), but I think really I had to grieve over the loss of O.A.R., the fact that they had taken O.A.R. away from me, my supposed "life's work" job. Dr. H suggested this. I might well have concluded it myself. I was in despair and it had taken a good while to grieve. Then too, I had the inclination towards my "comorbid" O.C.D. and sexual/pollution rituals yet to conquer.

It also occurred to me that I had this depression in me to use up, this capacity to "go to sleep" to capacity to freeze and immobilize. I had always feared it. It seemed a dark vale I must traverse to get to a better other side.. It was almost as if something in me wanted to experience it. The explorer in me. I came out on the other end- wiser, harder, able to appreciate life all the more.

Probably, it had been the passage of time and C's love and Dr. G.'s human kindness (pace Bo Lozoff) had affected the cure more than anything else.     Maybe it had been a form of male menopause? Dr. H suggested that the various medications may have played a role.

With his help, I had acquired various talismen to fight the "disease" and could fall back on these charms during normal life as well: 1), as at jail, a door may actually be open, you just try it; 2), as it stated in ad of the time for NIKE sneakers, "Just Do It", in other words just go ahead and try things regardless of the depression; 3), as the thief beside Christ was forgiven, a most powerful moment in the Bible for me, so I could forgive myself for my various pollutions and move on and not punish myself into a freeze (there was a large amount of buried anger behind this punishing), 4), just rely on the passage of time, time would heal all, time absolves, 6), first be courageous and bold and plunge ahead knowing that, after all, I had reason on my side (this easier said than done), the reason being that there was no logic to such crippling self punishment.

The Chinese had a saying that to conquer your fears you must make them beautiful. I realized that even the worst circumstance is beautiful to someone. If one was in a hurricane, well it was beautiful to the student of storms. Thus, in depression I could make myself a student of depression. If in a concentration camp one might ask, what is there beautiful to find?  A charming Italian movie of 1999, "Life is Beautiful" had attempted to answer this very question, with the father who is put into a camp with his son tries to shield the son from its horrors by pretending the camp is better than it is.

I reflect that part of my depression was not knowing what to do., as in my dream with Chris. Not-knowing-what-to do-ness can take a serious toll. It takes forward looking energy to proceed if you do not know what to do. This reminded me a bit of the days I spent at home after leaving the Peace Corp in '62/'63. I thought I wanted to be a poet. But that wouldn't allow me to support myself on my own. I finally moved out of the folks into the city, drawn by the civil rights movement and C.O.R.E. There- in the city- one thing led to another and to, eventually, a career in criminal justice.

But I was extremely happy to return to the two drugs which had been kind to me so far after all: alcohol (beer and wine) and tobacco (cigars).

On 4/24/2002 I was thrilled to hear William Styron, author of Lie Down in Darkness, The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie’s Choice, speak at an event at Johns Hopkins, the 16th Annual Mood Disorders Research/Education Symposium. He spoke at approximately 5:30 on A Patient’s Perspective. I had written him the following letter and had prepared a little package with some materials on Nat Turner from Cathy’s and my trip to Courtland, Virginia (once the Jerusalem where Nat was hanged) (Jerusalem a better name- they should have kept it), a package also including my poems which I inscribed to the Styrons (Bill and Rose are quite the team):

 

Dear William Styron,

 

I am a fan, a poet, and am enclosing my little chapbook- and also an ex depressive ( I’m glad to say). I am at the symposium today that DRADA is sponsoring.

Your book, Darkness Visible was the only book I could relate to re my depression. I had had minor bouts of depression before, always after losses- a sort of burning mouldering with a lot of Obessive Compulsive features- ruminating on could haves, would haves, should haves. I came out of my major funk after 10 months and went back to work. Did drugs help? I am inclined to think it was more the passing of time.

What a thought- the passing of time as therapeutic (although it is captured in an expression: Time heals all wounds). Usually we hate time because within it we grow old and it wastes us!

I feel that my depression was something I had to burn through, I had the capacity for it and am now beyond it (knock on wood) (especially vis a vis your re attack). It was , looking back, almost an adventure, although not one you would wish on anybody!!

I am also a radical- was arrested for protesting the Vietnam War and for pouring blood on draft files with Father Phil Berrigan in 1967. Not that I relate to Nat the violent but I am enclosing some materials on Nat Turner and I think that you would find the video interesting. They definitely do not want to memorialize ole Nat down in Southhampton County!!

As to depression treated in literature, I can think of few prose writers but many poets- Prufrock and the last poems of Plath especially, but also Hart Crane, Dylan Thomas (especially in their suicidal lives). They treat depression tangentially though- not directly as it is described in Darkness Visible.

Is depression kind of practicing for death. It's coming oh so soon! It was the little rain which into every life must fall.

You are one of my true living heroes- a literary man with integrity.! O my!

 

(I went on to ask him for an autograph, although I’d already got one at the event) Maybe he would write me back?.

He had spoken at the Symposium once before, when Darkness Visible, his great book on depression, was only some scattered thoughts for a speech and a reaction to an article by some scholars deploring Primo Levi=s suicide and sort of blaming him. Styron had then written an Op Ed piece in the N Y Times, angrily reacting to the old fashioned views on suicide- asking that Levi’s act be seen as perhaps courageous, and causing such a storm of reaction that he had gone on to write Darkness Visible.

Styron’s big breakdown was in 1985, but he had had another in 2000. Both times, he had gone into the hospital. He was not in favor of drugs, claiming that he might be kind of ecentric in that regard- allowing that drugs were helpful for many- maybe I’m hyper sensitive, he offered. He had been a big drinker before 85, but alcohol had become toxic to him and when he quit, the depression ensued. I got the feeling his had been blacker than mine- lacking the obsessive ruminating about could have, should have, would have beens that had always been part of my bouts. He had ECT therapies during his second attack and now seemed fine.

Sitting on stage, he responded to questions from his old friend and advisor, J. Raymond DePaulo, Hopkins Chair of the Dept. of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences - interview style.

Darkness Visible had been helpful to me in that it described depression in words, putting it in its place, so to speak- it was empowering- especially for a writer like myself. Styron made some great points: that one of the reasons he had written the book was not finding a previous literary description, that the disease is a mystery- there are no panaceas; that one thing that Aworks@ is being with, talking to others- getting help; that solitude is not advised; that, here he quoted from the book, depression blurs thought into stupidity (words to that affect); that , jokingly, he came around from his last depression (Massachusetts General Hospital) just as the election of 2000 was ending- might well have thrown him back into depression;.

As he finished I made my way down to the stage and approached; here was the grand old man- silver haired, Father Berrigan like, a great, great Southern novelist! I proffered my package. He shooed me away and I mentioned that (who was it) some one had told me I might give it to his wife, which I did. She said she would give it to him.

I reapproached him, joining a line of folks with the same idea of getting an autograph, one book hound/ money grubber had a whole stack of books. As the line moved towards him I heard him say, AI didn’t realize I was getting into this and I wondered to the person in front of me whether this was too much of an imposition. She thought not so I decided to press on and he signed my 1st edition of The Confessions of Nat Turner, immediately turning it from a $150 or so to a $300 book!

I went back to speak with Mrs. Styron. Did Mr. Styron still have a drink? She allowed that he did on occasion- I mentioned how much I liked Bordeaux. Was he working on any long fiction? No, she told me, he had started a long book with the first depression but was now basically doing short pieces.

I was able to meet Kay Redfield Jamison, another writer, at the Symposium. Herself a manic depressive, she was a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Hopkins and had written several books - one I had read on artists who were manic depressive. I mentioned Kleist to her. Her topic: Exuberance: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir and the Yosemite. She didn’t relate exuberance much to manic depression. Except to say that we emphasize the negative too much.

I had  written a whole chapter on my schizophrenic son- Chris.

What date here? brother Jonathan’s death about a year ago and how his came to a sad end – my right shoulder giving me trouble.  I am in training for a part time job- as a counselor in a residence for the retarded and developementally disabled- to work for my old friends NCIA- the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives- with whom I had “developed plans” back in the early 80’s- old acquaintance Herb Holter, who has recently developed a plan for Martha Stewart, still at the helm. Herb is still developing plans for white collar criminals- but the agency also now does general group home management.  My credit card debt has reached the heights of approx. $8 K- something must be done.  But it won’t be getting up at 2:30 am to deliver the Sunpapers.

NCIA has a pretty good training module- learning about dispensing medications, restraining the violent, types of developmental disability, state oversight, etc. I am training to become a RC- Resident Counselor. What sticks in my mind from the training?- some of the trainees seem pretty rough- most are young black female students who go to Coppin State College. The NCIA has about 80 clients ranging from profoundly retarded to moderately. Each of their houses hold three clients- the state gives NCIA money for their care. Many were originally in the old state mental institutions like Rosewood, Spring Grove, etc. The more scary may show SIB- self injurious behavior- some must wear helmets- one woman eats steel wool- there is a name for the disease of constantly wanting to eat- some destr0y property- one guy goes through a radio each week. Some are pedophiles. An amusing tale is told about the home that houses the pedophiles, still located on the grounds of the old institution- Rosewood. Guess what they built across the road? The trainer asks us?  A day care center. Another trainer tells us about his first day- he decides to drive his wards to a nearby McDonalds for some cheeseburgers- one says “I’m going to jump out of the car”. He does not take this threat seriously; the person DOES jump out of the car. Why?- and this is the lesson we are to take away from this tale? This client wanted to sit in the front seat- NOT the back seat. You need to find about about your clients’ Ips- Individual Plans- their diagnoses, their quirks. Later this same trainer has us role play a scene where the client is sitting in the middle of a highway- refusing to move- what should we do. Most of the students try to reason with the client- but the answer? The two of you should lead him OFF the goddamn road- bfore he gets killed. But generally physical force is not recommended unless the client is a danger to self or others. I realize that the training is not giving me a real picture- I will have to arrive at the “Unit” and talk to the House Manager to get that.

Last night (some date in April, )- “The Little Prince” opera on tv- music by Rachel Portman. It appealed to me when I first heard it driving up in Maine on vacation- now seems kind of sappy. Rachel should have to do the whole thing over in the 12 tone style- like Berg.

As I drive to work, (5/5) news of the funeral of a Pope who held the church back on so many issues (one could wish terrorists would attack Rome as this crowd of world “leaders” assembles), the funeral of lawyer Johnny Cochran, best known for helping a murderer- OJ Simpson, go free- and in both events, as w the Iraq war, the establishment press standing by and lauding endlessly, wrongly. Is this a horrible country….or what?!?!

My first day on job- May 1st, 5- impressions- it’s a long, boring 16 hours with three nutbirds (thank God for book tv- “Cspan”)- sort of like exotic flowers- could be alarming to some- nice house in the suburbs- Reisterstown Rd, past the beltway- Donna is the house manager- a tough, take no guff black lady-I am relieved to find out I can do it- one of the guys- Bobby- has La Grainge (sp) condition- elfin, bent over- goes up to his room, comes down to living room- puts on ear phones- hops up and down- (Donna says “he’s in attack mode”- but it seems to me he is dancing or exercising- I later find out just what his “attacks” are)- periodically moans- seems to be in pain by grimacing he makes- I think of the pain of not being able to communicate- as none of these guys can really- another one (Nokomus or Nick) is at that level of age (2?,3?) where he asks questions of you incessantly but you can’t understand what he is saying (wouldn’t speech therapy be a good idea?)-  like an annoying, chirping, pestiferous bird-I tell him my name is Dave but as he says it it comes out abe? mabe? smabe- other guy is quite capable- Darryl- he is sort of a hulking presence, but Donna says he hasn’t “gone off” in several years- all these guys have quite a few meds. In the evening, we all go to the Club Pub- there are about 50 clients with their RCs there. Hamburgers and hot dogs are provided. Many sit in a large lighted room. Others are “dancing” in another large but dark room- to the latest music. At one point they lead a person out- “He was exposing himself”. These are the folks that used to be kept on the back wards of the state institutions- where conditions were appalling. The TV personality- Geraldo Rivera- had did an expose of some in New York state back in the 70’s. Treatment has changed a lot since then, thank God!

4/20/5- I shall spend a lot of time for the rest of my life looking for things just mislaid and taking care of various ailments! Already trouble at the joints- your shoulder’s a mess, my Dr. says in 5/?- gout hits me from time to time, moving around at my feet and ankles- pains come “out of the blue”- like at my knee (5/24/)- undoubtedly old age- arthritis- harder and harder to simply get out of bed- stiffness in the mornings- sometimes difficult just to lift the leg to put underpants on! I am getting the message that I will not live forever in real terms! Great!

The week of 5/2/5 is Correctional Employees Appreciation week. I receive a diploma for 25 years of service/ employment at the Jail. How can it possibly be?!? I also get one for “Perfect Attendance” for the year 2003/4? which I don’t think is correct- the Jail departments (especially Records) make many errors. Once I got a “certificate of completion for a course on “Leadership Communication Skills” which I had not even attended! On Tues., the 3rd, I feel very angry to have to sit through some more speeches- the usual cliches- e.g. “we must stretch ourselves to give more”, or, “Good morning” (weak response- “Good Morning” again- boss wants bigger response, says “I feel like a million dollars just to witness another day”- same old bah bah. Yeh, boss- I feel overjoyed now- thanks!

Central Booking (where my office is located) has been in the paper all last week for overcrowding and atrocious conditions- to which I could attest- but I do think it’s better than the old lock ups when the various Police Districts were scattered around town- they WERE atrocious!). The week of 5/16 or 5/9 the guards stomp and inmate to death because he gave them a hard time and would not lock into his cell- they are going to be indicted soon.

Jim is out for the month. His first attempt at proving himself too depressed to work and thereby getting to quit with much more pay has not worked. They don’t think he’s “crazy”. But now he has a new psychiatrist; he is on librium. He really hates his work in the Records Department- he hates the fu ked up system. I wouldn’t want to work there either, but I figure I can go to retirement- 2007 when I will be 65 + 8 months- standing on my head!

Sat., 5/7 I get to the house and my retarded charges- the 3 nutballs- and the house manager breezily checks out- leaving me alone- which is not supposed to be- so that she can “do some mothers day things with her mom”. I am supposed to get some “back up” at 3- but that person later calls in sick. I notice that the house manager has signed in from 7-3- in other words- she is defrauding the company. Anyway- little Bobb- o,  who has the Cornelia de Lange syndrome, comes at me two or three times and I have to put him in a basket hold- wrestling hold- but he is pretty powerful and almost slips away (and then what would he do?) and I am a bit alarmed. I try to call the house manager opn her cell phone- no answer. So I call the boss over her- and she gets in trouble. She comes back to the house in the afternoon with her mom in the car and then leaves again. By this time, the little guy had tired himself out. Great eh? The job feels like World Federation Wrestling.

On 5/21/05, at the “unit” , we go on an outing in the morning- Donna the nitty gritty house manager and Nic and Darryl and me w Bobb-o in the very back seat so we can control him when he “acts out” which he does three times- grabbing me so that I have to hold him- quite frightening. I find out that one of the persons who went through the training with me- Reggie- has committed suicide. His demeanor at the training made me wonder if he wasn’t a client who they were allowing to audit the classes- but it turns out that, like many at NCIA- he was an addict who was a friend of one of the bosses and one whom they were trying to give a chance to. The very same house that I work in- 148 Royalty Circle- is one where he had been a resident counselor. But one night he stole all the Schedule 2 drugs and left the house- without any clothes on! They just found him in Leakin Park, sitting down beside a tree- his face decomposed. He had written a suicide note telling his girl friend that he was sorry for having relapsed and was going to lift a burden from the world by exiting. Maybe it was the very pills from the house that he overdosed on.

I am trying to give Nik some amateurish speech therapy. He is the one who talks incessantly- asking you questions like “when is Ms. Jewel coming?” I tell him: “Nik, it’s 3 o clock and if you ask me again, I am not going to respond” which doesn’t stop him. Today I tell him: “Nik- repeat this after me: Dave, I have something to tell you”. He tries in a fairly incomprehensible way. I tell him- “Nik- if you said something people could understand, they might have a good conversation with you”. And, I tell him: “Try being quiet for a while- people don’t like it when you keep talking to them constantly”. “Do you like me?” he asks, at regular intervals- no matter what I say.

I have gotten into trouble for making some mistakes giving out meds and for saying some “inappropriate things" to other staff members at the Pub Club on Saturday night (“Which ones are the pedophiles” and- to another counselor in a flirtatious way- “I like little girls”- wonder what. The staff here is pretty shaky I observe- many ex-addicts- and many “games” are played- talking behind others backs- “running other staff down”- that old favorite game of NIGYSOB- now I got ya ya son of a bitch- where in people/especially supervisors gloat over the human mistakes you have made. At the end of May I am terminated from NCIA for inappropriate remarks made at the Club Pub and incorrect administration of medicine and rudeness to supervisors- I go to a hearing with the head of Human Resources and am told that I am on probation and I am (that classic euphemism for being fired)  “not a good fit”. I am tempted to blow the whistle on Donna and her signing in and getting paid for no work, and for feeding the wards canned Dinty Moore when the menu reads “roast beef” and possibly stealing from the wards, but I decide not to sink to their level of play- gives them too much power over me- still, it makes me mad. I have to admit- I have been rude and crude and am almost proud of it. I am too old to take much bull shit!!

 

Two Portraits- w quotes from Thornton Wilder, MacKenzie Phillips and Vergil

« on: December 09, 2009, 01:45:39 AM »


 

The six year old talks to some 10 different beings-

"Sycamore , the cat"- "400" tells her to "do bad things".

 

The clozapem gives some ability to resist , the seroquel

Softens it, but doesn' t seem to work too well!

 

Dear Lord- give us some place to lay our head!

The pills aren't working- not at these milograms !

 

Voices take over, "you're only as sick as your secrets."

But schizophrenics don't even have secrets!!!

 

Sleep's fitful, torture, torture until the end.

( But she does have Betty- a schizophrenic friend .)

 

interlude at the Group Home

 

^^^^^

 

"Cornelia de Lange" not a rare flower- a Dutch pediatrician

Whose name is given to a rare affliction

 

At the group home, Rhonda tells me about "Bobby":

"He's in "attack mode' when he's crouching, bobbing......

 

But don't use the broom against him, it's against the regulations.

"Severe to profound abnormalities, facial dysfunction"

 

He cannot speak, just mews or cries, what is he saying?

Dear Lord how is Bobby today, did he pass or is still living?

 

In your sweet world? I value the restraints we trained on.

Luckily, Bobby's small, he can be sat on!

 

Dear Lord, what of the love that Thornton cites

Can Bobby know, he has such bad nights!

 

There are back wards you do not want to know-

About today- today with its flame skies and brilliant snow.

 

^^^^^

 

 

"But: the love will have been enough...there is a land for us

Of the living and a land of the dead.. " preposterous-

 

ly, jewel green colored moss between the sidewalk cracks ? how to cope? -

"A bridge between the two"? , the moss seems special, brilliantly..it offers hope.

 

The "land of the living" can be hell- and then you die !.

24-7 hours attention required of the parents , they've considered ways

 

Out. Wilder writes: "Soon we shall die,

Loved for a while and then forgotten..." I

 

And in that land of the dead- - no more loved ones!.... then

What about his "bridge between two" lands ?,

 

"And the bridge is love"- the"only survival, only mean -

ing" . The little moss takes on a special sheen.

 

And Sycamore - good kitty - special friend.

The moss, the sycamores, cool snow up until the end.

 

"Human misfortunes touch us in the end.

And, "There are tears for misfortune" and, except for Bobby, lovers, friends.

 

 

 

Suffice it to say- working with inmates at the Jail was a lot easier than working with severely mentally disabled patients at the group home!

 

 

 

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