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The Left Behind Pamphlet: Frog Gravy 77

4:07 pm in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Horror. In the Mouth of Madness.
“Do you read Sutter Cane?”
-John Carpenter

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

Inmate names are changed.

McCracken County Jail Cell 107, Spring, 2008.

I am seated at the steel table, wearing my terry-cloth towel tin foil hat, watching the news. On the screen, a Kentucky courtroom custodian has been arrested with seven charges, for pissing in a judge’s chair.

“I’m really starting to like Kentucky,” I say to Sally, yanking my thumb to the screen.

“Well, fuck me straight up,” she says, shaking her head.

I have a religious pamphlet in front of me, titled Left Behind, that is a transcribed sermon. Even though I am only on page 6 of the pocket pamphlet, I know I am doomed to be left behind, but I keep on reading because I am curious about some of the people who will not be left behind but rather, ‘chosen’ and then raptured into the clouds.

For example, why will the guards who close-range pepper-spray the homeless mentally ill man we call ‘Harry’ go into the clouds, while Harry will be left behind to soak in his own urine?

Even as I read this, Harry shouts for help, from his isolation cell down the hall, “Somebody Please! HELP! Let me out!! HELPME helpmehelpmehelpmehelpme Hellllpp!!”

The bottom of page six says,

Then the clouds will roll back, and we will see Jesus coming in all His glory. Oh, that’s going to be a wonderful day and an awful day. Some people will shout for joy when they see Jesus, but according to what we’ve just read in God’s word, some people will be left behind. Daddies and mamas will be left behind. I don’t know how that’s going to be, but maybe you and the children will just be sitting down at the table. Then all of a sudden there is a shaking and a loud noise, and suddenly your children start going up, away from their chairs, out the window or out the door…

I am beginning to wonder if there is a branch of chemistry called ‘resurrection chemistry,’ or of physical chemistry called, ‘reconstitution P Chem.’ I can see the bumper sticker: Honk, if you passed P Chem of The Rapture.

I think it is interesting how some, but not all physical laws will apply. People won’t just blow through the rooftop- they will exit through appropriate, socially acceptable ways: windows and doors.

I get the gist here though, reading this. All those ‘I-was-in-prison-and-You-visited-me’ people? Fuck ‘em.

By the way, these sorts of narrow-focus religious materials are all that the jail allows us to have. This jail specifically disallows education, job training, work for women, and in some cases (like mine), treatment. Not to mention the little things, like not providing enough menstrual pads, reducing women to using floor rags. They do these things full-time while they wait around for Jesus to arrive and give them, but not us, a ride to Heaven.

We will be left behind, but since we are already ‘left behind’ anyway, that event will be redundant. I already teach Ruthie, for example, who is a Kentucky-left-behind inmate, how to count, by making dominoes out of scavenged scraps of papers in the cell.

To sum it up biblically, where weeds and wheat grow, the weeds will flourish, and these full-time jail tormentors are the weeds in your lawn. They have found the perfect job destroying and humiliating inmates, and are unburdened with things like conscience, oversight, accountability, ethics, concern or empathy. They are vultures at a freshly disemboweled roadside deer. They do their job full-time, and so, that is why I have this pamphlet in front of me in the first place.

Tina and Meg are arguing.

Tina says, “I have not done anything to make you want to treat me like a dog, but if that’s what you need to do, go ahead. But still, wash your hands.”

Meg says, “I do wash my hands.”

Tina says, “Bet you didn’t wash all those dicks you sucked before you sucked ‘em.”

“Quit it,” I say.

Out of the blue, in the pamphlet, it says on page 11,

I believe some of the best hiders in the world are the Mennonite and Amish people. But believe me, tonight Jesus knows.

Wow. Just wow. I think.

In a phone call with one of my sisters, she tells me that I should have taken a plea, because to fight things here is hopeless, because this place is just a corrupt, river town. I tell her that taking a deal would not have changed anything. Their ‘offer’ was the same as the sentence I am serving. I had no chance in this court, I tell her, because I am not from here, and worse- I am from ‘out West,’ which means west of St. Louis, no matter where it happens to be.

Jails, by the way, take the families hostage, and then rape them for money, in the form of phone cards and canteen money.

I get off the phone and Sirkka says again, “Never take anything to trial here. Everyone knows that.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I say.

In the pamphlet I get to some part where the preacher finds some rock tapes in a ‘brother’s’ car. The preacher immediately confiscates the music tapes, drops to his knees and prays over “their power.”

I put the pamphlet down, because I cannot finish reading it.

I adjust the towel on my head.

note: I still have the pamphlet, right here in my lap, and I still cannot finish it.

What Not To Take To A Scrapyard

12:51 pm in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

“I’ve got about a thousand dollars in my wallet. How much would you like to borrow? Five? Ten?”

Even if I had a thousand dollars in my pocket, I would continue to dumpster dive and scrap. What this country sends to the landfill each day is shameful.

Thank goodness for scrap right now. Since we are open about our scrapping activities that get us by, people often initiate conversation with us. Recently, a man with an excellent full-time job told my husband that he would not be able to get by without supplementing his income with the cash that he gets from recycling scrap metal.

During that conversation, they got to talking about air conditioners.

Before I begin this discussion, if you are new to this subject and curious about just what a scrap metal is, please read this article.

So, let’s begin with air conditioners. These items are very heavy, and they are laden with two money scrap metal elements: copper and aluminum. There is a honeycomb looking structure in an air conditioner that the scrap yard calls a copper-aluminum radiator. These things are worth their weight in gold and, a couple of these things a month can mean the difference between eating and not eating, if you are not already eating for free from the dumpsters. Read the rest of this entry →

The Seizure People: Frog Gravy 76

10:08 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.

Inmate names are changed.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die.
-Franz Kafka

PeWee Valley Women’s Penitentiary, 2009

Several inmates leave the dining hall, after a meal, and begin the walk back to the dormitory.

We pass an inmate, lying in the grass yard just outside the chapel. The inmate is in the throes of a violent grand mal seizure. Another inmate is with the woman, and has turned her to her side. A circle of urine spreads in the crotch area of the seizing inmate’s khaki pants. Drool leaks out the side of her mouth.

“Seizure,” I say, to the group.

Comes the reply, “Well fuck me with an axe.”

We continue walking. So does everyone else. There is nothing that we can do for the woman, beyond what the assisting inmate is already doing.

During my stay in this prison, I have seen more grand mal seizures than I ever saw during my career as a nurse. If you have never seen such a thing, it is truly terrifying to witness. The first time I saw such a thing, in a hospital setting, I called for help and nearly called a code. It looked as if the person would die violently, right in front of me.

The seizure people are no longer terrifying, because we have become jaded from seeing so many of them. There is preventative medication available. Just not in prison, apparently.

The seizing women have lost their dignity. They are no longer wives or mothers or women. They are pants-pissing animals choking on their own drool in a prison yard while everyone walks by, careful to avoid stepping on them.

I believe that inmate women are entitled to prevention and dignity.

Seizures come in many forms, and they are a difficult health condition to accept.

Just yesterday I took an unexpected trip to the hospital. I was referred to a neurologist that I cannot afford. From what my husband had witnessed and related to the doctor, the doctor was concerned about the possibility of some sort of seizure activity in me. This is not the first time I have been told this. I was first told this following an EEG after a soccer-related head injury in the seventies.

I decided over the years to ignore the possibility of adjusting my life around some head thing. Maybe it is my age, but I must accept and make life adjustments, until I can get to that neurologist. People live with seizures. They just don’t get up onto roofs and operate machinery.

My husband and I were in the check out line at a local grocery store. One moment I was absolutely fine. The next minute, I said, “I don’t feel well.”

I sat on the nearest bench, took a couple of swallows of bottled water, and managed to screw the cap back on. Next thing I know, I am in my husband’s lap, from a seated position, and he is asking me if I can hear him. I was scared to death, but then, I felt like an asshole, because the whole thing was so transient.

Meanwhile, the spirit world was at work, and a kindred spirit named Kathy came to my side. Kathy is a nurse. She is also the published author of an inspirational book. She talked me into being seen. I will never forget Kathy, her spirit, and her kindness.

There is an entire realm of head trauma that can cause subclinical changes. I believe that we need more studies and more data on just what those changes look like, and how to deal with them.

Unfortunately, in the American prison world, even with a seizure condition as grossly apparent as the grand mal variety, there seems to be little interest in prevention.

This is sad, because the seizure people will return to the community, flat broke more often than not, with an untreated, life-altering seizure condition.

Swartzentruber Amish Men In Kentucky Refuse To Back Down In Religious Freedom Issue

8:13 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

I have followed the case of the Amish men in Mayfield, Graves County Kentucky, in the news, since 2008. I was in jail in neighboring McCracken County when their case aired. More than half a dozen Amish men of the Swartzentruber Amish sect had been stopped and cited for not displaying a large, orange reflective triangle on the back of their horse-drawn buggies.

The men took a stand, refusing to display the symbol because of its offensive nature, refusing to plead guilty to any violations, and refusing to pay associated costs and fees. Graves County became hopping mad and pre-ordered dark grey jail outfits in eager anticipation of locking up the Amish.

The men are not disinterested in road safety, and they have offered reflective tape alternatives to the orange triangle. Such alternatives have been accepted in other states.

The Swartzentruber Amish live completely off the United States Electricity Grid (‘off the grid’). They also live without plumbing or appliances.

Here is some more information about the Swartzentruber Amish from wiki:

It is suggested that the Swartzentrubers see an interest in appearance as too worldly. Their farms can be identified by dirt drives and surrounding roads, while most roads of the Old Order contain either gravel or paving to keep out the mud. The houses and outbuildings of the Swartzentruber often sport tin roofs. The clothing differs from that of the other Old Order Amish in subtle ways: all colors are dark and somber rather than the bright blues and mauves; more common is navy, dark burgundy, and even gray. Men frequently wear a single suspender to avoid what is seen as the pride of two. The dresses of the women, rather than reaching mid-calf, usually reach to the top of the shoes. The tack on the horses and buggies is often all black, rather than brown leather.

Swartzentruber Amish use reflective tape on the back of their buggies, in place of bright triangular slow moving signs for road travel, which they regard as too worldly. These buggies will also sport lanterns, rather than battery-operated lights, or reflectors.[5] The lanterns are also often staggered, one side slightly higher than the other, so as not to appear like the tail lights of a vehicle. There have been several court cases across the country where the state and county challenged the local Swartzentruber group to use the regulation orange triangle. So far, even as far as the federal Supreme Court, the Amish have prevailed, although statistics suggest that in areas where these groups exist, accidents involving buggies are more prevalent.

On September 13, 2011, nine Old Order Swartzentruber men were jailed for not paying a fine for refusing to display an orange reflective triangle on their horse-drawn carriages.[6]

Of interest also is that this sect speaks a dialect of German called Pennsylvania German.

The Amish case is back in the news today because some of the men are again facing jail time. It is a religious persecution case impinging on freedom of religion, as well as an international news story and a Graves County Kentucky spitting contest. The only data about whether or not a gigantic orange sign contributes to road safety better than alternatives such as lanterns and tape, was produced by Penn State in 2001. Jacob Gingrich, who is taken away from his twelve children every time he is jailed, cites this study, that suggests no change in safety with the orange triangle display.

I tried searching for some hard data today, on the orange triangle. I had the misfortune of stumbling into a Fox News article, basically hating on the Amish. Fox news backs their claim with one interview from one man, also an Amish-hater and letter-writer.

I thought, “Okay. I will give Fox News a chance.” I clicked on their link labeled and double underlined “Swartzentruber Amish.” I was taken to a “URL Not Found” page that my virus program had apparently blocked, to a site called “the shopping hornet dot com.” Fuck you, Fox News.

I believe that if the government is going to impinge on the freedom of religion for the protection of the public, there must be some rational, evidence-based connection between the law and some situation going on. There must be some data that shows that the law does, in fact, protect public safety. That does not include the opinions of a few residents of Mayfield, Kentucky, walking around a parking lot talking about their hateful letter-writing campaign.

There must be some data available, because other states have adopted alternative lighting options. Surely those courts based their decisions on some rational available data. Perhaps Kentucky can follow suit, and put an end to picking on a specific sect of Amish with repeated arrests that tie up the courts and waste everyone’s time.

Shining The Light Of Day On Courts: Updated With Grand Jury Hearing Link, Frog Gravy

8:10 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Updated with this link to the full text Grand Jury hearing. The only thing missing from McGuire’s testimony is “Once Upon a Time.”

http://froggravy.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/the-full-text-grand-jury-hearing/

Author’s note: I apologize for taking a few days away from Frog Gravy. Initially, I promised to publish full-text transcripts of hearings wherein, Deputy Eddie McGuire testified under oath, in court, to get the initial indictment as well as the ultimate conviction in my case. This will take some time, and I will present the transcripts in sections.

I am unable to participate physically in Occupy, but my goal is to shine the light of day onto some of the events that occur daily in courtrooms in our country.

I will place all full-text transcripts at the site froggravy.wordpress.com.

For example, at that site, you can find the full text opening brief, the full text reply brief, the full text motion for discretionary review, and the
full text to be published opinion affirming.

These online publications are transcribed from official court reporter documents, or, as with the briefs and the opinion, they are directly cut and pasted from original documents. As far as I know, I am the only person who has ever insisted on obtaining such transcripts in McCracken County.

All transcripts are a matter of public record and are available in the public domain.

As I write this, from wiki,

Incarceration in the United States is one of the main forms of punishment and/or rehabilitation for the commission of felony and other offenses. The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. At year-end 2009 it was 743 adults incarcerated per 100,000 population.[4][5][6][7][8]
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) 2,292,133 adults were incarcerated in U.S. federal and state prisons, and county jails at year-end 2009 — about 1% of adults in the U.S. resident population.[4][5][9][10] Additionally, 4,933,667 adults at year-end 2009 were on probation or on parole.[4] In total, 7,225,800 adults were under correctional supervision (probation, parole, jail, or prison) in 2009 — about 3.1% of adults in the U.S. resident population.[3][4][11] In addition, there were 86,927 juveniles in juvenile detention in 2007.[12][13]

Before I was locked up, I scarcely knew of anyone who had been arrested, much less anyone who had done time. Now, it is safe to say that nearly everyone is touched in some way, by ‘the system.’ Of particular alarm, to me anyway, is the numbers of women, elderly women, children and pregnant women who now spend a portion of their lives in the abnormal and secretive society of our nation’s jails and prisons.

As I have said before, Frog Gravy is not meant to be about me. It is about a criminal justice system gone mad. The women in the stories are from backgrounds that represent a microcosm of society at large, with the exception that, few have obtained college degrees and women of color are over represented. This later statement is changing also. I am white, and I found that white women are more common residents in prisons and jails than in recent years.

Every jail or prison sentence begins with an indictment. Every indictment is handed forth by a Grand Jury. My Grand Jury was the Paducah Kentucky McCracken County Grand Jury. Deputy Eddie McGuire was the only witness. The only truthful statement he uttered in his under-oath testimony at the Grand Jury was that he pulled me over.

Just so that there is no question about me making this stuff up, I will be putting word-for-word all of his under-oath testimony from three hearings on the internet.

I will present the hearings in parts. My indictment took just six minutes.

In those six minutes, McGuire lied about an exculpatory blood test result, and he also lied about a test result on the so-called “gonna be crack cocaine.” There was no field test and there was no confirmatory laboratory test about cocaine or any other illegal drug.

I will post the Grand Jury transcript first. If you are following the legal case, please have a look later today.

Between posting transcripts, I will be posting Frog Gravy posts, and Masoninblue will be posting on various other issues, such as why a lab tech with a bachelor’s degree and no clinical experience whatsoever, was allowed, without objection from Chris McNeill, to testify about the clinical effects of a medicaton that he had never handled, tested for, or published about, to contribute to conviction in my case. In fact, Ryan Johnson, the lab-tech-cum-expert, had published nothing about any drug (or anything else, for that matter) in any peer-reviewed journal, and yet, he was deemed an ‘expert’ in a McCracken County court of law.

Mason is itching to write about this so-called ‘expert’ that they used without objection from my exceedingly useless attorney, Chris McNeill, who should have been on his feet rather than firmly attached to his chair. What happened is so unbelievable, that I cannot resist delivering a heads-up: the man was an approved and acceptable expert in the courtroom during my trial because, I kid you not, he read from a product insert. This is the truth, and it happened in McCracken County, Kentucky. There is no way you can make this stuff up. That the man acted outside of his scope of practice would be a massive understatement.

Also, why, and in what world, does a so-called ‘higher’ Court of Appeals neglect not only the briefs but also the entire record in a case, and then designate it “to be published,” essentially doing away with DNA and other exculpatory blood testing?

How often, with more than two million people locked up and another four-plus million on paper, does such egregious miscarriage of justice occur in this country? Also, why on earth is this country locking up little old ladies while the dangerous violent criminals run the streets? There are some of the questions we need to be discussing.

For review:

http://frederickleatherman.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/the-art-of-cross-examination-part-3-the-killer-cross-that-never-happened/

http://frederickleatherman.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/the-art-of-cross-examination-part-4-the-killer-cross-that-never-happened/

http://frederickleatherman.wordpress.com/2011/12/24/the-art-of-cross-examination-part-5-the-killer-cross-that-never-happened/

http://frederickleatherman.wordpress.com/2011/12/25/the-art-of-cross-examination-part-6-the-killer-cross-that-never-happened/

http://frederickleatherman.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/the-art-of-cross-examination-part-7-the-killer-cross-that-never-happened/

Conversation With The Lawyer: Frog Gravy 75

8:35 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.

McCracken County Jail, May, 2008

My lawyer, who is about as useless as a steering wheel on a mule, calls me out to have a conversation. I have lost confidence in my lawyer, and I do not trust him. But, I am stuck with him and whatever surprises he brings.

As I walk down the hallway, I try to get a glimpse of Harry, who, as usual, is shouting and begging for someone to help him, from his isolation cell. I cannot see him. I wonder if Harry has a real name.

In the conference area, I seat myself at a small table, across from my lawyer. He says, “Did you hear anything about your sentence? How it is four years and not eight?

“Yeah,” I Say. “As a matter of fact, my family on the west coast told me, like two weeks ago. This judge will claim clerical error and give me eight. He did this on purpose, just to be mean, so I will make parole and he can take it away. This is not complicated. There may be a problem. Fred found a case that says he can’t take it back. Seems he missed a deadline.”

I watch the lawyer pick up a law book, that I have already looked through in the jail ‘law library,’ and thumb through it. He locates a statute that I have already read, and begins to read the statute to me. I let him read it, and I listen as though I have never heard it before.

I say, “I have told Fred to go ahead and file my notice of appeal. I will file it Pro Se.”

“The appeal has been filed.”

“No it hasn’t. Clymer wants some financial statement. For the umpteenth time. He’s trying to block my appeal.”

“Maybe so.”

“By now, you oughta know so. By the way, those comments he made about me in open court? The ones about me being naked on an elephant riding through the middle of town at noon? And the comments at sentencing, where he acted like an auctioneer and said to the jury, Thirty, thirty, do I hear Sixty? Those are comments for the judicial conduct commission. Those comments were unnecessary, offensive and inappropriate. Even other inmates were offended. Do you have any idea what it takes to offend another inmate in here?”

“They have very specific rules. They’ll ignore it.”

“How about filing documents with made up facts. Will they ignore that?”

“They have very specific rules.”

“He can’t make sexually degrading comments in open court. Come on.”

“It won’t go anywhere.”

“Not if I don’t file it.”

The conversation shifts. The lawyer says, “You can’t practice nursing anymore.”

“I have spoken to the Board of Nursing,” I say. “Many times. Drug charges do not prevent someone from entering a monitored diversion program and continuing to practice. Many health professionals, in fact, piece their profession back together this way.”

“That’s not what they all think.”

Ah, the ‘they, ‘ I think to myself. I say, “Okay. I’ll bite. If they want their phony confession I will consider it. But there is a problem. I have no idea what to confess to. They have so many versions of their story that I am not sure which version to pick. Maybe you can help me pick, Chris. Go ahead. Pick a story for me. There’s lots to choose from. Or, how about this? Make up a new one.”

“I don’t know.”

“Find out. If they could keep their stories straight, it would make my phony confession task a lot easier.”

“I know, I know.”

“No. You don’t. Do not ever again tell me that you know what it’s like. You agreed to taking away my defense, during a meeting in the hour before trial- a meeting you never told me about. You botched the trial. We are now trying to figure out a way to undo the damage you did. We are trying to figure out if you even preserved anything for the appeal.”

“Don’t worry about the appeal.”

“Wake up Chris. If I don’t somehow come up with the filing fee and file it on time, the whole thing goes away. Writs of Mandamus are a waste of time on something that is filed late. Am I speaking English?”

In my head, the team of sledgehammers is back. I can feel the blood vessels swell, as I sit here. Finally I say, “How about the appeal? What are my chances on appeal?”

The lawyer replies, “Depends if he has friends in the Court of Appeals.”

note: During my sentencing, in March, 2008, the judge in my case said, in front of the jury, as an auctioneer would say: “Thirty, thirty, do I hear sixty?”

The comment, “She could be naked, riding on an elephant through the middle of town at noon, singing a song about heroin” was made after the suppression hearing. Ironically, in an inappropriate yet darkly humorous way, the judge was pointing out that it is not illegal to mention the name of a controlled substance, or to even sing a song about a controlled substance, while riding an elephant down the street naked, at noon. He is correct, of course, because we have a First Amendment right to free speech, and mentioning something about [insert the name of a controlled substance here] is not illegal.

Why, then, after making this comment, did the judge deem such free speech an illegal act? We do not know the answer.

Also of interest: Herion was the subject of a front-page news story in the area, just prior to my arrest. Chris McNeill refused to show the article to the jury during my trial.

Also, Chris McNeill failed to include the transcript of the preliminary hearing in the record on appeal. The preliminary hearing transcript contained McCracken County Deputy Eddie McGuire’s under-oath statements shortly after my arrest, and the statements differed dramatically and materially from his statements later on, also under oath. I had to file a motion with the Court of Appeals to include the preliminary hearing testimony, so that the Court of Appeals could see how Eddie McGuire changed his story. The motion delayed my appeal for a year, while the Preliminary Hearing transcript and testimony was included in the record. I was stunned when I learned that my own lawyer had made such an omission and created the one-year delay.

[cross posted at froggravy.wordpress.com]

Birds: Frog Gravy 74

3:22 pm in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.

Cardinal couple

Cardinal Couple jail art by Crane-Station. I will be posting new art soon. Our camera issue is only temporary.

KCIW PeWee Valley Women’s Penitentiary near Louisville,KY, Spring, 2009

I am off to see my birds. They have their nests built, for the most part, and now they are mating and having chicks.

A dove pair lives near the library. Another lives near the grave of Columbus Dorsey, the young man who is buried outside the Horticulture greenhouses. This dove couple had a chick, that was beaten to death with a broom, by an inmate. I interrupted the beating and tried to save the baby dove, but I could not, and so I left it near its nest and near the grave of young Columbus, where it died.

The other baby dove, the one that a guard stomped to death on the ball field, remains at rest underneath the tree where it the officer killed it.

The robins are here, and so it is Spring, because robins have returned from winter migration. Robins are stout birds that keep to themselves and hunt worms; they are not interested in scraps or bread. This morning, when I was in Horticulture class and we were digging and planting in an area between the chapel and the dining hall, the robins watched us dig, from a vantage point near the chapel. When we finished, the robins moved in, rooted through the freshly dug soil, and stuffed themselves sick with earthworms. Amazing that they could even get themselves up off of the ground after their worm bacchanal. On occasion, I see the blue halves of robin eggs, after the chicks have hatched.

Starlings, along with crows (and seagulls), are the birds that Alfred Hitchcock featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds. Starlings were introduced to this country and they are generally hated. Starlings are accomplished mimics and vocalists; they answer me specifically. The people who hate starlings describe them as ugly, but I believe they are beautiful, with their glossy coats and their mercurial flock formations that at times make the sky seem fluid. A starling flock can have tens of thousands of members. They do not care for crumbs, but they do enjoy hot dogs and bologna when I have it.

Bluebirds are shy, and they often encounter difficulty with competition with sparrows for nesting space. There is a way to offer bluebird housing that is specific to bluebirds. (Perhaps someone can share their experience.) Bluebirds are not interested in scraps and crumbs, but their presence is uplifting.

Sparrows are regular customers for crumbs. They are loyal and entertaining. When a sparrow once became entangled in some string, Officer Carbey untangled it from the bird’s foot. The bird was quiet during this procedure, and I think it knew that the officer was trying to help. There are, it turns out, a good many kind-hearted officers working in the prison system.

There are many other birds here: swallows, chimney swifts, mockingbirds, cardinals, woodpeckers, and even the occasional heron.

I spot a baby bird that has fallen from a nest just outside of Ridgeview Dormitory. I pick it up. It is a hatchling that is so small I can cup it in my hand. Its eyes are not open, and it has no feathers, so I cannot identify what kind of bird it is. I place it back into the nest above the area where I found it.

The next day the tiny, naked creature is back on the ground. I assume that something is wrong with it and that it has been forced out of the nest due to its weakness. I decide to keep it warm, and I decide not to tell anyone, not even my roommate, for fear it that a guard or inmate will find out and stomp or beat it to death. The bird cranes its neck and makes a peeping sound that is barely audible. It raises its naked wing knobs. I make a warm place for it, hide it in my room, and offer it some sugar water. The bird dies the next day, but at least I know it was warm and as comfortable as it could be.

I decide that someday, somehow, I want to make a life with birds, and have a sanctuary.

note: a PeWee is a small bird. I never saw one while I was at PeWee.

[cross posted at froggravy.wordpress.com]

The Bat: Frog Gravy 73

8:38 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

In case you missed it:

Bird drawing  by Crane-Station

Birds drawn at Ricky’s World by Crane-Station. Sorry if you have seen this. I have more jail art, but am having a temporary camera issue, that will be resolved soon. Thank you for your patience!

When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.

-Franz Kafka
The Metamorphosis

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.

Inmate names are changed.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

McCracken County Jail Cell 107, winter, 2008

I am turning into a bat.

I wear a cape to fend off the cold. I am going blind from the fluorescent lighting. I wear a towel on my head. I speak very little. I have hair on my face and on my body that I have no way of controlling and it embarrasses me.

My cape is my greying thin sheet. Sometimes I put the grey square scratchy wool blanket on top of the sheet, but it itches me because I am allergic to wool. When I asked for a cotton blanket, the jail staff refused because I was unable to provide documentation from an outside physician stating that I am allergic to wool.

I am in the toilet trying to brush what is left of a tooth that lost a crown. I have asked to see a dentist for more than a moth now, to no avail.

I have just taken a shower. The cell has no toilet paper, and so, when you have a bowel movement, you have to cup your hand underneath your crotch, and make a run for it, out of the toilet area and through the cell to the shower stall. Someone must stand guard, because the inside of the cell is visible to the hallway occupants. The hallway occupants are usually working Class D men, because Class D women are not allowed to work hallway jobs. No one wants the working men to see them running through the cell naked with shit and piss cupped in one hand, and so we look out for each other. In the shower, you use the other hand to depress the push-button spout that issues a ten-second spray of cold water. Some inmates use rags after they pee, but after a bowel movement, you really have to do the shower thing.

In the cell, YaYa works on a grievance about the lack of toilet paper and we all sign it. It says (picture coming with update- we currently have a nonworking camera):

We have been without tissue paper for 8 hours or more and the 2nd shift is telling us to get it on the 1st shift, they are too busy now. We are without tissue and no guards will bring us any.. We’ve asked and still no tissue. The jail gets money for state, federal and county inmates. There is no reason we should have to drip-dry. We are not animals.

The response reads:

You are given allotted amount of t/p and feminine products. You must use them accordingly.

Meanwhile, in the cell, Meg says to Lea, “I have pinkeye. Isn’t that contagious?”

“It’s incredibly contagious,” says Lea.

Christie says, “I can’t afford to get pinkeye in my eye socket. I can not afford to get pinkeye.”

I say, “Write a note to the doctor.”

Tina says, “Wash your hands.”

“I do wash my hands,” says Meg.

“They won’t do nuthin,’” says Lea. “They want you to get full-blown pinkeye, so everybody in the mutherfucker’ll get it. I’ve been here when everybody in the place had it.”

Down the hall, Harry shouts from his isolation cell, “PLEEEEASE! Somebody,HELP!!”

On the television news, the Amish men, six or seven of them, are in court in neighboring Graves County. Their hats are off and they are quiet. Displaying a large reflective orange triangle on their horse-drawn buggy does not coincide with their religious beliefs, and they are opposing the charges. Graves County is eager to accommodate the Amish in their county jail, and so the jail has pre-ordered dark gray outfits for the men.

I am actually sort of an autistic bat. I speak little, because I want to avoid conflict. It does not help that much. Inmates make fun of me anyway, because I am not from here, and because I took my case to trial. But it is okay that they make fun of me, because everyone is in pain anyway.

I write because there is absolutely nothing else to do but listen, write down what I hear, readjust my towel hat and my cape, and fold cranes out of paper scraps. For breakfast we had applesauce, sausage and cereal; for lunch we had a hamburger patty, corn, an apple and green beans, and for dinner we had a hamburger patty, sweet potatoes, carrots and cake.

I wander to the hallway window and read a new sign that is posted there, regarding a new clergy visitation policy. The letter is from the jailer, and it is lengthy. It says in part:

Clergy Visitation Policy

The staff at McCracken County Jail recognize the importance of one-on-one clergy visits in the rehabilitation of inmates…

However,to ensure the safety of…

The gist of the lengthy letter is that the jail will now limit clergy visits to entombed inmates by narrowing the times that clergy can visit, and increasing the red tape for both clergy and inmates to coordinate such visits.

The new policy is out of grave concern for inmate safety, and it is authored by the same folks who walked the bleeding pregnant woman in premature labor down the hall in handcuffs.

The newer, safer Policy:

-Clergy must now show their theological licensing credentials and documents to the jail staff, and the staff must approve the credentials.

-Hours for clergy visits will be limited to:

8:30-10:30 M-F (no weekends)

(11:30-4:30 M, T, Th,F (no weekends)

-No more than 30 minutes per visit.

-No lay clergy will be allowed. (So much for the laity! ie: nuns and deacons)

-No more than 2 visits per week.

-Clergy must be listed on a visiting list and the visiting list must be approved by the in-house jail chaplain. In other words, if you are not from the area, or if you do not happen to know any clergy in the area, you are shit-out-of-luck.

There are 450-475 inmates warehoused in this jail at any given time. Non-religious texts and educational materials are banned. The only materials allowed are specific types of religious materials. Okay. So now, we agree to get to know God better, and what does the jail do? They limit clergy visits.

To insinuate that clergy, many of whom have ministered in this jail for a long time, somehow compromise inmate safety during brief visits over the phone behind bullet-proof glass is insulting to the clergy who dedicate ministry to this jail.

Meg leaves and vacates her prime real estate and we all rotate our positions in the concrete and steel cell for four, that will soon house six again, as soon as Meg’s replacement arrives. I am in line for a choice spot on a steel bunk next to the cement wall. I started at the beach, between the toilet and the shower on the cement floor. Then I moved to the mountains on a top bunk where the lights were in my face, but now I am hoping for a cave before I lose my eyesight.

In my cave I reflect on the clergy visits and surmise that if I were to ask for a Shaman or a Unitarian, I would be deemed a witch and burned at the stake. Eventually, I dose off.

My dreams become trapped in the walls.

[cross posted at froggravy.wordpress.com]

Meanness Among Warehoused Inmates: Frog Gravy 72

10:33 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer.
-Albert Camus

Barn at winter by Crane-Station

barn at winter by Crane-Station on flickr. jail art done at Ricky’s World.

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.

Inmate names are changed.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

McCracken County Jail Cell 107, winter, 2008

Meg announces to the cell that she is on her period.

“So?” says Christie.

“So, I get out in two weeks, and I can get some dick!”

Meg lives in a motel on the outside, where she trades her body for drugs. She has nine children; many of them were born while Meg was in jail. After Meg is released and after she gets her ‘dick,’ her tenth child will be born in prison, but we do not know this yet.

She has made the comment about getting some ‘dick’ to be mean, because she knows that the rest of the cell occupants are serving lengthier sentences than she has ever had to serve, and that we will be unable to know a man’s touch or have sex, and she will.

When the announcement about dick does not elicit much of a response, Meg starts in on Christie, who, having been denied drug court and now faces 24 years for nonviolent drug-related charges, is desperately depressed. Christie stays on her bunk all the time now, crying.

One of Christie’s felonies, by the way, is for a cold check in the amount of something like one dollar and seventy-two cents, whereas Meg, who will walk out of the jail and get some dick and get pregnant two weeks from now, has a lengthy history of theft and possession charges that, for some reason, she has never had to worry much about, in terms of serving any time.

Rather, during her frequent yet brief accomodations in the McCracken County Jail, she busies herself with the passive-aggressive practices of constant manipulation and torment of fellow inmates who will be serving lengthy sentences entombed in cement with no hope. Each time, Meg leaves, and gets some dick, among other things.

Meg says to Christie, “I think you are overreacting.”

“I can’t help it,” says Christie. I’m not overreacting. I feel really, really, really bad inside. People notice that there is something wrong. I can’t quit crying. I don’t mean to be such a bitch about it. I just don’t know what to do about it. I sleep 15 hours a day now. I can’t handle this.”

“It’ll be all right,” says Meg, who, two weeks from now will be having sex.

“You don’t know that,” says Christie.” I’m sorry. This isn’t me, but I just don’t know what to do.”

Christie cries.

Down the hall, Harry yells from his isolation cell, “HELLLLP! PLEEEEASE! Somebody! Let me out! Helpme helpmehelpme helpmehelpme Helllllpp…”

Sally is on the phone, calling her mother “a fucking whore.”

Sally calls her mother every five minutes or so, and treats her like a disobedient child. She says, at maximum volume, “I love you! Shut your fucking mouth, you’re nuthin’ but a lazy whore.”

Sally’s mother shouts back. Sally also screams at her 17-year-old son on the phone. She holds the receiver and says to us, “He ain’t got his books for home school yet. Can you believe that shit? My mother ain’t even got his books! She ain’t nuthin’ but a useless whore, don’t do nuthin’ but lay on her back all day.”

The son is supposed to be homeschooled by Sally’s mother, who is addicted to Vicodin and who never completed the eighth grade, because Sally is in jail.

The son is also apparently very sick, with some kind of severe illness that Sally cannot define. Munchausen by Proxy I think to myself, although I never say it. I think this to myself privately because Sally also self-reports severe, undefined illness in herself, and the mother is dysfunctional, and there is too much collective severe-yet-undefined illness in a young group of closely connected people. Sally looks healthy and robust. It is Christie, crying on her bunk, unable to get up, that I worry about.

I like Sally, and we get along well. I do not agree with how she speaks to her mother or her son, but Sally is amicable to fellow inmates, and she has a delightful sense of humor.

Meanwhile, Meg has come back to the cell from a brief visit to the jail library. The library is a jail cell with mostly paperback romance novels and religious materials, and a remarkable dearth of literature. Meg sets an arm load of romance novels onto the steel table, and then starts gossiping about YaYa, who was in the library, gossiping about Amy. YaYa is not here to defend herself.

Meg says, “I just wanted to hit her.”

I say, “She’s pretty big. Maybe that is not such a good idea. You know, hitting her.”

“The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

Meg taps on the wall to the cell next door, to arrange for her delivery of drugs for the evening, in the form of the inmate-next-door’s psych meds. Everything went okay for her first delivery, and I secretly hope that everything will continue to go okay, because when Meg is on someone else’s psych meds, she usually shuts up.

They make some arrangement.

Later, I am doing exercises on the floor next to the steel door when the steel door flies open, nearly hitting me, and there stands Tiffany, the sergeant, and she is irate. She says, “Who got the note from Carter!?”

“Who’s Carter?” I say.

“Who got that note from Carter!?”

Just then, we realize that Meg’s drug arrangement has not gone as planned. Carter, the inmate next door who was on psych medication, had wrapped two pills in paper and ‘fished’ them underneath her cell door and into our cell, under the door. But it did not work, because the note got stuck.

Tiffany leaves. Meg goes off on Carter. “Dumb bitch, she shoulda knocked.”

Meg smiles, giggles, and laughs, as though she had nothing whatsoever to do with the note or the pills in the note. She dismisses the whole incident, and gets on the phone to make arrangements with someone on the outside to smuggle cigarettes into the jail. Later, she tries to get me to make an appointment with the nurse and lie about some ailment, so that Meg can get Tylenol pills, or any pills. I refuse.

When I refuse, she makes fun of me, of my trial, of my conviction, of my lengthy sentence, and of the fact that she will be getting dick two weeks from now and I will not be getting any dick until it is too late for me to have sex, because I am too old.

Guards come to the cell next door, remove Carter, and take her to the hole. She will lose her psychiatric medication.

In my mind I try to come up with reasons for meanness and lack of empathy among warehoused humans in the same predicament, and I wonder if people in the train cars during the holocaust were mean to each other. What is it, exactly, that brings out such hate? Perhaps it is overcrowding or demeaning, dehumanizing treatment, or lost confidence in ‘the system,’ or female jealousy, mental illness, lack of stimulus, or hormones, or frustration and separation from love, touch and family. Maybe it is a combination of everything.

I fold my cranes out of scavenged paper. I move them around. I adjust the towel on my head. I go into the bathroom and climb onto the steel toilet and look through the slit to the dumpsters outside.

I return to the steel table. I put the tiny cranes with the big cranes.

I stay silent.

Saturday Art: Quilts From The Paducah Ky Quilt Show

8:35 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Paducah, KY is the nation’s quilt capitol. Some call it Quilt City, USA. Take a look at this video, to see some of the amazing quilts that have been featured in the annual spring show. The images are mind-boggling.

Paducah Kentucky Quilt Show 2007

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