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The Ants: Frog Gravy 70

7:58 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

BBC- Attenborough- Life in the Undergrowth- Ants. Planet Earth:

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account in Kentucky.

Inmate names are changed.

Ricky’s World, Fulton County Detention Center, Hickman, Ky, August, 2008

I awake to the realization that the TV has been on for something like three days straight. I sleep on the cement floor, underneath the TV.

My right arm is numb and swollen because last night at work in the kitchen, we sliced an enormous tub, the size of a child’s wading pool, full of cucumbers, and then we sliced four gallons of okra.

I did most of the slicing, though, because Fiona, the Borderline inmate who, as a child, stabbed her mother because her mother would not let her watch Rin-Tin-Tin on television, was fired for talking to men in the hallway on the way to work. Fiona is 23 years old and has been locked up for 27 straight months now. I do not know what her charges are, but she speaks proudly of the fact that she once spent nearly a year in cell block (the hole) at KCIW PeWee Valley, for an attack on either a guard or another inmate. Fiona and I compete at completing SuDoKu puzzles in the cell.

That leaves me, Colleen, Penny, and Linda to do the kitchen job in Ricky’s World.

Colleen weighs three hundred pounds, and houses one puffy arm in a sling. At work, she tries to tackle one job per night. For the most part though, she eats. Toast and margarine and jelly. White bread and mayonnaise and tomato sandwiches; hamburgers, fried onions and cornbread; cake and fried bologna and casserole.

After breakfast this morning, Colleen wants me to help her write a grievance to Ricky Parnell, the jailer.

“Just write from the heart,” I tell her, and she does. I only help her with spelling and minor things. Her handwriting is neat and her letters are large and loopy. She has modified her punctuation marks. Each period is an exclamation point, where the period part of the point is a five-point star.

The letter says:

Grievance Mr. Ricky Parnell

I’m writing a grievance on your medical staff and the doctor.

The reason why is I fell in your kitchen working for y’all. I fell on March 3, 2008. I filled out a med slip and they took me the next day to get an x-ray. Then I went to see the doctor and they said the x-ray showed up a needle form in my hand. I have never used needles.

This bizarre statement may have come from the fact that they were looking at a fracture. The letter continues:

The doctor gave me a Tylenol and sent me on my way. My hand was still swollen and hurting really bad so I went back to the nurse and she referred me to the doctor again. So then he said we are going to get another x-ray. Then I went back to the doctor and he asked me what did the x-ray show? I told him he should know, because he is the doctor.

I was off work for 2 months with my hand swollen and hurting really bad. I went back in the kitchen in May 2008.

I went back to the nurse on 7/28/08 cause my hand was swollen and hurting really bad. The pain is going all the way up my arm. So the nurse referred me to the doctor. He was supposed to see me on Wednesday but he didn’t. I asked why and he said cause he couldn’t do anything for me. I am telling you, there is something wrong with my hand.

I also signed a paper they brought me this morning when I was asleep that the doctor can’t do anything for me and I can order tylenol on commissary. So please can you help me I’m in so much pain my hand and arm is so swollen. Also they are making me work if not I have to lay it down in county.

Thank you for your time, Colleen

The term “lay it down in county” is a constant threat to state-final-sentenced inmates in this jail. State final-sentenced inmates are Class D nonviolent inmates, for the most part, and the jail segregates them from county inmates.

The ‘county’ side of the jail is not all that much different, except county inmates are not allowed to work, they wear jailhouse clothes, they do not have a microwave, and they have more scabies, ringworm, staph and MRSA than the state-side inmates. However, lately, state inmates have had their share of staph, due to the dearth of medical care.

I spend the rest of the day drawing a train for my oldest brother, who loves trains.

Train. Jail art.

Train, jail art by Crane-Station on Masonbennu’s flickr stream.

While I am drawing, there is a distraction in the cell. Linda and others have obtained a large can of Raid, and they are killing some tiny ants that occasionally pass through the cell.

I am outraged because I love ants. I say, “What in the fuck are you doing?”

“Killin’ the aints.”

“Why? They are not hurting us, these tiny ants.”

“These aints is nasty.”

“You’re gonna kill us all in the process.”

“Mind your own bidness.”

The tiny creatures struggle and drown and die in a lake of Raid. I grab the nearest Bible, and flip to Proverbs. I attempt to speak their language, the language of the gospel, because the killers are all ‘saved.’ They spend their days and nights talking about how much they love Jesus and God. They frequently quote scripture.

I tell the Raid people that Abraham admired ants and the wisdom of the ants. I quote Proverbs out loud. It says:

Proverbs 6:6-8

New International Version (NIV)

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!

7 It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,

8 yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.

This has no effect on the self-professed ‘saved’ killing spree. In fact, quite the opposite. One of the people who claims to follow the teachings of Jesus to the letter says to me, “You don’t believe in God, do you? I can tell.”

At my counseling session with Father Al later, I ask, “Father Al, do you believe in Satanic possession?”

“Why do you ask me?” he says.

“The joy in life is in the searching for God, I have decided.” I tell the priest. “Satan is too obvious. There is no need to search for evil.”

[cross posted at]

Ricky Saves The Day: Frog Gravy 62

7:57 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Here’s some Sad Sad Larry to lower your day:

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account in Kentucky.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

Ricky Parnell is a real name.

Ricky’s World, Fulton County Detention Center, Hickman KY, Summer, 2008.

This cell has driven me over the edge. It is mat-to-mat overcrowded on the floor. The television is blasting BET at a maximum volume of 60. Four of the most egregious human beings on the planet are in a corner, loudly shoving foul-mouthed fuck notes through a hole in the cement wall to the men in the cell next door. One of them stomped on my cricket and killed it in front of me. Another took one of my bird drawings and shoved it through the hole in the wall. A team of sledgehammers has taken up residence inside my skull, and even the towel on my head will not stop the pounding at the back of my eyeballs.

I cannot write. I cannot draw. I cannot hear myself think.

A newcomer is standing next to the steel door near the telephone, and she has such horrendous body odor from the sick of the streets that it distracts even me, and I do not have a good sense of smell. Inmates have gathered outside of her sphere of influence, in small groups behind her back, and they are talking about her. Tracey says, “She stanks. Her pits is kickin.’”

I say, “Well maybe we should get a guard involved on this one. That way it will not seem that we are ganging upon her and hating her. She just got here, and she obviously cannot think this through, you know, her life isn’t that cool right now.”

Several others agree.

Another group of loud haters are in another section of the cell, hating on anything that comes to mind. “They ain’t no black Catholics,” one of them says to me to be hateful, referring to my weekly counseling sessions with the wonderful Priest, Father Al.

Father Al also brings with him an empathetic and loving Priest intern, who happens to be black, but I do not bother to tell the woman this because she has a gigantic need to be hateful and so I let her.
Father Al changed my life. I will never forget him and his intern. A shout-out to the Catholics: Man, do they ever do some good work with inmates. This goes for the Priests and Deacons at KCIW PeWee Valley as well. There are some really, really good people in the world after all.

I am starting to feel like Patrick Bateman in the American Psycho scene where he takes an axe to Paul Allen and says, “Try making reservations at Dorsia now, you stupid, fucking bastaaaarrrd!!” I want to beat someone up with my bare hands because I do not have an axe.

I used to get this way when I was drinking. Violent. A completely different person. I received all sorts of feedback about that: You puked in my car; You peed in the kitchen; You nearly killed me; You are scaring me; You hit on my husband; You broke the dishes; I hate you when you are like this; I hate it when you drink.

Right now I am still ‘The Older Lady That Writes.’ Five minutes from now, I am going to be skipping backward across the cell in a raincoat with an axe, talking about Huey Lewis and the News.

I compose a speech in my mind, that I plan to deliver biblically, like Moses, from the top of the steel table. If only we had Moses, Jesus and Paul up in here. All three of them had tempers. Can you imagine being in the cell with those three? None of them would put up with this crap.

Everbody listen up! We are gonna have ten minutes of quiet in the cell. We’re gonna turn the cocksucking television off. The first person in this room that even clears her throat for the next ten minutes, I will kill with my bare hands.

Someone moves her lips and it’s on: Surprise!! Bam bam bambam bam bam…

I am in court facing the new violence charges. The judge says, “Ms. Leatherman, It says here that you nearly beat another inmate to death. How do you plead?”

“Guilty, your Honor. I, uh, slammed her up against the wall, knocked her teeth halfway down her throat and kicked her ass until the guards pulled me off and took me to the hole.”

“Well, then, time served, Ms.Leatherman! She deserved it. (gavel bangs) Good luck to you.”

I am about to climb onto the steel table top and make this whole thing a reality, when the steel door opens and in walks the jailer, Ricky Parnell, with a couple of other High Falutin jail officials in tow.
I am distracted because the jailer never visits the inmates other than the men he works with outside; he has never been to this cell during my stay here. Plus, it is as if a tree walked in the door; the man is enormous. Big, and tall. He situates himself on top of the steel table.

He says, “The men next door have just lost their commissary, their phone and their TV for six months and y’all are fixin’ to have the same thing happen.” His nose grows about a foot (hat tip Scarecrow) because this man is making a fortune on the phones and the commissary, just sayin’.

What finally happens is sheer miracle: the two guards retrieve the four most egregious offenders on the planet and take them to the hole, all to the standing ovation, applause and cheers of other cell inmates.

This man just gained a bunch of points in my brownie point book. Ricky gets it. He puts his inmates to work. He has a fantastic library. He has AA meetings and educational classes, church services and Father Al. There is no screaming mentally ill homeless man being pepper sprayed in his isolation cell. While I was there, he made changes to the diet to make the food better, and he ate the food himself every day. We go outside each day for an hour of recreation. Sure, the jail is an overcrowded dungeon. But it is a dungeon you can actually work with. So, here is a Frog Gravy shout-out to Ricky and his World.

I am still seething with anger at the four obnoxious inmates, and so I join others in continuing to be mean. On our way to and from work each evening we pass by the hole and shout, clap and sing all sorts of obnoxious things, such as “See ya, assholes, see ya (clap clap), and with me singing Jeff Beck, “Goin’ down….down, down, down, down, down….a-kung-kung clap-clap…”

I never knew I had this mean streak in me. But given the right set of circumstances, I can now understand how some people just snap and attack another inmate. It happens more in the men’s prisons, but it also happens among women. I saw someone at KCIW PeWee Valley leave a scene in handcuffs to the standing ovation of the entire prison, for beating someone who needed to be set straight. She delivered a spectacular beating to the deserving inmate, and then put her hands behind her back and waited for the guards. Her victim went to the medical ward. No one was sorry.

Cross-posted at

Letter From A Priest: Ricky’s World: Frog Gravy 60

10:38 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

The music for this post is Perpetuum Jazzile- Africa
You can click and listen while you read, or open in another tab and read.

Tulips and notes, jail art

Tulips and Frog Gravy notes by CraneStation on flickr. Jail art. Notes are from Ricky’s World.

Roadrunner, Turtle,   Bluebirds, prison art

Roadrunner, Turtle, Bluebirds, “Do turtles really have eyelashes” Prison art by CraneStation on flickr.

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.

Fulton County Detention Center [Ricky's World], Hickman Kentucky, May 21, 2008.

I have not seen a flower since last year sometime, and so I draw a picture of tulips and send them to my family in Seattle, where there is a tulip festival every Spring.

I do not yet have any work. There are no classes. There is an outdoor cage that is less than twenty steps around. We sometimes go out there for an hour of recreation- a dozen or so inmates crowded into a tiny, filthy space. We are not allowed to use the toilet while ‘outside,’ so we often squat and urinate on top of the drain in the concrete floor.

This jail limits toilet paper allotment, to force us to buy toilet paper from commissary at an inflated price. When I run out of toilet paper, I use a prayer book that the priest gave me because the pages are tissue-thin, like the Phone Book.

A couple of other women on their periods were using floor rags, because they did not have pads, nor could they afford them; the jail sells ten menstrual pads on canteen for four dollars.

The cell I have been moved to is a tiny, six-person dank cell with no view even to the hallway. The shower is slick with black mold.Thankfully, the lighting is dimmer in this jail than it was in McCracken County Jail. Also, this jail actually turns the lights off at night. I can draw here because the jail allows colored pencils and so, this jail is an improvement over McCracken County Jail.

The women in the cell are all State inmates- we are segregated from county inmates. This segregation eliminates some of the acute mental illness and noise. However, the women are very mean. It is a level of mean that I do not understand, and have never been exposed to. Unlike McCracken County Jail, where women frequently beat the hell out of each other, the meanness here is of a female backstabbing variety, which is, to me anyway, the worst kind of mean.

Another inmate in this cell, a nurse, of all things, is mean to me because I am a nurse, and she busies herself talking behind my back nonstop, to the point that I am in tears. A guard offers to move me to a different cell. I tell her I will be okay because the woman will go home soon, but that I am not accustomed to this level of hate, and I do not know what to do.

Other inmates tell me to be mean in return, to confront and start stuff, but I am not like this. Plus, I do not want to get an assault charge, so I stay on my bunk and try to write and draw, and make up my own Sudoku puzzles, which sometimes works but usually not, because I can never fool myself into forgetting the answer grid that I made up.

Six months ago I lost a crown on a bottom incisor tooth. I told the judge and asked if I could get it fixed before starting a sentence, but he refused and ordered me to begin my sentence immediately after my trial and before ‘final sentencing.’ I have quit eating solid food and only eat a little commissary cereal and cookies. There is no dairy, or fresh fruit or fresh vegetables here because some inmates like to make hooch and so, I order a few things I can break apart. I have diarrhea, I guess from the malnutrition or the starch and grease, although I am not sure of the cause.

My husband brings me some clothes. He brings shorts and sweatpants and white t-shirts and shoes and socks. They do not issue shoes or socks here.

I sleep on a steel bunk.The television is on 20 out of 24 hours a day and sometimes more. It goes off at 4 AM and comes back on at 8 AM.

I quit attending the church services because the attendees are so hateful, and I just work one-on-one with Father Al, the priest.

I also quit attending because some of the things I have seen and heard confuse me. One of the churches (I will not name it) puts money onto inmates’ books and then takes them out back, to a horse trough to be baptized after they are saved. I have also heard that, according to the Bible, everyone who is saved will have a chip implanted underneath their skin, by the government. In order to buy groceries or get gas you will be ‘scanned,’ but only if you have been saved and house an implanted chip, can you live in society. All others will be considered to have ‘the mark of the beast,’ which means they are damned because they are sinners and so, they are condemned. Condemned to what I wonder, but I never ask, because I am already in Hell. A trip to Hell, marked with the Beast would be redundant, I think.

Although I am not Catholic, Father Al becomes my weekly counselor. He helps me to navigate the hate and the arbitrary nature of tragedy. He helps me to find and appreciate gifts in the worst of society’s places. When he is unable to visit, he writes. In July I receive a letter from Father Al. It reads:

…I have a large group of men that I visit and this keeps me busy. I have only had one opportunity to visit with you after 3 PM…

I had a man the other day who came to see me in the night. I was finishing some yard work on my day off. He has spent 14 years in the US Army, and with the fireworks of 4th he was having some real pain and wanted to go to confession. He has and will continue to have his difficulties in adjusting. The adjustment to that lack of freedom is torture for anyone…

The letter continues. I say a prayer for the man who lives with real pain, brought about by war.

MPB Epidemic And A Shout-Out To Prison Teachers And Workers: Frog Gravy 49

4:31 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Author’s note: There are a good many saints working in our prisons today, despite the atmosphere and despite the low pay. These people show up every day and essentially minister to the broken and marginalized segment of American society.

I cannot remember all of their names, but they made a lasting impression on me. A few examples are: Miss Heavren, the JCTC Horticulture teacher; Vannessa Kennedy, the counselor who was later promoted to Deputy Warden at Western Kentucky Correctional Complex for Women; The Librarian at PeWee Valley KCIW; the JCTC Carpentry program instructor; the Mennonite men and women of the Galilean Home, who care for babies and children of inmate mothers; the Priest and lay Deacon of the chapel; Mary, the Ridgeview Dormitory ‘house mother’ and her husband; most of the guards at Ricky’s World, including Wendy, who started the Class D road crew program for women; Father Al and his intern Priest at Ricky’s World; the guard I call ‘Sally’ and other kind guards at McCracken; and again, the night JCTC Biology instructor; my case worker at PeWee in Ridgeview Dormitory; the behind-the-scenes workers in Inmate Records at PeWee.

As if they answered a calling, these good people are members of the 99, and they should all be making more money than our professional criminal white collar banksters.

Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic Part 2

A Tree Destroyed by Mountain Pine Beetle

A tree destroyed by Mountain Pine Beetle, photo by photokayaker under noncommercial, attribution, no derivative works creative commons on flickr.

Here is the MPB Part 1, if you missed it.

The Blue Fungus

Beetles are themselves hosts to a blue-staining fungus, that is conveniently delivered to the tree. The fungal spores develop and spread throughout the phloem tissue, interrupting osmotic water movement and decreasing the tree’s natural defense of pitching out attacking beetles.

Unable to circulate nutrients due to fungal infection, dying trees become chlorotic and weakened, their leaking sap stained by blue fungal spores. The combined dual fungal infection and beetle infestation on concert is especially devastating to trees.

Blue-fungal-stained sapwood is problematic to the timber industry, due to public perception that blue-stained wood is damaged or substandard. However, unlike mold or decaying rot, blue stain fungi is harmless to people and can be used in the same markets as unstained timber, with some constraints.

Endemic versus epidemic and conditions that favor epidemic

Endemic means that MPBs ordinarily exist in harmony with, and play a role in, forest health. They are a stand-replacing mechanism. Since they need lots of resin in order to establish their broods, MPBs tend to attack older, larger-diameter, over-mature trees, thinning stands and making way for younger replacement trees.

At epidemic levels, however, tree mortality is massive, overtaking the forest’s ability to mount a defensive response.

Warmer temperature trends favor beetle success by 1) extending its range to higher elevations; 2) increasing the number of beetle growing seasons (broods) from one to two or more per year, and 3) placing the trees in a drought-stressed state, weakening their ‘immunity’ to attack. Also, the MPB seems to have an evolutionary edge in surviving freezing conditions: it begins to expel water in the fall, essentially becoming a bag of antifreeze by winter. At the same time, it enjoys the insulation that the bark provides. Absent a severe, early freeze while the water is still in the insect, it survives the winter cold.

MPBs have natural predators. Woodpeckers feast on the larvae and, when they bore large holes to get the larvae, the infested area aerates, killing the broods. Nuthatches and other insect-eating birds eat adult beetles. Other natural beneficial MPB predators include parasitic wasps and checkered beetles. Other beetle species’ larvae can out-compete MPB for tunnel space. Beneficial organisms provide a natural biological control to an endemic pest, but are ineffective in epidemic infestation.

Bugwood burn 1

Bugworm Burn 1 by Ian BC North under creative commons on flickr.

The role of fire

Fire ecology is a complex dynamic and a highly specialized subject that exceeds the scope of this descriptive paper. Forest fores are a necessary and natural disturbance to boreal ecosystems. Some plants have evolved to depend on fore to, for example, disrupt their seed coating and allow germination. Fire is a thinning mechanism, that removes old material and makes way for new growth. Although it seems counter-intuitive, our own past forest fire suppression practices may be partially responsible for thickened, over-mature and drought-stressed pine stands that are akin to a MPB salad bar.

However, retired US Forest Service silviculturalist Wayne Sheppard, PhD, does not attribute epidemic-level MPB outbreak to human fire suppression alone. Sheppard explains that, as far as our brief frame of reference is concerned, the magnitude and scope of this outbreak is unprecedented; however, from an evolutionary standpoint, such devastating disturbances probably occurred in the past.

Increased older, mature tree densities are an initial condition for both fire and for MPB infestation. CO2 is an end product in both decomposing respiration and combustion.

Author’s note: In the next part I will discuss carbon and temperature. In future Frog Gravy posts I will discuss some of the positive, wonderful prison education, work and treatment programs, that seem to be disappearing faster than money in Iraq. Another shout-out to the ’99′ prison workers who stick with God’s work, even in the face of adversity, discouragement, privatization and cuts.

Released On Parole By “Mistake”: Frog Gravy 39

1:11 pm in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Train. Jail art.

Train. Jail art by Crane-Station on flickr. Ink, magazine ink and colored pencil.

Author’s note: Frog Gravy is a nonfiction account of incarceration, first in jails and then in prison in Kentucky, during 2008 and 2009, and is reconstructed from my notes.

Inmate names are changed, except for nicknames that do not reveal identity.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

PeWee (pronounced PeWee) Valley women’s penitentiary (KCIW) near Louisville, KY, my father’s birthday, 1-7-2009

The end of my stay in Fulton County Detention Center (Ricky’s World) came with a notice of parole. I had hoped for this result but not necessarily had I expected it. Inmates had warned for nearly the entire year that parole on the first try is extremely rare. They told me to expect a one-year “flop,” known as a denial of parole and continued detention. Nonetheless, I had maintained a clean jail record, held steady employment, and arranged for job, counseling and a return to my supportive husband, were I to make parole.

In March of 2008, Judge Craig Clymer denied all forms of treatment and monitoring that I had arranged, that totaled nearly six years. He denied shock probation three times and, since I refused to plead guilty in my immediate case, drug court was also denied. He sentenced me to eight years, assuring the concerned jury, who voiced a desire for me to enter drug treatment, that this treatment would be offered “in the penitentiary.” I had never made it to the penitentiary, and the jails had no treatment programs. Judge Clymer’s written sentence reflected that the eight-year sentence be served as two concurrent four-year sentences.

On October of 2008 I received this notice:

Parole recommended sheet

On the notice, the requirement to seek sex offender treatment was a mistake. But the rest of the order was real, and I went home to my husband on parole. As I stood outside in the sun waiting for him to arrive, I was struck by the sounds of birds, the touch of grass and the feel of the air. I conversed with another released inmate who also awaited a ride.

My husband wanted to take me out to dinner, but I was afraid to go inside a restaurant so we ordered some take out. We visited the bookstore and I picked up a copy of the 2009 Writer’s Market, because I had already done copious writing in note form, and I wanted to write about the reality of jail conditions in Kentucky.

The next day, I met with my parole officer, arranged counseling, and visited the college to see about educational programs. I attempted to meet with the man who had agreed to employ me, but he was not in. I had a required mental health evaluation. I attended a 12-step meeting.

The next morning I arose at 6 AM and went for a jog. I stayed outside for quite a while because it had been so long since I had been outside. I came home and made coffee. There was a knock on my door.

Two armed parole officers entered my home and held up a warrant, issued by Judge Craig Clymer, for my arrest. They were apologetic and almost embarrassed. One of them said he had never seen such a thing before. I was handcuffed, and I kissed my husband again, for the last time. I was jailed in the McCracken County Jail in EA, one of the two large population cells. A few days later I was shipped to KCIW, or “PeWee,” the women’s penitentiary.

Judge Clymer claimed that, after ten months, he suddenly realized that he had made an error on the written sentencing document that he called a “typographical” error. The typo had excluded an entire sentence clarifying that my eight-year sentence was two consecutive four-year sentences.

On arrival at the prison, I lost my jogging suit and every possession that I had, which was little, except for my husband’s watch that I had worn for my morning jog. Again I submitted to strip squat-and-cough searches typical of any incarceration beginning. This would be my home for the next year. Already, due to my case, I had missed my son’s last play where he was the leading role in a college play, and I had missed his college graduation, and his entrance to law school at Georgetown. My parents were elderly and not doing well and I had not seen them in years. My husband had lost his job because the law school where he taught went under. He had been evicted and moved, all without my help or support.

At the prison, I immediately took an outside job in landscape, and then set about seeing what it would take to enroll in college. Still in jail mentality, I gathered a few art supplies, but I was now busy with work and entrance testing for the college. On a couple of math aptitude tests, I was told that I scored “higher than anyone in the history of the institution,” and that was a perfect score. I scored 99the percentile in other aptitude tests, and my goal was initially to try for the legal aide program, where inmates assist other inmates with legal case work. However, the legal aide training program was eliminated due to lack of funding.

Since I was considered a Class D instead of the more serious Class C, residential treatment was not an option for me, so I signed up to attend AA meetings, twice, but was never notified that my request had been approved for meeting attendance, during my entire stay at the prison. I eventually signed up for the Horticulture program, which was excellent and enjoyable. I also took Biology at night, on a “Canteen Scholarship” that was offered because of my test scores. I became active in tutoring other inmates in math. Again, I maintained a clean record.

Horticulture was one of the most enjoyable programs I have ever participated in. The drawing that I did do now was of plants, mostly, and I drew because it helped me to memorize the plants.

Papaver rhoeas. Prison art

The poppy Papaver rhoeas by Crane-Station on flickr. Colored pencil. Prison art.

Yesterday I met with inmate records and had a conversation about my curious release on parole and then rearrest.

“How could this mistake happen?” I ask. “Why was I released and then taken back into custody with a doubled sentence, when I had work, school and counseling all in place? How could…”

“This happens.”

“I mean, it’s unusual, isn’t it? I have never heard of this happening.”

“It’s not uncommon.”

“So, it’s common then? People just go home by mistake all the time? Please answer correctly because I am contacting the newspaper.”

The inmate records woman looked at me, shocked. She said, “We actually had one who went home, and the judge called and asked, “Why is she out, I ammended her sentence to eight years…”

“Just what I thought. That’s all I need to know.”

“You haven’t heard the rest…”

“We knew. It’s okay. I write a lot, and I wanted to get it right, about what happened here. I have no beef at all with DOC or PeWee. None at all.”

“Where are you from?”


“Ohhhhh.” Eyes roll.

“I did not commit this crime.”

“I am not stupid enough to think that, with 30,000 people in Kentucky locked up that some of them aren’t innocent. I will tell you this, though, that an appeal is an uphill battle.”

“I know.”

“But if it was me, I would stick it out until the very end.”

“I am, believe me, I am.”

“That’s what I would do.”

“Hardly anyone else would.”

Kitchen Job In Ricky’s World: Frog Gravy 33

5:31 pm in Uncategorized by Crane-Station


Sunset, jail art: magazine ink, colored pencil, ink. cranestation on flickr.

Author’s note: Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account in Kentucky jails and in prison in 2008 and 2009.

The name Ricky is real. Others have been changed.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

Other posts are gathered here:

Ricky’s World, Fulton County Detention Center, Hickman, KY, August, 2008.

Tonight I dress strategically for my job in the kitchen. I have arthritis. This privately owned jail charges one dollar per tablet for canteen Advil. So I put on a sports bra. A sports bra will accommodate packets of sweetener that I plan to smuggle from the kitchen. This will right a tiny wrong, at least in my mind.

So, I have the right clothes on.

Penny, Jesse, Linda and I head to the kitchen for work. We are the jail’s designated prep crew, evening shift. We cut vegetables, fill butter and jelly cups and make KoolAid.

Turns out I am really, really good with knives. I cut vegetables like a manic Cuisinart. This makes Penny crazy. She absolutely hates, and I mean she cannot stand that I am really, really good at cutting. And I’m fast. And so, Penny spends a good deal of the evening trying to slow me down.

It goes like this:

We get to the kitchen and I check out two knives, both pieces of shit but, between the two I usually get the job done. I grab a cutting board and say to the others, “I use two knives. You guys need to check out your own knives.”

Two more knives are checked out. (Not enough for my vegetable-cutting World Cup, I might add.)

“I’m cutting,” I say.

Linda peels off from the pack to make fifty gallons of KoolAid.

Penny with the first shot across the bow: “I’m going to have you rinse all the cucumbers, and I’ll get started cutting.” Like she runs the place.

She wants a head start.

But that does nothing to my work product, so then she predictably wants one of my knives. I have prepared for this. I give up my piece of crap yellow-handle filet knife, and keep the Farberware semi-serated, plastic handle, butcher-knife sized, made-in-China yard sale knife. Penny wants this also, but I refuse to give it up.

Then Jesse wants my knife, to cut butter, of all things, a job I could have completed from start to finish with time to spare, in less than ten minutes. I refuse. She wants my cutting board. I give it to her. Penny gives Jesse the knife that I just gave Penny, the filet knife with the yellow handle. Penny gives me a piece of crap slab of wood cutting board that inmates have used for so long that there is a trench the middle, so the board looks like a boat.

I turn the board over.

My productivity is yet unhindered even though my handicap includes an instrument that somehow passes for a knife, although I doubt it would kill anyone (I’ve pondered it); to cut butter you have to run the knife under hot water first.

Penny goes nuts. She says, “You can’t use the back of the board!”

“Why not?”


There is no mold on this board. I say, “Where?”

“Right there!” She points to wood.

“On the back side?”

“Yeah, you can’t do that!”

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Penny by now, without knife and board, is not cutting. Actually she is eating. And annoying me.

I turn the board back over.

Penny is a nut farmer, of course, but I say nothing because it’s not worth it. This is not, as they say, the mountain I want to die on. Besides, my productivity remains unhindered.

After cutting something like a billion cucumbers and a whole bunch of okra, I have a good case of arthritis in my shoulder and wrist. My hand will be swollen.

The guard comes in and takes her share of vegetables for home and remarks that she should bring her entire garden in for us (me) to process. The guard is sincere, and this is meant to be a compliment, and that is how I take it.

We are supposed to make sixty-three cents a day for labor, full time (about twenty dollars per month). I have worked like an animal since May, and saw my precious twenty dollar check for the first time, in August.

I return to the cell, to the hate. I make a note to get new earplugs because the old ones have worn out.

There is much excitement in one corner of the cell, screams, yelps. A mob of inmates have found a spider and they are torturing it. Tearing off its legs, spraying it with bleach, beating it.

There was a time in my life when I questioned the presence or absence of evil, but I no longer do.

I say a prayer for the spider.

Author’s end note: I saw a lot of these sorts of incidents. They broke my heart.


Sony Releases Stupid Piece Of Shit That Doesn’t Fucking Work:

Life In Ricky’s World: Frog Gravy 22 [with jail art]

10:21 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station


Road. Jail art, magazine ink and colored pencil by Crane-Station on flickr. This is not very clear, in fact it is sort of surreal, and so it reminded me of a wendydavis dream, only nowhere as beautiful as her writing.

Frog Gravy is an account of incarceration in jails and in prison in Kentucky, in 2008 and 2009, and is reconstructed from my notes.

Names have been changed, except the name Ricky is real.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

During my stay in McCracken County jail, since education and treatment were unavailable, and there was absolutely nothing else to do, I began writing from morning until night, with no-shank pens. No-shank pens are only about four inches long and they are sleeved in flimsy plastic. Since we only received them on Wednesdays and since most inmates used the ink for mascara, keeping pens was difficult, and so sometimes I would mix water with the ink to make it last.

I wrote a great many letters, to the kind and receptive Governor Steve Beshear, whom I consider a good man, and also to Human Rights Watch, ACLU, Amnesty International, the Innocence Project, several agencies in Washington and Frankfort, a Louisville paper, and several Kentucky educators, such as the law professor and author, Robert Lawson.

I wrote about the jail conditions and I was hated for it.

I ran all sorts of stuff in to Frankfort, including the pregnant woman incident, the sexist Class D policy that prevented women from working, the lack of recreation, and the ban on education. I once even mailed two paper towel squares to Frankfort, and asked how they would suggest I clean a cell with six people in it, with the two paper towels that we had been issued. I absolutely swear I did these things.

When the state showed up for a surprise visit and interviewed me in the cell, with all of my no-shank letters attached to a clipboard, I knew my days in McCracken were numbered. Indeed, I was shipped out shortly thereafter.

Ricky’s World itself was better, as I have mentioned, but the inmates were very difficult to live with because they were hateful.


Birds, jail art, ink, magazine ink, and colored pencil by Crane-Station on flickr.

Ricky’s World, Fulton County Detention Center, Hickman, KY, 7/21/2008

Several inmates in the larger population cell have been moved to smaller cells, due to racial tension. I am now in a tiny four-person cell with five: three black and two white. Three black women keep me up until 3:30 AM (I go to work at 5:30 AM) talking about men raping chickens and sheep, girls having sex with horses, and their personal plans to immediately get pregnant upon release.

They are mean to me the next morning because I refuse to attend communion with them. I stay silent, fearing that any comment will start a race riot. They hate my writing. They hate my soap. They hate my t-shirt. They hate when I read. They hate when I talk. They hate when I do not talk.

In time, things simmer down. I absolutely refuse to engage in any conflict. I share my coffee. Things get better.

A fellow kitchen worker, Micki, develops an enormous boil on her ass, which comes to work with her each day, where she recruits other inmates into the kitchen bathroom to squeeze it, despite my repeated warnings not to do this.

Micki eventually fills out her $45.00 “protocol,” and the jail takes $45.00 and does nothing. By the time Micki is removed from the kitchen, three other inmates have staph. She is then started on an antibiotic without the benefit of a doctor visit, and eventually the culture result is positive.

Two of the staph inmates also work in the kitchen, and one has an untreated, purulent, red-streaked, draining arm wound. She is washing dishes without benefit of gloves, because none of us have gloves that fit. The jail has extracted the $45.00 and done nothing, so, she comes to the kitchen for work, gets a washrag, soaks the rag in vinegar, and rests the infected arm on the vinegar-soaked rag, on the side of the steel sink, explaining, for our benefit, that “the vinegar will draw it out.”

Another kitchen worker has a positive TB skin test, but the jail does not want to pay for a chest x-ray. After working in the kitchen for weeks, they place her in the crowded cell and tell her that she cannot return to work until she contacts the jail she came from, the rationale being that the former jail may have done an x-ray.

In addition to the myriad of physical illnesses and acute conditions as well as rampant morbid obesity, this jail is as rife with mental illness as any state insane asylum. Bipolar illness is a given, but there is also an abundance of paranoid schizophrenia. I assume that a good deal of the tension and fighting and hateful acts are actually due to untreated mental illness.

Still, the days in Ricky’s World are a test of my patience, and I am grateful for the chance to draw and write, because otherwise there is the possibility that I might slam someone up against a wall and start yelling, “There is nothing wrong with you, other than that you are a mean, despicable, lying, hateful bitch!! That’s it! And don’t “give it to God.” Stop being mean, rude and hateful.”

Author’s end note: Frog Gravy posts are always posted here at MyFDL first, in my diaries, but they can also be found in one place:

Belly Of The Beast: Ricky’s World. Frog Gravy 9

10:04 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Author’s note: Frog Gravy is a depiction of daily living during incarceration in Kentucky, during the years 2008 and 2009, and is reconstructed from my notes. Names are changed, except in this case, Ricky is a real name. Nicknames that do not reveal identity are also unchanged.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

Belly Of The Beast: Ricky’s World. Fulton County Detention Center, early May, 2008.

After committing a major game misconduct by writing the Governor, various government agencies in Frankfort and Washington, about thirty other people, and a newspaper in Louisville, I am transferred out of McCracken County Jail to the famed Fulton County Detention Center also known as ‘Ricky’s World.’ I will become known in the inmate world as the one that wrote herself out of McCracken County Jail.

I first heard of Ricky’s World when I was in the hole after my trial (My judge wanted me in the hole. We had an adversarial courtroom history and would add to it before we uh, ‘divorced.’)

A woman in the hole with me in McCracken said that when she was at Ricky’s World playing truth-or-dare, she ate pussy on a steel table in the cell on a dare, and the next day, Ricky called her into his office and said, “You mean to tell me that you ate pussy on mah dinner table?”

Ricky’s World is a privately owned and operated jail in Hickman, KY. The jailer’s first name is Ricky. Ricky is an enormous man, the size of a tree.

Ricky’s World is famed in the Kentucky inmate community as being one of the places where the ‘worst of the worst’ are shipped.

Since Hickman is an hour away from my husband, he will have to drive two hours each week for his fifteen-minute visit. This is a source of personal amusement for the judge.

During my ride to Ricky’s World, two guards in the front seat discuss slaughtering chickens, planting vegetables and shopping at WalMart and in the back seat a male inmate and I discuss our legal cases.
On arrival I am placed in a hole that doubles as a holding cell for an hour, and I do step-ups on the cement ledge for an hour. A tray arrives through the food slot but I am only able to positively identify the cookies, so I eat two cookies for lunch.

A guard retrieves me to check me into the facility, produces a sturdy 30-gallon black garbage bag with the whole of my new life in it and upends the contents onto the cement floor in front of the front desk in the jail entryway. She begins to paw through the contents consisting of, to my shock and utter horror, all of the mail, pictures, books and magazines that my family had attempted to send me in McCracken.

I observe her for about five minutes and assume, without internal debate on the merits, that she is high. She finally says, “You are a State inmate. I will let you have all of this.” I silently thank God and we head to the cell. We pass a large men’s population cell and head down a hallway with wolf whistles and cat calls receding. The long hallway is painted a depressing grey and the walk actually slopes downward, even though the facility is on ground level, giving the feel of decent into an actual dungeon. Adding to this feel is the fact that none of the cells we pass have windows of any kind. The atmosphere is dark.

We arrive at a door to a cell, and the guard accompanying me fumbles with the keys for a bit, then hands them to me, and says, “Here, you open it.”

The cell is a twelve-person cement room that houses several people on the unfinished cement floor in addition to four rows of three-tiered steel bunks, for a total of nineteen or twenty inmates. When the door closes, I notice how dark it is compared to McCracken and I am thankful, yet disoriented by the lack of any windows to a hallway, as well as the lack of a clock.

I claim a space on the floor and notice that most of the cell occupants are someplace else. Another inmate sees what I notice and says, “They’re at rec. Out there with all the drama. How much time you got?”

“Eight years,” I say. “More time than that woman at PeWee that boiled her baby and fed it to her husband.”

Two inmates, Tiki and Brooke, are seated at a PlayStation. There is even a microwave, I note with increasing thankfulness.

TiKi is younger than my son, has been here for a year, and is a War on Drugs inmate that will go home soon on the Governor’s new early release program.

TiKi is playing “Grand Theft Auto” on the PlayStation.

On the screen, a criminal runs up and down a city street with a nightstick, mercilessly beating the hell out of innocent pedestrians. He runs to the driver’s side of a stopped car, opens the door, throws the driver onto the street, and steals the car.

Brooke asks, “Is this the one where he takes the prostitute into the woods and fucks her?”

TiKi’s car thief picks up a streetwalker and drives to the woods with her and stops. On the screen the car starts rocking, and she says, “Look at the car move faster and faster, and when she’s done she gets out.”

The car stops rocking and the hooker gets out. TiKi says, “Now look. He shoots her and steals her money.”

After killing the prostitute and stealing her money, the car thief returns to the car and drives away, running over several pedestrians on the sidewalk.

TiKi’s thief stops at a pay phone, gets on the phone and says, “I want to show these punk-ass bitches how a real drive-by works.”

The callee asks, “Don’t you just shoot ‘em like you always do?”

“Can’t just shoot ‘em in a drive-by shooting, dickhead. You gotta be in a car,” answers the thief. “I’m gonna show these people how to shoot from the car. What do you think?”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” says the callee.

TiKi is frustrated. She says, “I cain’t git the gun to aim the way I want it to, oh hail. You cain’t just shoot ‘em, gotta be in a car, it’s a drive-by. This is pissin’ me the fuck off motherfucker-you-just-shot-me-you-stupid-prick.”

Author’s end note: For those of you familiar with Grand Theft Auto, my recall of the telephone conversation above may not be word-for-word accurate. It is, however, in essence what I heard.