I’ve been out of prison for almost a month now, but I haven’t spoken or written to almost anyone. Incommunicado. Sorry about that.
Fact is, I don’t really know what to say about it. About my crime and punishment, I mean. How can I tell the story?
One story is that I robbed a couple of banks. Just like Jesse James, but without the guns and with considerably less success. So nothing like Jesse James, actually. More like a sneaking, lying, note-passing, false-moustache-wearing, thieving, thief. This story doesn’t speak very well of my character, or intelligence, or morals. I hate this story.
The other story is that I was crazy. Off my nut on a manic episode. Psychotic. Wacko. Mentally ill. I hate this story too, even if it did get me leniency. “I’m crazy” manages to sound self-serving and humiliating at the same time.
So forget my story. Or look for it on my new blog, if you must. Here are the answers to some of the questions people seem to ask:
No, I’ll never ever ever do it again. Robbing banks is bad and wrong and stupid.
Yes, robbing banks is scary. Many of the bank-robbers I met in jail were adrenaline junkies. It’s a thrill.
Yes, I was scared, but No, I wasn’t terrified. The first time I thought I was invincible, and doing god’s work. The second time, I didn’t care if I got caught.
Yes, prison really sucks as much as you think. It’s boring boring boring, it’s violent but mostly latent violence which only occasionally erupts, it’s all boredom, arbitrary rules and sanctions, bad tempers, bad food, discomfort, overwhelming racism and misogyny, bad luck, bad choices, bad attitudes, and asshole guards.
Yes, there were gangs. Everyone is in a gang. Even if you’re unaffiliated, you are in the Unaffiliated Gang, by default and of necessity.
No, there isn’t anything good about prison. I didn’t get anything positive out of the experience, except a lot of time for reading.
No, there isn’t anything good about prison. Prison is a warehouse where good and bad and indifferent men are thrown together and they all come out worse. Out of perhaps 200 people that I spoke with, maybe a dozen of them were really bad people who I’m glad are locked up. A dozen, tops. Another 80 were Piscas (Mexicans) who were there for re-entry. Innocent people who got a four year prison sentence for their second traffic ticket in America. Everyone comes out of prison more accepting of crime, disillusioned of justice, more racist, more likely to refer to women as “bitches”, more hateful, especially towards cops, older, sadder, angrier, less resourceful. On balance, the value to society of our prison system is far to the negative.
I’m staying with my parents for two more weeks, and then I’ll be moving to Denver. I’ll be staying in my grandmother’s house. She’s in a nursing home, she wants to go home, but she needs a full-time looking-after person. Which I’ll be. Good for her, good for me.
I’m on probation, which puts certain limitations on me. I can’t drink or use drugs. Good stuff. I’ll be in Colorado for at least a little while, though I can have it transferred with a little difficulty.
Mostly, I just wanted to say thanks for your support this past year. Thanks for all the letters and the books. And I’m sorry to those of you who I’ve alienated these past few years with my craziness and my drinking and my bizarre behavior. I feel lucky that I still have any friends left. You’re gold.
And I’m back. I look forward to talking or seeing you soon.
(I sent this as an email to 15 or 20 people. A bad habit of mine.)