Saturday, February 25, 2017

HARD TIME VIRGINIA Volume 2, Number 2

Virginia Public Radio photo
Deaths In Virginia Prisons
According to the 12/7/16 THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT suicide is the third largest cause of death among inmates in DOC custody, accounting for 32 deaths in the decade of 2004-2014, exceeded only by deaths resulting from cancer and from heart failure. 

Board of Corrections To Get Funding to Investigate Jail Deaths
The tragic death of mentally handicapped Jamychael Mitchell in the Hampton Roads Regional Jail 8 months ago has resulted in an action by the General Assemblyto budget $100,000 to investigate such incidents. according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Head of Maryland RAPP Meets With Harrisonburg Group
Tomiko Shine, with the Baltimore-based chapter of RAPP (Release for Aging Persons in Prison) met with some 60 concerned citizens in Harrisonburg February 9 to discuss ways of bringing about parole and geriatric release for deserving inmates. With her was Earl Nelson, who shared his personal experience of spending 48 years behind bars. Carla Peterson of Virginia CURE was also present to share her concerns.
     This was followed by showing a recently produced documentary by producer Wynonah Hogan on issues associated with overcrowding in our local jails.

Huge Bill For An Emergency Trip To The ER
An inmate in one of Virginia's prisons reports he received inadequate care for a case of heart failure that became serious last September. In January, partly as a result of this, he was rushed to a nearby hospital in an emergency vehicle with a life threatening heart attack. There he had a stint put in his heart and was returned to prison, only to later receive a bill from the ambulance service $1700 for his ride to the ER.

Blind Poet Denied Parole for the 30th Time
Minor Junior Smith, affectionately known as "Smitty", age 70, has been legally blind since an incident in which he was abused by his stepmother at the age of five.
     Incarcerated since 1971, Mr. Smith has been parole eligible for over 30 consecutive years. Yet in spite of his being a model prisoner and considered one of Buckingham Correctional Center's finest cafeteria workers, he is still being denied discretionary or geriatric parole release year after year.
     During his many years of incarceration, he reports having been emotionally, physically and sexually abused. In addition to writing poems about his past life and his prison experiences, he has published a biography entitled "Abused".
     Mr. Smith is proficient in Braille, and is in need of a Braille Writer and a table computer with 16 or 18 point fonts. So far he has been denied these accommodations.

"Prison Unit Four"  - by Minor Junior Smith

Neither Tom nor I knew that we were headed for Prison Unit Four.
The elderly jailer escorted us to Long-Chain Charlie from our cell door.
The young, tall convict hand-cuffed to me had a five-year bit.
Captain Gray exclaimed, "If there is any hell raised, then I will do it!"

Already, I knew about Tom's "Born To Raise Hell" tattoo on his arm.
I was expecting hard labor, having been raised on more than one farm.
Before arriving at the Penitentiary, I perceived us using shovels and picks.
Beside its administration office, we were issued numbers 91345 and 91346.

Just a few inmates were on the prison yard because of an on-going riot.
In the spring of 1968, we moped along near the Captain rather quiet.
Down in B-Basement, we received basic necessities, including a change of clothes.
Over our heads, we could hear breaking glass above the large cells in rows.

We were well sanitized in new prison garb once we had over-showered.
We soon learned that tear-gas had some unruly inmates over-powered.
In the hospital, we were given necessary shots and physicals despite the riot.
In the receiving unit, we were fed skimpy meals and usually remained quiet.

Sufficient meals or lack of exercise in the cell was not the only thing lacking.
So, one day, when Captain Young yelled out: "91345 and 91346," we got started packing.
There was a wired tail-gate beneath the camper he loaded us in.
Tom unlocked his hand-cuff and escaped by using a re-fill from a pen.

Convicts refusing to work received 15-days in jail on just bread and water.
In ditches, I was labeled "Blind Johnny" as the season grew hotter.
My new glasses from South Hill had lenses as thin as a window pane.
I didn't mind the hard labor, and we did not have to work out in the rain.

After a few seasons of ditch-digging, my gang returned to camp once more.
While headed for a shower, I saw five new offenders at Captain Young's door.
As I glanced in his direction, the big hoss gave me a friendly nod.
Within two years, Woodrow Brown and I would have a transporting job.

Out in the ditches and in leisures, I hung around Woodrow Brown.
Every Sunday morning, we attended church service, and nobody put us down.
After what I had done in Charlottesville, I had no real plans of my own.
Therefore, both Woodrow and I claimed Columbia, South Carolina as our home.

Then, one day in a ditch with him, spots before my eyes began to appear.
I balked on Captain Buchanan, but Captain Young, I began to suddenly fear.
Woodrow heard me complaining, grabbed my shovel and threw it up on the bank.
Recalling a mule Captain Young had jailed, I loafed to the water tank.

He had shot only a stalled tractor; I had been warned by several guys.
Between then and quitting time, I wondered what he might do about my eyes.
The next morning in South Hill, the doctor's hypothesis was high blood.
His good guess did not give me a vacation from the rocks and mud.

Captain Young and a trustee found me another job digging post holes.
Of course, at night, Wood and a few guys played different roles.
Inside of two weeks, I still saw spots, not expecting any real harm. 
However, Captain Young and the trustee took me to the State Prison Farm.

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