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Friday, June 23, 2017

HARD TIME VIRGINIA Vol. II, No. 3 (news by, about and for inmates in the Commonwealth)

Minor Junior Smith, 70,
legally blind and incarcerated
for 45 years. One of his
poems appears below.
Number of Aging US Inmates Rising Rapidly 
According to Human Rights Watch, sentenced state and federal prisoners age 65 and older represent the fastest growing group inmates in US prisons. Because of higher rates of illness and impairments, the cost of caring for them is three to nine times higher than for younger inmates, although the likelihood of their reoffending greatly diminishes with age.
     In spite of that, the Virginia Parole Board is slow to release aging persons who are no longer a likely threat to their communities. For the month of March I could find no record of any geriatric releases, period, on the Board's website. Likewise in April there were no geriatric releases among the 23 parole grants, and in May only one of the 13 inmates released was in that category.
     A meeting to form a Rockingham County chapter of RAPP (Release Aging Persons in Prison) is being held in Harrisonburg July 22.

Electric Fans Become A Real Hot Item
Since most of the concrete and steel facilities operated by the Department of Corrections facilities have no air conditioning, their oven-like summer temperatures feel almost impossible to endure in the summer.
     Solution? Sell overpriced $30 fans to the inmates, who pay for them with money earned by hard work in the heat (at .50 to $1 an hour) or who can persuade their loved ones at home to provide them with the money they need.
     DOC has a pretty good business model here--create an intense need to cool off, then provide the solution at a hefty profit through a monopoly-owned commissary. Likewise with food. Provide inmates with only the minimum required daily calories, then charge them $2.52 for a pint of ice cream.

New And Degrading Visitation Policies
From a Virginia DOC inmate: "The newly mandated visitation jumpsuits are the most humiliating attire anyone could design. And there is a crazy bathroom procedure that requires an inmate to be strip searched and escorted to the Medical Department just to take a water break. Then to return to their visit they must be strip searched all over again. Having an offender endure all this is to make them want to stop getting a visit."

Conditions At Local Jails Create Daily Hardships
This is a quote from an inmate at one of the larger regional jails in Virginia: “As far as this facility goes, even the minimum security inmates are locked down 18 hours a day in a two-bunk cell about 11 feet by 6 feet. If the jail is short-staffed, we are locked down longer. One day I was sent to Medical Segregation due to food poisoning from the outdated milk they served us. These cells are unsanitary and way worse than general population cells, and you are locked down 23-24 hours a day."
     It's sad when animals at our local SPCA are often given better care than people in our jails and prisons.
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"Rambling Fever"
by Minor Junior Smith, now 70, recalling his prodigal youth
I had rambling fever, although I had not been paying a lot of attention to Merle.
About a block from the apartment, a feminine voice yelled out: "Don't leave that girl!"
I couldn't foresee what I would possibly gain by visiting poor Susan Cleaver.
To witness her family's desolate lives again would merely make me a miserable griever.
My head spun as I passed Krogers and Sears and I turned right onto Route 460.
Discouraged beforehand, I was neither going to Chattanooga nor down through Dixie.

While hitchhiking alongside that highway, I thought that I should have worn red.
Finally, I rode through Montgomery County and had failed to stop for step-mom's cornbread.
Entertained by Rock music, the salesman and I went directly to a Bluefield jewelry store.
Inside, I bought the smallest and most expensive transistor radio I'd ever seen before.
Out on that West Virginia highway, I grew tired of walking and was just a thumbing.
Then, from a house, a little boy ran up to me and said, "Hey, Mister, ain't nobody a coming."

His daddy was all ready to take him to a Cub Scout meeting to be with other little boys.
At once, a Greyhound bus stopped; I paid my fare then and cruised all the way to Chicago, Illinois.
Like a normal American citizen, I wandered around inside the terminal and got lost.
Eventually, some other travelers and I took a bus to Kalamazoo, having shared the cost.
Way into the night, that city's YMCA wanted my transistor but didn't have enough room for me.
Therefore, I checked in at the Police Station, where I was booked for vagrancy.

After a stay in jail and breakfast the next morning, though, I wasn't holding a grudge.
Later on, however, I lacked self-confidence when an officer escorted me before a judge.
His Honor desired to know where I was from and what type of work I had done there.
In my explanation, I also informed him that I had spent most of my money on a bus fare.
The Clerk of the Court jotted down the address to a laundry, then sent me on my way.
That address, nevertheless, led me to a vacant lot during the early part of that day.

Sadly, I realized that the business must have burnt down on arriving at the place.
Or, that the Clerk of Court had sent me all of that distance on a wild-goose chase.
I left that bare site flustered and about ready to rejoin the Deluxe Laundry crowd.
Soon, a motorist gave me a lift towards Louisiana, having laughed out loud.
Actually, as I dozed, he took me near his college campus in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
When I missed my radio afterwards, a realization struck me that he hadn't been my Santa.
An uncontrollable vim compelled me, as though I were trying to see the entire nation.
Broke as a convict, way past midnight, I rambled into the Ohio Police Station.
A detective allowed me to take a nap on a bench in the back until the crack of dawn.
He had awakened me, handed me a dollar bill, and said, "Young man, you'd better move on."
Outside of Cincinnati, I drifted across the Ohio River Bridge under the new morning sun.
There were a few different available routes at an intersection, so I selected one.

Perhaps the primary reason I hadn't found a job was because I had not applied for any.
Well, periodically, I did consider the idea during my desertion, while I was turning twenty.
Near sundown, a big fellow took me to a friendly tavern outside of Ashland, Kentucky.
Through a couple of beers, I jabbered on to him about how my life had been so unlucky.
Recuperating at his motel, I bathed, shaved; then I turned in and thought about Jennifer.
I contemplated on our problems, pleasures, and the places I had been with her.
Come morning, I thanked my friend for his hospitality, and he must have taken me to be a troublesome kid.
Knowing that I needed employment, he said that I could not do the kind of work that be did.
I rode through Charleston, West Virginia with a man, who bore the characteristics of a priest.
He gave me a dollar, too, besides that, his black and white apparel was neatly creased.
Next, a sportsman stopped his Jaguar; then we sped off to Atlanta, Georgia's out skirts.
Throughout that night, I pondered over my life and recalled how badly doing without hurts.
Aw, but, to survive in life, sometimes you do what you have to do, if you do anything at all.
Consequently, I decided to return to my job in Roanoke, Virginia, even if I had to crawl.
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