Monday, September 5, 2016

HARD TIME VIRGINIA Volume 1, Number 5

The following items come from various inmates with whom I correspond:


An anonymous inmate who served eight years at Lawrenceville Correctional Center claims that many of the men there were robbed by gang members upon their arrival. He also reports gangs essentially controlling the prison while he was there, that ruthless members extorted other inmates wanting to use the microwaves, showers, phones, etc., and that illegal cell phones, drugs and prostitution were rampant. He also said that if gang members learned that an inmate was a sexual offender, they extorted protection money from them. 

He concludes with, "The correctional officers and staff are not trained by Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC), but are trained and paid through Geo Group, which like other private companies, are more about making money and cutting costs than about inmate well-being or rehabilitation."


"We were placed on lockdown status last month due to multiple gang fights. I do not understand why our housing units continue to be placed on lockdown when events occur in other units while we are at work. Our two units house Administration, Kitchen, Laundry, Medical, Segregation, Trash, VCE workers and Inmate Advisors, all of whom are essential for the orderly operation of the facility."


"In March 1981, John Hinckley shot three federal employees, including former President Ronald Reagan. What is bizarre is that he had been going home on furlough for years and now, after 35 years, Mr. Hinckley has been released. Thank God for second chances!"


Mr. Nathaniel Painter has been behind bars for over 20 years and has earned an impressive work record both prior to and during his incarceration. He has gained the respect of everyone who knows him but has been denied parole 13 times.

Mr. Robert Davis Fitchett, Jr., committed a crime in 1979 at age 16 and received two life sentences plus 21 years. He is currently housed in an Honor Pod and has worked in profit-making Virginia Correctional Enterprises for over twenty years, but continues to be denied parole.

Mr. Charles Zellers, Sr., was incarcerated in 1993 based on a plea deal in which he was assured would be granted early parole based on good behavior. Not only has he been a model inmate, he is a trusted supervisor in a Virginia Correctional Enterprise Sheet Metal Shop and has taken multiple classes to better himself. In spite of that, he has been denied parole 8 times.

Mr. John Clinton Wright turns 89 in October and has been incarcerated for 39 years. He has been a model inmate throughout his time in prison and has been eligible for geriatric release since age 65.

Mr. Minor Junior Smith has been incarcerated 45 consecutive years and has been eligible for parole release since 1986. He is a 70 year old model inmate who has been legally blind since age four, and reports having been sexually abused numerous times during his incarceration. He has been a long time and valued worker in his prison's food service. 

A poet, Minor recently sent me the following piece about his life:

"Birth of a Criminal"

From the over-crowded prison behind blind eyes, my autobiography must unfold.
Many actualities pertaining to my past were doubted; many other ones were untold.

Incarcerated in Craigsville, Virginia, I am haunted by events from age three.
But first, I'll reveal bits of information about my parents and who delivered me.

Since my parents enjoyed farming, in 1940, they bought and moved on a fond one.
For the sake of characterization, father's name will appear as: Richard Johnson.

In 1943, his and mother's baby daughter perished in a tragic house fire up there.
Rena was born in a barn in 1944, while a new house was being built for the pair.

May 3rd, 1946, father's stepmother delivered me; I was mother's only real son.
Our small home in Montgomery County, Virginia was beside the rocky top of Dark Run.

Those pictures of me, when I was a baby, proved that I was in excellent health.
And I was sufficiently provided for by my father, who possessed a normal wealth.

I never did find out why mother had chosen to separate from father, to this day.
Yet, future comments about it would make me think that I was the one who had to pay.

With $200, mother took my two sisters and me to West Virginia when I was three.
Then, in some way, twelve-year-old Loretta parted from five-year-old Rena and me.

While we stayed there with mother's relatives, I did not see a cow or a churn.
I stood too closely to a stove, and each leg became inflicted by a serious burn.

The next thing I remember knowing was that ride in Uncle Henry Johnson's car.
Although he took mother, Rena and me back up Dark Run Hollow, he did not go far.

A black man's house squatted between two roads, which led into Poor Mountain.
His and Uncle Kelvin's family shared the same spring, their only water fountain.

We stopped before the black man's abode after Uncle Henry had spoken to mother.
"You kids go to your granny's," she said, "Henry doesn't want to go any further."

Rena and I passed three farms on the hollow's left-hand road to begin a new life.
Mother had said that daddy would take us to live with Ole Elsa Pratt, his new wife.

For our little feet and legs, a trip to Granny Johnson's cabin was a long way.
Our sister had drawn spring water that morning was one thing granny had to say.

Having eaten gravy and bread, we rode in daddy's truck that was big and black.
He took us all home after he had picked up Loretta at his daddy's nearby shack.

Mother had taken half of the money daddy had saved in a post of their bedstead.
Maybe that was why I had to share a contemptuous and disturbed step mama instead.

In the kitchen, I quoted mother by calling her: "Ole Elsa Pratt!" when was met.
Mama would label her former pediatrician, "a horse doctor," a slang title for a vet.

I would be hearing complaints about an agonizing hysterectomy she'd gone through.
However, she began by setting forth good principles for us to follow that she knew.

To my belief, the results of the surgery caused other people and me much harm.
Occasionally, when we three Johnson children played, it would set off her alarm.

Her usual irrational behavior patten was almost entirely influenced by spite.
This one factor would cause my mind to be compelled by--envy; fear; lust; strife!

Daddy earned $250 per week in the early 50's, but he was still meek and mild.
Two of his seven daughters had perished in infancy, and I was his youngest child.

He handed Rena and me each a pet after he had returned home in his big truck.
Immediately, mama drowned Rena's baby chick, having first drowned my baby duck.

Loretta cared for me, cleaned our house or chopped wood and probably a thistle.
I couldn't understand why mama had put hot water in Loretta's yellow bird whistle.

Mama didn't like Loretta's looks, so daddy returned her to granddaddy's shack.
Our sister visited Rena and me a few times, but afterwards, she never came back.

She would be shifted from one welfare home to another throughout several years.
Even if she was, at least she no longer had to cope with mama's abusive jeers.

Eventually, in Fishersville, Virginia, Loretta would become a practical nurse.
As for Rena and me, our tormented lives around mama varied from better to worse.

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