54 Days in Planet Prison

54 Days in Prison Planet (December 9, 2007-February 2, 2008)            

Since December 9, 2007, I have seen the inside of seven prisons (from the privileged position of an illegal arrestee, not even falsely charged with any genuine crime nor genuinely charged with any fake crime, who knew his time was finite, no matter how long it seemed).  For the benefit of any who might doubt where we’re headed in this Country, I just want to share what I have learned: (1) we are no longer free in this Country; (2) the Federal Prisons are the template for a future well-ordered society based on Maoist Chinese principles upgraded to technological perfection; (3) the State and Private Prisons are the product of an earlier, technologically imperfected version or cruder adaptation of Mao’s cultural revolution; (4) there are few if any genuine “criminals” in prison (at least not in the Federal system)—in my 54 days behind bars, during which I met or had conversational contact probably with over 500 fellow-inmates, I met at most one or two people of whom I was even mildly apprehensive, never mind afraid—and I met no genuine criminals, no threats to society, no “bad guys” at all, and (5) the values that are taught in prison are entirely communistic “All Good Flows from the State to the People at the State’s sole, arbitrary and capricious whim” and “Private Property and Private Identity are Forbidden, now and forever.”        

       Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center (“LAMDC”) was my first and most “pleasant” stop in this journey, and this was good because I was held there for 31 days, December 9, 2007-January 10, 2008, my longest stay anywhere.   The reason for the long delay was simple: the U.S. Marshals and the Judicial Prison and Alien Transportation Services (“JPATS”) were taking their holiday vacation, and prisoner transfers were not part of the Christmas or New Year’s schedule.  That prisoners don’t matter is the first lesson you learn in prison.  Prisoners are the justification for the existence of prisons, and prisons are big business, but beyond that, prisoners are merely an unpleasant detail in the life of prison officials, who exist merely to collect their salaries on very cushy government jobs which require very little work—if any.   The corollary to this first lesson is that “Prisoners’ rights” don’t really exist—they are a myth.  There is no presumption of innocence.  This was best illustrated at the two private prisons where I was housed (Geo Correctional Services Karnes County in Karnes City, Texas, and Louisiana Correctional Services’ Brooks County Detention Center in Falfurrias, Texas, inmates are referred to as “offenders” in all the prison-life and instructional handbooks).   A couple of old U.S. Supreme Court cases used to say that a prisoner “does not check his rights at the jail-house door,” but that was in the 1960s or ‘70s and this is now.   

Prisoners who have been in a long time are brainwashed into believing that the system is good for them.  That was perhaps the saddest lesson, and one of the aspects of the experience which convinced me of the “real educational” purpose of incarceration.  Prisoners come to believe that they were a threat to themselves and society (no matter how “innocent” the facts are in their cases) and that there is no such thing as “real” innocence in any event—they are all guilty of something, so they might as well be convicted and sentenced for things that they did as well as things that they didn’t, and they have all benefited from the prison experience.  For my part, I reviewed over a hundred cases and found none that contained evidence of crimes that were anywhere as appalling as the conditions in jail. 

At the “LAMDC”, I was very fortunate to be housed in Unit 7N, which was presided over by one long-term prisoner named Moshe (from Israel), who was the closest thing to a “Jewish Godfather” that anyone could imagine.  This kind, wonderful fellow worked as a jail “orderly” (what’s called a “Trustee” in the Texas State System).  He took a personal interest in every inmate in Unit 7N, and did everything he could to make everyone feel “at home”—since after a couple of years, prison IS home to many people, and most of the inmates in 7N, although housed in this “temporary holding” facility, had in fact been locked up for years—awaiting trial or appeal or to serve as witnesses for others.   Moshe (whose case was already on the last stages of post-appeal collateral attack) and his closest friend and associate Clarence (a black fellow from Belize, who was locked up waiting, waiting, waiting for trial) were together the most “senior” inmates and all I can say is that I would have been honored to have made their acquaintance anywhere in the world, outside jail, but I felt especially honored and privileged to make their acquaintance “inside.” 

Moshe’s case, in particular, I studied with relish, because it concerned the field of securities fraud, in which I have quite a bit of background since law school, and I came to the conclusion that he was absolutely, positively innocent of any of the crimes charged, which was very sad because his 20 year sentence had been upheld and his initial collateral attack been denied by the judge who sentenced him, despite ample grounds for reversal.  I have promised Moshe I will do everything in my power to procure his exoneration and release, no matter how long it takes. From Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center, I was transferred by “Con Air” in chains to the Oklahoma City Transfer Center, where I spent a week.  That was the coldest, most plainly Maoist, and therefore most frightening place of all. Prisoners were “chained in” and “chained out” and so there was not even the possibility of a fragile community which existed at LAMDC.  Los Angeles and Oklahoma City were not just architecturally cold and sterile, they were physically cold.  I complained bitterly but it was explained to me several times (with a completely straight face) that it was necessary to make the jails extra cold to calm the hot blood and tempers of the inhabitants, and to make sure that they stayed under cover and slept especially at night and during the repetitive lockdowns and count, which in all Federal Detention Centers apparently happens 3-4 times daily. The OKC Transfer Center was much harsher than the LAMDC, but it was also more crowded, and so after a couple of “Con Air” jets were grounded due to lack of maintenance (which delayed my departure back to Texas), I was transferred to a Federally Rented State Facility Called “Grady County Jail” in Oklahoma, which was like a bad movie in many ways: the prisoners all dressed in black and white zebra stripes, the guards illiterate, unable to count and constantly confused, and no one caring a hoot about anyone. 

It was in Grady that I met one of the saddest cases—a Purple Heart Decorated Veteran of the Iraqi war who was arrested for owning a private firearm.  He was a bona fide war hero (whatever you think of the war in Iraq, he was a man of obvious incredible bravery, perseverance, and fortitude, having been severely injured but continued in the line of duty….until his arrest).  He was the fourth generation in his family in the U.S. armed forces, jailed because he kept his father’s and grandfather’s guns and hadn’t “registered” them properly—I wish I knew more “criminals” like him, we all do.   

Another inmate whom I will never forget, and whose friendship I hope to maintain throughout my life, was named Vance and he was not only not a criminal, he was a crime-fighter, who was involved in the solution of several murders in Los Angeles.  He and I were arrested on the same day and brought before the same Magistrate Judge on December 10.  Like Moshe, he was a kind and generous person who did everything he could to make life in prison bearable for those less fortunate than him.  He also had an incredible personality and sense of humor—and I think only the truly strongest of individuals can maintain a sense of humor in jail.  I got to know Vance best in the Grady County Jail and our subsequent trip to Texas—but Vance was most notable to others by buying huge amounts of “commissary”—the overpriced luxuries which can be bought (although they must be rapidly consumed or they will be thrown away) to alleviate the evil dullness of incarcerated life. Grady County Jail was a comedy—if it weren’t so awful.  There 24 men with a single toilet and shower between them at one point, but it never went lower than 16. 

From Grady County we were “chained” by bus to Texas—first to a hell-hole called Montgomery County where I witnessed the first physical abuse by guards of inmates I had seen (it is apparently VERY common in Texas, although it was rumored in Grady County, Oklahoma).  From Montgomery County we went to the Houston Detention Center and then to Karnes County and then finally to the Brooks County Detention Center, where I spent my last week before the 30 minute hearing which led to my release without fine or probation.  Brooks County was an alien detention facility filled with the nicest, sweetest, gentlest people I met in my experience.  They were all or almost all illegal aliens or “coyotes”. 

I speak Spanish so I could get to know them, and I did, although there were 48 of us together in that room (6 toilets, all in full view of all 48 inmates or “offenders”).  This was the final stop on my journey through “the Twilight Zone.”  The Dementors are not merely the guards of Azkaban—they are the guards of every prison in the United States. I have spent the past 12 years, more-or-less continuously, fighting for civil rights in the United States. 

I have established a Trust, Tierra Limpia, to sponsor the war against oppression in my homeland, which needs neither protection nor security from any threat except that posed by its own government.  Those of us who thought, in the early 1970s, that contact with Communist China was more likely to infect our system than to correct the lifestyle of the imprisoned world were correct.  Everything in prison is made in China, including the style and manner of oppression and “re-education.”  Tierra Limpia foundation stands against all of that. Contributions to Tierra Limpia would be very much appreciated, especially since the operations were suspended during my incarceration. 

Such contributions are not tax-deductible because we have neither sought the protection nor offered ourselves in servitude to the IRS by declaring or applying for tax-exempt status, but we ask for your assistance in fighting the system, and can be sent to: CHARLES LINCOLN TRUST FOR TIERRA LIMPIA at 1250 South Pinellas Avenue, #206, Tarpon Springs, Florida 34689; charles.e.lincoln@att.net.  You can also call or fax CEL III directly at Telephone 727-234-1112 or Facsimile: 727-940-4473.

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