How I Survived Prison

I survived prison by working with others and attempting to maintain my faith. This did a lot for me, but what helped me the most was the one thing I looked forward to working on every day: writing.

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In prison, most inmates count the hours by working menial work details, hanging out with their friends, and
sleeping. Other than watching TV or attending an hour-long yard call, there isn’t much else to do. You find
yourself sitting on your bunk, daydreaming about the future and ruing your past. At times, it can be difficult
not to become depressed. Realizing this, I chose to take a different route.

In prison, most inmates count the hours by working menial work details, hanging out with their friends, and
sleeping. Other than watching TV or attending an hour-long yard call, there isn’t much else to do. You find
yourself sitting on your bunk, daydreaming about the future and ruing your past. At times, it can be difficult
not to become depressed.Realizing this, I chose to take a different route.

My First Week at Rogers State Prison

There was really no way for me to be prepared for entering prison life. The first thing I learned when I was sent to the state’s central classification prison was that there would be very limited privacy. Everyone was suspicious of the newbie. My one saving grace was my age…I was fifty when I arrived. I was not physically abused like most of the younger inmates. I chose to try and stay in the background as much as possible. I got an unexpected break when a few things seemed to happen completely out of my control.

My arrival at Rogers State Prison was uneventful until I reached my assigned dorm. Each of the four 16-man
rooms was controlled by a different gang. As a “non-affiliated” inmate, I was immediately targeted for a “lesson.” When I returned from dinner, I discovered that almost everything I owned was either stolen or destroyed. It turned out that the combination locks weren’t much more than junk. They could be opened with a piece of scrap aluminum taken from a soda can.

That night, I was unable to sleep. I dreaded the next day. How could I ever cope in an environment I didn’t understand? The next day, I was to be presented to the management of the prison. There I would be assigned to a work-detail and be told how I was going to be spending my time. All I could think about was a future of misery and physical danger.

Gaining the Respect of Other Prisoners

But the next morning changed things. I went into classification to be selected as an administrative aide.
Immediately afterwards, I was taken aside by one of the prison’s counselors for an interview. She decided to
have me work directly for her as her aide and to teach the GED program in the evenings. The next thing that
happened changed everything for me.

The counselor asked me how I was doing. We talked for a few minutes about my experiences. Then, I asked
if there was any way I could replace the things that had been stolen from me. The counselor looked at her
computer screen and started to type. Confirming my room and bunk number, she actually came up with the
names of the three inmates who had caused me so much grief. I refused to confirm her theory of the
responsible parties, but that did not deter her. After less than two minutes of typing, she told me to see if
things were better tomorrow. That next morning, the three thieves were shipped out of the prison to places
unknown.

To my surprise, this created a very interesting reaction among the other inmates in my dorm. It also taught me
a very important lesson.

When an inmate is shipped, two officers announce this to the dorm. They oversee the packing of the
transferee’s personal belongings. What the officers are really there for is to make sure that these inmates are
neither attacked or do something to hurt others. Unfortunately, it is very common for inmates to go after
transferees to retaliate for real and imagined “slights.”

After the three inmates were removed, several remaining inmates came up to me. What shocked me was their
surprise and awe. The first one actually asked me, “How did you do that?”

Thinking quickly, I realized that they thought I had caused the transfers. Later, I reported to my first day of
work as an administrative-aide. I discovered that my boss was the counselor in charge of the shipping of
inmates from one location to another. She had set up an “emergency shipment” of the inmates who had
caused me so much grief. It was then that I realized that I could I be the go-to person for my dorm-mates who
needed assistance with the administration. I also discovered that they feared my ability to “do things” that
could shake-up their own situations.

How I Wrote 4 Books While in Prison

So, this is how I survived. I became the go-to person for those who needed help. I became a teacher for those
who needed to learn. I became an adviser for those who sought out wisdom. But most importantly, I could
make many problems go away.

Along with this, I demonstrated that I could be a reliable worker for the people who controlled the prison and
the education programs. This led to my most important coping method I had during my five-year
incarceration. I had almost unlimited access to the GED classrooms, which gave me access to a computer.
Six days each week, I would leave the dorm at 4:00 a.m. along with the kitchen-workers. An officer would
then allow me into my classroom. There, with no one around, I proceeded to write the Retribution series.

The Marc Ransom character is loosely based on me and what happened during my incarceration.
How did I make it through prison? With God’s blessings, I was able to write four novels. At the same time, I
was able to assist other inmates with their personal and legal challenges. One of my proudest
accomplishments was to assist over 100 men in getting their GED certificates.

If you should ever find yourself in prison or jail, my best advice is to discover a way to assist others. No
matter how bad things may be, you can find solace whenever others can benefit by being your friend. Also,
having a little faith in yourself will make a huge difference. It did for me.

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