Jeff received a ticket for a dirty urine a few weeks ago. This is the second one he has received since he has been in this prison. The first time he lost his visits for a year and all of his privileges, phone included for nine months. They kept him on Keeplock status in prison. This means he was confined to his cell for 9 months. While on keeplock status you’re unable to order commissary and he was unable to order any of his art supplies to paint. His time ended a few weeks before I first made contact with him again.
He has been doing so well the past two years. Due to this ticket, he was unable to put in a transfer request. He had to wait 9 months for his classification to drop and then he would be able to see if he would be able to get back to Eastern Correctional Facility. In Eastern, he was enrolled in the Bard Prison College Program. Hundreds of men apply yearly, but only 15 make it. Jeff was one of the 15 who made it. We were also supposed to get married this March, but he received another “dirty urine”. This would be understandable if his urine was dirty, but it wasn’t. This is the same guard again, who just doesn’t like him. He went for his hearing and was served another year loss of visits and 9 months keeeplock. He fought his case during his hearing with all of his evidence, but ironically, the hearing officer is the guards wife and he lost. He has appealed and a service called PLS (Prison Legal Services) a pro-bono firm picked up his case. This doesn’t happen often and in order to pick up a case, they have to believe there is wrong doing. Obviously, they see this and they have signed on to assist him in fighting this ticket. Due to this ticket we are now unable to get married and he is not able to speak to me daily. This is causing him to go crazy in his cell and his mind is all over the place.
Two of Jeff’s Paintings
After he received the ticket I contacted Albany and informed them of the situation. I was irate on the phone and spoke to the IG department. They had initially investigated an incident that occurred with him when he arrived at this prison. Jeff had nothing to do with this incident. This is an excerpt detailing the incident from Jeff’s book:
“Auburn is the second oldest prison in the United States and it is the oldest prison that still houses inmates. Auburn is also the most violent prison in New York State. The presence of death can be felt as soon as you enter the prison. I had gone from the least violent place to the most and it was time to readjust. I am a survivor and I do what I have to do. I was trying to change for the better, yet I was caught between the old me, Dutch the Gangster and the man I wanted to be, Dutch the artist. I was conflicted because I was questioning if I could be more than a Gangster. After all, the woman who was supposed to love me since she was 14 years old, didn’t believe in me. People loved my paintings but I couldn’t sell my work due to being in prison. When I tried to do right, no one helped me, but if I was scheming on illegal money, people believed in my plans and helped. This fact made me question if I was just meant to be nothing more than I was. It’s hard to believe in yourself when no one else does, but at this time I was so passionate about art, I had to work. Art allowed me to have a voice through my visual images.
It was difficult to stay focused in Auburn because my old reputation followed me and I was still being active in the gang life. I was involved in two riots and managed to get away, but every day was possibly my last day in population because the administration knew who I was and with them, I was still the same dude I’d always been. Auburn has a college program that is part of Cornell College. I was taking classes but Auburn was not conducive to the productive betterment of an inmate. I couldn’t deal with the pain of my reality but I was still getting A’s in the courses I was taking. The workload wasn’t like it was in the Bard program.
I was really trying to get back to Eastern and my transfer was in and I was waiting to be transferred. I had to stay out of trouble and as usual, this wasn’t possible for me.
There was a war going on over the phones in the yard. In prison, gangs take control of the phones and only their people can use those phones but no one is ever happy because prison is full of miserable men. I wasn’t the only one who had known loss. I was negotiating the terms of the phone when two guys came at me. The first had a razor and he tried to cut me in the face, but I slipped out-of-the-way and punched the guy as hard as I could in the face. The second kid was the cutters safety. (the safety is the back up to make sure the cutter doesn’t get caught with the weapon) When the first guy missed and got punched in the face, the second guy started fighting with me. We fought until the cops broke it up, but I didn’t get cut because the best defense is a strong offense sometimes. I’m too stupid to run and have too much pride to hide. I was placed in keep-lock status for the assault and when they called me for the hearing to decide how much time I would get, I refused the hearing because I wasn’t going to let them ask me any questions, because I wasn’t giving them any answers. The inmates who were behind the attempt were now nervous because I was going to come of keep lock and I knew who was behind the attack. However, I wouldn’t get the chance to ever see population in Auburn again.
While I was in Keep-lock status, a big situation happened between the officers and the Bloods. Things got out of control and the jail was locked down and this only made it worse. When the officers were coming into the cells to search, the fighting would start. The administration decided to transfer all of the high-ranking gang members. This was on a Saturday, this doesn’t happen unless it’s serious. When the officers were coming to get us, we all had to be handcuffed before we were allowed to come out of the cells and five officers escorted us. I locked on the fifth floor and I thought they were going to try to throw me down the stairs, but they didn’t. When I got downstairs I was placed facing the wall. I was handcuffed behind my back, and to my surprise, my handcuffs were taken off and then I felt the punch to the back of my head. I have a built-in fight instinct in me when I’m hit, I just go on autopilot. I am fortunate that I have trained in hand to hand combat basically my entire life. I fought with the two officers who were sent to rough me up before I left their prison. I knew if I started doing any real damage the other officers would have jumped in so I just fought enough to stay safe. They asked if I had enough then re cuffed me and placed me into the holding cage until the bus came to get me and the other three homies that would leave with me.
The four of us were loaded into a van at night and we left the facility. The officers who were taking us wouldn’t tell us where we were going, so we guessed and joked around. The laughter would stop once we got to where we were going. Our next stop would be Elmira Correctional Facility, a prison I lasted 12 days my first time there when I was 24 years old. When the van pulled up to the prison the officer who circles the prison in a van asked our escorting officers; “are these the assholes from Auburn?” The vans and buses go to the side of the prison to come in and drop the prisoners off. We pulled into the truck trap so they could check the arriving vehicles. The escorting officers told the truck trap officers; “they got tired of cutting each other and started cutting the staff”. I knew at this point we were all about to get our asses kicked and I was right.
The van pulled into the prison and there was a squad of about 20 big officers waiting with their sticks out and ready for action. I knew what was about to happen because I had been through this before but one of the homies asked; “What is that the intimidation squad?” These officers weren’t there for show. Each prison had a group of cops who they used when it was time to fuck dudes up and this was Elmira’s gang. I told the boys “get ready.” No sooner than the words came out of my mouth, the side door slid open and we were being pulled out and cracked in the head with the sticks each officer held. There was three and four officers on each of us beating us with sticks. Each one of us had shackles on our legs and handcuffs that were locked to a chain around our waists. The officers beat on us for a steady five minutes that seemed like forever. I had been through this before, so I knew to lock my jaw, roll my shoulders and use my legs to kick them back. Chained up in the way we were didn’t allow us to defend ourselves very well, but that was the point.
The officers pulled us back to our feet to take us to the hospital. On the walk to the prison infirmary the officers were taking random shots at us, but now they were just fists. When we got to the prison hospital the nurses were cursing at us and telling us to sign off on some papers. The Sergeant stated; “The white one is the big Homie.” I was being called all sorts of nigger lover and other bullshit I have heard from racists my entire life. Now each one of us was placed in a hospital room by ourselves. I was still chained up and pretty bashed up but I was still alive, so it could have been worse. I hobbled over to where the mirror was and took a look at the damage I could see. I went back to the bed and sat down, I knew they weren’t finished with us yet. After a couple of minutes two more officers came in. One was an older guy and the other a steroid outed young officer. I knew how this was going to play out. I was asked if I was going to fight once the cuffs came off. Now mind you, I didn’t have much fight left in me, but my pride wouldn’t allow me to get beat like I had been and not do anything. The older officer undid my restraints and got out-of-the-way. I jumped up with what little strength I had and made an effort to throw some punches before big boy was all over me. I was re cuffed and pulled to my feet and back to the hallway.
I was the last one to come back out of the room. The cop said; “the white boy is the only one who fought back out of all you big bad gangsters”. The officers laughed. We were now escorted to solitary confinement. The other guys who were with me were still getting punched but I was not. I can only guess as much that the officers may not have liked me, but they had to respect me because I wasn’t a coward. By the time we were thrown into our cells my whole body hurt. I called to the boys to make sure everyone was alive. In the box, some of the guys I had been in other prisons with were already down there. I couldn’t eat the food because I didn’t trust that the officers weren’t fucking with it.
After a couple of days we were pulled out one at a time by a Security Captain. When this captain pulled me out and asked me what happened, I told him that I had fallen out of the van when we got to the prison. This wasn’t the first time I had gotten my ass kicked and sadly enough, it most likely won’t be my last. If we made an issue over this, we would be charged with assault on a staff and given a year or two in Solitary Confinement or a new charge. I knew how this worked and this was just part of life in prison. I was taken out of the box and put on a tier that was for locked status inmates because I still had time from the Auburn assault. I was being pulled out of my cell and threatened by all sorts of security staff. I was being told if that shit from Auburn continued over here, in Elmira, they would kill me. I didn’t believe this, but I knew they would have no problem putting hands and feet on me. I didn’t have anything to do with anything that happened at Auburn, but they believed I did.”
They have had it out for him since he has been in this prison. I get it, prison is a violent place, however, this is unacceptable. This doesn’t just happen to Jeff, this happens all the time. One of the most reputable newspapers in the world, The New York Times, covers many stories about officer abuse, officers killing inmates and cover-ups in the New York State Prison System. Jeff hasn’t exactly been a model prisoner, but he has walked away from his gang years ago and has fully turned his life around. He finally grew up. I am in fear for his safety and am afraid they may eventually kill him. It has happened many times. Inmates have been beaten to death by officers. Now my fears are in print.
Due to him not being able to speak to me is driving him crazy. While he sits in his cell 24/7 he thinks about the past and what I put him through. He is hurt and I can’t take it back. I wish I could, but I can’t. I try to avoid the topic of leaving him for dead, but I sat down late last night and wrote him a letter. I had to say my piece once and for all and I am torn with whether or not I should send it. I don’t know if it will make him feel worse.
I got to speak with you for a little bit today and I was beyond excited. You found out PLS is taking your case and this is incredible news. When we got off the phone, I went to see if I had any mail from you and I did. There were two letters. Not exactly letters I loved reading but. . .You didn’t even sign the last letter with anything but Jeff. 🙁
I remember how nervous I was when I first went to see you in Greenhaven. I hardly slept the night before and my heart was racing. I remember the drive up and all the 18 wheelers on the road which gave me a panic attack. This was my first big road trip and I kept thinking one of the enormous trucks was going to crash into me and this would be how I would die. I thought about so much on the drive up to see you. My life, my life choices, and the life I felt like I was supposed to have. And when I arrived at Greenhaven Correctional Facility I thought I was insane and didn’t understand why I was there. If it was closer, I may have left. But I drove all this way and I had to see you. By this time my subconscious had calmed me down and I was compelled to see you. It was so weird when I initially saw you. The boy I once knew was now a grown man. I wanted to leave as soon as you sat down, but you are Jeff and you were able to relax me and make me comfortable. By the time the visit was over, I didn’t want to leave. I could’ve stayed there forever. Gosh, I was still so in love with you.
The ride home I was completely at peace. My mind was clear and I felt so free. When I finally arrived back in Long Island and walked into my home, I was no longer at peace. I had a panic feeling. I was trapped in a marriage with a man who loved me, who treated me well, but I just wasn’t in love with him because I was in love with you. I didn’t want to marry him, I wanted to marry you. But at this time, I was trying to fill an emptiness in my life. As we obviously know, this hasn’t worked for me. I have tried to replace you, but you are irreplaceable. I accept this now. I will not say “I know this now” because I feel I have always known this deep down inside, I just refused to accept this. And when I came to see you again and told you I was in love with you, I had never stopped loving you and you told me you were in love with me? One of the best days of my life. After all this time, I could finally be with the man I loved. Right? Well kind of, but not really. . .
I was so in love with you and being this much in love with you didn’t allow me to fully comprehend and accept the reality of your situation. I wish I could say when we initially thought you would only do 6/7 years due to your appeal, I wish I could use this as an excuse. But the truth is, I cant. You could’ve told me you were never coming home and I would have stayed. I loved you this much but I couldn’t think straight with you. I get it, I do. . .this is how love is supposed to be. I loved being in love with you Jeff. I adapted well in the beginning didn’t I? I was a good prison girlfriend.
After time, I started having this constant fear that just wouldn’t go away. I was nervous all the time and the reality of your life hit me like a ton of bricks. You were stabbed in the eye for god sakes and for hours I had not idea if you were dead or alive. Do you have any idea how this feels? You have no idea what this did to me and your response to this situation? Retaliation. I will never forget seeing you after you were stabbed and how this destroyed my heart. But instead of this being a wake-up call for you to straighten out your life, your answer was more violence. Now? I understand more. I know it is all about survival but back then? I didn’t understand anything about prison. I wasn’t even capable of understanding even a little bit. Do you get this? I thought you were going to die. Every time the phone didn’t ring I was afraid. Even now I am still afraid, but I know more now.
Your life, your reality was just to vivid for me. It was just too fucking real. You were so involved with drama, it’s like you needed to be involved with it to survive mentally. You enjoyed the gang life and the violence. At this time in your life I know you loved me to death, I know how you felt about me but the truth is, I alone was not enough for you. Was I Jeff? Can you answer this honestly? You and I both know this. I wasn’t enough for you and you were too much for me. I tried to let you know how I felt, but I wasn’t strong. And when I did? My contract? You didn’t take me seriously. I was “so cute” and “your little baby”. Now? I will slap the shit out of you but see, I am different now. I am strong now. But back then I wasn’t. I waited for you to change, but you never did. You only got worse.
On our last visit I cried the entire way there and the entire way home. I knew this was going to be our last visit. My heart was broken and I just wanted to die. Don’t you get it? I loved you, I was so in love with you even when I left, it hurt. I just wanted the pain to go away. I was devastated and I didn’t want to love you anymore. I know you hate to hear this but it is the truth. I had this thing with you. You had a lot of power over me. I came to leave you Jeff, to tell you I was done, it was over, how I just couldn’t fucking take it anymore. But when you looked at me? I couldn’t tell you. I knew you loved me but at this time I felt like you weren’t willing to give up the drama for me.
I didn’t trust myself. You were like a drug to me. So I did something. I knew once I did this “thing” I would never be able to look at you. I needed it to be over so I made it over. I wish it made me forget you, but it didn’t. I wish it made me fall out of love with you, but it didn’t. And I wish it made me get over you, but the truth was it didn’t. All it made me do was leave you.
What I did to you was unforgivable. I take full responsibility for this but as with any actions, there are always reasons behind them. I tried to replace you and it didn’t work. It never has. I don’t even think I was replacing you, I was trying to fill a void. I am so sorry I wasn’t the strong woman you needed in your life back then. I am sorry I have caused you so much heartache and pain and I am so sorry I let you go crazy for 1o years. To hear you break down and cry to me? You, cry? This killed me. I wish I could take everything back, but I can’t.
And now you are locked in your cell with nothing but your thoughts. This is a dangerous mix. You have been doing so well and I am so proud of you. You have to just stay strong and focused. PSL picked up your case, this means you’re going to beat this ticket, it will be expunged from your record and we can get married. You can also get back to Eastern! I just need you to know I am not going anywhere. I promise this to you! I love you so much and miss you.
I am not sure if I am going to send this to him. To be honest, I posted this for two reasons. I posted this to share what has been going on and to gain some insight on if I should send this letter or not, but I also posted this so it is in print. My fears are now written on the web, and if god forbid something happens to him. . .