In late April, a friend visited and told me that a friend of a
friend's friend was a lawyer, and had agreed to take my case.  Not
only that, but he felt that he had a good chance of having the
sentence thrown out or radically reduced as the judge had neglected
to take into account some special law regarding sentencing people who
are under 21.

Actually, I had been sentenced not to six years, but to two
consecutive three year terms.  My new lawyer told me that what was
most likely is that I would be granted resentencing by the judge and
the judge would make the two consecutive terms concurrent instead.

After a few weeks, I got a letter saying that the resentencing had
been approved!  It was scheduled for June 23rd, less than a month
away by then.  I was finally satisfied that it would be over soon.
Surely the judge would decide he had put enough of a scare into me,
and commute the sentence to 'time served'.  Even if he made the
senteces concurrent, I would be eligible for parole three months
from then.  Never did I dream of what actually ended up happening.

A psychiatrist was hired at the lawyers insistence.  He interviewed
me for about 20 minutes.  A week later I saw his report on me.  It
wasn't very accurate or very complimentary, but it did say that it was
impossible that I was guilty, and that sending me to the penitentiary
would be the worst possible thing.

In the middle of the night on June 22nd I was awakened and moved to
a solitary cell.  I was told that I was going to be taken to the
penitentiary in the morning.  I explained that I had a court date
that day, and demanded a phone call.  I was not given a phone call,
or materials with which to write a letter.

In the morning, several prisoners including me were taken down the
elevator, led into a sealed garage, and handcuffed inside a windowless
van.  There were chains around my ankles and my wrists, and the chains
were bolted to part of the van.  There were no seatbelts.

We sat in there for maybe an hour or two before the van started moving.
You have no idea how boring a trip can be when you can't see anything.
It was uncomfortably hot.

After several hours we were let out, into another sealed garage.  We
were led to some toilets (two of the prisoners had already wet their
pants on the trip) and were then told to strip and led to a shower.
I recalled something about a shower at Aushwitz...

Evil smelling liquids were sprayed on us, and after we had been in
the shower for a while, we were taken out and had all our hair cut
off.  We were still naked.

After that, we were issued prison uniforms.  They had large numbers
stenciled on the back, but they did not have vertical stripes.  We
were photographed and fingerprinted and given two minute medical

Then we were given a lecture by the warden.  He explained that there
was a fence around the compound and anyone caught trying to cross it
would be shot, unless they were electrocuted first.  He said only
one person had ever managed to get over the fence, and he was found
drowned in quicksand in the swamp outside.  He told us that we were
at the "Southampton Reception and Classification Center", a part of
the Southampton prison complex, in which all new prisoners are given
numbers and at which it is determined which of several prisons or road
camps in Virginia each prisoner will be sent to.  The center was only
a few months old.  Apparently it hadn't yet been opened when I was

I told the warden, the chaplain, and everyone else who would listen
that I was supposed to be in court in Arlington.  Nobody seemed
terribly excited about it.  I wasn't allowed a to make a phone call
or to mail a letter.

We were all issued plastic cards like you get at a high-tech firm.
The card had my picture on it and my height and weight and my arrest
date and my discharge date.  My discharge date was December 14, 1983.
Of course at the time that was somewhere in the far distant future.
As distant as May of 1988 is now.  My weight was 199 pounds.  (I had
lost a lot of weight in the jail.)

I was put in my cell.  It was larger than the one at Arlington jail.
And it had a window!  I looked out the window in amazement.  Only
then did it occur to me that I had not seen the outdoors for over six
months, and that I had managed to miss the whole winter and the whole
spring.  I had a fine ground level view of the grass, and of the fence,
and of the woods beyond the fence.  I was even able to open and close
the window.  There were square bars in it to keep people from crawling

There was an ordinary looking screen in the window, behind the bars.
I removed it to get a better view.  It fell outside.  Fortunately, I
was able to get it back by fishing for it by dangling my shoe with the

I explored the cell.  Other than being larger, it was much like
the one in Arlington jail.  I noticed that the caulking between
the cinderblocks wasn't ordinary mortar but was a rubbery stuff.
I saw that someone had a hiding place, where a piece of it came out.
I searched for more such hiding places, on the chance that there
were more and one was not empty and I was being set up for something.
I didn't find any more.  There was a flourescent light above the
sink/toilet.  Unlike everything at Arlington jail, it was vulnerable,
like something you might find in a house.  In the jail, everything was
built so that nobody could possibly break it.  It was very depressing.
And this light, with a light switch, was quite pleasing.  Also, we were
served meals in a cafeteria.  And in the daytime we were allowed to
stay in our cells or to go down the hall and watch TV in the TV room,
which had benches you could sit on.

That first evening there was a thunderstorm.  Great show!  The power
was out for hours.  Lightning was crashing within a mile of us.  The
rain was coming down as hard as rain ever comes down.  I never realized
just how wonderful the sight, sound, and smell of a thunderstorm
could be.

The next day we were let outside.  Most of the prisoners were playing
soccer.  I just sat on a bench and soaked up sunlight.  I found a piece
of string.  That evening, I discovered I had a nasty sunburn.

That evening I tied the string I had found to the lampcord, and the
other end to the side of the bed.  That way, I could turn the light on
and off without getting out of bed.  True luxury!

During inspection the next day, the string was confiscated.

We were given a sort of IQ test in a room just like a classroom.
The test was pretty simple.  A few questions near the end were
challenging, but I had time to devote to them since I had finished the
earlier questions quickly.  At least it was something to get my mind
of the situation.  Later, I was retested in a one-to-one session with
a psychologist.

Finally, I got some mail.  My friends and my lawyer had discovered
the situation and were trying to get the resentencing moved to June

There was a canteen at which food and cigarettes could be bought
if you had money in the prison account.  You just had to show your
plastic card.  After a few days a friend sent me ten dollars, and I
bought some Pringles potato chips.

Days went by.  June 30th came and went.  Finally, I got word that
the judge said he could not resentence me or order me brought back
for resentencing because I was "outside the jurisdiction".  The judge
claimed that I had been moved because of a mistake made by a clerk.
My lawyer said he would appeal it to the state supreme court.

I decided that the place I was at was as good as any place to serve
my sentence.  There were positions for a small number of prisoners to
work in the cafeteria and the laundry.  I decided this would be a good
place since it was new and since most of the prisoners are there too
short a time to start forming networks of trouble.

My request was denied.

In mid-July I was moved to another prison in the Southampton complex.
I was told this was temporary.  The place was somewhat older and had a
more permanent prisoner population.  Also, it had a library.  Instead of
cells, there were a sort of barracks consisting of trailers stuck end
to end to make a kind of plus sign shape.  A plus sign of plus signs,
consisting of 16 trailers, with a small real building in the center.
We were pretty much free to wander around.  A feature I didn't like
was that we had to do our own laundry.  A feature I did like was that
we were allowed unlimitted collect phone calls during certain hours.
We were allowed to be outside during all daylight hours.

After seven days, three of us were put in the back seat of a prison
car, and driven to the Bland Correctional Farm (named for Bland
county, in which it is located).  It was an all day drive, since
we started in southeastern Virginia and ended up in southwestern
Virginia, which is closer to Cleveland than to DC, and where the
nearest 'big city' is Bristol Tennessee, population 14,000, which is
about 80 miles away.  The 'city' of Bland is 20 miles away and has a
population of 369.

On the road, I had fun waving at astonished children in cars going by.
I looked eagerly at the cars to see if they looked any different than
they had seven months earlier.  I couldn't really tell.

With great difficulty I was able to pocket a dime I found on the
floor of the car (I was handcuffed).  Later in the trip, I was somehow
able to slip the handcuffs off, which got the driver real worried when
he noticed at the end of the trip.

So I had finally arrived at Bland, where I was to serve the rest of
my sentence.

I was given a bunk in a 'dorm' in building 1.  This 'dorm' is a sort
of barracks, with bunk beds about 2 feet apart down both long walls.
There were 4 such 'dorms' in the building, 2 on each of the 2 floors.
There were 4 buildings, and one would move from building to building
over the months or years that you were there.  Building 2 had no
additional privileges.  Building 3 had something minor, I forget.
Beds farther apart, I think.  Building 4 was the 'honor' building.
Prisoners housed in building 4 had individual cells.  And they were
allowed out on 'yard' 30 minutes earlier than everyone else.  'Yard'
was 2 hours in the evening when prisoners were allowed to wander
around outdoors within the compound.  They could just walk around,
they could go to the canteen, and they could visit with prisoners in
other 'dorms'.

The 'dorm' had plenty of (barred) windows, from which the
wire-enforced glass was mostly missing.  This didn't bother me
since it meant there was plenty of ventilation, and the place wasn't
air-conditioned anyway.  The ventilation was important to me since
most of the prisoners smoked, and I am very bothered by smoke.

The canteen, open only during yard, was a small store run by guards.
You could buy snack foods, cigarettes, tobacco and rolling paper,
combs, razors, padlocks, fingernail clippers, batteries, writing
paper, envelopes, pens, and stamps, there.  If you had money in the
prison account, you could get canteen tickets which were 3 inch
by 5 inch cardboard cards with 1s and 5s and 10s all over them,
representing cents.  They could be spent in the canteen, and were
marked off by using a hole punch on the 1s and 5s and 10s.  They
were also used as currency between prisoners, although stamps and
cigarettes were a more common currency.  Prisoners weren't allowed to
have cash on them, and incoming mail was always inspected for cash,
which would be deposited in the prisoner's account.  Occasionally they
missed seeing some money in an incoming letter, or money was smuggled
in.  Since real currency was quite rare for those reasons, it could be
traded for twice face value.

Prisoner's accounts did not earn any interest.

The canteen was all metal mesh on the front, and had only a narrow
slit for handing the guard your canteen ticket and getting the food
or whatever.  One major problem was that the prisoners in the 'honor'
building were let out 30 minutes earlier than the rest of us, and
they would immediately head for the canteen, find out what was in
short supply, buy all of it, and sell it to the other prisoners at a
considerable profit.  Stamps were a favorite for this trick.  I often
had to pay 25 cents for a stamp.  This was when they were 13 cents.

Next to your bunk was a small metal locker.  You could buy a padlock
for it.  It was strongly recommended that you keep everything in there.
Things were stolen if you literally turned your back for 10 seconds.

Prisoners were allowed to have radios, cassette players, and
calculators, so long as they were shipped straight from the retailers
or manufacturers in unopened boxes.  I noticed that nearly half of
the prisoners had these things.  This seemed odd, since most of the
prisoners were probably broke, as I was.  I asked about it, and found
that there was widespread abuse of credit cards.  People would get
credit card numbers, either make them up or have some friend not in
prison get some from a dumpster.  They would then mail order all sorts
of stuff.  The return address was 'BCC', which I guess many retailers
thought was a community college (in Virginia there are several
community colleges, such as NVCC and SSCC).  Also, the local post
office knew to send any letters that went to an unknown address in
Bland to BCC.  So prisoners sometimes used return addresses like
"Joe Smith, president/Hypertech Inc./Suite 1200/1600 Pennsylvania
Avenue/Bland VA 24315" and it would get to Joe Smith, inmate 912345.

Retailers would finally discover they were duped and send dunning
letters.  But there wasn't much they could do.  One, just one, once
had the nerve to show up there and, escorted by guards, reclaim his
tape player.  (Several months later this scam was discovered by the
Washington Post, and the guards started returning all packages not
marked PREPAID).

Adjacent to the room with all the beds was a bathroom with several
stalls and one shower.  I should say several toilets not several
stalls as there were no walls between them.  And there was no shower
curtain.  No privacy anywhere.  Those were the only places you could
be at night.

During yard the door to the outside was open and you could go in and
out, or visit with prisoners in other 'dorms'.

Every two hours or so was 'count' when you had to stand at attention
next to your bed (or wherever you were working).  Count was not taken
at night.  At night the guards all left.  Guards were still in the
towers outside the fence, but none were within the fence.  It was made
clear that at night they shoot not only prisoners trying to get over
the fence but anyone seen outdoors.  They had spotlights, rifles, and
shotguns.  I don't know whether they had machine guns.

There were six buildings.  At the front was the administration
building, which was adjacent to the only gate in the fences.  On the
left were buldings 1 and 4.  On the right were buildings 2 and 3.
Those 4 buildings contained all the beds (about 1000) and building
3 also contained the canteen and the laundry.  In the rear was a
building containing the cafeteria and its kitchen.

Surrounding all the buildings were two 20 foot chain link fences
seperated by 30 feet.  The fences were electrified at the top, and
immediately outside the outer fence at each corner and a few places
between there were permanently manned 30 foot guard towers.  At the
top of both fences was electrified barbed wire.  On the ground between
the fences was lots of semi-rolled-up razor wire.  Like something from
World War I.  Outside the fences was about 100 feet of cleared area
before the woods start.  Two prisoners were shot trying to get over
the fence while I was there.  One of them had had a shorter sentence
than mine.

I mentioned that we had all been issued ID cards, which had our
picture and our discharge date on them.  These cards weren't actually
used for anything at Bland.  Anyway, people would show off how far
away their discharge date was.  In Virginia a life sentence is the
same as 100 years, for purposes of computing discharge date.  Anyhow,
we were all suitably impressed by this fellow whose discharge date was
in the 22nd century (2106 I think) until this guy with lots of tattoos
showed us his, which said Monday, December 14th, 4291.  Psyched us
all out!  Though the guy really was pretty mild.  Don't know what he
was convicted of.  I never could figure out if it was for real or a
clever forgery.  I think it was for real.  That date was easy for
me to remember since December 14th was the day I was arrested, and
the year 4291 is, believe it or not, mentioned in a Heinlein novel.
And it really is a Monday, I later figured out.  Wonder how the
state knew that.

The prison population can roughly be divided between long-timers
and short-timers.  It had little to do with the length of your
sentence.  It had to do with one's attitude.  A long timer is someone
who doesn't give a damn anymore.  He plans on never getting out.  So
he figures he can do as he pleases while he's in, since it's all he's
got.  A short timer is someone who is expecting to get out.  He tries
not to get into any additional trouble.

There were short timers with multiple life sentences, and long
timers with two year sentences.  It was impossible to predict.

The long timers essentially ran the place.  I, of course, was a
short timer.  I was hoping that my lawyer would get me rescheduled for
resentencing within a few weeks, and in any case I would be eligible
for parole in June of 1979, 11 months away.

In some ways Bland was much more liberal than Arlington jail.  For
instance prisoners were allowed to have dangerous things like razors
and padlocks, and were allowed outdoors, and were allowed to have
contact visits (meaning you could sit in the same room with your
visitor, rather than being seperated by a wall of glass) (but not
conjugal visits (meaning you could be alone with your visitor)).
The guards exerted much less authority at Bland than at Arlington.
Everyone knew that the long-timer prisoners were running things at

There were 4 security grades.  Minimum security prisoners, mostly
those whose discharge date was within a few months, were allowed to
do all sorts of things such as work alone outside the fence and even
drive trucks between prisons.  Medium security prisoners (of which I
was one) were taken outside the fence in the daytime and made to work
on the farm.  We were guarded at gunpoint.  High security prisoners
were not taken outside the fence.  Maximum security prisoners were not
at Bland at all, but at maximum security prisons such as Mecklenberg
(I was astonished to recently read of a successful escape of 6 death
row prisoners from Mecklenberg (they have all since been recaptured
and some of them executed)).

Two kinds of prisoners that prison culture does not tolerate are
child molesters and snitches.  I don't know just how, but the
prisoners who ran the place always knew everything in one's prison
record.  No child molestor could get away with claiming he was in
fact in for something like robbery or mugging little old ladies.  At
Arlington jail all that ever happened to molesters was that they got
cursed at and spit at a lot, and sometimes got beat up.  At Bland,
they were simply killed.  Within 24 hours.  And it did them no good to
claim that they were actually innocent.  The prisoners have a very low
standard of evidence.  I was very thankful that my supposed crime,
burglary, was considered perfectly respectable.

Snitches were given similar treatment.  It was a very bad idea to be
even seen alone with a guard.  The first week I was there, a suspected
snitch was found dead in the 'honor' building.  His head had been
bashed in by the usual weapon of choice, a padlock in a sock.
As far as I know, they never found out who did it.

Another favorite weapon is a 'shank', a knife made out of any random
piece of steel, and sharpened for many hours until it is razor sharp.
Razor blades were seldom used in weapons, but were popular for suicide.

At first I thought that prisoner's aversion to snitches was for the
practical reason that they didn't want anyone to snitch on them.  And
because they were too scared to snitch for fear some prisoner would
discover this and take action against them.  But I later discovered
that this feeling runs much deeper in a lot of prisoners, as proven by
the many cases where a dying prisoner refused to say who knifed him.

Not that this means there weren't a lot of snitches.  There were
plenty.  The events described in Paul Brickhill's true story _The_
Great_Escape_, in which several hundred American and British
prisoners of war in Nazi Germany were able, in a compound very similar
to BCC, despite minimal resources and constant surveillance, to
construct realistic looking documents, uniforms, guns, working
compasses, several tunnels with ventilation, electric lights, and
trolley tracks, and to escape, would be quite impossible at BCC
because of snitches and the general lack of cooperation between

I found my many conversations with the other prisoners very
instructive.  The great majority of them did not claim to be innocent.
What they did claim was that almost everyone in the world was
also guilty.  Many of them would go on for hours about how people
committing 'white collar crime' are running the country.  Many of them
were on many junk mail lists, and showed me the junk mail to prove
their point.  I did have to admit that a lot of the junk mail did seem
to fit their world view, in that instead of offering an honest product
at an honest price, it would make extravagant claims such as 'you have
already won ten million dollars' or 'you will get either a thousand
dollars in cash, a solid gold bar, or a new Rolls Royce, if you visit
foobar estates at no obligation', and it came in envelopes that
pretended to be telegrams or messages from government agencies.

Prisoners had nothing but disgust for guards, describing them as
'too lazy to work and too chicken to steal'.  It was interesting that
they did not really have contempt for honest hard working citizens,
but did feel that they were all either suckers who were being ripped
off by their employers, the government, landlords, and stores, or else
that they weren't really as honest as they seemed.  Prisoners did not
really have anything against policemen, judges, juries, or people who
call the police.  I never heard of anyone saying that when they got
out they wold take revenge on anyone who was just doing their job,
such as the owner of the house they burglarized, or the judge, or the
police.  A few did say they planned to avenge themselves on fellow
crooks who had let them 'take the rap' or occasionally on a judge
they described as crooked.

I symathize with a lot of this.  Of course much of it is just
rationalizations, but they do have a point.  It would be interesting
to see whether it would indeed reduce the crime rate if government
would stop lying to the people, if stupid junk mail and TV ads were to
become a thing of the past, if we heard less about coupons, rebates,
50% off sales, and bait-and-switch, and if more employers and
landlords were to give people a fair deal.

They feel that it is acceptable to steal from anyone except
children, and to kill anyone but children.  Of course there are
exceptions to these rules.  One prisoner was telling me that he had
burglarized hundreds of houses without being caught, and then one time
some children in bed saw him while he was burglarizing a house he had
thought nobody was in (he tested houses by knocking hard on the door
for several minutes before breaking in).  The children later testified
against him in court and he got 40 years.  He was paroled after
10 years, and immediately went back to burglary.  He had nothing
personally against the children who had testified against him, and he
did not attempt to seek them out and harm them.  But one time when he
was burglarizing a house he thought nobody was in, once more he found
some children in bed.

This time he killed them all, for his own protection.

Well, the parents were coming in just as he was leaving, so he did get
caught, and he was given three life sentences for the three children
(this was before the death penalty was reinstated in Virginia) and one
more for the burglary.  Of course he denied everything in court, but
once he was convicted he didn't mind admitting it to anyone.  (He is
one of the few people I met who I think really deserved to be locked
up forever.)

I heard all sorts of strange stories.  I don't know how many are
true, but that doesn't mean they aren't quite instructive on prison
culture.  Most people there weren't worth talking to.  Half the
prisoners were black, and I couldn't understand what most of them
were saying.  Many of the whites were from southwest Virginia, and I
couldn't understand them either.  (I have been told by MA and CA types
that I have a Virginia accent.  I don't believe I do.  In any case,
there are several Virginia accents.  I find the southeastern accent
understandable enough, but the southwestern accent might as well be
Greek.)  The people I could understand generally shared few interests
with me, and were only good for an hour's conversation.  But there
were a few people in there who were worth talking to.

One prisoner claimed to be a doctor.  He had a German accent.  Lots
of people accused him of being a Nazi doctor.  But apparently he had
simply had sex with a teenage patient of his, and her parents found
out and were not amused.  Actually, he didn't seem very bright for a
doctor.  I bet him $100 that sodium was a metal.  He accepted the bet,
but refused to pay when I proved I was right.

Another prisoner claimed he had been a crewman on a nuclear
submarine.  He gave me enough detail about the sub and about shipboard
life that I was convinced he was telling the truth.  The story of his
arrest was quite fantastic.  He said he was ashore in Norfolk late one
night and really hungry with no money.  He said that he then broke
into a 7-11 or something like that to get some food.  He said he had
never done anything like that before.  And he was walking down the
road a few minutes later when the police picked him up.  It turned
out that they did not want him for the burglary but for rape, though
at first he thought that was just a ploy to get him to admit to the
burglary.  The woman said she was not sure if he was the guy or not,
but the police kept interrogating him all night long, and finally
told him that if he signed a confession, they would ask the woman
one more time and if she still wasn't sure they would let him go.
At the court, the woman was sure it was him and he got 40 years.
And he never was even accused of the store burglary.

One thing I found fascinating was to explore prisoner's perception
of the world.  It was quite a distorted view.  Some of them thought
that one third of the population was in jails and prisons.  And that
only ten percent of the population had graduated high school.  And
less than one percent had graduated college.  (I recently asked a
yuppie friend of mine what percent of adults in the USA had some
college degree.  He estimated 80%.  The correct percentage is 25%.)

A lot of prisoners thought that my story was unusual.  I suppose it
was.  Many of them thought that I was some sort of computer criminal
mastermind.  One of them said that he knew that all programmers played
chess, and insisted that I play chess with him.  He became violent
when I refused and told him that I do not play chess.  He wasn't
interested in playing Qubic, my favorite game.

One prisoner insisted that I teach him how to make millions of
dollars through computer crime.  He paid no attention when I told him
I had been convicted of the mundane crime of burglary, and that I knew
very little about how one could steal with computers.  So I decided to
see how persistent he was.  I had no intention of telling him anything
useful.  I might have, had he claimed he was innocent and wanted to
learn something constructive.  But he said he was just out to rip people
off.  He had no idea how much was involved in computers.  He was a high
school dropout whose math ended with fractions.

So I taught him how to convert whole numbers from decimal to
hexadecimal, binary, and octal, and vice versa.  When he had mastered
that (after several weeks) I taught him how to convert fractional
numbers as well.  After that, I started teaching him PDP-8 machine
language.  Shortly after I began that, he gave up.

A few of the prisoners were quite good scrabble players, and often
beat me at it.  Various card games were the favorite games, but I soon
learned not to try playing cards with these crooks.  I never did talk
anyone into playing Qubic with me.

One thing that really bothered me about the whole system is the way
they renamed everything.  The jail was not called a jail, but a
'detention center'.  Prisons are 'correctional centers'.  Guards are
either 'sheriff's deputies' (in the jail) or 'correctional officers'
(in the prison).  Prisoners are 'inmates' or 'offenders'.  Former
prisoners are 'ex-offenders'.  (I am no great fan of the alternative
term 'ex-con' but at least it's more accurate.  'Con' to mean you were
convicted of something, which I was.  But 'offender' implies that I
did the crime, which I didn't.  I prefer 'former prisoner' which also
handles the case of people who spent time in jail and were not found
guilty, or whose convictions were later overturned.)

We would be awakened in the morning (I don't recall the hour but it
was before sunrise part of the year) and taken out through the gate
and assembled in the parking lot in front of the admin building.  We
were then either marched or taken in an open bed truck to the work
site.  My first full day, I was given a dull sickle and told to mow
some grass.  Now I've always considered myself to be kind of macho
when it comes to grass.  When I was a kid I used to mow grass with a
non-power mower.  None of the kids I knew in the mid 1970s had that
experience.  But a sickle?  A dull sickle?  I had never used such a
thing.  I didn't know they still had any, except on Russian flags.

Anyhow, I was written up for not sickling hard enough.  This was a
sort of kangaroo court, held the following evening.  I was given a
reprimand and a mark in my record, and told that if it happened again
I would be put in solitary for two weeks and have some good time taken

Good time is short for 'time off for good behavior'.  All prisoners
get it automatically.  One day for every three.  This means that a six
year sentence is actually a four year sentence, unless your good time
is taken away, which it can be in kangaroo court.  Of course they
can't keep someone with a six year sentence more than six years
without taking him to a REAL court, and getting him convicted of
something new.  And refusing to work is not a crime.

In less than a week, I was moved to building 2.  It was just about
the same as building 1.

I soon settled into a routine.  Breakfast, 12 hours of work in the
fields, dinner, lying around the 'dorm', yard, lying around the 'dorm',
bedtime.  Once a week was laundry day.  Once a day was mail call.

The land was much too hilly for mechanized farming.  We had to carry
manure buckets up and down 45 degree hillsides, and spread the manure
by hand.  Picking and planting were done mostly by hand.  There was a
hay baling machine, and a truck for taking the bales to a barn.  I was
one of the people, for several weeks, who had the job of getting the
bales out of the truck into the barn, and stacking it in the barn.

I had never realized that cows needed so much hay.  We must have
stacked about 10,000 hundred pound bales in the barn.  And after that
there was another barn to fill.  And after that, two more.

It was nasty work.  The only way to grab a bale was by the string
holding it together.  And if you didn't do it just right, the bale
would come apart.  The string cut into my hands, and the hay itself
was horribly scratchy.  I can't imagine anyone sleeping in hay, it's
nasty stuff.

Once again, I was accused of not working hard enough.  I was sent
back to building 1 for two weeks.  When the two weeks were over, I
decided to stay there, as most of the building 1 people had decided,
which was why one could move to building 2 so quickly.  The building 1
people were more laid back in general, and I preferred their company.

But after a while I got to the point where I could toss hundred
pound bales around without much difficulty.  At about that time, we
started working in the cannery.

The cannery is where food is canned, supposedly to be eaten later at
Bland and to be shipped to other prisons in Virginia.  But it seemed
to me that most of it must have been leaving the system altogether,
presumably at someone's great profit.  It has been claimed that it
costs several thousand dollars to keep a prisoner for a year.  I don't
believe a word of it.  We grew far more than we ate at Bland, the
buildings were all built many years ago and were falling apart, the
guards were payed minimum wage, and there were maybe 50 prisoners per
guard, and land was very cheap in that area, as it wasn't good for
anything except hand farming.  I am convinced that we made the state
quite a profit.

Anyway, in the cannery there are leaky steam lines everywhere and
the temperature and humidity were both about 100.  People's clothes
and even their hair got mildewed.

My first task was to sort green beans.  To toss out the bad ones
before they get ground up and put into cans.  The person I replaced
had lost a couple fingers on this task, since his hand got into the
slicer.  I was allowed no breaks for the 12 hours I was there, and it
was made clear that if I let any bad beans get through, or discarded
any good ones, that I would be in great trouble.  I had to ask
permission to go to the bathroom, which I was criticized for doing too
often.  I was on this task for several weeks before being given an
easier task, putting one salt tablet in each empty can, and checking
the cans for rust.

There was a huge steam vat, in which the beans, already in the cans,
were cooked.  One time when they opened it to take out the cans they
found a dead body in there.  I couldn't help but see it.  And the
expression on its bloated face.

There was also a huge freezer.  People liked getting locked into it,
as it gave them an excuse for why they stayed in there.  It was the
only cool place.

I wouldn't have minded the conditions at the cannery so much if I
had been able to to shower when I returned to the 'dorm'.  But the
shower was monopolized by the long-timers.  The only way to get a
shower was to stay up way past midnight.  Even then, your feet weren't
clean since the shower was always backed up and there was sewage all
over the floor, since all the toilets also leaked.

After I had been at Bland for several months, I heard from my lawyer
that the state supreme court had turned down my appeal.  No grounds
were given.  I hadn't even been appealing my conviction, but rather
the fact that I had been prevented from attending my resentencing,
which had then been cancelled since I wasn't present.  The appeal was
an attempt to gain me a resentencing.  The lawyer said he had fully
expected this, that the state supreme court always turns things down,
but that you have to take that step before you can appeal to the
federal district court.  So he appealed the state supreme court's
decision to the federal district court.

Prisoners often had fun by sabotaging the work.  In the cannery,
people often tried to wreck the boiler, jam the conveyers, smash the
cans, etc.  I only did something like this once.  We were loading a
truck with boxes full of cans of green beans and apples.  I noticed
that despite the prisoners seeming to exert a lot of effort in lifting
the boxes, the boxes were empty!  So I assisted in loading hundreds of
boxes, most of them empty, into the truck.  The guards never found
out, at least not that I heard of, that they had been fooled.

The weather turned cold.  I had never noticed that it had been a
comfortable temperature for a few days.  Once it turned cold it stayed
cold.  Now that the cannery might be comfortable, we were outside
again instead.  We dug up potatos and spread manure, mostly.  We also
did some road work, and some landscaping on the warden's house.

It became winter.  We were given light jackets, but they didn't help
much.  As I said, the windows in the 'dorm' were mostly broken out.
The wind never stopped blowing and it was always below freezing.
The toilets, the sinks, and the shower became frozen solid.  Then,
I understood why they leaked so much when it was warmer.  The only
source of drinkable water was snow and ice from outside brought in
and melted in coffee cans.  Fires were kept burning all night in the
'dorm' in a futile attempt to stay warm.  In the day, during all
daylight hours we were outside doing useless things like picking rocks
off a hill and loading them into a truck and then spreading them on
another hill.  And then moving them back a few weeks later.  At least
it kept you somewhat warm.  I wondered how I could ever have despised
the heat.

Then I was transferred to the sawmill.  Logs were sawed up into
boards.  It was dangerous, but at least you could get warm there.
There was a fire barrel and you could get warm if you stood near it
and turned around.  If you did not turn around, your clothes would
start smoldering if you were close enough to keep warm.  Fortunately,
the guard who ran the sawmill was fairly humane and let us take
frequent breaks at the fire barrel, since even shoveling wood chips and
lifting 200 pound logs couldn't keep you warm enough.  One day when it
was really cold and windy, we went into a building near the sawmill
instead of to the sawmill.  The building had a wood stove and a
thermometer and a radio.  The wood stove was glowing dull red, and the
temperature in there was a comfortable 65 degrees.  The weatherman on
the radio said the temperature was minus twenty and the wind chill
factor was minus 85!

The winter of 1978/1979 was a very cold winter in the hills of
southwestern Virginia.  Working at the sawmill wasn't all that bad as
there was a firebarrel and frequent breaks.  But then one day some
prisoner sabotaged the sawmill.  He (or they) cut the hose to the
fuel tank, letting all the kerosene leak out on the ground.  He also
slashed several conveyer belts and tried to jam the gearbox with ice.
I don't know how he accomplished this without being seen since there
were always at least three armed guards around us watching us.

The guard who was in charge was livid.  He said he had tried to be
lenient with us and see what it got him.  He asked the culprit to step
forward, and when he didn't, he promised to have all of us transfered
to other work groups.  Sure enough, that's just what he did.

One problem with Bland is that you could never get enough food.  The
food we were served at breakfast and dinner (there were no lunches)
was a kind of grey porridge and sometimes bread.  I don't know what
happened to all the food we grew on the farm.  I know that beef,
chickens, apples, green beans, potatoes, and tomatoes were produced.
The main sources of nourishment were what you could buy in the canteen
(mostly junk food) and what you could eat on the job.  I ate several
whole small tomato plants that we were supposed to be planting.
I later learned that most of the tomato plant is poisonous.  It didn't
seem to hurt me any, though.

Several prisoners froze to death in the solitary cell.  The standard
sentence in the unheated solitary cell was two weeks.  One of the
survivors told me that the trick is to sleep in the day when it is
slightly warmer, and to stay awake all night and remain active, doing
pushups or jumping jacks.

I heard from my lawyer that the federal district court had turned
down my appeal of the state supreme court's rejection of my appeal
that the circuit court should have let me attend my resentencing,
which was cancelled due to my absense, which was caused by the same
court.  He said it was possible to appeal to the court of appeals, but
recommended that I not do so since I would be up for parole in June,
by which time the court would not have acted, and since the parole
board always turns down a prisoner who is still appealing his sentence.
I agreed to let it drop, though I said I would wish to pursue it if I
was turned down for parole.

I was paroled in June.  I had a job within 48 hours, thanks to the help
of my friends.  Two and a half years later I was uneventfully released
from parole.  I've been in no legal trouble since then.  Not even a