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Blog Archive - November 03, 2007 "A Beginning"

9:42 AM
I started this without realizing I've not given any background info on myself and the situation, so that's what I'll start doing now.  Let me ask you something, first.  How many people know or even care about what happens behind prison walls unless they've experienced it, or have loved ones in prison?

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world.  Over 2 million are doing time in U.S. prisons or jails, and over 4.5 million are on parole, probation, under house arrest, or sitting in jail waiting to go to trial.  The Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, where I'm housed, currently holds an average of 4,500 prisoners.  Think about that for a moment.

The problem arises not from the fact that large numbers of U.S. citizens are incarcerated, but from the lack of rehabilitation that they receive.  The question is: By accident, or by design?  You've just caught a glimpse of the prison industrial complex.  Recidivism, the lack of education and rehabilitation, high incarceration rates - these are merely a few symptoms of the true sickness.

In 1998, one month after my 16th birthday, I was charged with homicide (and a grocer's list of other crimes tacked on for good measure) and began experiencing our justice system firsthand.  Lies, rumors, propaganda, threats against my family, death threats against me, assaults, etc.  All this by those sworn to "protect and serve" . . . And that was before I had to deal with any attorneys.

I was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus a few more years in case the life sentence wasn't enough, and by August of 1998 I had officially entered the Mississippi Department of Corrections.  I was processed in at CMCF in Rankin County, and within weeks I was on a bus bound for Parchman.

Ever seen The Chamber, based on the novel by John Grisham?  The place it shows during visitation and where the gas chamber is?  That's Unit 17, here at Parchman.  That's where I started doing time here on the Farm.

Off the main road, down a long gravel drive and surrounded by rusty fence and razor wire, with four dilapidated towers - one at each corner - Unit 17 was a good example of overall conditions here at Parchman.  Aside from how small it is, one of the first things you notice is what looks like a slender smoke stack or flue rising out of the structure to tower above the Unit.  The flue connects directly to the gas chamber, which the officers who were transporting us were so kind to point out.  By 1998 Unit 17 wasn't used to house death row prisoners anymore because Unit 32 had already been built, though they still carry out all executions for Mississippi there at Unit 17.

That was my introduction to life at Parchman.  After spending the day chained up on a bus, being strip-searched a couple times, and having everything I owned (which all fit in a pillowcase) sifted through and treated like garbage, I was put in a cell that hadn't been cleaned and had nothing to it clean with.  The cell had no light or hot water, was infested with insects and had only a bare metal rack to lay on - no mattress and not even a blanket to lay on.  I tell you this because so many people have misconceptions of prison.  These people who are being treated like animals will one day be your neighbors, your gardener, your mechanic, the guy who picks up your garbage.  Not everyone can turn the other cheek, and some of these people are highly pissed.  You need to know what's happening behind prison walls.
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"Good" Morning?

8:01 PM
Seriously, does anyone like those morning shows, especially on the radio? Seems like they're on every channel. Artificially chipper people, chattering on and on about nothing. When I wake up I don't even like to hear myself breathe. Why would I want to listen to strangers talk about silly stuff early in the morning?  Those people have gotta be on some good quality Colombian, and I'm not talking about coffee.  Not that I would know anything about that.  And you can't prove it.

Anyway, so these people are chattering on . . .
Morning Show Personality 1: Hey, Cherry! (giggles)
Morning Show Personality 2: Hi, Bob! Did you hear about that roadside bombing in that place over there?
MSP1: Which one? (everyone giggles for way too long)
MSP2: So, there was like this car? And it was, like, going down the road? And one of those roadside bomb thingies was triggered? It blew up and killed a bunch of people. (everyone giggles)

For the love of God!  You want to wake up listening to this while getting kids ready for school?  While getting ready for work?  And these people should not be this happy in the morning.  I'm telling you, it's not normal.  The only people I've seen this happy were the ones about to commit suicide.  Not the ones playing around, either.  I'm talking about the kind planning to jump into an industrial wood chipper or set themselves on fire.  Or maybe set themselves on fire and then jump into an industrial wood chipper.

As an aside, there are some folks out there that would be that happy if I were to set myself on fire and throw myself into an industrial wood chipper.  My ex, for example.
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Some Like It Hot

5:46 PM
Oleoresin Capsaicin. Otherwise known as OC spray, pepper spray, or immobilizing gas. I've never seen it immobilize anyone though. The opposite in fact. They might do a lot of things after they get sprayed but they sure aren't immobilized.

July 7, 2010 was the first time someone had singled me out to use OC spray on. Lt. King claims in his report that he used the OC spray to try and prevent me from destroying contraband that I was attempting to flush in the cell toilet. That's a blatant lie. If he were trying to prevent me from doing anything, he would've sprayed me before I'd come to the toilet and flushed any alleged contraband. The reason Lt.King sprayed me was revenge. I didn't come directly to the door and allow him to cuff me, and he felt I'd flushed contraband, so he sprayed me - emptying about half a can of spray on me - to retaliate.

Anyway, it was an interesting experience and didn't exactly have the effect that King was trying for. I think I was the only one who wasn't coughing or sneezing or both. I don't know why. What bothered me initially was that after I was handcuffed I couldn't wipe my glasses clean or prevent the spray from running down into my eyes and mouth.

Eventually I was allowed to splash some water on my face, though it didn't do much good since OC spray is oil-based. Then I was made to sit in a holding cell, restrained, still covered in pepper spray for about (4) four hours. They're supposed to take anyone who has been sprayed to the hospital or clinic for decontamination. That never happened.

Finally I was taken back to the building and I convinced a lieutenant to let me tray and wash the spray off in the shower. It was dried and matted in my hair. BIG mistake. When washing off OC spray, only cold water is tolerable. Anything besides cold water causes irritation, and the water in the shower was hot.

I now know that no matter how you contort yourself, if water starts up top, its gonna run down your body. Yep. Unless you've sunburned your genitals (and I don't want to know how you did that) you cannot imagine how pepper spray feels on your more tender parts. Take my word on that. Before I came out of that shower, I sounded like I was in Lamaze class. In my mind I was calling on God, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, my Momma . . . Everyone. Would've been great if I were a masochist. (That time with my ex doesn't count.)

To top it all off, most of my property was covered in OC spray. There was nowhere to lay down without spending hours cleaning. After a few days I became accustomed to the burning sensation. I kept finding spray on things and couldn't clean all traces off everything. Adding insult to injury, they moved me into a cell where someone else had been sprayed and the cell was still coated in OC. You would think that it would repel mosquitos, at least. ~sigh~ It doesn't.

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2:49 PM
The mosquitos around here have me shell-shocked. Brings back memories of Unit 17, where they filmed The Chamber. When I arrived at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, I was first housed at Unit 17 where they still carry out the court ordered executions. Not exactly good memories. Fighting these mosquitos is a full-time job, unless you can become accustomed to the parasites slowly draining your very life force. Since I've not been with my ex for a while, I'm not used to that anymore.

Like fighting the Hydra, you cut off one head and two grow to replace it. And all the nagging and sniping and picking apart everything you say . . . But I digress. Enough about my ex.

These things have me shook though. I jerk every time it feels like a mosquito has landed on me. If I think I've seen something move from the corner of my eye, I find myself scanning the walls, the ceiling, the floor. You would too if you've ever woken up looking like you'd been on the receiving end of a serious beating. Knots on your forehead. Lips and nose swollen. My nose and lips are big enough already. They don't need help.

There have been times I woke up and it looked like I was in the middle of a crime scene on CSI. Blood on the sheets, blood in my fan, blood splatter on the walls. And you know the worst part? You don't know if the blood is yours or someone else's.

With that in mind, there have been times I've been housed around prisoners with diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C. Even though doctors and scientists claim that mosquitos cannot spread these diseases, part of me wonders. Mosquitos are carriers of disease though, primarily Malaria and West Nile Encephalitis. That's all I need, a case of Encephalitis. Maybe my brain will swell to fit my head.

Fact: Ten to thirty percent of people who contract Malaria will die, even if they're treated. One million people will die from Malaria this year.

Sometimes the mosquitos will get sucked into the fan and then shot back out and still be alive. Always reminds me of the Terminators when they have to drag themselves by their arms. The mosquitos will be all broken up, unable to fly and barely able to crawl - and they'll still be trying to bite you!

You turn the light off and are just about to fall asleep . . . and get bitten. You turn the light back on and search the entire room. Everywhere. No sign of it. Turn the light back off, lay back down, and immediately get bitten again. Beezlebug. Satan in a smaller package. (No, I'm not talking about my ex again. Though the analogy could certainly apply.)

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Easily Amused?

4:41 PM
As I write material for the blog and post my thoughts on here, for the most part I'll try to keep the tone upbeat and lighthearted unless I'm simply unable to. There's enough depressing news in the mainstream media and no reason for me to add to it.

Then again, reading about some of the stuff going on in my life could offer contrast. The equivalent of driving by the scene of a terrible accident. You don't wanna look - but you just can't help yourself. And you're glad it's not you in the accident. Don't worry though, I'm used to the awkward stares.

Not taking myself too seriously was a lesson I learned kinda as a byproduct of living with my stepdad. I was an only child for 10 years, didn't grow up around a lot of other kids or have to put up with a lot of teasing up to that point. I had to develop a thick skin pretty quick. The lesson stuck with me, and I'll only tease people to a point. I don't cut myself any slack though.

Having a weird sense of humor has helped me to better deal with being in prison. I think being bent kept me from snapping. I've literally seen people have complete mental breakdowns. Few of them recovered. Those that did, I've wondered whether it was a blessing or a curse.

So stick around! I figure if I can keep myself entertained I can at least help to do the same for you.

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Breaking off. . .

12:47 AM
While writing the posts for PrisonInmatesLife, though the tone and voice of the blog is more personal than one of the newsy sites, I felt it wouldn't be fitting to post some of the things I want to talk about. PrisonInmatesLife has a broad mission and specific goal I don't wish to hamper with the kinds of posts I intend to publish here. Here you will read my personal thoughts, ideas, opinions and general rambling on any and all topics.

Yes, I'm a prisoner. But if you choose to read this blog, I hope that it will give you a look at me as a person- a son, a brother, a friend, a lover, a human being just like you. Not an abstract or statistic. I invite you to take a look into my reality. . .

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About Me

My photo
Steven Farris is a prisoner who has been incarcerated since a month after his 16th birthday in 1998. Currently serving a life sentence without the possibility for parole, he is seeking to educate the public about the true nature of prison and the widespread and negative effects of the prison industrial complex. Steven has worked with both the National Prison Project of the ACLU, as well as the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in furthering this effort.

You can contact him directly at:
Steven Farris #R5580
P.O. Box 1889
Woodville, MS 39669-1889

Check out my other blog . . .


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