From the creator of Prisonpath.com: As part of my sentence, I was incarcerated for fifteen months in the Maryland state prison system. My prison path initially consisted of two weeks local time at Clarksburg prison in Montgomery county, and almost 15 months in the Maryland state correctional system. I was imprisoned at Baltimore DOC, MCTC in Hagerstown, and finally Southern Maryland pre-release. During my journey, I encountered all types of individuals. I observed indifference, cruelty, and random acts of kindness from inmates and correctional officers. I memorialized my travels in a memoir titled “Prisonpath”. I will post an excerpt from “Prisonpath” every month. The excerpts are written snapshots of prison life.
1/19/11 — CANNOT TELL A BOOK BY ITS COVER
You wouldn’t notice him on the walks to the chow hall. He was about fifty years old and very thin, with a gray beard and dark sad eyes. I had met him through another inmate. He would only go out during rec for a shower and he remained very quiet during those times. I learned from our mutual acquaintance that he loved to read.
I spoke to him one day and started lending him books that I had received from family and friends. His literary appetite was voracious. This quiet man read historical fiction, mysteries, and literary classics. He consumed books. He spoke in a soft voice and was thoughtful in his conversations. One day at lunch, there was a discussion about his past and I couldn’t help myself. I asked what he was in for. “I robbed a bank,” he said, and he looked at me.
My eyes widened and my mouth dropped open at this gentle man’s admission. He had used a note to rob the bank and walked away with $1,200. The crime went unsolved. Two years before I met him in prison, he was living in Portland, Oregon. This bank robber had now joined a group which helped “lost souls.” He realized that he had to change his life and atone for his wrongs. He had not always been a criminal. Ten years before the bank robbery, he was a married man with kids, and had a small successful business that grossed $250,000. The marriage fell apart. He became an alcoholic with chronic depression. Over the next few years, after having lost his wife, he lost everything else.
After a number of meetings with this group; he decided to take back his life. He contacted the police in Maryland. The police were shocked since the trail had gone cold. The judge was lenient and imposed a sentence of four years. Two years would be served before any possible chance of parole. The same judge sentenced another bank robber the same day to fifteen years in prison. I asked our quiet bank robber, if he would still turn himself in after experiencing life as an inmate.
“Sometimes, I have second thoughts,” he replied, “ but yes, a man needs to be able to live with himself. Yes. I would still contact the police.”
We continued over the winter months to discuss books that he was reading. He continued to stay in his cell except for chow hall and showers. The rec room was too noisy and chaotic for him. He deplored the lack of civility among the inmates and the crookedness of the correctional officers. He was currently reading Lord of the Flies.