FEBRUARY 8, 2013


Thirty three years ago this week I was sitting in the Federal prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri, where I had been sent due to a misdiagnosis of a serious medical problem I was having at the time.

The doctors thought I had Systemic Mastocytosis - a rare form of mast cell disease leading to mast cell leukemia.

What I really had was a bad case of dioxin poisoning - dioxin, or TCDD - one of the ingredients of Agent Orange used in Vietnam - and the chemical was being used by the prison I had been in as an ingredient in the bug spray that they used to kill cockroaches in the cells in maximum security.

It didn’t take me long after I arrived in Springfield to realize that it was a very dangerous place if you were sick or dying, and that if I was going to die there, I might as well go out swinging.

Over the course of a month or so I met with, and heard stories about a lot of guys and how they were being treated. I had long before gained a reputation in the prisons I had been in as a guy who would take the time to listen to guys stories, and then do what I could to make the wardens change the way they ran their prisons. 

That’s why I spent about eight and a half years in maximum security lockdown. Wardens don’t like guy like me telling them how to run their prisons, especially since I was often right and managed to bring outside pressure to bear in order to make them do what I wrote about.

In any event, I reached out to my friends in the prison reform community and made arrangements to smuggle out a couple articles I wrote about the conditions at Springfield to be forwarded to several United States Senators and Vice President Mondale.

On my third effort of trying to smuggle documents out, I got nailed, and that led to the letter that I posted last year that includes the words I want on my tombstone:  “The warden said I had a bad attitude.”

Since I published this letter I’ve had folks ask me what it was that I wrote that pissed the warden off so much.

Below are the first two stories that I managed to smuggle out.

One of the things about having a past like I have is that it’s often the only thing that folks figure can be used to discredit me.  It’s the old story about if you can’t kill the message, then try and kill the messenger.

I suspect that in the next few weeks and months I’m going to be getting into a pretty big free-for-all with folks who might decide to go for the old, ex-con, white Cracker racist card as their only defense.

Therefore, I think that now’s as good a time as any to disabuse anyone of any notion that playing any kind of card, race, ex-con, or otherwise will work.  I’m just as willing today as I was thirty three years ago, if not more so, to stand up and say exactly what I think, regardless of the consequences.

I’ve played the “Head’s Up Murder” game when the penalty really was getting murdered if you lost, and I’ve not only survived to the age of 71, but I’ve always been willing and able to cover whatever bet is put on the table.

So, here’s a message to my soon to be new playmates: If I was willing to write the stories below and risk the consequences when I thought I might be dying in a prison where the prisoners were being treated this badly, think again real seriously about just how far any of you might want to go in fucking with me when I start rocking your world.

The warden was really speaking the truth when he said I had a bad attitude.  It’s what I’ve always depended on to keep me alive!


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