Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Prison Dispatch from Jeff "Free" Luers

April 15th, 2008

Last Friday I was officially transported back to prison. So, I guess this is the beginning of the end. And what a beginning it has been.

This is how it started….

I meet with my intake counselor last Monday. This is the person who decides what my custody level is, and what types of programs (i.e. anger management) if any I need to take. In short, the counselor sets the stage.

This meeting was unique in that for the first time I got to see my file—the one that has always caused me so much trouble. The one that got me pulled off the bus by a captain when I arrived at intake. It is a thick file with a bright red sticker on it that says “Danger Escape Risk.”

That’s how it started. My counselor asked why that sticker was there. I figured it was a rhetorical question. I mean, he had the file and I surely didn’t know. But that was just it. He didn’t know either. He couldn’t find anything.

Then he asked about my sensitive inmate listing, which is a label for inmates who are believed to be dangerous. I replied that maybe it had something to do with my support. I received a quizzical stare. I didn’t elaborate. What’s the point?

Much to my surprise, my counselor said, “Well, I can’t see why they have all of these restrictions on you. There’s nothing to support it.” So he removed all of them, listed me as minimum one—the lowest custody level possible, and that was that.

Of course, the next day he came back. The conversation started like this, “Mr. Luers, I didn’t know who you were yesterday. But I’ve Googled you. Do you know how many people you have out there?” And so began more meetings with security lieutenants and captains. I was told I would stay minimum but would be going back to Oregon State Prison, Oregon’s only maximum-security prison.

So, it took me by surprise when they brought me to a minimum-security prison in Portland. It’s the same kind of shock I experienced when I was arrested. I’ve just been taken from my family again.

That may sound strange. But I’ve spent the last 7 years at OSP. The friends and brothers I’ve left behind were family to me. In fact, I’ve spent more time with them than most other people in my life. Many of them are doing life, most I’ll never see again.

I’m dealing with the separation from my friends while trying to adjust to a place where people aren’t carrying shanks and people don’t get killed. Things that are definite improvements from OSP, yet also make for a more disrespectful attitude among inmates. The fear of crossing the wrong line at OSP makes everyone very cautious and respectful. Lots of please, thank you, and excuse me. Here there’s not the same level of politeness. I’m having trouble adjusting. In a way I miss OSP.

One can also possess less property here. Something that means getting rid of lots of stuff once my property finally arrives from OSP.

There are dorms here and not cells. The yard is very small, though I can get out more. One thing surprising or at least new is the trees around the yard. Cedars and pines, fragrances I haven’t smelled in years. And frogs. I heard frogs the other night. I even did my own laundry, a first in 8 years. It took me a while to remember how ironing is my next task. Though I’m gonna put it off as long as possible—it’s something I’ve never done and I’ve seen all the comedies with the iron burnt shirt.

Still, I’m not happy or content here. I don’t think I will be. I accepted OSP as home. This place is not home. I feel in transition, but a transition I do not control. Right now I’ve got around 20 months left if things hold. But maybe I’ll go to camp—maybe not. They don’t tell you and there are 7000 people eligible. So who knows? I really want to take some college correspondence courses. But I’m worried I’ll sign up and spend lots of money only to end up in boot camp where I can’t do them. Or I’ll not sign up and wait on boot camp only to not get in.

I’m left not knowing what to do. It’s not a position I like. My future is up in the air and I don’t feel in control of it yet. But, one thing is certain: I have a future I can look forward to that is only 20 months away, or sooner if I get into boot camp.

So like everyone else I guess I’ll watch and wait and see what happens. I should be used to that by now, but naturally I am not.

Jeff “Free” Luers

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