My celly Justin, “Captain Crunchy,” as we called him, was released from the Illinois Department of Corrections on December 8 at 1 a.m. He caught an Amtrak train to Chicago. From there he jumped on the bus for his final leg of his journey. As I draft this blog, I hope my old celly has arrived to see his little girl. For she is the reason I helped him get home on time. Continue reading “A Day in the Life of a Jailhouse Lawyer”
In the prison system you have the cellhouse, a building where four wings intersect at a hub in the center. This hub is a circular control booth with windows facing toward the four wings. The front of each wing, whether it is A, B, C, or D, is full glass from the floor to the ceiling, so that the staff has a complete view of each wing. Continue reading “The Right To Be Free From Illegal Punishment”
People are sent to prison for breaking the law. But prisons have laws also, and the prison staff is obligated to follow those laws. For example, the law has clearly established that prisoners are to get a minimum of five hours of out-of-cell exercise per week, in order to keep their bodies healthy. Exercise is one of the rights given under the Eighth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. This is to prevent cruel and unusual punishment where the conditions of confinement cause the body to deteriorate. Continue reading “The Law Does Not Apply to Prison Staff”
In a maximum security prison, you are a caged man. You spend most days in your cell on “lockdown status.” This happens when someone causes an incident that challenges the security of the prison. Or so the staff will say.
Then all you get is “three hots and a cot.” You get a ten-minute shower once a week. Your meals are brought to you in a cell. No other movement is allowed. My only reprieve from this boredom was to read the law. Jimmy Soto’s words were always there: Continue reading “The Change in Diet”
I was set up pretty good at Stateville. The most notorious prison in the Illinois Department of corrections nourished all the vices. I had found my niche making moonshine. I was learning the law. Jimmy Soto, whom I met on day one, had set my head straight. “Nobody cares about you being locked up but you. If you want to change things, learn the law. Then you must beat the man at his own game.”
The guys found me an old mattress. It was the most gnarly, disgusting, smelly thing I ever viewed in life. Stains on top of stains. Years of sweat had created a smell most repulsive. But it was the mattress or the bare floor. There was a reason Little Joker had the top bunk. So I took my two wool blankets, used one as a sheet, then crawled under the second and fell out.
In 1994, I was sentenced to forty-five years with another twenty years, running consecutively, or as the boys in the long house would say, “Running Wild.” I have served twenty-two and one-half years on the forty-five. I am now serving ten years on the twenty-year sentence. This obscenely long sentence was handed down because I refused to plea bargain for crimes I didn’t commit.
I am an old Kentucky ridge runner. I was born in a pick-up truck on the side of the highway. My father, Robert Lee Harris, was a moonshiner. My family line goes back to the Cherokee and English who built this great country. I grew up in a dysfunctional family and was sent to foster homes and Chaddock Boys School. It is the trip to Chaddock that landed me in Quincy, Illinois. It is the Quincy courts that sent me to the big house.
The first time I went to prison, I was guilty as hell. Continue reading “Larry’s Story”