Letters from prison
The letters Craig Gile wrote during his nine months in federal prison camp in Jesup, Georgia are a window into prison life for a white-collar guy. Here are excerpts from some letters Gile wrote to his wife, Maureen and others he addressed to friends and family that he would send to Maureen and she would then type up and send out by e-mail.
September 7: To His Friends
Well, Howdy from the Hoosegow!
At this point you may have a few questions and I'm here to answer them.
"Do you have the opportunity to read?" . . .I read seven books in my first month here, as well as an old finance textbook. An unknown observer may conclude that I'm preparing to be a monk.
"So you have the opportunity to read, but do you get the chance to exercise your body (such as it is)? . . .I have no grandiose visions of being buffed upon my return, but I did have a humorous exchange the other day. One of the cats was working out also and he says -- goofing - "Craig, you gonna get home and all the women will be saying "Damn, Craig, you got yourself a prison body!" (which apparently is considered a good thing.)
I am playing softball; ironically softball of all sports has made me face the reality that I am, in fact, old. I need to really concentrate on getting my 43-year-old behind down to field grounders at shortstop.
"Do you get to watch TV?" Yes, siree. The cafeteria also serves as the TV room. There are six TVs to choose from. Last weekend, with football games on virtually every TV, it was kind of like a sports bar.
"Is there any form of social life?" Most of the guys I've met here have been unfailingly nice. A few of us have started a Wednesday night nacho routine. Munchies and Merriment.
September 17: To Maureen:
Thank you so much for schlepping up here to visit me yesterday. I still don't want you to kill yourself to visit, and I do know it ain't easy and is another crazy commitment in your crazy life, but I do really appreciate it. And I do think it's important for me to stay as connected to the Boyz as possible.
After y'all left, we had our little Sunday-evening-get-together-discussion-group. It was definitely more productive. John the lawyer gave some insight on how we can get our rights -- civil liberties -- restored, which is something I hadn't thought of too much (my "head in the sand" syndrome). Evidently, as soon as I finish my probation, I can apply to have my record expunged since I'd be a first-time offender. . .Doing this should restore me, at least officially, to be able to do everything except own guns. The practical matter of overlooking the stigma of this situation may be a more difficult process.
October 21 to Maureen:
As you drove off today, I was overcome by a wave of bitterness about having a year of my life taken away.
October 24 to friends:
The other night was Movie Night here at Camp Jesup and we had a showing of Miami Vice. The house was packed. I got the sense that for most of the cats there it was akin to me watching CNBC.
November 9: to Maureen:
I'm doing my best to stay as unaffected by this place as possible. I make sure I don't use the prison slang terms like "cellie," "the outside," "down," etc. I refuse to succumb to being a prisoner. Mostly I concentrate on reading/studying, working out, etc., and my mind kind of fools itself that I'm at camp or on a sabbatical.
February 20 to friends:
Medical care ain't the best in the Penal system. I think John McCain got better medical care in the Hanoi Hilton.
Some folks have told me that "everything happens for a reason." Perhaps that's true. One of my dear friends that suggested that through my being here I can serve the purpose of educating people on some of the under-publicized inequities and flaws in our justice system. All things being equal I'd have been happy for someone else to serve that purpose.
March 1 to Maureen:
Still dealing w/my decrepit body, but I'm managing it. And, as you always implore me, I'm keeping my spirits up. This is a pretty depressing place, and if not for the incredible foundation of our relationship and the amazing outpouring of support of all our friends, it would be a much tougher task keeping a good attitude.
March 29 to friends:
Evidently, the gentlemen of the Big Boy Prisons kind of look down on us at the Camp, calling the camp a P#$$sy Prison. So here at the P#$$sy Prison we have "movie night" twice a week. These are DVDs provided by the government. In an apparent attempt to add insult to injury, some of the recent offerings have been "The Nanny Diaries," "Daddy Day Camp" and "Becoming Jane." I kid you not.
As I understand it, back in the 80's (when I was trying to be down with the ladies), the government drastically yanked up the lengths of sentences for drug offences, with no flexibility for early release. My guess is they thought this would have a significant deterrent effect, and allow us to win the "War on Drugs." Well, there are a number of gents here who have, thus far, served 20 of their 30-plus year sentences. The guys I refer to here are first-time, nonviolent offenders.
Now, these guys with these crazy sentences, I'm convinced were rehabilitated at least ten years ago. They could have been sent back into society and been much less likely than the average citizen to commit a crime. I won't even delve into the sympathy aspect. I can argue, from a financial perspective, it makes no sense. For those ten years, according to the Bureau of prisons, the taxpayer has spent $30,000 per year keeping this man incarcerated (given the accommodations and food, I'd like to see someone look into THEIR accounting). Not to mention the additional 10-plus years makes it more and more difficult for him to re-assimilate into society. Which itself makes him more likely to have to resort to some form of illegal occupation to get by. . .Again, I would like to stress that these guys, as I know them, have absolutely learned from their mistakes, are good, stand-up guys, and would just like to move on with their lives.
Incidentally, I'm reasonably sure we have not won the "War on Drugs."
April 2 to Maureen:
It'll be interesting to see if I've changed at all when I leave here. Besides the inability to walk. In a weird way, I think I may come out of here more confident. I will certainly be less concerned about what people think of me. . . .I know I'll still suck at golf.