Writing from a prison cell was far from idyllic. I wrote after every meal, and started by chronicling every mundane event—even the actual delivery of the meal, and trips marching to and from the ‘recreation’ cage in handcuffs. Or the nuances of being shackled for our treks to the showers. Each night I’d write for an hour before crashing, after the last of the day’s insipid counting rituals were duly completed.
For my own protection, I had to stash my written notes in-between pages of books I was reading. I couldn’t risk mailing them out from the Hole, so I waited until after getting out of solitary confinement to transport them. This presented another challenge, since everything we mailed was subject to being inspected and read.
Due to its content, my writings were extremely risky. If any of the brass got wind that I was keeping a diary of their antics, there were no imaginable limits to how they might retaliate. As an example, an inmate buddy of mine had been the unlucky recipient of “diesel therapy”—an intimidating tactic so commonly used by the Bureau of Prisons that it commanded its own nickname. Since his arrival, he was overly insistent that his rights not be violated. Because of his annoyance, he’d been kept suspended on a perpetual road trip for a year and a half. The guards would transport him in chains in a Twilight-Zone-like ride to nowhere, on an endless bus ride from one federal prison to the next. It took months and a dozen letters from his Congressman to get him anchored somewhere. Their explanation was that they “lost” his paperwork. No apology. Acting with impunity was a routine... a matter of policy for the gatekeepers who harbored little or no fear of outside pressures or intervention.
I was tipped off by one of their own that they were not as likely to read legal mail, and even less likely to read it when it was mailed certified. Although this was despite any regard for our privacy rights to send legal mail to counsel. But they understood the potential of getting themselves into serious trouble by tampering with certified mail, since a trail existed that could be traced directly back to them. Even though I sandwiched all my writings inside packets of legitimate legal correspondence and forms and other camouflage, I was still rolling the dice that I might get “pinched” whenever I sent my package out at the end of the month. Who knew what the consequences of that would be?