Dear Friends,

It’s around 9:30pm Sunday night as I begin this letter. The Jets are
losing to the Steelers (aargh!), but my celly is standing in the doorway
singing along to his radio, completely off time, thick Cuban accent, broken
English. The Bob Marley song is unidentifiable from his rendition, but
entertaining nonetheless. We are in cell 220 on the top range of the SHU
(Special Housing Unit), aka “the hole”, where we are being held in
“administrative detention pending bed space” after our recent arrival at
McRae Correctional Facility. He told me our one-station receiving radios
(dollar store variety) actually has good music on tonight, so we are both
listening now—Michael Bolton, etc. Classics. He’s loving it, dancing all
over the cell, quite entertaining. Enrique Mora (just farted and broke out in
laughter), 26 from Cuba—in the States from 15 years of age, sleeps all day,
snores up a storm, and comes alive at night. We are looking at about two
weeks in the SHU, while space opens up in general population.

This is very much the same as USP—23 hours lockdown five days a
week, and all weekend long; but there are some key differences. There is no
computer access at this facility, and we only get one phone call a week in
here and must wait seven days before the first one. So it seems my birthday
present will be a phone call to L.A.—haha! The shower schedule is the
same as well, Monday, Wednesday, Friday but thankfully they run showers
and rec separately, so at least we get out of the cell twice on those days,
albeit in handcuffs while being escorted to the shower or the caged-in two
person rec units. No TV! The reason I know the score is that the CO is
giving us updates as he goes by on counts/walk through. They have at least
provided us with pen, paper, and indigent envelopes to do some letter
writing, which I quite appreciate. And despite how unpleasant this situation
may sound, I am actually enjoying it here; appreciating the peace and quiet,
the warmth of our cell, and the little bit of reading material we have been
able to acquire (a few magazines and newspapers). Enrique can be quite
moody, but when he is feeling alright, we have a riot of a good time.
Well, I do not have much writing paper, and need to try and make it
last for as long as I am in here—as much space as this has already taken, I
now see I am going to have to severely limit everything I had planned on
writing. So here comes the bare minimum.

The move to McRae happened rather suddenly. I had been awake all
of Wednesday night trying to catch up on mail—was in quite good sprits.
Excellent actually. Writing and chatting it up with my new cell at USP,
Joseph Smith (doing a two year bid off a buy-bust cop sting in D.C.—much
like Skid Row) Eventually I could not hold off exhaustion and crashed a
couple hours before breakfast, expecting that if indeed I were to be moved
that morning, that it would happen around 10:00ish and that I would be
given about an hour’s notice. In fact I was half expecting another week at
USP—I had relinquished concern/consternation over whether that would
indeed be the day, and was feeling very at peace about whatever was to
happen. Around 7:30 as I was quietly enjoying my breakfast, a tap on the
window and King’s voice (head orderly) “Michael pack your stuff, you’re
leaving.” Fifteen minutes later the door opened as the officer on duty came
to usher me away. I was reminded of my own words “for blessings came
when least expected.”

I could spend hours and many, many pages recounting all the
remarkable little ways, and big ways, I have seen God’s hand at work in all
of the events leading up to and surrounding this move—the introduction of a
new cell mate just days prior, who is now enjoying the commissary order I
left behind, the forced release from seemingly endless amounts of work as I
was simply unable to finish organizing mail stacks, the fact that I had given
up caring about whether I would actually be moved, and countless other
little details. Once again, despite the limitations, I have a sure sense that I
am where I am supposed to be and that God is in control.
It’s about 11:30 pm right now. I stopped writing to snack on some
leftover food, and shortly after that, Gurman (one of the orderlies from
whom we have been getting reading material) tried to give us another tray
(one of his own when they get extras) when the CO opened the flap to let us
have a book—but the CO wouldn’t let him.

Now it’s 1:30-2:00. Had to stop writing again because I could not
concentrate at all with the random noises and drumming Enrique was
carrying on. Funny that I wrote about peace and quiet—when he’s had some
coffee, peaceful and quiet is the last thing it is in here. He can carry on like
a 7 year old. Anyhow, the comment on the CO was just to introduce the
subject of private/federal facilities. More observations to come later, but it
is interesting to spend time observing their behavior—there are those who
are laid back, and those who are very picky about the rules, then there are
those who seem to relish their ability to make life difficult for inmates. The
whole Mcprison industrial complex, with private run federal prisons, must
really make for some interesting mixes. Often times here at McRae I have
felt as though there are too many of them who take too much pride in the
fact that they are helping their country deal with the “immigrant problem.”
White ones especially. Most of the Black guards tend to be laid back and
amenable. Anyhow, now I am tired and just rambling—a good sign than I
just need to be done with this.

I am glad to be here at McRae amongst so many different
nationalities. Though I am designated to be in a camp, a low-security prison
affords more exposure to real prison (as did USP), and the atmosphere, I
expect, will be quite fascinating as there is a completely different prison
attitude amongst an assemblage of international inmates. A good
combination of a whole bunch of different characteristics—private, lowsecurity,
immigration spot, etc.

As far as I can tell thus far, being designated here does not necessarily
mean that the INS is attempting to deport you; it just means that the BOP
assigned you here because of foreign birth in order to facilitate deportation
efficiently if that is indeed to be pursued. Already some guards and
counselors have given me strange looks when I have informed them of my
U.S. citizenship, one of them outright saying “you’re not supposed to be
here.” So we will see what happens. I want to finish my sentence here. I
have spent way too large a chunk of a 6 months sentence in the hole simply
because of being in transit and really don’t want to endure that rigmarole
again—although should it happen again I guess I will have much more
warning and be better prepared. It is not the hole part that is bothersome so
much as the interruption in communication and separation/loss of items like
books, large amounts of mail and other property items. Being strip searched
all the time is kind of annoying as well, but quite bearable. I should have
known what was to come in being transferred here—it was unsettling at first
to find out I would be on lockdown for another couple weeks without much
opportunity for communication. But I was well prepared by past
experiences, and I am adjusting very well. Even enjoying it. Quite a bit
actually. Ok. I am talking in circles now. Time to go to sleep.

Peace, Love, and Exhaustion,
Michael David