BATSHIT CRAZY AT CITY HALL - THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN JOE CAROLLO DOESN'T TAKE HIS MEDS, AND WANTS TO TALK ABOUT MY YEARS IN PRISON
MY LIFE AND TIMES IN VARIOUS AMERICAS PRISONS - THE SHORT VERSION
I have repeatedly said over the last 34 years that I've been out of prison, that not only did I commit the crimes that I went to prison for, but for others I didn't, and that I pretty much, if the the subject ever came up, I was willing to talk about my years in prison, although in the decades that I've been out, that life also passed, but if this is going to become a big issue again, then that offer still stands.
If anyone, at any university or civic group, or church group, or anyone else whats to arrange a meeting with folks I'll be happy to talk with you about my prison years including, but not limited to the following stories and issues.
I'll be happy to talk with you about my years on Florida's road gangs just after they did away with the convicts wearing chains.
To me, and I'll agree that I probably sound twisted when I say this, but they were the funniest two years of my life, even though I spent a fair amount of time in the sweat box for running my mouth, and pissing off one stupid chain gang guard so badly that he tried to kill me after I convinced him to fly his little gyrocopter to the camp one weekend and try to get the Captain to let him use it to chase down convicts who kept escaping. It didn't go well when he crashed it, and I said things about his incompetence as a pilot that kinda pushed him over the edge.
I was young, stupid but mouthy and unfortunately didn't learn my lesson about crime doesn't pay.
That resulted in my spending 10 years in the Ohio Prison system, starting with the old Ohio Pen in the early 1960's.
The Ohio Pen was where I first started teaching myself how to write, and where I spent 2 years as an inmate dentist, and another 3 years in the prison hospital working my way up to be the head of the surgery team. Back in those days the convicts held most of the jobs inside the prison - this was before the unionization of prison guards - and the prison hospital was where almost all the surgeries for all of Ohio's prisons was done.
It was the single most challenging and mentally rewarding years of my life.
It was during that time - the summer of 1968 - that we had one of the first big prison riots during that era, and where I and another member of my team rescued a guy who had been hit in the head with a bat and got him on the operating table and kept him alive until the National Guard and a Columbus Fire Department could get one of their truck's with a ladder in the prison, and cut out the 3rd floor window so we could get him down and out to a hospital.
We couldn't get him down the stairs, because some of my fellow convicts after raiding the pharmacy, decided to set the hospital on fire.
After the riot was put down, the Governor refused to allow the doctors or any other civilians to come back inside the prison so that first night as the head of the surgery team, I was the one who did the exploratory surgery on a couple guys who got stabbed in knife fights, and all the sewing up of all the various wounds. It was this activity that was cited as one of the reasons why the next Governor 4 years later commuted my life sentence.
But that happened after all of us on the surgery team were transferred to Chillicothe, because the prison administration became worried that because in surgery we had all the various gases that could be made into bombs, we might decide to blow a hole in the wall. We kinda did talk about that, but really never considered doing it.
Chillicothe was where the US Jaycees decided to start one of the first prison Jaycee chapters in the country, and I ended up as the President of the chapter, with a Klu Klux Grand Dragon as one of my Vice Presidents, and a member of the Black Panthers as my other Vice President.
If you really want to know what batshit crazy politics really is, the Grand Dragon, who Carollo reminds me of a lot because of his craziness, would show up in the chow hall and threaten me before every meeting that he would kill me if I let the Black Panther guy got anything he wanted approved, and then the Black Panther guy would threaten me after the meetings that if I didn't kill the Grand Dragon before the next meeting, he would kill me.
It got to be a monthly ritual but it didn't matter because we ended up with one of the top Jaycee Chapters in or out of prison in Ohio, and by the time it was all over I ended up leaving prison for a weekend to be the Speaker of the House of the Ohio Jaycees Mock Legislature.
Along with that I was the Head of the Inmate Council, and one of the leaders of the state-wide prison strike that we had in 1972,
It was during that strike that I learned one of the most valuable lessons I ever learned about dealing with bureaucratic government: he who controls the paperwork, controls the game.
I was the one who kept the written records of the negotiations - the state was to cheap to pay for a stenographer, or even a tape recorder - and so after we reached a settlement, I along with a couple of my pals spent almost 18 hours in the deputy warden's office putting together the stencils to mimeograph the agreement for all the prisons to vote on - I'll bet a lot of you who read that don't even know what stencils and a mimeograph machine look like - and because I had a connection with a guy in the library who handled all the stuff that came in for the warden and the deputy wardens, he always let me read all the prison management magazines and books that they ordered, I was able to craft a document that basically forced the state to change the way the parole board operated, and a whole lot of other things, that we realy had never gone into detail during the negotiations.
A year after my sentence was commuted, and I was on the streets, I became the PR Director for the 7th Step Foundation, and ended up spending too much visiting prisons. In 1973, I took part in a Weekend Prison Lockup in the Ohio Pen with George Denton, the head of the Ohio Parole Board, the same parole board that had released me. We were cellmates.
I also ran for the Ohio Legislature in 1974,
I obviously hadn't been rehabilitated enough, because I went back to robbing banks, and ended up in the Connecticut State Prison, where conditions were bad enough, that some guys who had heard about what I had done in Ohio, asked me to write a letter to the Governor about conditions there, which I did.
That resulted in the warden calling me in, asking me what the fuck was I doing in his prison, and putting me in maximum security, where I continued to hone my writing skills, and when the day came that made me eligible for parole, I was sent off, "for the betterment of the institution," to the feds to start a 15 year sentence for bank robbery.
My first stop was the federal Springfield Maximum Security Hospital in Missouri where I was sent because during my stay in Connecticut, my cell had been sprayed with some stuff that contained dioxin, the stuff used in Agent Orange, and it kind of fucked me up for years.
Conditions in Springfield were really bad at the time, and it didn't take me long to write two stories about conditions in the hospital, and smuggled them out to a good friend in New York, who had been one of the Founders of the Fortune Society.
He passed them on to some senators in Washington, they contacted the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the Director contacted the Warden.
That night I got put in the hole, and the next morning I went on a 6 month all expense paid trip via Con Air - the real one, not the movie version - to prisons around the country where they made it all but impossible for my friends to track me down.
Here is a copy of a letter my friend wrote to Vice President Mondale when he discovered I had disappeared, and below that are the two stories In wrote about the things that were going on in the prison hospital.
THE INVISIBLE MAN by on Scribd
THE SPRINGFIELD MEDICAL FAC... by on Scribd
When my friends finally succeeded in getting some Senators in Washington to put pressure on the Bureau of Prisons to quit moving me around, I got sent to a medium security prison in Baraboo, Wisconsin, before they decided that on second thought, I should go to Leavenworth.
Since the bureau had also decided to keep me away from a typewriter, I actually had it pretty sweet in Leavenworth. I got a job as an orderly in the hospital, where I was able to play tennis 5 mornings a week, and watch soap operas in the afternoon with a bunch of old mafia dons who'd tell me about the good old days.
Since I couldn't write, I spent time in the prison's art department, where there were some really good artists, and taught myself to become a southern regionalist landscape artist.
When I got a parole date, I got transferred to the medium security prison in Talladega, Alabama, but the bureau fucked up and gave me one last shot of access to a typewriter, and about 6 months before I was to be paroled, I ended up writing another story about prison conditions, and walked up to a TV crew inside the prison shooting a puff piece about how good conditions were, and handed the document to the reporter.
Scan.pdf by on Scribd
The next day, I was put on the the kitchen detail washing dishes, and the warden and I kinda agreed that since I was really tired of them trying to rehabilitate me, I wouldn't write anymore, and they'd let me go home.
That was in 1984, and I've been out of prison now for 35 years, during which time I got into the South Florida film industry, and got to work with a lot of very smart, creative and sometimes famous people in projects around the world, became a photojournalist, had of my protest photos recognized as the Non-Fiction Florida Book of the Year, had some laughs, and ended up writing about public corruption at Miami City Hall.
Some of the photos from that book were taken during the 2000 Democratic national Convention where I was shot in the head with rubber bullets by the LA Police Department and subsequently bcame the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed aginst the department which resulted in changes to the way they were required to treat the press during civil unrest.
In addition to my work with the AP and several other photo agencies, I went to Kosovo where my some of photos documented how the gypsies were treated.
I've tried to be a little entertaining in this recap, but there was nothing really entertaining about spending 20 years in prison.
Prisons then, and prison now are brutal, violent places and I was very fortunate to have done time when and where I did, and there's no other way to say it, but to say that I was also fortunate to be one of the smartest guys in the prisons I was in.
Not only did I have, and develop an innate sense of how prison systems worked and what it took to survive and keep my sanity, but I also had a willingness to stand up, even in a prison cell in my underwear, and tell wardens how to run their prisons, which in a strange way is sometimes the only way to deal with a difficult life, in or out of prison.
There are some folks who would say that I'm still trying to telling people how to run their prisons., and there's some truth in that, but life is never simple, even when you're simple minded.
I am in many ways my grandfather Pablo Crespo's son. He was an illiterate kid who never went to school and would go with his older brother, who was a cigar maker at Gato's Cigar factory in Key West to sit and listen to the reader who read the newspapers to the cigar makers in the mornings, and chapters of books in the afternoon.
Fortunately, my grandfather was an autodidact, a gift that I inherited from him, and he loved listening to the reader so much that he taught himself how to read so that he too could become a reader.
That's what he did for most all of his adult life, when he wasn't involved in the politics of freeing Cuba from the Spainards, which earned him the recognition and honor being being recognized as an emigrie revolutionay from a grateful country.
I too love stories, only instead of teaching myself how to read, I taught myself how to write, so I could write stories, and because the stories that I found interesting were about the life I found myself in, that's what I did, and that's what I continue to do.
I can't deny that I am also an agitator, and a trouble maker, because I am, and I've always had a strong streak of anti-authoritarianism - another gift from my grandfather - in standing up against the abuse of power which I'll take with me to my grave.
When you put it all together, I believe that I'm just the kind of guy that a crazy, batshit maniac like Joe Carollo and the other scammers and schemers at Miami City Hall deserves to have fuck with them, because in some ways I'm as crazy, or crazier than than any of them, and if a group of folks ever deserved being fucked with its that gang at Miami City Hall.
Plus, I figure that doing what I do is making amends for all the bad that I did when I was younger.
It's just another It's Miami, Bitches! story.
NUMBER 54 - MARCH 29, 2019