A gay man in prison

Sandholm, Brian



"A GAY MAN IN PRISON" First of all, I want to start off by letting you know something about my- self. I am a gay male serving time in federal prison, I will be here until the date of March 17, 2019, unless the laws change and I get some relief, or if I get clemency form the President of the United States. Since I do not see the later two items happening in a way that will benefit me, then I am counting on the March 2019 date. Life in a federal prison for a gay man is not as good as one would think, I hear a lot of straight men say it would be like putting them in a womans prison, that they wish it would happen to them. I am here to tell you, it is nothing like I wish it would be. I.am not looking to catch some disease in this’ place, God forbid that I do, the medical here is awfull, and a simple disease could be the death of me. Inmates think that just because I am Gay, then it must mean that I want to have sex with them. That could not be further from the truth, I am not looking for a boyfriend, I am not looking for a ”Hookmup", and I certainly am not looking for someone who wants a prison bitch? I am a man, aha I am here doing time just like the rest of the men in here, but unfortunately, I have to do my time totally different. During my several years of incarceration (started in 1986, my first adult incarceration), I have experienced a lot of problems due to my sexuality, not only from the inmates, but from the staff as well. I cannot say for sure that it ALL stems from my sexuality, but I am 95% certain that the majority of the problems are for that exact reason, or at least the problems are compounded by the stated issue. I will walk you through my life in the prison system, §tart— ing from my very first "county jail" experience. I was 18 years old, and I found myself doing a year in the county jail, I was not even sentenced yet, and already I was threatened by an inmate with a serious sexual battery if I didn't have him some commissary soon, he had me on the phone with my mother, trying to convince her to send me some money so I could take care of this guy and his friends. This man had a pencil in my ear, listening to everything I was saying to her, and if I said anything to her about him, he would slam it into my ear, he fancied himself as a "Hi—Fi" killer (that is in reference to a murderer in Utah that did that to his victim before he killed the victim). I had to let my mom know something was wrong, without letting the inmate know I was doing it. So I told my mom to go sell my computer and send the cash to me in jail, only she knew that it wasn't my computer, it was my brothers, so after I insisted several times that she do this, she got the picture and said she would do it right away. She called the jail and I was immediately moved to a different cell block, away from the guy. I was threatened by the jail staff that they would return me to that block if I didn't tell them who it was, but I knew better, and refused to do so, knowing that snitches in prison get killed. 1 year later, I was sent to state prison for 33 months, I was a bit more prepared for this trip, remembering my county jail experience, so I was sure things would be different, that I would be ok. I was so wrong about that, it was totally different, I was once again in trouble, but without the safety net I had in jail. I was placed in the R&O unit of the prison, this is where the "fish" were sent to start their prison term. I was placed in a cell up front by myself. I was approached by a few guys that told me that they were going to come pay me a visit later, and I had better be ready to give them what they wanted. I was too young and stupid to know what they meant, until Roscoe let me know what it was. Roscoe was a big black man from New Jersey, that had done a lot of time, and he knew what these guys were up to and he was willing to move me to his cell and protect me from these other guys. I was extremely glad that he came over to help me, and I made the move to his cell. Looking back, I see how dumb I was to fall for the whole thing. Roscoe was one of them, he sent (2) those guys to my cell, to prep me for his attack, and boy was it an attack!! The first night in his cell, we played cards, just for fun, no money was bet since I had none. He even said if I won, he would pay me, but I didn't have the money, so I could just clean the cell if I lost, or something like that, as he put it. Well, the something else is what he was counting on, after I was down almost $300.00, he told me that I would have to do more that just clean the cell. At that point he made his sexual advance on me, and I had no where to run, he said if I yelled, he would kill me, and he was in for murder (so he said), so I had better believe him. That night I was raped several times by Roscoe, and for many nights after that. I was relieved once he was moved out of the unit. But as a gay man, I learned a valuable lesson that would carry me through the rest of my prison career. I suffered a lot of discrimination during that 33 month prison stay, I was taken advantage of on many levels from both inmate and staff. I learned how to fight a lot in state prison, and it saved me from a lot of assaults from the inmates and a staff member. The staff member had me all by myself in a classroom at education, he made me get down and perform sexual acts on him, or he would claim that I had attacked him, and I would get 5 more years added to my sentence. I feared this man would do just as he said, so I did as he requested, as soon as he dropped his pants, I acted as if I was going to perform on him, and at the same time, I bit him hard enough to draw blood and hit him as hard as I could where it hurts the most, then I ran out of thet class room and all teh way to my unit, where I hid from him. He never said anything to me again, he just gave me hard looks whenever he saw me. I survived the rest of my stay in state prison with only minor problems in comparison, but the sexual harrassment never ended, nor has it to this day. This is the very first time I have publicly told my story. I am doing this for (3) several reasons, but the main reason is to keep this from happening to others in my same situation, and to let people know, this is a reality in prison. not only is there physical sexual abuse, there is mental sexual abuse. I have been in federal prison on allnthree coasts, I am currently in a gulf coast state, and I am in a fairly mild prison. I don't experience the hard physical sexual abuse here like I did in state prison, don't get me wrong, not a week goes by that I am approached by an inmate asking for sexual favors, I am used to that, I can handle that as well. The problem I am facing now that is hard to take, is the abuse from the staff members, the sexual repression that some of them inflict on me, and then dare me to do something about it. In some cases they have won, but I am currently fighting on two different fronts, I am fighting for my rights as a human being to be treated just like the rest of the inmates, not to be treated differently due to my sexuality, or any other reason they can come up with. I have never experienced such ignorance and lack of respect from staff and inmates in my whole life until I arrived at this fac- ility over 3 years ago. I am in the deep south, where the education levels are amongst the low- est in the nation, where the people aren't always looked upon in the same way most of the nation is, this is due to the upbringing differences, this is also due to the fact that they have experienced repression form others, so they think that they need to get even. So they target those of us that are from the other parts of the world, the ones that they feel are responsible for what has been done to them and their ancestors. The fact that I am gay, it makes me one target that they love to get, and I have to live with this daily. I am going to share with you two different examples of what I am talking about, remember the two battles I mentioned earlier? I will now start with the first one that started about 2% years ago, and has grown and festered every since. It all started when I wrote up a staff member for violating policy that (4) directly affected me and my job in the education department, I will not tell you names, because I have already experienced retaliation once over this once, and I fear more if I use names in this story. Once this staff member found out that I was the one who wrote him up, the trouble started for me. All of the sudden, I had several inmates approach me and ask me why I was in prison. They told me that they thought that I was in prison for charges that were not honorable amongst inmates, let alone society, so I was forced to show these inmate my paperwork as to show them that I was not in here for any such crime. But the damage was already done, and no matter what I said or did, I was branded by this rumor. I had no idea that this rumor was related to the staff member that I had written up over 1 year prior, I just assumed that it was because of my sex- uality. as it usually was in the past. I had no idea of how deep this problem went, and I still am not sure that it had anything to do with my sexuality, but it is just as bad if not worse that that. I was raised as a Mormon in the west, I had experienced a lot of religious culture shock once I was sent to the deep south. I was very moved by the type of spirit I recieved in the Christian faith out here. Mormons are considered Christians, but as all other Christian faiths, they differ from the others. I decided to start attending the Protestant church after I had some seriously moving experiences in the services. I had met a lot of other Christians that I had never known before, and it was real nice. I was approached by an inmate who saw me attending church, and he told me an interesting story concerning myself and the staff member, I was blown_ out of the water when I heard this story over 1 year after the rumors had been started about me. I asked this man to direct me to his exact source, and he ended up connecting us together, and I was told about this staff member, and how he had told a room full of inmates that worked for him that I was in here (5) on the charges that I had been accused of. Not only did this violate several policies and proceedures of the BOP, it also violated the Federal Criminal Code, which means that it was illegal. I was unsure as to how I was going to handle this, I had to decide what I wanted to gain from taking action against it, I was even unsure as if there was anything that I could do. I was told that there were others that this staff member had done similar things to, and was given their names and a brief story as to what happened to them. I interviewed several of the guys, and the stories were the same. Not all of the actions of the staff member were il- legal, but all of them were unethical and some of them were life threatening towards the inmates involved, to include my situation. After a few more meetings with the initial inmate contact, I took this in- formation to the staff members boss, and I took to the table everything that I had. His boss told me that there was nothing that he could do about it. So I took it to my case manager, and she asked me to get her more information to substantiate my claims. I approached her a second time, and she vehemantly told me to be quiet, that she didn't want to know anything else concerning this matter since it was over her head as far as staff seniority goes. I was able to get more information from the initial inmate concerning a lot of things this staff member had said about his boss, personal things from his home life, that could only come from a staff member. So I took this infor— mation to his boss, and presented it to him, he was speechless as he read all these things about himself that had come from his subordinate, he verified that some of the information was in_act true, therefore giving credibility to my inmate source. I asked him to remedy the situation at hand, and he told me he still could do nothing about my concerns, but he would take care of the per- sonal slander against him. I was so upset that he would do nothing to help us out, I decided to go (6) outside of the BOP to try to get resolution after researching all the errors made by the BOP staff in their handling of this situation. I wrote a letter that outlines everything as I knew it, and I added in this letter all of the violations from the various staff members in their failure to address this as their own policy dictates. I took this letter to the supervisor and explained that I was going to send it off to several government watchdog groups, as well as the Inspector General, who investigates staff misconduct. I gave him a date when this was going to happen. The supervisor knew I was trying to get a transfer to a different pri- son, so he bribed me with assistance in my obtaining the transfer, under the condition that I did not include his information in the letter. It was not di- rectly stated that way, but the implications were there. Two days before I was to send off the letter, I was sent to the SHU under an investigation that was NEVER explained to me, as to why I was under invest- igation. On the roster in the SHU, the reason for my SHU placement just said "Investigation / . . . . -.", where the name of the department of the offending staff member appeared. I had NO other dealings with that department, so that was the only reason I could be under investigation under that department. I was released from the SHU 9H days later, with no shot or any reason given to me as to why I was there, I sent for a FOIA request, and never got a reply...to this day, no specifics were given to me as to my SHU placement. I have since written to various legal entities, such as the ACLU, I am still awaiting replies. I have recieved virtually NO replies to any of my letters, I believe that the prison is tampering with my mail by not sending out letters that could prove damaging to them whereas 95% of my letters have gone unansw- ered. My next step will be to write letters through outside sources to see if any of my previous letters have met their mark. I know that I need to fol- (7) low up on all of this, but it is hard when it all has to go through their mail system. I am currently looking for an outlet for my mailings that won't be interfered with. That is the end of that story, but I promised you two of them, so two of them you will recieve. This next one is more geared towards my sexuality. I have been here for over three years, when I arrived here I applied for a position at one of the departments for a job...there was quite a waiting list, but I was trying to get in under a "special hire" status, since I had special skills that were needed in the department. I tried to get in by speaking to the manager of the specific department within the whole department, and he kept telling me that he would check on it and get back to me. I later found out that the otherinmatestold him that I was gay and also a lot of other things that were related, and he didn't want to hire me due to what he was told, he did not know anything about me except what these inmates had told him. I finally got hired, but only because my turn came up on the waiting list, not because of the special skills. The one that wouldn't hire me was promoted to the general manager of the department now, so he now controlled the entire department, and I was placed in a very undesireable job to begin with. I was content with it for the time being, but I intended to work my way into a bet- ter job position that allowed me to make more money and better work. I had done my time in the position that was required, I had made it past my probationary period, and I was ready to move, just as others wanted to move. I put in my request, and was told I couldn't move yet, this decision was made directly from the general manager, not the supervisors, who both had agreed on the request. I was upset, but I had no choice in the matter, so I contin- 1 ued to work as I alway had done. One of the supervisors was a real piece of work, he would make all kinds of derogatory_statements about me, or to me, concerning me and other inmates (8) that entailed actions of a sexual nature, he was good at making me feel like some kind of freak. He wasn't worried about the possible repercussions that can come with sexual harrassment, his main objective was to get a laugh out of the other inmates, and he was successful, on both parts. After going through this harrassment for months, I finally got real sick of it and went to the manager about the problem. He acted as if he cared, he asked me for details concerning what the supervisor said, and who was present when it was said, so I let him know everything that had been going on for the whole time since it started. After I was all done, he pondered for a few min- utes, and then he stated, "Here's the deal, if you have a problem with any of my staff members when it comes to sexual harrassment, or any other kind of har- rassment, then I want you to come to me and I will take care of it, but if you have any troubles with an inmate, and I don't care what it is concerning, you need to grow some balls and be a man instead of such a little girl and handle it on your own, in your own time...do I make myself clear? Because if I don't make myself clear, I can replace you with someone who can understand me and will be a real man about it. Now, get out of my office and take your purse with you." when I tried to respond to his comment, he cut me off and told me that I need to keep my mouth shut and leave his office immediately, so I left, and I documented our conversation. Now, for the record, I am a large man, about 6'3" and 300 pounds, I do not personify your typical gay man...most people do not believe that I am gay when they hear about it, I usually shave my head and have a goatee, I have a very intimidating presence. So for this man to take the word of other inmates about my sexuality is absurd, but that is all he was going by, I don't even officially list myself as gay when I go through intake and asked about it. After several months working in this job, and several more attempts to transfer to another text, and being denied, I finally took it upon myself to do (9) some self training on other equipment in the factory, and I did it all by the book, I had it documented in my file so I could refer to it when trying for another transfer...it was only after several other inmates were given trans- fers out of the text, to include several that were hired after me or with me, and also letting my supervisor know that I feel as though I am being discrim- inated against, did I get my transfer. I also had been trying to get hired on as a quality assurance worker, as I had a lot of outside experience in that exact field, and the manager of that department, who was very good friends with the general manager, had told me she would consider me, but always overlooked me when she had an opening. She told me that she wanted her QA's to have prior sewing skills, that was also what prompted me to do the training. A week after she told me that, she hired a guy that had NO sewing skills, when I asked her why, she told me that she had al- ready told him she would hire him, and it was none of my business anyway, she will hire who she wants, when she wants. One day, when they were looking for overtime workers, the supervisor (who is an inmate) came and took the names of all the ones who did the opera- tion I did, asked us to work overtime, then he submitted the list to the QA manager...as she went down the list, she stopped at my name and asked him who I was, then she said, "Is this that ‘he/she‘? Oh no. he isn't going to work on overtime" and she crossed my name off the list (that story was told to a group of inmates from the supervisor that was harrassing me, and all the inmates were laughing about it but a select few, and they told me about it). I went to my immediate supervisor about the last episode to ask him what I should do about it, and he told me to go to her directly, but I didn't want to put my job in jeopardy. so I declined, but I documented the situation and went about my business. When it came time to work the overtime that night, I checked the list to see that I wasn't on it, so I asked her about it, and she said that she didn't need me and that I was to leave the factory immediately, (10) when I pointed out that ALL the others were staying, she said that it didn't matter, that she told me to leave so I should leave now, I told her that I thought that it was wrong, she then yelled at me saying that she wasn't going to tell me again, so I turned to leave, and she said "Women" in such a way as to imply that I was acting like a woman, or was a woman, and all the inmates around her started laughing. My supervisor took it upon himself to talk to her about the problem, and he came and told me to go talk to her in her office, I was upset that he did this after telling me that he would let me handle it. So I went to her of- fice and sat down, and I told her I didn't appreciate what she did to me a few nights before, she denied everything, and sent me away. Two days later, the factory manager came to my work station and said that if I insisted on causing problems and making false accusations, he would have me out on the compound in- stead of in UNICOR, and I could push all the paper I wanted because I wouldn't have a job, and then he walked away. Other small episodes happened over the entire scope of my employment, to include the most recent one. I was sent to the SHU for 94 days under a very suspicious and unfounded investigation. Once I was released without a shot, I tried to go back to work. The manager told me that I had to re—apply and he would place me at the bottom of the list to be re—hired. Policy states that I was to be placed in the top 10% of the list since I was not found guilty of a shot. I sent him a cop—out stating this policy, asking to be immediately re- instated to my job. I sent a copy to the warden as well. I was reinstated a week later, when they hired other new people. I was told to wait out in the foyer until the manager came out to talk to me, which was not normal proce- edure, so I waited for 1% hours, he finally came out and in front of another staff member and inmate, told me that I should not have put in that cop—out, that he never said those things to me, and that if I so much as make one little (11) mistake, or break even the smallest rule, I will be fired immediately and never get a job at UNICOR agai.. He then yelled at me saying, "Do I make my- self clear?" I tried to reply, and he yelled more, telling me to shut up and go see my supervisor and get to work, that he would be watching me and that I would work where HE wanted me to, doing the job that HE wanted me to do, and if I didn't like it, I knew where the door was. I went to the desk of my supervisor, and he directed me to the tool room to get some snips for cutting, so I did, and I was placed in a job that is us- ually reserved for inmates without their GED, who were restricted to grade 4 pay. I was not reinstated to my job sewing, where I could make some money on ticket pay, I was being restricted to grade pay, and still am to this day, if we are working at all. I have made two attempts to be put back on a machine, and both times, I was told that the factory manager told the supervisors that only HE will approve me to change jobs, that they were not allowed to do so, which is not how they do it with ANY other inmates, the supervisor can move an inmate anywhere within his own text, but he wouldn't allow them to do the same with me. To this day, I am still in the grade 4, non-GED position. Over the past 9 months, I have made several requests to be advanced in my pay grade. I have been denied at each request. My supervisors have all said they will approve a pay increase, but the factory manager refuses to al- low me to advance. I was eligible for an increase after 5 months of employment, After 1 full month, you advance to a grade 4 automatically, then 3 months later, you are eligible for a grade 3, and so on. I have asked several times, and been refused every one of; them. Today, over 15 months later, I am still a grade U in my pay. There are MANY others that have been increased that were hired at the same time or later than me. One thing that I do, so as not to be accused of making things up out of retaliation, is that I go to psychology and discuss these problems with them. (12) I make sure to let them know what is happening to me at work, so if anything does happen, I can call on them for verification. They are usually good at helping me cope with the issues as well. As you can see, this prison is run by incompetent staff, who do what they want without regards for the law or the constitutional rights of the in- mates housed here. If this is the way our prisons are being run, where the inmates are in here for breaking the law, yet the staff is allowed to break the law within the scope of their jobs, then what kind of society do we live in where we can allow this kind of behavior to go on? I am sure that my sits uation is only one of thousands around the country. I have made several attempts to remedy these situations, but have had no success so far. It seems that the government protects its own, no matter what they have done. All these staff members are still in their jobs, still posing a threat towards inmates, and the powers that be, within the institution, are fully aware of the accusations, yet do nothing to investigate or fix the pro- blems. I have contacted the ACLU and several government ethics committees, as well as watchdog groups, but hear NOTHING back from any of them. I feel that the staff here is controlling my mail to make sure that the letters are not sent to the proper agencies. I will be surprised if this story reaches its intended audience. I believe that if more people are aware of these problems, them maybe something will be done to address them and make prison a safer place for all who are forced to live here. It is a sad day when the inmates have to worry more about the staff than they do about the other inmates, this is a travesty of justice and I hope that this story sheds some light on what goes on in the prisons accross the United States. There are several things that can be done to prevent this kind of ac- tions from taking place, we just need to put in place certain safeguards that (13) will protect inmates from such abuse. If the prison employed 1 person that is responsible to the inmates well being, who will investigate accusations against staff members, who_arereadilyavailable to the inmates and are not a partial party FOR the government, but for justice, then we would see a drastic reduc- tion in these types of cases. The prison staff has a toll free number that they can call to report any wrongdoings against them by other staff members, and they are taken seriously. We as inmates also need the same allowances afforded to us. Staff members need to understand that they are in a position of trust, and if they Violate that trust, then they need to be held accountable for the actions they chose. If more staff members were to be held accountable for their actions against inmates, then it would show the rest that it will not be tol- erated if they choose to act in an illegal or inappropriate manner. As inmates are being punnished for their wrong acts, so should the staff! Though we are in prison, we are still human beings. We have the same con- stitutional rights as the rest of the country, and when they are trampled on as I have written about, then they should be addressed and a proper remedy should be put in place that will apease all parties involved, and it should be made public so as to be used as an example to other offenders. I pray that one day we have our rights protected while we are inmates. I am still a gay man, I am still a human being, I should still have the same rights and privilages as others do in my same situation. As African Am- ericans had to fight for their rights to end slavery, so have gay men and women had to fight for theirs. In this society, we do not allow slavery anymore, so why do we allow other repression? Something to think about...

Author: Sandholm, Brian

Author Location: Mississippi

Date: February 8, 2017

Genre: Essay

Extent: 14 pages

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