“I got an issue.” by Corey John Richardson
I was two days from freedom. After 10 years of incarceration, seeing parolees come and go year after year, my serve-out had ﬁnally arrived. Then, like a kick in the face, I was told by me caseworker that education good time had been removed from my time sheet.
“I don’t know how it happened, but 90 days is missing.”
White-washed away as if it had never been there, only later to find out that prison ofﬁcials at the central office felt that I had not earned it after all. A straight-forward violation of my Due Process rights — taking good time without a hearing of any kind.
I had been jumping through all the necessary hoops set up by the state via prison “good time” programs to earn credits against my sentence. A few years ago, one prison administrator felt that I was earning too much good time. As usual, when one corrections idiot “feels” something, the rest of the idiots fall into place behind him. “Damn the policies, We’re corrections!” I sued and won.
Now they had their “get back.”
Well, everyone I knew agreed it was a bad thing that had happened to me, but don’t rock the boat. “You’re about to go home. They could make your life hell, and even take more good time from you.” At this prison, that’s the truth. It runs amuck with uneducated redneck sadist guards who abuse prisoners daily to feel a little better about their pathetic lives. Yet, like every other time, I decided that I had to stand up for myself and the other Kentucky prisoners who routinely have their rights violated.
Many prisoners don’t even realize that their “rights” have or been violated. They only know that once again they’ve been wronged. I mean most of them have been shat upon since they can first remember. Many are semi-illiterate and even the legal aides
tQ,zT\C,,(La./(1'.(.:».—J offered by the prison are rarely good enough to even ﬁle a lawsuit correctly. Just look at all of the lawsuits dismissed because of procedural errors or a legal aide failing to respond to the state’s request to dismiss.
Many prisoners are quietly afraid of retaliation from corrections staff. It’s no coincidence that prisoner litigants will end up with bogus write-up’s shortly after their ﬁlings which land them in segregation after “random” shake-down’s. Some even end up doing “the tour” of the state’s prison system: being shipped from prison to prison endlessly. They can make it hard to even ﬁght a case.
The first time they fought my good time, my mom said. “Go for it.” And I did. It took three years, but I won on appeal and set a precedent for other prisoners to use when addressing good time speciﬁcally and Abuse of Power by prison ofﬁcials in general. So when this happened —— just two days before my release —— we knew that was payback. There is no way that a prisoner representing himself could even be heard before he would even walk out the door, “Emergency Motion” or not. But prison has taught me this one thing: Never Give up.
I told Mom that I needed to ﬁght this. It would not get me out any sooner and they may even try to take more good time from me, thus extending my sentence again, but what they do to us is wrong and it would help others in the long run. Mom gave me 100% of her support (and the ﬁling fee).
An old whiskey priest who once ran a prison program said that I shouldn’t ﬁght this, I just needed an “issue,” and that this type of thing was the whole reason that I was in prison in the ﬁrst place:
“Do you want me to just lay down and let them walk all over us?” I asked.
“Ummm. Yes. Yes, I do.”
“Well, I can’t.” And I meant it.
I remember when this preacher ﬁrst h—e~-ﬁrst rolled into prison with that New Car Smell, ready to change the system for the better. is-»/$_Je,X
Soon, that sparkle faded and he simply became, like all the rest: part of the system. .
Allegedly, he was part of the Civil Rights Movement years ago, but that’s difficult for me to believe. I have read several books on the people behind those landmark Supreme Court cases who fought for what is right. One such book is The Courage of Their
Convictions by Peter Irons. These people faced seemingly hopeless situations where the chances of success were next to zero, even with the ACLU or the NAACP behind them. Their lives became appreciable worse after they ﬁled their lawsuits. They were harassed, beaten and bombed — and yet they fought on for what they felt was right. Have you heard of the Jim Crow Laws,
McCarthyism’s Loyalty Oaths, and all of the rest? It took brave men and women to stand up and fight to make this country in which we live today a more just society.
In prison, no one will ﬁght for us, but us. Go ahead and try this out. I have. Write to the ACLU about a 1st Amendment or 14th
Amendment issue which you face in prison and they will mail back to you a form letter stating that they do not help prisoners any longer, but Good Luck. (I framed my copy.) We are on our own, and I feel as if I am doing my small part from the inside.
Yeah, maybe I do need a “cause” today. For the man I am today, a life without purpose is a life without meaning. I have tried to do the utmost with my time on the inside: A paralegal degree which I used to help fellow prisoners; an MBA and doctoral work from highly-respected universities; numerous publications on prison issues; teaching in rehab and educational programs; and so on. Before coming to prison, I was just trying to figure out how my life and career had become so broken. I was trying to get through another day without a drink or a drug. Today, after ten years of this, I feel that I have become someone who I actually respect again.
Maybe I imagine myself somewhat of an activist from the inside. So, what? I love my life today. I try not to worry too much about what the world thinks about me. Had I just laid in the rack
7/<; s'....>e/ (3! g, i“‘i./5-\ﬁ—.‘05 .:.;..‘> and done nothing for a decade, they would have said, “He wasted his time.” Had I relapsed, they would have said, “See. I told you that he was just a worthless junkie.” Now, they say, “Yeah, he has to have an issue.” (smile) I
In spite of the hardships of prison, I have changed for the better. I’ll keep ﬁghting for myself and for others when something is wrong. We won’t make it a perfect world, and people will always want to believe the worst about us “ex-con’s.” And it is never easy. Just don’t give up. I am proud that they say that I walked out of prison ﬁghting what’s wrong about corrections. I will still be ﬁghting for prisoners from the other side of the fence.
Like I said before, “Prison has taught me at least one thing: Never give up the ﬁght for what you believe.” Yet along the way I found out that never give up on the ﬁght somehow became “Corey, never give up on yourself.” And beside that, isn’t it sweet irony that sometimes justice must be wrung from our legal system by convicts locked away in prison cells?
“You don’t protect any of your individual liberties by lying down and going to sleep.”
The words of John T. Scope of the celebrated Scope
“Monkey Trial.” He had been arrested, tried, and convicted for teaching the theory of evolution in a science class. These were his words not after his conviction, but three decades later from a nursing home upon hearing that laws barring the teaching of evolution had ﬁnally been ruled unconstitutional. He never gave up the ﬁght — not even at the very end. He had to have an “issue.”
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