Lesson in stupidity

Ainsworth, Steven King

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Steven King Ainsworth California January 25, 2010 Lesson in Stupidity How does a criminal find value in his life? Is it the negative message sent via his lesson in stupidity? Or in some other niche that he serves his fellow man? Am I to remain a pariah? Perhaps the reader should decide after perusing this bit of personal history? I first entered the California state prison system in 1968 at the age of twenty-three with a indeterminate sentence of five years to life for my part as the wheelman (getaway car driver) in the armed robbery of American River Junior College in Sacramento County, California. At the time, the northern California Reception and Guidance Center (RGC) was located at the California Medical Facility (CMF) in Vacaville, California. Two sheriff deputies drove me there in a squad car. It was a short trip. When we reached CMF the deputies gave their weapons to a prison guard in the gun tower adjacent to the vehicle sallyport. The tower guard then opened the outer gate and we drove into the sallyport. Even now forty-three years later, I can still hear the solid thunk of that gate slamming shut behind me! After testing and examination by various correctional experts at RGC, I was transferred to Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI) near Tracy, California to do my time as a young first termer. DVI housed a majority of young first termers that the California Department of Corrections (CDC) hoped to rehabilitate and return them to society as law abiding citizens. The Classification Committee noted that I did not have a formal high school diploma and suggested I attend Tracy Adult School in the prison. I only needed the senior year courses to graduate, despite the fact, that I had completed the General Education Development tests successfully in 1961 while serving in the United States Army. I had joined the Army with my parents permission three days after my seventeenth birthdate after being expelled in May 1961 for possession of alcohol on school property. I followed the committee's advice and completed the required courses in six months and received a formal high school diploma while at DVI. Beside the obvious teenage abuse of alcohol; my military career was peppered with violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Violations that resulted in some incarceration in military stockades. I was also introduced to the family of opiates that brought with them a profound sense of well being and euphoria. A unauthorized trip to Baltimore, Maryland with a fellow junkie resulted in my first felony conviction in Maryland for possession of a bad check (altered money order). The Maryland authorities suspended a prison sentence and turned me over to military authorities. After being held in the stockade at Fort Meade (Maryland) for a few months I was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1964 as a undesirable. While in the Baltimore City Jail a Chaplain had come by my cell to tell me that my father committed suicide on Christmas Day 1963. My relationship with my father had been quite strained, after he made two serious attempts on my life in my teenage years estranged might be the best term to describe it. My mother and sister met me at the airport upon my return to Sacramento and I questioned them about my fathers death, but neither could provide me with a rational explanation for his act. My mother did indicate that he was unaware of my jailing in Baltimore and my probable discharge as a criminal. Suicide is a very selfish act and its impact on family survivors is piercing. One of the consequences of my criminal discharge was my inability to get a decent job with any company who had contracts with the federal government. For instance, I applied for one of two jobs that were open at the Union Carbide plant in Sacramento that produced rocket fuel for Aerojet General another local company. I placed number one on the written test and number two in the interview portion. A cinch domino for hiring. Unfortunately, I was told by the personnel manager that they could not hire me due to my undesirable discharge. The difficulty in finding gainful employment was coupled with the difficulty I had finding a heroin connection. While I searched for someone willing to sell me some scag. I turned to Codeine, a mild opiate. In the mid-sixties you could buy codeine cough syrups over the counter by signing a drug registration book. I had used codeine cough syrup and paragoric (tincture of opium) to ease the pangs of addiction in the past between Fixes of horse. My favorite syrup was the ugly tasting, but potent Terpin Hydrate Codeine. I would make the rounds of several drug stores buying three or four bottles at each stop. While the codeine kept the edge off my desire, it did not have the call of smack. I wanted the euphoric comfort heroin held for me. Without a job, I turned to burglary for bread to fulfill my daily needs and desires. This vocation was not without risk. Between my bust in Baltimore and my arrival at CMF in 1968; I fell thirteen times, with twenty two charges involved. Out of four years and forty five days between 1963 and 1968 I spent six hundred and fifty days in county jail(s). The charges were mostly misdemeanors sprinkled lightly with a felony here and there. The days in jail were mostly dry outs for me and opportunities to meet hopheads, connections and other outlaws. As soon as I hit the bricks after a jolt in the county cooler I would do a burglary, or hook up with some boosters and do some high end shoplifting to obtain goods and swag that the local fence would accept and pay cash for! Within hours after leaving the hoosegow I would be at the pusher man's pad scoring some quarterbags of heroin. Soon there after I would rent a motel room and slam some of the potent Mexican brown dope. Uhmmm! This cycle continued until I quit doing burglaries and boosting; which were labor intensive and took a lot of time with little return. I then turned to armed robbery. The proceeds were immediate! With no middle man to cut in the cash it was quickly spent as my original crime partner and I ran amok! We did many heists and took up with a trio of ladies called "The Red Gang" for their penchant for Seconal and other barbiturates. We would rent a hotel or motel room for a few nights after a decent score and invite the ladies to party with us. As my partner and I mainlined heroin, or some other opium based drug, the girls got rowdy on reds. He was the gunmen in the robbery of the college that sent me to the pen in 1968. He ended up committing suicide in the hospital at San Quentin (SQ) in 1969. Returning to that instance and DVI in this narrative. After graduating from Tracy Adult School I was advised to take a vocational trade. I choose machine operation and was assigned to the Vocational Machine Shop. I became proficient in the operation of various metal working machines and ended up in the Prison Industry Authority's (PIA) Metal Fabrication machine shop. By this time, I realized the Parole Board would need a little more progress in self directed rehabilitation. I joined the Gavel Club sponsored by Toastmasters International. I taught me the art of public speaking... and gave me an 'Atta Boy' chrono for the parole board. My next move was to formulate a parole plan to present to the board. One of the education instructors at DVI tipped me off to the Project Rebound at the state college in San Francisco which assisted ex-cons in gaining a college degree. I applied to the project and was accepted for the fall semester of 1971 should I be granted a parole date in time to enroll with the freshman class. The parole board gave me a September 1971 parole date just three days before enrollment. I left DVI on Friday, met my parole agent in San Francisco that afternoon and with John Irwin, a professor at San Francisco State College who headed the Project Rebound. Professor Irwin was also a successful ex-con. The project had arranged a room for me in one of the dorms. I was also introduced to a ex-con who led and counseled the newly enrolled ex-cons at the college. My sister and mother visited me at the college that weekend and Monday I registered for classes. My first three classes met the following day. I was on my way to a better life. Albeit, in a bit of culture shock! I was released with a good attitude and meant to do well in my classes. I was given a work study grant which provided me with a job in the dorms. Unfortunately, the aforementioned ex-con who led and counseled the ex-cons in the Project Rebound supplemented his income with some drug dealing. He had jars (1,000 doses) of mini-meth tablets and cocaine which he shared with me for a bit of labor. I was given a jar on consignment to sell, and did some deliveries for him. I even acted as the heavy in a few buys of coke in kilo weight for the dude. I used quite a bit of the product and lost my focus on college classes. Needless to say, I ended the first year of freedom as a parolee at large, packin' a piece and back to my criminaly ways... slammin' smack and doing hold ups. The Man ran me too ground in a parking lot of a drug store I just robbed in Olivehurst, California. I was sent back to prison with a new beef and two five to life sentences running concurrently in late 1972. As a refresher, they ran me through CMF so I could hear that solid thunk once again. I did a few days at RGC and caught the grey goose (CDC bus) up to California Conservation Center at Susanville, California for processing as a parole violator with a new beef. From there I was sent to Soledad-North (CTF-N) for a year or so. Then I moved over to Soledad-Central (CTF-C) to work in the PIA wood manufacturing plant. After a year or so of that I went to work in the kitchen as a Second Cook. I did make a couple of parole board appearances while at CTF-C with negative results. I really did not expect a parole date... after blowing the higher education route to freedom I would have to come up with some other plan. In 1975, I was transferred to Sierra Conservation Center (SCC) at Jamestown, California. I was working my way to a minimum custody assignment to one of the Conservation Camps as a member of a fire fighting crew. In early 1976 I went through the physical fitness course and fire fighting course and passed both with flying colors. I was assigned to the Miramonte Conservation Camp in the Sierra Mountain Foothills East of Fresno, California. I lasted one day! A upper echelon administrator at SCC realized that because of the violence and seriousness of my two armed robbery convictions I had to go through a Category-D psychological program (stress test) and should not be in a forestry camp at that time. My criminal career as measured by contact with law enforcement began with vandalism at 15 and progressed in seriousness and violence from there. The camp guards transported me to the Fresno County Jail for pick up by a transport team from SCC. I returned to SCC for several weeks and caught the grey goose for the ride to San Quentin State Prison for assignment to a Cat:D program. Upon completion of the Cat. D program I was scheduled for a parole board hearing. At the hearing the board felt I was ready for parole. I told them not to release me until I had a job to go to. They took me at my word and denied me a parole for ninety days with a recommendation I go through a pre-release program and be given a 72 hour pass to secure employment. I was given the pass and after a few rejected applications I found a job with a body and fender shop in Walnut Creek, California. I returned to San Quentin and went to a parole hearing soon thereafter. The board gave me a release upon approval of parole plan. What we called a RUAPP. After five years inside I was out again. I would discharge this parole in July 1978... while awaiting judgment in the San Mateo County Jail on an assault charge that was dropped soon after my discharge and release from CDC clutches. From my release in 1977 to my discharge off parole the following year I tried the Joe Lunch Box routine. I was being tested every month for narcotic use (but not for alcohol), and worked several jobs through Manpower, Inc. Most of the jobs were physical and menial jobs with no upward mobility. I had taken up with a New Zealand woman with a interesting accent who I met during my ill fated attempt at college six years earlier. Her folks were good to her and helped her buy a new car and a home in Union City, California. I drank beer and wine for breakfast and during the commute to a job across San Francisco Bay from Union City. As soon as CDC cut it's leash on me I started to do heroin again. I felt hemmed in with my relationship; and frankly was not up to the responsibility of life as John Q. Citizen. I began to have an affair and after a five day absence from my companion in Union City she found me in Redwood City, recovered her car and threw my belongings in the street at my feet. My reaction was both typical for me and tragic for a innocent human being. I got drunk, I got high and I found a gun. By my thirtyfourth birthday I was running from the law once again. This time in a bungled car jacking I had killed a human being. The law caught up with me in May 1979. I tried, convicted and condemned to die in San Quentin's gas chamber. By February 1980 I was on death row at SQ awaiting the executioner. California law required that a capital case go through an automatic appeal process that cannot be waived by the condemned. By the time my automatic appeal was over I had decided to play the hand I was dealt. Ultimately, the execution dates would be set and stayed. I had come close to execution, but survived. Twentytwo years later my death sentence would be set aside and on 7 May 2002 I was sentenced to life without parole (LWOP); which in reality is another kind of death sentence. I sit here writing this narrative in a maximum security prison searching for forgiveness and some value to my life. If only had I quit my criminal life. If only I had taken advantage of the chances given me. If only had I not taken the life of another human being. I am a pariah. Is there some value in this lesson in stupidity? Is it my niche in life to support a vast network of civil servants? I think the reader can decide. THE END NOTE: I would like to dedicate this essay to John Irwin who gave me a chance to save my self from myself. John Irwin passed away January 3, 2010 in San Francisco. [COVER LETTER] "Voices Through the Wall" Hamilton College 198 College Hill Road Clinton, N.Y. 13323 31 January 2010 Dear Voices, Please, accept the enclosed essay (personal history) as a lesson from a negative perspective. Thank you, for the opportunity to participate in this opportunity. Respectfully submitted, Steven Ainsworth

Author: Ainsworth, Steven King

Author Location: California

Date: October 15, 2016

Genre: Essay

Extent: 15 pages

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