Now that I am an incarcerated individual…

Terpenning, Tobin



Tobin Terppenning Oregon NO TITLE Now that I am an incarcerated individual sentenced to 16 years in the Oregon Corrections business, I have realized many worlds that can be opened with a pen, a guitar, and my mind. With the time that the mandatory minimum measure 11 gives individuals in Oregon, the potential for contemplation of the reasons humans end up in prison, as I have every day since I was arrested, is a great philosophical adventure. Crime; addiction, poverty, greed, lust, anger, risk behavior, machismo. Many of the reasons prisons are so full in America. Human nature can be a hard thing to control when faced with the emotional world of love, hate, and fear. Reactions to actions, passions fueled with alcohol, jealousy fueled by meth. I struggle with the realizations that I had serious addiction problems, which inevitably led to my breaking the law. Not surprising since I began drinking and taking drugs at the age of 13. Which was common in 1983 in Hollywood, CA in my circle of wild musical friends. Ironically alcohol addiction and drug abuse comprises 60% of the prisons crime statistics. Most men I have met in here had an alcohol problem. The younger inmates have a higher problem with meth or no education. So I am sober and have been for 5 years. I love it. I am a hyper creative person normally and now I am involved in the myriad art programs, I have 4 different bands, I record music and made a CD as well as helped others record their music. I play on the worship team as I was baptized and have attempted to discover religion and better myself. I took yoga, I took meditation, I have been a tutor for the different colleges that come to help the inmates get their GED or to help the many Mexicans learn English and Math. Most of this was at Snake River Corrections in Ontario, Oregon, right on the border of Idaho. Now I am in Salem, OR close to my family in Portland. Prison becomes a school, a vacation from ones vices, a daycare, a church, a forced labor camp, a gangsters gym, and a mental health institution, all under one roof. The reality of prison life hits hard after accepting the way the state uses mandatory minimums to put men and women in prison for 75 months for a low level person-to-person crime, and most inmates have stacked measure 11 changes so 75 x 4 or 5 or 25 years for some basic non-violent crimes. I have 2-75 month charges for pinching a girls but and for giving a massage over the clothing to my son's girlfriend to help her pulled back from gymnastics and I went to massage school in Portland. Morally shocking I don't think. Easy money for the DA, the lawyer, the county, the sheriffs, the state, the prison, yes. Shocking that the public allows their sons and daughters to get 75, 90, or 200 months for low level crimes, first time offender, and starting at age 15. Hello. Now Oregon has 15 prisons housing 15,000 people. And no programs, well a few, and no education, GED only. No training and Oregon pushes "Group Risk" by putting older, young, sex offenders, gays in with the general population, which are of course run by the prison gangs and notorious outside gangs. Mainly crips, bloods, and southsiders as well as skinheads. Native gangs, biker gangs, asian gangs, etc etc. When I showed up to Snake River, I knew story after story from my time in county. I knew it would be much easier than a California or New York prison but I knew I would have a hard time being a sex offender. Basic prison politics makes sex offenders the unwanted, extorted, and victims of the gangs and guards. My first day, my new cellie, who was also a sex offender told the Southsider gang who I was, and I had to choose to pay them rent or get beaten, killed or raped perhaps. I chose to pay the gang $20 a month after getting a job. Simple. Eventually a headache as new southsiders came in as others went to the "Hole" or went to another prison or home. Younger ones wanted more money. I bought them shoes, coffee, food, lopes, soda tickets but I lived violence free for the one year I was on that unit. I saw dozens of other inmates get beat, killed, and extorted. I got a good job as an education clerk, making 77 a month and my family sent me $1000 so I could get a guitar, a CD player, CDs books and set up a phone account. And a T.V. which becomes a real drain on my other creative time. Cable T.V. is awful, but an escape from this world. And by watching Lock-up this prison didn't seem bad. Other American or Mexican prisons are horrid. I feel rather lucky. I haven't been attacked or raped. I have a comfortable little cell with the few creative distractions, and now a mellow cellie after 14 other strange, neurotic, violent and sad cellies. Easy time on hard time as they say. Of course none of this matters because my life has been altered and changed forever. I am a number now. A felon. A sex criminal. An unwanted man in a very harsh, judgemental and fearful world. I have lost contact with all my old friends, family, besides my mother, and am shunned inside the prison. And with 16 years in prison I am going to age, get sick, or die maybe. I may watch my parents die. My children grow up and slowly forget about their convict father. Happens to many men in here. A place that has no interest in helping me learn a trade or continue my education. All colleges are online now as they stopped doing mail correspondence courses and prisons are so paranoid about inmates getting on-line for any reason. They seem anti-education and when the Pell grants were stopped in 1994 all prison education halted in many ways. Now there is no real opportunity if you already have a high school diploma. There are a few options if one is a "Good-charge" inmate. I am a "Bad-charge" inmate so I have a hard time being accepted by most inmates or the guards. So most programs are "off limits" to me and the Measure 11 charge doesn't get programs either because we get no "good-time" or Time off for good behavior. A hard road. My serial killer neighbor gets the best jobs, access to the programs, and treated like a superstar by other inmates. Bizarre. I have never had a misdemeanor much less a felony. I was the lowest on the crime grid before the 1994 measure 11 law was voted in by a misinformed public. Originally the measure was for repeat offenders of major violent crimes or for young gang members to scare them. I would have received probation or a short time. Anyway. Now I sit and wait. Slave away at my simple mindless job of teaching young drop out of high school inmates basic english and math. A helpful job but rather tedious and as most of these inmates will leave here soon being a release based prison they don't care about learning really. I realize that the prison could care less about helping us. Warehouse men and watch them. Feed them, let them lift weights and get big and fight, send them to the "Hole" and get paid $25 an hour to open our doors. Ironic. Most of the guards here are obese, old and run the prison like a bad high school or a dog kennel. And so I watch old reruns of bad TV, attempt to draw read and read and read some more and write alot. Play my acoustic guitar and pray for a letter from my kids or a photo from family. I've spent $2000 on CD's, that they don't sell anymore, now on MP3's that cost 1.75 each for a limited selection of songs. Recently they took all my favorite artists out. And no Beatles, Alice in chains and many other popular bands. Telmate, the phone provider recently took over and I lost 30 registered people on my list so now I can't get a hold of my family or few friends because most of them don't want to put their Social Security # and personal info in the prison system. Anyway, this is part of my punishment right. Suffer and realize what can happen when too much wine and marijuana are mixed and jokingly pinching a girl's butt can do to someones life. I have been erased from the city world, outcast due to the way the charges were announced to the public. All over the internet. Rumors of more than what happened. Amazing how easy it was to get sent to a prison. No way to fight it without paying 100,000 to get out of county jail and pay 50 to 100,000 for a private lawyer. Theres no way. Unless the D.A. feels compassionate that day. Or a technicality or go to trial and get lucky. If I had gone to trial I could have received 50 years. Alot of men I know in here received 50-100 years of stacked M 11 charges for going to trial. Half of the prison are sex-offender crimes. Seems odd. Easy conviction. If an 18 yr old boy gives beer to his 16 yr old girlfriend and has sex he gets just as much time as someone who gets manslaughter. Corrupt. And recently the Governor Kitshaube was going to take my crime sex abuse 1 off the measure 11 list with Robbery 2 and Assault 2 as these crimes are filling the prison for many years. Sex abuse 1 was denied but the other 2 were accepted. In Oregon if I am protecting my Son from getting hurt by someone or robbed and I hurt them in the process I get 75 months in prison. I am sickened by the blatant disregard for men's lives and the lack or other help or options instead of prison. Therapy, community service, probation, supervision, labor camp for less time, bootcamp, etc. So many ways for the state to save money instead of 35,000 per person. Billions of dollars wasted of warehousing humans when the education system suffers, social services, old folks services, rehabilitation groups, training, alcohol education, family resources all suffer. And no one seems to care. No one is trying to change it. The D.A.'s office and sheriffs and prison unions fight reform all the way. Money, power, and jobs. Now I waste my life sitting in a tiny room, a bathroom with a man I don't know or like. Forced to do some meaningless task for 20 to 70 dollars a month then the canteen charges high prices for everything so we never save money to get out someday and try to find a job and pay 800 a month rent for a little apartment at a place that warns the neighbors that a felon or sex offender is living there. Also I have 8 years of post prison supervision so that any thing I do might put me in county jail for 6 months. So much to look forward to. Yay. But just like Death and taxes prison is a real problem. I mean we must have some form of punishment for crimes, that's been a way of getting people to be accountable for what they do, for a long time. Or it was death, drawn and quartered, hands cut off and a thousand other ways to punish those who "break the law." I am surrounded by thousands of men who broke an Oregon law. From the most horrible murder to having heroin on them to accidentally hitting someone in their car. Thousands of different crimes that are as specific as a corporate ledger. From 1 yr to 500 yrs. Oregon has no death penalty no there are thousands of "lifers" life w/parole and life w/o. Natural life and men who are so old when they are arrested for a crime they die in the infirmary. I have seen dozens of men die at Snake River where thousands, 3000 men are. It's the biggest prison in Oregon and cost 150 million dollars to build and built by inmates. The original prison built in 1991 was for sex offenders where Snake River rented an old onion field farm to take the sex crimes out in the farthest corner of Oregon and to help them with counseling, classes and therapy. But eventually all counseling disappeared and the new prison was built and now the prison is a mix of gangs, old men, sex offenders and all the rest of the Measure 11 long sentenced men. It's so far from everywhere except Boise Idaho that families have a hard time visiting as it is a 6-8 hour drive from Portland and a very dangerous road in the winter. They did put in a video kiosk to skype with families and an email service. So that's helpful for those who can't get visits. I have made my way in this chaos by keeping to myself. I am shy and a depressed person. After 25 years of using alcohol and drugs to socialize and cope I find it difficult to interact with any loud, tough, mean, sports loving man. Never have been able to actually. I am a hippie, a musician, a poet, a massage therapist, a traveling nomad that lived in the jungles of Hawaii, Asia, and grew up in a tough neighborhood in East Los Angeles, with a tough, sports loving German Lawyer Step Father. All my family are Canadian besides me who was born in Hollywood. Bizarre. I can't relate to the usual mix of bullies and criminals here. Bald, tattoos, loud, white trash and I am the lowest on the prison totem pole. They all ignore me. I teach a few rough dudes and no one bothers me. I have to sit at the "bad crime" tables so most guys assume I am a sex beef guy. They are mostly leaving here soon so they don't bother. Oh well, that's life. Full of ups and downs. There are 2 million people in American prisons so there are many worse stories than mine. A horror world of predator and prey. Slavery and business to profit off of our stupidity, and sin. Guns, drugs and gang warfare. Will it change? Probably not. Any legislature can create new laws or change old ones when needed. One commercial on local or national TV can change the publics view and get them to fear anything. In 2026 I will be set free, sort of, to Portland. 56 yrs old with no real idea of how to take care of myself as I have had everything done for me. Laundry, cooked for, clothes, bed, water, TV, electricity, etc etc. Strange. Then a possibly nice or not so nice Parole officer and a list of extra rules only sex offenders follow. No Parks, no Schools, not even near them, no contact at all with anyone under 18, and I will probably have Grandchildren by then. Register for life. Drug tests, a penis test where they show me child porn and see if I am aroused?? Sick. I am not a pedophile. Possibly no computers or internet. The world runs on the internet now. I might as well move to an Amish camp. Jeez. Limited places to stay. I might inherit half a million dollars while in here and if the prison finds out they take all but 40,000 to pay for my rent. Here?? 3000 a month. Then I may have to deal with an angry family of the girl who's butt I pinched. Even though I've known the family since 1985 and my son grew up with the girls' who's school and Grandmother helped prosecute me. For what? Treating me like some dangerous predator? Why? I've met serial pedophiles that got less time than I did cause they had a lot of money and paid their way out of alot of time. O poor me right. At least I have done some good things while here. I can record more albums, write a book, or many, send money to the orphan I sponsor in Uganda. Send art to my children. Or make a lot of money selling my prison art online I can work out and stay healthy. Learn a language. All paid for by Taxpayers and the Feds. Ironic. Could be worse. Bye Tobin Transcribed: 2017-04-30

Author: Terpenning, Tobin

Author Location: Oregon

Date: February 5, 2015

Genre: Essay

Extent: 15 pages

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