By Jerry Watson Jr.
I was first locked up when I was 9 years old. That's when it all went down hill for me. I went from foster homes, to group homes, to boys shelters, to juvenile detention centers. I've been to bootcamps, different placements in and out of the state. Childhood I never had one, a normal family, whats that? Hi my names Terry Lynn Watson Jr. I'm 22 years old and am currently incarcerated in Huttonsville Correctional Center. Doing a 5-50 and this is my story about me and being incarcerated in a American prison.
I was 17. Just got out of lock up. I was staying with my mom. I was going to John Marshall High school and in the 12th grade. 3 months away from graduating. I started getting in with what people would call "the wrong crowd." I wanted to be cool like them so I started smoking weed and snorting coke and pills on a daily. My mom had found out and knew I was stealing, so all we did was argue. Seem like no matter what, thats all we did. So I moved out. I started out living with one of my friends nicknamed Thumper. He lived by himself. His mom would drop in once a day to check on things. She said I could move in if I stayed in school. So I moved in. Everything was good until we both found out we liked the drugs and partying. Talk about partying. We would have the whole town over it seemed like. Everyone in school the next day would ask us when we were going to have another party. It made me feel like I was really something. We had girls, drugs and not a care in the world. Except for his mom. It was funny cause his mom would come in and wake us up for school. We would go to school, eat breakfast, then meet after 3rd or 4th period and go home. Thats when we would start planning on how we were going to get the money to party. That became a daily thing for us. That and the cops telling us to keep the music down. It got so bad. I ended up dropping out of school my 12th grade year. His mom found out and out of her house I went. I found myself going from my step sisters to sleeping in a abandoned house. Talk about feeling nasty. I slept on an old abandoned couch that was left in the house. The house was all boarded up. I took two boards out of the side window so I could gain access. I would have to hurry up and climb in the window so no one would see me come and go. I'd go back and forth from my step sisters to my buddy's house. And my moms to take a shower, change clothes, then get right back to partying and finding girls. I was stealing everything I could get my hands on from stores and other places and everything that the dope man wanted, requested or would take. Little did I know my future had prison written all over.
I met the first true love of my life. After a month her mom found out where I was living and let me live with them. They lived in a small town called Glendale WV. If you walked wrong, you would get a ticket. The crime rate was 1 1/2 percent and the 1 percent was me. I was well known because of my juvenile background, and the name I made for myself on the streets with the cops. It seemed like I started working my way to prison when I bought my first car. It had no brakes, no working lights, the paint was peeling from where it sat under a tree that has things falling from it. The tires were semi flat and it was so loud. It was the middle of summer and everyone was outside. I only lived 7 streets away. 2 problems tho. I had to cross the main intersection to get to my girlfriends house and I didn't have a license. But what could possibly go wrong? I was 2 streets away and decided to cross over the interception to get to my house. Before I got to the other side, one of the patrolling officers sees me. Just my luck. So I pressed the gas and crossed the main road. Went down a street, ran a stop sign, took a sharp right and tried my best to stop the car by the curb. I managed to get the car to stop by pulling the e-brake. I grabbed the keys and took off through some houses.
Wow, the adrenaline rush. It was something I couldn't describe. A feeling inside me I had to fulfill. I ended up doing a month of misdemeanor time in the regional jail. But it wasn't enough to take that craving for more out of me. I got out, got on drugs really bad. I started trying new drugs and was hooked instantly. Not only on weed and beer but coke, oxys, you name it, I had my hands on it. Not only me tho, my sister too, we were going threw $500 dollars a day easily. Just in drugs. I ended up losing a job I had. Had no money to feed my addiction. So I started robbing things. One night I went nuts. Couple of friends and I went and hit a couple licks. But all it need up being was a quick fix for a couple weeks and some charges and enemies that were soon to come. That night I didn't realize what I did till it was too late. I had stole from hard working people and jeopardized their lives and mine.
I'm currently doing a 5-50. A 4-40 in one county and a 1-10 in another. There suppose to be ran together so it will be a 4-40. Its in progress now. I have 2 night time BCEs. 2 daytime BCEs, a petty larceny 2nd offense and intimidation of a witness. I remember the day the judge said guilty and slammed his hammer down. I was 19 years old, going to the mens penitentiary with a 5-50. I felt like killing myself. Every thing I knew or had went out the window. Eventually friends, girlfriend, and most of my family turned their heads. So it all started sinking in. A 5-50. One day, I woke up and just went wild. Out of one year in the regional jail, I spent 7 1/2 months of it in the hole. Fighting, tattoos, assaulting an officer, you name it. I was doing it. talk about rough. I took a couple beat downs from C.O.s. Lost my stuff. Pics, letters, stuff of that sort. It would just come up missing. So I'm in the hole in the northern regional jail. It was hard. See people in other states go to prison after their sentenced. Not in WV. They snookered the regional just like a prison till you actually get to one. Any way in the hole, I was in a 8-10 cell. A steal toilet and sink. 3 huts and 9 cut as they say. In this little cell, I had my kitchen, bathroom, bed room, workout space, everything all in one. Its as big as a trailer size closet. Its not really any better out in population in the regional either. Living wise that is. Because the WV prison system is so overcrowded, some people have to sleep on the floor. I was one of them. Theres only one bunk in most cells. The other person goes on the floor. And if theres not enough room in the cells, they sleep out in the day room till there is. Anyways back to the hole, all day long, people screaming, kicking walls, flooding the cells, screaming at COs. Theres trash and human waster everywhere in the hole. To top it off, were only allowed out every other day for ten minute shower. And that's only 3 times a week. Then we clear our cells the following day and it's in rotation like that till the 7th day of the week where we do nothing. Were allowed to have one hour of rec at 7am. M-Friday. Thats if certain COs don't try getting us on it. Besides all that, I walked back and forth, counting bricks on the wall, counting every hole and crack. And always thinking about the past. About everything. Books, there just like phone calls. We were lucky to get one. Then there's the sleeping part. You can only sleep so much. In the hole you have to get on a routine and keep saying to yourself. It's going to be OK. Because if not, you can loose it. And quick. In the hole you have to do the time and don't let it do you. That's prison period tho. As far as the one hour of rec goes, every time we go outside from the hole, our cells get torn up and we get stripped searched. Pride, dignity, all of it goes out the window every time I have to get naked in front of another man. Every time we go out, its "let me see your hands, ok take your fingers thru your mouth, now your hair, now lift up your sack, turn around. Lift up both feet, then squat and cough." It sucks. Its not fun at all. On most days it makes me not even wanna go outside. But its prison life. The hole is a prison inside this prison. After a month of good behavior, I got to make a phone call. It was, try calling home or try calling my ex. I wanted to call her to see if we could somehow work it out? She was all I lived for at one part in my life. Still is to some point. So I call and a guy picks up her cell phone...Nothing in this world or the next to come can explain how I felt. My girl in another mans arm. I lost it! Even tho she was my ex, she wasn't suppose to move on that quick right? She knew it was me calling, why did he have to pick up? I ended up crying for days. Didn't eat, sleep, and when I did get sleep all I did was dream about her and this mystery man. It seemed like it was non ending. Awake or asleep, it was in my head. The tears I cried, the agony, the pain I felt in my heart and in my fists from hitting the wall over and over till I couldn't stand no more from the pain. I had to live with his voice in my head. And it wouldn't go away. I was like that for 3 or 4 months. Still to this day I have my days.
So I received a 5-50, lost my home, friends and girlfriend all in a 6 months span. I also had 3 dogs that I lost. They were my world. Anyone who knew me knew that. I called home when I got out of the hole and my mom didn't know how to tell me my dogs were put to sleep because they would not eat without me there. My sister was actually the one who told me. I had enough. I wanted to die. I hated my life and the cell and the guards reminded me of it everyday. It seemed like nothing was getting any better. I was in so much pain and didn't have one single comfort in the world. All this because I used drugs and became addicted and a totally different person. I ended up getting into another fight and back to the hole I went. In prison, mail is the biggest priority. Besides getting out. It can make or break someone. I remember being in the hold and the guard would come in with the mail. I'm not expecting none, but hoping, someone, somewhere would write me. My heart starts pounding like always, the guards a couple cells away. I'm holding my breath now, and then he walks by. Another one of those lonely feelings. Day after day, thinking to myself that everyones forgot about me. I've laid in bed, with lots of pain, plenty of nights and cried myself to sleep. Its sad how everything I own, I can pick up and carry it with one hand.
In prison, your just a number. Nothing more, nothing less. I finally made it to prison after my long months in the regional. My dads been locked up for 19 years straight. He was the first person I met when I walked through the doors of Huttonsville. I didn't know my dad or dads side of the family. Only story I heard from when I was a kid. Because I was locked up pretty much my whole juvenile life and my mom never moved back there. So walking through these prison doors and embarrassing my dad was very hard and strange for me. Trying to get set into the lifestyle but still check up with my dad was hard. I've heard one side of the story my whole life about my dad, now it was time to hear the other hand. Prison, what is prison? I'll tell you. A living hell. The beds, the food, the living conditions. Its all bad. It's like being a dog locked up inside a cage cause he did something wrong and he needs to learn his lesson. But after he knows he's done wrong, he still has to stay until otherwise. The state gives us just enough to get by. Nothing more, sometimes less. I'm not blessed like some people. I don't get money from the streets. And when I do, its a blessing. So I have to eat what the state gives me and I use what the state gives here. There are jobs here at Huttonsville prison. The best paying job pays $300 dollars a day for 8 hours. But then you have to run around and spend it on medical bills and things we need. Then if theres enough left we can take care of some of our wants. Everything in here is way too much. A pair of shoes are $50.00 to $100.00 dollars. And the shoes they sell are probably $25.00 dollars on the street. Its the same way with everything they sell. A little tupperware ball is $5.00 dollars 30 cents at a dollar store. Commissary is crazy here. There making a killing off the inmates. But people by it cuz they don't want to go without. Besides that I'd have to say the best paying job is the kitchen. $61.00 dollars a month. Its the hardest, but the nastiest. They work us harder than any fast food restaurant, I've ever worked at. Plus you have stricter rules. Its so nasty in the kitchen. But in order for me to not starve, I have to eat most of it.
I don't know about all the other WV prisons and how they work, I just know about this one. The education system here is great. Welding, electrician class, computer tech, all of them are offered here. Its just hard to get in one. GED is also offered her along with College 101 and advanced classes too. They also offer a lot of classes here. And there are great teachers, but some of the things are just crazy. There use to be a letter shop and a furniture plant, where things were made for guards and inmates to buy but the new warden stopped that. They're taking everything forms little by little. Our coolers, our ordering privileges, splitting the prison up on recreation cells and sporting cells. Its getting worse by the day.
I struggle day by day waking up and looking at myself in the mirror. A man that let an addiction and a bad choice ruin most of my life. And it put me here with no one or anything. If only I could describe to you what it feels like to be called into the counselors office and him tell me that my grandma's passed away. And I can't go pay my respects cause the prison won't let me. Or just listening to the radio and hearing one of them songs that take me back out to a sunny day on the streets with my dogs and girlfriend. Then I hear someone calling my name and it pulls me back behind these cold and lonely walls, called prison. Just to know that I can't have that for a long time hurts. All because of a bad lifestyle. I hate walking up and seeing a fence with barb wire for as long as I can see. Or guards telling me what to do 24-7. But I have to if I want to be free again. This is the way I look at it. 3 things happen when you come to prison. Either you get enough and learn your lesson, and don't come back, or you do what you have to do to manipulate the system and get out knowing your coming back. Or you just don't care, and do what you want. I've seen all 3 types of people some people don't mine being here. Its normal to them.
The key word is suppose to be rehabilitation. Thats what were suppose to be doing right? Well the truth be told, its far from it. Theres nothing really here thats rehabilitating. Maybe 20 out of 100%. All we do is lift weights, play cards, gamble, watch TV, trade our storys and learn from each other how to manipulate the system better. So we don't come back or get caught the next time. Thats how a lot of people are. Ive seen it. The problem is the judges say "here, this is your sentence, go get "rehabilitated," and when were ready to let you go or need your bed or don't meet the limits of the month, you can go home. And then when we do get out is "get out and make sure you pay your monthly fees. Keep a job and don't break the law." What the state needs to realize is were not a bunch of dogs even tho people think we are. Its crazy, look how bad the WV system is overcrowded. And its not just new people deciding to get into more trouble. Its the same people coming back again and again. Im in here because of my bad choices. But I had pretty bad drug problem too. Whats going to stop me from snorting that first line or breaking the law when I get out? Me!!! Definitely not anything I've learned here in prison. But because I don't want to lose everything I love and have again. I don't want to be just another number lost in the system. I believe that until someone opens there eyes and truly wants to help us and not just lock us up till times served, then this is how its going to be. We need some programs that are going to work. Not just a couple of anger management class. We need some programs also for when people get out, they can still have held to fight off the addictions and criminal thinking. All of us are not helpless. Most of us are just a bunch of people who made mistakes. Theres people that come in here and leave worse then what they were when they came in the first place. Prison life can make someone more violent, manipulative, and crazy. I know this cause I fight the temptations of it everyday.
Theres one thing I always find funny. We have a grievance system we have to go by that follows into a policy directive. "Procedure and guidelines. But I'm going to tell you this about prison. The guards do what they want. When they want and how they want. And we have to do what they say. If not we live miserable. Things of ours "just come up missing." We'll get a lot of write ups. Writes ups are something that put us in the hole or prolong us from going home. We get beat up. Put in the hole. Its crazy but its prison life. Out of sight out of mind is what most people try to do. Theres few that buck the system but learn quickly not to. Heres an example Ill give you about us inmates "following procedure." Couple of us wrote to the Health Inspector. We complain about the living conditions and the food we get that has been giving people food poisoning. They always come and check it out. But by the time they come, the prison already knows 3 or 4 days in advance and they have us cleaning like some slaves till this place is cleaned up. The day there here, at lunch time, well have more food on our plates, and not left overs from the day before. Well have fresh salad and not an old week. Roaches are bad down in the kitchen. They put roach traps down. And theres mice. And besides that they have all the maintenance men running around trying to patch up or temporarily fix things until they leave. So when these people come they never see what we live in and through everyday. Thats just one of many things. This prison worries more about taking away from us and making sure we aren't smoking tobacco or getting tattoos then they are worried about if we are taking these class's and trying to better out selfs so we can be released back into society. Most of the class that are here aren't going to help us on the streets. Maybe in a Alice and Wonderland world. I don't understand that if prison is a billion dollar industry, then how come were not getting all the class's and rehabilitation we need?
At Huttonsville theres two sides to this prison. North side and south side. One side has dorms. The other side has cells. The south side is open with beds going down two sides. No air conditioning, only fans and windows. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter. They do however have 3 pipes going threw the walls for heating. Theres 1 shower, a day room, washroom and a bathroom that has 4 toilets and one big urinal. Theres 42 people per dorm on the south side. On the north side, its newly refurnished. They have cells that hold 6 people on one side of the day room and on the other side of the same dorm, theres 2 man cells. This side has air conditioning. And in the cells, its bunk beds. Three of 2 sets. Theres a TV, sink, and toilet. Individual boxes to put out stuff in. Its hard sometimes to get along if you get in the wrong cell. And there not big enough for 6 people. But in order to live comfortably, we have to adjust to every mans way of living and there day to day routine. Sometimes it can very hectic. The 2 man cells are way better. But way harder to get into because of many there is. Usually people who hold jobs for a while get them. Or the prisons undercover snitches. The dorms on the north side hold 80 people. Per dorm. For recreation here we have a gym with a basketball court, ping pong table and weights. They call it 2 times a day. Theres the big yard and center yard. The center yard is confined inside the walls of the prison. It has weights, horse shoe pits, and a little square side walk to walk or jog around. Its called all day long. Every hour. The big yard has weights, softball field, horse shoe pits, basketball court and a volleyball area. And a big running track around it. Its off to the side of the prison but has fences with barb wire around it. They call it 3 times a day. These are the things we have to help us with our time. Theres also a library and legal material down here. Were allowed going to all of these things. Through the day as long as it ain't count time. Count time is when every one has to lock down in there cells or on our beds until the guards count and make sure that everyone is accounted for.
Sometimes tho, the things I have are not enough to cope. But I have to. If not I'll never make it. Its all about adapting. I play cards, sports, write poems and work out. Ive done all the class here. Here in prison, people have to get into a daily routine and then we do it everyday. Ive found if I keep my mind busy, then it don't wonder off out into the real world. In prison, the only person I have is myself. Regardless of who I think is my friend. Whether I come back or not, I am a different person because of this experience. But the truth is Im a good person. And I want to do it right. In societies eyes and gods. But because Im labeled as a felon, its going to be hard for me to make it. My mom always told me, "son you have to live and learn." And I gave in so many ways. I was 19 when I started this sentence and Im 22 right now. I still have a little bit to go. I just got to keep on keeping on. You have to keep a positive thinking pattern in this place. This life becomes normal no matter how society views it. In prison, little things become important. Ive learned not to take anything for granted. And to pay better attention to little things. Living behind these walls, Ive also learned one thing. Nothings ever guaranteed.
Ive always believed in God. Went to church when I was a little kid. In prison, church is a peace of mind. It is the place that changes many lives. It makes the hardest soft and the strongest cry. God does things for a reason. There is chaplain service offered here on a daily. And other church services come in and teach us, sing to us. it is always comforting to hear that God loves me and forgives me.
Ive seen a lot of things since Ive been down. If you could only seen what Ive seen here. On the TV shows, they only show you what they want you to see. In prison its a lot different. In here tho, its real simple. Mind your own business, choose a select few and don't trust nobody. Ive seen guards beat an inmate down because he told them he wasn't telling on a guy for something and it made the guards upset. Ive seen a guard get stabbed multiple times because he wouldn't give an inmate toilet paper. When he needed to go to the bathroom. Ive seen other stabbings, people getting robbed, abused, manipulated, people beat with locks. Its not just the movies, anything can and does happen at any given time. A lot of how your treated in prison depends on your charges and who you know. If someone don't want you to live in a dorm, they tell you to leave. If you don't, they get there boys, do there thing then throw you and your stuff out with you. That usually happens only to people who have sex charges or rats. Two things in prison we have to keep good. Thats our word and our name. Once either one of them are gone, we have nothing. Except a hard time. Ive learned to keep my hands clean. And to remember that to some people, this is fun and games. Ive learned that many people believe that by being honest and open, that everyones going to like you and your going to win there respect by showing them good nature. People are getting confused. Especially in here. Honesty is likely to offend people in some case. Sometimes its better to tell people what they want to hear, then what I really think or believe or feel. More important, by me being open, to people Im making myself so predictable and familiar that it is impossible to respect or fear me. Dealing with this time has been hard for me. Especially at this young age. Its been far from easy. Lots of hate and pain that Ive had to forgive and over come in my time being downto. Its hard in prison when your a loner. What I mean by that is by not having people on the street to support me financially or physically. Ive had one person that has rode with me threw most of it. Well 2. My step sister and my mom. Even tho its not everyday mail or money, they let me know Im loved. It took a little but but there coming around.
Just like all the other prisons, you have you color issues. Its not real bad here. Most people just shut up about how they feel but tattoos and the way they act says it all. Theres only been a couple of problems here and there, but if something was to go down there would definitely be sides. Theres been gang issues here lately. People claiming this and that. But the warden put a stop to that real quick.
Theres also a prison hospital. If thats what you want to call it. You pretty much have to be dying before anything gets done or threaten with a law suit. And thats the truth. Its really sad. But just like anything else in the prison. Its the best hospital in the world and they do everything right. This prison stay so far is far beyond what I ever wanted for myself. I wrote a poem to help you better understand me and my situation. Its called "In This Prison Cell." Its here alone in this prison cell I sit, no one to talk to, no cigs, no dip. Thinking about my younger years, of all the love, laughter and waisted tears. All the partys, drugs, and one night stands, I never would of thought that prison was in my future plans. A number on my shirt and a record filled with dirt, I left a lot of people filled with anger and mostly hurt. I lost my home, my dogs and the girl I loved, the last person I was close to it was my mom I hugged. The things I lost can never be replaced. This is a rude awakening, an unpleasant place. My lifes been changed in more ways then most, my eyes have been opened when I received this dose. Along in this prison cell, I sit and cry, wondering why my dogs had to die. I never even got to burry them or give them a kiss goodbye. Alone in this prison cell, I think about you, wondering what would of happened if we both said "I do." Would our love been stronger, would our love even lasted, Ill never know, out to prison I was casted. Alone in this cell, I will sit, soon to go to sleep in a little bit. Ill think about the ways my life turned out and what the rest will be like the day I get out.
So thats my poem. For me this is it. Im done with this life. Being in juvenile lock up pretty much my whole life and know this has almost broke me. My spirit. Im done with criminal things. I want better for myself. This prison experience has been a rude awakening. I didn't need all this to see I was wrong. But these are the cards Ive been dealt. Im tired of waking up everyday with no one to love. Im tired of always having that empty feeling. Im tired of doing without end just being another number lost in the system. I still have a chance to change my ways and be something. And I want to be. I know I can, who says you can't each an old dog new tricks.
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