In prison you always find the unusual. Something or someone who is so out of step with conventional thinking or thought. The Atlanta Federal Prison Camp has over 550 prisoners. Recently I ran across one inmate who is totally happy and content being confined in the Federal Prison System. Theodore W. (Not his real name) is happy, happy, happy.
He has been in state and federal prisons for the last 12 years and he has at least eight more years to go. Theodore was convicted of violating Federal Drug Distribution laws. You would think that being in prison so long he would be constantly thinking of the day he gets out and goes home. And he talks about some of the things he did before he was locked up. He is honest and open about his past and he knows that he did wrong. So he is sorry for his past crimes and he is not just sorry because he got caught. Theodore knows the problems drugs cause and the lives that have been destroyed because of drug use or abuse.
Theodore is White and in his early sixties. He grew up in the south. His family were poor Alabama sharecroppers so they never made much money and he never had a whole lot as a child. When I recently talked to him I realized that he has some sort of mental condition too. The condition causes him to start talking to himself. I do that myself but he also answers himself. Theodore carries on a regular one-man conversation. And his voice changes during these conversations, which makes you think there are 3 or more people in his cell. But it’s just him. This is humorous but it is also sad.
I noticed he does not get any mail or emails. No letters or birthday cards or get well cards. Nothing. He does not get any visitors. But he does have a family. A former wife, children and other relatives. They never try to contact him and he does not try to contact them. He is all alone and he likes it that way.
I asked Theodore what he was going to do when he was released from the prison. He told me: “If they release me and I see I am having a hard time surviving on the outside, then I will commit some type of crime so they will send me back here.” This really surprised me. He went on to add that he likes it in prison. This is his home. I asked, “Why?” He said where else can you get three meals a day, a place to sleep at night, work a few hours a day and get free medical care? Its definitely not the best medical care, but it is free. Theodore does not want to go job hunting at his age. He is not trained to do anything anyway. He does not want to look for a place to stay. Or try to figure out how to pay bills and other living expenses.
Theodore always seems so happy and now I know why. He does not have a care in the world. He also points out that all his friends and associates are here in prison with him. That is another reason not to leave.
He makes some great points about why he does not want to leave prison. He is witty and humorous. He is constantly saying how great things are. Or how great the food is. At first I could not believe this one. I have always thought the food in this joint was horrible. But he loves it. And he is constantly eating something.
He has quirks like all of us. And it takes a while to get used to someone who talks to himself. Tells himself jokes and answers his own questions. This is especially true when he changes his voice and it sounds like an army is in his cell.
And then he will start singing a song that was popular years ago on the radio. Then I hear: “Mr. Addison who did that song? So far he has not stumped this former Deejay but he has come close. One day he asked me to identify who sang a song that he had been singing all morning. It was “Just Dropped In” by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. The song goes; “I just dropped in…to see what condition my condition was in. Yeah, yeah, oh yeah what condition my condition was in.”
If you drop in on Theodore, his condition is fine. It’s a sad story. But his condition is A-okay.
Ninety-nine percent of us want to get out of here as soon as possible. But Theodore W. would rather stay. His life is inside the walls of a Federal Prison and that suits him just fine.
Comments or Questions can be emailed to Bernard Addison at firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to:
FPC-Atlanta; Dorm D
PO Box 150160
Knoxville, TN 30315