Our newest contributing RP, former Ohio State Representative Carlton Weddington, is currently serving a three-year sentence at the Allen Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio for charges of bribery, election falsification and filing a false financial disclosure statement.
Here’s his report from behind bars:
It is still early yet, but I feel like I can survive at least two years without any major problems or issues. Arguably my biggest challenge to date is that some of the inmates being held in Protective Control (PC) just don’t give a fuck.
This is business as usual for the career inmates, and they are the ones that make the time hard to do. We will see what happens.
The politics of PC is dramatic and intense — inmates continually jockeying for positions of power. Extortion, gambling, drinking, smoking and sexual favors are the strategic norms used without thought or question. On a daily basis, I witness the constant chatter and sidebar conversations that take place about the next play, hustle or shot to be taken. It is an ultra-surreal, action-packed story of mini-tragedies within themselves.
Guys are anxious to find compatible cellmates since they have begun to implement a more “strict” tier system. A few have already asked to cell with me without even asking me, but going directly to the case manager or unit manager. Luckily, both managers are sharing with me who is asking and showing me some respect because of my status and former position as a state legislator. The bold ones just ask me directly; some are cool, but that doesn’t mean I want to cell with them.
I remember one inmate saying: “Yo man, I put in a kite to cell witchu cause I know you ain’t gawn be no trouble.”
I was quick to say: “I don’t think I am going to have a cellmate, but thanks anyway.”
I am having a hard time grasping the fact that many of the inmates are living double lives on the low. Other inmates call them ‘homo thugs.”
I was shocked when I heard a gang member openly tell one of his horrifying tales: “Yo, I fucked his boy, he ain’t shit! …” was all I can really remember, but that was all I needed to know. Not only was he a gang hit man, but he spoke of his assaults on another inmate as a badge of honor. Big, bad and ready to “fuck or fight”!
For whatever reason, this mentality is a prison norm, with many of these same men having girlfriends, wives, and children on the street. I’m lobbying hard to stay in a cell by myself until I can figure this shit out and get my bearings together.
Unfortunately, a majority of the inmates in this unit are serving long sentences, and quite a few have life — some have even returned for their 3rd, 4th and 5th times. The mentalities of these men are unbelievable and distorted; their reality is clouded from the lack of outside contact and communication. The world is constantly changing and evolving without them; these men who are stuck in a warped, retarding environment that threatens to further sicken their ill hearts and minds through violence and other vices. Even though I am considered a “short timer” with a foreseeable outdate — back to reality of the chaos of the outside world unscathed, jaded and abused — I still must walk a fine line.
An inmate from my city calls me “lil Barack o’Drama.” He would say, “You ain’t no politician no more, you’s a criminal.” It didn’t bother me as much as when another inmate said, “Nigga, you think you betta than us but you in here wit us now!”
It was true that I had a college degree, wrote legislation that impacted 11.9 million people in the State of Ohio, and traveled the world; but the perception that I thought I was better than them was hard for me to handle. I considered myself the staunch advocate for the underdog, less fortunate, and minorities, even amid the inmates being housed in the facility.
To keep safe of any ill feelings someone might have of me, I would tell inmates who asked what I did for a living: “I was a low level analyst.” It worked for awhile, until word got around that I was more than I claimed to be. My name appeared on the letterhead of a response letter from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee that several inmates had received — not to mention that it was stapled to the information boards in all the housing blocks. I immediately asked that it be removed and updated.
I can’t appear to look too good nor talk too wise in the fear that a jealous inmate may attempt to “crash out” on me to gain their own self-esteem. I question whether this is rehabilitation and corrections, or a warehouse of gladiators who forever live under barbaric unwritten laws — desensitized and programmed to act out of character.
During count and the frequent downtime that we have, I often think about the people in my life I would rather be with or talking to. Thoughts of my mother come to mind and bring tears to my eyes. I turn away from the view of my cellmate who is lying on his rack just feet away.
I do my best writing sitting at the edge of my bed on my locker box. I think about our conversations, her smell and her look. I miss her a lot, especially at a time like this when her words of encouragement would be needed.
Mom would say something like, “Carlton, you can do better than that. I taught you better…Do the right thing son…Now come give your mother a hug.”
Nobody can take her place. Every time I look out my window and see the bars and barbed wire on the fences, I realize that I’m in prison. I guess that is why I don’t go outside much.
Ironically though, the view beyond the fence as I stand now and look out my barred window is very serene: In the mornings, I see the dew on the grass and in the field — a mystic fog floats above the crops reaching up to the head of the tree line and the rays of first day light break through, hitting the side of the building.
Working out daily has become a ritual for me — not only to get my body in shape, but to keep a sane mind. My health was so poor when I arrived; I ate whatever I wanted at all times of the day and night — partied and drank, got very little sleep and was consumed by stress of work then and the present anger and negative emotions about coming to prison. Although the food here is not much better — in fact it tastes worse and is mostly processed — I am feeling better physically and mentally. My stress had gone down some; my blood pressure is still a little high; but my cholesterol is much better, and I’m sleeping better. This is maybe the only way I can preserve my life for the days and years after prison.
While sitting in the library reading a few magazines — Jet, Forbes, the Cleveland Plain Dealer — I’ve begun to think about what I might do in my “life after” being released from prison. Some thoughts initially came to mind after reading a few articles: Former Mayor Mike White of Cleveland is now a farmer; he has a winery and alpacas. My cellmate keeps talking about ginseng and its profitability. Maybe I could start a ginseng farm on my dad’s land in Georgia?
I have no idea what I’m going to do two years from now. All I know is that I want to be successful again. I’ve got some time to figure it out.
Enjoyed this piece? Check out contributing RP Jeff Smith’s popular and powerful stories on his own rise, incarceration and redemption and his tales of sex and love behind bars. Follow Jeff on Twitter at @JeffSmithMO.