Letter From Ray Legg (4/28/2014)

April 28, 2014

Hey Jonathan,

How are you doing? I hope you’re enjoying yourself :) Last we spoke you informed me of your upcoming adventures, those of which I’m sure you’re enjoying now. Wish I could be out there helping with you guys.

Myself, I’m not too bad. I’ve definitely been better, but I guess I could be worse.These unforgiving walls are depressing, haunting sometimes. There’s a lot on my mind, and I have a lot to tell you about.

As I told you before, I am an addict. I know that I have done wrong and that I must pay for my crimes. But, I often wonder, Is this place really the right place for me, for many of us? The more time I spend here, the more of myself I feel like I lose, pieces of myself I fear I’ll never get back. That scares the hell out of me. To address the issue that landed me in my current situation will require extensive rehabilitation.

It is my belief that addiction is commonly viewed in a criminal sense rather than treated as a medical issue, which with proper rehabilitation, In many cases, can be corrected. It is my understanding the incarceration is intended to punish as well as correct. When “penitentiaries” were initially introduced they were intended to leaved oneself alone with their thoughts to allow them to “reflect” on their wrong doings in order to rehabilitate. For many of us who find ourselves on the wrong side of the las as a result of our addictions, rehabilitation is exactly what we need. But its something that isn’t provided in jail, therefore we don’t receive the treatment we need, and we’re reintroduced into society with the same problems that got us in trouble in the first place.

Until it is understood that most crimes committed by addicts are committed simply to feed their addiction, and until our addictions are viewed as medical issues and treated rather then locking us up and forgetting about us, the same vicious cycle will continue to repeat itself, our jails and prisons will continue to be over crowded, and so many good people – people who can be rehabilitated and reintroduced into society as productive and contributing members – will be forever lost in the system. This cycle has been repeating itself over and over for years ending with the same unsatisfactory result. It’s the very definition of insanity and something needs to change.

I guess I went into the previous to paint a picture. There are many people here that don’t necessarily belong here, and the way we’re treated in this place will change us forever. This place can turn the purest of heart, the nicest person you know, into evil, devious, conniving people. It’s so easy to lose yourself in a place like this, and some people never come back. The saddest part is, because of the things you see and have to deal with, it’s understandable how people can turn so drastically.

With the exception of a few, and the greatest thanks to them and for them, the overall general attitude of the staff is “who cares”. And the ones that do care are so overworked and overwhelmed they don’t have time to do anything about it. For example: I was transfered back here to SCRJ after undergoing a diagnostic evaluation where I injured my knee and was confined to a wheelchair. After the booking process a guard by the name of Bowles was instructed to escort me to medical where I was to be housed until my knee healed. The guard told me to “grab a mat” to take with me to sleep on. Being in a wheelchair without the use of my left leg and having both hands full with two (2) bags containing my personal belongings and state issued belongings, I couldn’t even wheel myself around, let alone grab my own mat. When I stated that fact, C.O Bowles responded, “It aint my problem. It aint in my job description.” He wouldn’t even push me down the hall. A trustee had to grab my mat and push me to medical. But honestly this is nothing compared to some of the things that go on here.

Officer Duran along with several other C.O’s were given the option to resign or be terminated for their part in the excessive injury of an inmate. You many want to look more into this, talk to the guy if you can. His name is Andre Clements. Apparently Clements and a C.O named Lewis got into a fight. Now, I’m not here to say it’s ok for an inmate to fight a C.O., but prior to this incident there were multiple people who witnessed C.O Lewis doing uncouth things to Clements. I’ve talked to a few different guys…who saw Lewis use excessive force for no apparent reason at all, like roughing him up and kicking his legs apart during pat downs, coming into his cell during cell checks and destroying his cell, throwing his personal items in the floor (cell checks generally consist of checking for proper function of lights, sinks, toilets, windows, etc.). All of these things obviously upset Clements over the 2-3 week period they were observed but the guys said he bit his tongue, held back to avoid getting in trouble. The shitty thing is, and this happens a lot, C.O Lewis just kept pushing and pushing until Clements had had enough and he snapped.

Like I said before, I’m not saying it was right, but everybody has a breaking point. You can only push a man so far. So as Lewis was once again trashing Clements’ cell, Clements hit him. Then a number of guards rushed Clements, beat the shit out of him, then after he was subdued, Duran stomped his head into cement cell floor. I was told by an unidentified source of some authority that they believe Lewis may have went in there looking for a fight with Clements. I was also told Clements was beaten so badly they took him out of the back door and around the building up to medical rather than up the hall. I’m not sure of how many were involved, but I know that since then we’ve lost a total of 5 C.O’s and I’m told that’s only because of the new camera system. I wonder how one might gain access to those videos?

For the most part we are just a number. Although sometimes we are singled out, we are rarely viewed as individuals. We are not treated with respect. A guy charged with petty larceny won’t be treated better than a murderer because he has a lesser charge. In here we are criminals, not people. Our punishment doesn’t end with the the loss of our freedom and privileges, we’re also stripped of our dignity and pride.

What few “rights” we are legally promised are not guaranteed and often not fulfilled. We legally have the right to send and receive mail, but I know for a fact myself, and countless others, have been sent numerous letters that we haven’t received….

And who do we turn to? Who do we tell how we were treated A corporal? A sergeant? The administrator? Hell, we’re lucky if our request forms make it to some of these guys. File a grievance you say? That’ll get lost on its way up the hall.

Now I have a story for you about the contact visits. Remember my friend Rusty Eads I told you about? He’s a very close friend of mine, on of the best people I know. He struggles with addiction like me, but he’s one of the lucky few who hasn’t slipped through the cracks (this time), and he’s here waiting on a bed to open up at rehab. :) Well, he asked me to help him write a letter to you to explain his experience with the recent “contact visit” situation. I’d do anything to help this guy, and I’ll explain the situation, but i must quote what he wrote to me about how it made him feel because I couldn’t possibly begin to explain the emotion he was able to convey with his words. You’ll not be able to read it with dry eyes.

Rusty’s a brand new daddy, proud as he can be. His fiance, Amber, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Karlie on February, 9, 2014. He got to spent about 15 minutes with his brand new family, 15 minutes of pride and joy holding his newborn baby girl before he was arrested for a warrant and put in jail. I don’t have words to express how much he loves this little girl, how proud he is of her and to be a daddy, and how hurt he is that he’ stuck in jail instead of out there with his family providing for them, watching baby Karlie grow up. He has such a big heart and I’ve personally witnessed how it tears him up inside not to be a part of her life. If he wasn’t such a strong individual, I don’t think he could’ve made it this far without a breakdown. A weaker man would’ve snapped.

Since Karlie was born he’s made it through with phone calls, letters, and pictures of her. She’s so cute! And looks just like her daddy; hair, nose, and all. There’s no denying her :)  Well, after being incarcerated for 30 days we are allowed contact visits. This would allow Rusty and his family a chance to touch; hug and kiss at the beginning and end of the visit. This would also allow Rusty to hold his baby girl for the duration of the visit. So after the weather warmed up and Amber felt that baby Karlie was up for a trip to see Daddy. she set up a contact visit. It was all Rusty could think and talk about. Not even a week before the visit (which, BTW, when the visit was scheduled contact was still allowed) a sign was posted in the window notifying everyone of the “no contact rule” during contact visits. Rusty was furious, but more than anything, hurt. Yet another right stripped away. I can’t imagine how he felt. Waiting all of that time to finally hold his first baby again, then this blow to the gut. I told him we had to let you guys know. He agreed but didn’t think he could get out the right words. When I asked him what he wanted to say, how he felt during the visit, he wrote me this, “Hey, about the letter over our contact visits I’d like for you to do your best, I’m not very good at explaining how i feel… But this might help you…. My visit wasn’t good. It was nice to see my baby girl but at the same time it hurt, I wanted to feel her in my arms, kiss her and hug her. Not being able to kiss, hold, or hug your only baby that isn’t even 3 months old is very hard. Plus, on top of that, I’ve touched her one time in our lives… Hard, hard, very hard bro. I just wanted to walk over there and pick her up, hug her and kiss her, tell her daddy loves her. It was a sad one bro, very sad.

Reading this completely ripped my heart out. There are a lot of questionable things that take place here. Things that should be looked into, violation of rights that should be investigated. But if nothing else comes out of this at least the public should know. Some of them have aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers or maybe some of them have been here. We’re people, too. We may have made some mistakes, but we’re still people. Something to think about.

Well man, I hope you are well and everything is ok out there. Please feel free to use this letter for anything you need it for, website, news, etc. All parties mentioned with the exception of the C.O’s in question and Andre Clements (he’s in the hole) are aware of their presence in this letter and are willing participants. Tell Margaret and your other two friends that I met (I’m horrible with names) that I said hello and feel free to write me. I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you again. Good luck, and take care :)

Ray

Ps- I Finally got the Harlan Coben book you guys sent me. Thank you so much! Let me know if there’s anything more I can do for you! Get our stories out there! Thanks again for everything, It means more than you know!