I’ve been incarcerated since Bush was President, but have only recently started blogging. I thought I would fill you in on the years in prison leading up to where I am today.
July 16th was the day of the verdict. While waiting for the jury to decide my fate, I sat at the Blue Sky Bagels in downtown Boise, eating a turkey sandwich and drinking Diet Pepsi. My wife (at the time), my parents, and I all played amateur oddsmakers and debated the likelihood of a guilty or not guilty verdict. We then moved to the lobby of The Grove, Boise’s finest hotel, and drank sodas while waiting for the call (which came four hours later) telling us the verdict was in.
It was bad news. As I was still in my suit (minus the tie and belt) I sat in the lobby of Ada County Jail, waiting to be processed. An attractive woman in her early 20s sat next to me — she was also waiting to be booked in. We were watching TV and struck up a conversation. I knew this might be the last conversation I would have with a woman for the next 15 years, so I wanted to make a good first (and last) impression. She was smiling, flirting, and laughing at my jokes. Her arm even brushed against mine. It was great. Until, that is, the 6 o’clock news came on the TV. “NEWMAN GUILTY” was the oversized headline displayed beneath a video of me at the courthouse just hours earlier I was wearing the same suit. The prosecutor was telling the reporter how Boise “can sleep better tonight knowing such a dangerous man is off the streets.”
My new jail girlfriend looked at me, looked at the TV, looked back at me, then nervously moved to a seat across the room. Clearly, there would be no second date.
When I arrived at my housing unit at the jail, I was quite the celebrity. The other inmates shouted with delight, “Look! It’s the iPod guy! It’s the iPod guy from TV!” They had been following the news of my trial, on their dayroom TV, and were convinced I would have been found not guilty. (Why weren’t they on my jury?!)
I ended up in a four-man cell with three good cellmates. People in prison know that sex offenders, while universally despised in prison, generally make the best cellmates. They’re typically quiet and passive. They don’t have brain damage from heavy drug use. They don’t fight, don’t steal, don’t have loud and obnoxious friends…er, homies. Most sex offenders are intelligent, many are college graduates. Many keep to themselves and read science fiction novels. In prison they’re considered the “lames,” which is the opposite of the “solids.” But trust me, lames make better cellmates than solids. The lamer the better. And if you ask a lame, he just might tell you that SOLID is a moniker for “Sex Offender Living In Denial.” Sometimes it’s true, sometimes not.
In my cell was: a guy who molested his stepdaughter, a guy who pimped out teenage girls on Craigslist, and a 21–year-old with a 16-year-old girlfriend. On the hierarchy of lames, the latter would be the most solid, the least lame. (Anyone interested in a fascinating novel which discusses the hierarchy of sex offenders in a prison setting should check out “Lost Memory of Skin” by Russell Banks. A great read, and extremely authentic fiction.)
Eight days after my trial, my now ex-wife, Jennifer, came to visit me at the jail to tell me she had a new boyfriend now. That they were dating. I asked her, if by dating, she meant “hooking up.” Half ashamed, half proud, she nodded her head and meekly said, “yes.” As my throat tightened, she explained that of course she wanted to have sex with him. He made her feel special. He was affectionate, he reminded her of her first boyfriend (the model in London). I’ll spare you the intimate and large details, but suffice to say, I didn’t eat for a week. I couldn’t. Bit by bit, I was losing everything I once had. And it had only been eight days.
Just before Thanksgiving, I was bussed to prison to begin my 15 year sentence. I still remember the song that the bus driver played during the drive: “Man, I Feel Like A Woman” by Shania Twain.
When I arrived at RDU, the initial intake area where all inmates begin their prison experience, I didn’t receive such a warm welcome. I had been on the front page of the Idaho Statesman that morning, and all of the other inmates were passing the article around. Laughing at me, pointing at me, threatening me. One guy handed me a noose and told me to kill myself. At night I’d hear “kill yourself, iPod” echoing through the prison, from multiple cells. They’d throw food at me in the chow hall. Turkey hit me on the left side, cranberry sauce on the right, pumpkin pie on my back. The guy next to me in the shower my first night advised me to get on some heavy medication so I could completely zone out. He said I was gonna need it, because it was gonna be a rough 15 years for me.
I spent the majority of my RDU time in my cell, where I read a dozen books and began writing my first novel. The story was about an 11-year-old boy who is convicted of manslaughter and ends up doing time in an adult prison, and sharing his insights about his experience from, naturally, a child’s point of view. It was a captivating novel….at least the 33 pages that I wrote. Maybe one day I’ll finish it.
Final Note: I have published a creative non-fiction essay, describing this phase in my life in greater detail — in particular the days leading up to my trial. Anyone interested in reading it can purchase “This Side of My Struggle” by Dr. Nandi S. Crosby. It’s available on Amazon. My story is titled “Mind Games.” I recommend the book for any sociology, psychology, or true crime fanatics. It’s filled with well-written non-fiction stories from a variety of inmates, each describing a different experience in prison.
Categories: Stephen Newman