This is the third in our series of posts by Tyler who received several life sentences for an armed robbery he took part in when he was 17. No one was injured in the “stick-up” but that did him no good when it came to sentencing.

by Tyler (June 1, 2014)

I live on a prison yard that was created for one major purpose – to safely house convicts who have denounced their affiliation with or membership in gangs. It is known as a gang “drop out” yard. In theory, this yard is dedicated to promoting a healthy way of incarceration. I say “in theory” because it is not always the case.

eddd2Not everyone comes to this yard with the intention to become a better person. You still have to navigate through inmates who may have denounced their gangs, but not their predatory natures. You still have to deal with them and some corrections officers who have become abusive because of what they deal with in the system or because that is their nature, too. So, to fully benefit from a “drop out yard” you must be smart, intuitive and have a strong sense of identity and character.

Actually, in most prison yards, the opportunity to rehabilitate yourself does not exist. At least here, you have a chance. For that, I am grateful.

But the old life is never far away.

eddd3A few weeks back, I was walking the yard when the alarm sounded. Immediately after that, the tower guard yelled through the loudspeaker for all inmates to “GET DOWN!” When that happens, you better sit down all the way down on the ground wherever you are, or suffer the consequences.

As I was sitting down, the instincts I have developed over nearly twelve years of prison had me scanning the surroundings to see where the danger was. Pepper spray rode the breeze, irritating the back of my throat. I heard somewhat distant shouts from guards, “GET THE FUCK DOWN!” That’s when I realized the problem was on another yard, close to mine.

Shotgun blasts told me that the “block guns” were out and I knew someone was getting hit with the rubber blocks those guns coughed up. The pop of the guns almost felt like the blows of the rubber blocks in my gut as I remembered my time on other yards.

A heavier wave of pepper spray barreled over, covering about a quarter of our yard with a yellow-orange cloud. Suddenly, officers of our yard streamed out of the housing building, outfitted in riot gear. They were on their way to the trouble.

Shouting and chaos continued. Then I heard the rifle shots cracking from the tower – live rounds. Serious stuff was “jumping off.”

My heart was pounding against the inside of my chest as the adrenaline rushed through me. I closed my eyes tight and flew back in time to the days of survival and battle on the main line. Even though it had been eight years since I had any real altercation, the feelings that rose up to the surface made it seem like it was only yesterday. Maybe it’s just muscle memory, but I was swept back to those years between 17 and 21 when I was fighting for my life almost daily. My body and brain were ready to fight for my life again, if that’s what it came to. Just the sounds and the smells brought it all rushing back. On the main line, I had a target on my back. Survival was all I had on my mind. When you are in life and death situations, survival better be all you think about, or you will end up dead.

eddd5But I am not there anymore. I am here. Here in the “drop out yard,” the people who advocate for rehabilitation – some employees of the system, some volunteers and some inmates – have a chance to help themselves and people like me who made stupid decisions but finally saw through the chaos to something meaningful. I am so grateful for this yard. It’s far from perfect, but it is a place where Hope still has a fighting chance. And I am grateful to the people who believe that rehabilitation is real and worth pursuing. To them I say thank you for helping me recover my true self before it was too late.

There are others on the main line who would like the chance I have been given. I hope they get it. I hope the system changes to make this kind of yard the mainline and leave the battle for survival to those who do not care to rehabilitate themselves.

Thanks for reading.

Tyler

 

Click here to view Tyler’s previous posts:

“Behind and Beyond the Wall”: The Gift of Freedom

“Behind and Beyond the Wall”: Tyler’s Story of Finding Life in Darkness

 

7 Responses to “Behind and Beyond the Wall”: Tyler’s Life and Death on the Mainline

  1. Rick says:

    Nick – You’ve written another moving post. I’m glad that you have turned your life around and that there’s a gang “drop out yard,” at your prison facility. I hope that you can obtain release from prison in the near future because God knows that you were seriously over-sentenced for your crime. Good luck.

  2. Jo-Anne says:

    What a bloody great post

  3. Veruca salt says:

    I don’t know if Tyler or his father read these comments but I would like to say well done to both of them. My heart, thoughts and prayers to out to you both. Tyler, you’ve shown amazing courage and maturity, even inside where it’s much easier to be negative and mad at the world. You aren’t alone. I’ve spent a small amount of time in your shoes and know how the hopelessness and frustration. You are a brave young man. Keep strong.

  4. Nicholas Frank says:

    Thanks all. Tyler cannot see the comments online where he is, but I make sure to let him know what people are writing. He is very encouraged and grateful, as am I.

    Nick

  5. […] “Behind and Beyond the Wall”: Tyler’s Life and Death on the Mainline […]

  6. denise says:

    Beautiful writing, have you considered being a writer?
    Your lawyer had to have been drugged out for you to get the sentence you received.
    Prayers for an earlier release.
    We would all like to be kept updated as to your situation.

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      Tyler is a fine writer. Unfortunately, his case wasn’t handled properly but it was largely because he was young and foolish and insisted on going to trial. If you read Tyler’s earlier posts, you’ll be updated on the facts…

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