Everything You Wanted To Know About Being On Probation Without Having to Commit a Crime to Find Out

I’ve shared quite a few stories from jail, but once being locked up was done, my experience with the criminal justice system was hardly over. Jail is really just the middle part. At first you have the court system to wind your way through. That took me 22 months. Then, jail was 6 months. The final part, probation, is 36 months in my case. As of this writing, I’m now less than 10 months away from it being done.

When I was in jail, I learned that many inmates took longer sentences so probation would not be part of their lives upon leaving lock-up. I couldn’t understand why they’d make that decision. Isn’t a month in jail and two years of probation a better deal than three months in jail? At least you’re free.

When I first visited my lawyer, he suggested that we pitch a long-term probationary period of like 8 years to the DA and judge, while trying to keep me out of jail completely. That didn’t happen, and looking back now, I’m glad.

The judge, at your sentencing, also creates the terms of your conditional release, better known as probation. There’s the boilerplate stuff, like no committing other crimes, but then they will tailor things to your specific case. For instance, I was not allowed to move home with my family after jail until I passed a polygraph stating I’d never put my hands on a child. I knew I’d pass it with flying colors, but I still had to live with my parents for about three months after I got out while waiting for it to be scheduled. And while I knew I would pass, I was anxiety-ridden over the possibility of a false positive.

I was also forced to join a weekly sex offenders’ support group. Once I was deemed ready, which took about a year, I was moved to a monthly support group. I’ve grown to enjoy the group, so I’ll probably continue when I’m off probation, but as for now, if I don’t attend this group, which costs $40 per session (that’s $160/monthly in the weekly group – a large amount for some of the guys) I can be put back into jail.

That’s really the thing about probation, while it’s not difficult, there are so many strings attached that it’s like a black cloud hanging over my head. The specter of being sent back to jail always looms.

I first had to report every two weeks to the probation officer who handled sex offenses. He was supposed to have 30 people to oversee, but had closer to 80. After proving I was trustworthy over seven or eight months, I was transferred to a different PO that handled every kind of criminal.

POs are allowed to drop by and do a search of your house at any time. My first PO visited once in the beginning and my second PO did the same. I think their caseloads are just so large that they don’t have the time to make visits to people they don’t believe are at a high risk of recidivism.

My PO only sees me at the office once a month now, and most of the time his only question to me is, “Do you need anything from me this month?” and the answer is no. I’m guessing that they can tell that I am the kind of person who made a terrible mistake, follow the rules they provided me and am not going to be any trouble. I couldn’t just say that in the beginning, I had to prove it to them over time.

Most of the people I came in contact with in jail, and in the waiting room of probation, are there for drug violations that happened while they were on probation. They have a true addiction and despite getting nailed for having drugs at some point, the risk of being put back in jail is nothing compared to the demon of addiction, so they use again. Most who violate their probation are nabbed via a dirty urine test.

These are the people who will take a sentence of three months in jail and no probation instead of one month in jail and two years of probation. If they are not on probation, they can’t violate probation. Most have no interest in curbing their habit, or available support to even try, so skipping probation is the safest way to legally return to their habit. Nobody will be testing their urine.

While it was far worse in the beginning, I still get nervous on the days I go to probation. The PO has the right to determine I did something wrong (even if it’s not illegal for the rest of you) and bring me to jail. I haven’t even come close, but knowing that could happen ruins my day.

I did six months in jail and got three years of probation. Knowing what I know now, if I could have done an extra month in jail for those three years, I would have said yes. It would have meant no nerve-wracking polygraphs, no asking for permission when I want to leave the state, no court-mandated support groups, no $10 monthly fee for simply being on probation, no sick feelings when the first Monday of the month rolls around.

I now feel like I’m just playing out the clock, but much like I breathed a sigh of relief the day I left jail, I’m going to exhale just as deeply my last day of probation.

 

The Wildest Thing That Happened to Me in Jail

Note: I haven’t told a good jail story in a while. I know this is long, but I think it’s a pretty good story. Thanks for reading.

 

The story I’ve already shared (read it HERE) about a week-long diet of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups may have been the strangest thing I did in jail, but it didn’t hold a candle to when a few guys who didn’t like me tried to get me removed from our pod. It was by far the wildest thing that happened to me while I was in jail. There’s no porn addiction in this story, but I still think it’s worth telling.

What you have to understand is that everybody in jail thinks they are smarter than they are. The morons think they are slightly less moronic and the geniuses think they are super geniuses. Also, when you put 10-15 men in a room that comfortably fits only 6-8, you’re going to have tensions rise from time-to-time.

By the time I was four months into my six-month stay, I had settled in quite well. I’d wake up early, do my job of cleaning the pod (which gave me time off my sentence) while everyone slept, read the newspaper and write my book or letters until lunch. After lunch, I spent most of the time in my bunk, either reading or writing. I was friendly to the three or four guys who had been there almost as long as me, but it took me a while to warm up to new people, much like it does in the real world.

There was one long-termer who just didn’t click with me. We’ll call him Doug. He was one of these faux-spiritual types who liked to talk about paganism, dark magic, being in tune with nature, blah, blah, blah. He liked to talk about how tough he was, but at 5’11” and 150 pounds, he didn’t seem like much of a threat. He did, however, have quite a bit of charisma.

He was probably in his later 30s, certainly old enough to fit in with the older guys in the pod, but he chose to buddy-up with the younger guys and somehow become their de facto leader. He always had two or three guys who he could rev up and get to believe anything.

In a lot of ways, Doug thought he was the most popular guy in the pod, sitting at the nice table at lunch, dictating who else sat with him, trying to manipulate the TV watching schedule and always doing well at cards. I think he took it as a personal affront I had no interest in learning to play spades.

* * * * * * * * *

Now, you have to understand just how big the media circus was around me during the two years between my arrest and sentencing. Every court appearance came with TV cameras and I was almost assured to be on the front page of the newspaper, even if it was just me saying I understood the charges. I couldn’t enter the courthouse without being harassed by media. I took it in stride, though, since it had once been my job.

Three days before I was scheduled to report, the newspaper ran a big overview story of what had happened to me. The day before I reported, a journalist friend wrote a gut-wrenching column about how he thought he’d seen it all until his friend was nabbed for encouraging a teenager to take her clothes off online.

Both of these articles were in the papers delivered to the pod shortly before I got there. It didn’t take long to recognize everybody knew exactly who I was when I showed up.

One of the guys, Bryan, who ended up being the closest friend I had in there, told me early on that there was a belief I was “protected.” In an ironic twist, when I served on my City Council, I took the place of the guy who was now the sheriff of the county. He and I knew each other in passing, and he endorsed my candidacy, but we were hardly friends.

I was not at all protected by anybody, but I knew that Bryan had spread the belief that I was not somebody to be messed with or they’d all get in trouble. I didn’t do anything to dismiss that belief, but I didn’t play into it until I was forced.

* * * * * * * * *

Around the four-month mark, I had come to recognize just how poorly some people rationed their commissary purchases. They’d go through their chocolate bars or potato chips and have days left before a new order came in. When they got desperate, they’d go to somebody who still had treats left and make a deal that if they gave them one candy bar now, that they would pay back two candy bars later.

I decided to open up a little store and within three weeks, I probably had $500 worth of treats and never needed to purchase anything. I made a killing on two-to-one deals. Members of Doug’s little “gang” were among my best clients, but really hated having to pay me back extra. You could sense how much it pained them.

They stayed up very late playing cards and being loud, less because they needed the recreation, but I think more to assuage their oppositional defiance disorder. It was irritating and I often asked them to be quiet, sometimes not too nicely.

One night, around 1 a.m., I was awoken by a guard who told me to go with him. We went into the hallway where one of the sheriff’s deputies was standing.

“Have you been strong-arming people for food?” he asked.

“What?”  I asked, still in a daze.

“We got a note dropped that said you’re strong-arming people for food.”

I laughed. We would send our mail, or other requests on paper under the door. Somebody sent a note about me after I went to sleep.

“I wouldn’t even know how to do that. I think they’re upset with me for making deals their stomach wished they didn’t,” I said.

The sheriff’s deputy laughed.

“Yeah, I didn’t think you did anything, but watch your back with these guys.”

I was let back into the pod and the deputy yelled out, “Whoever is dropping false notes needs to understand we will throw you down into max for wasting our time. Quit your card playing and go to bed.”

Doug and his little posse got up from the table and went to the other side of the pod, probably 60 feet away, and much nearer my bed.

“Nobody here likes you, Shea,” said Doug.

“Yeah, why don’t you ask to be transferred?” said one of his minions, Randy, who also happened to be his cousin.

“Guys, store is closed. I’m wiping your tab, you owe me nothing, and we’re done,” I said, not wanting to deal with their crap.

“You don’t just cancel someone’s debt. What do you want from us?” said Randy.

“Nothing. Peace and quiet at night. I don’t want anything, but please, don’t drop notes on me. If you have a problem, be a man and come to me. The note thing is quite a bitch move and I’m really the last person you want to try to do anything to in here…and I think you know what I mean.”

“You don’t stand for anything. That’s your problem,” said Doug. “We stand for something.”

“if you want to tell me what you stand for, do it tomorrow, I’m going to sleep.”

From the bunk next to me, Bryan whispered, “Well played.”

* * * * * * * * *

Five days later, shortly before dinner, a guard came into our pod.

“Shea, get your stuff, including your mattress, let’s go!”

I was confused. I knew I wasn’t getting out as I still had 7 or 8 weeks left on my time.

The same sheriff from the first time was waiting for me in the hall.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Well, we got a note dropped while you were at visiting hours saying that you’ve been going into the bathroom while guys are taking showers or on the toilet and watching them,” he said.

I laughed out of shock.

“Are you serious?” I asked.

“Yeah, and listen, I don’t believe it. We already talked to Bryan and he told us what’s really going down, but when somebody makes an allegation of sexual nature, we have to take it seriously. We’re putting you into the room across the hall.”

That pod was slightly smaller and had a few less people, but in moving into the new pod, I lost my morning cleaning job. With the time I had left, that meant about 15 extra days in jail I wouldn’t have had to serve.

So, I wrote to the commanding officer about my concern and said that with the fact there is no proof and Bryan’s word, that should be enough. They told me I needed more. Thankfully, there was a guy in my new pod that transferred from my former pod. He left because Doug’s group harassed the hell out of him. He didn’t want to deal with it and refused to point the finger at them when he made his request to move.

I spoke to this guy and in exchange for three packages of coffee and a bag of Doritos, he agreed to tell the commanding officer what happened. With three of us, it was much more believable.

Through the window in our door, we saw Doug’s clique marched out, one-by-one, to the small room near our pods for questioning. They interviewed four guys. After three of them, including Doug, returned to my old pod, they went directly to their bunk, grabbed their things, including their mattress and headed to the elevator. That meant they were going downstairs.

After the four interviews, the door in the pod I spent the last three days in was buzzed open.

“Shea get your stuff,” barked the guard. “You’re going back.”

The irony was, I only wanted to go back for my cleaning job to get out earlier. I actually liked the people in the new pod more. I took two big handfuls of commissary junk food out of my bag and put it on my bed.

“You guys were very cool to me, split this up fairly,” I said.

I think they were sad to see me go, but glad to get the treats.

“These idiots don’t know how to keep their story straight,” said the same sheriff’s deputy that had been handling everything. “Nothing is going on your record, as far as we’re concerned, this never happened.”

“I’m not going to have to deal with those other guys again, am I?” I asked.

“Doug was sent to maximum since he was the mastermind and the other two are in medium. If any of them come back up here, they won’t go in the same pod as you.”

* * * * * * * * *

I got back to my original pod and Bryan came over and quickly attributed my coming back to his testimony, which did help, but also with the fact that I was “protected” from up on high.

“The minute you went to that other pod, I was telling those guys it was the biggest mistake they made here,” said Bryan. “Now Doug gets one 5-minute phone call and he’s isolated 23 hours a day. He deserves it.”

“I’m just glad I have my cleaning job back,” I said.

I didn’t go to the weekly church service, but Bryan returned from it a week or two after this ordeal and told me that Randy and the other minion told him to apologize for them. I didn’t hold a grudge. They got caught up in Doug’s charisma.

Bryan was released about two weeks before I left, which made those last two weeks longer, but many of us joked about the fact those four numbskulls thought they’d get the best of me. The one that didn’t get in trouble largely just kept to himself until he was sentenced to state prison.

People in jail are inept criminals. We all got caught. That’s lost on a lot of people in there who like to posture that they are tougher or smarter than they really are.

A few months back, I was reading the newspaper and Doug was in it. He and his girlfriend were busted for having something like 30 animals in their tiny apartment. They clearly loved them and would take cats, dogs, birds, rodents, reptiles or whatever when somebody moved. Apparently, they broke a ton of city ordinances with their home zoo.

Doug was immediately brought to jail for breaking his probation. I’m sure he hatched a brilliant plan to keep the animals at the apartment. Like his “Josh is watching us in the bathroom” plan, it just didn’t work out as he had envisioned.

 

Another Jail Story: Visiting Days

Having visitors is a weird thing in jail. It’s awesome to see your loved ones, but they are seeing you at your absolute worst and the picture in their head of you in a jail uniform talking through glass isn’t something that I think will ever leave their mind. I can understand why some inmates choose not to see anybody if they’re doing a short stint.

In my world, traditional visiting days for minimum and medium security inmates were Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and Saturday nights. If you’d been there for more than 30 days, every other Sunday afternoon were “contact visits.”

I was extremely lucky that my parents visited every Thursday, sometimes bringing my son, while my wife came alone on Tuesdays. My wife and one of the kids came on Saturday nights. If I had a contact visit, she brought both.

I’m so grateful that nearly three hours of my week was spent with loved ones. I mentioned many choose not to, but the sad fact is for many of my fellow inmates, even those who were there for a long time, they didn’t have anybody who wanted to come visit or it was extremely rare.

The regular visiting room was actually two smaller rooms, with a long window in each room that was double paned plexiglass all scratched-up to shit. On the bottom 20% of the plexiglass, abutting a metal table was a large grate. It looked like a long cheese grater and that was what you talked through. There were no phones like in the movies and the place echoed like crazy.

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This is the visiting room where “contact visits” were allowed. Families would sit in the inner section, with inmates on the outer. Want to hear a terrific irony? That’s Sheriff Eric Samson. He’s the man who I replaced on the Auburn City Council when I won my race in 2011. Funny how things work out sometimes.

There were a limited number of spots for each visiting time based on the layout of the room, but we were never denied a spot. On a few days, we were the only people in the room. It’s sad, especially when someone in my pod would posture like they didn’t care, but you could tell otherwise.

Anything out of the ordinary in jail is good. I often told people I didn’t feel like I was doing hard time, I was just doing long time. Breaking up the monotony was important and seeing my wife or someone else was good. It kept me connected to the outside world. It was the same reason I called home every single day while I did my time.

If you ended up in the same room with someone who talked loud, it could be a bitch to try and communicate with the person visiting you on the other side of the glass. It was a challenge when the other inmate and their visitor started arguing, which happened a lot of the time with the younger inmates and their girlfriends. I’d see the female often carrying a baby in her arm and just know that kid already had a strike against him in the ballgame of life. I often felt more sad seeing the real-life characters from the stories people told back in the pod than seeing my own family. We were doing OK, everything considered.

The contact visit room had a couple long table running the length of the room. Visitors sat on the inside and inmates were against each wall. In both rooms, visitors were seated before inmates were allowed in. As far as contact went, it was only a hug at the end, but it was a sliver of normalcy every few weeks that made waiting until release data a little easier, and a little harder.

Ironically, it’s not until you’re put in a position to sit and talk to someone for an hour that you realize how rarely you actually do that. After a few weeks in jail, I commented to my wife that I had to think about what I was saying so I wouldn’t repeat myself because there was always two hours of visits, at least a 15-minute phone call every day and I probably wrote a dozen multi-page letters to her while I was in jail as well. There’s just so much you can say when nothing is happening in your life.

I kept having to remind my mother that fact when she’d ask how things were going. Nothing ever changed, so I didn’t have much to say. There wasn’t a lot of negative or positive to talk about. It’s hard enough to come up with an hour of material on the outside, where my life was busy, much less to try and generate talking points in a place that is all about boring routine.

I was always happy to see my visitors and several other friends offered to visit, but I was allowed just so many on my list. The best visits were when I was sitting in the contact room on one side and my kids and wife were on the other and we were near a window where we could look out and see a spot that we’d drive by multiple times a day when things were normal. We could tease each other a little, laugh and it was a brief respite from the actuality of the situation. That was like finding gold in a coal mine.

Remember, this all happened because I let my alcohol and pornography addictions get out of control. I never thought they would. I managed to hide them for 20 years, but you can’t hide things forever. If you don’t take care of your problem, jail is where you could end up. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. Get help.

So How Was the Food in Jail?

It’s been about a month since I wrote about jail, and following the response I got about the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Experiment, I figured I’d talk about the food situation. There are a lot of guys who gain weight in jail, but I actually lost it. I ended up serving six months and six days, and came out about 20 pounds lighter than I went in.

The food was terrible. Breakfast was raisin bran with a side of toast and peanut butter most mornings. Twice a week the toast was replaced with nasty scrambled eggs and twice a week the raisin bran was replaced with nasty oatmeal. Once a month we’d get a coffee cake or something exotic, usually the result of a bakery donating food instead of tossing it out, I was told. A small carton of juice – usually orange or apple – rounded out breakfast.

Lunch was most often a sandwich with some form of mystery meat. Dinner was just the mystery meat in stew form. Despite having many myths about jail dispelled early on the quality of food was one of the more stereotypical things I anticipated correctly.

We had trays brought to us in the pod, so there was no cafeteria time. Unless you had a visitor, needed to see the nurse, or chose to go outside for recreation time – which only happened June through October – you never left that room. I never once stepped outside that building during my entire sentence. It was a nice break from some of my fellow inmates when they went outside to pour their testosterone on the basketball court, so I stayed indoors.

I rarely ate any meat in jail and never the red meat. For side dishes, I could always count on a lot of rice, vegetable soup, cole slaw, salad and oranges and that was what I mainly ate. I’m certainly no vegetarian, but I am a bit of a snob when it comes to quality…I demand some.

While we were never given menus, those who came before me figured out we were on a rotating four-weeks schedule and what was on it, so it was never a surprise when the guards arrived at the door. I do have to admit, the once-a-month cheese lasagna was pretty good.

Despite the quality of the food, I was surprised that in my six months there, I never saw a single person get sick, or even show any digestive issues. It would have been rough if more than one person was running to the bathroom because they had some bad salami since it was only a one-person bathroom. You can read more about that situation here.

Some like me, at light while others gorged. You were either someone who gave food away or you were someone who took the food. While food was used as betting material in card games or to bribe someone to do something, it wasn’t as serious a commodity as some TV shows and movies led me to believe it would be. I never saw any intimidation tactics.

I gave my food away to my core group of long-timers, or any of the older guys who would come into the pod. If they didn’t want it, I’d offer it up to the young guys. A lot of decisions in jail are about pecking order – who sleeps or eats where, who picks what to watch on television, who is allowed extra phone time without complaint – and both my age and duration of stay played to my favor.

If I were in state prison, I’d be a short-timer, but in county jail, a six-month stay is seen as a lifetime. There were several people who arrived after I got there, left, came back and left again during my stay. Usually they had drug or domestic violence issues.

I could still be friendly with the tolerable younger guys because I wasn’t that much older than they were, but the older men saw me as one of them. It was a good position, although turning 40 years old in jail was not how I envisioned that milestone being achieved.

Along with the side dishes, I supplemented what I ate with the commissary. I’d always heard of this “jail store” where you could buy snacks, playing cards, stamps, etc. but was surprised to find for us, it was just a sheet of paper and we had to call our orders in on the one phone in the pod twice a week. That process took 20-to-30 minutes for an average order, so I made sure to do mine when most guys were sleeping. A few days later our orders arrived in plastic bags.

I loaded up on peanut butter for protein. I was also liberal with the candy bars and potato chips. Everything cost 25-40% than it did on the outside, but if I wanted a sleeve of Ritz Crackers, I was paying $4 and there wasn’t much I can do about it.

The guys who didn’t have a lot of money would often get together and chip in to make “Jail Burritos”. One would buy a bag of Doritos. Those would be crushed, along with a cup of water, to make the dough. Once rolled out, somebody contributed a sausage or two from the commissary order form. There was also cheese sauce on the commissary list and jalapeno peppers. It was all very much like the Hickory Farms stand at the mall during Christmas. Sometimes, if guys knew they were making a burrito that night, they’d save their salad from dinner and put that in there.

The giant burrito would be folded over, cut up into section and served to the four or five guys who contributed. I participated once, but found the thing so vile, I never touched it again. It was gross, but it was clever and that was one of the things I discovered about my fellow inmates. They were broken people, but many were smart and made-do with limited resources. Hearing stories of how to get high with an orange rind and stapler, or how to build a tattooing gun was fascinating.

I never saw these things in action, but I did see guys who claimed to know how to pass notes and small objects through the toilet to other pods try their skills. I don’t know that they were ever successful, but enough swore they’d seen it work. Even if it didn’t, they did know how to talk to inmates the other pods through the sink and toilet. It was kind of impressive, to be honest.

There were some true dolts in jail to be sure, but I think most simple people follow the law. Jail was full of people who gave their capacity for criminal behavior too much credit. If you ever meet somebody who has been to jail and they want you to follow their plan for bad behavior, don’t, and not just because it’s illegal. They have proven they aren’t good at being a criminal since they have a history of being caught. You’d think they’d learn…especially when they know what the food is like if they go back.

The Strangest Thing I Did in Jail

Note: The following is a 100% true story. I am transcribing directly out of one of the journals I kept while in jail in early 2016. Based on a reference early on, it was probably written in mid-April. I kid you not…this is completely legit. I have the journal to prove it.

Day 0:

First, my skeletons in case I ever sell this journal to a magazine. I am serving a jail term that will last 186 days or six months and one week in the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn, Maine. I was convicted on charges stemming from encouraging a teenage girl to engage in a sex act on her webcam. She looked like a woman but wasn’t. I allowed my pornography addiction to drift from younger women to older girls. The alcoholism didn’t help. What I did was heinous, and I expect I’ll always have to live with the pain, shame and embarrassment. I have never tried to claim innocence and try never to rationalize nor minimize the crime.

I needed to be punished, even if I sit here now a healthier version of myself than I’ve ever been. It’s been more than two years since I committed my crime and made getting better my full-time job (two rehabs, hundreds of hours of therapy) before coming here. I’m not bitter about being here. I have no right to be.

Once you get used to it, jail is fairly easy if you can keep your wits about you. Follow a few rules, take your meds without arguing and develop a tolerance for flatulence.

Nobody demands anything of me here. I’m now at the two-and-a-half-month point and I’ve settled into a regular routine of spending my days reading and writing. This place is a cross between the worst waiting room in the world and an all-male version of the TV show Big Brother.

For the last week, I’ve experience my first real bout of restlessness. I need something interesting to keep me motivated and to write about. Four days ago, I put in an order at the commissary for 50 two-cup packs of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Tomorrow at 6:30 a.m., I will begin an adventure. How long can I mentally and/or physically tolerate nothing but Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? I’ll set the goal at one week.

When else in my life will I ever be able to conduct an experiment of this variety on myself? Take that, Morgan Spurlock.

 

Day 1: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 8
Total for the experiment: 8

I thought Day 1 would be a breeze and for the most part, it has been. I noticed after around 60 days in jail my body has hard-wired itself to know what we eat here. I skipped anything at breakfast and will probably continue through this experiment, trying to eat the bulk of the cups at normal meal times later in the day.

Many of my pod mates were enthusiastic about my experiment. I don’t think they’ve met someone like me before. I think their interest in a combination of curiosity and the fact I’ll be giving my trays away at meal time.

 

Day 2: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 8
Total for the experiment: 16

I’m hungry today, like I could eat 12 cups. I have budgeted for 10 per day, But I think 6-8 may be more accurate. I guess we’ll find out.

In jail, we are on a diet of 2,000 calories. I think it’s too much since we sit or lay down 23 hours per day. There’s just not much to do here. Each Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is 105 calories with 10% of daily fat, 11% of saturated fat, 3% sodium, 4% carbs, 2.5 grams of protein, 1% of calcium and 2% iron. That means I only took in 840 calories yesterday. I’m curious if this will become more mentally or physically difficult first.

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Day 3: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 9
Total for the experiment: 25

I may be going about this the wrong way. Part of me is telling myself this is a diet, which it isn’t designed to be. If I want to lose way, I can do that during the second half of my sentence. This is only about living on peanut butter cups.

Today was fairly easy. I went the first 6 hours of the day without one but wasn’t hungry. My body still recognizes meal time physically and mentally, especially dinner. It just feels like when I did Atkins before. I have a small craving for carbs.

 

Day 4: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 9
Total for the experiment: 34

I started today with three at lunch but stopped because my stomach was feeling sketchy. I rebounded and felt fine by mid-day.

I really like the taste of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and I can’t see that changing, but they are starting to take a place mentally where they didn’t in my previous life. I’m also just starting to feel hungry for other food.

I’m considering trying to go longer than a week, but I’ll see what happens when I get there. I still can’t decide if it’s better to eat a bunch at one time or spread it out through the day.

 

Day 5: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 6
Total for the experiment: 40

Had my first two around 1:30 or 2 in the afternoon. I wasn’t hungry but felt like I should put something in my stomach. I have to remember I’m not trying to starve myself, just see how long I can eat only Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Within five minutes of eating that first pair, I wanted other food.  I don’t know if I can do this more than a week.

Today at lunch, for the first time ever, they had kiwi. I almost caved.

 

Day 6: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 9
Total for the experiment: 49

I feel a little weak today. I actually took a late morning nap for the first time since I got here. Lunch was disgusting bologna which I would have passed up anyway. Eight days seems stupid. I feel like I’m counting hours to make it to one week.

I had a mid-day headache and took Tylenol for the first time since I got here and I’m drinking a lot of water. Dinner was hot dogs and beans, which I wouldn’t have wanted anyway.

A couple of people have told me they think today is the first day they can see the physical toll this experiment is taking. I just tell myself to reach my goal I only have to forego three more meals. I think tomorrow is going to suck.

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Day 7: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 4
Total for the experiment: 53

I woke up today knowing I can soon quit this stupid experiment and will meet my goal in just a matter of hours. Knowing it’s almost done has boosted my spirit higher than it’s been in a few days. Officer Freeman told me it looked like I was losing weight. I came in here at 209. Guessing I’ll be under 200 when I leave. I can’t imagine I’m there yet, but I’ve got three months to go. If I could come out of here at 190, that would be great considering the lack of opportunity to exercise.

At 4, I had my second pack of the day. I only have to last 6 hours until I can have other food. I’ll be glad when this is over. I don’t know what I expected to happen. I think I may have broken in two or three days and given up if I really planned to keep going.

 

Day 8: Peanut Butter cups eaten today: 0

Had I gone to the store to attempt this experiment, I would have had to buy 27 of the traditional two-packs. I don’t think I’m going to eat any the rest of my time here and we’ll have to see what my relationship is like with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups after jail. Maybe this is the kind of immersion therapy people who are overweight could try if they are particularly addicted to a specific food.

When I hit the 10 p.m. mark last night, which made exactly 7 days, a pod mate made me a jailhouse burrito. It’s a burrito shell stuffed with pink sausage, crushed Doritos and jalapeno cheese – all purchased from the commissary. I’ve avoided these disgusting concoctions for almost three months but broken down when it was offered as my celebratory meal.

So, what did I learn? Aside from the fact I need projects to keep my mind occupied, not much. Jail time isn’t hard, but it’s long. It’s boring. It dulls all of the senses and makes measuring time difficult.

I know I’ll read this journal one day and think that this experiment was crazy, but I hope I have the perspective to realize that I did what I did because I needed to. This is probably the healthiest thing for my mental health. Staying healthy mentally won’t be hard on the outside after this experience.

I don’t know if jail is supposed to break your will. If it is, I won’t be broken, but I won’t ever, ever break a law that would get me here again. The only thing I had going for me this week was to live on 53 peanut butter cups. The incarceration system is not about rehabilitation.

This place sucks, and now, so do Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Note: Having read this for the first time in two years, I’m struck not as much by the experiment, but the recognition of needing to keep my mind occupied. I pulled my disconnection trick and have blocked most of what happened in jail and this reminds me of the monotony. I hope it doesn’t come off as not caring about my crime…the rest of this site should show you that I take my porn addiction very seriously and have maintained sobriety for over four years now. 

It’s interesting how I told myself that I’d one day think this experiment was crazy, and in a way, it was. It makes me wonder, though, if I could have been made to be more useful to society as part of my punishment instead of presenting this less-than-compelling data years later. Our system is broken. I don’t think you need more than this experiment to prove that.

Another Story From Jail: The Bathroom Situation

My first entry a month ago about what is what like to go to jail got more hits and likes in the first day than anything I’d ever written about before. I thought it would be a one-off, but I think it’s good to remind people where pornography addiction can lead you if you don’t learn to deal with it. I never thought I’d have to face the reality of a jail bathroom, but that’s one of the many consequences of not taking care of myself the way I should have.

Sure, there was the overarching theme of “Just Survive” as I entered my first day of jail, but if I were to delve into the specifics of the anxiety I wrestled with in the nearly two years my case played out in the legal system, I think more than half of it came from not knowing what the bathroom situation was going to be like.

I’m not a super modest person. I can shower in a room with others. I’d rather not go to the bathroom while others are watching, but I came to peace with knowing I might have to do that. My biggest fear centered on people messing with me when I was in either of those vulnerable positions.

When I got to jail on my first day, despite it being nearly 10:30 a.m., everyone was fast asleep in the “pod” I was in. The room was probably 60 feet long and about 10 feet wide through most of it. I was the 14th man in a room with 7 bunk beds that could comfortably fit half that. At one end, it opened a little where a table and chairs were and at the other end, I noticed that there was a door, presumably to the bathroom. On the handle was a cardboard hanger somebody made that said “Vacant” much like a “Do Not Disturb” hanger you’d see at a hotel better than the one the county was providing me. I quietly hopped off the bed and went to the door. The other side of the hanger said: “In Use”.

I pushed the door open into the bathroom. It was a little bigger than the bathroom in most people’s homes and had a dull gray cement floor. There was one shiny metal toilet attached to a shiny metal sink. In the corner of the room was a single shower stall, separated from the rest of the room with those big plastic/rubber flaps that come over your car at the end of the car wash.

“So, there isn’t any group showering situation,” I said to myself, able to dismiss myriads of prison movie fight scenes from my head, recognizing a huge fear had evaporated.

Later in the day, when one of the inmates wanted to take a shower, he announced loudly he was doing it and asked if anybody needed to use the bathroom. When nobody did, he just flipped the hanger over and went inside. It became the standard protocol for my time there.

Once in a while, we’d get somebody new into our pod who wanted to establish some kind of dominance in the pod. A regular way of doing this was entering the bathroom to pee when someone else was taking a shower. I guess the idea is that they don’t have to respect the wishes of someone who wants to be left alone to shower.

Just a quick aside: Years ago, I sold DVDs and CDs at a call center for parents with defiant children. In training, we learned about Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Basically, it is a condition where If I tell you to do A, you’ll do B. If I think say, “OK, fine, do B” you’ll do A. It doesn’t make any sense, but I saw a lot of people who clearly struggled with this in jail. It’s a real thing. It’s fascinating, but frustrating to be around.

While I kind of sat back and watched things going on around me for two months, after that point, a group of three or four of us who were older (I’d guess the median age was about 29 and I was a decade beyond that) and doing extended stays would put that kind of behavior to an end quickly. While I wasn’t physically imposing compared to these others, I learned quickly to represent that I could, and would have no problem fighting if necessary. I knew they’d have my back if anybody tried anything. In my almost six months there, the worst I saw were two guys take defensive postures with each other.

Most would try to diffuse the situation by just going up to someone and saying, “We don’t do that here. Stay the f out of the bathroom when someone is in there,” and if that didn’t work, I’d usually try to convince them using the kind of manipulation that partially landed me in jail.

“You know, I don’t think anybody in here has a problem with you being gay…” I would start.

“I’m not f’n gay!” the person would always respond.

“Oh, sorry. Well I don’t think that anybody would be upset if you explained that you had some kind of bladder control problem…” I would continue. “They sell adult diapers in the commissary.”

“I don’t have an f’n bladder problem,” they’d shoot back. I knew the other guys had my back as I did this and were enjoying listening from a few feet away.

“Well, I think you need to explain to everyone why you like to bust in when men are naked or going to the bathroom. If you can explain it, it’ll make it easier to deal with, because right now, everybody just thinks you’re gay or need diapers. If you don’t want them to think that, maybe you should stop barging in.”

I had to give this little talk about three times in the six months I was there.

I look back and feel a little bad that I played on their fears and insecurities, but I also try to tell myself that I was not living in a democratic society full of open-minded, kind people who wanted the greater good for all.

While the water in the shower was either drippy and freezing or turbo-charged and scalding, the overall bathroom situation was not as bad as I anticipated. I know that’s not the case at all jails or prisons, and in a way, I think part of my punishment was the anxiety I had to live with in advance of getting to jail.

Looking back, I don’t think that was such a bad thing. There was no pornography and no reason for not taking care of myself that made jail worthwhile. Lesson learned.

 

The Day I Went to Jail

I usually talk about something to do with porn addiction, but this is a bit about what happens when it comes time to face your (well-deserved) punishment. Nobody told me about porn addiction, but nobody also told me what it would be like going to jail and that weighed heavy on my mind the 22 months between arrest and sentencing. So I thought I’d go a little off-topic and share what my first day in jail was like.

The judge granted me one week between my sentencing and the day I was supposed to report to “get my affairs in order.” I think years ago if you’d have ever told me that I was in a situation where I’d have a week before I knew I was going to jail, I would have told you that I was going to form a plan to flee and live as a fugitive. When you find yourself actually in that situation, the bravado disappears. I knew doing my time would bring me that much quicker to returning to whatever normal life I could cultivate.

The truth also is, I did the crime. While I was battling mental illness and addiction, I was well aware I had both and did not take proper care of myself. That led me to eventually convincing a teenage girl to perform a sex act in a video chatroom. I didn’t know her age at the time, but that is not an excuse for my behavior. I got what was coming to me.

My wife and I stopped off at the pharmacy at 8:15 a.m. on the morning of January 22, 2014. I needed to pick up my mental health medication. The whole thing seemed routine, yet I knew that would be the end of routine. I was surprisingly calm.

Heading up the walkway into the building was surreal after my wife dropped me off. I knew I’d be stuck in the building for seven or eight months, but what that meant wasn’t registering. I think part of me started detaching from reality at that point at as a coping mechanism.

I’ve seen enough jail and prison movies to know that intake is a humiliating experience, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. I was given delousing shampoo and instructed to shower after stripping. Nobody watched me strip or shower and it was in a private stall. Following the shower, I had to show I had nothing in my ears or mouth, lifted my testicles and spread my ass cheeks and cough. The officer who was putting me through the paces seemed uninterested in doing a thorough job, much to my appreciation.

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While this was taken before I got there, this was the exact room that I stayed in during my time at Androscoggin County Jail. Photo ran with a story in the Sun Journal.

I was given a beige shirt, pants and a pair of bright orange slip-on shoes. In all, everything was actually quite comfortable, like pajamas and slippers. I wished I had underwear and socks – and I brought these things with me – but was told it would be a day or two before the officer who could release the property to me would be there.

When I asked about why I wearing tan, they told me it was for minimum security. It was the first time I was told I’d be heading to that part of the jail. He then said because of my conviction and the fact I was known in the jail community because of the media coverage, I’d be put into a protective custody pod. That meant at least one corrections officer would be stationed outside the door at all times and that I would always be accompanied by an officer when I traveled throughout the jail. I was given a plastic duffle bag to hold any possessions I acquired in the pod. Inside it were a couple bars of soap, shampoo, a tooth brush and an orientation booklet.

The first, “Huh…I never knew that” moment was looking at the toiletries. They were all “Bob Barker” brand. I went through my entire jail time thinking it was the game show host and didn’t find out until a few years later it was just some same-named dude from the Carolinas who, like me, was ironically a former publisher and elected official. He went on to make jail toiletries. I went on to use them.

Upon arriving outside the pod, I was given a mattress, a sheet and blanket. The mattress was little more than a worn-out replica of one of those mats from gym class you’d do sit-ups on. It was around 11 a.m. when I walked in for the first time. There were six bunk beds and all except one upper-bunk were full of sleeping people. I tossed my mattress on the metal frame and climbed onto my perch.

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The pod sometimes got so crowded they would bring in “boats” for people to sleep on placed on the floor. To the left you see the door to the mostly private bathroom. Photo by Sun Journal.

I made a promise to myself that I told many people during the 22 months following my arrest and reporting day. I said that the first thing I’d do when I was situated in jail was breathe a sigh of relief because I knew how much time I was doing and I knew when it would be over. Two years of not knowing really wears a person – and his loved ones – down.

So I sat on my bed and looked around at the 11 people asleep around me. This was my new reality. Every second that passed would be one second closer to being out.

Several years have passed since I left, but the jail is only about a two-minute drive my house and I probably pass it 10 times a week. About half of them I see and reflect on the fact there is an entire different culture going on inside of the building I never want to be a part of again. The other half of the time, I drive by without noticing. I’m not sure which is healthier.