The Warden (by Guest Blogger Timothy Earl)

Timothy Earl is 42, single, in joint legal and physical custody of two, and writes as Ravenswood Jack from 7200 feet above sea level in a valley between the arms of the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming.

I was glad to be meeting Duane – the warden at Wyoming State penitentiary – within a month of my shackled arrival. For weeks, I’d been in double-bunked solitary confinement. The meeting signalled my release into the general population after the evaluation period. I was on my ass in a chair outside Duane’s orange office with some stranger, waiting in line to talk to him like everyone else.

When my turn came, the officer standing nearby took off my cuffs. I’d watched him un-cuff, wait for, and re-cuff two or three before me. It was an astonishing treat to be so trusted with my hands in the presence of the warden. There were administrative workers, not security people, everywhere.

Duane was smiling. He had rolled up short sleeves, and was armed. I was aware without any threat from him that he was capable of kicking my ass. There was no insincerity in his way of looking right into my eyes through his glasses. He was deep-chested, shorter than I, shaved, and wore a heavy watch. His collar was unbuttoned, maybe even one button too low. He was in his early 60's, and in good shape. His handshake was really something.

I was at eye level, both feet on floor, seated across a big 1970's desk with the things he wanted me to think about facing me, and the things he wanted to think about facing him.
“Tim? Do you go by Tim?”
“Yes, sir. I'm Tim.”
“Tim you seem like a pretty nice kid, pretty easy to get along with, right? I got your letter. I'm glad you're here. Don't turn out to be a heavy, Tim. Just don't. I'll send you right back where you came from. Ok?”
“Ok! And thank you.”
“All right now. They'll get you back over there, and you'll be out on the yard getting set up soon. Ok?”
“Ok. Bye, Duane.”
“Bye, Tim.”

Duane had started there in the mid 70's. All of the staff were important to him. Think of it this way: your cuffs are off, you're brand new there, and if Duane can't be alone in his office with you without handcuffs, you can't really expect to be placed in medium security like I was hoping to be. Duane was man enough to face thousands of convicts alone in his office without handcuffs. I didn't want to stand out, and I didn't.

He never forgot my name. Although I was a convict, he treated me like I was a person named Tim who was in a lot of trouble, and his presence gave me the feeling that things would be okay, and that the security people around me had a reasonable man to answer to.

Welcome to the Wyoming State Penitentiary. I'm Timothy Earl, inmate 15642. Maybe you'd better let me show you around:

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Shaun Attwood


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I know that my contribution isn't for everyone. I'm trying to be sympathetic about characters in a pretty unforgiving place.

Anonymous said...

Go easy on Tim! I think it's interesting because we haven't had a description of a warden here at JJJ.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, pal. Much obliged. Truth is, I've been out almost as long now as I was in now, and as I reflect I more easily acknowledge the humanity of each of the people I encountered inside. Listen, this is a tough point, and often it's difficult to express its like in this sort of forum, but here you go: It is of course cultural anathema for a convict to be asked to think of himself as equally worthy of consideration of some sort or even as part of the same species as a child molester, but that they are. Both human. For better or worse. Even the warden you feed when you flush the shitter is a son, a father. I suggest to you in my blog that it is too easy to think of people as defined best by what they do, or as only equal to the worst of their crimes. Total bullshit, chuck.

It reduces the human dignity of all the people we find near us when we see ourselves as better somehow than ANY segment of our population. You're not better than a child molester. You're not. They're sick, yeah, and often so perverse that our first response is similar to seeing a mouse run through the kitchen. Even strong men can recoil in the kneejerk loathing that is inborn to us when we see vermin, but the strongest men and women are able to just get up and deal with the infestation somehow. Mice are tiny little animals. We need perspective. Pedophiles and mass murderers and whatever else you've got -- all people. Hitler was a person. I am a person. You are a person, and a person is a person, no matter how small. To make them less than that is too miss the lesson we might learn about our more average selves from them. It is in some of us to rape. It's in some of us to do much worse. Those are human behaviors. We must own them. We're primates, yes, but we needn't act like gorillas. We can isolate, treat, and try to re-integrate almost anyone. Most people in prison are there for absurd property crimes and dope, not shankings on streetcorners. To hear the American jailhouse myths before you arrive is to hear of a land where everyone is armed and just dying to make the bloodbath start on their own whenever necessary. And assfucking. They love to sodomize each other by force. Am i right, yanks?

That's bullshit. Most men in prison are just like the men outside. They'll fight, sure, but they don't want to all the time. They're human, human. They want to fuck, but if they're straight they're not just going to start being gay inside. They would never rape or inappropriately touch anyone. I'm just working in my own limited way to shine the same light on every character, and to show the similarities so that without ever mentioning it directly the point might be received. I appreciate the comments very much!


Anonymous said...

I take back the yawn comment. It's true there hasn't been much on wardens and I truly respect anyone who's gone through the system..I spent one night in a jail and experienced emotions I never thought I had. Anyway, this was well written and in retrospect, very interesting.

Tony Roberts said...

You should post more on your blog RWJ, I enjoyed reading the posts so far.


IntelligentPoorBastard said...

Very glad I found this blog. I have a feeling you and I are going to get to know each other well my friend.