Anderson Valley AdvertiserJune 30, 2004

From the Inside

Mule Creek State Prison

by Mark Sprinkle

Life with 159 cellies is a whole different world. There are very few I care to talk to let alone become friends with. The cuts are coming our way with a bang. They've taken visiting from four days a week to two days a week. A family member must stand in line now from one to four hours before even getting in to sign up for their visit. That may leave two hours for your visit, no matter what your health may be or how far you've come. Who in their right mind would ask mom and dad to drive all the way from Fontana, California, or even Boonville to Ione, to spend two and a half hours standing in the heat, or the rain, for a one and a half hour visit? You (or I) would be a selfish fool to ask grandma and grandpa to do this, let alone mom and dad. If they even get in, that is. Many are turned away every week.

The California Department of Corrections (CDC) knows how to keep a family apart! A phone call costs from $5 to $15, depending on which phone company the call goes through. And that's for only 15 minutes. Here is a little known fact: every CDC institution makes money off every phone call inmates make. I was told in 2002 that Mule Creek State Prison made over $1 million off the inmate phone system. That is just at Mule Creek State Prison! And our families are not paying a phone company — they pay CDC, which gets their cut out of every call.

We were just put on notice here at Mule Creek that as of July 1, 2004 they will stop selling all tobacco products in the canteen. This means the only tobacco that will come in will have to come in through the guards. Just like a year ago, they took lighters off the yard. But many men still use them. It's a wonder how a Bic lighter can last for a year. Don't be a fool. The guards bring 75% of all contraband into all prisons. This includes, but is not limited to, drugs, booze, even cell phones. If you have the money you can get whatever your little heart desires. It's not like we used to have at the Low Gap Hilton in the 1980s; those were the days, but it's almost as good for contraband here in state prison.

Another cut CDC has made is that we're no longer going to get salt, pepper, or aspartame sweeteners with our meals. Hell, the savings from just those cuts alone will allow the state to afford a new mega school in Boonville. But I don't see where a little cut here and a little cut there will do much good. In my eyes it's like patching a bald tire. Yeah, it may get you down the road, but very soon you'll have another flat. Or maybe even a blowout.

The CDC is a big joke and you the taxpayers are a bunch of fools to sit on your asses and not see just what is really going on with your money in this state.

I read many of the newspapers in here. Needless to say all of them together cannot compare to one AVA! Not one of you out there can complain that your school is being closed, or classroom size is growing, or that you're being charged for school bus service, or that you don't have enough textbooks, or too few computers... Must I go on?

Who doesn't know a person who has been affected by cuts in or for the Home Care Providers? Not just for the mentally or physically handicapped but our senior citizens? Hell, the costs of prescription drugs are so high that some older folks are missing meals just to buy the drugs they need to stay alive.

Should I go on about the County Supervisors and the cuts they've made over the past two years? Your library, the bookmobile, mental health, the county roads; in Mendoland alone there are some of the smoothest roads in the state. (Yeah, right!) Do you realize that car repair in counties like Mendocino is at least 35% higher than in counties which maintain their roads? Ok, OK. To the point.

As some of you know, I am doing a 16-years-to-life sentence in CDC for a molestation case out of Mendocino County. My ex-girlfriend got me good. I have been in the system now for almost nine years.

Some of you may feel that just to be charged with any kind of a sex case I belong where I am. Number one, let me say I never fondled anyone. Number two, watch out. You could be Mrs. Triple Names' next victim. Number three, this life is not all bad.

The point of this letter is hopefully to open even one eye to just what really is going on behind these prison walls. I am able to stay outside now until 9:00pm. The sunsets are beautiful from the foothills. Nothing like high atop Ridgewood or Point Mendocino, but let me rub a little salt into the wound now. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) is one of the largest unions in the state and by far the richest! I hear that the dues are $60 a month. Multiply that by their 33,000 members or so. No wonder Gray Davis was in their pocket.

The CCPOA supports all sorts of victims' rights groups. It would seem to be a conflict, but more prisoners mean more money, which in turn means more guards and an expanding union. I don't know if the TV viewers in Mendoland have seen some of the commercials or the 30 minute paid programs on TV about prison guard work being the toughest beat in the state.

The joke is on the taxpayer.

Don't get me wrong. Some CDC guards in very few of California's 33 prisons are in what one could call a hot spot. So maybe one out of a hundred are earning their pay. There are teachers in schools in places like Compton who endure more of a threat in their jobs on a daily basis. I grant you I am on a soft yard here at Mule Creek. And I thank my Higher Power daily for it. I've been on active mainline yards — B-yard in New Folsom — and I saw a lot of action. But it was inmates. One must remember: if you disrespect another inmate in any way, you will pay. This includes guards. A guard can bring a lot of shit on himself and on others. We have seen the melees at Corcoran State prison. That and many other incidents are started by the "Green Wall," as they like to be known.

You see, when an institution goes on lockdown for whatever reason, the guards get hazard pay. This means more money and less work because all the inmates are locked down in their cells.

I find it really funny that an officer comes to work with three newspapers under his or her arm and a two cubic foot cooler strapped on their other shoulder. When they finish the papers, then it's time for card games or dominoes. And now I'm living in the gym. I see so much more. The morning or first shift (two guys) take turns sleeping at $60,000 a year. What a sweet job.

There was a report that some guards (with overtime pay) are making $130,000 a year for this babysitting. Sweet. Is that because the work is really hard? Not from what I've seen. Maybe you need a high IQ? But that is clearly not the case. Anyone with their eyes open will see that all this extra money for prison guards is total manipulation by the guard's union.

Reporters and TV crews are very seldom let in to any prison. The CCPOA and the Department of Corrections don't want you the taxpayer to see what is really going on behind these walls.

As I said before, life in here is not all that bad. One could live in a hell of a lot worse places than the California prison system. We are getting three meals a day. I don't have to cook. Someone does my dishes for me. They offer all our clothes for free. And they even wash and dry them for free. The medical program is as good as most people on the streets can afford. It takes a couple of weeks to see a doctor, and all of the medications, X-rays, shots, surgery and therapy — it is all free! They do have a $5 co-pay, but hell, that is better than anything on the street! The dental program is just as cheap. Where in this world can you get a full set of dentures for $5? The mental health program is run out of Napa State Hospital. All you have to do is ask for more medication and it's yours for the asking! Free bird. I know there are least 12 PhDs and another 12 sociologists and probably 12 interns. That is just on this yard alone. Do any of you reading this get the point yet?

These are your tax dollars supporting these things that I've been rattling on about. It is time to see what really goes on with your tax dollars. Don't misunderstand me. There need to be prisons in California. And some men in here should never get out. But the cost is a fact you must look at. It comes at the cost of other programs. And who is really paying the price, criminals?

I can only hope that this letter reaches out to the taxpayers and you, the people. Feel free to contact me for more on the wastes involved in prison life at:

Mark Sprinkle K24619
PO Box 40900-B-G-119-L
Ione, CA 95640

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