Notice to the female "judge" who caused the following distress: you will be prosecuted under existing law, convicted based on the same level of proof you used to imprison this hard working father, and imprisoned for a term ten times longer than you sentenced him to:
Date: 01 Aug 2003 13:07:48 From: CMN826 Subject: FATHER NEEDS YOUR PRAYERS!
I NEED A MIRACLE. I NEED YOUR PRAYERS!!!
I am a divorced father and grandfather. Over the last six-months I have not been able to find work after being laid off from my retail manager position of two years. Since 1998, I have had two heart attacks, and had a "stint" placed in my Right Coronary Artery. During my illnesses and recovery from 1998 - 1999, I was not able to work for a time, and then could not find work once I recovered. Though I was homeless, living in a shelter and utilizing Westchester County's public health clinic for free samples of the blood pressure medications I need every day, I was still labelled a "deadbeat dad" by New York State, which suspended my driver's license, and my professional license to practice as a Respiratory Technologist in New York.
During this same time period, the State continued to assess my child support at US$1200.00 per month, the same amount I paid unfailingly for over five years as a Respiratory Technician. I paid my child support even though my ex-wife married the man she had an affair with, and took my children to Michigan -- without my prior knowledge, consent, or as much as a "say goodbye to your dad kids." It really crushed me. I had put myself in thousands-of-dollars of debt to fight for - and finally be awarded - joint custody of my children just the year before. I never missed a child support payment until two months after my hospital position of nine years was eliminated. I simultaneously lost my low-cost hospital housing (studio apartment and utilities for $500 mo.), and then had my first heart attack.
Even though the State knew I was on welfare, (the good people of Westchester County, New York paid for my heart surgery), even though the bureaucracy agreed that I qualified for food stamps and free prescriptions from the Veteran's Administration because I was an "indigent, honorably-discharged veteran," the state continued to tack another $1200.00 in arrears on me every month.
After almost 19-months of unemployment, I talked my way into a position as a weekend manager for a large, well regarded beverage shop. As expected, my wages were immediately garnished for child support, but to my surprise, I was also ordered to appear in Family Court to answer the charge of, "Wilful Neglect To Pay Child Support," over the previous 19-months that I had been out of work and ill!
When I appeared in court with my court-appointed attorney (who talked to me for about ten minutes before we went in) I was ordered to pay a lump sum of $5,000 on the nearly $30,000 in back child support I owed at the time, or go to jail. Still living in a friend's garage, with no car, phone or savings, I was not yet able to pay the money, and explained to the judge it would take time to comply with her order. The assistant District Attorney asked my ex-wife if she wanted me to go to jail. My ex looked at me and said, "Yes," without missing a beat.
The judge asked the prosecutor what her recommendation was, and she asked the court to imprison me for six months in the County Penitentiary, and moved that the court grant my ex-wife the full $30,000 judgement in back support. The judge asked me if I had anything to say, but when I stood up and began to address the court, saying, "I have been accused of wilfully choosing not to pay child support your Honor..," she raised her hand and said, "I've changed my mind, sit down."
She immediately told me I was "in contempt," of her order and, inexplicably, ordered me to report to the County prison every Friday at 5pm, to be imprisoned until 5pm Sunday evening, for a period of five months. Even though my "attorney," asked her not to jail me so I could keep my job, the judge stood fast. Needless to say, I lost my job, and at the end of my five month sentence, I had served 22 consecutive weekends, or 1,056 hours behind bars.
Think of it this way. For five consecutive months every Friday afternoon, you are arrested and put in jail. You present yourself to the correction officer on duty who already doesn't like you because you represent more work than he or she is already dealing with. You are walked through a metal detector, frisked, then taken into the booking area and put in the "holding tank" with twelve other inmates until the officers that will process you into the prison are ready.
Usually, after an hour or so, you are taken out of the tank in groups of three, and led to stalls, where a surgical-gloved correction officer (C.O.), tells you to strip and place your clothes in one pile. You are then instructed to put all of your other belongings on his table. The C.O. records all of your belongings, searches your clothes and underwear, you sign the receipt, he bags your clothes and puts your valuables in a bag for the prison safe. You are then searched nude, initially facing the Officer. The C.O. instructs you to: "Show me the bottom of your feet." Spread your toes." "Show me the palms of your hands, flip them over, spread your fingers." "Hold your arms out to your sides." "Open your mouth." "Lift up your tongue." "Move it around in your mouth." "Say AHH." "Turn around." "Run your fingers back and forth through your hair," or "Lift up your hair." "Grab you butt-cheeks and squat down." "Stand up and turn around." "Lift up your penis and testicles." "Get dressed."
After the inspection the C.O. issues you a one-size-fits-all hospital scrubs-style prison uniform, and a pair of slip-on sneakers. Then you and 10-or-so other inmates are placed into a 12'x12' holding cell with a flat concrete floor, bullet-proof glass walls and no benches for at least three hours -- and often as long as twelve. No one gets out of the holding cell until they get permission from a passing C.O., and are escorted to and from their destination. A lot of men urinate or defecate on themselves long before that ever happens.
Eventually, when the officers have made room for you in "their" already overcrowded prison, you are given two sheets, a pillow case (not that you'll actually get a pillow, but it is handy for carrying your toothpaste, and the other linen in), a wool army blanket, a small white cotton towel, a bar of soap, a small plastic toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste. You are then assigned randomly to a wing within the prison where room has been made available for you. The word has already spread to the inmates permanently housed there of course that, "a weekender is comin' in," and some men are already planning to use the new weekender for any number of things -- none of them good.
I was housed in almost every part of the Westchester County prison during my 22 visits. In "D-block," located in the "Old Jail," my "house" -- as cells are called -- was one of the jail's originals from the early 1900s. There, the cell walls are rough, reinforced 22"-thick concrete, block and plaster, covered with thick coats of dull brown and grey paint, graffiti of every imaginable type, and more often than not, human feces. The doors to the cells are solid ? steel, and measure just two-feet wide, by five-feet in height. Men yell, talk, rap, sing, cry, moan, try to sleep, scream profanities and write all night, every night.
In D-block, we were "locked-down," or locked in our cells, 18 hours a day. It was the other six hours you had to worry about. That's when you were out of your cell, going to meals in the "mess hall," exercising in the gymnasium, or watching cartoons or Spanish dance TV shows with angry 18, 19 and 20-year-old gang members and other assorted violent and mentally unstable men in the "day room."
Lots of things can happen to a new guy in prison, and "weekenders," are especially vulnerable to extortion and harassment. Simple things like someone "disrespecting" you, by going into your cell, or "house," while you're in the day room and stealing your toilet paper, can lead to bloody confrontations or, at best, going without toilet paper -- a valued commodity in prison which is also used as rolling paper for bootleg tobacco and marijuana, stuffing air vents that blow cold air in the winter and hot air in the summers, and for making paste.
Other scams include "asking" weekenders to smuggle in cigarettes and drugs. My second weekend, I was assigned to A-block in the Old part of the County Jail. It is a large open bay, with about 50 bunk beds, and seven chairs in a small television area near the front of the room where a Correction Officer sits. When I first arrived, I was assigned a bunk number by the C.O., and quickly discovered there was no mattress on it. Several of the bunks around me had two mattresses, so I waited a few minutes to see if anyone was going to react, especially the C.O., who could plainly see I had no mattress.
After about five minutes, three guys left the television area and came over to where I was sitting. The largest one said, "You a weekender?" I said yes. He said, "What you in here for?" With as straight a face as I could muster, I said, "I capped the mayor's dog. It was crapping in my yard again, so I double clicked the motherfucker. They popped me for unlawful use of a firearm within the City limits and cruelty to fucking animals. Can you believe that shit?" Two of the guys actually laughed. I don't think they had a full set of teeth between them.
The brain surgeon who was apparently the leader simply because he was the largest, smiled and said, "Well, we got rules `round here. People get hurt when they ain't got no friends watchin' their back. We'll help you get a mattress cause you need some friends to teach you whazzup, but you gonna' bring us something next time you come, right? You Know what I'm sayin'? Yo, you want us to hook you up, right?"
I slowly stood up to my full height of six feet. When I was married, my wife and children would accompany me frequently, to take part in local road-running events from "5K's," to half marathons. When I finished the Long Beach Island, New Jersey "18 Mile Lighthouse Run," in two hours, thirty-three minutes, I weighed 255 pounds. When I went to jail, I probably weighed about 290. The point being, I am not a small man, and I wanted these three fellows to understand that there was a chance one of them could get hurt before they were able to overpower me, unless one of them had a weapon I did not yet see. I also wanted to draw the C.O.'s attention, and I did.
I said, "What are you talking about dude?" The man's eyes hardened, and the forward lean of his buddies toward me was just perceptible. "You can do a couple of balloons man. It's easy. We'll hook you up and it don't have to go no further. We'll make sure you're fly when you in here man. You get high right? Why not be makin' some cash money? We can do that for you man, we can hook you up." I knew I had a problem, but I was experiencing brain lock. I stepped through the three of them and said, "Yo dude, I gotta' think about it." The leader turned to follow my eyes and said, "Don't be thinkin' too long -- dude."
My heart was pumping wildly, I was nervous. Adrenaline was suddenly surging through my system. I took a couple of deep breaths and tried to think as I sat down in an empty chair near the television. I find it odd that I remember the TV was tuned to a Spanish variety show. Having been in the Army, I recognized the beginning stage of the human "flight or fight" reaction in myself. I tried desperately to think, and I asked God to help me. After thinking and praying about it for five minutes or so, and bringing my heart rate down under a 150-beats-a-minute, I chose my poison.
Walking over to the Correction Officer in charge of the block, I said, "C.O., I need a mattress for my rack, can you help me out?" Then, without waiting for an answer I turned and began walking back into the common area between the bunks and stopped. I took a look around the bay, and intentionally tried to make eye contact with whoever was looking in my direction. I was scared, but I tried not to let it show. When I spoke, my voice was flat and unbroken.
"My name is Terry," I said, just loud enough to be heard over the television. "I'm the new weekender, so I'll be taking your orders for herb, rock, smack, meth, Marlboros or Newports between six and eight." I had everyone's attention at that point, including my three new friends and the young C.O., who had a perplexed look on his face. "I must caution you though," I continued, "the first two balloons I swallow on Fridays, will contain a large thermos of hot fucking coffee with milk and a German Chocolate Cake. Those are my two drugs of choice gentlemen, and all other orders will be considered on a fist come, first served basis."
A few inmates laughed nervously. My new friends pretended they didn't see me anymore, one guy said, "That motherfucker is crazy," to which a chorus of other voices agreed. The now perturbed Correction Officer, told me to shut up and go sit on my bunk. I got a mattress about 10 minutes later, a five-minute lecture on respect from the C.O., and aside from some evil looks, my three friends didn't ask me for any more favors that weekend.
I know now that some judges use imprisonment for contempt, as a "tool," to pry loose hidden funds from deadbeat dads, their friends or relatives. I think this tactic is probably very effective, because no one that could pay and get out would subject themselves willingly to prison. Generally, I have observed that the dads that show up with their own lawyers for court, can usually stay out of jail by agreeing to pay a small amount of cash, usually less than $2,000 to settle their arrears.
But for people like me, people who have already lost our children and everything we ever had financially and materially, there is no way out. We become the statistical deadbeat dads in prison, adding daily to the "debt we owe our children." It's apparently very important for Family Court Judges to have notches of convicted deadbeat dads on their gavels come election time.
I'm not sure exactly what it has cost the County to prosecute, house, supervise, feed and medicate me during all those hours (I hear it was about $10,000.00) I spent in their custody, but whatever the cost, I wish the money could have gone to kids who need it, or jobs programs and new job training for indigent non-custodial parents.
And just in case you think my children are living in poverty, they're not. I thank God every day that the man their mother committed adultery with and later married, provides for them financially better than I could. He and my ex-wife list their net assets at well over a half-a-million dollars, and even felt comfortable enough financially to have another child together. They live in a large home in the upscale Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills, Michigan. Once again, I thank God my children are living in a solid and healthy environment.
My children's mother told me years ago that if I would give up the children for adoption by her new husband, she would drop the judgements against me for back child support, but if not, she would make my life "a living hell." Unfortunately, she has pretty much succeeded in her goals. As much as I despise my children's mother, I hope she will never have the nightmares I have, or know the pain of having three children ripped from her life.
In November of 2000, I got a job as a retail department manager at a large department store here in White Plains where I live. I was able to pay $1,325.00 monthly in child support and arrears from my $36,000.00 a year salary, and did so until I was laid off in December of last year. I have not been able to find work since, and now the Family Court says unless I can pay $5,700.00 by August 6th, I'm going to jail for six-months.
I need a miracle. You see, I have two older children from a previous marriage. One daughter is getting married August 10th, and the other will give birth to my grandson on or about August 25th. Jail is bad enough, but missing my child's wedding, and the birth of my grandchild - that is unbearable.
Do I have a right to feel -- as a father, that I have been forgotten not only by "Family law," but indeed by common sense itself? Should fathers have to fight, sometimes go into debt, just for the right to stay a "legal" guardian of their own flesh and blood - just to stay a dad after divorce? Should my ex-wife have the privilege of spiriting my children out of state after I was awarded joint custody and visitation rights by the courts, and then be able to use those same courts to impoverish, and imprison me?
I NEED A MIRACLE!!! IF YOU CAN, PLEASE SEND A CHECK IN ANY AMOUNT MADE OUT TO:
"Westchester County SCU / Acct: BC34126Q1" PO Box 15355 Albany, New York 12212-5355
My friends and church have also set up a Post Office Box for me to receive your mail and prayers at:
HeartBroken Father PO Box 275 White Plains, NY 10602
If you are broke like me, PLEASE PRAY FOR ME. If you are a reporter, I want to get my story out there because I KNOW I AM NOT ALONE!!! Thank you all, and God bless you!!!!!