A Day With … Lifer x 2
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
Kwame Teague, Reg. No. 040897
Lanesboro Correctional Institution; Polkton, North Carolina
I got up at 4:30 a.m. Because I’m in an open dorm, I try to get up before everyone else. When it’s quiet, I can get my mind right. At 5 a.m., I went to breakfast and then came back, took a shower and checked ESPN.
With the basketball going on, I like to gamble. I got to check on my picks, check the scores to see if I won. I also politick with some other prisoners about the upcoming games. A lot of dudes think they are Stephen A. Smith or something, but ESPN is big. We like to BS about it.
I try to write 10 pages a day. That’s my goal, and I accomplished it today. I’ve ghostwritten a few books, including a street-lit trilogy that made Essence magazine. And I’m working on this new manuscript. I spent like an hour trying to flesh out what I am trying to do with this book. Playing with ideas in my head and bouncing them off certain dudes that I mess with.
Doesn’t matter if you deal with God or you don’t deal with God. It’s about if you believe in us as humans.
At 9 a.m., I got on the phone, networking. I’m trying to put together something where inmates can donate money to charities straight off their accounts. Like, to the crime victim’s fund. We need to have some closure. We need to take more responsibility for our actions, and that starts by making a gesture. By saying, I want to give back. It’s crazy. The state always says we need to pay our dues and pay our debt to society, but when we really want to pay our debt, there’s no structure for that.
I’m also trying to get humanism established in here. Doesn’t matter if you deal with God or you don’t deal with God. It’s about if you believe in us as humans. I want to try to create a space in the prison system where we can all come together and talk about the things that make us human, about our flaws and our possibilities, and try to become better people.
After lunch, I started writing. Pen and paper in my cell. Writing keeps me out of the mix, out of the drama that jumps off in prison at any minute. I spent the next five hours working on my next book. I’ve been publishing under the name Dutch and have several titles under that name. It’s hard for me to get my manuscripts in. I can send only 50 pages at a time. The prison mail room has crazy restrictions.
Then I watched the news, got my newspaper in the mail. It’s important for me to see what is going on. I listened to NPR on the radio, went to dinner. I took a break just to walk down there to the chow hall and kick it with my peoples and unwind from the day. Get ready for the game. We love to watch sports in prison, and you know I got a front-row seat in the TV room.
By 9 p.m., I was in bed, thinking about my day, about all I am trying to do. It’s a struggle to do things when you are in prison. I had an opportunity to get a second mattress today. The mattresses they give us are thin, like when you go to the gym and you get a mat to do sit-ups on — that’s what I sleep on. When someone transfers, they leave their mattress. So when the chance presents itself, I have to ask myself, Do I want this second mattress? Well, yes, I do, but I know if I take it, they’ll shake me down and tell me to give it up.
I’ve been in prison since 1984. I’m in for two counts of murder, kidnapping and armed robbery that I’m fighting to prove my innocence on. My situation is complex. Every night, this is what I think about before I go to bed: getting my rest and getting ready for the next day. Because in prison, that’s all it is. One day after another. They’re all the same, they all run together. But I try to move forward. I try to make progress. It’s slow going, but I do it.
Cover Illustration by Salina Shelton for OZY