Reply ID #294
This is my essay for prisonerexpress.org's June 2017 word-theme "accomplishments".
“Against All Odds” by Nate A. Lindell
It amazes me, what I’ve achieved, given my few resources and the massive resources of the system that sentenced me to a life as only three-fifths of a human being.
When I arrived in prison in 1998, I couldn’t draw a good-looking’ stick figure, didn’t even try.
Then, several years into solitary confinement, barred from litigation by the three-strikes rule and large debts, I decided to master drawing. First, I did self-portraits, looking at myself in my mirror–they came out looking crude, misshapen, scary, of use only to a psychologist wondering how I saw myself.
For a couple years I plinked away at drawing, in between studying, writing, poetry, etc. When I entered the WI prison system, my writing ability was scored at the 12.9 grade level on the TABE. But I despised writing and would have scowled at anyone who suggested I write anything beyond personal letters.
After a good 1,000 pages of legal writing, I realized that I needed to master our language to be a skilled litigator. And poetry is the heart of any language. There was a story I recalled, about Sylvester Stallone having recited Edgar Allan Poe’s poems to help him overcome his speech impediment. I did as Stallone did, recited Poe’s poems, which I found intriguing. I ended up reading everything I could get of Poe’s.
Thus began...three, five years of liberal-arts self-education, made possible by free books sent to me by stores that sent books to prisoners at no cost.
I studied the origin and history of English poetry, classic lit., essay writing, rhetorical principles. E.g., I wrote out copies of On Writing Well, Creating Short Fiction, and took extensive notes and quotes from books on mathematics, anthropology, psychology, etc.
Writing the material out, I found, made it stick to my noodle better, and made the info available when the book was gone.
I had no visitors (other than a soul-severing Jehovah’s witness, who was effectively an anti-visitor), no T.V., and usually no one around me to socialize with. It was hard time, hurt me emotionally, psychologically; but I fought it by
It was obvious to anyone with eyes that the rural folk running this place (the WI Secure Program Facility, W-S.P.F) were intent on making us miserable, degrading us, so they’d feel better about their own sorry lots in life–turning keys, looking at prisoner’s buttholes for contraband, writing misspelled tickets because a prisoner had a ketchup packet isn’t something you want to be lauded for at your funeral.
Their ill will fueled my effort at developing my artistic and intellectual abilities.
There came a point when psychology staff didn't want to talk with me. One once said, “Why are you asking me? You know more than me!”–and she said it sadly, not sarcastically.
I persuaded the head psychologist here–Dr.Scott Rubin-Asch–to do an I.Q. test on me, figuring if it was high enough, maybe mensa’d let me join and I could find some intellectual companionship. Dr.Rubin-Asch did four sub-tests for the WAIS-4, through the glass, in a visiting booth. Afterwards, he said he’d do the remaining subtests the next day.
It was a year before he again saw me, at which time he did the full he did the full WAIS-3, not the WAIS-4.
He dragged out telling me the results for another several months.
When he eventually told me the results of the WAIS-4 sub-tests (“all scores were in the exceptionally high range”) and that my full-scale I.Q. score on the WAIS-3 was 144, I realized why he’d waited a year to finish testing and used the WAIS-3, not the WAIS-4.
From studying statistics, I knew that my score was one-point shy of being two standard deviations above the high-end of average. You only need one standard deviation above average (i.e. 130 points) to be eligible for Mensa. It’s like that my score was higher than Dr.Rubin-Asch’s, which–given that I’m only three-fifths of a human–likely offended his comforting delusion of superiority.
With my I.Q. tests done, I implemented my behavior-modification program–the “High-Risk Officer Program”.
Apparently, they disliked my program, because they shipped me off to federal custody…
My art, which I continue practicing, drastically improved. You can see samples of it on https://www.prisoninmates.com/NateLindell303724. Two
collections of my poems and songs, and the start of a volume of creepy stories are also there.
My writing and my art/drawings impress everyone who reads or sees them.
With no familial support, with no money, with a life sentence, with over 14 years of solitary confinement eating at me, with a few friends and many hates/enemies, it seems to me that a person may still accomplish a lot.
Maybe–although I hold little hope of it–American society will come to respect my struggle against all odds, respect me as a human being, and permit me to join in a society that’s worth me being a port of. My talent, I think, could be put to better use than suing and writing about prison staff’s crimes against humanity.
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