Seth M. Ferranti
25 Years - LSD Conspiracy
Read Seth's latest published article from Vice Magazine: Institutionalized - There's No College In Here.
February, 2004 - Vice Magazine
Diesel Therapy: Torturing Prisoners Legally Takes The Bus
By Seth M. Ferranti
Transit, better known as "diesel therapy" to the feds, is maybe the worst part of being incarcerated. Imagine being handcuffed with a chain around your waist securing the handcuffs to your stomach area. You can't move your arms up and down or side to side. Your feet are shackled, limiting you to baby steps. Now get on a bus. And then be stuck on the bus with similarly shackled convicts forever. (It starts at three or four in the morning, and 1216--hour days are the norm.) You can try and guess where you're going, but you never will. After five institutions and nine years in the feds, I've learned to dread transit more than anything.
The Bureau of Prisons can never do anything easily. Like take you from point A to point B. Instead, they drag you through a spiraling maze of transitional moves with zero logic. What's the method to the madness? Is it intentional chaos-pure torture to keep us beat down, controlled, docile? Only the BOP knows for certain.
Recently I was transferred from FCI Fort Dix to FCI Fairton on a closer supervision request. While my journey was not a diesel therapy nightmare, it was definitely a mini-diesel. I packed my stuff on December 31st. On the 2nd of January I was called up at 8:00 a.m. I got processed and placed in the bullpen with 10 other prisoners. I proceeded to sit there until 2:00 p.m., when we were sent back to the compound. Oops-we were leaving tomorrow. We had spent the whole day in a tiny holding cell for no reason. We were sent back to the compound with no sheets, no blankets, no toothpaste, no soap, no toilet paper, and no change of clothes. And we had no property-that was already boxed up.
The next morning, we were called up again. The whole processing procedure was completed for the second time, and finally, in the late afternoon, we heard the clank of chains. Salvation had come in the form of the Lewisburg BOP bus crew.
We were strip-searched, given new clothes, and shackled. I knew FCI Fairton was only two hours south of Fort Dix so I figured on a short trip. I asked the CO and didn't get the answer I wanted. "You missed your stop, buddy," he said. "We're going to Lewisburg." He smiled while telling me this, like it was some big joke and I was the punch line. I was going to Lewisburg. The famous penitentiary and a favorite holdover spot of the BOP.
So into Pennsylvania I went. A five-hour bus ride, followed by the whole processing/screening routine again. You would think after your initial screening they would already have a record of you, but the BOP is not only barbaric, it's archaic. Most files are on paper. You have one that travels with you, and at every place you stop, they create a new one for you.
Five days in Lewisburg. No phone, minimal reading material, and one TV for 50 people-complete and utter boredom. The whole ordeal requires a willed suppression of instinct. Every night is a toss up to see who'll be on the outgoing bus the next day. If your name is on the list they post at 3:00 a.m., you're stoked. If not, look forward to another day of nothing. The only advantage of being in the holdover is hot meals, because when you're on that bus and in the bullpens they kill you with baloney-and-cheese sandwiches with milk.
Finally, my name was on the list. I was out of there. I figured I would be in Fairton that night. I went though the same routine again: bullpen, strip-search, change clothes, get chained up, 4:00 a.m. wake up, many hours spent in the holding cell. Then it was finally time and we were marched out into the snow with no jacket (BOP policy, I guess). We ended up at Allenwood. I was getting the grand tour of the whole industrial prison complex. Next we processed to FDC Philly, then we entered New Jersey and drove right through it. I couldn't believe it. It seemed I'd missed my stop again.
Then we were in New York. MDC Brooklyn. This was a new twist. I'd always heard this place was pre-trial. I had never been there before, and I hope to hell I never go there again.
We were herded off the bus like cattle for the umpteenth time, prodded into this tiny little processing bullpen, and held there forever. No hot meals, eithermore bag lunches. They didn't have any bed space in the units so they put me in the hole.
Two days I was on a bus supposedly bound for Fairton. And you'll never guess where I ended up. Eight days of traveling, after having traversed three states and going five hours west into PA and then six hours east into NYC, I was now right back at the gates of FCI Fort Dix. Right where I started.
Two hours later, I was in Fairton, where I had to get screened and processed all over. I was ready to hit the pound, hook up with some friends, butboom-they threw me in the hole, where I waited for four days to see the captain so he could decide if he would let me on his compound. I guess the regional director didn't check with him before they designated me there.
Now, as I'm writing this, not even two months later, I'm back in the hole. Under SIS investigation. Wondering if my journey is about to start anew. Check with me two years from now. Maybe I'll have some horror stories to tell. Until then, wish me luck, because this diesel therapy shit can drive you nuts.
25 Years - Marijuana & LSD Conspiracy
THE AMERICAN DREAM: FREE ENTERPRISE
The prison industry is booming. New institutions are being built like crazy, incarceration costs are increasing, and prison guard unions are gaining political clout. The overwhelming attitude is lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key. If this trend continues, one day you might either work in a prison or reside in one. Currently more than 1.9 million people are locked up in the United States, and I am one of them.
At 6:27 in the morning of October 2, 1993, the cops bust into my hotel room - Beretta nine millimeters pointed at my face. I was scared-past scared. I was in shock. I was handcuffed and taken to jail. I WAS GOING TO JAIL.
I couldn't believe it. I was in a county jail. I was from the suburbs. What was I doing in jail with a plastic mattress, no pillow, no sheets, no nothing? I was in an orange jumpsuit with K-Mart special slip-on shoes. I lay on the plastic mattress and stared at the stainless steel toilet and sink. The walls of my cell closed in.
I remember crying in disbelief, in frustration. How could they put me here? I'm not a criminal. I just sold marijuana. I'm a businessman. Free enterprise, right? I WAS IN JAIL.
To the guards I wasn't even a person, wasn't even human. I was just another number. They didn't care that I didn't like the food. They didn't care that I didn't have any sheets or toilet paper, or that I only had one pair of underwear and no socks, or that I wanted to take a shower. They didn't want to hear it. But this was only the beginning.
I was brought before the judge. My chubby lawyer asked me if I felt lucky. What does luck have to do with it, I thought? The prosecutor went on and on about how I was a machine-gun-toting-skinhead-LSD-marijuana-freak who corrupted society and deserved to go to prison for life.
My lawyer told the judge how I was a drug-addict-mixed-up-kid who fell in with the wrong crowd, but really was a good person at heart who wanted to change for the better. Neither the prosecutor nor my lawyer was right, but at this point I don't think it really mattered.
The judge listened to all this while trying not to fall asleep. Finally he says, "304 months." Three-hundred-and-four-months, I think, that isn't bad. Wait. How long is 304 months? It clicked. Twenty-five years, for selling pot and LSD? I couldn't believe it. I WAS GOING TO PRISON.
They handcuffed me and put me in leg irons. They pointed Mossberg 12 gauge riot-guns at my face and put me on a bus with other prisoners similarly shackled. I noticed there weren't many white people and no one struck me as a suburbanite.
The bus went to an airport that was surrounded by a fence with razor wire - nothing as simple as barbed wire here. They put me on a DC-8 plane waving M-16 rifles in my face to make sure I didn't get out of line (in my leg irons and handcuffs). The plane took off. I was at 40,000 feet in a DC-8 with handcuffs and leg irons - welcome to Con-Air. What happens if the plane crashes, I thought? What happens if I have to go to the bathroom? No emergency exits were marked. There were no oxygen masks, flotation devices, or barf bags, and the guard-flight attendants were not serving drinks.
If this wasn't enough, I got special treatment: The black box. This apparatus fits between your wrists holding the handcuffs in place so no movement is possible. A chain is wrapped around your waist and secured to the black box and your handcuffs. It was very uncomfortable. Try to eat in this set-up. I did, but not very successfully. We were graced with the Con-Air meal, a cheese sandwich, which the guard-flight attendant threw at us. We finally set down and they loaded on prisoners from the prison before they took us
new recruits off. I had only been in county jail up to this point, and I was not impressed with the occupants, but these guys from the prison were another story. Huge, mean looking blacks, muscle-bound, tattoo-imprinted Latinos, and white guys that looked like Thor. The lot getting on the plane were what I envisioned prisoners looking like -- and me, a 22-year-old kid from the suburbs was being taken to live with these Charles Manson wanna-be's.
Federal Correctional Institution. My new home for the next 20 years. I had a lot to learn. I had much to adjust to. Talk about culture shock. I was a spoiled-rich-kid. This was hell. I WAS IN HELL.
Imagine living in your bathroom - except that there is no tub or shower. There's a bunk bed instead. A metal bunk bed with a dinky mattress and, if you're lucky, a pillow. All your belongings fit in a 3-foot-by-2-foot locker. You can go to the store once a week to buy what you need. Only once a week. The store doesn't offer much. Junk food, gray sweat suits, and toothpaste. No pizza, no Slurpees, no Big Macs, no Nintendo, no CDs, no nothing.
You can buy a radio, but you are in the middle of nowhere, so no radio stations. The guards treat you like cattle, not human beings. They justify taking the cookie from you that you brought from the chow hall by saying they're just doing their job. You can't accomplish anything productive because policy dictates this and policy dictates that. If you have a problem - you better deal with it yourself, because the prison officials will say they are here to help you, but when you ask for help, they will direct you to so-and-so who will direct you to so-and-so, whose policy is not to help.
When I lay in my cell at night listening to my cellie snore, I wonder to myself, "What was I thinking? What have I done to myself?"
I was trying to pursue the American Dream. I thought I could set my own rules. Thomas Jefferson did. Jerry Garcia did. Why couldn't I? I was a businessman. Free enterprise, capitalist - you know? Buy a product, sell it, and count the money all the way to the bank.
But it isn't like that. The politicians have enacted strict drug laws to save the country from itself. When I was growing up, I thought America was the land of opportunity, the land of the free. But it isn't. You play by the rules or you don't play at all for long.
Editor's Note - Seth is a prolific writer; below are an assortment of links leading to articles he has written, as well as a link to his own website and latest book.
Gorilla Convict Publications: Publisher of "Prison Stories" by Seth 'Soul Man' Ferranti
Unicor, Blueprint for the Global Plantation, from Prisoner Life, 03/01/02
An Interview with Seth Ferranti: Prisoner #18205-083 by Michelle Daugherty, Summer 2000, Spank Magazine
Seth is a frequent contributor to HoopsHype, (Harlem World is his latest, published January 9, 2005)
To read his latest prose, do a websearch on Google for -- Seth Ferranti
IN year 2004, Seth received his Bachelor's degree through the University of Iowa, through a program called Lionhawk, continues his education and hopes for Congress to pass laws that would return earned, early release to the federal prison system.
Seth Ferranti 18205-083
PO Box 6000 Unit B-3
Glenville, WV 26351
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