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Mythsaje Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-11-07 04:04 AM
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"Prison changes people."
I was thirteen and I'd been going to a new school for about a month or so when I went into the school library and struck up a conversation with one of the library aids, a kid a little older than me. Turned out we were both sci-fi geeks and into the same bands at the time. We became fast friends.

I moved away maybe six months later and didn't see him for several years. Then one day a couple friends and I were walking through a neighborhood up in Timberlane (once Boeing housing, then a low-rent, low income suburban district some distance south and east of Seattle) and ran into him again.

It didn't take long for the friendship to renew itself.

We were nearly inseperable for several years after that. Like brothers. He was one of my biggest fans, and a true-blue supporter of my writing.

Then, as such things always do, another relationship interceded. We remained close in some ways, but he drifted into other company. Company that wasn't quite so good as my own, one might say. Not bad people, I would've thought, but not good people either. Some of them were friends of mine too, but friends I'd more than once had to avoid for a time because of some of their less palatable activities.

From the time I hit my teens, my dad had explained to me that it was MY responsibility to watch my own ass, that I couldn't trust others to do it for me. When people started getting into activities that could easily lead to trouble, I needed to bow out and go my own way. And I did just that.

Well, even though I saw what was going on, and how these folks were starting to drift into dangerous territory, I knew there was little I could do to change things. One of them, a talented artist and in some ways a decent fellow, was an adrenaline junkie who was usually armed. Another one of them was a petty thief. We'd had issues in the past, but when I'd been forced to officially distance myself from him because of his actions and he'd spent some time in jail, he'd come around to apologize and we'd made peace. A third member of this little gang was another thief, but one I didn't really know, but he was one of those people that just didn't quite ring right with me. Trouble with a capital 'T'. Not that any one of them wasn't, in his own way.

The last member of this little group was my oldest friend, my pal from junior high.

They ran together for a few months, engaging in little capers I knew very little about because, frankly, I didn't want to know. As I said, I had already started to drift away, sensing that trouble was brewing. And not just little trouble.

I warned them. I told them all that they were growing careless, complacent, and far too bold. They knew I didn't really approve of what they were doing, whatever it was, so they kept me out of the loop. I just knew they were getting farther and farther into the drink, and the drugs, and making a game out of petty larceny.

One day the leader came stumbling in while I was visiting another friend, a long time friend of my girlfriend's who was associated with their group. He'd been torn up pretty good, with some fairly nasty-looking but not life-threatening knife wounds. I watched him as he stood there in the mirror and sewed them up with fishing line, using coke to numb the cuts.

I told him that if they went on the way they were, someone was going to get killed. He blew me off. That was the last time I talked to him.

My girlfriend and I packed up her kids and moved out of town not long after. Then, a few months later, while I was visiting another friend back in town, one not at all connected with them, he tossed me the front page of the local paper. To my shock and horror, I recognized the four artist renderings of the suspects in a robbery-murder of a local cab driver.

I can't begin to describe how pissed off I was. I was furious. I returned back home and told my girlfriend and we waited for more news. Part of me wanted to turn them in, but there wasn't much I could've done but identify them, and I figured that wouldn't be long in coming anyway.

It wasn't. They were arrested a day or so later.

A few months later I was contacted by one of their lawyers, or his investigator. He'd done a background check on me and the only thing he'd turned up was that I'd nearly gotten into a very public fight with one of them at one time (that issue I'd mentioned earlier regarding the one friend who'd gone to jail on a previous occasion).

He got my statement, for what it was worth.

The trial was pretty sensational, though I avoided the news about it as much as possible. At least the media's version of what was going on. I heard about it through a mutual friend instead. Another person who'd been on the fringes, and hadn't quite managed to distance himself as much as I had, but hadn't been caught up in it either.

The trigger man got life without parole. I can't say he didn't deserve it, but what a waste. He was my friend. Now he's a lifer.

I heard from another source that he ran into him in jail before final sentencing and his only comment was that he "should've listened to Saje."

No shit.

My oldest friend was down for nine years. I visited him three times and introduced him to my son. We welcomed him back into our lives when he got out, but he wasn't the same person by any means. He was still my friend in many ways, but all the things we'd once shared were gone, as if scoured from his soul. As far as I know he hasn't picked up a book since he's been out. Not even one of mine.

We are no longer in contact. I hear news of him from time to time from his little brother. He's one of those who never stepped off the edge again, for which I give him credit, but I don't really know him anymore. I'm closer to his little brother these days, something I would have never imagined way back when.

My dad tells me "prison changes people" and I suppose he's right.

Things could have been so different. It still pisses me off that an innocent man died because they didn't know where to draw the line.

This happened nearly twenty years ago, but it still floats to the surface on occasion and I remember a far more innocent time for all of us. I wonder if I could have done more to stop it, then I think, what could I have really done? Stuck my nose in to find out what they were doing before, and called the cops myself?

For myself, the wisest thing was to do what I did. I walked away and left them to their fate. And ended up losing more than one friend.

But I'll never forget that someone else lost his life.
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unhappycamper Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-11-07 04:33 AM
Response to Original message
1. Prison does change people.
As does war. It's all very sad.
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flashl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-11-07 05:12 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. Yes, its true, but we have over 7 million people in our ciminial justice system
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