James Catlidge is serving a 60-month sentence for a white collar crime. He is a businessman that got caught up in a criminal probe. Prior to surrendering, he began writing a blog. We are recording James’ blog, Innocent from the Inside, to help more people understand the challenges of surrendering to federal prison.
James serves his sentence with dignity, and readers may find hope in his positive mindset.
For more information, visit PrisonProfessors.com
Below is the written version of his blog from one of his entries, describing his second week in a federal prison camp.
Prison is an amazing social science experiment. As I observe my fellow inmates and occasionally insert counsel, I'm struck by the difficulty that brilliant men have with doing their time. Men I respect for their intellect can suffer so needlessly. I'm left to assume they must of had a spouse or friend or child in their life that assisted them on the outside. Life is very easy here IF you are aware of your surroundings, use your manners, show outward respect, assume nothing, talk less, listen more, stay clean, groom yourself and keep neat, clean, tidy cubicles and stay vigilant with exercise and nutrition. Remove any one of those and your time becomes difficult quickly. Bad habits equal hard time. Good habits equal easy time.
As a simple example, my lawyer friend, Sean, and I crossed each other in the hallway and he was moving sloth-like, walking in the middle, not his lane. When a black gentleman, A.D. says, "get the hell out of the way". It scared Sean so badly he almost fell down. I flipped around quickly and told A.D. that "I'll take care of it". I grabbed my smart friend, Sean, and ushered him to his cube and sat him down on his bed and said, "do you know what just happened out there?" Sean says "NO"! I then said, "Sean are you OK? You've lost 35 pounds, you look great but your energy level is so low, you're wandering the hall like a crazy man and moving like a sloth." He says, in total sincerity, "really?" I said, "Sean, you're my friend, trust me, you are moving like a sloth."
We then go through the food he is eating, which was a guess as to his decline in energy and aimless behavior. We discovered he literally is starving himself. We discussed hallway etiquette and self-awareness and then planned the balance of today's food intake and hopefully my brilliant friend will self correct. A.D. came by and said 'What's wrong with that weirdo"? I said he's exhausted and has lost so much weight. He needed to increase calories, but he's OK.
Those odd self-inflicted behaviors are everywhere, young and old, smart and not so smart. Anybody headed to prison must be advised that self-governance is essential. A strong independent minded person can adapt quickly to prison life. Anyone dependent on others for daily decision making will suffer. My great friend, Margaret, visited me yesterday and what a wonderful time we shared in the visitation room. Margaret was so good to me throughout my legal ordeal. She was one of my top advisors when the case hit. Margaret was harassed, sued and maligned unfairly and her visit was so emotionally healthy for us both. I'm so very grateful for Margaret and her wonderful husband, Mel, for their undying support, even while they faced their own wrongful persecution. Real friends reveal themselves in the difficult times in our lives.
I am keeping a gratitude journal in here (Ken Hogan suggested this). I look at at it and add to it regularly. Today, I am reminded of the immense value of real friendship and its power to keep the lights on in the darkest days.
This last week I moved to my new cube 6 Low, a window view of the sunset side of the yard. I look out at 60 foot trees that are in their fall color transition. I love my cube. It has only one bunk be