From the July 2011 magazine.

July 2011: The Message Inside

He decided to return to the last place he ever wanted to go

"The unit didn’t have a single AA meeting when we got there. Well, now it has what we named the “Free On The Inside” group."

I had my last drink on Christmas Day in a maximum security prison in Texas. The homemade wine, commonly referred to as “hooch,” was concocted mostly from items bought at the commissary, along with ingredients inmates who worked in the kitchen had taken. All the elements would be placed in a plastic garbage bag and hidden under someone’s bunk to ferment for about four or five days. The result was always a mystery. Sometimes, it tasted smooth like fruit punch. Other times, it reeked like moldy bread. We’d drink it, of course, regardless. One time, a bad batch of hooch got our entire cell block violently ill.

That Christmas, we produced a very good batch of hooch. The football games were on TV in the dayroom and we celebrated the holiday. By halftime, we were all buzzed when an argument over the game broke out. We were so drunk, we were oblivious to the officers who came to break up the commotion, seized the hooch and wrote us all up and placed us on cell restriction. A few days later in the dayroom, I noticed an inmate sitting alone at a table with an envelope I presumed contained legal documents from his case. He often sat alone with his books and papers. He called me over, asking where I was from and if I knew when I was going home. I was waiting to hear what the parole board decided, I answered, but, at the most, it would be three years. He told me that whatever they decide, doesn’t really matter because I would be returning to prison anyway.

-- David T.

South Padre Island, Texas

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