Miami Herald Article on Gary B. Waid

Miami Herald
Tuesday, August 17, 1999

Steve Bousquet
Capital Bureau Chief

TALLAHASSEE - A convicted marijuana smuggler serving time in Florida was moved over the weekend from a low-security work camp to a high-security lockup amid accusations that he used the prison's computer to write letters to The Herald and other newspapers.

In those letters, inmate Gary Brooks Waid, 49, joined the chorus of prisoners accusing guards of brutality. And in the tense atmosphere following the fatal beating of Death Row prisoner Frank Valdes, Waid's charges are being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and his temporary transfer has drawn intense scrutiny.

Late Monday, Waid was back at the work camp with other white-collar criminals, away from the killers and rapists down the road at Florida State Prison - the place where Valdez died a month ago after a confrontation with guards. Waid's brief journey speaks volumes about the climate in the Florida prison system since Valdes died.

Shortly after Waid was moved last Friday, his lawyer was demanding explanations, and a friend, Kay "Grandma" Lee of Key West, was sending urgent e-mail messages to Florida newspapers and to inmates-rights groups around the country, pleading with them to take up Waid's cause.

Prison officials took pains Monday to describe Waid's three-day transfer to the closest prison as a necessary move while they look into charges of misuse of state property - a computer in the work camp law library.

"He is not a security risk at the moment. We're moving him back to O Unit," said Florida State Prison Warden James Crosby, using prison jargon for the work camp. "We wanted him separated from any access to the computer until we could have someone go through the computer and check it. We have everything he had on the computer. We had to remove him over the weekend until we could get an expert to look at it."

Letter not typical

Prisoners' letters to the outside often are written in painstakingly precise handwriting, a reflection of the amount of time inmates have.

Not Waid's.

His three-page letter to The Herald on July 28 is neatly typewritten and articulately phrased, with key words italicized for emphasis. Describing himself as an apprentice law clerk, Waid said that since Valdes' death, "more and more inmates are coming to me to help them with their affidavits."

"They don't like a prisoner who's able to articulate himself," said Waid's lawyer, Donald Cohn of Miami. "He's one of the people they don't like because he's exercising the rights he has. This was, in effect, a form of punishment that was given to Gary because he's not the kind of inmate you normally get."

Waid, formerly of Merritt Island on Florida's Space Coast, was convicted four years ago of conspiring to smuggle two tons of marijuana on a fishing trawler from Jamaica to Florida over several years. He got a nine-year sentence in a federal prison and wasn't supposed to be in state custody in the first place.

He was one of about 30 minimum-security federal prisoners swapped last November for 30 violent state offenders, many of them murderers who came to the United States during the 1980 Mariel Boatlift. The prisoner swap had been advocated by state officials.

Miami Herald Article

Record Defended

His lawyer says Waid had an unblemished record while in federal custody and that he'd probably be in a halfway house by now if he hadn't been transferred to Florida State Prison's work camp last November.

"We're now in the process of doing whatever we can to get him out of there and get him back into federal custody," Cohn said. "He was in the worst place they could have put him."

Corrections spokesman, C.J. Drake said some e-mails on Waid's behalf came from people involved in efforts to legalize marijuana use. But, he said, Waid's transfer back to the camp was not a result of any complaints made by Waid's supporters on the outside.

"There's a heightened sense of awareness by prison management when it comes to conducting internal investigations," Drake said. "The Valdes incident has created an environment in which prisoners feel they have a forum to rehash allegations against the prison system."

Waid's Internet home page, set up by his friend, Kay Lee, is entitled "A Smuggler's Tales From Jails." On it, Waid describes Florida's prisons as "factories of hate and violence."

A biography written by his brother says Waid was a promising musician - a onetime professional trombonist with the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra who got into shrimping and from there "became enticed into the marijuana trade."

Saturday, June 19, 2010


This short piece is one-sided; I don't even pretend to offer an opposing argument.
But as far as I'm concerned, the other side has had their say. For years.
So I don't apologize. If you disagree with me, write Kay Lee.
I'm just expressing a thought...

Jimmy Sellers (not his real name) is mildly retarded. You can tell just by looking at him, but if he decides to speak, there'll be an immediate synapses, you'll go oh yeah, and the connections will be made: This guy's not all there. And whatever Jimmy says, whatever he happens to be doing, the idea of his defect, his slowness, will color your perceptions. Can't be helped. You'll feel the heat from the chip on his shoulder and back away or attack, depending on what you're made of. 

Actually, Jimmy's not equipped with the mannerisms that might protect a normal man in prison. He doesn't have what it takes to properly defend himself. When he tries, he's a giveaway. His apish displays only serve to mark him as a buffoon and an idiot. He hunches his shoulders, his lips roll out, his eyebrows knit, and his imitation of menace collapses like wax into internally directed rage and the impotent lashings-out of the powerless in a world too complicated and cruel. 
But Jimmy is crazy, too. Getting worse as time passes. He's somehow been turned into something slightly dangerous and definitely unstable. He doesn't pretend to care what others think, and has pissed off everyone he's come in contact with. And his noisy rebellions are so pitiful, he's easy pickings for the predators in whatever state facility he's housed in. Thankfully, the inmates here at New River Correctional Institution in Raiford, Florida, won't have to deal with him anymore, not for at least 300 days, which is how long he must stay in the box for his most recent attitude crimes.

Make no mistake - Don't get sappy - Jimmy is no fun. And the 300 days will grow and grow as he accumulates more "inside" charges from pissed-off guards. The day Jimmy is released from prison, he won't step through a gate, he'll emerge from a cave.

Originally he'd checked himself in, a right that every inmate has if he feels threatened by other inmates or a particular guard. Alone in his cell he lashed out, sinking into an echo of life, screaming all night, talking to himself in odd voices, collecting and throwing his won shit, accruing all those D.R.s* that give him more solitary confinement as punishment for his sins. 

The guards hate him, and even when he's calmed down they take the opportunity to lean on him. He's angry, dumb, easy to run a game on, and like I said, will spend the rest of his sentence inside the 6' by 9' sarcophagus that protects him from the world. He's a dog barking in a cage, threatening the officers, spreading his waste on the walls like a monkey, and beating time to an internal clock that other people can't fathom.

*DR: Discipline Report

It's hard to believe he's only 18.

That's right. He's 18. He's the unwanted child of a drug addicted prostitute, and he's spent most of his life on the streets or in juvenile correctional joints. He made it to New River by having sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl, but there's more to it than that. There's always more to it. Jimmy was only 17 at the time, and ignorant of many things in life. He was an accident having an accident, and everyone lost in the end. So, now, in the hole, Jimmy is considered unredeemable, the end product of a calamitous chain of neglect that was started before he was even conceived.

...And made worse on the day Ronald Reagan cut funding for government social programs and mental health facilities in America.

Jimmy is just one guy, though. There's plenty more where he came from. As most of you know, our city streets are acrawl with the homeless, a good percentage of whom are crazier than the most imaginative Hollywood creation. In the early eighties the Reagan administration, responding to the economic recession, decided to cleanse the federal budget of unnecessary spending. They downsized some things and cut funding completely for the rest. 

Social programs took the biggest hit. Giant, unwieldy agencies were much too expensive. Rather than restructure them, it was easier to stuff them in a closet. So, they decided that there was little room in government for the unwanted, the mentally ill, or people with special problems not easily diagnosed. If you can't see it - like a goiter on the neck or a broken leg - it doesn't exist.*

*Ironically, the downsizing of social programs mirrors eerily the boom in prison construction.
They felt that a voluntary system, paid for by the private sector, would be more efficient. As a result, our homeless shelters and streets are showcases for the unwanted, the excessively slow, and the slightly or moderately delusional. Many of these people end up in jail, cared for by untrained guards, housed in facilities not designed for them, living a life fraught with stumbling blocks and penalties that almost always make things worse. 

Often they end up locked down. Sometimes for years. States like Florida are steadily building new lockdown (close custody) housing units, scattering them across America to house problem inmates the cheapest way possible. And many of these new solitary inmates will get no real professional help. They'll be denied any physical activity beyond an occasional hour alone in a "dog run," until their sentences run out. Their particular pathologies will incubate and metastasize, and their problems will eventually become everyone's problems.

Now, in the hole, Jimmy's alone. The solitude is not just internal, but actual. Inmates bring him his meals, slide them through the slot, and leave. He's allowed a Bible, that's all. A transfer to a "psychic" camp might help him, but the findings of his psychological evaluation were reportedly tainted by a conspiracy of D.O.C. guards who want to "teach him a lesson." 

On the day he's released from prison he'll be completely around the bend. Finished. Fried. A menace to society. After all that time in the box, Jimmy won't function. He'll live on the street for a time, or under a bridge. He'll hurt someone, go back to prison, get in more and more trouble before he ends up at Florida State Prison X-wing. He'll have had a short string of victims and will face a long life measured in stone and steel and the shouts and taunts of angry men. Maybe he'll kill or be killed. 

Whatever happens, Ronald Reagan's policy will have sparked the process that years later allowed a bunch of no-neck guards and venal inmates to dispose of Jimmy. It will have rid America of at least one crazy, sad, not all there, unwanted eighteen-year-old kid. And Florida will not be responsible for Jimmy's descent into Hell. Florida will have done its job.

My question is this: Would it absolutely Kill the people of Florida to get this guy out of here, have him and others like him put somewhere they can get some professional attention? Would it Kill Florida to get them away from cynical prisoners and guards? Why in Hell can't people see that the world would be a better place for that? And by the way, it would be cheaper than brutality. Sanity is always less costly. And less shameful.

In the last century we used to lock the mentally ill away in asylums dark and forbidding, where they were forgotten for years, brutalized, subjected to all kinds of inhuman treatment until eventually they died. Now, at the turn of the millennium, we're back to square one. We chain them up, toss them in isolation cells for years, and let them scream.

And then we blame them for screaming.

And then we let them out.

Jimmy's causing trouble now. As you read this he's in his cell alone talking and shouting and kicking the bars. He'll be there tomorrow when you go to work. He'll be there next month and next year. Yesterday he learned to shit in his food tray.

Soon they'll let him out. I hope it's in Your  neighborhood.

By Gary Brooks Waid with Mark Rivard

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