Louis Templeman: State-Issue Blues

Louis Templeman was incarcerated in Florida and was released within the last year. He has written a number of essays and poetry about his experience. The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world.

Here is an excerpt from Templeman’s essay “I Have A Face“:

Standing on a concrete pad where a large diesel tank had been removed, I stared out through the 12′ security fence, topped with razor wire. I saw the parade of men in blue going to lunch. It was very cold, windy, at most 45 degrees. It was so cold in the dorms that morning that one of our guards did the 7:00 a.m. count wearing gloves, insulated jacket, ear muffs and a hat. The living, moving swatch of blue shivered under cloth caps (if they were lucky) and cotton jackets. A fortunate few had long johns.

One man stood out. Octavio. I felt proud I finally remembered his name. He speaks almost no English. He is always enthusiastic in his greeting to me. Of the fifty or so men who flow by he is the only one I think I know. The way he walks. His posture. His face causes him to stand out against the river of men draped in state issue blue.

All prisoners dress alike. We live under strict dress codes. It is an attempt by the Florida Department of Corrections to separate us from our identities. This discourages staff from seeing us as individuals.

Separating us from our individuality facilitates the on-going negativism, condescension, cursing and regular issuance of suffering from F. D. C. staff. In some camps this allotment of trauma and fear comes from other state employees such as medical personnel clerks, classification and work supervisors. When this culture of fear is strong in correctional officers the non-security employees often buy into it and look for opportunity to taunt and torment the inmates.

Judges hand down our sentences. F. D. C. staff, primarily correctional officers, put the sting to it. The state employees who embrace this culture of hate do not appreciate the depth of suffering endured in the inmates’ loss of family and friends, children becoming fatherless, wives falling into poverty and promiscuity, removal from satisfying work and a pressing into an absurd counter-culture that forces an institutionalization that robs a man of his maturity, self-worth, and works to mold him into a childlike dependence on the state.

Read Louis Templeman’s full essay here.

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