I’m half-Italian, on my mother’s side. Grandma was from Bari. Grandpa was from Calabria, having left the town of Sersale for Brooklyn in 1906. In mia famiglia when you get really mad about something you erupt. You bellow curses (in Italian for better effect), you jump up and down, turn bright red, gesticulate wildly. If the cause of the rage is especially outrageous you throw things. The reason for this uninhibited display is not to harm anyone or to communicate a volatile stream of emotions to an audience. It’s to rid yourself of the corrosive mix of anger, sadness, frustration, disappointment, and betrayal that you feel when something has savaged your sense of what’s right and fair and just.
When someone in the family has gone off like a Roman candle you say that he or she is pazzo (“crazy”, pronounced “bots”). For the last two days I’ve been pazzo, but without the vivid exothermal display.
It just isn’t right, and I’m pissed!
They took James Prindle to prison on Wednesday. We have an appeal in, but the fact is James has begun to serve a 22-year term of hard time for a crime he did not commit—a crime he could not commit. The last time I spoke with him on the phone from the jail in Memphis he was upset. He had been talking with his father and his 15- and 13-year old half-brothers in Maine earlier that morning. “Their voices changed. My brothers’ voices changed. Last time I saw them they were squeaky. The next time I see them I’ll be 37.”
It was hard not to develop a lump in my throat.
It was a bit easier to get James into a more upbeat mood. We talked about hiking in the forests and mountains of western Washington. James said he would really enjoy doing that with us. I again told him I believed he would never see the inside of a prison. BAZINGA! So, yeah, now I’m pazzo.
I can’t get the image out of my head of James utterly alone in a locked prison cell far removed from any friendly soul. I’m hoping he doesn’t feel utterly abandoned as well. That’s not the case, of course—we’re all out here for him. Hope he can feel the vibes. I set up the phone account so he can call me from where he is now. I don’t know if or when they will let him call out. I do know that you do not need to be approved by the prison before writing to him.
Here is James’ address:James Prindle (508396) Northwest Correctional Complex 960 State Route 212 Tiptonville, TN 38079 .
Please write to him. Encourage him. We’ve got to keep his hopes up.
~ Frank Manning
(Note: Today is Frank Manning’s 63rd birthday. Happy Birthday, Frank!)
Groove of the Day
Monday afternoon I got a phone call from Sam Prindle, James’s father. Sam thanked me for my advocacy of his son and for staying in phone contact with James. Sam and I talked for about 45 minutes. We got to learn a little about each other and each other’s family. And I guess we both got to find out just how passionately the other cares about the young man at the center of this intolerable injustice.
Sam also read me a letter James had written to him last Thursday, his first full day of incarceration. Remarkably, James is upbeat about his situation. He wrote that the prison is much nicer than the jail. His cell is bigger and cleaner, has more natural light, a real toilet and sink instead of the steel jail combo, and he was able to take all his books and other belongings from the jail with him. In the unit he’s in the inmates are allowed to wear their own clothes and shoes. They can even order name brand shoes from a prison catalog. Even more important, James will be able to continue his high school education at a full certified and accredited school. He should be able to earn a regular high school diploma.
We’ve also come to learn that James will be kept in that juvenile unit until at least his 18th birthday. If he stays out of trouble they will keep him in that unit even longer. That’s good news. Prison can be a living hell. For James it won’t be.
I’ve spoken so many times with James now. Given his circumstances, I am always amazed at his general good mood and disposition. I don’t know how he does it. So James explained it to me. “It’s my faith in the Lord that gives me the strength.”
~ Frank Manning