The Pen and the Sword George Scalf
George Scalf: Pathway to Florence ADX supermax prison
- (Note: I’m Michael Santos with Prison Professors. I’m publishing these letters for George Scalf. He writes from a maximum-security prison in Michigan. I insert commentary along the way. Readers may write George at the following address:
Registration Number 253679
Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility
13924 Wadaga Road
Baraga, MI 49908-9204
This ongoing series will describe one man’s path to maximum security. I’ll publish as long as George continues to write.)
Part One — The Beginning
This is not a story of “Please help me. I fucked up.”
This narrative shows life gone miserably wrong. The narrative shows a painful, lonely existence. Imagine living the majority of your life in segregation. It’s a small supermax cell. I’m locked in the cell due to poor choices. There were repeated poor choices that led me to prison. More bad choices led me to supermax.
My choices led me into this fucked up existence.
I am not opposed to a person wanting to change. I want to change. I want something better. But I hate excuses, and I don’t like people who make excuses.
I made bad decisions. I’ve had a hard, painful existence from day one. That’s a fact. Life was difficult from the day I came kicking and screaming into the world.
I am sure that others have tough stories. But I’ve rarely heard from people who had to endure what I endured. I don’t know anyone who lived the kind of life I lived as a child.
But those aren’t excuses for the bad decisions I made. Excuses don’t cut it with me. Excuses are for weak motherfuckers. They need someone to blame. Blaming others makes weak people feel better about who they’ve become. Excuses aren’t for me.
I understand why people make excuses. But I don’t like them. I know it’s painful to live with reality. It is tough to say “I did this to myself.” Truth is, there have always been other choices I could have made.
Some people may be innocent of crimes. I’m not talking about them. I don’t like excuses from people who are in prison because of the choices they made.
Every day we make decisions. Bad choices lead in one direction. Good choices lead to another direction. It’s the nature of life. You reap what you sow.
My journey to Supermax Prison:
I was born into a blue-collar family. We were working class. My dad was Irish father and I had a Scottish mother. I came out of the womb kicking, screaming and struggling against the world. Fighting has been the major theme of my life up. I’ve been fighting from the start to this very moment.
Our family always had food to eat. We had clothes to wear. We had a roof over our heads. Still, my family was extremely dysfunctional. It was messed up, at least as far as I fit into the picture. I never really felt like I fit in.
I was my mom and dad’s first son. My mother divorced my biological father. She remarried again before I was even a year old. My father also remarried and went on to have other children. I remember being home with my mom and stepfather. I remember my little sister Rhonda and my older sister Ruthie. I didn’t belong. I never had a loving, trusting, or meaningful relationship with my parents.
From as far back as I can remember I received beatings. I’m not talking about “spankings.” I used the correct word to begin. I got beatings that would leave bruises from my neck all the way down to my feet. Sometimes I would get beat for something as small as my bed not being made well enough. I was beat for some imagined wrong on my part. “Why is this happening to me?,” I used to wonder. It wasn’t happening to any of my other siblings. I’m grateful they weren’t beat. But I didn’t know why my parents beat me.
I wasn’t a “bad kid.” To this day I still don’t understand why I had to go through that period in life.
This pattern of abuse continued until I started getting older and bigger. When I felt I was old enough, and when I couldn’t take it anymore I started running away from home. I was about 12 years old. This is the same time I began my life of petty crime. I started with burglaries, car theft, and simple crimes. I soon grew into this pattern of behavior. This became my “normal” way to live. I didn’t really think of what else I could do. Crime helped me cope with the abnormality of my life. I liked crime. It helped me deal with the pain that people who were supposed to love me inflicted.
As a child I did had a neighbor. Her name was Sylvia Redmond. Sylvia wanted to help. I also an school teacher who called Child Protective Services several times. Every time they showed up at the house I refused to talk. I wouldn’t say anything about what was going on. Still several times, they sent me to live with relatives for a short while.
From the time I was 12, until I came to prison, I did have chances. I lived with family members who wanted to take me in. They would show me love. They tried to be a constant in my life. But I was already on my way. I learned to make rash, impulsive decisions. I didn’t care about consequences. Consequences didn’t matter to me.
I got stuck in a pattern of making rash decisions. I didn’t give any thought to the future. When I was 12, I didn’t think I’d live to see 16. At 16, I didn’t think I’d live to see 18. Surely, I didn’t think I’d live to see 21. I kept thinking like this until I graduated from petty crime. I started robbing banks. I committed those crimes when I was a teenager. And because of those crimes, I went to federal prison. That was the beginning of the end of my life. From federal prison, my pattern of poor choices continued.
I look back and reflect. I realize that I had other options available. I could have lived differently. I could have shown gratitude to people who wanted to help. Yet I chose crime. I used money from crime to fund a life of partying. I lived recklessly and carefree.
I’m not one of those dudes who bit off more than he could chew, and I’m not complaining. This isn’t going to be a “woe is me” story. I’ve spoken before about any of this. I’ve never tried to use my past as an excuse during sentencing. Nothing can excuse my behavior. As a man I know my decisions got me to this point in my life. I took a big-ass bite. And I’m still chewing. I’ll be chewing until the day I die.
Stay tuned until next time.