I have been amazed on this journey by how many people have done prison time. I hear on the news about overcrowding in prisons, but I haven't met too many people who have done time. That has changed this month.
Most people say that prison stinks. The food is terrible. The people are scary. But, that was not the case for David. "My name's D...David", he introduced himself. "Cool, I'm Mike." "Can I sit next to you?", he asked. I scooted over and let him have the window seat on the backseat of the bus. We picked David up in Salt Lake City. He was on his way home to Vegas after a two year stay in the Nevada State Penitentiary. The bus doesn't run directly from Northern Nevada down to Vegas. You have to go through Salt Lake City.
Often, prisoners are released and given a bus ticket to their hometowns. It would be nice if family were there to pick them up on the day of their release. But, for the men I've met, they're on their own. David was dressed in blue pants, kind of like scrubs, blue Vans-style shoes and a blue button up shirt. "Why did you wear your prison clothes on your way home?", I asked him. "I left my other clothes there at the prison for the guys that really need it.
David is 22 years old, soft spoken, very nice. He was eager to talk with me. He had been released earlier in the day from the prison in Winnemucca, Nevada. He did most of his two years there and said it was by far the best prison he's been in. "It's like bunny camp there, man". "What does that mean?", I asked him. "There's no problems there. People just mind their own business. The food's pretty good. The guards don't bust your balls too much. It's bunny camp." I didn't know what to make of that. David had been in five different prisons in Nevada during his two years. So, he had a frame of reference, I guess.
David said he did a few days in the prison in Lovelock, where they keep OJ. "He's in PC man. Nobody messes with him. He's in there with child molesters and stuff." "What's PC?", I asked David. "Protective custody", he responded like I was an idiot. "He's on lockdown for 23 hours a day. I heard he's buyin' new shoes for everyone in the prison with him."
"So, if you don't mind me asking, what were you in for?" "Burglary and larceny", he said. I'm not sure what the difference between the two is, but David was involved in some pretty serious stuff. He had been knocking off jewelry stores in Las Vegas for quite a while by the time he got caught. "I was working with this other dude. We would go into the stores and ask to see stuff out of the case and then we'd bolt. Sometimes, we'd take girls in with us if they were asking for ID's. The girls would ask for the jewelry out of the case and then we'd hit the girls or knock 'em down and run out of the store. Then the girls would act like they didn't know us when the cops came. That worked pretty well. But, the other guy and I split up. He started doin' his thing and I started doin' my thing. On the night I got caught, I learned that the night before, the owner of the jewelry store he was hittin' shot him and killed him. I didn't know that. So, I went to do my thing and I noticed a black dude and a white dude outside the store. They were in an unmarked Dodge Ram. They came in and I just put my hands up. They tried to pin that murder thing on me, but I didn't know anything, for real. So, because I didn't have a gun, I only got two years. It wasn't too bad."
I asked David if he was nervous about going home. He said he was excited to take a bath and be with his girl. They've been dating for three years and she has stuck with him. He said he's going to go back to school to study to be an auto mechanic. His dad in California is a mechanic and has taught David a lot. He doesn't plan on hooking up with any of his old buddies. I was glad to hear that.
When we separated after arriving in Vegas, David gave me a hug and a fist bump. He seems to be on a good path. I hope so.