NOTES FROM PRISON:
Kelvin McManus and the Elephant
Gary Brooks Waid
Not long ago , Jim Guy Tucker was given a four year suspended sentence, a hefty find totaling $295,000 and many hours of community service for his crimes.
Looking out over the rubble this morning as I walked the prison track (convicts are allowed to seek council wherever they may find it), I reviewed in my mind this most distressing of occurrences and considered what such tragedy could mean to the ex-Governor of Arkansas. Since his sentence was announced, it’s been a shrill topic of controversy in the halls and yards of prison. For myself, I cannot align with those who wish to denigrate this terrible punishment handed down by our federal justice system. What a horror to befall a great man. Will he ever recover from such harsh sanctions? Is there no mercy for a fallen hero?
My heart goes out to his family, of course. They’ll undoubtedly need assistance from generous past supporters, and hopefully a kind heart will clothe and feed them. Arkansas, after all, has plenty of old barns and sheds out in the sticks where Granny and the wife and kids can live while they grub around for handouts or pick cotton, or maybe Jim Guy can get an old used Toro and start mowing lawns. This whole nightmare must be devastating to all the Arkansas Tuckers. And so unfair. I know plenty of men who, while they didn’t exactly steal three million dollars, did some pretty awful things; and THEY weren’t slammed like ol’ Tuck. Hell, they get to live here in the prison and eat government food and sleep on a government bunk for ten or fifteen or twenty years living the life of Riley.
And their families…well, their families just disappear I suppose, because in all that time other arrangements have to be made. So really, when you think about it, Jim Guy has it even WORSE for all that. Every day he has to look the little woman in the eye as they sit at the dinner table eating beans. He didn’t get to go to prison or camp for taking millions of dollars from someone, maybe old retired people on pensions. He’s too sick for that according to his doctors and his lawyers. And now, because of the fines, he won’t b e able to spend his time hanging out in exclusive, oak paneled, good ol’ boy establishments that serve wine from other countries and expensive Bourbon and fancy French Cognac. It could be that poor Jim Guy enjoyed himself so much his liver went KERSPLAT. Wouldn’t that be the pit? We in prison would feel terrible if that’s the case.
I mean, there are inmates right on my range in A-unit with amputations and cancerous looking growths and things, and men with deformities requiring unusual care or prosthetic appliances or special gurneys to roll them back and forth to the chapel, and we’ve got a guy working in the kitchen who disappeared for two weeks and showed up one day with a smile and a shaved head. Yup, right in the middle of his skull was a crenellated gully stitched up like Frankenstein’s worst nightmare. He probably can’t remember his name anymore or what he did to land in here, or even where he is. And of course, the judge won’t force HIM out the door to fend for himself just because of a li’l ol’ brain tumor! Aspirin is what they give him – and it’s free.
But no-sir-eee-bob, Jim Guy is forced to be on the street and to take care of his own medical problems – and then – HE HAS TO DO COMMUNITY SERVICE! THREE-HUNDRED HOURS OF COMMUNITY SERVICE! It won’t be anything simple either, like cleaning out bed pans or picking up litter on the side of the road. He’ll have to speak to school groups and church groups on the integrity of the law and why it’s a no-no to break it.
What kind of SICK judge would make a man do that sort of thing? The HUMILIATION! Just because Jim Guy Tucker may have political connections and it’s remotely possible that he’s been a slime-ball all his life, they lower the boom on him; they make him pay for the sins of everybody. Just because Jim Guy COULD HAVE but did not necessarily slip and give away little perks maybe, and just because he might have know some troubling things that would be embarrassing, they force this egregious violation of the eighth amendment upon the man and his family. They’ve ruined his chances at a productive life and soiled his name and the names of his children. The Guv was a crook, yeah, but he had a nice smile.
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