| print this
THE PRISONER FREED
twenty years in prison for murder, he knew
A.A. was the spot for him . . . if he wanted to stay
BEGAN DRINKING as a kid, shortly after I reached my
fourteenth birthday. My father was alive, and I had
to do as he wanted, so I drank under cover. In 1918,
he finally passed away, and the fear of him left me.
I didn't have to worry about him any longer. I rolled
along with the mob this way, that way and the other
way, but in those years nothing really bad happened
to me. That was still to come.
On July 23rd of
1926 I went on a drunk. When I wended my way home four
days later, on the 27th, there was a detective waiting
for me. During the course of that drinking, I had shot
and killed one person and almost completed the job on
a second one. I was immediately arrested, arraigned
in Homicide Court, held without bail, and remanded to
the old Tombs Prison to await trial. I was indicted
for the crime of murder in the first degree. The trial
lasted about a week, and whether or not I was going
to the Death House was anybody's guess. However, a verdict
was brought in of murder in the second degree. For that
crime I received a minimum of twenty years and a maximum
of natural life. In the meantime I had been indicted
for the second crime, attempted
I received an additional fifteen years for that, making
a minimum of thirty-five years and a maximum of natural
On October 28th,
I was sent to Sing Sing with a minimum of thirty-three
and a half years to serve out of that thirty-five. There
was no time off for so-called good behavior, first-timers,
or anything else. However, as time went on laws were
enacted that reduced the sentence. I spent about six
or seven weeks in Sing Sing, and was finally sent off
to Dannemora in the Adirondacks. I have spent eighteen
years in that institution. An ailment developed in one
of my eyes, and I was transferred back to Sing Sing
and operated upon. I remained there for about ten months.
In September of 1945, I was sent to a place called Wallkill,
a so-called rehabilitation center.
I spent my last
seventeen months in Wallkill, and it was there that
I first got my introduction to A.A. When I had heard
about it, it meant nothing but just two letters to me,
but some friends of mine in the institution were very
active in the program and really believed in it. They
kept harping on it, that I go. One evening I decided
to go because two of those friends were to speak. I
rounded up a few more of my friends and off we went
to the meeting, not for anything we would gain from
it as much as to make a burlesque out of it. However,
before the meeting got started, a group from the outside
came in unexpectedly. I had enough decency so that I
dismissed the idea of doing any clowning, and I did
After hearing the
first speaker I could tell myself that my own lot was
rather mild. He had been in and out of Mattewan and
many other mental institutions
a result of his drinking. He had gone through the windshields
of cars a couple of times and was pretty well banged
up. After the meeting was over and we had returned to
the cell block again, I was asked how I was impressed.
"Oh," I said, "that's not for me! Those
poor stiffs probably went to a doctor and were told
that if they quit they'd live three weeks and if they
didn't they'd die in one." That was my attitude
toward A.A. at that time. However, my two friends kept
coaxing and cajoling to get me back again. Most of my
attendance there was when people would come in from
the outside. I clung to the outfit for the balance of
my time, and finally I was released on April 5th, 1947,
after having spent twenty years and nine months behind
I had an advantage
in having an idea of what A.A. was about before coming
out on the street. It wasn't anything strange to me,
and I knew if I wanted to stay on the outside, that
would be the spot for me. But after I passed through
the gates I took a change of heart and mind. So instead
of going near A.A., I just browsed around for that first
month. Each time I would make a report to the parole
officer he would ask me, "Have you been to an A.A.
meeting yet?" I'd say, "No, I don't know where
they're at or when they meet. I don't know anyone in
the program." After I had made my third report,
I stepped downtown, met some of the old crowd, and of
course you know the answer.
I staggered home
next morning. I couldn't tell you how I got there. When
my mother opened the door, I almost fell on my face.
She asked me, was I going to do this to her all over
again? That really stopped
for a little bit. I said, no I wasn't. She was the one
who really helped me to make a go of that twenty years
and nine months in prison. She's still alive today at
the age of eighty-two.
So I went to an A.A.
meeting the first chance I got, and I listened. I started
prowling around with a couple of these A.A. boys, which
kept me pretty busy and kept my mind off of downtown.
I went along pretty well for the next ten months. Then
instead of going out with A.A. again I went out with some
of the other crowd, and off again I went.
That woke me up. I've
stuck pretty close to A.A. ever since then, taken it day
by day, not biting off more than I can chew. The days
have grown into a little better than four years of sobriety.
I don't have any regrets. I don't miss any of the old
crowd nor do I miss any of their parties. I have my ups
and downs the same as the rest. It's no bed of roses,
but somehow or other I've been able to make it, through
the kindness of people in A.A. If something does come
along that sort of upsets me, instead of walking in and
throwing a buck at the barman and asking for a drink,
I walk into a telephone booth, drop a dime in the box,
and call somebody who was so kind as to give me his name
and telephone number to meet such an emergency. I don't
have any resentments. I had a rough lot, but I don't worry
about that, after hearing the stories of many others.
I think I am very lucky that there are people like A.A.'s
and an A.A. program to hang on to and carry me through.
is no more resources for this unknown author.