Tuesday, May 14, 2019

From my correspondence with Todd Buchanan, Florida DOC #X80882

Related to my Washington Examiner article, here is some of my correspondence with 
Todd Buchanan.

On the night of his crime
I'm not sure what I think about that night. It doesn't exactly make sense. I'm glad nobody was hurt any worse. I'm glad everyone is walking, no canes or wheelchairs or colostomy bags. I'm glad the door was closed. I wasn't a violent person before and I'm still not now (which isn't a very helpful trait in prison). And it's not like that's an act or anything. I'm uncomfortable with it. So none of that night makes sense. Everything I've experienced, from then to now, has been so far outside anything I have previously experienced it just still seems surreal. I don't know exactly why it's still hard to digest, but it still is. You'd think I'd have acclimated, but I have not.

On whether Buchanan sees himself as a good person.
I don't know that I'd call myself 'good.' When I think of good I think of Mother Theresa or perhaps Gandhi. I suppose you mean, why am I not as bad as some of the guys in here. 
To the extent I am 'good,' even as a result of grading on a curve, it doesn't feel like something I have much choice in. I think most people need certain things from life and one of the things I believe I need is what you might call goodness or beauty. Those two words aren't a great description, so let me give some examples. The kid from 'The Kite Runner,' the protagonist's friend, he was a great example of goodness or beauty as I mean it. (If you haven't read it I recommend it. Great book.) If you've ever read a book or seen a movie that has given you goose bumps or that has made you cry, in a good way, those are moments representative of what I mean. There are guys that come here, to prison, and give up time from their life to do little outreach programs or teach something and I think that's a pretty kind thing to do since they aren't getting any money or anything out of it. I was speaking with my boss today, the librarian, and he was talking about decorating for Christmas and Thanksgiving, etc. He said he knows it's not much, but he hopes something like that might make someone feel just a little bit better, feel a little bit more human. That was kind of touching. That's the type of stuff I absolutely need and I'm not sure I could explain why. Maybe it's my coping mechanism for the ugliness in life. I realize that might seem ironic given the circumstances of my case. In any event, I'm no psychiatrist so I could be way off base. I do know I have to have some goodness around me or I'll go crazy. (This might explain why I gravitate toward people like your dad.) And having good people around me of course means I cannot be a scumbag. 

On a prior conviction. 
I do have a prior conviction. It is for a concealed weapon, which sounds terrible I'm sure. I hate that the following is going to sound like the typical excuse-making/blame shifting from the typical inmate, but it happens to be an accurate account. I was pulled over on the way to work.The 'concealed weapon' was a belt buckle in the shape of brass knuckles. The brass knuckles were permanently melded to a square background making it impossible to actually use as a weapon - your fingers couldn't go into the little holes. (This was a belt buckle phase I also had a chalkboard one and a Batman symbol one.)The belt buckle was attached to a belt which was on top of a change of clothes sitting on the passenger seat for after work. My true sin was asking the officer who pulled me over if he could hurry up because I was late for work. A dumb thing to say but said without arrogance - I believe. He took exception. Why didn't I fight such a ridiculous charge? I was naive and incredibly scared and the judge offered me an affordable fine or something. So now I have this ridiculous story and a conviction for a 'weapon' that couldn't actually hurt anyone unless maybe in the event I were to throw it at them.

What Buchanan would do if released.
Prison - much like a near death experience - will rearrange your priorities. There is no doubt that I would spend much more time with family. Nurturing the relationships of those who are true friends and those that truly care. I admit that may sound cheesy. But being here is to be in the most vulnerable position, almost as low as you can be in life. This gives me a unique insight into, and appreciation for, those that will be there for you when you don't have much to offer back in the way of remuneration or career advancement, etc. While before I was incarcerated I did some volunteer work from time to time and, as explained in the previous answer, I've always needed to be around do-gooders and such, I realize now that this element is more than just kind of important -- this idea of genuinely good people and goodness in general are both absolutely crucial to life for me and I want it to be a much more pronounced part of my life. Before, I couldn't see myself doing permanent volunteer work or running some nonprofit. Now it seems like it would be incredibly satisfying to help people when they're down and out. At the very least, I desperately want to be out of prison to help my mom and her husband. I'm terrified of being in here when they get too old to take care of themselves. 

On proportion in sentencing.
The most frustrating aspect of a judgment based on one moment is the permanence of that judgment. In ten years from any offense, most people will have changed. In twenty, everyone will have changed. This isn't to downplay the gravity of the one moment, but it is to take a frank and honest look at what 105 years means. There is also the impossible to ignore the incredible disparity in what constitutes a just and appropriate sentence from one person to the next. 
It's frustrating when I think of other life sentences: Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, Whitey Ford. I can't help but believe that there's a difference, a big difference, between serial killers and myself. I found one case where the guy had a similar sentence: Cameron Hooker kidnapped Colleen Stan (back in 1977). He repeatedly raped her, keeping her in a coffin-sized box for 22 hours a day. This went on for 7 years. His sentence was 104 years. Mine is 105 years. He'll be up for parole actually in 2030. 

In other states, based on my very unofficial poll of guys from other states, the crimes for which I've been sentenced would have merited a 15-20 year sentence, more or less, further reduced by good behavior credits. (Many states have a substantially higher reduction for good behavior, requiring that 65% of the sentence be served if their are few disciplinary infractions. Florida is one of the few remaining states that require 85%.) 

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