Going to Prison
David Foley, a New York playwright, is working on a screenplay about the Baran case. I f you’d like more information about this project, you may contact David at davfoleyNY@aol.com or the producer, Justin Tan, at email@example.com.
Thus far, prison authorities have denied David permission to interview Baran with any kind of recording device, or even with a pen and notebook. Foley has, however, visited Baran several times anyway, and also writes to him with questions. Recently, Foley asked Bernard to write a description of Baran’s processing at Walpole. Both have given me permission to put this letter at this web site.
Bernard F. Baran
30 Administration Road
Bridgewater MA 02324
May 7, 2001
I’m sorry I haven’t written to you sooner, but I’ve been feeling a little down with my birthday and Mother’s Day coming. I hate the holidays — they can be ever so lonely. I was trying to locate your letter before I came up here to the computer room, but along with my sadness comes a very messy room.
As you know, I don’t believe I’m a good writer, but I’ll give it a go. I think the worst part of going to Walpole is pulling up to the prison and seeing those tall white walls around the side of the building and how your stomach gets so sour and how you notice that your hands are ice-cold with sweat. As you’re taking all this in, you have the cops who are transferring you saying a lot of things and laughing, but for some reason you don’t understand them until you force yourself to listen. Then you hear, “You’re looking kind of scared, boy. Don’t be, because this is your home for the next 20 years.” Then that cruel laugh erupts from their mouths and I jump thinking these are the same men who are paid to protect me. But I don’t have time to listen any more, because this building has got my whole body and soul captured. Captured in a fear I have never felt before, but since then that same fear has become very familiar. (To me, no less intense, mind you, but still familiar.)
As I was getting out of the car, I found my legs not wanting to move. Frozen at that moment, I started to cry. The cop yanked me up out of the car and told me not to let any of the men in there ever see me cry. I stopped crying even before he finished telling me to — at least it seemed like that. We went through the front gate and down a long hallway. I remember the floor being the color of brown, a very dark blood-colored brown. I can feel my body shaking so hard and I’m extremely cold and I want so badly to go home and have my mother’s arms wrapped around me. I want to wake up from this dream because this can’t be happening. At the end of this long hallway is a door. It opens in front of us very slowly with a loud clicking noise and when it opens all the way it makes a bang that I can hear echo. We walk into another hallway, but in the middle of this one is a catwalk that had a guard with a shotgun looking down at you, with the gun pointed right at you. At that moment, I thought I was going to lose it. Then out of nowhere, I hear this voice. “Hold it together, boy, you’re losing it.” The only thing, it wasn’t out of nowhere, it came from the cop who was still holding on to my arm. I had forgotten he was still there. It’s kind of funny how your mind will only allow you to take so much in.
We went through a small courtyard and into the basement of the H.S.U. [Health Services Unit.] While we were going through this courtyard what still comes to mind is this dead bird I saw. Somewhere thinking in my mind, “This bird is me. I’m never going to make it through this. I will never see anyone I love again. (family).” As I stood at this booking desk, there were cells to my left, a shower area to my left, and the photo-ID room to my right. You walk up to the desk and the officer tells you to take all your clothes off right there and put them in that trash bag. The clothes are no longer yours, they’re trash. The floor is cold and my feet are sticking to it. They make you stand there naked while you are asked all kinds of questions. “Have you any birthmarks? Do you have any scars, boy? Are you really fucking scared right now, boy?” My eyes are so filled with tears I can’t see any more, I can only make out blurred shapes. I wipe them quickly when the guard looks at the paper, not to let a tear fall from my face. I will not let him see me cry tonight. After the 20 minutes of questioning is over, you are told to step away from the desk and open your mouth, run your fingers through your hair, and to bend over and spread your ass cheeks.
Then you are given some stuff to kill lice and told to get in the shower. The water is cold and rusty and the shower floor is so slimy you have to keep in mind to be very careful not to slip. As soon as I get under the water, it was my time to let go and let all the tears and pain out of me, not because of any comfort a shower might bring, but because there under the water, I can hide my tears, my pain, with the running water. To this day, I still cry and allow my pain to release in the shower for the fear. I don’t want to look weak and show emotion in front of other inmates, because you are not allowed to show weakness because you will be taken advantage of.
From the shower you are given some clothing. The clothing I was given was about six sizes too big for me. Then your picture is taken and you are fingerprinted. All along no one talks to you, they talk at you and shout their commands. From there you go back up several flights of stairs and are put in a cell to wait to see the doctor. During your wait, you come to realize this is not a dream and as soon as you do that you want to die. How can they do this to an innocent man?
David, I have to stop. During this letter, I can’t hold back the tears any longer. It’s time for a long hot shower.