On March 11, 1983 right after I turned 32 and while on an airplane trip to a yoga seminar I was arrested by Federal agents and went directly to jail without passing GO (very sad story). However, my prison time was about as unusual as most of my life as I was in the last two co-ed prisons in America.
I actually walked around holding hands with my girlfriend and at the end of the day the men and women just went into separate units. My best friends were spies, assassins, terrorist, hijackers, jewel thieves, bank robbers and smugglers – and that was just the females! We were always sneaking around trying to kiss our girlfriends and the guards were always sneaking around trying to catch us.
Actually, from the moment I was arrested I saw it as an unprecedented opportunity of a lifetime to learn grow and study. so while in prison I ended up getting five college degrees, read over 100 books a year, learned and taught computer technology to fellow inmates, as well as taught them yoga, nutrition and algebra courses. I took literally dozens of courses and classes offered in prison and got in really good physical condition. I did a time management study one time for 18 months and found out that I spent about 8.5 hours a day in some form of self improvement – so it was a really incredible (and fun) experience for me to go through (though I don’t recommend it for everyone).
While in prison I received my Bachelors degree – with a 4.0 grade point average – making both the College’s Dean’s List and the President’s List as well as the National Dean’s List. Separately, I also received my Bachelors and Master’s Degrees in Nutrition through correspondence courses and completed all the course work for my PhD. It was a time of intense study and self improvement. The next few entries along this timeline are some reports from the media about my time in prison.
“Some might think his arrest was the beginning of the end for this incredibly energetic man, who was facing a lengthy prison term because he wouldn’t squeal on his accomplices. Actually it was the start of a new life … Perlowin wants to get his Ph.D in psychology, criminology and nutrition.” The Ukiah Daily Journal – “Perlowin Wanted Out But Couldn’t Stop.”
Being in prison may have ended my marijuana smuggling career however being together with women there made this a very different experience than anyone would ever expect.
What was my worse experience in prison some people have asked me over the years? Nine years is a long time to spend in prison and there had to be some pretty bad experiences during this time. I’ve thought about it over the years and recently came across a letter I wrote to my sister in law entitled “Your Worst Nightmare Comes True” about a real life true story from a coed prison”. So I guess this story would probably qualify as one of the worse experiences I had in prison – and should warn everyone about breaking the law – and having to go to prison:
Prison is terrible! Some of the cruelest most soul wrenching experiences happens in prison. It’s hard to imagine the horrors that occur in here and the average person wouldn’t be capable of believing it. Just last week something I witnessed, and actually participated in happened which threw me into the pits of depression. If I didn’t witness it and hear it with my own ears I would never have imagined such a thing could ever happen in a million years. It was horrible – my stomach gets weak thinking of it even now.
I was sitting on the bench in front of unit one with Candice. Candice is an intelligent woman, extremely pretty and has a luscious body – the kind I’d love to – well never mind, it’s nice and lean and cute as can be. So anyway we were sitting there quietly minding our own business, talking about male and female relationships in a coed prison setting when I decided to ask her if she wanted to go to the movies. At Pleasanton – the Federal Prison where we were – they showed movies every Friday and Saturday night and the inmates would actually go to the movies together just like a regular on a date on the streets.
I noticed out of the corner of my eye people going into the unit, but didn’t pay attention to them as the bench we were sitting on was off to one side of the main walk way. Than all of a sudden with absolutely no warning at all
Than all of a sudden with absolutely no warning at all; Candice says, “No, I don’t want to go to the movies with you”.
I was dumb struck; I couldn’t believe it. I mean I’ve been to jail where there were rapes, stabbings, beatings, suicide attempts – with blood all over – fights, guards killing inmates, inmates killing guards, rumbles and gang fights and more. But this was too much. How cruel, horrible and evil!
I cringe when ever I think about it. NO MOVIES! No hand holding in the dark, arm around her shoulder or trying to sneak a kiss without the guards seeing. God, why me – what have I done to deserve such a terrible fate?
So I got carried away a little bit and smuggled in half a billion tons worth of marijuana. Is that any reason to send me to this dismal sub-human place where beautiful women like Candice so “NO” when you ask them on a date to go to the movies?
I ask you – is there any justice in the world? This is cruel and unusual punishment and should be illegal! God – I’ll never smuggle again. The conditions here are horrible – your worse nightmare come true!
So that was probably my worse experience in prison. There were some dangerous moments – like when my girlfriend the Russian Spy – KGB Agent came around the corner unexpectedly and caught me rubbing Candice’s rear end – the look she gave me was definitely a very dangerous moment (humm, now that I think about it – maybe that’s why Candice wouldn’t go to the movies with me).
I mean coed prison was a really wild experience. Where else could you go where the Russian Spy tells you that you can’t sit next to the Puerto Rican terrorist in class because she is jealous?
Describing this co-ed prison experience would make a great sit-com as the characters were interesting and colorful and all had criminal backgrounds, and the male – female relationships in this setting was often times very humorous (or tragic as in my story above).
My best women friends or associates in prison were the Russian Spy (who was very cute), five Puerto Rican terrorist – however, they say “freedom fighters” – one of which I had a serious crush on for awhile, Sara Jane Moore – the American lady who tried to assassinate President Ford, Julie (she had a great – well – never mind) the Croatian hijacker who hijacked an airplane to bring awareness to the Croatian problems at that time.
There was Candice the jewel thief and cat bugler who wouldn’t go on a date to the movies with me, Carol the “Queen Pin” – my female counterpart from the East Coast of the US, and two really cute and gorgeous bank robbers – Trina and Danielle.
Lots of other famous or infamous women passed through Pleasanton during the time I was there like Ma Anand Shelia the secretary at Rajneesh Purim the huge commune in Oregon where they tried to poison the whole town during election time to vote their own people in. There was Gezelda Blanco “the black widow” who allegedly was behind most of the killings during the Cocaine Cowboys hey day in Miami and was featured in the documentary “The Cocaine Cowboys”, and others just as colorful and interesting.
I know of one person who says she is writing a sit-com series for TV on coed prisons and I often wondered why no one else has done this as the content is rich and diverse and very interesting. I pretty much loved every moment of this totally unique and unusual experience.
“College is one of the best forms of rehabilitation, experts say, helping inmates see themselves and society from a different point of view. Those who do well in class often gain greater self respect and set goals for law-abiding life after prison … Bruce Perlowin … is one of the three scholastic stars who have emerged, all with flamboyant criminal pasts and ambitious hopes for the future.” The Valley Times – “Prison U – Inmates Learn Behind Bars.”