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Freddie Bones: Like Father Like Son

Column by Richard J. Lester: July, 2000

 

Here's an interesting subject if there ever was one. You have heard the age-old adage, "Like father like son."

That is becoming a growing trend behind the walls and wires of America's prisons. You may think this would be an oddity, considering the age differences between a father and his child. But you would be a fool if you ignored the possibility of being incarcerated with your very own blood child. It happens more and more frequently of late.

"Freddie Bones" - his nickname - is a black man with a back injury, the result of a motorcycle accident some years ago. Now he walks with shoulders bent along the sidewalks of the FCI located at Sheridan, Oregon. Well, not at the moment. At present he is chained to a bed somewhere in the Midwest while he has heart surgery. But like General MacArthur he will be back.

 

I always liked Freddie Bones, a man with a perpetual smile on his face that accompanied a few kind and often humorous words.

One time it was concerning his terry cloth robe. I asked him in a joking way if he would leave me his robe when he went home. His answer was , "I may not be going home," followed by: "and even if I do, Les', it will be after you are gone. Hard to believe, I mused, since I am not exiting here until the year 2008. I was convicted of a marijuana conspiracy and they gave me a 16 year sentence. Being black, Freddie got even more time.

The reason for this article is simple enough. A few days ago I noticed a kid, a tall gangly boy with a curiosity about him. A friendly youth. I didn't know his name, but he seemed to know many of the other inmates. Dumb me, I still wasn't able to add the sum of father and son. Not until someone called out: Hey, Freddie Bones, are you playing tonight? I heard that, and, you know, I felt the angry hairs on my neck come to attention. How wrong to steal a man's nickname, I thought, especially when he's away in hospital chained to a bed awaiting a life-threatening operation.

I asked the youngster standing next to me, "Hey, what did he call that kid?" He repeated the name "Freddie Bones." I started down the corridor to confront the boy, and find out what right he had taking my friend's name. Before my foot had touched the concrete the second time, the man behind me said, "Hey, Les, don't you know who that kid is?"

"No," I replies, the anger alive in my response.

"That's Freddie's son, that's Freddie Bones Jr."

"How about that!" I replied. I was happy now, the hairs on my neck laid down like a docile hound dog's, and I rushed to introduce myself to my friend's son.

Is that normal, for families to follow one another to prison? It didn't sound right to me. After a friendly handshake, I returned to my cell to consider what was wrong with the picture of the old adage, "Like father like son."

Freddie Jr. He is also incarcerated for a drug crime, and if he doesn't get relief on his direct appeal to the Ninth Circuit he may well have the opportunity of growing up in a cell with his father. I wonder. Suppose these mandatory minimum sentencing laws had not been enacted by our Congress: Freddie Sr. might have been rehabilitated, and in that rehabilitation bring wisdom to his son. Both might be fishing somewhere on the coast of Oregon, not spending the best part of their lives in prison - at the expense of taxpayers.

Interview

Freddie, how old are you?

23.

Born where?

Portland, Oregon. August 18, 1976.

How tall are you?

Six foot four

Did you graduate from high school?

Yep, sure did, 1994. Lincoln High School.

Where is that?

Portland.

Any college?

Yep, two years Portland Community.

Were you working when you were arrested?

Yep, I was working at Great Western Ink.

I guess I won't have to ask what they do at that company.

Ink, they manufacture ink.

How long had you worked there?

Three years.

So you were working there when you were in high school?

No, afterwards.

I was surprised to learn that you were Freddie's son. How long has your father been in prison?

Since October of '89.

His crime was?

Conspiracy to distribute drugs.

And you, your crime?

Same thing, drugs.

Family plan, correct?

Hmmmmmm.

Tell me, Freddie, was your dad a good father?

Yeah, for the years he was out.

Well, how old were you when he was taken away?

13.

That's a pretty unstable age, wouldn't you say?

Yeah.

Describe its effect on you, his being taken away at 13.

I was confused. It's hard, because when you are young, that's when you need a role model.

But what kind of role model was your dad?

Even if my dad did illegal things, he still strived to teach us to not do things illegally. I know that might not sound all that good, but he was a good dad. You know he has ten kids, don't you, Les?

No, I didn't know that, Freddie. Did he work?

Sure, my dad went to college. Manager of a gas station.

Hardly enough to raise ten kids and a wife, is it?

You have to realize that my dad and his dad, it's the same way.

How's that?

His dad was also in jail. It's just the way it is in northeast Portland.

You mean like how?

It's the way things are done to support yourself. His dad, my dad, and me.

Well, if you or I should say, when you get to jail, is it going to be the same old game, you know, status quo?

No, because you learn, you learn off of your mistakes.

How much time did you get, Freddie?

100 months.

You think the justice system could have taught you not to do crime in less than 100 months?

It didn't teach me anything. I had already decided that crime was not going to be a way of life for me, even before I was caught. It wasn't anything I had done recently. I sold drugs to a guy over two years earlier and he told on me. I hadn't been in the drug business for a good two years.

How do you feel about that?

Personally, I feel like anything you do in life catches up with you. You have to learn from your mistakes and move on. But let me say this. This isn't rehabilitation. This is placing a person in a situation that leads them to do more crime, because of the years they give him.

Do you think that a criminal would have a better chance if they didn't give out so many hard sentences, so many years?

I think that they would do better if they rehabilitated them, rather than give them lengthy sentences.

Do you live with your mother?

No, my grandmother.

Is there anything else you would like the readers to know?

Yes. You can sentence a drug addict to ten years, but if you don't teach him, he's going to get out and do the same thing.

What are your plans? Do you have any?

To get as much education while I am in here as I can, and be a father to my kids.

Kids? I missed that. How many kids do you have?

Seven.

Seven?

Yeah. I love women.

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