Dark Days in Chicago: The Rehabilitation of an Urban Terrorist

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“Dark Days in Chicago:  The Rehabilitation of an Urban Terrorist” will be released to the retail market in 3 to 4 months.  I’m very excited about this work that evolved into a new experience for myself.  Over the course of time, I found my own writing being influenced by the writing of the three inmates.  I assume that is because I wanted to maintain their voice throughout the work.  It has been a rewarding challenge.



There are a special group of forgotten men who live in the Stateville Correctional Center, a maximum-security prison located in Crest Hill, Illinois.  Each of them spent their early years as gang members on the streets of Chicago.  All three were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.  Each has served over 25 years in an Illinois prison.

The temptation to continue their gang activity while incarcerated was strong.  Protection, contraband, money, and the allure of a prison family fulfilled their immediate needs.  But amidst the violence and quiet roar of 2,550 troubled inmates, a miracle happened.  Three like-minded inmates — Adolfo Davis, Patrick Pursley, and Stanley Davis — sought redemption as well as a need to give back to those they have harmed.

Words give testimony to their lives, thoughts, and concerns as they reflect upon their youth and the freedom they once had.  Their intent is to help transform young people on the streets and promote life, not death.  These men share the history that steered them towards prison.  It is their hope and prayer that this book supports healing, thoughtful reflection, and awareness of the 2.3 million adults and juveniles incarcerated in America’s state and federal prisons.  And for the at-risk youth who are making choices that will determine their chosen path; and to those who yearn to understand the violence on our city streets, they offer a path to salvation as a model for a better way.    





A book is about to be born.


     It has been my honor to assist Adolfo Davis, Patrick Pursley, and Stanley Davis in the completion of their book. While the story was presented in third-person, it was my challenge to give it a cumulative-voice of three inmates determined to tell their story. Unlike most of us who have our favorite writing spots — private study, isolated cabin, library, or perhaps a table tucked away in the corner of a coffee shop – the authors wrote their story in a 6 x 9 foot prison cell.

Adolfo, Patrick, and Stanley have spent most of their incarceration in an Illinois maximum-security prison, while Adolfo spent four of those years in a supermax prison. There were times when the three of them attended prison classes and shared their thoughts on writing a book; communicated their ideas while walking in the prison yard; and the occasional trips to the gym. Then, in the isolation of their cell, they wrote their thoughts on paper to be shared at their next meeting. Adolfo combined the writings into what would become a manuscript. Unless indicated, the words will represent the thoughts of three inmates.

The driving force was their commitment to explain the path that led to their violent ways, and share their newfound secrets to a better life. Their desire to help the troubled youth of Chicago — the place where street gangs rule – gave Adolfo, Patrick, and Stanley a reason to wake up each morning, a purpose for living.





A Mighty Fine Book


I was pleased to write a review on “Hurting Like Hell, Living with Gusto:  My Battle with Chronic Pain,” by Victoria Stopp, a fellow Goucher College recipient of an MFA in creative nonfiction writing.  Hope you get a chance to check out her latest book.

A mighty fine book.

Hurting Like Hell, Living with Gusto: My Battle with Chronic Pain serves as a template for those suffering through chronic pain; athletes searching for longevity in an aging world; and readers yearning to experience the endorphin rush enjoyed by serious athletes. By most standards, author Victoria Stopp, was at the top-of-her game when injuries threatened to break both her body and spirit. Stopp experienced off-the-chart pain, leaving her with no escape from her newfound misery. Drawing upon her experiences as a health-care professional and patient, Stopp struggles to overcome pain while recognizing the need to redefine the limitations of an aging athlete. As a reader, there was a time in the middle part of the book that I imagined that Stopp would awaken, realizing that this was a terrible dream. But that was not the case. The author picked herself up and continued her journey.

It’s a joy to read a page-burning story written in the creative nonfiction genre. There were times when I felt myself in a lockstep-pace with the author as we raced down a country road, feeling the rush of our neurotransmitters pop and crackle like fireworks on the fourth of July. And then, without warning, an unforeseen pain brought us to our knees. But that was just the beginning of a miraculous journey. Yes, this is a mighty fine book.





Interview with WSIL TV on “Supermax Prison: Controlling the most dangerous criminals”

Click on the following link for interview with WSIL TV




Interview for “Supermax Prison: Controlling the most dangerous criminals”

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Recently I was interviewed by John Clemens, SAL Audio, on my most recent book, “Supermax Prison:  Controlling the most dangerous criminals.”  Please check it out.

(click here for the complete audio release)


A Troubled Mind


The scientific community has evolved at a much faster rate than our moral development and oftentimes views the causes of violent behavior differently.  For centuries, neuroscientists have studied the physical structure, chemical makeup and biological effects of one’s environment on human behavior.  For purposes of this book, we are concerned with violent male inmates housed in maximum-security or supermax facilities.  What is society’s moral responsibility to inmates who commit violent crimes? What do we do with them?  History indicates that our nation is content to lock them away in unsavory conditions, breeding places for further violence and more mental illness, with little hope for rehabilitation.  When inmates are released, they are often more violent than before.

For centuries, personal behavior in Western societies has been based on the premise that human beings have the God-given gift of “free will;”  the choice between good and evil, moral and criminal responsibility, and the power to exercise independence and self-control.  A righteous choice earns pubic acceptance, while a violent one brings punishment.  The U.S. Supreme Court has called “free will” a universal foundation for our system of law, distinct from a deterministic view of human behavior that is inconsistent with the fundamental assumptions of our criminal system.  In the United States v. Grayson 1978, the Supreme Court wrote that any intellectual development that threatened “free will” would seem to place the ethics of punishing people for their bad behavior in question.  “Free will,” as the doctrine that society has espoused, covers morality, law, politics, religion, public policy, intimate relationships and the psychology that governs life’s moral compass.  If society suddenly believed that “free will” were an illusion, would we become a rudderless world without moral direction?

The deterministic view from the scientific community believes that human behavior is based on a combination of our biological makeup and life’s experiences — nature and nurture.  Nature tattoos us with a genetic makeup, our DNA, that determines who we are in many fundamental ways. Nurture is a product of the countless life experiences that mold our core.  From  the beginning, we are organisms with a genetic blueprint that continually interacts with our environment, causing change to occur as we move from conception, to childhood, to adulthood and finally, to death.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computerized Tomography (CT) are two of the many brain scanners used to peer inside a living person’s skull, revealing intricate networks of neurons that are shaped by both genes and environment.  A large portion of the scientific community believes that the firing of neurons determines all of our thoughts, hopes memories and dreams.  We now know that changes in brain chemistry and the physical properties of the gray matter can alter human behavior.

March 31, 1981.  Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, finished a speech pushing his economic program, and deploring the rising violent crime in the inner cities.  Surrounded by Secret Service agents, metropolitan police, and White House staff, Reagan left the Washington Hilton Hotel and hurried through a light rain toward a limousine parked 12 feet away.  It was 2:25 p.m., when Reagan, looking very presidential with his Reaganistic smile, and a slightly cocked head that was a staple in his movies, waved to 100 or so well-wishers standing behind a roped-off area.  Reporters readied for a story; cameramen wanted that special photo; and a patchwork of people waited for a glimpse of their President.  It was a scene that would be replayed countless times on the daily news, and discussed on every talk show across the nation.

It was sudden, like a flock of black birds in startled flight.  Six gunshots pierced the air.  Bang, bang, then a pause, followed by four successive shots fired from within the crowd.  It appeared as though the President had not been hit.  But an eyewitness, as reported by Lou Cannon of the Washington Post, said it all, “The President winced.  The smile just sort of washed off his face.”  Three men fell to the ground — Timothy J. McCarthy, a Secret Service agent, Thomas Delahanty, a metropolitan policeman, and James Brady, the likeable press secretary who friends called “the bear.”  While McCarthy and Delahanty each had flesh wounds, Brady took a bullet to the head.  Rain washed puddles of blood down the sidewalk and onto the road.  Agents pounced upon a white, blond-haired man, later identified as John Hinckley, a 29-year-old dressed in a raincoat, blue shirt and dark trousers, who gripped a handgun while they wrestled him to the ground.  Hinckley was subdued and whisked off to jail.  The President’s limousine and police cars raced to George Washington University Hospital.

President Reagan’s wound was serious:  a .22 slug penetrated his chest, ricocheted off a rib, and entered his lung, resting about one inch from his heart.  An 80-minute surgery followed by 12 days in the hospital led to a full recovery.  McCarthy and Delahanty recuperated, as well.  But Brady was not as fortunate.  The bullet seemed to explode in his head, causing permanent brain damage.

Initial public expectation centered on whether Hinckley would spend the rest of his life in prison, or if he would be put to death.  But as days passed, Hinckley’s future became less certain.  His mental state began to unfold.  In 1976, five years before the shooting, Hinkley bad become obsessed with the movie Taxi Driver, where a psychotic taxi driver, Travis Bickle (played by Robert DeNiro), contemplates political assassination and then rescues a young prostitute, Iris (played by Jodi Foster), from a pimp.  Hinckley took on the mannerisms — the army fatigue jacket, the fascination with guns, and even the taste for peach brandy — of the Bickle character.  Hinckley’s infatuation with Iris developed into a full-fledged imaginary love for Jodi Foster, so much that he sent her love letters and stalked her on the Yale university campus.  It was later revealed that Hinckley had even stalked President Carter and planned to assassinate him to impress Jodi Foster.  But each time, he was unable to follow through on his original intent.  A love letter sent to foster just hours before he carried out his assassination attempt of Ronald Reagan showed the depth of Hinckley’s mental illness.

Dear Jodi,

There is a definite possibility that I will be killed in my attempt to get Reagan.  It is for this very reason that I am writing you this letter now.

As you well know by now I love you very much.  Over the past seven months I’ve left you dozens of poems, letters and love messages in the faint hope that you could develop an interest in me.  Although we talked on the phone a couple of times I never had the nerve to simply approach you and introduce myself.  Besides my shyness, I honestly did not wish to bother you with my constant presence.  I know the many messages left at your door and in your mailbox were a nuisance, but I felt that it was the most painless way for me to express my love for you.

Jodi, I would abandon this idea of getting Reagan in a second if I could only win your heart and live out the rest of my life with you whether it be in total obscurity or whatever.

I will admit to you that the reason I’m going ahead with this attempt now is because I just cannot wait any longer to impress you.  I’ve got to do something now to make you understand, in no uncertain terms, that I am doing all of this for your sake.  By sacrificing my freedom and possibly my life, I hope to change your mind about me.  This letter is being written only an hour before I leave for the Hilton Hotel.  Jodi, I’m asking you to please look into your heart and at least give me the chance with this historical deed, to gain your respect and love.

I love you forever,
John Hinckley
This is an excerpt from my latest book.  For more information on the criminal mind check out “Supermax Prison:  Controlling the most dangerous criminals” to be released in early December.

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The day my father loved me.


It was an earlier time, many decades ago, when the love between my father and I first appeared.  My parents had ended their dysfunctional marriage, leaving my older brother, Keith, to live with our father while I was sent away with my mother and a dog named Nippy.  Keith was 13 and I was 7.  I was later told that Keith and I had to be separated; he did bad things to me.

Two months later, after the spring plow and the crops had been planted, I returned to the two-story farmhouse for a one-week visit with Keith and my father.  On this summer day, my grandfather and mother were in the front seat of his 1951 Chevy while I peered over the back seat looking for the house where I had spent my earlier years.  No sooner had we turned off highway 16 and headed north on the DeLand blacktop than I saw my father driving our way.  The two cars pulled over to the side of the road and stopped.  I cautiously stepped out of the car while my grandfather opened the trunk of his car and, without looking up, quietly passed the suitcase to my father.  There was no, “How are you doing?”  “Think it will rain?” “Your beans look good.” in the exchange.  My mother opened her door, stood up, and faced my father.  The car stood between the two of them.  “We’ll be back in a week to pick him up,” she said.

“I’ll have him ready,” my father replied.

As we drove to the farm, I wondered what was next.  My father and I had never spent much time together.  He was either working in the fields or nowhere to be found.  We turned right on the lane leading to the house which sported a chilling look on a 90 degree day.  The front screen door swung open and slammed shut as Keith swaggered across the porch, stood at the edge, looked to the left, to the right, and focused his eyes on me.  Fear surged through me, causing me to wonder if coming here was a mistake.  Without speaking, Keith conveyed the feeling that this was his house and that I was not welcome.

While my father and I walked up the steps, I latched onto my father’s right hip, keeping my father between Keith and I.  While Keith never said a word, his eyes made contact with mine.  After dropping the suitcase, my father said, “Hey, Larry, how about you and me go to town for a cold bottle of soda pop?”  It all seemed so strange, since I didn’t remember being asked before.  Keith was the one my father took to town.  But this time, Keith stayed home.

We climbed into the pickup and headed south toward the local bar and grill.  My right arm hung out the window as the wind blew hard against my skin causing the tiny hairs to stand upward.  Minutes later we arrived at the bar and grill where farmers hung out when it was raining or the crops were all in, or to watch the winter months pass by.  There was a long bar with several stools that swiveled each time a butt moved from side to side.  Dad rested his feet on a long silver pipe at the base of the bar.  Mine hung in the air like Monday’s wash.  Behind us were a few booths with bright-red plastic seats and silver-gray tabletops spotted with the occasional cigarette burns.  My father ordered a tall, dark bottle of beer and a half-frozen bottle of Coke for me.  Sitting next to the Coke was a saucer holding two cake donuts covered with white powdered sugar that stuck to my lips each time I took a bite.  Men stopped by the table to talk with my Dad about the need for a slow-summer rain, his stock car racing last Friday night, and asked if this was his boy.  My father drove in stock-car races at the fairgrounds on Friday nights.  He knew how to drive a car fast, especially around the corners.

Sue, the woman my Dad was dating, was a waitresses at the bar and grill.  She dried off her wet hands with a dish towel and walked our way.  She was a good ten years younger than my father and, unlike my mother, brought an excitement to a conversation even if it was meant just to pass the time of day.  Sue was of the opinion that there was more to life than cooking, sewing, and doing the chores.  It was no secret that my father liked her.

“This is Larry, my younger boy,” my father said as he looked my way.  Sue commented on how cute I was, and how I looked like my father.  All I could managed was a “hi” and my biggest smile while I swung side to side on the metal stool.  Sue had an easiness about her; the way she moved, her soft but steady voice, and the way she looked at me, not passed me.  She had rich auburn hair, soft eyes, and a shapely figure.  It was obvious why a man would be taken by her.  My father and Sue talked in near-whispered tones like most couples do.  I turned, listened to the farmers laugh, and watched them drink coffee and then sit back and take deep pulls from their cigarettes.  Tall tales, politics, and farming consumed their conversation.

On this particular day, or any day for that matter, a farmer might have talked about the long winter months and how he looked forward to the spring plow.  The tractor seemed rested, he probably said, when he drove into the field pulling a four-bottom plow.  He drew back the hydraulic lever, steel blades cut in the rich, black soil; just the right amount of moisture, not so wet as to be like mud, or so dry as to be like cement.  The temperature was 70 degrees with a slight southwesterly breeze coming in at 10 miles per hour.  Looking over his shoulder, he saw the soil turn and churn like freshly kneaded bread.  Worms awoke from their long winter’s nap, and robins flew down from the sky, looking to be fed.  The aroma of freshly turned soil mixed with gasoline fumes, and the puffs of smoke exhaled when the tractor pulled through a patch of wet soil, produced scents of spring.  Taking another sip of coffee, the farmer probably gazed out the window with a smile across his face.  “That’s when life is pretty much near perfect,” he said.

Decades later, I remember the one-week visit with my father, a time like no other I ever recalled.  Maybe it was an illusion, a hint of how life should be between a father and his son.  It remains as my most treasured memory, that one-week visit when life was pretty much near perfect, the day my father loved me.

A few months later when my mother and I were living with my grandparents and I was returning from school, my grandmother and mother were sitting at the kitchen table, gripping their coffee cups hard.  Whispered words stopped as I entered the room.  My mother rose from the table and led me into the bedroom.  “Keith and your father were in a car wreck,” she said.  “They were going to the Illinois state fair.  Your father was driving fast and ran into a truck pulling a horse trailer.  Your father and Keith were both killed but they didn’t feel a thing.”

Press release for “Supermax Prison”

Press release for “Supermax Prison:  Controlling the most dangerous criminals.”  While the Ebook is available, the paperback will be released late November or early December.  I have advanced copies of the paperback if you are interested.  Contact llfranklin12@gmail.com




Evolution of my *&*&# Potato Chips


My wife and I modernized our shopping strategy.  We purchased an Alexis unit that sits in our kitchen waiting for our daily directions, “Hey Alexis, add peanut butter to the shopping list.”  Alexis answers with a pleasant, “I’ve added peanut butter to your shopping list.”  We installed the app on our iphones which allows each of us to access the grocery list.  I go to the south end of the store while my wife heads north.  Place an item in your grocery cart and delete it from your app.  That’s the plan.

I’m in the south end of the store moving down the potato chip aisle looking for my favorite, “Cape Cod Whole Earth Collection 40% Reduced Fat Potato Chip.”  And then it strikes me, “Where in the hell are my potato chips?”  Standing in front of me is an entire aisle of different varieties of potato chips performing the “wave” as I walk by.  Standing beside me are two women who reside in my age bracket.  Okay, perhaps they’re younger than me.  “What is going on?”  I asked.  “There used to be plain and ruffle chips, and then we added Barbecue Chips.  This is insane.”  They added words of encouragement accompanied by an affirmative nod to support my frustration.  While they struggled to find their favorite chip, they finally grabbed a bag and moved on.  I waited for my wife to come south and pull our favorite Cape Cod chips from the shelf.

A couple of days passed and I’m still wrestling with my potato chip concerns.  Time to gain some perspective on this problem.  Google time.  Simply stated, a potato chip is a thin slice of potato deep fried or baked until crunchy.  The basic chip is cooked and salted.  Additional varieties are manufactured using various flavorings and ingredients including herbs, spices, cheeses, other natural and artificial flavors, and strange-sounding additives.

I remember when the early chips were challenged by the potato chips in a tube.  While I never cared for them, they did fit one at a time on the top of my tongue.  I admit it was a bit of an emotional rush to experience the disintegration of each chip as it dissolved in my mouth.  Still, they never measured up to the plain and ruffle chips.

According to taquitos.net there are 1698 types of potato chips classified into 312 categories.  We’ve got the Ruffles for the old folks like me, the Barbecue chips for anyone with a bounce in their step, and then we have so many flavors that I can never experience in my remaining lifetime.  Have you tried Archer’s Famous Macaroni and Cheese Thick-cut Potato Chip, Herr’s Chickie”s and Pete’s Famous Crabfries Seasoned Potato Chip With White Creamy Cheese Sauce, and we even have one called the Potato Chip.  If that’s not enough information, there were $7.5 billion spent on an assortment of potato chips in 2015.

Instead of protesting the evolution of my potato chips, I’ve decided to become a participant.  What the hell?  I’m retired.  I have nothing else to do.  It’s a known fact that I like to sip on an evening beer or two.  With that in mind, I pledge to buy a different bag of chips each week to accompany my evening beer/beers.  That’s 52 bags of chips each year with 52 to 104 evening beers in a year.  At that rate I will have eaten the 1698 bags of chips in about 32 1/2 years.  If modern medicine makes its anticipate strides I will accomplish my goal at age 106 1/2.  And then my wife added, “What if there are more potato chips added to the market over the next 32 1/2 years?”






Supermax Prison: Controlling the most dangerous criminals

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Several people have asked me about the release date for the printed version of “Supermax Prison:  Controlling the most dangerous criminals.”  The release date has been moved to November 2017.  I’m sorry for the delay, but it is what it is.  However, I do have several advanced copies of the book that I use for book signings, etc…  If interested,  contact me at 618-521-5041 or my email address llfranklin12@gmail.com, and we can make arrangements for you to have the paperback at a cost of $20.

Please check out the following link for information about a recent book celebration party.