Bob Shell: Behind Bars

the image is designed to create a metaphor for life behind bars
Behind Bars. Photo Illustration: Tony Ward. Copyright 2021

Bob Shell: Behind Bars, Copyright 2021

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The Latest Update

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I’ve been writing these updates for years and sending them to a long list of friends and people who have expressed an interest. 

But many people never respond and I have no way of knowing if they’re even getting my updates, or reading them. It costs me 25¢ each to send out these updates, and I just cannot keep it up, since the only income I have is what friends send me, and I’m ever grateful for that. But I need to put my scarce money to better use. 

Now that I have a Facebook page,, courtesy of a very generous old friend, www.facebook.com/ BobShellTruth, I will post my updates there and in my blog, www.tonywardstudio.com/blog. If anyone wants to receive my updates and can’t view my Facebook page or blog, let me know and I’ll send the updates directly to you. 

The latest on my legal situation: Apparently the Virginia Supreme Court’s Declared Judicial Emergency expired on May 8, although I’ve been unable to confirm that. During that state of emergency most deadlines were suspended and courts were only conducting emergency hearings. Now that the emergency has ended, the clock has begun ticking again on my deadlines. But the Virginia Department of Corrections has not reopened our law libraries, and no one knows when they will, so I have no access to the research computers to conduct the necessary research to write my briefs. 

I have two briefs due in the Virginia Supreme Court, and may be able to get deadline extensions if the law libraries remain closed. 

On my actions to regain ownership of my forest, which was illegally sold, I’m back in court dealing with procedural matters, but hopeful that I’ll prevail. 

Virginia has imposed a new sentencing structure that reduces from 85% to 65% the amount of our sentences we actually serve. That should help me get released before I’m too old for it to matter, even if I don’t succeed in vacating my false convictions. 

Many in the legislatures are pushing for sentencing reform, and this is the first of multiple bills to make it into law. Some neighboring states have 50% rules on sentences. Virginia is stodgy and slow to change, but who would have believed in the past that Virginia would be the first southern state to legalize recreational marijuana use? We just did. So there’s hope. 

Life in here has gotten much worse during the year-plus long COVID lockdown. The food here at Pocahontas used to be the best in the system, but it has declined seriously in both quality and quantity during the lockdown. It’s all carbohydrates, not good for me and the many others with diabetes. Due to the awful diet my A1C has gone from 6.1 in 2019, to 8.2 when it was checked this month. That’s no small matter. 

We used to be able to supplement the awful food with real food from our commissary, but they’ve been out of most things all year. Money does us no good when there’s nothing to buy. The doctor here says, “Eat lots of oatmeal.” Commissary has been out of oatmeal all year! 

There are companies like Walkenhorst’s (www.walkenhorsts.com) that specialize in selling to prisoners, but the VDOC won’t let us order from them. A company called Keefe in St Louis has a contract with the VDOC to supply commissaries, and has a monopoly because they give a kickback to the VDOC. That multimillion dollar annual kickback results in high prices to us, and a very limited selection of items we can buy. A cheap 14″ TV available from Wal-Mart for under $ 50 costs us over $ 200, just as one example. 

Enough said, wholesale reform of our justice system, top to bottom, is badly needed, but action has been agonizingly slow so far. Police reform is a good step so police stop having an ‘us and them’ mentality and become part of the community. Now we need to take the next step and go after corrupt judges and prosecutors, who put harmless people in prison for ridiculously long times. I had one cellmate who had a 520 year sentence! I’ve known others with sentences over a hundred years, and one friend in here got an 80 year sentence! If the purpose of prison, as is stated, is to reform ‘errants’ so they may rejoin society, such sentences are just absurd. The man with the 520 year sentence never hurt anyone. But he had 52 images on his computer that were judged to be child porn. He didn’t create the images and was never accused of harming anyone, child or adult, but was given ten years for each image. Even his local newspaper called that absurd in editorials, but he remains in prison, costing Virginia taxpayers many thousands of dollars a year. I’m sorry, but I call it as I see it, extra long sentences are ridiculous, particularly for people who never hurt anyone else. They ought to be outlawed as unconstitutionally cruel and unusual. 

I’ll step down off my soapbox now. See you on Facebook or my blog.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here: http://onywarderotica.com/bob-shell-covid-19-again/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

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