Glenn Langohr spent 10 years in some of California’s most violent prisons on drug charges, with 4 years in Solitary Confinement, before becoming a best selling author of drug war and prison thrillers. All of his books are available in Print, Kindle and Audio Book. He uses writing as therapy to process everything and to shine a light inside the prison systems. While marketing his books he found Ryan Pettigrew and was excited to see someone else shining a light on Solitary Confinement. This interview is going to be an ongoing report to continue to expose what is wrong with our Criminal Justice System from former inmates who are making a difference and the only ones who can articulate exactly what it is like, on the other side.
1) Glenn Langohr asking: First of all, congrats on making it through all that prison time and turning it into a blessing. What led to your charges that sent you to prison?
Ryan Pettigrew answering: I had un-diagnosed Bipolar Disorder that became hit hard when puberty came. I was out of control and eventually told to leave the house. To survive, I sold large quantities of meth and became fully involved in the lifestyle.
I went to prison, the first time, in 2000 for hitting someone with a bottle, which was actually my third felony conviction. After serving two years, I was released but went back to my old ways. I self-revoked my parole knowing I was being investigated by the federal government for drug trafficking and R.I.C.O. (organized crime); wanting the heat to die down. During that year in prison, I picked up a heroin habit and was involved in a race riot.
Once released, I went right back to selling drugs and when a jealous worker tried to rob me, he got stabbed by my brother. I made witnesses lie about the case to protect him and the victim’s girlfriend (who I was sleeping with) and received a 10 year sentence.
2) I spent time in Solitary for overcrowding issues that led to riots twice in California and then for investigations, what did you spend time in Solitary for?
I became a member of the 211 Crew in prison and beat up a rapist real bad who was trying to join us. In Colorado, they can indefinitely place someone in solitary confinement just for being a gang member so I was sent to the Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP).
3) In California Solitary is about 23 hours locked in a cell a day on average. We get yard in a kennel for one day, with showers the next day and it alternates every day except for Wednesdays which is a dead day for Committee Hearings. Is that how it was for you?
In Colorado, its 23 hour lockdown but we get rec time and showers five days per week. Except our rec time is only in another cell (indoors) so we don’t get any sunlight or human contact.
4) I saw on the internet that you are a voice for the colleges and public to understand the effects of Solitary Confinement on the mind. First of all I appreciate you doing this, and I’m curious to hear whatever else you have to say about it.
I’ve been working with Lisa Dawson from Solitary Watch and Susan Greene from the Colorado Independent to bring attention to this issue, which led to the segment I did on the Huffington Post Live about the effects of solitary confinement on the mentally ill since I did eight years in solitary confinement with Bipolar Disorder.
I’m suing CDOC pro se for: 1) diagnosing me with Bipolar Disorder then keeping me in an environment known to worsen the symptoms of mental illness for eight years and 2) for a 24 hour period of torture they put me through.
My message to the public is: regardless how you feel about criminals, most of them get out and public safety requires they be released prepared to become productive citizens rather than angry and ignorant. I’m not asking for sympathy, just a rational win-win solution.
The fact of the matter is that current prison system strategies are ineffective. If less people come back to prison, the prison system receives less money and jobs are lost so their interests aren’t in helping prisoners stay out or else they would be more rehabilitative in nature than punitive. It’s irrational to think you can punish someone so severely that they can become something they don’t know how to be.
I also work with at risk teens but I’m keeping my program quiet for now until I show it’s a success because I’m so high profile that the politicians have already stopped me from helping the kids when I’m the one best suited for it. You’ll be one of the first to know when I’m ready to go public with the results.
5) I believe God used Solitary for me to turn me into a writer. Did you have any Spiritual Epiphanies in Solitary?
I started to study philosophy and psychology; finding that happiness depended on embracing the true self rather than trying to be ideal, pursuing our individual highest potential and satisfying our physical and psychological needs in a balanced manner. I got heavy into meditation and the 7 Laws of the Universe; this was a spiritual awakening for me. Now I’m at peace.
6) Most people don’t make it after they get out of prison. From what I saw at Chino, Soledad, Salano, Wasco and Centinella prisons it was a breeding ground for violence and gangs, so rehab and preparing for life outside of prison wasn’t at the forefront, it was more about just surviving. How are you making it?
Colorado prisons aren’t as dangerous as California prisons but that doesn’t change the fact that all prison does is create monsters. I’ve been out twice prior to this and went right back to crime; true to the outlaw lifestyle. While in CSP, I started studying to get better with my criminal endeavors, but the more I studied, the more I realized that crime didn’t pay.
The tipping point for me was when I was heavily betrayed and started to see that the majority weren’t living by the rules they preached. Everything I had lived by was a façade and I was forced to create a new self. This time I chose a life that couldn’t be taken from me. I refused to snitch and I still have friends I take care of in prison but I’ll never be a criminal or addict again, nor will I associate with addicts or criminals.
At the end of the day, it comes down to choices. I choose to be legit because the alternative isn’t worth it; fast money gets taken and I’m a scumbag when I use drugs. I use the hatred that I developed from the torture inflicted upon me to fuel my drive because success is the greatest vengeance when it comes to the prison system that tried to break me.
7) Tell me about some of your endeavors and plans for the future.
While in solitary confinement, I learned inner peace and want to make things right by bringing the lessons I learned to others. My blog is dedicated to teaching the philosophy I believe is required for individual greatness/inner peace and I teach mediation, while acting as a life coach. My message simplified is: Objectivism, fitness and meditation.
One of the things that I studied while locked up was real estate investing so I joined I.C.O.R. (the local real estate investment community) and learned all I needed to begin wholesaling; then forming my real estate investment company. I brought my parents into my business to make up for the hell I put them through and we are now starting to flip homes and buy rentals.
I’m working on publishing a book of poetry (Madman’s Poetic Path), a memoir (A Madman’s Path to Reason) and a book of philosophical essays but the process takes time.
I’m also building a self-help subscription website that teaches people how the be their best mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually that also has a social network aspect so they can share achievement and art plus business network and support each other in their growth. I’m hoping to launch this in the next few months.
Glenn Langohr: Man I’m impressed with you brother. You are a testimony to how strong the human spirit it. I look forward to another interview with you soon. In faith we will make a difference… These are pictures of my friend Ryan Pettigrew~