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ON FEBRUARY 20, 2003, after my conviction the previous June and losing my appeal, my identity and possessions were taken from me when I surrendered to authorities. I was strip-searched and issued prison clothing: two pairs of boxers, two pairs of socks, a pair of shower shoes, and a pair of very cheap sneakers. After fingerprints and mug shots, I was no longer successful businessman and respected community and church leader Richard Walls. I was now Prisoner 54335, convicted of selling securities without a license and “purposefully misinforming and defrauding my clients.”

It was the most devastating day of my life on so many levels: being unjustly convicted of crimes I had not committed, the loss of my reputation and freedom, and—most of all—the separation from my wife and family, who were 2,200 miles away.

As I thought of my losses, I was handed a bag with toiletries, two towels, writing paper, and two pencils with no erasers. I was then escorted through a cage door, down a long hallway, and into a large cellblock called A Pod. Large steel doors at each end of a short corridor secured the entrance to this area and electronically locked behind me as I entered. The sound of that locking mechanism was the most frightening, hopeless sound I have ever heard. They then issued me a very thin mattress, two sheets, and two blankets.

Earlier in the day, following the court proceedings, I had been escorted from the courthouse in Farmington, Maine, to the Franklin County Jail for transport to the Windham Correctional Facility. When the deputy came to transport me, the bailiff told him handcuffs were not necessary, so I was not cuffed for the ride to the county jail. When I arrived at the county jail, I was not put into a holding cell to await my transport, which was the usual procedure. I was simply put in the office area and told to sit by one of the office personnel; I believe she was a secretary. I waited about thirty minutes.

When the deputy arrived, he handcuffed me, as required for prisoner transport. A short while after we were outside the town limits, however, he took off my cuffs and put me in the front of the vehicle with him for the two-hour ride to the prison. He was very kind, and it made the whole experience much easier on me. I was left uncuffed until just before we arrived at the Correctional Center, when he stopped and cuffed me for the approach to the facility.

The Correctional Center was the most foreboding site. Several fences, all topped with razor wire, surrounded the facility. It was then that the nervousness really began to set in. I felt like I was being taken to a cage, like an animal. As we approached the prisoner entrance, we passed the A Pod recreation yard. Several men were playing basketball, and several more were just watching. As we drove by, they all stared at the vehicle, obviously wanting to see who was joining them. My mind ran wild with thoughts of what to expect.