Journal Entry: Scott Donald Carper-10/29/2023

Journal Entry

During my time at Leavenworth, I had the privilege of encountering extraordinary individuals from diverse backgrounds. Almost all my life I have been accustomed to occupying the role of the most knowledgeable person in a room, I was humbled to find in Mr. Bennett someone whose wisdom and insights, at times, surpassed even my own (quite often actually). I would’ve never expected that to happen in prison, but that’s one of the best, most unexpected, parts of my experience. Bennett’s unique perspective and depth of understanding, on a wide ranging list of subjects, left a lasting impression on me.

At Leavenworth, Mr. Bennett, aka Big Ahk or Ox, was In my opinion, one of the most influential figures at Leavenworth, earning respect from all the inmates. In RDAP Bennett & I were seen as two of the more clear cut influential leaders, we recognized this and sought to lead collectively, leveraging our unique strengths. However staff had other plans and never quite allowed this plan to come to fruition (although I would argue the inmates choose their leaders and our brand of leadership occurred despite their objections). But Bennett’s unwavering advocacy for inmates, even against staff expectations, showcased his dedication. His differentiation between a “convict” and an “offender” showcased his profound grasp of principles that held a significant role in his experience of incarceration. When I asked him to explain the difference between a “convict” & “offender”, I learned one of my first lessons from him. His response further underscored his leadership acumen.

Here is his answer: (I made only one addition to which I added in parentheses)

“the entire “convict vs. offender” conversation is rooted in exactly that Mr.C (that’s me) a thinking pattern based off of experiences in environments similar..but large in part very different from what we see/saw at the camp. Example: An offender typically understands the us vs. them concept in theory but it seldom translates into action. A convict not only understands but recognizes the gravity of his actions as it relates not only to himself but also his “tribe” other incarcerated men. Easy enough so far, the convict code is one where even if it means sacrificing yourself or taking a “hit” to ensure that the core principles: No snitching, no siding with law enforcement over your fellow man, looking out for the best interest of those of us with numbers vs. thinking acting believing the way administration would like US to in order to make their jobs easier or to maintain their dominance. Personally, in many instances it’s an affirmation.
In speech and action that I am for those that have been given a number same as myself above all, that those principles won’t be compromised for popular opinion or staff’s sake. I’m going to do my time on my terms and you know me as an individual so I won’t ever purposely impede upon my fellow man’s rights or privileges but the only thing I was obligated to do is the time the judge sentenced me to. 💪🏾 A bit long winded but I wanted to be sure I met your mark. I’m honored you asked me and let me know anything I can do.”.

Bennett’s influence at Leavenworth was undeniable, demonstrating an innate talent for leadership that transcended racial and social divides. What sets Bennett apart is his unwavering dedication to advocating for the rights and well-being of his fellow inmates, even when it meant challenging the established norms. His distinction between a “convict” and an “offender” reveals a profound understanding of the responsibilities and principles that guide his actions. Bennett’s collaborative approach to leadership, as evidenced in his partnership with the power players in RDAP, underscores his capacity to harness the strengths of those around him for the collective good. His ability to navigate various identities, from being a Muslim, to a leader in prison, showcases his versatility and adaptability. Ultimately, it is Bennett’s commitment to upholding core principles, even at personal cost, that solidifies his status as a gifted leader, capable of effecting positive change within any community he serves.

Out of the many people I met in prison, only a handful truly left an impression on me. At the very top of that list was Mr. Bennett, who will be released soon. We often reminded him that the “convict mentality” may need adjustment upon his release. To those unfamiliar, it carries a negative connotation. Yet, I want others to see him as I do—a remarkably gifted individual. I am confident he will retain the valuable lessons from his experiences, shaping his future in meaningful ways. These personal transformations need not be explicitly shared. He will maintain his loyalty to certain principles for the right reasons, but as he embraces his freedom, the convict aspect, though a part of him, will become a chapter of the past.

I will remain one of his biggest fans/supporters….I expect big things from him in the future.