A open letter from Eric Smallridge will spending 22 years in prison. About
Drinking and Driving.
Did you know that if you choose to drink and drive and then get involved in an accident
in which someone is killed that you can be sentenced to 15 years in a Florida
Correctional Institution? Or if two people die in the accident, you can spend 30 years
locked away? Thirty years, think really hard about that.
Not in a million years did I ever think it could happen to me, or that I would end up
where I am today. I thought the worst that could happen is that I could get pulled over
and get a DUI. If that had ever happened, I’m sure I would have thought about it a little
harder, but until then, no worries.
I knew people who got DUIs in high school. It really didn’t seem like that big a deal.
They paid their fine, lost their license for six months and caught rides with friends until
they got their hardship license. An accident where someone gets killed, well, that was
just not going to happen.
But it did happen, and I had been drinking. And now, I have been incarcerated for a little
over two years with plenty of time to think about the consequences of drinking and
driving. Every day, I wish that I had realized the seriousness of a DUI and heeded the
advice “not to drink and drive.” I had a great life—full of opportunity and promise, with a
wonderful family, lots of friends, a beautiful girlfriend, and I had just received my
bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems. Anything and everything a
young man could have wanted in his life, I had. Then, in a split second, it was all gone.
It may be too late for me, but I really hope that telling you about the miserable realities
of my life in a Florida prison will help you make better choices than I did.
You may have seen the television show “Oz.” The show was about an extremely violent,
maximum-security prison. I think it’s a bit exaggerated. Prison is more like the movie
Groundhog Day, which is about a guy (Bill Murray) who keeps repeating the same day
over and over again. Prison is very repetitive. My daily routine hasn’t changed at all
since I arrived: Wake up at 4:45 a.m., breakfast at 5:00 a.m., count time 6:30 a.m.,
report to work at 7:00 a.m., work until 10:00 a.m., return to the dorm for 10:30 a.m.
count, lunch at 11:00 a.m., back to work until returning to the dorm for 3:30 p.m. count,