David Meister was born in the Bay Area, Northern California the 20th of May 1983. He is the son of Leah and David Sr., and sibling to his elder sister Jessica and younger brother Derrick.
From an early age David has been an artistic and creative person. According to his mother, even a pre-school age David began to exhibit a talent for finger and splatter-paintings, particularly in this choice of complementary colors. As time progressed so did his skill and propensity to doodle. 'As early as first and second grade I recall drawing vampires and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,' David said.
At the age of nine David found an interest in comic books, “Not so much for the stories, but for the dramatic artwork. I didn’t like to read – or anything that I saw as school-related.” Although he gave his bare minimum to his teachers --- earning then and later in his scholastic career a steady C average – David excelled in other ways: “By eleven years I could freehand a convincing human body, involving natural looking hands and feet, which many beginning artists struggle with, and I could use perspective and light accurately. All of which I learned from tracing Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Deadpool.”
At the age of twelve, having relocated to Seattle of the 1994 death of his father, David began to experiment with canvas and oil paint. “My family fell on hard times after my father’s death. My mother worked many long, hard hours to support three children on her own. I ended up providing a lot of after-school care for my younger brother, which kept me at home instead of terrorizing Seattle’s streets with my skateboard buddies. But this home time gave me the opportunity to draw and paint. We were poor and couldn’t afford cable television, but I frequently watched Bob Ross on PBS. He taught me how to paint scenery and about color value.”
By thirteen David began tattooing his friends with homemade equipment. The experience sired a life-long passion for skin art, which eventually caused him to drop out of high school at the age of sixteen (By this time David and his family had relocated to northern Idaho) to pursue a career as a tattoo artist. He bought his first set of professional tattoo machines from a local pawn shop and began learning from the few other amateur artists of the rural Idaho area.
David ventured from home at the age of seventeen, moving south to Moscow, Idaho, where he would room with a high school friend who was attending the University of Idaho. It was while living in Moscow in 2000 that David was exposed and impressed professionals who made their living in the tattoo industry. “I was working minimum-wage jobs, tattooing on the side, and just having fun being a kid. I would visit both the local Moscow tattoo shops and just watch. I learned about tattooing but I also increased my artistic knowledge in general. I would talk to the artists and check out their portfolios. If they were more adept than I was, I got jealous. Then I would learn their techniques and try to outdraw them. This competition spurred me to develop my skills; it’s when I really started to grow as an artist.”
Eventually David would take on a full-time apprenticeship under an artist who owned one of the tattoo shops in Moscow. “I only apprenticed for three months --- up until I was arrested --- but I absorbed a great deal about tattooing and technical aspects of artistic development.”
At the age of nineteen, in 2002, David was arrested for murder. After a protracted and taxing trial David was convicted of both First Degree Homicide and Conspiracy to Commit Homicide, for he received two life sentences. The State’s account of the events was that David was asked by a friend to kill his then girlfriend in order to end their tumultuous relationship. Throughout his 2002 and subsequent 2012 retrial, David has maintained his innocence and does to this day.
“I’m now thirty. I spent all of my twenties in prison. But I haven’t been idle. I’ve kept busy by studying as a hobby – law, logic, philosophy, mathematics, everything I ignored while in school --- and by drawing. I’ve done some time in [segregated detention] for tattooing, too.” David does indeed make the most of his time, producing dozens of pieces of artwork each year despite the restrictive conditions.
David intends to one day produce a masterwork, although being incarcerated necessarily limits his access to reference and art supplies, but this circumstance, much as his unfortunate circumstance in life, never depresses his creative drive nor his optimistic spirit. “I use what’s available and mix mediums when I need a specific result. That’s Prison --- use what you can find; make the best of things. This is true of life in prison and art as well. The key is to improvise and to be positive about what you can ultimately achieve --- for a good life and for good art.
About writing Battling The Administration:
I learned a difficult lesson when it turned out I was to be one of the prisoners to cry foul.
Although a young man when first locked away, nineteen, and full of piss and vinegar, I led a relatively easygoing prison life. I did my share of hole time, but otherwise caused few ripples––certainly nothing serious enough to provoke the ill-attention I eventually received from Admin.
It started, as it sometimes does in the prison setting, when I pursued a grievance. I had the temerity (in Admin’s view) to complain over the unreasonable censoring of my mail. Not only did prison officials have zero right to confiscate this particular bit of mail, but I was afforded zero due process in the taking––indeed, I wasn’t even notified. (I learned of the confiscation through a friendly inmate worker who’d noticed a package addressed to me sitting for months in the prison’s property department.) At length, I prevailed in the grievance, but in the process made enemies with the department heads ultimately responsible for the wrongful confiscation.
Angered, certain officials took it upon themselves to make my life more difficult, causing a string of civil violations, from general harassment to retaliatory denial of substantive liberties.
I was forced to demand relief through the courts, and was consequently forced to educate myself on the convoluted theories of U.S. and Idaho civil law and procedure. I took a crash-course in prisoner meatball lawyering (offered by a few sympathetic inmate legal-beagles), endured volumes of dry reading, and eventually completed a paralegal course. But more important, I gained practical experience in pursuing claims against an intransigent prison bureaucracy. And I’ve learned some tricks.
* * *
This book is designed to guide the uninitiated prisoner through the complicated and sometimes nonsensical legal world of prisoners’ rights. I know how difficult prosecuting a claim can be, possessing virtually no legal experience and absolutely no legal training. If you are a prisoner filing a lawsuit for the first time, this book should provide enough information for you to get a lawsuit off the ground. (But do not, by any means, limit research to this single text. Seek help when and where available; read what books are available.)
In addition to sections detailing legal research and writing, court procedure and prisoners’ rights, included are practical suggestions for how to logistically manage an inmate lawsuit. Scattered throughout the sections of this book are morsels of info added to give the prisoner-litigant an idea of what to expect, how to deal with eventualities, and some straightforward strategies that may prove useful in pursuing a case. I’ve tried to address the practicalities.
Finally, to aid the researcher, each chapter is followed by blank, lined pages bearing the designation “Notes.” I know well the hassle of keeping one’s papers together and organized in a prison system where binders or folders may not be available––a slip of paper here, a scrawled note there, notes lost never to reappear. Researchers can use the blank pages to organize their notes and thoughts under the various topics of each chapter. Laws and precedents change, furthermore, and using the blank space to enter updates as legal trends shift is a good way to keep current your copy of this book.