DALLAS — He has gone from Dallas City Hall to a 10-by-10 foot cell with a top bunk.
It hardly sounds like a raw deal for a convicted felon, but that's exactly what the family of former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill believes.
Mary Louise Hill, 85, has a stack of 25 letters written by her son chronicling his life behind bars following his conviction for bribery and extortion.
She claims his experience is nothing short of hell.
The letters arrive two to three times a week. The envelopes show Hill's prison identification number 37-106-177, but his mother said she is still proud to say he's her son.
She recalls the last thing he wrote, explaining how he feels.
"He says, 'Mother, I know it's not easy; it's not easy,'" she said, reading his words.
The former council member's letters, often long and descriptive, explain his new life behind bars, starting with his short stint in a Beaumont prison.
"They woke him up in the middle of the night, and with no explanation, 'Just get your stuff,'" his mother said.
For seven days, Hill sat locked in an Oklahoma City jail cell, only to be transferred again to Atlanta. This time he was holed up for 30 days with drug traffickers, murderers and armed robbers.
"From there, from where I gathered, it was hell on earth," his mother said.
Don Hill was eventually moved to Kentucky, where he is now sleeping on a top bunk in a 10-by-10 foot cell. He's even dropped 25 pounds.
The details of Hill's incarceration are being chronicled for a religious devotional he hopes to publish upon release.
Mary Hill said she cried when she read it. "I cried because there's so much he was going through that I never even knew about," she said.
Don Hill is hopeful that a new petition spearheaded by his mother will catch the attention of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. So far, several hundred signatures have been collected, protesting his 18-year sentence as excessive.
Five-thousand signatures are needed. The petition is expected to be distributed to local churches and barber shops in the coming weeks.
Mary Hill said she will not quit until she sees her son a free man in Texas instead of more than 900 miles away in Ashland, Kentucky.
"I ask the Lord every night, 'Keep me well; keep me healthy enough so I can see my child,'" she said.