#230 Grades of Honor Prison Project

The Grades of Honor Prison Project

In an attempt to generate revenue and establish a foundation of work, I am presenting myself to those who have loved ones in prison. If you have a son, boyfriend, husband, grandson, pen pal or whomever that is in prison, or may be going to prison, I want to present my offer to you.

I have been writing on prison issues for about 8 years now, and have shared thousands of pages of posts and blogs on numerous sites. Some of you have read my works as “masonik4”, some as “Nolaw97”. I want to try to push my works out for those looking for venues to encourage those that are in prison.

I want to offer my writing to help those seeking a way to comfort a loved one in prison, or comfort to yourself while having a loved one in prison. There are a wide variety of ways I can do this, but before you consider anything with me, I first ask that you take the time to read my blogs, to decide for yourself if I am sincere enough for your trust.

Do NOT jump into this simply because it sounds nice. I can’t encourage or help you if you are not convinced that I can help you. It is critical that before you make any moves to get involved in my project that you first believe there IS hope. If you don’t believe that, either go back and read my blogs until you start to see that I really am trying to help, or do not get involved in the Grades of Honor Projects.

To generate an income, while helping those in need, I often ask for support if you are interested. If you simply want to support my works, then email me and ask how you can do that, I am always very, very grateful for the gifts I receive from readers who want to help.

But if you are interested in a project, I broke it down to 5 different levels, depending on what you are able to do.

Level Amounts

This is basically an introductory project, for those that are curious or those that are interested in what I can do. For this amount, I will send you one of my prison cards, a prison encouragement certificate, and a flyer of a prison issue. This hopefully will give you an idea of what I am able to do, while also giving you something that you may be able to send to a loved one in prison.

For those who are familiar or comfortable with my works, this project allows me to give you more than the previous package. With this project, I can double up on the cards and prison encouragement certificates, but also provide you with one of my offline prison discussions that might be useful to you. To be sure, I add more here than with the previous project, which also will include a couple of prison issue flyers.

With this project I will be able to send you 4 prison cards, 4 prison encouragement certificates, an offline prison document that may help you or a loved one in prison, extra single page prison writings I have done and the upcoming month’s calendar, so your loved one can track his daily progress. Some inmates like to check off days, some like to write a scripture each day, but I can design a monthly calendar for the inmate. Note I will send the upcoming month, so for example if I get a request in mid July, the package will include the month of August. Additional months can be done, but this package includes just the upcoming month.
With this project you will receive my first “Grades of Honor” book, along with an assortment of prison cards, prison encouragement certificates, and a three month calendar for the inmate. I will also include offline prison document writings as well. If you have already bought my first book, I will send the second. If you already have the second, I will send the third in it’s place. If you have all 3 Grades of Honor books (currently on the fourth at the writing of this blog), I will send you my first Blogbook. IF you have all four of these books already, I will send you in its place different packages of prison works that I have written. With several prison short stories, offline writing and more, I have much I can still offer.
For this amount I will include my first 3 books of “Grades of Honor, a 6 month calendar that you can send either page by page or altogether to a loved one in prison, an assortment of cards, prison encouragement certificates, prison documents and more. With this amount, please make sure to let me know the relationship of your loved one, whether son, grandson, husband or whatever, because for this amount, I want to try to create cards, encouragement certificates and the like that tailor more for you, since you have chosen to support my works. You don’t have to be too specific. The name of your loved one, and where he is located is not necessary, because I don’t want to seem too inquisitive about your loved one. But knowing if he is your son, or pen pal or whatever helps me to think of new ideas to create new products to help you. IF you already have one or more of the “Grades of Honor” books, I will substitute that with more prison works such as prison cards, offline or blog documents and other projects.

In addition, I am thinking of trying to jumpstart a newsletter on prison issues, but not really sure when to kick that off. The idea however is to have at least 5-10 people to send it to per month to make it worth the time. IF I start on that, I have to decide how many pages it will be, and how much it may cost. I am looking basically at maybe $2 for a monthly issue, but this is still in the works.

Additionally, I have also started a project called “Scriptures for Inmates” in which I want to create a project using scriptures in discussions for inmates, or people with loved ones in prison, to help encourage them and build faith. This may include a card, a document and a flyer. There may be more, but I am looking for people interested in such a project. If I get enough interest, I may offer this monthly project at about $5 to $8 per month, depending on what I am going to put into it each month.

And one more project I have already started is the “package of the month”, in which I create a prison package by designing a prison card, single page prison document, a multi page prison document and a prison encouragement certificate all with the same theme. I have already designed a couple of these and they are already available, but if this kicks off I hope to make more in the future.

These are just a few of many things I have been working on. The hope now is to get emails and contacts of people that are interested in me helping them. The idea here of course it two fold: To help those with loved ones in prison, and to earn some money in the process so I can step up my works. I won’t lie to you and say this can be done without earning some money, because it is what will determine how much I can do…if any at all.

So for those that support my blogs, or have been for awhile, your help has gotten me to this point where I can offer the ideas and projects I wish to do. Now I have to wait for people to email me and let me know if this is something they can believe in me for. I have a very wide range of prison works that I have already done, remember I have been writing on prison issues for about 8 years. I have much to share, and now I am hoping there is a “market” for those that are interested in my works. If I can get the support to get off the ground with this, there may be even greater works in the future.

So take some time to think over this folks, I will let this blog sit up here for about a week, so everyone gets the chance to read this. If you have any questions of my sincerity, go back and read my past blogs, it will tell you much about me. I challenge you, a person that doesn’t care about you would not write as much, because it would not be in their heart. I am not saying I am a saint, but if you read my blogs, you know I am doing the best I can.

Email me if you have any questions or are interested in my works. I would really like to kick this off by July, so I can have a good idea of what I need to have done, and what I need to have as far as supplies. I believe there is hope, I believe I can help, but only if you are truly looking for hope. We can get through this folks, if we can work together in faith.

If you are interested, email me at derf4000 AT embarqmail DOT com. (note I used broken link to prevent spam)


June 13, 2010 at 3:37 pm Leave a comment

#229 Counterpunching the probation officer

Counterpunching the Probation Officer

Well, I had not planned on blogging tonight, as it is past 11:30pm, but I was playing a video game on the xbox 360 and it froze on me…

No different than when you are on the computer, and it freezes and you can’t save…same way and just as frustrating…

So I turned off the xbox and decided that I might as well blog tonight. And the idea to blog on is based on a question a person asked me tonight.

To the point, what do you do if you have a loved one preparing for prison, and have a lot of supportive letters written by the community, but the probation officer has a very countering argument against your loved one?

This is for a lot of you, but for one who wrote me on this, I wanted to talk about that tonight…before I fall asleep. Not that this is boring, because this is an interesting subject to blog on.

Now before we begin, lets all agree that Nolaw97 (me) is NOT a lawyer, nor pretends to be one. I am just sharing what I can based on what little I have experienced, to help encourage others. Got it? Ok.

So a mom has a son that is a little down because all the letters from the community supporting him seems to have no effect to the probation officer, who says he is a menace to society and should be locked up. If you are a mother (or even a wife, girlfriend, grandmother) in this situation, what do you do?

The idea is that you have to find a way to encourage that loved one so that he does not break down. And it can be easy to do that if you believe the probation officer is out to get you…as often seems the case.

Now, I had a few probation officers after I got out in 2001, and I will say that none of them were “bad” people out to get me. I say that in all honesty, even though at the end of my probation my third parole officer had to turn papers in on me because I could not afford to pay the THOUSANDS of dollars in restitution. Not that I refused, but that I just could not pay it…and I think 99% of the time to have that kind of amount put on a 3 year probation was unlikely to do anyway…it was like the court system was expecting a failure…and almost got one.

But as God as my witness, I cannot blame my PO (probation officer) because legally he was in the right. I just could not pay the amount, and it was a part of my probation. He even apologized for me and spoke well of me in court, because he knew my situation. But what if it seems that the PO is against you, as in this case?

There has to be a way to counterpunch his move, and we need to talk about that tonight.

I guess counterpunch is a good term, since I was watching “Friday Night Fights” on ESPN an hour or two ago. In boxing, this is basically when a boxer returns a punch to his opponent, in an attempt to stun, or knock down his opponent. The idea is to not just “take” a punch, but to return in kind…to counter, if you will.

Can it be any different in legal issues? In a case where you are worried about your loved one and how he feels after getting the bad news that the PO really seems out to put you away, what do you do?

In the email to me, the mom asks how to keep him encouraged, because her son feels that the PO has the upper hand. To be sure, he can suggest that the guy get time, and more of it, depending on the situation. But one of the first things we have to understand is that a PO’s word is NOT law.

We have to remember that there is a judge on the stand, and he is charged to weigh all the options, not just what the PO says. True, he can take into strong consideration what the PO says, but he (or she) has to also be fair enough to consider the accused as well.

For that reason, it is important to encourage the son that just because the PO says what they said does NOT mean it is over. This is critical because you have to still give hope even in negative situations. This is where most people fail, because we don’t believe in “giving false hope” or “building up someone’s hope”. But in doing that same thing, we are actually establishing the worst case scenario, which doesn’t really help anybody.

If you have 40 letters from churches, friends, family, teachers and the like, what this clearly proves that there is a supportive community for this person. Even if he still has to do some time for whatever violation he is guilty of, this can be a powerful counter that tells the judge that he is still an asset to the community. This counters almost directly the PO’s position that he is a menace to society, if you have dozens of letters in support.

Now, does this mean he won’t get any time? Maybe not, because the court of law says that if you violate probation, you are at their mercy to go back to prison, and how much more time to do. But in my case, I was guilty of not being able to pay the money inside of 3 years, so I was indeed at the mercy of the court. Now, if you never read my blog about what happened, you may need to look for that…it is a very inspiring story about faith and miracles in the face of apparent defeat.

So I know that even with violations, a guy does NOT have to do time…I am a perfect example of that situation. But in this situation of the mom and her son, it is important to stand firm on what the community has provided to the judge. Don’t get dismayed at what the PO says, you have to remember that the PO works on the side of the community in general, not specific. I know there are a lot of probation officers out there that really don’t care about their clients (as it might be said), but we have to remember that they are charged to supposedly defend the safety of the community. If they feel that an offender is not fit to be in the community and should do time, then it has to be weighed carefully by the judge.

But it does NOT mean a crushing defeat.

It is important to not be discouraged in such a situation. But being human we are often tempted to look at the worst case scenario when we get just a bit of bad news. There is a scripture that goes, “he shall not be afraid of evil tidings, his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord”

It tells us that bad news WILL come, but not to be afraid of it. Nowhere in the Bible were we promised to never get bad news…it comes whether you are a pastor, an NBA all star, the President, a teacher, a Hollywood actress or an ex felon. But the scripture says NOT to be afraid.

That’s hard to do folks, been there billions of times!

When I was in county jail, before being sent to prison, I would spend days and weeks reading faith scriptures, praying and trying to stay in faith. I built my faith up, believing in a miracle, but then when I got a visit from my lawyers, it felt like the air was sucked out of me. I would return to the cell, feeling like I had 500 extra pounds put on my heart.

But at that moment, I had to build faith, I had to not give in to the bad news. Sure it looked bad, heck it looked TERRIBLE, but I was standing on faith for a better solution. And at that moment, I went back to those scriptures, and read them, and put them back in my heart. If you’re gonna believe in something, why not believe in something positive, instead of the worst case scenario?

You have to encourage your loved one to hang in there, that those letters of support still mean something, regardless of what the PO says. A community supports him, and that has to count for something.

This is not the time to give in, and fall on your face and embrace despair. Believe me folks, I have done that many times, but after awhile, something stirs inside me to get up and pick up my faith. That is what has to happen folks, you have to pick it back up.

The fact that your loved one is worried means he has dropped the faith…he has GOT to pick it back up…and you too. Remember folks, your loved ones will feed off your energy. If you are consistently positive, the will eventually feed off it. If you are consistently negative, they will feed off that. So you have a huge part to play in this as well. Now is not the time for you to panic and think that the PO has all power over your loved one’s future.

Remember there are many parts to this situation. There is your loved one, the ability of his lawyer to present his case, the PO who is in opposition, the judge that has to see both sides as fairly as possible…

And then there is God.

Don’t underestimate that last one folks, most times we do, then when things don’t work out we wonder why He didn’t help us.

And this isn’t to imply that the PO is of the devil, that isn’t fair to say. But we should not be godly afraid of a PO as if he or she controls your life…that isn’t true at all. But to counter the PO, you have to remember what sources you are working with.

I mean come on, the NBA Finals between Boston and Los Angeles has proven time and time again that just because one team is up, the game is not over. Even after 4 games, nobody really knows who is gonna win this, because the series is even at 2 games each.

So don’t get all bent out of shape because one person said something negative…hmmm, sounds like advice I need to take myself… but anyways…

It is important to establish a positive frame of mind, to keep your loved one calm and positive. Invest some faith in the situation, and encourage him to stay positive. Whether the idea is to minimize the time he has to do, or even no time at all, it will be strongly based on your level of faith.

“Well that’s not true, the courts decide that.”

Not necessarily folks. In a carnal sense, this is very true. Between the lawyer, the probation officer and the judge, they can indeed decide your loved one’s fate. But spiritually, there is an incredibly lot of things that can happen for your side. Just because you can’t see how things work does not mean they don’t work. Heck, I don’t know how this keyboard works, but I do know that when I tap these keys to spell what I want, it does what I want. I don’t know how exactly computers work, or how our tv works or how my xbox works…(or how it FROZE on me…) but it works.

Man is the same way. I don’t suggest or imply that I know how God works, but I do know that God is a Spirit, and works in ways we cannot possibly understand. Sure, man tries to explain it, but we’re not smart enough to know how God works. But having faith in God seems to get Him to move on your behalf, based on how much faith you have in Him actually working on your side.

It is possible that God can, at His pleasure, turn the hearts of ANY man, or change a situation to a more favorable one simply because people had faith in Him to do so? You can’t look at that rationally because you can’t understand that. If you as a mom is looking at a son looking at anywhere from 3 to 5 more years, then you may well be hoping for a more favorable outcome, anywhere from the minimum time (if you are resolved that he has to do time) to possibly none at all (which is based on your faith, not a wish).

If in your heart you would be happy if he got as little time as possible, then put some faith on that. Of course, any mom would want their son to do NO time, but we don’t all have the faith for that outcome. As a scripture says, “according to YOUR faith be it unto you”.

So a lot of this is based on the spiritual, and how you can get your loved one to have faith, to not panic, and to not give place to fear. But understand me when I say this folks, it has to be REAL! I can lie to you about anything I want, and you may believe it, but if I want it to mean something, it has to be real to me. We often get this mixed up with wishing, which is not the same as faith, even if we so called “pray”.

For example, can you quote 3 scriptures based on deliverance if your loved one is worried about such a situation?

“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears”.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not on thy own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all thy ways, and He will direct thy steps”

“The angel of the Lord encampeth round about those that fear Him, and delivers them”

I wrote those off the top of my head, do you have any that come to mind when you have problems? Those scriptures come from Psalms, although I am terrible at quoting exact numbers (somehow I don’t think God is counting that against me).

All this plays an important part to what you are believing. When you get bad news, such as a PO giving a bad report against you, do not believe that it is more important than your faith. That is not the time to fall flat and give up. There is just too much riding on this to do that.

As the mom, you have to hang in there. If you don’t have a scripture to stand on, find one. I found a LOT of Psalms that really helped me through some very tough times. Remember folks, some of those Psalms were written by David in some of the toughest times of his life.

So in essence, having written about 5 pages of this stuff…are we truly counterpunching the probation officer…or bad news in general?

Think carefully before you jump the gun on that…if you have been reading this blog tonight, you should already know the answer.

Now, some of you will read this and think I am full of crap…. I mean how DARE this ex felon sit here and talk about God and faith and all that stuff! If he believed in that so much, why is he an EX FELON?

If I fully explained that, you still would not believe…so why bother? However, if I ever finish writing all my “Grades of Honor” books, I think the answer would indeed be in there…but gosh, I am barely on book 4 now, and to write them all would be over 12 books…not sure if I will ever finish it.

But there seems to be a reason why I have been blogging so long, why I have written so much on a subject I would have NEVER volunteered to do. But here I am, blogging after midnight on a subject to help some of you in a situation that you may be losing sleep over. And for some reason, I just cannot turn my back when there are so many that have been looking for help.

You’re not reading the words of a saint (although I am a Saints fan!) but I am truly hoping that God looks at the heart of every person, and knows what they are capable of. I can’t lie to God, no matter how hard I try. He knows us all as perfectly as we know our alphabet. And for that reason, He knows ALL solutions. We only know a few, and when we get bad news on it, we lose hope on the little we thought we knew.

Folks, you’re not fighting the probation officer…you’re fighting fear. Sure, in this case the PO appears to be the container of fear, but you cannot give in to that. If you believed that 30 or 40 sincere letters from the community are valid enough to at least give your loved one a decent chance for a more favorable solution, then don’t let go of that.

But stack the odds more in your favor. Believe that, then encourage your loved one to not give up hope. If carnally you think it requires more, then find ways to get your loved one to work volunteer services in the community to prove his worth and regain the trust of the community. Have some of those people write directly to the PO and explain why they believe your son should be considered for a second chance. Talk to the lawyer about the validity of community support and how it should be strongly considered for a more favorable outcome.

But spiritually, do this as well: Counter that fear with faith, believing more in what God can do, than what man might do. If you have any problems with the PO, who is only doing their job, find room to forgive them. That is hard because it appears that the PO is “out to get him” but I caution you, prayer means NOTHING without forgiveness. It is ok to feel discouraged about it, because the flesh will do that, but you have to believe that the PO is not above God, and no heart is stronger than God. But scriptures tell us that if we do not forgive, neither will God forgive us. And if there is no forgiveness, your prayers are no better than if I pray to almighty Spongebob Squarepants…

(yep…I watch that too folks…)

So there is much to consider when it comes to counterpunching the probation officer. When I remember what I went through, I remember fighting that fear every day. I knew for weeks, even MONTHS that there was no way I could pay that money on time, I was literally living on borrowed time. That was the time I was desperate in trying to sell my “Grades of Honor” books and cards, trying get support anyway I could, but being banned or removed from sites like Prison Talk, LostVault, WriteAPrisoner and almost any other prison support site with “prison” in the title.

All the news looked bad for me folks, but I did everything I could to stay in faith. Somehow, someway, it HAD to work out. I had no other solution. It wasn’t like Oprah or Bill Gates was gonna hear my plea and bless me with six figures (although I needed four figures).

There were days and nights where I was up at night, wondering if I was getting my hopes too high. I mean, God COULD…but would He? My days were sometimes a living hell, because I just did not know what to do. All I had was some faith, and not much of it I suppose. If it meant calling a ministry for prayer, I did that in private, so my family didn’t worry so much about my situation. If it meant writing a letter I did that. If it meant listening to faith Cds, I did it. It was all I could do, because I didn’t have any money, and wasn’t getting any from my blogs.

But the bad news came and I had violated my probation. Not because I was bad, or doing something wrong, but simply because I could not afford to pay the huge restitution fee. My probation officer really didn’t want to do it, but he had no choice. My probation included paying the restitution, which I think we all knew I could not pay. But I kept believing that somehow, someway, God had to come through…He just HAD to. Not because I was cool, or perfect or any of that stuff that we as society believe in, but simply because I was counting on Him…or in another way, having faith.

The story is long to explain, and even draw a few tears from me to share it, but near the end, I was in my bedroom, after mom was so disappointed in not being able to get a loan to help me. She felt so down, probably close to tears. I was actually on the computer when she said to me, “baby, I can’t get a loan”. I calmly said to her as I was on the computer, “don’t worry, its not over yet”.

WHY I said that I do not know…because NOTHING looked good for me. But something odd inside of me urged me to say that…to speak in faith. Don’t ask me to explain that folks, it would take another 10 pages.

But after I said that, I went to my room, closed the door and sat on the small chair in my room. This was the last day before I had to go to court, and we needed a miracle. If we didn’t get the money before going to court, I may well be going back to prison. I cannot remember what I thought about in that chair, but I was trying to run some scriptures in my head…anything that showed faith. I sat there quietly, clutching my pillow, wondering what tomorrow was gonna bring, or even if I HAD a tomorrow. About that time, and I kid you not, the phone rang, and my mom came in my room, and told me that they approved the loan. With that amount, and what my professor from college said he could send, we had enough to pay my restitution.

So ask me again if I believe in miracles.

In fact, that was a part of the miracle. The situation would continue in court, but I think I made my point. Folks, bad news comes to us all, and when you have a loved one in prison, any bad news seems like it is the breaking point. But it is at that time that you must not resign your faith. A more favorable outcome is possible to those that believe… but you HAVE to believe.

Oh well, there I go, blabbing again. I just know I lose a lot of readers because I talk too much, but if it helps one person, then it was worth the hour’s worth of typing. So I hope it helps some of you. Anyway, gotta get ready for bed, remember if you wanna support my blogs, let me know, and consider my “Grades of Honor” books and prison cards and the like. Until then…

June 12, 2010 at 4:49 am Leave a comment

#228 Prison Q&A Prison pen pals

Q&A: Prison Pen Pals

A very hot day today, just came back from walking to the post office to mail out one of my books, but glad I was able to do it. There just seems to be a sense of hope each time I mail something out to people who ask for my works.

Again, as always, if you are interested in supporting my blogs, feel free to email me, or if you have questions that I can blog about, let me know. I don’t know everything, but I can do what I can to talk it through.

So today’s blog is directly based on an email, so I wanted to talk a bit today about prison pen pals. This is a subject I don’t talk much about, probably because I don’t deal much with prison pen pal sites because of some very bad experiences with some like LostVault and WriteAPrisoner.

Perhaps they aren’t telling you as much as they should about prison pen pals, maybe because they don’t value the opinion of an ex felon (since I had been banned from them before). But in light of an email I got from a reader, I figured, why not address those questions here for you.

So today I want to blog out some thoughts about the prison pen pal genre. I am basing this off an email, and one or two I got before this one, and I want to see if I can talk to you about the idea of writing to prisoners.

These are the questions I want to address:

Question: Why do inmates ask for money?

Answer: There are a lot of answers here, and I have blogged often about this, as this is a MAJOR issue when it comes to loved ones with people in prison. But with pen pals, this is a greater issue, because in most cases, you don’t know the person at all. A mom wondering why her son needs $50 is one thing, but a pen pal who just started writing to a guy in prison doing 30 years is another thing. If you have not already, bounce back to the last blog, and check out my other blogs on inmates and money. For a person writing to prison, the rule of thumb may be that if they are asking you for money, don’t send.

That sounds cold, but I caution you that many inmates take advantage of people by using so many different excuses to get your sympathy, and eventually money. And yeah, I know I say this against myself, because I ask for support from my readers as well… I mean, that yacht isn’t gonna pay for itself, right?

(he said, HOPING you know I am joking)

Question: Why don’t parents, siblings and friends help send money to inmates in prison?

Answer: That can be misleading…because the reality might be that they already are, and the inmate is not telling you. This comes down to trust, how much do you trust that person you are writing to? Granted not every inmate is some crook, but there are many scams in prison that rely on you falsely trusting someone who wants you to feel sorry for them and send them money.

Its quite possible for an inmate do have 10 people sending him $50 a month, while telling each of them that he is poor, and his dear old mother won’t send him anything, and all his friends have forgotten about him. Again folks, this sounds cold, but I am saying this because this IS an excuse some guys use. Now remember, not all guys in prison are like this, I say that profoundly, but many will use any excuse if it gets you to send them money.

One reader emailed me about a person they wrote to, and was worried because he kept talking about how his family would never send him any money. Remember folks, inmates don’t NEED money, but it helps if they had some. But rule of thumb here, when inmates start complaining about their folks and friends not sending them money, it does not always mean they aren’t. It might mean they are, but the inmate is looking to get more money from as many sources as he can. It might also mean that those family and friends might have stopped sending him money because either he got greedy or he burned his bridges with them.

Is it legit for an inmate to tell you, as a pen pal, about their family not sending money….maybe, but with some exceptions. If you ASKED, and they said that, then there is no fault of suspicion, since you did ask. But if the inmate brings that to your attention, it usually means he is trying to play on your sympathy. The idea is to get you thinking, “that poor man. His mother must really hate him to not even send him $20 a month. And what of all his friends that he had? Surely they must care enough to send him a LITTLE something.”

That line of thinking can easily play on your sympathy to get you to send him money. And while the act is kind and generous, be very cautious that it is not the beginning of him always complaining about his family never doing anything for him. It may be a sign of a con. I mean, if that works, then I might say something like this:

“Please support my prison blogs, my family keeps telling me that they will help me buy that Rolex watch, but they keep talking about how much it costs, so I don’t have watch right now. And my friends all tell me about how they go to Hawaii every summer, and I never get to go…so if you support my blogs, I can have a Rolex watch and go to Hawaii….”

(is that working for anybody??)

Question: Do I have to send money to show I care?

Answer: Very easy answer here…absolutely not. In fact, any inmate that implies that is surely on a con. For example, I say a lot on my blogs that I would love support, but I never, EVER want anybody sending me a penny unless you first truly believe in what I am doing, and that you can easily afford to do so. If there is any question in your heart about my sincerity, don’t send me anything, not a penny, not a dollar, not $1000.

With prison pen pals, you really need to be careful when inmates ask for money. I will admit that the temptation of an inmate to ask is tremendous. If I was still in prison, and someone asked me as a pen pal if I can use some money, I would be very, very tempted to say yes. I mean, if you are offering, then it is good for me to accept your charity. But I think with my foolish pride, I would fight it because I would not have felt worthy of the gift. If you read my Grades of Honor books, you would have read some of that and how I felt during that time.

But rule of thumb here folks, if an inmate asks you to send money, based on how much you care, it is the beginning of a scam. Caring and compassion isn’t based on what you send. It is a financial measure, to be sure, but the heart matters before the dollar. IF you send an inmate $25 because you care, that is fine…if it what your heart led you to do. If you sent $25 because the inmate wanted you to send him that, because you CARE for him, then its not your heart…its manipulation.

Easily put, when you give money to anybody, if your heart is calm, or at peace with it, then it is a good thing. If you are troubled or in question after you sent it, then it may be a problem. For example, if you sent me $50 and you questioned it after you sent it, then you are not fully convinced of me and what I do. But if you sent me anything, and was fully persuaded that I am doing the best I can, then you can have peace for what you did.

The same goes for inmates. If you truly care about an inmate, then it does not matter whether you sent $5 or $500, if your heart is at peace, then that is what matters most. But if it is not, and you feel pressured to send, then it may well be a con.

Question: Do inmates want pen pals from women, men or both?

Answer: Its interesting, because in the years that I have written posts and blogs, the percentage of men that email me, or write posts, or support my blogs are less than 1%. An overwhelming majority are women, which is odd because millions of men have done time. But it is interesting because a lonely man in prison would like to hear from any person…but in most cases they want to hear from women.

This is a complex situation, because as one reader told me, a lot of inmates have requests for pen pals, and indicate that they would like to get a pen pal of any gender…but when guys write to them, they want only women, because maybe they are worried about men writing to men.

It is a selfish thought, because if I was in prison now, I would LOVE to have gotten mail from sports guys that I could talk to about football, basketball or anything like that. And many ministries that write to inmates are by men as well, so to be sure, there are many instances of men writing to men. But maybe because the inmate didn’t make clear the INTENTION of the pen pal, maybe there is some misleading of what he wants.

Odd, because the first thing that comes to my mind is “beggars can’t be choosers”.

If a man is doing 20 years, if the only pen pals he gets is from men, isn’t that better than no mail at all? I mean, I know what it is like to wait at mail time in prison, and names are called, and yours isn’t one of them. I cannot tell you guys how uplifting getting mail can be when you are in prison. Heck, even JUNK mail is better than nothing. So if a person writes to an inmate, it should not matter whether it is a man or woman… but sadly many guys do have a preference, even though they don’t make it clear.

And maybe it is a macho thing, maybe it is because they are secretly looking for a relationship, or maybe they believe that it is easier to con a female than a male (no proof on that, just what an inmate might think). But rule of thumb seems to be that many inmates, NOT ALL, seem to prefer female pen pals. But remember there are many exceptions to that rule.

Question: Why are we advised to use post office boxes when writing to inmates?

Answer: This is basically an issue of trust and safety to the person outside the prison. In a better world, you may not need it, but there is the concern that by giving your personal address to an inmate, there might be the fear that he might “come visit you”.

That would scare the heck out of most people…and for some legit reasons.

Say you have been writing to an inmate for a couple of years, or even months. He is due out in 3 months, and you have been writing to him using your home address. The fear here is that when he gets out, he might come see you…for whatever reason. And since we assume only the negatives for ex felons, him visiting you would only be for one reason…bad news.

Now, that is hypothetical, but this is the stigma attached to prison pen pals. This is also why a lot of women on sites seek out men that have LONG sentences, because there is little to no chance of ever seeing them, if such a thing happens. Word to those folks, if you are thinking along those lines…then you should not be writing to them anyway. No need having a friendship that isn’t sincere.

So the idea of a post office box gives you the safety of him not knowing where you really live. Now, this is purely based on trust, so if you really trust that person, then feel free to write to him from wherever you wish. If you have a concern about giving up your physical address, then by all means, use the PO box. This may also help you in case the prison gets too “nosey” with your mail, or if other inmates get ahold of that address. You giving him a PO box does not mean you don’t trust him, it is perfectly fine to do that. If the inmate has a problem with it, then maybe he has a problem of trust. I mean, if somebody wrote to me, I don’t care if it came from a land address, a PO box or a address from Mars, as long as I got a letter.

These are the same ideas I think about often when I talk about my books and support. I realize that I am asking folks to give me a land address so I can send books to them, or cards and the like, so I understand the idea of trust between me and those who support me. The same goes for inmates and you who write to them. But don’t get bent out of shape when it comes to using a PO box or not. If you are comfortable using a home address, fine. You don’t have to go out of your way to get a PO box if you don’t have one. If you trust the person you are writing to in prison, that is fine.

I know there are many other questions, but I thought these might kinda steer you in the right direction. Not sure if prison pen pal sites truly address these issues from the perspective of one who did time, but I figured this might help a bit. As usual, feel free to email me if you have any questions on prison issues. In general, those of you who write to inmates are truly doing a heroic job, because you care about people that society won’t spend a second with. A lot of those guys are people who made a mistake, and many truly wish things could have been better, but for now they are in prison, regretting a mistake they made. But is so helps when people like you take the time to write to them. I hope you understand the magnitude of charity you give simply by writing to them.

But in the same essence, be mindful to not have your charity turn to manipulation, as many inmates do use people to get money. If you can see the signs, you can tell before hand if the inmate is being honest with you, or if he is trying to take advantage of you.

Well, gotta go, the World Cup is on, and I wanna see some of it, if you wanna support my blogs or ask about my books, cards and the like, you know the email. Until then…

June 11, 2010 at 6:58 pm Leave a comment

#227 Prison Talk: Power of Choice

Prison Talk: Power of choice

Well, I guess I am finished sulking…

(you’d have to read my last blog to understand)

With today being Thursday, I put the last can of Coca Cola in the freezer to get a real chill on it….not quite frozen, but very cold.

After feeling down about how I can’t get any checks or money orders cashed unless I get a bank account, I was bummed out trying to figure out how to get a revenue going to I can then GET a bank account. I had to send back the checks and money orders I had received lately and had to apologize to those who put their trust in me. If we can find another way around it, maybe I can get back on track. A few of those folks have told me that they would continue to support me by sending support in other ways, which is cool. If I can just get off the ground with this maybe I can get moving and do more.

Well, today I was checking my emails and got one from a person who writes to pen pals. Personally I have not had very good relationships with prison pen pal sites, like LostVault and WriteAPrisoner, it seems those sites don’t really care much about what the inmate is experiencing, and thus don’t listen when an ex felon talks about prison. And Heaven forbid if I mention the slightest idea of my book, I get run out like I stole something.

So I don’t really support those sites, because it is clear they do not support ex felons…odd, since they encourage people to write to them….

But anyways….

Today’s discussion is based on the email I got from a person that was concerned about sending money to people in prison, a question a LOT of you have. Although I have talked about this in the generic form, I wanted to take a different approach, if I may.

The title is “power of choice”, what do I mean by that?

This has a LOT to do with the mentality of inmates, money and doing time. Now, society in general may not believe in that, or that ever inmate ought not get anything, but I believe that rehabilitation takes on as many forms as there are inmates. And one of those forms is by self-esteem.

Self esteem is defined as a favorable opinion of one’s self, and if you are going to get through prison, or have a loved one currently IN prison, this is critical. But you notice that nowhere in prison is this actively pursued. Prisons don’t do much to help encourage an inmate, only help in establishing the stigma of prison and inmates. And by doing this, they offer little to no help for inmates to establish self esteem. Because of this, if an inmate is going to generate self esteem, he has to do it himself…and most times, by himself.

“What’s that got to do with your title!”

I’m getting to that.

If you read my first book of “Grades of Honor” one of the things I talked about was the frustration I had in prison, as a first time felon. But there was something I did that helped me tremendously to adjust…I bought a soda.

“You’re kidding”

No, I’m not kidding.

You’d have to read my first book (and I hope you ask me for it after you read this blog), and how I felt during my first few weeks in prison. I was about as low on myself as humanly possible, which of course, is the very opposite of self esteem. I felt miserable about myself, my life and even God. Now, I didn’t show it on the outside, because having been an actor, I know how to play things off, but deep down I was absolutely terrible.

But during my first few weeks in prison, mom send me some money and I went to the prison canteen. I still remember the drink I bought, although I might get the name wrong, but it was a Tahitian punch drink (trust me, I know it when I see it).

Having bought an ice cold soda, in the middle of my worst days of my life…when I drank that soda, I tell you, it was like a very refreshing breeze on a very hot day. Now, it didn’t change anything in prison. I was still an inmate, I was still a first time felon, but mentally, there was something very soothing about that moment.

In a corny way, it was almost as if something was telling me, “its gonna be alright”.

Now don’t laugh, because unless you have actually been in a situation like that, it is easy to underestimate the value of something so incredibly simple. But in that moment of time, I managed to build a little self esteem, giving myself some level of value in this world.

But I could not have done that without money, or the ability to buy a soda. And don’t miss that fact folks, because remember, its not like that was the only cold thing I could drink. There are water fountains in prison, and they serve cold drinks at the meals, but those were not by choice. If I am going to drink, I HAVE to drink that.

But in going to the canteen, I then had the power to make a choice. The prison may, in theory control WHAT I buy, but I still have the power to make a choice in what I want to spend my money on. And in that is a strong sense of self esteem.

And if you really think about it, there is something to it. Even some of you can identify with this a little. Sometimes when you feel bummed out, a good thing to do is to do what….go shopping.

(for those who can afford it).

There is something mental about having the power to make a choice, the power to buy something. It is no different in prison, and in fact might have a greater meaning than we can imagine. As I said, when I was in prison those first few weeks, it wasn’t like I didn’t have anything cold to drink…they had water, they had those “syrup drinks” that were cold, as well as milk, tea and sometimes orange juice. But there was no choice in what we could drink…either you take it or you don’t.

Your choice.

So there is a level of control in prison that covers every aspect of your life, 24 hours a day. And while there is indeed a need for that, what this might be doing to the inmate is slowly deteriorating his esteem to the point where all he thinks of himself is that he is worthless. Prison does a very terrible job on rehabilitating inmates when it comes to esteem, and the way this is done is by controlling the power of choice by the inmate.

But when an inmate gets a chance to make a choice, there is self esteem involved. It makes sense because he is making a decision that gives him a more favorable way of doing time. By this I mean the canteen. Even if for a short period of time, like the duration of drinking a soda or eating a snack cake, it can be a incredible boost of morale to that inmate.

Remember folks, they serve food in the cafeteria too, but to make a choice, to buy something out of the prison canteen, gives the inmate a boost of morale that he may not have had a few minutes before.

When inmates are allowed the power to make a choice, it can indeed give them a better view of themselves, if not for a few minutes or a few weeks. String that along for awhile and you can have an inmate who is doing his time as best he can, far better than maybe he thought he could…me being a prime case.

A very good example I can give you is a very basic item in prison…hygiene.

In NC prisons (when I was in, just in case they changed it lately), the basics for hygiene were a nail clipper, comb, brush, a razor, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant, and I think lotion, and now I include soap here too, but there is a slight difference with soap.

All these items can be freely given to inmates, but these are the LOWEST brands of hygiene. You won’t see these items sold in stores, because they know NOBODY would dare buy crap like this. The only one I would give exception to is the single blade BIC razor, which of course you can buy in stores, but you know how much they cost…probably like 10 cents or less.

Inmates who enter prison get this “care package” from the prison, and these items are all low grade….very low grade. But if you don’t have any hygiene materials, then you have to use what you have. I remember just recently throwing away the deodorant that I brought home from prison, named “maximum security”. Its like the prison is making a joke at the inmate’s expense, and we have to grin and bear it.

So inmates have to deal with the generic brand of hygiene materials. For some it might be as long as they are incarcerated. Imagine using the same generic toothpaste, or deodorant, or shampoo for months, or years. Now, if it does not bother you, then fine, and I am also sure a lot of society is not going to shed a tear for “criminals”. But you’re missing my point if you ignore the strength of self esteem here.

To have the power to make a choice breaks an inmate from the day-to-day mentality of prison. The same hygiene materials day in and day out, which is no different from any other inmate can be very numbing. And the soap of DOC is nothing more than a blue block of stuff they get from somewhere, which not even Wal-Mart would put on their “roll back” days. The soap they issue to inmates dries the skin, and some guys even have a reaction to it. I have used it many times, and it is worth about as much as a sheet of paper after you have scribbled on it.

Now, think about your loved one using those products for weeks on end, or maybe months, and then think about what he is able to do when he receives just $20 from you.

The possibilities open up, and the inmate now has some choices he can make, choices that can make his incarceration much more endurable. Again, this seems small to you, but believe me, it has a great meaning to self esteem.

When I got money like that, the first thing I did was think of what I can buy from canteen to take care of my hygiene. To me, the most important hygiene material to me was lotion…I always liked to have nice soft hands. So I would buy some REAL lotion, not the watered down crap they gave us.

You see what is happening…I am now empowered to make a choice that helps me do my time better. I don’t have to use the cheap lotion, I can choose to by a name brand, like Jergens or Suave. And with that comes the newness of feeling better, with REAL lotion, with a nice scent. It won’t change where I am, because I am still in prison, but it gives me some comfort and a small morale boost.

I might buy some nice smelling shampoo, rather than the regular crap they give us, or I might buy some REAL deodorant, with a nice fresh scent. And I can buy some REAL toothpaste, like Colgate or something, rather than the less than generic mess I had been using.

When an inmate can make those kinda decisions, there is a strong influx of morale that can give an inmate a boost in self esteem. He is now in a more favorable position of doing his time. He can’t change his release date, but he can change the day he is currently living to a slightly better one.

Try it yourself and see what it does to you. Go to your bathroom and remove all your name brand hygiene, and go out and buy the cheapest brands they sell. Use that for a month and see how YOU feel. You learn to appreciate the value of name brands, and the morale it gives you. For inmates, there is an appreciation of the freedom to purchase, the power of choice, that you have every day. In prison this is severely restricted, and in such inmates must learn to appreciate what they used to be able to do.

So when they receive money, this is part of what they might feel, I know I did, although I may have been a bit more technical with the explanation, but that is due to having stepped away from it for awhile.

But with power of choice comes corruption of power…..

If an inmate cannot control his power of choice, it can become greed. This might be what a lot of people are experiencing when they email me about inmates asking for money. Now granted, a lot of these guys are out to take your money if you are willing to give it to them, but sometimes it can be based on the corruption of that power of choice.

If I got money from a person, and was able to buy name brand hygiene, and snacks and soda, I am now in a position to do my time in a more favorable way. I think we can all agree that an inmate with money to spend can do his time better than one with no money, but sometimes that same inmate will start to get to the idea that he SHOULD be able to do his time that way, rather than appreciate what a person has given him.

When that happens, that same self-esteem becomes twisted, in that the inmate starts to believe that he is entitled to receive from you, and then expects you to continue to support him. Maybe the greed of getting money, or the fear of running out, or both, might have him believing that you OWE him more money.

Inmates often forget that any money they get is a gift from someone, and it ought to be treated as a gift. But often times once they get that first bit of money, they want to be able to do their time as if they are getting paid to do it, with a weekly or monthly check sent to them. I’ll admit, that would be a GREAT way to do time, but I wasn’t so fortunate.

But this is still based on the power of choice, the inmate, even in manipulation, is exercising his power of choice, but in such a way, there is a false sense of self-esteem. Remember, self esteem is a favorable opinion of one’s self, and to be sure, an inmate that manipulates others to send him money is certainly looking at himself in a favorable way. But this isn’t a righteous way, because the inmate isn’t fairly looking at those who are helping him. In his eyes, those people are worth nothing except the value of money they send him. So if they send nothing, or not enough, he starts to feel that they are being unfair to him, as if they owe him something.

Be very mindful when this happens folks, because it DOES happen often. The moment an inmate expects you to send something, that can be a problem. Now, if you promised to send him something, and fail to do so, that is YOUR fault. He is riding on your word, and inmates will cling to a promise because there is very little to believe in when you are in prison. So don’t tell somebody that you’ll send them $20 and then two months later get upset if he is disappointed in you. You built him up to expect something, and he didn’t get it. But if he is bugging you about sending more money, and you don’t send it, then that is HIS fault, and be careful of him trying to manipulate you out of money.

Some of the better times in prison was when I had money, because on days that didn’t go so well, I could always lean on going to the canteen. I had the power to buy what I wanted if the dinner wasn’t so good, or if it was hot that day, or if I wanted some ice cream. When you can control any aspects of your incarceration, it gives you self esteem, or a favorable opinion of yourself.

I think in my second book I talked about when mom sent me $300, and how my time in prison skyrocketed. If ever there was a time I could say to myself, “I can do the time” that was it. It was like everything was going great for me, all things considering. Now I am not saying to anybody to send their loved ones that much money, you send what you can afford. But after that money ran out on me, and I didn’t receive any money for months…it was tough. I dare not ask mom for money, it just wasn’t right to do it, but I knew if I had just a little money each month, I could pick myself up. There were times where each day was just a pain, but I had to endure, broke or not.

For months I would be getting about $2 a week because of my janitor job, and I had to make it last. But I always treated myself to a soda, and I remember how refreshing it felt to drink it. In that refreshing there was a calm, although temporary, that I had to endure this incarceration. As long as I had the power to make a choice while in prison, I would be ok.

So consider that next time you send your loved ones money, but also be mindful of those that try to manipulate you to send money. I know I say that with a double-edged sword, since I ask readers to support my blogs if they can, or to buy my books and cards… now made a little harder since banks won’t do third party checks, but if you are really willing to support me, there are other ways around that to give me the support.

At any rate, my soda is gone, and it is almost 1:30, email me if you wanna, and ask about supporting my writing, or purchasing my “Grades of Honor” books and stuff. Until then…

June 10, 2010 at 5:27 pm Leave a comment

#226 Dealing with setbacks

Dealing with setbacks

So today didn’t turn out so good….

It’s just after 8pm as I blog my thoughts out, certainly the day didn’t go nearly as well as I thought it would have. Kinda a big swing on things I wanted to do, and it turned out I could not do very much at all.

If you read my previous blog, you know that I was about to send out some “Grades of Honor” books, and some other cards, because I had received a couple of gifts and orders for the books. The plan was to ask my mom to cash them so I can have the money to get the books bound at Staples, and get a large envelope to send them with. It would have also afforded me the opportunity to get some more ink, and maybe a few supplies…and maybe a McDonalds treat here or there…but who’s to say?

I was home getting everything ready to go when my mom called to tell me that they would not accept third party checks or money orders. My heart sank as she told me that, and was powerless to do anything about it. I was counting on that so I can do some things, but now with those checks and money orders void to the bank, and since I had no account in any bank, I was just holding paper. Mom tried to come up with some other ideas, but I felt that maybe it was best to just send the checks and money orders back until we found a better idea. If I could not send what I promised, it would not be fair to hold on to somebody’s money.

And I am sure there are places that might cash it, but at some higher percentage of the check or money order. It reminded me of when I did have a bank account, and got a money order from a reader in Canada. I found out that for my bank to cash a check that originates outside the US, it would cost me $75! But the check was only for $50. So I would have to PAY my bank to cash a check, and be $25 behind the curve.

As the game show says…”no deal”…

So I felt kinda down after deciding that it was best to send the money back. But I also had to push myself to do something else…I had to make good on my effort. I might not have been able to send the books, but I can send the money back, plus a few extra things to hopefully keep their trust.

I went back to my room, got some large flat envelopes and sorted a few of my prison cards, and some prison encouragement certificates, and a flyer or two. I put one of each in the envelopes, along with the check or money order to that person. They were going to supporters in New York, Alaska, two in Texas and one in Missouri. I really felt bad sending that back, but under the circumstances, I just didn’t have a choice.

I also emailed each one of them, letting them know what was going on, before mailed the packets out. I blogged afterwards that the only ways I can get this to work in my favor is for the supporter or person ordering to either send the check or money order in my mom’s name, or if you are sending cash, that would work as well. Every now and then I get a nice card with a few dollars in it, to support my blogs, so it does happen.

I got the remaining stamps I had left and put them on the envelopes, and took some change just in case I needed a few more pennies on it. I went to the post office and mailed them out as soon as I could. It was the best I could do, with the circumstances of my new setback.

I came home and played video games to get my mind off of it.

Even now, I am pretty disappointed, but it wasn’t like it was the end of the world. Anyone who sent me money will get it back, since I could not cash it anyway, and there are still venues for me to get something going on. Its weird how banks can take so many steps to protect their money, which seem to be becoming more and more an exclusive service ONLY if you are THEIR customer.

A few years ago I had a lot of $1s and I wanted to go to a bank and exchange it for couple of $20s. I went in the bank that day, and walked to the teller and asked her if I could do so….

She asked if I had an account there, and I am wondering why this was important. But because I did not have an account, they would not exchange the currency with me.

I just don’t get the stupidity of that. How is exchanging money going to hurt your bank? What is the risk of me giving you 20 or 40 one dollar bills for two 20 dollar bills? Nobody makes counterfeit ones! I was very angry at the implication of what she was saying, but powerless to make a point. I left the bank, promising to NEVER do business with them again.

Funny, a few days ago we drove by that bank, and it is no longer there, maybe it moved, or maybe it failed…locally owned banks tend to do that when they aren’t as friendly as they claim to be.

But apparently more and more banks are getting tight with their services unless you have an account with them. And right now I don’t have an account with anybody, at least not yet. So this might take longer to do than I hoped. I might have to take some time off from writing to kinda get my head straight on this. Kinda hard to make this a business venture and help others if I can’t lift my feet off the ground.

It has not stopped me from writing, just kinda forces me to consider other things. Me asking for support or people to buy my works just got a little harder, but not impossible. So perhaps that is what I need to do for awhile folks. I actually really wanted to respond to a comment I got a day or so ago, from a guy who was concerned about going to prison. He had written such a sincere comment that I emailed him and hopefully will hear from him so I can talk about what he can do. At the same time, there is another person who is in a similar situation, that I wanted to keep encouraged.

These are the times folks, when thing go south, that you have to keep believing that somehow, someway, things are gonna get better. But to do that, you have to have faith in a foundation that is strong. I have to believe that today was just a setback, nothing to fall apart on. Granted I feel crappy right now, but deep down, I know that things can change in my favor in an instant. So I suppose I feel down right now, but I continue to believe that I will be fine.

That’s faith, in the eye of the problem. When you can at least attempt that, you are on the right path, regardless of what your prison issue is.

So I’ll leave it at that folks, unless I get some influx of emails, comments, support and the like, it might be cool to just kinda fade out for awhile. Until then…

June 8, 2010 at 12:37 am Leave a comment

#225 Obstacles in the road

Obstacles in the road

Well…this really sucks…

Just found out some difficult news, something that really slaps me upside the head in what I have been trying to do. As you guys know, I have been working on my prison books, cards and the like, and looking for support to get myself off the ground and to start earning an revenue in my prison writing.

The way I had to do this is longer than the normal route because of what I blogged about a few months ago. I used to have an account with a local bank, back when I was working for a local Christian radio station. I had earned enough money to have an account there, but after I lost my job to the very guy I hired, I then didn’t have a job.

I kept the money in the bank account, which was under a business account, and tried to hold on to what was in there as long as I could. But because it was a business account, the bank was actually CHARGING me $11 a month (don’t ask why). So slowly my account was bleeding dry, and I only had about $600 or so in there. I tried not to touch it if at all possible, hoping things would turn around and I could get back to putting money in the account, but things just were not working.

Eventually my money dried up, and not only did my account dry up, I actually fell into the NEGATIVES, because the bank continued to charge me $11 per month. So now I actually owed the bank $11, and was in the red. I called and talked to the bank about it, and we managed to resolve the issue, with me just closing out the account, and them voiding my small penalty.

Although that was resolved, what it now meant was I no longer had a venue to do business. With no bank account, I could not cash checks or money orders for my books, or support gifts. But usually when I got some support or an order in, I could have my mom cash it for me. That is usually how it works.

Until today.

I had received a money order and a check, one for my books, the other for support, and I figured now was a good time to cash it, and send the books out. I was feeling pretty good about it, and sorted my works out. I printed my “Grades of Honor” books out, got some cards and encouragement certificates ready, and was planning it all out. I asked mom if she could cash the two, and I would then go to Staples, get the books bound, and send them off ASAP.

That’s when my mom called, telling me they would not cash the money order or check.

My heart sank.

WHY? Why won’t they cash it? We’ve never had a problem before, and mom has an account there, even if I don’t. So I called to ask for an explanation, and was told that they no longer honor third party checks or money orders. Simply put, if I wanted to cash those checks, then I need to have an account there.

So now I am holding money that I can’t touch, nor use.

Mom asked if there was some other way, but I was kinda down, and just asked her to bring them back, and that I would have to send them back to the people that sent it to me. I think she could tell I was really down about it.

The idea to get the books bound and sent were now out, because I needed that money to do it. I went from feeling upbeat and positive to crushed. If I had managed to keep that account open, I would have been able to cash the check and money order, but there just was no way I could have kept it any longer, considering I had no money going in, and losing money to the bank every month.

So now I am at a greater disadvantage than before.

So I unfortunately have to sent the money order and check back to those who sent it to me, because sadly, I can’t do anything with them. Until I can get an account at a bank, I fear now that banks are no longer honoring third party checks or money orders.

I really kinda feel down right now folks…..

There are a few ways to get around this, so I might as well share that with you. One, if you still want to support my blogs or my books, you can either send the check or money order in the name of my mom, (of which I will provide upon ordering), or you can send via cash.

I know that sounds very suspect, but I don’t know any other way to do this. The idea was to try to generate enough money to at least reopen an account, then it would be easier to work from there. I was hoping to save up about $150 to $200 before I reopen an account, then I can feel more confident in those sending me support or orders for my works.

So now I have to return the gift and order, and will probably sulk for awhile…man this sooo sucks…

I apologize for these delays folks, it was not my intention for things to go like this. I was hoping to get off the ground, earn some money to get an account back, then try to do more things for those with loved ones in prison. Hopefully this is a small delay, so I have to try to look ahead and see this getting resolved so I can get back to where I was.

As usual, if you want to support my blogs, or order some of my books, I now ask that you contact me via email so you can decide whether you want to send support or order by money order or check, addressed to my mom, or to send it to me via cash. Until I can get an account back in a bank, it seems I have to go the long way around the block.

I truly do appreciate your support, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll go sulk for awhile…..until then……..

June 7, 2010 at 5:17 pm Leave a comment

#224 Critical Prison Issues #3: Street clothes (retro)

Critical Prison Issue Thinking #3: Street Clothes

We really need to make clarify some things about inmates wearing street clothes. Some people on these sites don’t have a clue what they are talking about, and it is getting really silly when somebody that had no idea what they are talking about is revered as some expert.

Again…blind leading the blind…

This discussion is about being critical of the issue of prisons allowing inmates to wear street clothes. This is based on an idea that actually resulted in me leaving Prison Talk Online when I saw that the people there are just as much in the dark about prison as anybody else.

Awhile back, when I was on the back end of my writing for this so called “support” site, some lady made a post on the NC forums about how her son was allowed to wear street clothes on his camp. I read it and something didn’t seem right. I have been through about 7 different prisons during my incarceration, and gotten to know a bunch of guys. But not once have I ever heard of a camp that allows inmates to wear regular clothes all day, every day.

So what we have here is a gray area of information, which makes it very easy to be misleading. This person is saying that her son wears street clothes…but is she saying that they wear them ALL time, or just for certain reasons?

She never clarified that, but substantiated it by saying that she has a picture of her son wearing street clothes while on the camp, so obviously it means that he has been wearing it all the time. Right?


When I read that post, I wanted to try to respond in a gentle way, not to come out and say, “you are wrong”. Understand, this lady has never been in prison, and oddly enough, her son never said they are allowed to wear street clothes all day. She said her son has work release, which answers the question right there. But she assumed that since her son has work release, the prison will let him wear street clothes all the time…not true.

I remember making a comment on that post months ago, trying to explain that it is likely that he wears the street clothes before going to his work release, and is allowed to keep them on for a period of time when he gets back, before he has to change back into prison clothes. She didn’t agree, since she said, “well, I have a picture of my son in street clothes, so they must be allowing them to wear it all the time”. She also made some stupid comment about “you know how the rules are always changing” and made a comment about me having been out for awhile.

So in her eyes, me being out of prison for a few years makes me less knowledgeable on prison than her. This rubbed me the wrong way and it was certainly one of the reasons why I left PTO. To many idiots that don’t know a damn thing about prison.

How can somebody with over 4000 posts be so stuck up? Maybe it’s because she spent more time copying and pasting one-liners than really discussing issues.

Anyway, today she got some more “changes”. From one of her latest posts, apparently some of the NC prisons are eliminating the privilege of minimum custody inmates wearing ANY street clothes. Apparently from now on, inmates on work release will have to wear prison clothes.

To me, there is two ways to see this…I want to laugh at her because it is ironic that she ran her mouth about something she knew nothing about, and now it has come back to affect her son, whom she said had to send all his street clothes back home. But another part of me wonders how accurate that info is…after all, she is not known to be that credible.

Notice I said nothing about sympathy for her…

So the critical issue here is this; what IS the general rule about street clothes in these prisons? See, if you are going to fully understand, or begin to understand this issue, you need to hear from guys that either work in prison, or have BEEN in prison. Not from somebody who has never set foot in there, because it is too easy for them to twist the truth, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Now, I am going to challenge that lady’s stand on prisons allowing inmates to wear street clothes all day. I am not challenging the fact that some inmates are allowed to wear street clothes, I know that. Prisons do allow it, but to a point. That is what she totally ignored.

Let’s understand first why inmates are not allowed to wear street clothes. First… because they are in PRISON. When you enter the prison system, you lose the right to wear what YOU want, and the prison has to “identify” the inmates from the officers. Uniforms clearly identify who you are. In some prisons, the colors you wear identify further who you are. Lifers in some prisons wear a different color than regular inmates. Inmates on death row wear a different color than other inmates. Even jobs can be different. In NC prisons, inmates working in the kitchen wear “kitchen whites” to identify them as workers in the prison kitchen. I think even barbers wear kitchen whites as well as canteen operators.

But the whole idea of clothing is to make it uniform. Inmates in general wear the same thing. This also makes it easier when it comes to washing clothes. All these things, and likely a few others, make a strong point as to why inmates wear uniforms. But if you allowed them to wear street clothes, this creates some issues. How do you wash all those clothes, how do you separate them and how do you identify inmates if they are wearing street clothes on prison grounds?

Most of what I am going to share is based off what I wrote long ago, and on a few blogs, but it is worth repeating. It is interesting that today as I read this thread, there was a response from a person who appeared to be an officer or former officer for a prison, and he described from his view about the street clothes in prison.

He (or she) said that inmates on work release or community visits were allowed to wear prison clothes, but those clothes were kept in a locker in the administration building. When it was time for him to leave the prison, he was allowed to get his clothes and put them on, before leaving the prison. When he returns to the prison, he is allowed to keep them on for a period of time, but must eventually change back into prison clothes and return his street clothes to an officer to put back in his locker.

See, this is something that lady never talked about. She is assuming that her son is walking around the prison with regular street clothes, while everybody else is wearing prison clothes. She is assuming that he was wearing those street clothes up until lockdown…not quite true.

But she said she has a picture of it.

That doesn’t prove that he wears it all day, it only proves that he was wearing it at the same time they took prison pictures, which was very likely after he got back on the camp after his work. There is no valid reason why any prison would let an inmate wear his street clothes all day, every day. NONE.

I have known quite a number of guys that got work release, and many were able to wear street clothes to work. I have never known any guy to continue to wear his street clothes all day after he got back. Think about it, what if I worked at a job that required me to wear a shirt and tie? When I get back to the camp, I could actually be mistaken for someone important.

Hey, it’s happened before! When I was in county jail in my court clothes, other guys thought I was a lawyer. I just LOOKED like one.

Now what if I came back on the camp, and was still dressed in my shirt and tie and formal pants. To the untrained eye, I might look like some prison dignitary. Often times the warden is dressed formal, many times case managers are dressed formal, even the prison doctors might dress formal. So why would I look any different?

If allowed to remain in my “street clothes”, it would then give me an advantage to actually fool an officer or prison of who I might be. It supports the idea that “clothes make the man”. Prisons cannot lose sight of the fact that all inmates must be secured at all times. They can’t allow any slipups because of identity, because it could lead to an escape, which would make the prison look bad.

Generally speaking, this is kinda how it works:

When an inmate is qualified, and in the right level, he will be given the privilege of being able to leave the prison for either work release, community visits or home passes. He has to be approved first, before he can then have the option of having street clothes sent to him. Once that is done, and they are recorded by the prison and kept in a locker, the inmate then has only to secure a work release job, or a community visit pass or a home pass. Once these things are approved, he is then allowed to wear those clothes on that particular event.

As mentioned above by an officer, the clothes are kept separate from the inmate and he has to get permission to wear them. Most times the prison will allow him to put on these clothes about an hour before he leaves the camp, and he is allowed to keep his clothes on about an hour AFTER he returns to the camp. This is important because the misguided author of that post seems to think he can wear it whenever he wants… not true.

In fact, one hour might be generous. Some camps might require you to change immediately, unless it is near chow time. If an inmate returns to camp just before chow time, they will give him time to go eat, and maybe to go canteen before he has to change. There is a little lee-way on that. The purpose of that is that the prison understands that once the inmate gets back to camp, there may be things he needs to do sooner rather than later, that can’t wait. You can’t punish a guy on work release by making him change back into prison clothes and miss a chance to get needed supplies at canteen.

For that reason, camps will allow some time for that inmate to get readjusted to the prison before he has to surrender his street clothes. From what I was told by a guy, it was about 1 hour. But I will imagine that on other camps it could be less. But in either case, he HAS to change out before too long.

Most guys I knew on work release had to be back before dinner time, so they usually got back before 4pm. Community visits are different because a church might sponsor an inmate for an afternoon or evening program, and he might leave AFTER chowtime. Home passes can be much more extended, and varies.

But regardless of how long the inmate is outside of camp, he has to get back into the form of prison when he returns. That means getting back into the normal routine, which includes wearing prison clothes. That means he HAS to change out.

So, after saying that, I will say that there is a very, very slight chance she could be right. I never said I knew it all, so there is always a chance I could be wrong. It is possible that her son could be wearing street clothes all day.

But if you asked me to put my percentages on it, I would say I believe I am 99% right, and she is 1% right. Why? Because she has never been in prison, she never said which camp her son is in, and bases this only on the picture she has of her son wearing street clothes while in prison.

I base mine on actual experience, logic of how the work release system works, and knowing a number of guys that have been on community visits, work release and home passes. Not to brag, by I will take my credibility over hers any day.

But the sad thing is this… most people are going to believe her, and will end up spreading false info about “how her son gets to wear street clothes all the time on THEIR camp, why can’t my son do the same”.

I’d like to know more about why the NC prisons are sending street clothes home, or if that is even true. It could be just one camp, it could be because her son got that privilege taken away from him, it could be a lot of things. But since there is no real person to talk about prison there, all they will do is sit around the campfire and kick around ideas and beliefs.

But that’s what happens when you listen to people who know nothing about prison….

June 7, 2010 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

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