Archive for May, 2010

#211 Top 3 Prison blogs, ch3

Top 3 Prison blogs, ch.3

I say “chapter 3” because its like my third installment. I am trying to keep an eye on the blogs that people are “hitting” so I can have an idea of what I may need to talk more on.

I’ll get to that in a moment, but first off, my best wishes for all those who have, or had, service men and women that are either serve to protect our country, or those who lost their lives doing so. With Memorial Day being tomorrow, I have to give my respects to those in the military. My dad, and two brothers were all in the military, and I knew others that served in the military. We as a country don’t say it enough, but thanks for all you do.

Another thing, I have been working on my “Grades of Honor” books and cards, and had several people ask me for them. I am printing some out for them, and also was fortunate to receive some financial gifts from two people. Its like I feel so empowered when people believe in me, I almost get overwhelmed to not let them down when I blog.

I got a card from a grandmother in Indiana, who has a grandson in prison, and she worries so much about him. She told me she has been reading my blogs, and really appreciates what I say. As she puts it, I don’t sugarcoat anything, which is what she really needs to hear. I try not to hide things from you when we talk about prison, but the greater goal is to encourage you, that no matter what I say that sounds negative, I have to try to give you hope that this is something you can overcome.

I got a couple of emails from some people that asked about how should their loved one carry themselves when they go to prison. There is a lot of stereotypes of guys thinking they should walk into prison and pick a fight with the biggest, toughest guy in the prison…folks…that can get you killed.

That is terrible advice, because you are not the “star actor” in the movie…this is quite real. If a guy is 350 pounds and there for a double murder, doing 99 years, trust me, that is NOT the guy you are going to make a name off of. I emailed a couple of people talking about how they can “carry themselves”, but if you want me to blog it out, I can do that.

Also, I got an email from a wonderful reader who has been very concerned about going to prison. The last couple of months I have been sharing what I could to build faith with her, and I am confident that with God all things are possible. But her last email to me had me thinking, what else can I do to help her. So I told her I would write a blog and talk about it. It’s called “Fighting the Hopeless Times” and the idea was to write about 5 to 8 pages then drop the blog up here…

But it got REALLY long.

I jotted down the points I wanted to make, and when I finished, I looked at it and thought…wow, this is gonna take at LEAST 50 pages…

So that’s what I am gonna work on. I am going to work offline on this document titled “Fighting the hopeless times” with the target of breaking any doubts that God CAN, rather than God MIGHT. That’s the goal, and I am writing it in the prison issue genre. I will likely send her parts of it as I go, but I am not sure I will put it on my blogs unless I get a flood of emails from people wanting to read it. If not, what I will do is maybe put it in short book form and make it available just like my books and stuff.

OK, now we got that out the way, let’s get to the top 3 blogs off my blogsites last week:

#3 Post # 201: Faith for a felon or ex felon:

This is a retro, or older blog, and I wrote 8 pages of this to help those that are having trouble building faith. Now, I know I am not the most religious person in the world, but I can say with God as my witness that I do know a little about faith….as we all do. But many of us don’t apply it when we need it.

The foolish argument is that inmates or ex felons don’t have faith…this is insane folks, and only based on a carnal self righteous opinion. Yet it is important for an inmate or ex felon to have faith, in fact critical. I mean, you want him to be safe right? That requires faith. You want him to do his time as best as possible right? That requires faith. You want him to be able to get out of prison and get his life back right? That requires faith. And when I say faith, it has to be in GOD, not in man.

This is not to say that you don’t believe in man, it is that you give greater faith to God. It is a lesson we all need to work on, including me. But that blog obviously got some of you looking for something, so if you need me to talk more on it, then maybe I can talk more into it another time.

#2 Post # 32: Should you send inmates money?

This has continually been a big concern for a lot of folks, because it is apparent that a lot of you have a loved one in prison and you wonder if, and how much you can send him. If you really consider this, there is a lot of different ways to look at this, and there is no single answer. There is no true “yes” and there is no true “no”. This really is a tricky question to answer, and it would depend squarely on your situation.

This is not meant to deter you one way or the other, but I also don’t want to encourage you to email me about specific details about your loved one. I don’t want to be in a position to judge, if I can help it.

And I know this really is a major subject, because this particular post has been one of my most read blogs that I have put up. For that reason, I wonder if there are other ways I can address the situation. But if you want me to discuss that further, let me know. Maybe there are some angles I have forgotten and might be of a help to you, and others that are looking for answers.

#1 Blog #206: Sending inmates money: the DARK side:

This is by far my “hottest” blog last week. And the thing is, you can tell by the blog number how new it is. I am on I think #211, and usually it takes awhile before newer blogs start getting read by many people.

This is a very touchy subject because whereas the previous blog talked about the general nature of sending money to inmates…this one talks about the hazards of doing it. More than once I have had people ask me about a situation where it seems that the person they were sending money to might not be honest with them.

It really is a hard subject for me to talk about, because in doing so, I may well be pouring cement on my own feet. This is because some who think inmates or ex felons are all crooks are going to naturally assume I am one as well…guilt by association.

And it does not help that I often talk about supporting my blogs, buying my books and the like. But this is indeed a very tough subject, one that is important to blog about. I get emails from time to time from people who give me a scenario, and ask if they can trust the inmate to send money to. Remember folks, every situation is different, and not all inmates are crooks.

If you asked me if you could send me $100, I would say “sure”. But if you sent it to me, and found out I bought some video games with it, would you think any less of me than the day you sent the money?

Now, if you sent it to me because I said I needed to buy ink, and would use your money to buy myself some ink for the printer, so I can print some cards, certificates and books, then I would be misleading you if I turned around and bought some video games…but if 3 or 4 people sent me $100 each, then I could easily buy what I need, and have money left over to do something to make me happy, or help my mom.

Yet if I mislead you on what I would use it for, you might get the idea that I was never honest in the first place. This is a very delicate thing that I could apply to inmates in prison, because the belief MIGHT be that once you are stung, you may believe you were always being stung….this is not totally true.

It is very possible that the first time, or first few times, you sent an inmate money, he might have used it wisely and exactly as he said. But money is addictive folks, you tend to like it, and want more of it, especially when you are flat broke. In prison, it can be easy for even a decent guy to get attached to a person who sends him money. But for every guy who honestly is thankful for money, there is one that is scheming to get more and more money from you. If you have a loved one who always seems to have an excuse to need more money, stop and think a bit. After all, its YOUR money, right?

Anyway, those were my top 3 blogs of last week, the plan this week is to write more on that blog I was telling you about, to get some cards and prison encouragement certificates ready, and to fill a few orders of my Grades of Honor books.

I’ll be honest folks, when I did a post on “Do Prisons Lie”, I had so many interesting emails from it that I might have to get back to “Grades of Honor” part 4. There is sooooooooooooooooooo much I have not shared with you guys, and if you are new to my blogs, there is soooooooooooooooooo much I wrote in the past that I need to share with you.

We have much to talk about, if you are willing to listen. Until then…

May 30, 2010 at 11:26 pm Leave a comment

#210 Prison Testimony of One

Prison Testimony of One

Before I begin, make sure you take the time to read, “Do Prisons Lie”, because it has apparently been a hot topic of late here on my blog.

I got several emails from people who appreciated the detail of my discussion, where I talked about how prisons intentionally twist the words of the rules to say what they want it to say, to defeat the arguments of inmates.

Now I am not ignorant, in that sometimes inmates whine about things that are not worth arguing about, or that inmates themselves can twist words to try to make a federal case against a prison.

On example was when I was at Pasquotank Correctional, and during Thanksgiving, the prison served us a great Thanksgiving lunch…technically it was lunch, but it really was the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, just served at lunchtime since it required much preparation, and was easier to serve by preparing in the morning than in the afternoon.

Yet one guy in our dorm was whining about how he felt the portions weren’t enough, and wanted to write a grievance about it. I remember thinking to myself, “this guy is an idiot!”. He actually tried to solicit many of us to write a grievance because the Thanksgiving meal wasn’t enough…oh come on!

So I know that sometimes inmates make up silly reasons for a grievance, and obviously that kind of argument would not float for a second on paper. But not all grievances are that frivolous. Sometimes inmates have a point to make, but all too often, the prisons reject the voice of the inmate, purely because they can.

The situation that happened to me at Robeson Correctional was a perfect example of how foolish a prison system can act instead of simply trying to make a resolution that benefits both sides of the prison.

Again, you might want to read that blog on “Do Prisons Lie” and in it you will see how detailed I was in my argument. But one thing I also remember about that time is how very stressed I was…almost on the brink of anger. It is a very hard thing when you are trying to voice an educated opinion, but the prison absolutely refuses to acknowledge that you have a brain.

So today, got some emails from people who appreciated that blog, and I decided to look for some more on this issue. Remember folks, I saved almost EVERYTHING I wrote while in prison. Several years ago I sorted all my works in prison based on the camp I was on. I put them in separate folders and wrote the name of the camp on that folder. That way, if I wanted to talk about Tyrrell Prison Work Farm, I can go to that folder (or folders) and pull it out and see all the things I wrote while I was there. Anything from grievances, journals, letters or anything else, I kept. In this case, I looked for and found the “Robeson” folder.

Because I was not at this camp very long, the folder wasn’t as big as my “Pasquotank” or “Tyrrell” folders. I was at Robeson less than 2 months…have to check my notes to give you a more exact time frame.

But there are lots of things in it that trigger a LOT of memories. I found a few of the rejected grievances, still intact, that the prison improperly rejected. I have letters from the DOC, the NC Prisoner Legal Services (which is a complete joke), and other people I wrote to.

But what I also found was something interesting…something I forgot I wrote.

A self written document titled “Testimony of One”.

I wrote this document either while I was at Robeson, or after I was kicked out and sent to Dan River Prison Work Farm, in Yanceyville, NC. In fact, after looking at the end of the document, I am pretty sure it was written while I was at Dan River, because there are points that indicate my removal from the prison: as such, I would not have written this at Robeson if I had been removed.

So technically this belongs in my Dan River folder, but because it happened at Robeson, I guess I kept it there.

This document goes into EXTREME detail of what happened while I was at Robeson Correctional. If you thought what I talked about on “Do Prisons Lie” was detailed, you really have no clue.

Because I had forgotten all about it, I sat in the living room, looking at this thing I wrote years ago. It actually wasn’t uncommon for me to write a document while in prison, I had actually written several on different prison issues. But what was so interesting about this one was the length…

25 Pages!

Wow, I must have been some kinda pissed!

But you know, just reading it almost puts me right back on those days, and it also includes the internal stress and frustration that came with it. Even now folks as I am blogging, I am almost feeling the same way I felt when I was going through those times… and it is not a very comfortable feeling.

I cannot explain what it was like, a very, very stressful situation where you feel there is nothing you can do, but you simply cannot give in. This was quite literally pure persecution, because there was no reason why Robeson Correctional, and DOC in general would fight me so hard for such a simple request. They clearly was NOT going to give me an inch, simply because I am an inmate.

I didn’t ask to get promoted, I would have been fine staying in medium custody, but the prison system says that moving from a higher security level to a lower one is a “promotion” meaning it is something that is earned. You don’t promote a guy doing 100 years to minimum custody inside of his first 3 weeks in prison. You don’t promote an inmate to minimum custody if he is known to start fights. It has to be earned.

I hated minimum custody folks, I would have been so much better if they left me alone, and let me do my time in medium custody. I didn’t bother anybody, I did everything as best I could, and no officers had any problems with me. Ironically, it was also during that time I hated God…go figure.

Now, if you read “Grades of Honor” you know the details of that, and you also know that after awhile, I went back to God, but that was when everything changed, and I was “promoted”.

I was no longer in my safe zone, with everything going well, I was now in a new environment, which was different from what I was used to. It was also more stressful. But this new environment triggered me to start doing what perhaps I was meant to do… write about prison issues.

But this came at many hurts. I was being “removed” from one prison to the next, not because I was breaking the rules, but because the prisons didn’t want to deal with me. From one prison to the next, I was bounced around. The document I wrote, “Testimony of One” was based on what happened at Robeson.

As I read it a short while ago, my intention was to share it with you, word for word. That was when I thought it was a few pages… but when I saw I had written 25 pages, I was like, wow, no way I can do that today.

And what was also happening was that as I was reading, I was getting back all those emotions, and the newness of the anger really bothered me. I am being honest folks, I was upset at how deliberate the prison was treating me.

There is a section in my document where I talk about Case Manager Teresa Jones, and I tell you folks, I have rarely been so angry to want to do something to somebody. I was so angry …..

Let me back up and share that part with you folks.

In the middle of this document I wrote, after I was having my grievances rejected one after another, I was called to the office of Case Manager Teresa Jones…I have absolutely NO respect for this person for what she did.

The idea was to discuss to me why they kept rejecting my grievances. This was not really a discussion, but a brow beat down. She told me that grievances are a privilege and are thus “optional” and if the DOC decided to do away with the inmate grievance procedure, there was nothing that we as inmates could do about it. She was clearly implying that by such foolish ideas, the prison didn’t have to acknowledge the grievance procedure if they didn’t want to.

I countered her by stating that in Webster’s dictionary, the word “privilege” was defined as an EARNED status, NOT optional. But in the middle of my counter, she cut me off and said, “Don’t play schematics with me”.

Mind you folks, this was a discussion just between me and her, in her office…if ever there was a possibility to provoke rage, that would have been it for me. I am very sure it was the grace of God that kept me from doing something that I would have regretted, and likely something DOC would have been glad to punish me by.

Can you imagine how I felt, in that office, when this lady cuts me off on my discussion to impose her superiority? It was clear that I was not supposed to make a case, only to take what they tell me and like it.

She continued to belittle me by saying that until I learn how to write a proper grievance, they will continue to reject it, and coldly handed my grievance back to me. I took the grievance and bitterly left, but before walking out, I said, “expect another grievance”.

I was so upset, so angry that my hands were shaking. I knew I had a valid point, and I also knew that Robeson was not going to even try to admit that maybe I had a point. This wasn’t even about the grievance procedure, this was about control of an inmate.

Even now folks, I can feel some of what I felt back then, and my hands almost shake in anger as I type this. So you can imagine how I felt then, while being spit in the face by people like Teresa Jones.

The easiest thing to have done was to quit, to just resolve that no matter what you do, there are people on DOC that just refuse to acknowledge you as a human being. They are people who feel they have a God-ordained mission to persecute every inmate by total denial of any help.

But I could not quit, I just could not. As angry and depressed and stressed as I was as I left the office of Teresa Jones, I KNEW I was right. I had a right to write that grievance, I knew the rules and knew I could have written about that situation because it involved me as well. But what do you do when you have the doors closed in your face, with people laughing at you?

It seemed like the situation was hopeless, and I was powerless. Like most inmates, you start to believe that there is nothing you can do, but suck it up and do your time as best you can.

But I didn’t stop…I just could not.

Call it ignorance, call it determination, but I was not going to let the camp beat me simply because they say they can. The truest foundation of rehabilitation is when an individual resolves to do his best to change a situation, to do GOOD things, even in the face of apparent defeat. Inmates need to learn that you simply cannot just give up because DOC says you are wrong. This is the same story that they tell society, and many politicians tell the public, and although there might be some truth to it, it only served to stereotype every ex felon who tries to make amends on their faults.

We don’t forgive, because we are taught NOT to.

But for every inmate, there must be a time where he or she is willing to press on, even with absolutely no proof or chance of winning. That sounds like insanity, and maybe to many of you it is, but there was just something about this situation, and many others like it, that may have defined what I was trying to do.

If I had never been a writer, or a good one, I certainly would not have continued in this situation; I would have given up. If I had never started writing journals while I was in college, I would never have written so much while in prison. And if I had never believed in God, I would have believed that there was no way I could win this fight.

Those things, and likely many other characteristics, had to have played a major role in how I was going to react to this situation. But all those factors came together in me to influence what I would do. Do I give up, and hate the authority and try to do my time as the average person would, or do I fight for the little I have left in me, which is my dignity. I might have just been an inmate, and a lowly one at that, but I was determined that no officer in DOC was going to outright lie to me and make me accept it. I was not bending my knee to these people, not this way.

So after being so rudely dismissed from Teresa Jones’ office, I did exactly what I said I was going to do, I wrote another grievance. I wrote a journal about the situation, so that I would not forget the details, and kept it with my belongings. This was now a fight, a war if you will. Robeson was determined to undermine all my grievances, and had the backing of the DOC. All I had was me…

And God.

Sounds blasphemous to say that? Not really. The way Robeson conducted the grievance procedure was nowhere near righteous, nor fair, nor constitutional. I don’t mind being wrong if one can fairly and accurately point out the reasons for the rejection, but as I detailed in “Do Prisons Lie”, what the prison were clearly doing was twisting those words, and thus clearly obstructing the procedure.

The huge disadvantage on my side is that in theory, nobody believes what inmates say, because DOC encourages the public to think that all inmates do is whine and cry and make excuses. It reminds me of a guy I talked to in the mall a couple of months ago who mocked a guy that said he was innocent while in prison. He was like “yeah right”. I told him that sometimes that can be true, as there was an article about a guy that had to be released from prison after doing 30 years, when they found that his DNA was not a match…

Sometimes inmates can be telling the truth.

Or when a disciplinary officer tried to tell me to not trust inmates, because there are no “friends” in prison. He obviously believed that no two inmates could find enough respect for one another to consider another a friend. His belief was to not trust any other inmate, to which I REALLY wanted to counter, but somehow, I kept my mouth shut.

When society believes the worst in inmates, it makes it very hard to hear them when they are telling the truth. We’ve been condition to not care, and this is quite true with it even comes to prison employees.

All this translates to the frustration I had, as written in those 25 pages. I arrived there on a retaliation, and was eventually shipped out on another retaliation. And each time I tried to make an educated point, through letter or grievance, the DOC would ALWAYS side with the prison, sometimes sending me in circles that if I had a problem with the grievance, maybe I need to write a grievance.

How stupid is that?

So it may well have seemed that I fought against the prisons, losing every battle. No one ever gave place that I MIGHT have a point, but that what DOC did was appropriate. And because I was limited to information, I had to go off what I knew, and any info I might be able to find from fellow inmates.

It would seem I lost those battles, because I never got resolution from those issues…but then, here I am today.

If I didn’t go through those situations, if I didn’t write them, if I didn’t save them, and if I didn’t have faith that I could endure, there is no way I could have shared what I did today. When I shared that blog about “Do Prisons Lie” I got a lot of emails from people who found encouragement that an inmate CAN make a difference. And understand this folks, even if it meant be being labeled a “troublemaker” by the prison, I had a lot of respect from the inmates, because they believed that if there was a problem, I would do my best to try to find a solution. In the course of my incarceration, I had many inmates ask me for some help, whether writing a grievance, or writing letters about things that concerned them. I wasn’t everybody’s friend, but I know that from my actions and not willing to fold up when DOC snapped their fingers, I had actually earned respect from other inmates.

Today, what I write can reach anyone, rather than when I was in prison, and limited to whom I sent a letter to. So the things I suffered through at camps like Robeson can be shared so that you can be in a position to understand it, and hopefully, to know wht to do about it. Just because I didn’t get a resolution does not mean you can’t. In fact, knowing what I went through gives you a greater advantage. If Robeson was to try that stunt again, you have a ton of information available to you. You can write letters and forward them to DOC, public officials, the media, and even blog about it on the internet. The huge advantage you now have is that in my case, DOC was able to suffocate my problem, seeing that it never got out, and thus able to control it entirely. But from a citizen, that cannot be so easily ignored.

The prison might not care at all about the plight of their own inmates, but I wager they must listen to a credible letter written by someone that thought the situation through. Remember folks, prison officials are accountable to public officials, which are accountable to the VOTERS.

You have a powerful voice, if used the right way.

So I hope to maybe share “Testimony of One” but it is quite long. I am thinking of writing it out as a separate document, and making it available with my books or cards, have to think on it.

Anyway, I will try to relax today, reading that document really spiked some feelings for me, but that very feeling is one that a lot of you may feel. I am confident if I was to continue to share prison issues like this, many of you would get a strong idea of how to help your loved ones. Maybe I’ll do that in the future. At any rate, email me or make a nice comment, until then…

May 28, 2010 at 5:20 pm Leave a comment

#209 Too much or too little

Too Much or Too Little

Its almost 11:30am as I share this, and I just finished rereading the blog about “Do Prisons Lie”. I went to bed late last night, after writing it, wondering if I did something good in sharing that.

Usually when I write a blog late, or during the evening, I think about what I shared before I go to bed. I wonder to myself, did I do a good thing, did I help somebody?

This is important because often times when I blog, I have to wonder if anybody is “getting” it. Not in a bad or ignorant sense, but in a way that I wonder if I am making a strong enough impact on my writing.

The foundation of sharing blogs is based on the idea that I believe I can help you understand a little about prison, and to encourage you by building some hope, then building faith. If I can do these things, then surely I am doing the right thing.

But the blog I wrote last night was indeed a direct attack on the prison system, and the inability (and apathy) when it comes to inmates. The problem I have is that those inmates are YOUR loved ones. And as one that was once there, I know how very frustrating it can be when the prison ignores their own rules simply to make your incarceration as tough as possible.

This bothers me because the idea of prison is to also rehabilitate a human being, to “point him” in a better direction. Society expects every inmate to walk out of a prison with a halo around their head, and to walk on water and heal the sick…but those same people who expect that will most often refuse to give that same person a job, but will sit right there in front of the church pews singing about “Amazing Grace”.

And on the other side, in the prison, you have administrators who are not interested in the slightest idea that SOMETIMES an inmate can be right, that they have the ability to reason and to make a point. These administrators like to keep all the inmate problems “under the roof” so that they are in complete control of the thoughts of the inmate, while telling society how terrible these people are.

Stuck in the middle is the inmate, who seemingly can’t win for losing.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are LOTS of people in prison who I would not trust a wooden nickel to, but not every inmate is like that. Many guys and women made a mistake, and wish they could get a second chance. Some are decent people who had a set of bad circumstances or made a bad decision…I wager lots of YOU are imperfect too.

So its hard for an inmate to try to make a stand for himself when so much is against him. This is what I encountered while in prison, with excuses from DOC about the rules, when they were clearly not interpreting them correctly.

I wrote that blog in high emotion, because I do remember how I felt when I got that letter, and others like it. You try to do right, you try to help others, and the prison punishes you for doing the right thing. Its not what THEY want you to do, but it clearly is the honorable and respectable thing to do. A polar opposite from what the prison wants, because they want to be able to control every facet of the inmate, including his individual thoughts.

So I wrote that blog, making accountable the individuals that made my life that much harder than it should have been. They have no right to make my incarceration any tougher than the sentence alone. No administrator in ANY prison has that right. But yet there it was, and it happened often.

I went to bed after that blog, wondering if I overdid it, or if I did the right thing. Will anybody care about what I wrote? Will it help anybody? Its sure to tick off some administrators of DOC, but so what? I went to bed not really feeling so accomplished.

I sat in a chair in my bedroom, and wondered, “Did I do enough today”? It really concerned me, because I am hoping I am doing a good thing, that if God Himself was to judge me, then He would (hopefully) say that I am on the right track. Did I write out of selfishness, did I write to glorify myself, did I write out of emotion, rather than wisdom?

It kinda got me worried, because when I start going down that lane, I am no longer any good to anybody in my blogs. I have to try to give you my best, because in that I can help you, but also in that I am really hoping to earn an revenue this way. It has to be done in good faith, to help others, if this is to work.

So I was worried a bit, wondering if maybe I over did it, or maybe not enough. I think it was about 2am, maybe a little later, when I got up and went to the bathroom. Our house was very quiet and dark as I went to the hallway leading to the bathroom. On the way, I noticed one of our face trimmers…you know, one of those rechargeable hand held grooming kits for men. I had it on the rechargeable stand, and there was a small green light, indicating that it was recharging, or recharged.

That green light seemed like a beacon in the pitch black, almost so that I had to squint my eyes. Its funny, during the day, that same light is on, and nobody takes notice at all, you barely see it, nor notice it. But in the darkest time, that tiny light seemed like it had 100 watts.

It was then I was reminded of something, something I had heard before.

Sometimes the things we ignore and think are insignificant can often be of tremendous use in the right circumstances. In the darkest of times, we don’t need a big flashlight to cut through the night, sometimes the smallest of lights is enough.

Prisons are very dark places folks, and prison issues, to be sure. I believe that God understands that, and also that there are millions of people who pray for help, whether they be inmates, or parents of inmates, or husbands of inmates or pen pals of inmates or anyone with a loved one in prison. I cannot imagine how many prayers have gone up to God for someone in prison. Hundreds of millions I suppose, maybe billions of prayers.

Surely God has received them.

But in a very dark place, who does He send to help people? I mean, whom shall He send, if NOBODY wants to go? You do understand that He works through people, so He is able to move through others to help others. But in a very dark place such as prison, it seems hard to get help, because after all, prisons are places for the condemned (carnally speaking).

Prison support sites are full of people with problems, seeking help, prayer and miracles. Prison support sites can often be just as dark as the prison themselves, because there are few “lights”.

But I think we forget how God works…in that while we are looking for some 1000 watt search light to blast away the darkness…God often works with the very simple, the things that the carnal mind would clearly overlook, and ignore.

In the darkest of nights…even a single candle casts a powerful light.

In my house last night, that tiny green light was actually less than a single candle. You can’t read by that light, it was just too small, but in the middle of the night, with everything off, it was bright enough to cut through the darkness. In fact, although a weak light, it was bright enough to cause me to squint for a second or two.

In a brilliant show of wisdom, this is how God can get us to help one another. Sometimes folks, I kick myself for not being able to do more, some days I really want to write more, to do more, so I can help you. But sometimes I just feel…well, bland. Not lazy, because I love writing, but sometimes I have to work myself to share a blog, or to write about a specific subject. I know I can do much more, but I don’t.

I don’t want to overdo myself, but I want to give you my best. So sometimes I wonder if I did enough for you. I think that little green light reminds me that even if we give a little, in God’s hands it is much. I say this knowing I am not perfect, but I say this with my heart. I am doing the best I can to help you, to give you hope, to build some faith, but in the whole scope of things, it seems quite small.

Sometimes I wonder, if I am really doing a good thing, then I should be prospering, after all, you shall know a tree by the fruit, right? When I started blogging a couple of years ago, I thought I would soon be financially secure, jet setting across the country, taking nice cruises, and sipping ice cold smoothies….

I don’t drink alcohol folks…

So sometimes I second guess myself because as much as I have written, perhaps it was not enough…or perhaps too much, in that maybe I was being too brash in what I say. Its like I am knocking my head against a wall in an empty room.

But I know that can’t be right, I get emails and comments from people, people say “God bless you” about some of my blogs, I have people asking how they can support my writings…surely if there is a God, then I am on the right path. Maybe not the perfect path, but surely a good path.

So last night I thought about it, and that little green light. I suppose I am like that tiny green light…not very much, and during the day, of no value to anybody. But it is possible that maybe God put me in a position, in the midst of darkness, where that tiny green light can cut through so much of the darkness, giving a little bit of hope in a dismal situation.

God does not need much to work with, just a willing participant, and anyone will do.

And light is a comforting thing in the darkness, we naturally feel a little comfort when we have some light…not TOO much, because I can’t sleep with all the lights on, but you know what I mean.

We need more tiny lights in the prison genre, more people to believe that as bad as things are, it can get better. We have to start believing in something positive, instead of expecting or preparing for the worst. So many people have prayed to God for things, but for some reason, they must have believed that God doesn’t honor prayers if you have a loved one in prison…that isn’t true at all.

We have to encourage one another to be that tiny green light in a very dark place. It might not seem like much to you, but in the right position, it can be a tremendous source of power….

Hmmm, reminds me of something the Bible said about God’s grace, and how it is perfect in our weakness…hmmmm….maybe another blog….

If I can help you to build some hope, and to encourage your loved one, even a little can mean so very much. This is why it is important to curve the panic mode, and to try to build a foundation that you can get through this. This is why I talk about prison, because it gives you the idea that I can understand what you are going through, because I have lived through some of it.

And if I can get you to believe that, then hopefully it can give you a sense of hope, and maybe give you a good nights sleep. If we can get you there, then we can continue to build hope inside of you, so that you can start to believe that things can get better. If you build that hope, you start to believe in the positives, NOT the negatives. If we can get you there, THEN maybe we can build your faith to believe that God can…or rather, has already heard your prayer, and already has the answer.

These things can’t happen if you are focused on the darkness of your situation, it just won’t work. When I read posts on “Daily Strength” from people in panic mode, I say to myself, “did they even TRY to read the post I put up about staying positive?” Or did they just skip over it, determined to “speak their mind”?

I say again folks, I am no saint, I am not perfect, I can’t walk on water. But I DO believe in God, I have seen miracles and for some strange reason, I keep writing these blogs. In fact, as I was kinda reminded to myself last night that my blogs seems to be getting longer…

Its strange, because the more I write on prison issues, it seems that my posts are actually longer in length. And yet, it does not seem to bother me so much. Its like I spent an hour or 90 minutes writing, and its not a big deal.

So maybe I am just a very small speck of light in a very dark genre. So few people talk about prison, and it is evident when we look at prison support sites. I have been rejected by DOC officials, prisons and prison support sites. But I am still convinced that I am doing the right thing, or as best I can. Not everyone will agree, and to be sure I have been heavily criticized for what I say, but I have also had many nice comments and support.

Have I done too much, or too little? Maybe I have said too much, but even in that, I have not nearly scratched the surface of what can be discussed in prison issues. For that reason, I believe that there is much more to share.

I hope you can bear with me on this.

Anyway, gotta go, email me if you want to discuss prison issues or want to support my blog, or interested in my books. Until then…

May 27, 2010 at 4:33 pm Leave a comment

#208 Do prisons lie?

When Prisons Lie

How is everyone tonight…as I am starting this blog about 11:37pm.

Before I continue, let me remind you about my “Grades of Honor” books, and cards and prison encouragement certificates. I also encourage you to email me to ask questions about prison, and to ask how to support my blog, it means a lot to me.

I mentioned before how I kept almost everything I wrote while in prison; tonight I am going to use a situation that is documented by me to show you how sometimes a prison will lie to cover their own behind. The basis of this is that we have to sometimes remember that when your loved one gets in trouble while in prison, the prison will almost always take a stance to defend itself…even when it is clearly wrong.

Near the end of my incarceration, I wrote a grievance and letters to some of the members of the NC DOC, in an attempt to get some answers. Now, at the time I wrote this, I was at Dan River Prison Work Farm, in Yanceyville, NC. What I am about to share with you is directly from the letter, and letterhead of the DOC.

The reason why I am sharing this is because there is almost no check or balance when the prisons screw up. I mean, we understand that prisons have “bad” people in there, and I understand they are there for a reason (some of them), but when the prisons cover up their mistakes, they completely fail in the rehabilitation of a human being. If they won’t own up to their mistakes, how can you expect an inmate to do the same, if they live under the roof of a department of correction that lies to the inmates?

The situation was this: as you know, I had been kicked out of Robeson Correctional, as I mentioned in some of my past blogs. One of the reasons was that the case manager at Robeson kept rejecting my grievances. It implies that Robeson Correctional assumed that I was some dumb idiot who didn’t understand nor comprehend the English language.

Remember folks…I have a degree in Radio and Television from college…I know a LITTLE something….

So I kept writing grievances, they kept rejecting them, until they realized I was not going to stop…so they kicked me out of Robeson, sending me to Dan River.

Now folks…this is something very interesting. If inmates knew they could get a transfer by writing grievances, they would be burning the ink up sending grievances daily! I mean, if THAT was all it took, then every inmate trying to get out of a camp would be doing that. But that is not true, prisons make it almost MANDATORY that you be there at least 6 MONTHS before you can get a transfer…how was I getting one in a few weeks?

Robeson said that I could not handle the camp, that I wasn’t able to fit in….folks, remember, this is not a guy (me) that was starting fights, cursing or breaking rules…I did nothing wrong on this camp for them to say I could not “adjust”. But because I was writing grievances, they tried to refuse to acknowledge them. When I would not relent, they kicked me out.

So now I’m at Dan River, angry for how the camp took the cowardly way out, rather than trying to address the grievance. So I write to the NC Department of Correction, the Division of Prisons, on this matter.

The following is what I received, word for word, dated June 7th, 2001:

“Your letter to the Chief Deputy Secretary of the Department of Correction has been referred to my office for review and reply. I have reviewed this matter and found that staff has acted appropriately.

The rejection of grievances on March 14th, April 1st and April 5th 2001 were appropriate. The grievance you filed on April 6th was accepted on April 9th, 2001. I have reviewed the Step One and Step Two responses to this grievance (43040-01-056).

These responses are appropriate. Your actions were disruptive to the orderly operations of the facility and it was in the best interest of all that you be transferred.

I would encourage you to do your best to make a successful adjustment at Dan River Prison Work Farm. Additionally, if you are unclear about the legitimate and authorized use of the Administrative Remedy Procedure, staff at Dan River will assist you. You may not write grievances for other inmates.

I hope this response clarifies the matter for you.

Sincerely,

Dennis R. Rowland, Special Assistant to the Director”

Copies of this letter were sent to the Director’s Office, a Mr. Shane Ellis, Ralph Stamey and one put in my inmate file.

I am going to guess off the top of my head that Shane Ellis might have been the warden at Robeson, and Ralph Stamey might have been the warden at Dan River…I can check that to verify but I won’t do that at the moment.

Now, according to the letter, Mr. Dennis Rowland claims that I don’t know how to write a grievance, that the three I wrote were not according to procedure, and that Robeson felt that I was being disruptive to the facility.

The basis of his argument was in his last statement, which I am about to rip apart…”you may not write grievances for other inmates”.

Folks…this is misleading, and I will prove it to you.

To understand how Mr. Rowland was twisting these words, you have to jump back to what grievances I was writing. While at Robeson, a number of kitchen workers (including me) were concerned about the lack of sleep we were not getting. We wanted to write a grievance so that we might be able to get another hour or so of sleep, especially the morning shift, which wakes up about 4am.

A lot of guys didn’t have faith that the prison would honor the grievance, since they always find ways to reject the grievance. So I told them that if I wrote it, all they had to do was sign it, and we could turn it in.

So they did, and I did. The force of a pack of grievances worried the prison, and they needed to make a decision…answer the grievance, or reject them. They chose the latter.

Their argument was that a grievance cannot be written for another inmate. This was why they kept rejecting any grievance I wrote on behalf of another inmate. This is what Mr. Rowland seems to be saying, but Mr. Rowland did not pay attention at all to the rules of the Remedy Procedure, which he has accused me of being ignorant of.

What the NC DOC has done is something most prisons do…they twist the words to say what THEY want it to say, but in doing so completely destroy the foundation and trust, and intent of the word.

Now, before anybody from the NC DOC starts whining, there IS in fact a part of the grievance procedure that says that an inmate cannot write for another inmate…in fact it is actually written on the grievance procedure as one of the 10 things that a grievance can be rejected for.

But if I may, let me quote word for word what this says:

Section F of the Administrative Remedy Procedure: Remedy for another inmate.

This clearly implies that as an inmate (which I was) and by the biased thinking of Mr. Rowland and Robeson Correctional, that I cannot write for another inmate…sounds right…it isn’t.

Read those words CAREFULLY….”Remedy for another inmate”.

If you allow a person to twist words, they can make it mean what THEY want it to, when the truth is that it does not say what they are implying.

This is much like the Bible, or God’s Living Word. If God said something in the Bible, there cannot be a contradiction to it somewhere else in the Bible. If you read it carnally, you can likely find things that LOOK contradictory, but spiritually if you read it, it all flows and makes sense. It all agrees with everything God says. For a word to be true it has to agree with the rest of the genre in which it is written on.

God’s word simply cannot contradict itself, otherwise God is a liar…and He is not. The same goes with anything else, including the rules and policies we live under. If they contradict, then the foundation is not true…or the person misinterpreted it incorrectly.

As I said, the Remedy procedure clearly says that a grievance can be rejected if it is of a remedy for another inmate. So it might appear that Robeson was correct in rejecting my grievances, and Mr. Rowland and NC DOC was correct in siding with them, and then scolding me of being ignorant to the procedure. He justifies the prison kicking me out because I wasn’t going by the rules, and was a problem to the facility.

But there is a MAJOR flaw to Mr. Rowland’s assumption…simply put, he was not quoting the policy accurately.

True, the grievance procedure says that an inmate cannot seek a remedy for another inmate…in fact I still have my “green book” of the NC policies, and on page 25 it discusses the types of grievances that will not be accepted. As quoted in the book, page 25:

“Grievances will be rejected whenever inmates seek to challenge:

(f) seek a remedy for another inmate.

Now again, this SOUNDS like Mr. Rowland and Robeson is correct, that an inmate cannot seek a remedy for another inmate…but folks…that was NOT what I was writing in the grievance.

Remember folks, I wrote those grievances FOR those inmates, and they signed it as their own.

“It’s the same thing, isn’t it?”

Nope, and if you believe that, you would have been misled as well. NC DOC intentionally refused to acknowledge the intent of the rule, and twisted it to make it offensive. There is a difference is writing a grievance for an inmate, and writing to seek a remedy for another inmate.

Let me give you an example:

Let’s say I was one of the kitchen workers, and wanted to write a grievance so we could get a little more rest after our work is done. As a kitchen worker, I could easily write one myself, but what if one of the kitchen inmates is illiterate. What if they didn’t know exactly what to say? If an inmate does not have the ability to write a grievance, he can ask somebody else to write one FOR him.

If however, I was NOT a member of the kitchen crew, and felt it was my duty to write a grievance about the situation, seeking remedy for those guys, then THAT is cause for rejection.

Folks…do you see the difference?

NC DOC implies in that letter, and in misleading the rules, that an inmate CANNOT write a grievance for another inmate…that is very incorrect. In fact, by NC Policy, it is perfectly legal. Need proof?

I have with me from the NC Administrative Rules the entire section on the Inmate Grievance Procedure. See folks what inmates have in our booklet is a FRACTION of what the rules say, and inmates have been hostage to the information the prisons do not tell us. In section .0302 it talks about Accessibility of the grievance procedure.

Under this section is section A, Communication of the Procedure. There are 3 sections under this, which discuss how inmates are to have access to the procedure, and how they may be able to communicate this grievance procedure.

The first part says that BY RULE, the grievance procedure is supposed to given to all inmates when they first enter prison, and the procedure should be available any time an inmate needs one.

The second part is like what Mr. Rowland suggested I do, to get assistance by the staff of the prison. He implies to me that since I don’t know anything, the staff at Dan River can help me understand how the grievance procedure works, since I am too stupid to know how it works.

But here’s the third part of this section….and get this….

“Inmates may obtain assistance in completing their grievances FROM OTHER INMATES where classification and housing assignments permit.”

This is the rule folks, it’s in black and white.

By POLICY, inmates are allowed to help one another to complete their grievance, as long as they are in the same housing area. That means inmates in the SAME dorm can indeed help one another when it comes to writing the grievance.

Now, compare the two rules. Mr. Rowland and DOC says that I cannot write grievances for other inmates…that was his exact words. But the POLICY says I can indeed write a grievance for another inmate if he needs help.

Don’t get lost here, because this is how DOC completely ignores the problems that inmates have. Even if I write the entire grievance for a person, if he signs it, it is HIS. Even if he didn’t write the words, if he accepts them and signs his name to the bottom of that grievance, it is no different than if he wrote it himself.

You really need a spiritual eye to understand the intent of the rule, not a carnal one. If you have an inmate that is too old, or have a broken hand, or can’t read or write, is he then disqualified from ever writing a grievance because no one else can write a grievance FOR him…no.

That was not the intent of the rule at all. And DOC knew that.

There will be times that even inmates need help, and when they can’t get it from the prison (or when the prison is too busy jerking them around) they have to seek help from themselves. This is what I was doing at Robeson.

Many of those guys didn’t like the situation, and by rule, inmates have a right to write a grievance if it has something to do with the prison or other actions that are legitimate to grieve about.

The letter of the law with the rules was not to prevent somebody from writing a grievance for one who needed help, it was intended to prevent inmates from seeking a remedy in something that didn’t involve them.

If I wrote a grievance about how I felt it was unfair for Road Squad workers to be out there in the hot sun, then that can be rejected, because I am not on the road squad, and I am seeking a remedy for an inmate and a situation I am not a part of. But if I was a member of a road squad of 5 guys, and they all felt the same way, I could BY POLICY, write a grievance for each of them, and if they sign it with their own name, it should BY POLICY be treated like 5 separate grievances…plus mine.

When you look at the rule the way it was intended, you can see that Mr. Rowland was not very honest in his “appropriate” action.

Its funny, because right under that rule is another that most prisons don’t respect, which is the availability of the procedure. By POLICY it is supposed to be posted throughout the unit and the prison…I don’t think I ever saw that on any prison I was on, I’ll bet money on that.

So IF my being removed from Robeson was supposedly based on the idea that I was disruptive, we have to go back and look at this again…was I disruptive because I was breaking the rules? Of course not, if so I would have been quickly put in the hole. Prisons are often merciless when it comes to inmates making mistakes, or even if the prison THOUGHT they made a mistake…heck, it was why Sanford correctional removed me from their camp and sent me to the hole in Guilford!

But if the basis of my being removed was not against the rules, then by Mr. Rowland’s accusation, it was because I was ignorant of the policies. But we just discovered that his interpretation was extremely prejudiced and quite ignorant. No way was he going to side with a CRIMINAL over prison staff. Inmates can never be right, even with common sense.

But again, if this theory he had of me is now seen as incorrect…then what was the TRUE reason for sending me away? The idea that I could not adjust is garbage folks, this is PRISON. You don’t get a pass for not being able to adjust, you know that! Tough luck if you can’t do your time, just sit there and deal with it. There are THOUSANDS of inmates across the country that can’t “adjust” to prison, are they being moved around? NO.

So the idea of me being moved can’t be because I could not adjust, but he also said that it was in the best interest of the prison to move me. He said my “actions were disruptive” to the facility.

Folks…read between the lines here and see if you get what I am saying….

I was being disruptive, but by the NC Administrative policy, I was clearly within my rights to help other inmates write grievances, and was charged with no wrong doing…tell me again what did I do wrong?

And if I did nothing wrong…how then can this be disruptive in prison?

If I was wrong, I would have gotten a write up, or put in the hole. Neither of which happened while I was at Robeson. I have NEVER requested a transfer, so it wasn’t like I moved up the list, and by most policies of NC prisons, you have to be there at least 6 months (whether you like it or not) before you can request a transfer. I was at Robeson about a month and a half.

So tell me again what I was disruptive for, that they had to remove me from the prison?

The entire basis was that I was writing incorrect grievances, but we now know that this was not true at all. Every grievance I wrote was clearly accurate and on the mark, and by the book…it was just that Robeson Correctional refused to respect the rules and acknowledge the problems of the inmates.

So the end result seems to be, that if I didn’t do anything wrong, and there was no real need to remove me, then this could very well have been a retaliation…or a reprisal.

Interesting, because here is the rule about that:

“.0303 Reprisals: (a) No reprisal shall be taken against any inmate or staff member for a good faith use of or participation in the grievance procedure…”

And THERE is the foundation of the rules folks…GOOD FAITH.

This is what Dennis R. Rowland, the Director’s Office, the Department of Correction and the superintendents of those prisons completely ignored and refused. The rule of writing for inmates is based on both sides understanding the good faith of it, not the twisting words of it. In good faith I did what I could to help inmates who had a grievance by writing their grievances for them. They read it, accepted it, and signed their name to it. That made it THEIR grievance. By the policy I was clearly within my rights to do that for them, there is absolutely no wrong in what I did.

But DOC twisted the words to make it say the laziest thing they could, so that they would not admit that SOMETIMES the prison can be wrong. They were not acting in good faith of the rule. And by rule, it is against the rule to punish people for acting in good faith. Yet this is EXACTLY why I was removed from Robeson. This had nothing to do with my adjustment in prison, it was based on the fact that the staff at Robeson did everything they could to reject anything I wrote, and when they saw I was not going to stop, they had to get rid of me.

And sadly, the NC DOC sided with them, only because I am an inmate.

As the title says folks, prisons CAN lie, and do it quite often.

The cool thing about this is that I have all my letters, grievances and such from when I did time, and I have the words of these people who felt it necessary to belittle inmates simply because they were inmates. I am hoping I can get far enough in my books to share a LOT more of this, because there are many things that can be said about this situation, and many others.

When I reread that awhile ago, it was like I was fired up about it, as if I just received it this morning instead of almost 9 years ago. This is why saving all my works is so important, I can read what was said and almost be right back at that time when it happened.

Folks when that was going on, while I was being bounced from prison to prison for flimsy reasons, I had nobody to turn to, no one to write to. There were no blogs at the time (that I knew of) and my mom didn’t fully understand what I was doing. To her, it was easier to just do the time…I strongly disagree.

I love my mom, but mom did not understand the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of doing time. She only saw the physical, and to her, it would have been easier to just endure it all and come home.

This is actually what a LOT of folks believe too, that if their son, or husband or boyfriend just do what the prison tells you, everything will be ok and you will be home soon. Uh…that isn’t realistic folks, but that is a whole different blog.

In retrospect, I think if God knows everything, He knew what I would do, and what would happen. I went through a lot of mess in those prisons, but through it I wrote about it, and tried my best to stay in faith. It was all I had at that time, because I had nobody else to talk to about these situations. Sure, lots of inmates sympathized with me, because they knew that prisons will always defend their own, but outside of that, I just didn’t have any help. It was just me, any rules I could find, and my extreme love of writing.

And maybe God knew that, because after all, here I am, almost 9 years after that letter, writing a blog about it for you guys. I think if Dennis Rowland or DOC knew that the things they told inmates would end up on the internet, told to thousands or millions of people, they might think twice about what they are saying. Surely, Mr. Rowland and DOC did not think I would be smart enough to save this situation, since inmates are too stupid to do anything, and would likely throw all the papers away, destroying all evidence of the prisons misapplication of the rules.

Well… I didn’t.

So, do prisons lie…absolutely. Yet the stereotype is that inmates are liars and cheats. I won’t argue that many do, but let’s not be foolish to think that prison officials are pure and righteous. If they think they can get away with breaking or ignoring rules, they will do it. So it is important for you to keep that in mind while communicating with your loved ones. Consider that next time your loved one talks about a grievance or a problem he is having with the prison.

Well, its after 1am, gotta go to bed, email me if you want to support my blogs, until next time…

May 27, 2010 at 5:07 am Leave a comment

#207 Top 3 prison blogs, chap 2

Top 3 Prison Issues, chap.2

It is 10:37 am as I start this blog, and it has been a couple of days since I have blogged. I have been working on getting some orders for my books, and doing some small stuff. But I have done a lot of emailing the last couple of days, with people who have asked me about my works, and questions about prison issues in general.

Some of you that asked about my free prison encouragement certificates have likely received them by now, and a few have emailed me to let me know that they did. I appreciate that, glad to know that it got there in one piece, and also that they can be useful. Trust me, I have many more where those come from.

Today I wanted to talk on some of the issues I see people searching for, because it gives me a pretty good idea of what I should try to concentrate on. I try to take my cue from what people are reading on my blogs, and the emails I get. For example, one person emailed me about a concern at Dan River Prison Work Farm, in Yanceyville, North Carolina. I am pretty familiar with that place, because it was the last prison I was in before my release in 2001.

I am pretty confident that had my incarceration been longer, I would have been kicked out of there too, but because it was so close to the end, they asked me if I wanted to be shipped to a camp closer to home. Although that was more convenient, I was not really interested in that. To me, that does not make too much sense because the adjustment it takes at a new camp with the anxiety of being released can put double the pressure on an inmate. Its hard enough to just fit in on any camp, and once you get settled, you can find some sense of normalcy. So moving an inmate a week or two before his release to me just does not make sense.

Yet I had kinda been a “problem child” of the camp, which was why I was moved from Pasquotank, Tyrrell, Sanford and Robeson. I think they would have been more than accommodating should I had said yes. But I stayed on the camp until my release, wondering if they were really glad to see me go.

But that is another blog, today I want to touch on the top 3 most read blogs as of last week. I’ll count them down and talk a little about it, because each of these is a clear indication of what readers are looking for, and what concerns them.

#3 Post #33; Security Levels in Prison

A lot of people get confused with what prison is really about. They are so used to what television and society gives them, that they think that every prison is straight out of some television show about how horrible prison is. Now, let me not dilute this by trying to imply to you that NO prison is dangerous, every prison has that potential. But many people don’t realize that there are several different security levels that an inmate could be placed in.

The exact terminology will differ from state to state, but the highest security could start at what is called “Supermax” then “Maximum Security” then “Close Custody”, “Medium Custody” and “Minimum Custody”. Again, this can be argued as far as the actual terminology from one state to another, but I think most will agree that these are the basic security levels. Not every state has each of these security levels. For example, my state of NC does not have a Supermax prison, and right off the top of my head, I think there might be only one Maximum security prison, maybe two. But each security level allows for a different set of rules for the inmate; the lower the security level, the more that inmate has the freedom to do.

It seems that a lot of people may be concerned about what to expect with a loved one in prison. I tried to talk about some of the differences in that blog, I hope it helped.

#2 Post #206 Sending Inmates Money: The DARK Side

WOW, I just put that up a few days ago!

Apparently this really IS a major concern for a lot of readers, I wrote that blog about 3 days ago. This blog talks about the “dark” side about sending money to inmates. I try my best to speak for inmates when I can, but there are times where I cannot defend what some inmates do. This is one of those times.

What do you do when you have sent money, or have been sending money to a person, and now wonder if he is taking advantage of you? This is a much bigger story than people seem to think it is. Now, there are multiple sides to this story, the general argument to this might just be to blame the inmate entirely, but I say to you, there are different angles here.

Now, this situation does not apply to every person who sends inmates money, not at all. And it does not apply if you freely choose to send them money WITHOUT them asking. The blog is about inmates who are clearly communicating with you to send them money; whether by using guilt, sad excuses or anything that manipulates you to feel that you should send them money.

This is a pretty big issue, one I might have been able to write more on, and after I wrote that blog, I got a few emails from people with questions about their issues. Its funny because after I finished, there were other thoughts that came in my head that I could have talked about. It would seem that maybe we can talk further in this subject, because clearly a it is on a lot of folk’s minds.

#1 Post #32 Should You Send Inmates Money.

This by far has been the most searched issue on my blogs. But there is a difference between this one and the one we just talked about. Whereas the previous blog was about the negatives of sending inmates money, this one is the more neutral, maybe even more affirmative on the issue.

A lot of people that don’t know much about prison issues simply believes that inmates don’t deserve anything, which includes sending them money. While there are indeed issues on that, I believe that every single inmate is as different as you are, and thus the situations are always different. The way a 20 year old male in Texas doing 5 years does his time is different from a 40 year old female doing life in Florida. Heck, if you identified a 20 year old inmate in South Carolina, New York, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, California and Oregon, all doing time for a similar charge, each of their incarcerations will be very different from the other.

In short, no two inmates have ever done their time exactly the same way.

So don’t judge them all the same way. This includes whether to send them money or not. This is a very touchy subject, because on one side, I understand how important a few dollars can make during an incarceration. Having money while in prison really takes a strong edge off how you do your time, and if you have a loved one in prison, you want to do what you can to help him do his time as best he or she can. But at the same time, it is very easy, and tempting to want to receive money all the time while in prison. Most times it is because the inmate gets greedy, but sometimes….SOMETIMES, it is a very innocent flaw in the person. Let me give you a quick example:

When I was in medium custody at Pasquotank (last I heard they moved out all the medium custody from the camp and made it a close custody camp), I knew a guy doing life. He was a big dude, one of those stereotypical images of an inmate, who lifted weights all the time. But he was pretty nice…well, at least to me.

I asked him once if he needed any canteen, and he said yes. I mean, I had it to give, and he seemed nice enough, so I offered, and he accepted. I think we did that a couple of times, but he didn’t ask ME for canteen, I was offering to him. After awhile he had gotten used to me asking, and one day he came to me and asked if I could get him some canteen. At the time I had kinda run low on money, but he had now gotten to the point where he felt comfortable asking me for canteen. Was it his fault? Not really. My actions gave him every reason to believe that he could ask, and I would give. It wasn’t like he really NEEDED anything, but he had gotten to the point where he felt he could ask.

Sometimes the giver can be so kind to the receiver that it might innocently trigger such a circumstance. I know that sounds too flimsy, but trust me folks there is some reasoning in this. This does not apply to everybody, but it does indeed apply to some.

Anyway, that is an angle that implies that not all situations involving sending money to inmates is so one sided. It is very clear that this is a subject we have to talk more on, since the top two issues involve sending inmates money.

But that is for another time, today I will take some time to relax, print out some cards, answer emails and maybe blog some more later today. Remember, email me to ask how you can support my blogs, ask about my books, cards or prison issues. Don’t be afraid to ask a question, because often times the question you ask is likely one that many others have as well, but were afraid to ask.

Until then…

May 26, 2010 at 3:23 pm 3 comments

#206 Sending inmates money: the DARK side

Sending inmates money: the dark side

I noticed that a lot of people have been reading some of my blogs, mainly ones dealing with sending inmates money. This seems to be a pretty hot topic to a lot of you, and in light of a recent email from a very nice reader, it seemed good to try to discuss it further with you guys, as best I can.

If you have read one of my blogs about this subject, you notice that I made a strong case as to why it can indeed be helpful to send inmates a few dollars, because it can really help with self esteem.

That sounds odd to many of you, but I honestly feel, as one who did time, that a few dollars can really help turn a bad day in prison to at least a decent one. Prison is hard enough as it is, and in many ways the inmates are like waves in the ocean, tossed here, tossed there. You go where you have to go, with little choice. This includes the meals and everything else.

But to get just a few dollars can really make a difference because it gives you the power of choice while in prison. There is something about being able to have a few dollars to buy something in the prison canteen….

Now note, there will be many who are not sympathetic with inmates that will laugh at these things, because you feel that “criminals don’t deserve nothing”. While there may be some truth to it, I strongly challenge any person saying that to work as a prison guard in a prison full of men with low esteem….see where that gets you.

I believe that an inmate with some money can build some self esteem, and have some power over how his day goes. For example, I am not a big fish fan. Never really liked it because one bone throws my whole meal out. So if we have fish for dinner in the prison, I feel down because it’s not something I can eat…but mind you, I will eat it if I have nothing else to lean on.

But if I had $5, or $10, then I know I have a choice. I don’t have to eat it because I can go to the prison canteen and buy something else. That power of choice gives me a better feeling about myself, because I am not bouncing with the circumstances; I have the power to change that.

So I argue with you that it is important for inmates to have money, because it can really turn a bad day into a decent one. I actually got a lot of emails and some comments from people who told me they were glad I shared that post, because it helped them get a perspective for their loved one, and it helped them understand that maybe it is a important to send them a few dollars.

Now…let me argue the opposite.

Lets talk about when you have to be cautious about sending inmates money.

This is important too, and for me to even blog this is very risky for me, because what I am about to share may paint a stigma about many inmates, which may be unfairly applied to me, an ex felon. But this is important to share, if you fall in the category of wondering if you should send money to someone in prison.

I have actually been asked this question a few times, and I have noticed a pattern in the behavior of certain inmates when it comes to this situation. We’re going to talk a bit about inmates who ask for money…and how to tell if they are sincere or not.

I may very well be shooting myself in the foot here, because I often ask for support of my blogs…as an ex felon, that is hard enough, but what I am about to talk about may make it harder. Somebody might already have a financial gift in the envelope, ready to send to me, but might think twice after they read this…

(please give me a chance to win you over before you do that)

So, the idea is, how do you know if an inmate is being honest when he asks for money?

Now, this can apply to any person that knows somebody in prison, but many times, it applies more to those who know somebody in prison. Although this CAN happen with relatives or close friends or relationships, it more often happens with inmates who make friends with those they have never before met.

Mind you, this is NOT all the time, so don’t pass judgment on somebody until you know for sure, but let’s talk about what you can do to make a better call on this situation.

If you have someone whom you have sent money to, maybe once, twice or a few times, it might have been cool. I mean, like I said, inmates with a few dollars can really be helpful. But what happens when you start feeling indifferent about it? What if you don’t feel right about sending him money? Is it wrong to say no, or to wonder if he is using you?

Its hard to at first realize when you may have crossed that line from being kind, to be used, because it’s kinda gradual. I mean, if you wrote to an inmate, and if you sent him $10 the first month, then he asked for $500, that is a problem. That’s easy to detect, and it would be easy to make a decision to drop the con man. But in most cases it isn’t that simple.

In most cases, you find a person you want to correspond with, you write back and forth, and maybe you feel that you want to help him a little, so you ask if you can send him a few dollars. Or maybe in the initial stages he makes light mention of how he is waiting for his loved ones to send a few dollars.

No harm, no foul right? He didn’t ask you for a Rolex watch. What could it hurt if you sent him a few dollars? So maybe you found it in your heart to send the guy a few dollars, and maybe he truly appreciated it. Maybe he wrote you and told you how thankful it was, and maybe it made you feel that you were truly doing something good.

No problem.

But what happens if the amounts keep getting higher, or the requests for money start to become more frequent? What do you do when you find yourself saying, “I just sent him a some money last month, why does he need more?”

The initial thought that normally goes with this is that maybe this guy is conning you. I mean, how much money does a guy in prison REALLY need? And so you might now have questions, and decide to go online and see if you come across some answers…

And then you come across some crazy guy name Nolaw97 who has been running his mouth about prison issues. You read his crazy post about whether you should send inmates money and you start to think, “well, maybe he has a point. If it would help his time better, maybe I can send him a few more dollars”.

Before you buy into that, create a mental checklist about whether you should send an inmate money or not.

Before you ever send any money to an inmate, one of the first questions is:

“Do I trust him”

The second is:

“Can I afford to send this”

The third is:

“Do I feel good about this”

The three questions may well save you a lot of headache if you are honest about your answers. Now again, I say to you, this is very slippery roads I tread on, because as a guy trying to make a living writing prison blogs, I do often ask for support. And I do get some from time to time, in addition to selling my books and cards. But I know as an ex felon, if 100 people read my blogs, maybe 2 or 3 will consider supporting me, even if all 100 were truly looking for help.

But there are times folks, when you have to determine if your gifts of kindness are honestly accepted and appreciated, or if you are being conned. Now, to give you an example, let me first give you some examples of what inmates might say to you in an effort to ask for money.

Some inmates will say that the food is nasty, and they need money so they can buy “real” food from the canteen.

Folks, that to me is crap, because I have worked for 3 different prison kitchens. Every meal might not be out of a 5 star restaurant, but they were decent to eat. Some inmates use that excuse to get people to send them canteen money.

Some inmates will say that they need to buy clothes, like shoes or boots.

This is partly true…prisons do sell shoes for inmates who can afford them, but you’d be hard pressed to find prisons that have inmates walking around in bare feet. Prisons are obliged to keep the inmates well clothed, and that includes shoes. Granted the shoes are not Air Jordans, or Timberland boots, but they are good enough. Some inmates just don’t like wearing prison clothes, and try to find a way to look different while in prison.

Some inmates will say they are trying to take a class, and need the money in order to be able to attend the class.

This is questionable as well, unless they can prove to you that they are indeed taking a class. Heck, I wanted to take correspondence classes in prison but never had the chance. In truth, it IS possible, but there are so many obstacles that it is highly unlikely. Sadly, many prisons just don’t like it when inmates try to better themselves, and the rules make it very difficult to do so.

Now, lets just say that a friend or person you know in prison has said one of those examples, and the amount he is asking is pretty substantial. Let’s say he is asking for $150. Let’s say you had sent him a few dollars here, some there, and notice that it has been slowly adding up…or maybe QUICKLY adding up.

First question…do you trust him to send that kind of money? In this case, do you trust this guy to send him $150. Well, is he good for it? Do you fully believe that he really needs that amount?

Second question…can you AFFORD to send him $150? Will this set you back or cause you to reorganize your financial status? Does this force you to have to cut back on something so you can send him that money?

And third question… do you feel good about sending him $150? Is there a strong feeling that you are doing something very good for a person in prison, or do you have second doubts about whether he really needs that money, or will use it in the manner you sent it?

If in any of those three questions you answer in the negative…do NOT send him that money. If you do not trust the inmate, do NOT give him that kind of money. Even if you have some trust, balance that with the money you send him. See, you might be able to trust him with $20, but not $200, even if you had it to give. Don’t let the amount you send exceed your trust in him, he has to earn that from you.

When I ask people to support my blogs, I understand that you have to trust me before you even decide to send me a dollar. If you don’t trust me, don’t send me a dollar, because I want you to be fully convinced that I am doing the best I can to help others. But understand, I didn’t say I was perfect. If somebody sent me a couple of hundred dollars for example, I might go buy a video game with some of it. You might argue my choice in how I spend it, but if it makes me happy, then I get encouragement to write even more. If I need to buy ink and paper, I will do that, but if there is a chance for me to enjoy just a little of life, then I would like to at least taste that. But you have to trust me before you sent anything, trusting that I am sincere in what I am trying to do.

If you don’t have the money to send, then do NOT overextend yourself to help an inmate. Folks, remember, they get fed, they have a roof over their heads, they have clothing and limited medical attention…trust me, they will be fine if they don’t get any money from you. Yes it is true they can do their time better WITH money, but no inmate should be putting anyone out of the way for their own selfish wants.

If you have $500 in your bank account, but got bills that need to be paid, then an inmate asking for $150 can really put a strain on your finances. If you don’t have the money, it is easier to say you don’t have it, but if you are on that borderline, you might feel that maybe you can, if you sacrifice a little….that’s not the way to do it folks. If it puts ANY strain on your finances…do not do it.

And if you get a troubling feeling over it, do not send any money. You have to have it resolved in your heart that the money you send is for a good reason, and you can part with it, and you will feel good about why you are sending it. If that feeling is not within you, if you are asking questions about the request for money, do NOT send it.

Now, if you have gone through all these steps, and decided NOT to send that person the money (or as much as they want), what do you do?

You could simply tell them how you feel, and how you are not sure if you should send them the money…in this case, $150. But if I may, let me suggest the following strategy.

Instead, if you feel indifferent about it, change the conversation, and tell him that because of certain situations, you may not be able to send him any money for a month or two. You don’t have to get into detail about this, after all, its none of his business anyway. Let him know that you will have to hold off on sending him any money for awhile, in this case, 2 months….

And wait for the response.

The response you get will tell you what this guy is really about. If an inmate truly appreciates what you did, he knows that everything he got was based on your kindness, and he was blessed enough to receive. If you chose not to send anymore, that is your decision, if you choose to bless him further, that is your decision. A grateful inmate would understand that he was always at the mercy of your kindness.

But a conning inmate would take issue with your “sudden change of heart”. He would not allow his “gravy train” to go away so easily, and would go into defense mode to keep “his” money. He may first get angry with you, but in doing so he may well have shown his hand. How?

Guys who get upset at people who might stop sending money may realize that YOU see him for what he is, and is going into defense mode, either by denial or using the guilt trip on you. These guys will get upset and try to make you feel bad because you don’t care about him anymore and may even imply that you think that he is conning you…

Which in many cases…he is.

But inmates who do that are first lashing out at you, but at the same time, trying to convince you that YOU are the problem, not him. When you see this response, or ones like it, it is almost a sure sign that he was conning you, but is trying to put all the guilt on you.

But understand, he isn’t trying to push you out…not if you have been sending him money on a constant stream. No inmate wants to lose their money source. So as angry or upset as he may be initially, he may resort to another tactic….sympathy.

If he cannot get you to feel guilty that YOU were wrong, he might try to get you to feel sorry for him by using situations that might get you to act on his behalf. They might say that they owe money to somebody, and they REALLY need to pay up or they might be in trouble.…

(which is interesting, because if you were sending them money all the time, they should NEVER need to borrow)

Or a sick relative might be trying to visit and he needs money to send to them so they can visit him one last time…or that he needs money to call his sick mother. Folks there is no end to what an inmate will say to get you to feel sorry for them. Some will even say they feel so bad over what they did to you that they thought about suicide.

Folks, there are thousands of excuses.

But often these come to try to get you to send them money again, or to pull you back into their control, to get back to sending them money. If the inmate is doing this, then you are pretty sure that they were conning you all the while.

Yet let me make this clear, there can be ways for an inmate to ask for forgiveness and earn back that trust. I am not saying that NO excuse is good. Heck, I would have loved to have known somebody that was willing to send me money while I was in prison. And if a person asked me if I could use a few dollars, I would likely said yes. If they did that for a few months, I would be spoiled by their kindness. I would not mean to be, but I would slowly be conditioned to rely on your kindness…and almost start to expect it.

That would not make me a con man, because we all desire a few dollars, but the con comes if my thoughts are to manipulate you to send me more money. If you freely send money without me asking, it is not a con. If I honestly needed the money, and you agreed to send, it is not a con. But if the intent is to manipulate you to send money for the sake of getting it for my own gain, then that IS a con.

(oh boy, I may have really hurt myself with that)

Folks, there is nothing wrong with sending money to an inmate, its your money, you do with it as you please. If you feel fine sending an inmate $1000 dollars or $10 dollars, that is your right. But when you do, make sure you trust the person, that the amount does not compromise your finances, and that you feel good after you send it. If those three fall in line, then you are doing the right thing.

I remember a reader from Canada that emailed me about a person she was sending money to. She started to worry that he was asking too much, and it had really start to put a strain on her finances. I told her that I would stop sending money, because in the details she told me, he clearly seemed to be out for her money. But she told me she was going to visit him, and talk to him about it. She was going to travel from Canada to I think New York, and was paying for the bus ride, which was pretty far (can’t remember where in Canada she was from).

She went to visit him, and in her email to me, she told me it was over, this guy seemed to only be interested in what she could do for him financially. I won’t share the details, because that is between her and whom she shared it with, but she knew after that visit that this was not a man she wanted to associate with anymore. So she cut him off, and I told her to expect some mail from him, to try to get her to reconsider.

I think a week or two later she emailed me, telling me that he had indeed tried to use sympathy to get her to send him some money, I think it was that he was in debt to some guys and really, really needed to pay them back or be in big trouble. She told me she was not sending anything to him anymore. It took a hard lesson but she learned and she actually was better for it. In fact, she did not bear a grudge against inmates in general, because she found another inmate to correspond to. Good for her.

This really is embarrassing for me to share, because if you read this, you might look at me differently. I mean, why should you support this Nolaw guy, he will probably take the money and set sail to Hawaii for a 2 week cruise….

(hmmm, sounds like a good idea though….)

But I suppose I would be a fool to say that if I had such money I would never consider something like that. Hey, I would like to enjoy life too, wouldn’t you do the same? For me to do what I need to do on these blogs, there are things I do need, those being ink, paper, and sooner or later, a new computer and printer. That helps me to continue to write, blog and create things like prison cards, prison encouragement certificates and other projects.

Yet life is more than that. If I am so blessed to receive an abundance of finances, or able to sell a lot of my books, I’d love to take my family out to dinner for once. I’d love to go to a theme park for a weekend…I’d love to buy new shoes, clothes and a video game here or there. I’d love to help pay bills, or finally pay off my student loan. There are lots of things I would like to do.

So when a person sends me a gift, I try to get a priority list set, some things are top priority, others are less, depending on what gets me to the best frame of mind. When I am there, I can write much more, and better, because I know the reward of my writing keeps me going. The source of my writing has to come from God, because I never wanted to write prison blogs to begin with.

(and yes I do pay tithes)

So when you support my blogs, it might mean me buying ink for the printer, or certificate paper, or card stock paper for the greeting cards. It might help buy a new computer. But it might also mean a juicy burger at McDonalds, or a new shirt, or a nice video game that makes me happy. It can also mean having the resources to give free encouragement certificates to those whom I can help, if I can afford it. So the intentions may well be different, so I don’t want you to think I am conning you.

Simply put, if it is NOT in your heart to support my blogs, don’t do it. I have to earn that trust if you are on the borderline, so let me do that by continuing to write as best I can. I try my best to speak as an ex felon, to share what I went through, so I try to give you the best spin on what inmates go through, but I cannot forget that this is prison, and a lot of guys that are there are indeed there for a reason. I say that to you as a reminder when you choose to send money to guys in prison. Trust me folks, they are not all bad, and many of them don’t intend to mislead folks, but sometimes the circumstances turn people the wrong way. Nobody is perfect, and I am certainly on that list.

But if you are wondering whether to send money to inmates, consider the questions we discussed, and then make your decision. Remember, its YOUR money, not his.

Anyway, I better go, not sure why I got this migraine again, I had one yesterday, and it came back today about 3pm….need to get some rest. Until next time….

May 24, 2010 at 4:53 am 3 comments

#201 Faith for a felon or ex felon (retro)

Faith for a felon or ex felon

Well, today will start off a little rough…I notice there are no sodas in the refrigerator…

(smile)

I had a bunch of emails today, and will take time to go through them, some I have already gone through. I mentioned to some of you that Embarq has changed up their format, and it really SUCKS when you are writing emails. It is so slow to generate the characters that it can throw you off. But I will try to bear with it, hoping they realize how problematic it is and fix it.

Also, thanks to those of you who support my blogs by sending me support. I cannot say how much it means and how much it encourages me to continue to not only blog, but to give you my best effort. I don’t know if it’s me, but when I write, I am not satisfied in a paragraph or even a page. If I didn’t give you my best effort, I consider it a failure.

And when I started blogging, I got a lot of emails from people who loved my blogs, but wanted me to shorten my posts. They said that the average reader wants his or her information condensed to almost “Cliff Notes” style. I thought about that, but then reasoned that those kinda people don’t NEED my blogs, they just want to be entertained. I am not writing for THEM.

I am writing for those with loved ones in prison, or those who have done time. And for that reason, I want to give them my best effort…which is why I write so much.

So again, my thanks to those who support my blogs, my sincere thanks whether you sent me $5 or $150, it truly helps. My thanks to those who bought one prison card or a dozen. It has been a great help.

Now, let’s talk about faith.

Today I was thinking of how to explain what faith might be to an ex felon, or a person in prison, or even to you, who have a loved one in prison. What is it, and how can it be applied to an incarcerated or formerly incarcerated person?

For that matter, is it available to them?

This is something that most people fail from the beginning, because there is a humanistic belief that people who go to prison or have done time are not “allowed” to have faith…that is pure garbage.

I say again…that is garbage.

Faith is no respecter of persons, but it can have many different levels. My faith in, for example, getting a new computer, could be much lower than yours…or higher. Every person has a certain measure of faith, it is a matter of how it is applied or reinforced.

So let’s try to keep this in the realms of an ex felon or someone with a loved one in prison…what is faith to those people?

I blogged on this before, and what I mentioned then was that there actually are different definitions of “faith”. There is the carnal definition, and then there is the spiritual. In my Oxford American Dictionary, the word “faith” is defined as:

“A reliance or trust in a person or thing”

It implies that we would rely and put our trust in somebody or something. Two examples I can give you are my mom, and a dollar bill.

If I asked my mom for some money to buy some shoes, and she said yes, then I have faith that she will give me the money to do it…why? Because I trust my mom and I believe she will be able to do what she promised me she would.

We as Americans have faith in objects too, such as the dollar bill. Have you ever gone to a store here in the US and wondered if your dollar bill was good enough to be accepted? (I am talking about a real dollar bill, not mangled and torn). You never have to worry about that because in this country, that dollar bill is backed by the gold of the USA. We have near absolute faith that when we purchase something, the legal tender we give is going to be accepted.

Now, let me bend that for a second to make a point…if you went in Wal-Mart and purchased a new computer (see, I keep bringing up that computer) and paid for it with $500 American dollars, there is no problem. But try that with $500 of Monopoly money and see what happens….

Now, nobody would do that because we all know that it would not work… meaning we have no faith in that kind of money; we do not trust the reliance of Monopoly money outside of playing that game.

You see that faith in the carnal sense is based on the trust in a person or an object. But in both cases it was based on what we could understand with feelings. I can SEE my mom, therefore I could trust her. Even though you can’t see the gold in Fort Knox, you assume it is there. But when I say “faith” for ex felons and those with loved ones in prison, I am talking about spiritual faith.

Which means we have to define it another way…by the Bible.

According to the Bible, in Hebrews 11th chapter, first verse, it says:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

You will notice that spiritual faith is different from carnal faith, because carnal faith relies on things we can see or touch. Spiritual faith is not based on that, it is based on things we hope for, and it is the PROOF of things we do not see.

It is an assurance that whatever you are hoping for, will happen.

Not MIGHT happen…but WILL happen.

But this faith is based on a source, as it must be, otherwise you are just wishing. Your faith as an ex felon or a person with a loved one in prison has to be based on your belief in God to do what you are hoping for.

“Well…I don’t know about that…”

Well, then you don’t have faith in God for your situation. Period.

As an ex felon, I had to believe that God was not only able to help me, but very WILLING to help me. I don’t understand how we try to teach people that God is some vengeful and wrathful being out there, ready to thrown lightning bolts on anybody that dare make a mistake, and sits up there with His arms folded when we ask for help.

Who told you God was like that?

Guys in prison can feel like God is 400 trillion light years away from them because they are “flawed”. Yes there are people in prison who screwed up, but a lot of those guys are trying to make things right. A lot of those guys and women are asking for a second chance so they can help others. A lot of those people made a mistake…how many of YOU never made one?

One of the first steps in getting faith for an ex felon or a person with a loved one in prison is to first get a real idea of what God is to us. When you get a real idea of what God wants for you, not what MAN thinks about you, then you should get an idea of what God wants to do for you.

This part right here, is where most people (including myself) can slip. It is all too easy to think that maybe God won’t hear or answer my prayers because after all, I am an ex felon. Many of you have a son, daughter, or boyfriend, or husband in prison right now, and you may feel that prayers to God for him or her might not really be heard because after all, they messed up.

So faith is already defeated in you because you don’t have a trust in the source, that being God. In short, we just don’t feel “worthy”. Remember my example of carnal faith in my mom? My trust in my mom was strongly based on the idea that I know my mom loves me. So if she said she would buy me a pair of shoes, or give me the money to do it, then I have faith in it because my trust in her is based in her love for me. My mom would not lie to me. If she can buy me a new pair of shoes, she will. If she cannot afford to, she would still be honest to tell me.

She loves me too much to lie to me.

Well, how about God?

As an ex felon, I wrestled for many months in a jail cell trying to figure out if God loves me enough to answer my prayer. This is critical when it comes to faith because if you don’t believe God loves inmates, then you may not have faith to believe God will hear your prayer for a loved one in prison. A lot of you are worried sick about the safety of your loved one in prison, and you’d like God to watch over them while they are in prison. Some of you are concerned about how an ex felon can get his life back, and even prosper, and you pray to God that He can help them.

This requires faith, which is the substance of what you are hoping for, and the evidence (proof) of something you cannot see now. But before that faith can work, you have to KNOW that God loves you. If you are under the belief that God does not love you, then you cannot possibly have faith to think God will help you.

The faith of a felon, or ex felon, or anyone with a loved one in prison, is strongly attached to how much you believe that God loves us. And the answer is often as simple as looking at yourself.

You are obviously reading this because you have a loved one in prison…notice what I said…LOVED ONE. That gives the implication that you care about this person deeply. Whether that person is your brother, son, boyfriend, husband, sister, wife, girlfriend, pen pal, class mate or whomever, it is obvious you care a lot about them. You can say that you…love them.

Now ask yourself this…is it possible for any person to love another person more than God loves them? Can you love your son more than God loves your son? Can you love your boyfriend more than God loves your boyfriend?

Now remember, this isn’t about what somebody else thinks. What somebody thinks about your loved one means nothing right now. We are talking about whether God, who so loved the world that He gave His only Son for us, if this same God who loves us unconditionally, loves your son, husband, boyfriend or whomever, LESS than you.

There was some comparisons given in the Bible about how much God loves us more than man. Jesus asked the people “how many of you, if your son asks for bread, would you give him a stone”. Now obviously the answer is that no father would do that to their son. But it proved the point when Jesus told them, “if you then, being evil (carnal) can do good things for the people you love, how much more can God do?”

When I was in jail those first 16 to 17 months, there was a very strong battle in me in that cell, trying to understand if God loved me, because if He didn’t, then I could not have faith for my prayers. I could not trust the source if I didn’t believe the source (God) really cared about me. But once I learned that He not only loved me, he REALLY loves me, then I had faith to believe that He could answer my prayers. That began the foundation of faith. I think a minister said once, “the foundation of faith is where God is known”.

I spent a lot of time reading scriptures, writing letters to ministries and receiving numerous faith-based magazines, books, booklets and the such. I was determined to do my best to try to learn more of God, because the more I knew of Him, the more I would know how much He loves me. And with that love grew the idea that my faith in Him would not be misplaced.

If you’re going to have faith in God, you have to take time to get to know Him. An inmate can do this just as easily as you can, just open up a Bible. I realize I am not talking to a congregation, and as you guys well know, I am not on the top 50 list of “most religious”, but I DO know what I have lived, and my faith in God got me through some of the worst days of my life…even when I thought I had fallen.

So my faith in God for the things I have prayed for is based on believing that God is there, and He loves me, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Many scriptures talk about how God will bless those who seek Him, and it’s not like it said, “and the Lord will bless those who seek him, except those who have done time”.

You realize how silly that sounds?

But yet this is what society tends to put on inmates and ex felons. There is a distorted belief that we are not loved by God, and there is no need to seek him. But this is not true at all. Here, let me show you:

Hebrews 11:6 says “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him”

Psalms 34:4 says “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears”

Psalms 72:12 says “For He shall deliver the needy when he crieth, the poor also, and him that hath no helper”

Psalms 145:18 says “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth”

Psalms 145:19 says, “He will fulfill the desire of them that fear Him, He will also hear their cry, and will save them.”

Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not”.

Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For EVERY ONE that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”

I could share many more, but that last one ought to dispel the myth that God does not want ex felons “seeking Him”. The scritpure says, EVERY ONE. No exceptions. A man doing 30 years in prison has just as much a right to seek God as a child who has never done anything wrong.

This is where faith begins, when the felon can believe that God WANTS to help him, regardless of what he did wrong and his situation. Faith in God is the proof that the things you are hoping for can happen if you just believe. Now, this does not mean it will get fixed in a day, and it certainly does not mean you won’t be tested. The second you start believing that your loved one in prison will be ok is when the devil will try to plant thoughts in your head and try to make you abandon this spiritual faith and demand God for “proof”.

But that’s not faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen. You have to believe it even when there is nothing physical to give you proof. You have to believe because God said He would do it…if you have faith in Him.

Let’s say you are worried that your loved one in prison will have a very hard time getting his life together. He needs a job, he needs money, and with a criminal record, it may be hard to find good work. I know a lot about that, even as a guy with a college degree.

First off, do you believe God wants to help him? This is the first fight, because there will be the debate that “maybe the Lord is trying to teach him something by not giving him a job”. A lot of people think that to justify not getting a prayer answered, when this is the result of giving up on a prayer. Consider this folks, if YOU want that person to find a job and earn money, how much more would GOD want that same person to prosper? Come on, your desires for a loved one isn’t nearly as great as what God wants for that person.

So is it God’s will for a person to prosper? Of course! Especially if you took the time to pray to God about it. God wants to be able to bless anyone, free or bonded alike. But we limit him because of silly beliefs that prevent people from believing how much God loves us, and thus hamper our faith in Him to answer our prayers. If you are believing for a good job for a loved one in prison, this is a good thing, right?

Get into the Bible and find scriptures that support your belief, with the idea that the Bible is not just a historical book, but a LIVING Word from God. Everything written in there if for our use, not just for history class, but for today and tomorrow. The more you understand what God is saying about YOU, the more you are going to see that it is His will to bless us, if we allow Him to. And that includes that person in prison that you care about, because after all, God cares for him too.

Faith for me has certainly shown results, but I would be silly to say that it didn’t come without trials. You read my blogs, and know how I almost gave up on this writing several times. It was important that if I was going to commit this much time writing, that I would also ask God for some financial help. Yeah, I could work at McDonalds, but I believe God wanted more out of me (and your loved ones too). So I ended up writing 3 Grades of Honor Books, a Blog book, made about 50 or so prison cards and about as many prison encouragement certificates to support my writing. Between that, and the growing number of people who are supporting my blogs with gifts, I am starting to see things turn in a very good way.

Many times I had to believe it when I had no emails, many times I had to believe it when nobody was making comments. Many times I had to believe it when nobody asked for my books or asked how they could support me. It even had to be there when I was getting kicked out of prison sites like WriteAPrisoner, Prison Talk Online and others.

Faith in my writing was severely tested to the point where I sat in my bedroom at night wondering, “what’s the point? Nobody cares about some ex felon trying to do right, and when I try to share posts, I get attacked by members who don’t know anything about prison”. Believe me folks, there has been many a night where I just didn’t see the value of blogging on prison issues. But no matter how down I got, there was something inside me that encouraged me to keep writing. Even if that meant leaving for a couple of weeks and not blogging, eventually I came back and picked it up again. My faith in prison writing was encouraged by God apparently having some faith in me, and He would not give up on me and my writing.

And the results show from it. Many, many people have read my posts and blogs, and have shared them with others. I have also received a growing number of very kind people who see what I am trying to do, and they support me. One guy sent me $50 and told me to go out and enjoy taking my mom to a nice restaurant for a change. Another person said they didn’t care if I bought video games with it, just as long as I kept writing.

People are slowly understanding what I am trying to do, but it would never have happened if I didn’t have faith in God. But that faith came with the idea that God not only cared about me, He LOVES me, and really wants to help me.

No different for any inmate or ex felon, or any person with a loved one in prison. Do you understand what I am saying here? I could have easily written 20 pages on this, because I believe if people could get a hold on what faith really means to an ex felon, to an inmate or to someone with a loved one in prison, there would then be a great possibility to change some things around, instead of just living in fear.

We’ve got to break that hold on you folks, the hold of fear, the idea of depression and doubt with a loved one in prison, or even for one out of prison. Can things get better…sure. You have to believe it can.

Oh well, I have said too much, already 8 pages today. But I could have said so much more. Anyway, email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com to ask about my books or the free prison encouragement certificates, or how you can support my blogs. Or, just ask me to talk about a particular part of prison. I am here to help if I can.

May 21, 2010 at 5:13 am Leave a comment

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