This is Part 3 of a story I am working on, it is all in extreme ROUGH draft form and needs editing…
When the Holy Spirit comes in and changes a person’s nature too often they seem to lose their common sense.
It was one of the few nights Phil was actually in one of the cells that branched off the central common area of the pond. A few men were still forced to be on a floor mat or in one of the beds out there. ‘What’s that smell?!?‘ he thought laying there trying to defend himself from the offensive odor. He thought how funny it was that it was easier to defend oneself from a physical blow then from some extremely offensive odor. Staying in a cell offered a little less light, more privacy and also gave some security because there were three other men in there that would keep strangers from messing with you while you’re asleep; however, the closed quarters didn’t have very good ventilation. Phil involuntarily let out a moan while fighting the gut wrenching stentch. Mike laughed and the other two cell mates joined in. “You can’t handle the smell homie?” Mike prodded. Phil finally gave in, “UNCLE! WHAT IS THAT?!” Mike said , “It’s your upper lip!” They laughed again. Phil’s wits came into play, “It’s rotten fruit, ugh.” They continued taunting and were so proud of themselves for accomplishing two things at one time, one for making their own booze, two for annoying the odd man in their home. The smell was repulsive but they knew that when it fully spoiled it would give them a good buzz if they could choke it down. The home made brew was fermenting under Mike’s bed but the distance from the top bunk did nothing to prevent the fumes from burning Phil’s nose and lungs. Shouts from the cells on both sides began to intervien, “SHUT IT UP OVER THERE!” WHO’S FARTING?!? KNOCK IT OFF!!!” Mike lowered his voice after scolding his cell mates casting blame, “Yeah you girls stop talking so much I’m tryin’ to sleeeep!”Then he asked Phil, “Ever had hooch?” Phil whispered back, “No thanks…remember, I take blame if the shive is found, the one I ditched, not another one and for nothing else. I’m no snitch but I also won’t take the blame when the guards smell that, clear?”Mike blew off steam, “And you get no hooch either!” Phil confirmed, “I don’t want no hooch. You make it, you drink it, if found you pay for it.” They all coughed a little from the potency of the fumes. Mike agreed, “I always man up for my dealings.” Phil pulled his toiletries out from his pillow case, fumbled around to find his hand sanitizer and coated his hands with it then covered his nose trying to mask the smell. He was wondering if the pros of being in a cell out weighed the cons.
OKAY 9 STAFF
There was no doubt the inmate to staff ratio would always be in favor of the ward not the warden. Many times it was one or maybe two guards that would normally enter the pod holding sixty men. At times a special unit would enter and do a thorough search but the only time there seemed to be more than ten correctional officers in the pod at one time was when the men were out of the pod during recreation time. The use of pepper ball guns and occasional pepper spray was the less lethal choice the staff had to try and gain some control but even those, with enough men, could easily be over taken if the cons decided to work together. There was talk on the pod of a riot mutany but those trying to orchestrate it were having trouble agreeing on a few details which seemed minor but left holes in their potential for success. Just about the time when their plan seemed to be full proof the sheriff made a special visit himself. He brought 25 guards, his assistant deputy and six new, very qualified dogs he called, “K9 OFFICERS.”
Unannounced the sheriff entered Pod-Z with his forces. “EVERYONE DOWN RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE! DO NOT GO TO YOUR BUNKS! DO NOT MAKE ANY SUDDEN MOVEMENTS! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!” They all dropped and froze as the large German Shepherds led their owners through the bodies of men. Some men let out a girly yelp as some of the dogs caught an arm or leg or two as they pounced around their new obstical course. This was play time for them. They knew their masters would be please and they would be rewarded with love and affection for a job well done. The sheriff began to speak in a loud athoritative voice, “THESE ARE OUR NEWEST STAFF MEMBERS. THEY HAVE BEEN TRAINED FOR YEARS TO ATTACK ON COMMAND!” He took a breath, “THEY ONLY RESPOND TO THE GERMAN LANGUAGE AND ONLY WHEN IT COMES FROM THE MOUTH OF THEIR HANDELER!” He paused for a brief moment as a few of the inmates raised their heads to look. “Now…” The pod was silent other than the pant from the dogs. The sheriff spoke in a more normal tone, “I NEED ALL OF YOU TO SLOWLY ROLL OVER ONTO YOUR BACKS THEN SLOOOOOOWLY SIT UP ON YOUR BUTTS.” They all did as told, some slower than others. He continued even softer, “I want all of you to…UT HUM’…what is that smell?!” He could hardly speak as his throat tightened up. “It’s burning my eyes! What the? Agh, I know that’s not body odor. We got hooch for sure!!!” The dogs were all pulling their leads taunt and the C.O. s at the other end were struggling, trying to stay on their feet. Phil was over under the stairs, about 25 yards from his cell. Two of the men he shared the cell with were on their bunks, Mike was on the floor in the door way of that cell. They all knew they’d never enjoy one sip of their three day old project. On top of not drinking it they had some explaining to do and knew it was pay day. Phil knew he would probably get lumped in unless Mike maned up, all 4 of them would be paying for this offense. The sheriff didn’t need the snout of a trained dog to find it and he said, “Where is the fourth man for this cell?” Phil raised his hand slowly. The sheriff pulled the crate of juice, sugar, water and fruit out from under Mike’s bed and carefully removed the several layer lid of shirts and books. He said, “Which one of you is responsible for this?” No one spoke up. “You all four going to solitary for this or just one or two of you?” Again, no reply. The sheriff gave no more opportunities, “Take all four out!” Phil’s heart sunk as he had trouble forgiving Mike, ‘man up, yeah right.’ He thought. As his guards gathered the four men the sheriff added , “Put their stuff, ALL their stuff from their cell in holding. I want to check it too.” All the men sat and watched. The sheriff used this rare visit to look around at the pod. He hardly ever came in, he had men who did that, but today was different. He spoke loud enough for all of them to hear, “I am not Sheriff Langer. I am Sherriff Counts and as my not so long ago slogan said, ‘you can’t count on me!’ I will not allow some of the things your former sheriff allowed. I will not get into that but all the things that matter, that use to be let go or tolerated will no longer be permitted anymore. I know this is your home, for now, but I am your landlord, not your daddy, and there are rules, conditions that apply while you live here. If those conditions are not met you will go to 1 of 3 places. 1. Solitary Confinement, the shoe or hole as some of you call it. 2. To prison or 3. To tents we have set up on some new secure property we have been developing over the years. IT IS READY FOR YOU MEN!” Some had heard talk about this new camp being built. Sounded like a consentration camp, no air, more guards who were always on site with real guns, not armed with less lethal ammo like bean bags or pepper balls but real bullets. “These six dogs are one tenth of the dogs we have for the tent city pods.We have 60 dogs there, that’s one dog for ever four inmates.” The sheriff confirmed. Then he noticed the bunks that were not in cells and tapped on one. “Over crowded in here huh?” He asked ritorically, “You four men that sleep in these bunks, move to the new empty one we are clearing out!” Pip, Lil’John, P.T. and the man that was below Phil before he moved to cell we’re thrilled. “I plan on visiting here myself regularly men. Our time together is limited and that is okay. Some of you will be back, some of you will move on but while we are here I hope you make the best of it, not the worse. Like I said, if you break the simple rules, that are really all for your own safety, you will be moving out, evicted, end of story. We now have more places to move offenders. Don’t offend each other, me, my staff, including the dogs and you’ll be fine.” With that being said he thanked them for their time and told them, “when the pod door closes you are free to go back to whatever you were doing.” Ten guards worked on bagging up the posessions from Mike’s cell. Each mate’s belonging bagged separately and labeled. The sheriff roamed around and opened discussions with the men one on one but was not able to get to all 60. He made them feel comfortable enough to share how they felt about the food, lighting, cleanliness, and noise. As he spoke to a few that were military vets he expressed how thankful he was for their service and reminded them of the men who are still in serving overseas in deserts, living in tents and eating rations, “If it is good enough for our armed forces then it should be good enough for a short stay in the county jail huh?” He was open, forcefully in charge and yet treated them like humans. Many times they heard him say, “you can do this. It is up to you how bad this experience is. Watch out who you agree with, who you obey and who you go along with. Be your own man, don’t follow the wolves and don’t be a sheep in here. You choose what activities you participate in. MAN up and decide WHICH aren’t worth getting in trouble for. Be strong, learn, lead by example. You can do it, you can do it, YOU (HE BEGAN TO POINT AROUND THE ROOM AT RANDOM MEN) YOU, YOU, YOU AND YOU…YOU CAN DO IT! YOU CAN ALL DO IT BUT…Will you? Will you be men, show respect, integrity, even just a little consideration for others? Some of you are. Mind your own business but in here don’t let your own business effect everyone around you. ALSO, I WANT TO GIVE YOU BACK YOUR PHONE PRIVILEGES.” They were all glad to hear that. “MAJOR FLINT, MAKE SURE THAT IS DONE, PHONE BACK ON! ALSO, WE NEED RECREATION MORE THAN ONCE A WEEK FOR ONE HOUR. WITH OUR NEW STAFF AND THE DOGS WE ARE GOING TO HAVE RECREATION ONCE A DAY FOR AN HOUR, EVERYDAY BUT SATURDAY AND SUNDAY. ALSO, ARE YOU LISTENING? CAN YOU ALL HEAR ME? WE ARE NOW OFFERING A.A.AND N.A. CLASSES. WANT MORE? DON’T CHEER YOU’LL UP SET THE K9, WE DON’T WANT THAT…BUT LET ME SEE SOME SMILES OR SOME RAISED EYE BROWS IF YOU’D LIKE TO GET TO HAVE LIBRARY TIME, G.E.D. CLASSES, MORE CHAPEL SERVICES, ONE ON ONE COUNSELING, SOME BANDS COME IN, MAYBE EVEN A STAND UP COMIC NIGHT? We can do some of these things but your going to have to show each other and show us that it is possible. It is still jail. You are still not home and some of you who like it so much here you want to make it home are going to have to let the bigger, long term prison system, be your institution of choice because we won’t put up with this any more.” Although becoming a little long winded the men felt he was not just feeding them B.S. “I want to talk to more of you 1 on 1 or in small groups while the guards finish bagging up the ‘hooch bar’ over there and take the four brew masters out but before they go and before I go let me tell you and my staff what else I want to change right now…” he sat down, “From now on, Major Flint make note, I want the meals to be called out for what they are, ‘breakfast, lunch, dinner, not, ‘CHOW!’,when it is time to eat. Major, you hear me? Men you hear me? Everyone nodded. Also, I’ve been thinking about this, most of you know how to micro write. Write so tiny hardly anyone can read it. You fit whole paragraphs on a tiny square of toilet paper. You also know how to fish, when your in a pod and all the cells are closed off from the common area and you connect a note to a long piece of sheet and fling it out from under your cell door and try to slid it across the pod to another cell…right?” Some men had no idea, others smerked while others knew but wouldn’t admit to ever doing it. Some were a little surprised the Sheriff knew about it. “Those things are not allowed here, don’t destroy the sheets. Don’t try to pass notes and organize things that will get us all in more trouble but I do want you to use your skills. Here is what I want you to do with those skills. Major Flint, this will involve you. I want you to write down problems you are having. Not rediculous complaint, this is JAIL you are being held in lock up under suspension and it is not going be be ANYTHING like home but write thing down that you think we may be able to offer you while you are here. Think and come up with some ideas that are practical. Use your amazing minds to come up with some brilliant ideas we will consider in order to make this more of a correctional Institute rather than just a place to be punished. Prison is for punishment, jail CAN BE a place where you learn from your mistakes and even from others mistakes but you don’t have to come back here or go on to prison from here. YOU DON’T HAVE TO, THAT IS UP TO YOU, AND YOU AND YOU.” This time he didn’t point his finger he just made eye contact with the men all around the room and up on the second deck. “Men…guards, are you done?” They hoisted 4 huge bags up in the air. The guards holding the 4 men in cuffs, including Phil nodded. “OKAY. K9, YOU READY? ONE OF THEM IS A GIRL, A REAL BITCH.” Everyone in the pod laughed. “It’s true! Okay, men, it is up to you. Do not move until the doors are closed. Thank you again for your time. I will come visit again. See you at recreation time tomorrow and we’ll talk more one on one with those who want too.” And with that the parade left the room leaving the inmates and cons feeling like they just had a pep-talk from a coach.
When that door closed some of the men remained on the floor, some even clasped flat on their back but the four men who had beds around the common area raced to get into that cleared out cell, the stentch lingered but they were overjoyed to finally get a spot off the main drag. Pip, P.T. and Lil’John didn’t know the 4th guy that use to occupy the bunk below Phil, before Phil moved into the cell they were now able to call home. The three of them felt a little bad that Phil was sent to the hole but also knew he’d be okay. How they wished Phil was here with them but Phil was once again paying for something he didn’t do. Sometimes it was best to take punishment from the guards than to be labeled as a snitch and receive punishment from the cons. They knew God would work it all out in the end.
Phil accepted the fact that he was going through a season of serious trial and conflict but that didn’t make it any easier. He knew bad things happen to good people, it rains on the just and the unjust but what he was going through lately was almost unbelievable. One of the main sources of anxiety or depression comes from not being in control of a situation in life. Phil knew his Spiritual life was in order and pleasing to God, however, this past month was an extreme strain on him physically and mentally. Phil believed God was sovereign. He had no doubt He was all powerful, all knowing and all present. The only humanly possible thing he could do was to rely on his supernatural friend to keep him strong in this time of weakness. Admitting how weak he was broke him down but in Phil’s life he came to learn that when we are broken God is able to fix us. Too often he had good friends who were broken and stayed broken. Regardless of how that brokenness started; financially, mentally, emotionally…if their foundation for life and true peace, joy, belonging and purpose was based on any of those things, when those areas crumbled they completely fell apart. Phil didn’t find himself in a state of happiness but he did have joy. He wasn’t comfortable, but he had comfort and peace. He couldn’t imagine what it was like for the Jewish people in Moses’ day while in slavery. He couldn’t imagine how bad it was for them in Jesus’ day and even in more modern times, while Hitler ruled for a time. Phil knew, God was still there, God is still here! Without going into a pity part he realized two main things, it could always be worse and also, what seemed to be the absolute worse thing, ‘death’ only lead to life because God over came that already. No matter how unfair and unjust his situation he held onto his faith. He had many Bible verses memorized but now they were becoming more and more internalized. Although he had no reason to smile he found himself knowing, not feeling, that even this time in jail was just a portion of time, just a season. Time continually moved and even though it seemed to drag at times it was still moving. Last time he was in solitary confinement he developed techniques to deal with it. He thanked God for the sounds, the shouts, even the screams. ‘ Am i loosing my mind?’, He asked his faceless friend. ‘Read my mind because the words won’t come.’ A verse came to his mind, Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans Romans 8:26. Immediately another one came to mind and he said it out loud, “Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28.” He felt a little better but it was more than a feeling. He decided to not only repeat the verses out loud again several times but louder each time. He had not fully considered that others could hear him, just as he could hear them. When he finally stopped shouting he realized he was surrounded by silence. Phil asked himself and His Lord, ‘How could this be? Am I imagining this?’ He listened. Nothing. Then came a shout, “That gots to be you homie, Phil!” It was Mike. Phil yelled back, “yeah! Ha ha you know it!” “You mad at me homes?” Phil waited and smiled as he answered, “No.” Mike questioned, “come on, it’s okay, I like when people hate me. You tell them your side yet? Tell them…you know…?” Phil didn’t hesitate, “No! My side is the hooch was in our cell and I am not about to snitch any more than I am about to break the law and stay in here any longer then what is within my control.” Phil thought, ‘I’ve already said too much. What if the guards just heard me.’ Then he thought about Officer Smith. It didn’t matter what the guards heard or how much they vouched for Phil’s character and good track record Smith did the investigations on those in solitary. Most of those incidents were normally for physical conflicts but also for other charges. Phil went to pray and heard Mike, “you okay with me homie. You good. I’ll look out for you.” Phil thought, ‘yeah, you need to man up like you said you would.’ Phil began to pray, again he heard Mike, “you hear me homie?!” Phil just said, “I hear you! You do what’s right now!” Phil prayed.
While searching through all four men’s belongings in the sheriff’s office the sheriff asked one of his men to get Phil’s well used Bible to him, “I don’t think that man was in on it. I been fooled by Holy rollers who carry and even use the Bible but only in their favor, I think this guy if truly different. This was the self-defense guy, Smith said he would work with us, but I know Smith too, probably didn’t present it right. I also know the other three men are constantly trying to look innocent but always up to no good when ever they can. Get all of these men their Bibles back, a writing utensil and paper.” The guard did as told.
Smith didn’t delivery the Bibles but followed his orders in finding out if the illegal drink was a community project or just the doing of one or two of them. He marked Phil as being uncooperative before and when Phil said, “I can not tell you who made it on grounds that they will annyalate me.” Smith realized Phil was just caught up in fear and the punishment from inmates was worse than anything the county jail could dish out. Phil could over hear Mike talking to Smith but not clearly enough to make out what he was saying. Phil prayed, “Lord, help Mike do what is right.”
When he finally was able to get a Bible he looked up ROMANS 8 and skimmed down to verse 17…And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Phil stopped at verse 29 and prayed, “Lord help me listen and trust you.” As he closed his Bible the door to his cell opened and so did 2 other doors. It was his last cell mates minus Mike. Mike yelled, “I MAN UP BOYS! I MAN UP! YOU GO SAVE A BED FOR ME, I’LL BE BACK!” As Phil and the 2 others re-entered the pod they naturally went to what was once their cell but all four beds were filled. They had no choice but to take 3 out of several empty beds that were in the common area. Phil notice Pip, P.T, Lil’John and the guy that he racked above when he was in the over flow beds out in the light. He was happy for them and knew his new living arrangements were going to provide him with a place he could go to any time, not just at night and no one would dare brew hooch out there. Mike’s two buddies took a top and bottom bunk together Phil grabbed a top one that was empty on the bottom, the same one he had to start with. So, like starting over again he settled in.
Phil had a son who struggled with a chemical imbalance, manic depression. Phil had this same diagnosis and was no stranger to trying to keep his mind in balance. His son would often try to self medicate himself. As long as his son took the prescribed medication from a psychologist he was fine but when he teamed up with old friends who seeked substance abuse to escape life he always ended up in trouble. For Phil, having a bunk on the outter layer in the common area was maybe best in some ways. Out there you were not lumped into activities that took place in cells. Cells provide privacy but all too often cons would use that privacy to conduct their perverted behavior, unmonitored and unaccountable to the facilitie’s staff. There was more than one way to get high and break contraband rules, especially in the cells. Cons would often convince inmates to try different things, see how it effected them and then cash in on controlling the source for that temporary fix. When Phil was younger he had friends who would play this choking game. The idea was to have someone cut off your air supply until you past out. He had watched friends do it to themselves or to some willing participant. They claimed they liked the light headrd feeling just before the blacked out. ‘Whip hits’ were another cheep way he heard young people were using to get high. While working in a 24 hour super market he and a few fellow employs were told to collect all the whip cream air despensors. Apparently kids would come in and buy the cans, hold them a certain way to inject just the gas from the can, not the cream, this gave them a quick high. He knew otjers who drank cough syrup. While in jail he recalls smelling someone smoking. It was not tabbacco, not weed, it was a coffee filter. He watched men try inhalints. Not having access to paint or gas they tried their deodorant. Maybe that is why the only deodorant available now was in stick form. The ‘hooch was Phil’s last, most recent encounter and he had no idea how desperate a man would be to drink that. A month ago some of the guards or maybe inmates working the kitchen trustee program smuggled tabbacco in through the french fries. He watched one of the cons make an announcement that there was a special ingreediant on one of the treys that was suppose to be for him and whoever has it better be sure he gets it. Electric -cicgs were on the commesary list before this new sheriff was elected but he noticed that was no longer an option. It seemed harmless enough for men to puff on a vapor but he knew that little high just seemed to cause the men to want more. Some would stop at nothing to get the slightest high. Another recent change was the mouth wash. The old one available had some alcohol in it. As a result some men had amazing breath from drinking mouth wash. He saw men drinking the new mouth wash and wondered if they were confused as to why there was no burn and no buzz. How desperate people would get to try and escape every day life outside of jail, how much more they longed for it while in lock-up. Phil thanked God for his freedom, although he was behind bars and his life was being controlled by the staff and tried to be controlled by those in jail with him he knew a freedom from even his own human nature that all too often would fight him to be in control and end up dictating what to do. Those natural desires on how to do life were a lie. Human nature, thinking we know best more often than not was a lie. As Phil applied what he read in Romans eight he found a better way to live . He enjoyed true freedom he knew he was free to do anything and everything but not everything was benificial. He read those verses over and over and kept applying them when the lies would come. He held onto the faith he had in Christ, knowing , regardless of the situation God had a plan. Although things were not ideal they would be so much worse alone, without Christ living in him. As Phil dove into his Bible, 2 Corinthians 13:5, he thought about the testing he was going through in life right now. He backed up to 2 Corinthians 12:7, he thought about the bullies he was encountering, both cons and correctional officers. In verse 8 he noted how The Apostle Paul asked God three times for things to be better but, verse 9 the response was, “My grace is sufficient…” He thought about Christ crying great drops of blood and yet accepting His fate, The Father plan for him. ‘Who am I to question Him.’ Phil pondered. He flipped to 1st Corinthians 6. Although he knew what it said he wanted to read verse 12…’All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.’ Then he prayed, ‘Lord you are my master. I will not give into trying to find an escape from this temporary, tough torcher of my body, mind or Spirit, I know you will provide away of escape and you are better than drugs, YOU ARE LORD. You have a better more righteous way to live, a better plan and help me follow you, wait on you. Give me strength. ‘
Although Phil and his son were different books they were on the same page. His son was 22 years old and their relationship was the best Father son duo anyone could ever ask for. The best part was, they shared the same Heavenly Father.
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