This is a rough draft story i call “Season of Prison” It is a sequel i am writing to one i finished called “SEASON OF JAIL” (still being edited as well but concluded)
This story or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise – without prior written permission of the publisher.
This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or businesses in practice, are purely coincidental. The views expressed here are my own, as are whatever factual errors exist in the text.
SEASON OF PRISON
HERE WE GO AGAIN
As Phil entered his new designated home, prison block D. An inmate named Wiggs came running toward him with a shive he seemed to pull out of thin air. The intake guards were exiting and the other inmates were googeling the fresh meat with their internal mother boards. As Wiggs charged forward Phil did the same. The distance gave him the opportunity to climb Wiggs’ body trunk like a tree, wrapping one of his own legs around his aggressors neck and keeping the other as straight as an arrow. ‘Figure four’, he said in his mind as he used Wiggs’ arm like a branch, ‘This limb will take me to the ground’, he assured himself. It did. The guards did a full 180, secured the stabbing device from Wiggs’ straightened arm then quickly bound both imates while trying to watch their own backs. “EVERYONE BACK, TO YOUR BUNKS!”, came the calls.
Later, the guards that were in person eye witnesses as well as others who reviewed a video of the fight talked over coffee. “That ain’t never happen during intake like that!, stood corrected by one of the other Correctional Officer’s who had been there the longest, “Oh, it has happened, like when your walking your dog and he sees another dog for the first time and it is on, right way, no reason other than no one allowed on his turf! Wiggs must been tryin’ to prove he really the pod boss!” The first one argued, “I thought Wiggs’ tryin’ beat out Roy!” The older one offered, “He was, but by way of a new guy. You won’t eve’ make any sense of it cause you don’t think like they do. Any new guy’s a treat and a threat. Wiggs knew he want to get to em’ first and show ev’body who in charge, it’d aaall ’bout control.” They nodded. A few recalled their recent training on ‘how to try and think more like a con’ and ‘know your enemy’ classes and guest speakers. Sargent Leaf walked in as another guard continued, “That new guy had like, spiderman senses, did you see him jump into action?” He turned and saw the Sargent after wondering what his co-workers were looking at with instant pail faces. They snapped into attention and greeted their superior who addressed them back, “Since you are talkin’ about it on break I’ll turn this into a pre-meeting before the official one. I want both those men in Segregation for a full 30 days and evaluated. The rookie in the group of men knew that self defense was not punishable with a full term in Solitary but knew enough to not open his mouth and quote from the ever changing rule book. Things got real for this young guy when three days in he took a sharp object to the side and struck the assalent in the head knocking him unconscious and was disciplined for those actions. Things didn’t always add up but he knew the main goal was to go home alive at night not build a career. They sipped their dark black coffee trying to swollow as their leader continued to call the shots, “It was obviously self defense, however, a move like that, a new inmate, there will be repercussions if we put him back in there before this has time to brew. Hell, even after tempers calm there may be problems. The new guy nearly broke a man’s arm while in jail and didn’t get a scratch doing it.” Clive, one of them that was not a rookie but coming up on his 3rd anniversary there kept his thoughts to himself, ‘maybe he can do our job for us and correct all the bullies, put them in their place, teach em’ and lesson or two, block justice…” “As Sargent I will be following the new protocol.” He rolled his eyes and sighed as he continued, “But regardless of what anyone puts on paper I insist we keep this one out of gen. pop. as long as we can! Now finish your Joe so we can have the real meeting, and tuck in your shirts better, head warden gonna’ be in this one and I want him to think we are as good as we sometimes look.” The Sargent then pulled out the rookie’s shirt and asked ritorically, “What I JUST say?!” Clive thought back to his high school days, he expected more from his leader, more perfessionalizm, less games and bullying amongst the staff.
CONFINEMENT AND CONFUSION
Solitary confinement was a little different in prison than it was in jail. It some how seemed cleaner if that was possible and the cell Phil was in actually had padding on the walls. He wished the mat on the shelf just barley long enough to fit a six foot body on was as thick as the stuffing in the walls. Phil folded the mat three times and placed it on the floor under his knees as he used the shelf like a table top, a desk, and altar. At night he ended up sleeping on the floor keeping his few commissary items on the bed. He had his Bible, journal and licorice like pencil there the whole time. For Phil these were not good luck charms but tools to help him stay sharp and hold onto sanity he could grasp. The fingers of his brain were sore and on the fringe but still working. His prayer life changed from a Santa wish list to more of a conversation with His faceless friend who was more dependable then anything his eyes could be hold. The toilet was uncomfortably close to the bed rack that was at the same level. Using the mat on the floor, which was just as hard as the metal shelf, at least put him below the level of rising stentch. Phil was able to find the humor and some comfort as he took an inventory of himself and his surroundings, ‘At least now I am faced with the reality that my own shit stinks too.’ Although in another season that was as dark and cold as a barren state where the sun don’t shine all day he held onto the fact, ‘this is only a season, this too shall pass. I am here, even here for a purpose.’ The dependence on a supernatural creator, His sovereign ability, out weighed the discomfort and unpleasant surroundings and circumstances Phil had to endure. Lost in thought the slot in his sanctuary door slammed open with little warning of being unlocked first. Phil turned to look but could only see a waist line, white shirt, business tie and front tail fins of a suit.‘That’s not a guard, maybe warden? I hope it is an angel, come to set me free.’ His thoughts raced as he crawled that way. A squeaky voice spoke, “I am Dr. Plask, I’ve recently been assigned to evaluate inmates who are in solitary seclusion, the effects this has on you and what brought you here separating you from communal population.” ‘A shrink?’ Phil pictured a board table with a bunch of suits gathered wanting to find answeres without getting to close to reality. “I am here to give a report, we’ll take notes, then give my opinion on why your behavioral actions necessitate your withdraw from living with others and what reactions you might have to being segregated, secluded and withheld interactions from others.” ‘OHhh man, here we go. He just made it worse.’ Was all Phil could process. “Now I understand from your file here that the death of your wife may have caused undo stress and caused you to act out and attack another inmate..it says…” Phil blurted out, “WHAT?!” The man cleared his throat and raised his voice, “NOW I KNOW THIS IS UPSETTING BUT WE MUST ALL PROCESS…” Phil interupted again, “No wait, what? My wife…death, you mean my son?” The Dr. scrambled through a file, “You lost your son too?” Phil began to panic, “I lost my son, yes but what about my wife? She didn’t die!” The Doctor looked at the front of the file, “You are inmate #5963514-639 correct? A Jean Reapland?” “NO!!! I AM NOT THAT NUMBER MY NAME IS PHILLIP DWIGHT REALMAN, NEED MY INMATE NUMBER TOO OR WILL THAT CONFUSE THINGS??!!” The doctor apologized and closed the slat. Phil could hear him scurrying away as he said, “I didn’t mean to upset you, oh my god, I am so sorry…” The words trailed off. Phil cried out loud, “OH MY LIFE, WHAT HANDS AM I IN HERE LORD? MY GOD, I’M NOT CALLING OUT IN VEIN BUT PLEASE GIVE THEM SENSE AND SENSIBILITIES! ” Phil returned to his place of uncomfortable rest. He breathed and prayed, at first just trying to process for himself, ‘If this mistake happened what more could go wrong unjustly ‘. He made time and forced a bigger breath, “Lord, you are in control. We all mess up but YOU LORD are ultimately in control.” His mind went to the account of Joseph, his many color coat, the jelouse and abusive brothers. The words Joseph said after being sold into slavery and eventually rising to a place of honor in a foreign kingdom, ‘you meant it as evil against me but God turned it in to good, a true blessing after such an awful ordeal. Raw harshness from his own kin but later blessings for all of them. He hear a soft gentle voice, ‘all things will work for the good, all things.’ He fixed his mind on that, all things, for those that love the Lord their God. He heard Jesus on the cross, between two theives, ‘Father, forgive them, they DON’T know WHAT they are doing.’ Then he heard, ‘I am with you always, alway, all ways and always.’ He stopped even an attempt to form a prayer to God and just accepted everything that was coming in. He went to his knees and though, ‘this knee mail is better than email, Lord.’ As he opened the in box to his heart. ‘I go and prepare a place for you.’ He pictured Jesus saying to those who followed him the closest. ‘THEN, I went to be sacrificed for all, for every body.’ Phil flipped to 1st John 4:11-12 and read out loud, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” He flipped to John 14 and again read it out loud, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said…” Phil paused and thought about Thomas for a moment. He had to see to believe…then he read on, “Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said…Phil wondered if this disciple would not only share the same name as him but the same request. He read on, “Phillip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.'” Phil was able to smile, ‘I did pray that.’ He read some more, “Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority.” Phil prayed, ‘ fill me, Lord.’ As he continued to take more in, “Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, ” Phil repeated, ‘In Your name.’ As he read, “so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, (Phil underlined that) the Holy Spirit, (he underlined that as well) whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind (more underlining) you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” As Phil finished reading he leaned down and kissed the pages then shouted without though or fear of who may over hear him as he occasionally over heard others in misery. Phil shouted, “OH GOD, YOU ARE SO GOOD AND FAITHFUL AND TRUE, I PUT MY FAITH AND TRUST AND HOPE IN YOU!!! HELP ME THROUGH, IN JESUS NAME AND FOR CHRIST SAKE! ! !” He heard back, “For Christ sake, shut up dude!” Phil chuckled a little and said softer , “I’ll shout it out Lord but I’ll also let your child be seen and not just heard from. Set me up Lord. Fill me with You character and presence even in here, even now.” Phil thought about how there were
too many blind leading the blind and not listening to people who sincerely see and want to truly help. Phil felt like there were not enough real friends who simply like you the way you are, not exactly like them, but a legit fellow human being.
Phil’s faith in man, the system, people had worn down to near nothing but his faith in God gave him what he needed. He dwelled on how God was patient with him and prayed for patients with others and with himself .‘Anything ‘ the Word came to his mind again. He thought of what Elisha asked for when his mentor Elijah was taken from the earth. He whispered, ‘I want a double dose of the Holy Ghost, Lord.’ His mind flowed over the holy scriptures he just read. ‘Unlike a geni who is a slave to their master You, Lord God, know best and I want Your will, not my own and not anyone elses. In here Lord the inmates, the cons and even my own selfish desires try to impose a will contrary to Your will. Help me to not conseed or waver no matter how confused or condemned I may feel.’ Phil prayed silently and sincerely again in Jesus name and not for his own well fare, not for his own sake, but for Christ’s sake and for His glory. He knew he was guilty of always falling short of God’s glory. One last thought was able to come to mind accompanied with a cognitive smell, ‘I’m only human, my shit stinks just like everyone else, maybe worse if I confuse knowing God, having His Spirit in me, being a reflection compared and contrasted with being him. Greater is He that is within me.’
RELEASED INTO CAPTIVITY
In isolation it was difficult to keep track of days. There was no way to use the sun or moon to tell you if it was morning or night. Phil found it best to use the meals as a guage. He used his journal to keep track, ‘let’s see..’ He flipped to the back, ‘Three meals a day, seven days a week…’ Phil could have just kept track of breakfast but when they served eggs for dinner and sometimes a slice of meat loaf and mashed potatoes for breakfast it played mind games with him. ‘Has it really been 27 days and the only person I’ve seen was that…‘ The Holy Spirit helped filter the words. ‘Doctor? ‘
Three more days past by and the door didn’t open but the tiny window did. A gust of slightly less recycled air entered the slit carried on the threat of a correctional officer, “BRING YOUR HANDS TO THE WINDOW! NO PROBLEMS OR YOU’LL END UP RIGHT BACK IN HERE OR WORSE!” ‘Why the threat, a reminder of who is trying to be in charge? Do they know no other language? ‘ Phil kept to himself and went along with the program without letting it program him anymore than was necessary. ‘Keep me soft to you in this harsh environment Lord.’ Phil continued to obey God’s will as he submitted to those around him just to function. Not all the staff was as harsh. Some enforced the rules without the need to elevate themselves and push down each other, let alone the prisoners. The shoves while walking down one of the maze of tunnels and stairwells while in hand and leg irons could be done without but Phil refused to let the chip remain or grown on either shoulder. He knew that chip was a cow chip and would only make him give off and even more odor.
Phil finally made it to BLOCK D. He scanned the room for his initial assalent, tried to recall his face and even place a beard or mustache on what he could remember. He wasn’t looking for revenge just staying on the alert. If there was no real reason for the first unexpected round he knew it best to be fully aware there was a potential for round two with the same man or another one with a hidden adgenda. Roy approached him, “An open bunk over there, it’s a top one but better than the floor.” ‘I prefer being up high, gives me a birds eye view, or at least a lazy cat’s on a counter view.’, Phil thought as he thanked Roy who walked with him to the open top bunk. It wasn’t an escort, Roy led with conversation, “Hey, sorry about Wiggs, that was the guy that greeted you the first time, some welcome huh?” Phil knew not to talk to much but was grateful for the warmer welcome while remembering kindness was sometimes taken as a sign of weakness in this foreign land.”Thanks Roy.”, He said as he layed down his matress and few belongings and extended a fist which Roy bumped back. “I’m Phil.” “Lemme’ ask you something Phil…” ‘Here comes the favor or pay back as some type of non-monitary tip.’ Phil didn’t hold onto the assumption but knew how things worked in this fair or unfair trade world, nothing was free, not even kindness. “How’d you learn to fight like dat?” Before the answer could come Roy held up both hands, one informing Phil there was no need to answer, the other calling someone over as if maybe he wanted Phil to share with him as well. A man shuffled across the room as if being timed and Roy’s hand was the finishline. Roy gestured toward man. “I want you to meet someone. We don’t have much time til’ we get’s to goes’ outsiiideYEAH, for recreation so tell me ’bout where you got yo’skills later.” Phil looked at the other man and introduced him self, “Phillip, but call me Phil.” The man extended his hand for a shake rather than a fist pump and Phil thought he heard him say, “I’m Ed.” His accent had a British flare taking Phil off guard a little. “Nice to meet you Ed.” “No.” The man insisted and Roy laughed. Phil stood listening and heard again, “I’m Ed!” “Yeahh…ah, hi Ed? I’m Phil.” “NO, NO I AM AHM HEAD!” Roy and a few other men near enough were rolling in laughter now. Phil was clueless. The man smiled and said slowly and as clear as he could, but louder than what was needed, even though the volume wasn’t the issue, “MY NAAAAME IS AHHhh MED AcHMED, YA KNOW? ‘AHMED’!!” Phil finally caught on, “oh I’m sorry I thought you were sayin…” Roy spoke through his laughter, “Happens all the time, was hoping it would get you too.” Ahmed smiled, “They like it.” Phil showed he was amused too. It was nice to be around people again. ‘I can handel this I hope we all keep getting along. Lord, I trust we will, help me be accepting but not suckered into false friendships in disguise.’ “Welcome to the block. Roy is a good leader. Wiggs will not be coming back here.” Ahmed got out before Roy could stop him. “Now, ah Ahmed and Phil come on now, get some shoes on, can’t go outside in those slides!” ‘Hmmmm, thanks mom, wonder what kind of pod boss this Roy is but so far so good. Take it as it comes.’ Phil thought as he searched, although he knew he didn’t have any other shoes.
INTO THE OUTDOORS
Phil thought that while in solitary he’d get at least one hour a day outside but what did he know. He had no say in any of this. He wasn’t sure who called the shots, who decided what was good and fair. While in jail they only got an hour of recreation time a week, it wasn’t outside but at least out of the holding cell. That changed near the end of his stay. He ended up enjoying an hour each day in a recreational room, with the exception of Saturdays and Sundays. As he followed the long line of inmates in front of him he thought about how he and his wife use to have a hard time deciding which restaurant to go to. The choices were based on service, food choices and settings. He amused himself with thoughts of finding out what other prisons offer and being able to pick and choose where to go. As the line approached the door Phil turned his thoughts back to reality and prayed, ‘Father help me accept where I am and live for you no matter where I live.’ The yellow lit hall way and greenish colored walls caused his eyes to open wide so that when the door at the end opened everyone was blinded by the sun light’s invasion.
Once outside the men seemed to pretty much join the same clusters of people they hung out with inside their block but other blocks were also out there so they could mix and mingle. There was a section of worn out grass with ‘free’ weights that were chained to poles. ‘Nice to know those would be hard to use as weapons. ‘ Was his first thought. He noticed almost everyone had closed toed shoes but was waiting to get some of his own. In jail they weren’t allowed anything but slides. With no shoe laces available shoes would have been useless anyway. Then he noticed many man had shoes but no laces. He had heard that in some instances lacing shoes up meant a fight was about to take place in the institution, the secured shoes would give more stability. He noted some men playing basketball, some men just roaming and a few sitting off away from all the recreational activity on some old wooden bleachers. A group of men ran by and he decided to take a light jog in that same direction. The sun felt so good on his face and his heart was warmed with who to thank for that. He wanted to just stand there, throw his chin up, spread out his arms and close his eyes but this was no walk in the park. It really wasn’t even a jog with those slides on shoes. So he slowed to a walk and began to pray again. God’s Spirit spoke to Philip. It was around noon, the sun was at its highest and hotest. The Holy Spirit whispered to his heart and mind. ‘ I want you to walk over to that desolate road that goes by the old football stands. Phil turned and looked then headed in that direction. He saw Ahmed and a few other men sitting there. Ahmed was of the muslim faith. He was actually from Ethiopia, where he was minister in charge of the finances for his motherland. Phil didn’t know his background and how he ended up in an American prison but here he was, sitting in the stands reading softly the prophet Isaiah, not the Koran. The Spirit told Philip, “Climb onto the bleachers.” As he climbed Philip heard the passage from Isaiah and asked, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” Ahmed answered, “How can I without some help?” and invited Philip a seat. The passage he was reading was this,
“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.”
Ahmed asked, “Tell me, who is the prophet talking about: himself or some other?” Philip grabbed his chance. Using this passage as his text, he preached Jesus to him. Ahmed said, “Let’s walk.” They climbed down walked the dirty worn path going the oposite direction of the joggers. As they continued down the road, they came to a pipe sticking out of the ground the inmates could use to get a drink of water. Ahmed said, “Here’s water. Why can’t I be baptized?” He was no Baptist preacher but Phil knew the Disciples and Apostles did it so Philip baptized him on the spot. Ahmed smile and said, “Now I understand why I had to come here.” Then they went on down the road, Ahmed as happy as he could be, went on to explain, “I was being framed in my country. Some very bad men were imbezzeling money and to keep from getting caught they were trying to blame me, the financial secretary. So I tried to come to America but they were still after me, found me and framed me still, thus, here I am. I have been taking a personal inventory, questioning my own faith and seeking answers. Today I’ve found the answer.” Phil thought of P.T., the Hindu man that developed a relationship with Christ while in jail. Now a Muslim, on his own, came to this same relationship with Jesus. Phil thought, ‘Lord, I never thought the mission field would be a prison yard.’ Ahmed said, “I need to know more. It is like a seed was planted a while back and today the first little sprout has come up. The sun, it feels better. Things make more sense now but how can I grow? This soil we are in is not very good for becoming like Jesus Christ.” Phil shared with his new brother. “The soil this seed is in is in your heart, not out here in the yard. No one can take it away. If you keep feeding on God’s word…” Phil looked down at the Bible gripped in Ahmed’s hand, “You will continue to grow into a full grown tree that produces good fruit, like Christ. Others will see that, like the moon reflects the sun.” “I gotta write that down!” Phil laughed, “yep we are family now. We’ll find others and continue to grow together. ” Ahmed told Phil of a Bible study some of the men did, seperate from the Chapel services. “When we pray at the end, be sure to join hands in the circle. It is taken as a sign of disrespect if you don’t. ” Then he asked Phil, “Are there lots of rules and things to memorize in this faith? In that Bible study group, at the end, all the men recite what they call, ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’ I am trying to memorize it, I have a book mark here in my Bible with it written on it.” Phil replied, “No rules, just right.” Ahmed wasn’t sure if it was okay to laugh. Phil recalled there may be cultural differences that wouldn’t translate well. “Ya ever hear of outback?” Ahmed asked, “Is that in the Old Testament? ” ‘Oh boy, better be straight up with him’, thought Phil, “Haah, no, sorry it’s ah…listen religion can be awful confessing Ahmed. I recommend you read the book of John, in the New Testament, and realize this is God’s Word and it can come to life in you. His Spirit resides in you now and He will let you know how He wants you to live for Him. He will continue to change your very nature. Check everything against His Word and enjoy His unconditional love, His mercy. Religion can make people begin to act in a way that is just pleasing to others but not necessarily pleasing to God. People who are eager to please their fellow men and come across acceptable to God can become bind. Many times religion puts them in chains, makes us…prisoners. Some may even change and perform well in their outward behavior, however, when you fall in love with God’s Son things change within you and He works His way out. When you live in His grace and accept what He has done you are less worried about what you do and you more focused and being like Him, pleasing to Him. Grace is free and frees you. You can not earn it with attendance and how much you know or how much you do. When in a relationship with Christ He’ll let your gut know what’s best for you and how He wants you to be, then as a result you will do somethings to help others, not become more religious doing a bunch of activities but sincerely develop into a person He can and will use. His desires will out weigh your desires. You may not see examples, true examples in other people but you will always see Him in His Word.” “I want to be an example, to be like Jesus, even in here.” Phil patted him on the back, “Especially in here.” “TIME!!!” Yelled the guard over the P.A.
The men came in and just as in jail the showers were full with everything but hot water. Unlike jail there was one big shower area. This was more like a 1980’s high school locker room, before all the accusation against teachers getting their jolly and students touching each other in the shower or being put on trial for being a bully. Phil was thankful there were not stales with walls that could hide sodomizing acts. He wished there was some place between some privacy and a completely open area. The toilet stalls did have waist high walls which were high enough to keep people from seeing your ass but with no front door and visibility so people would be seen if they were standing. There were no urinals but plenty of camodes that served the same purpose. He knew many of the men believed that peeing on your feet while taking a shower would prevent athletes foot. It didn’t matter, he was going to wear his slides, they needed to be washed anyway. Until he was brought a pair of close toed shoes this foot wear was multipurpose. While he waited for the shower he stood next to his bunk and got to know those around him a little better. Ironically the conversation turned toward a different kind of grooming. “Eve’ hearda’ makina’bunny? “, Asked Walter, a young man one bunk over. “You means’ Rabbit”, came a Correction from the guy balanced on the edge of the rack above Walter. “Yeah, whatev’, you know grooming someone?” Phil got a little nervous but maintained control. He had heard the phrase, ‘shooting the bunny’, as a code for someone farting. Phil replied, “Sounds sick.” “Nah, it ain’t sexual or nuttin'”, Nick joined in the conversation. Nick was on the bottom bunk below and next to Phil, in between Walter and him. He was an older gentleman, around 65 and had some tattoos that looked to be just as old, faded and evolved into a blobs of ink on his forearms. “This my first time in prison. ” admitted Phil. Nick said, “Awe it ain’t nothin’ you just gotta stay alert and keep your wits. Watch out more for the overtly friendly ones more than the obviously mean hard headed thug life, that’d be my advice. ” Walter narked, “Nick been in fo’ life, in and outta diff’ jails and a few prison’, ain’t ya Nick?” “Yeah but this one one with the most options, cept’ in solitary, they redoin’ it and need better time keeping for there. It like they just drop n’ fo’get you in there.” Walt’s bunk mate got back to the initial subject, “That fine wid’ me but people be making Rabbits in dare’ too!” Walter still thought it was called bunny hole or something like that. “What’s this rabbit thing?” Asked Phil, I may as well find out. “GROOMING! “, Nick shouted loud enough to set off a few loud WOOTS, CAT CALLS, WHISTLES AND DOG BARKS in response. Phil waited for more from Nick’s expert on hand experience. “Ya know when someone grooming you, they really nice, seem sincere, become all buddy buddy, then you owe them something for being a ‘friend’!” Walt’s bunk mate, Jimmy jump in with what he considered a perfect example, “While in solitary, when they was letting people get out to cages for one hour a day there was a inmate..” “NO HE WAS A CON!” Added Walter. Nick added, “Con ARTIST! ” Jimmy continued, “yeah he was! He some how was talkin’ to this one gua’ enough and CON VINCENT him that he inn’cent and needed new shoes, shirt, pants, sox, even BVDS but a different type material cause this prison clothes causin’ him a rash. He even got a pair a baseball hat.” Phil was listening. Walter began to jump with excitement, “Then tell em’ What he did!” “I is fool, let me tell em’ man! You always getan’ my way.” Jimmy went on, “dens’ when he was done being in da’ hole and returned to Gen. Pop. Block he finda’ ways’ ta’ still talk to da’ same gad’ he wa’ talking wid’ while in da’ cages. Just so happens he also talkd’ ta’ da’ gauds’ that first gad’ was friends wif’, you see what I sayin’?” Phil got past Jimmy’s slang and accent and knew when he heard what sounded like , ‘god’ Jimmy was saying, ‘guard’. Phil nodded. Nick and Walter were almost in unison, “Grooming more than ONE.” Jimmy smiled, “dat’ right, ya see, he wa’ playin’ da’ whole field. He had links and cam’ ‘cross as a really nice guy, in on fall’scharges and got to enough of em’ so he up fo’ a work detail, afta’ he done gots a new type shirt, pans, shoes, even hat!” Walter couldn’t contain himself and as he spoke Jimmy just gave up and grabbed his toiletrie bag to make sure he had what was needed for his shower. Walter took over, “dat’s right and while out pick’n up garbage on side a da road what really hepped’ hm’ was one a dem’ dumb guards was willin’ to just look de utter’ ways’, he gots down in a ditch, changed his clos’ put on stuff dat’ don’t look like prison issue and den’ he gots outta’ theres! Whhooo he was gone bra’!” Nick said, “yeah but they caught up with him. He was nailed down just before getting into Mexico.” “But still, he got away da’ first time!” Walter cheered, rooting for the Con. Jimmy said, “ya can only run so far.” Nick added, “Even when you think you free you know they after you so whole time you’re tryin’ to live a new life you livin’ in fear and paranoia. You ain’t really free. As Jimmy, his bunkmate Walter and Nick continued their conversation about how Con artist groom others to accomplish things for their own benefit Phil listened to these real life example and thought about how this happen outside the prison system just as much. Nick said, “I got a good one. Walter heard this but if he’ll let me I will tell you Phil.” Walter acted like he was locking his mouth and throwing away the key but also did a little fancy dancing trying to contain the adrenaline these stories built up in him. Nick began, “A CON who made mo’ money in here dan’ on da street, day’ called em’ Chamel, short for Chameleon.” Walter broke his sealed lips, “Oh dis’ a good one!” Jimmy stopped gathering things. Nick froze and looked up at the ever moving Walter. “Sorry but dis’ one eve’betta’!” He snickered and relocated his lips, this time putting the invisible key in his top Shirt pocket smiling without opening his moth to show his teeth. “So..”, Nick returned to his story as he eyeballed Walter and glanced at Jimmy shaking their heads and asked, “How you put up with him? ANYWAYS, this cat got his nickname cause, like a Chameleon, he could change and become enough like that other person and identify with where they were coming from, what they were use to and what he knew they liked to the point of making them feel like he was more like them and less like anything they wouldn’t buy into. The dude would do things that seemed innocent but end up deadly. ” Again Walter busted out, “Tell em’ about the preacher guy.” “I will if you shut up…I mean this guy was good. He’d get an old grams to mail things for him…” Jimmy stepped in this time, “Like Sam…” Nick glared, “Walter rubbin’ off on you?!” Walter laughed and said, “see it hard when you knows so much to not tell. Sam had girls comin’ in and he get dem’ ta’ mails stuff, so it not checked by prison befo’ it go out n’ it be hits on people’s, deals and a tiny written list on outside jobs, sometime da’ instructions was to beat da girl deliverin’ da’ message cause she didn’t wanna keep delivrn’! Go on now Nick, I sorry man, fo’reals.” Nick willing went on, “SO, there was this preacher, not the regular Chaplain. He would help, assist, the main old guy we got that does Chapel. You know about Chapel service right?” Phil just nodded waiting for more. “Well, we get to go to Chapel and we got a good old, old, older than me, old man who does good but he had a guy helpin’ him and the prison rules were to not bring in anything but your I.D. This assistant, he wa’ a grown man, but he brought in a cell phone. I guess they trust him and didn’t check em’ one day. So, he layed it down, turn his back and Chamel, WHO THE Assistant PREACHER GUY TRUSTED, snagged it. By time they finds it id’ change hands several times. The preacher guy who helped our chaplain didn’t report it lost but they traced it back to him and the main Chaplain, our Chaplain almost got linked in like he part of getting this to inmates. Finally the assistant admit He brought it in against rules, he gone now and not allowed back to make same mistake.” Nick stopped, then added, “NOW I done!” Jimmy said, “That guy Chamel’, he was gettin’ things in and out all da’ time! He would get good clean guards to believe some rules were made to be broken or some da’ rules were not dat’ big a deal to break. Like you knows, a white lie, what would be dirt was not really dat’ bad. He had severa’ guards thinkin’ smoking ok right? You smoke, eve’cigs. Phil?” Phil answered, “Use too. Sometimes I miss it.” “Well, you think it wrong or something that be bad to get someone too high or cause them to be off da’ chain?” Phil said, “no, it actually may calm them down and keep them from loosing their mind sometimes.” Nick interupted this time, “Exactly, that true but IN HERE that cigarette becomes something a man would kill another man for or to bet or pay off a debt from gambling over a game or somthin’!” Walter added, “Saw a guy start a fire with one one time, tried smoke us out. Neve’got flame but rolls of toilet paper gave serious smoke screen and gave gad’s a haz’ of a time ta’ puts’ id’ out.” Phil understood, “It becomes currancy that only some have so then leads to fights, jelousy, more gambling and…” He didn’t need to finish. “In here pssshhh,” Nick said, “The list goes on and on. Good things become a tool for bad. Can’t have nicer shoes or a nicer comb, all prison issue to try to keep things equal.But you watch out for these people who try win you over by being just nice. Seems like that somethin’ freely received and so can give it away fo’ free but in here loyalty, commitment, kindness it all comes with conditions and some type pay back n’ it ain’t enough to get kindness back for kindness, no they expect blood, literally or a favor that cost more than monetary exchan’… you know what I’m sayin’?” Jimmy asked, “If you give away you lunch trey cause you don’t like da’ food and got’s some’ betta’ from comm’ssary you got’s get somennn’ fo’ dat’ trey, pills, different bunk, mo’ time in shower, SUMMTHIN’!” “Yeah I hear ya. Jail was the same way. Sometimes an unfair trade market but try to be wise in exchange.” Phil answered. Walter who wasn’t always good at this but tried said, “Now I may give you a hand full, well one big glob, of shampoo fo’ nuthin’ but I not going to give you my bottle. Or, like I, like I um, I may say, here a bowl, clean bowl fo’ sm’raymon noodles but you ain’t own nuthin’ back but ya clean da’ bowl and be sure, be sho’ fo’ show to return dat’ bow’!” Nick thought of another example of grooming, “you guys remember the Con who got others to kill people for him?” Jimmy asked, “which one?” And laughed, “yeah, I know a few a doze!” Walter argeed. Nick clarified, “No da’ guy that in prison now, another prison somewheres’ els’ Mashing or Massion, MARILYN Massion!” “Charles Masons?”, Walter suggested. Jimmy got the prize, “Charles Mansion!” “Yeah, yeah, that the dude. And Ted Bundy or something or other.” Walter idolized criminal who got away with it but realized these were ones who were caught. He still loved to hear how they did it and listened to see if Nick was about to reveal their dirty deeds. He did, “The one guy looked like a maniac, now has tat. on forehead, he some how was on a mission to kill people and he made these young kids feel accepted, appreciated, and won dem’ ova’ and they just do what he says do. Then the Ted guy, he lookin’ like innocent computa’ geek and ends up eatin’ people, canblizm’!” This didn’t interest Walter, his high came from Bank robbing, making money and fooling people to get more stuff not take lives. Phil stayed in the conversation, “Seems like you never can tell with people by looking at their outsides. There are even cults out there that aren’t killing people or stealing but they are controlling others, taking their life and money, convincing them they need to live to support the cause while pocketing more and more for themselves and in exchange fooled into think their leader, just another human, has supernatural power so that when they do die they will be rewarded. They take, take, take while their believers, followers, members give, give, give under false hope they will get something back. They are so willing to give because they really believe they will somehow get points in the after life but in reality they are never able to truly be free and enjoy what even this life offers.” Jimmy stood up, “my turn in shower, you next Walt but before I go, nice talk guys, now I paranoid! ” They all laughed. Nick added, “You be al’ight but don’t bend over!” Walter shouted, “don’t drop da’ soap!” Phil jested too, “Don’t give any favors either!”They all laughed even louder, even Jimmy.
JESUS WAS A REBEL
Ahmed came over to Phil, “Did you get a shower?” “Not yet, just really need a quick rinse or at least wash off my feet. I’ve noticed the line some how flows in this direction following from bed to bed and I only have a few ahead of me.” “Very observant! You see what I got?” Phil looked at a big bowl Ahmed held under his arm and covered with his towel. He laid it in the ground, “Can’t do it in here the right way, anymore than how you baptized me but, you know what to do, I’m just giving you the water. I am on Chapter 13” With that Ahmed walked away. Phil flipped to John Chapter 13, ‘Jesus washed the feet of His disciples’ He looked up to thank Ahmed for the good deed he concealed so well. Ahmed made eye contact from across the room and returned a small smile. As Phil put his feet in the water he thought about how creative believers need to be in this cement jungle of legalism mixed with irrational codes that were constantly changing. He thought back to the inmate, Jason a.k.a Chaos, an enemy he tried to secretivly reign kindness on and how even that was abused by the mad man. The water was warm and comforting. The warmth flowed up causesing goose bumps on his arms and relaxing his back and shoulders. With his mind put at easy he thought, ‘If we only knew who was swine so that we didn’t cast our pearls before them…be careful of woles in sheep’s clothing…be as wise as a snake but as gentle as a dove…only take what you need…eat what is given…take only the clothes on your back…if someone ask you to walk one mile walk two…’ Nick sat up as Walter shouted, “Jimmy back, he holdin’ up two! Our turn, you next ah…what yo’ name?” “Phil.” Nick introduced himself as he went toward the showers. Jimmy noticed the bowl at Phil’s feet. “That good idea, I keep a bowl filled to wash my hands. It warmer than that shower water fo’sho’! Wooooo! At leas’ room temp! Hey, member Nick talk ’bout chaplain n’ services? That tonight after dinner. It almost always on Thursday night, later. The old man good, good Bible share but he don’t preach. People come in fo’ dat’ some loud LOUD showtime type preachers some more,whacha’ call it…Pastors like, not chuch’ Reverend but they talk without sweatin’ No yellin’ What they gots’ to say. Mo’ like white folk chuuuurrrch, not like mines ‘Church’back home woohoo! I tell you we say ‘CHUCH’ WIF’ NO ‘R’, mo’ like ‘ Chich’!” “Yeah I know whatcha’ mean, lots of different styles but when the meaning matches the Bible I can get past the ‘how’ it is delivered.” “Yep, focus on the creator not da’ container, and ya hope da man living in real life but cha’ neve’ know ya’ jus’ gotta’ take his word fo’ it. I try apply it but I mess up sometime. ” “We all do.” Phil confessed. “I try n’ try but some time my oldman, he come into play n’ I gots to have me a lil’ fun so I give in n’ den feels’ guilty n’ some time I give up all together and say I ain’t eve’ gunna’ try but I love Jesus too much, I wan’ bees’ like he wa’, He assured real man n’ gave peep’s realz’ hope, not jus’ heaven.” “Amen!” Jimmy repeated Phil as he smiled with assurance, “AMEN MY BROTHER! Come to ‘Chich’ tonight with us.” “I plan on it!”, Said Phil as he dried his feet.”There be SHOWERS OPEN!” someone yelled and the conversation was over.
After the men all had a chance to get cleaned up they heard,”CHAPEL TIIIIIIIIME!!!!” Phil watched several men jump, they were ready, Bibles in hand. Some were even fixing their hair wanting look the best they could, probably the same ones who would normally dress their best but today every one was in jump suit orange. Next week everyone would be in light blue and the week after that grey from head to mandatory toe. Some even had dress shoes on. Phil thought back again to jail where everyone only had the same plastic slippers. It seemed like prison was a little more organized, run smoother and fill with less, well, punk kids who just couldn’t get how to get along with others into their heads. There were young guys, very young, 18 and up but most of the older guys put em’ in line and helped them mature or at least stop acting the fool around and toward each other. They may be a menace to Society but in this house they’d get a beat down if they act up, like living with big mama, “Not up in here, NOT UP IN HERE!” Too often the prison staff would punish the hole block if just a few were breaking the rules, breaking the law. One time Phil witnessed a fight starting and ended by Roy shouting three words, “COME ON NOW!”He learned there were two other words that would question if a fight was in store, “Alright Now.” And one word that garunteed a fight, that word was when anyone called anyone, “bitch.” But right now it appeared that the majority was longing to hear God words and not because it was required, because they thirst for it.
As the men entered, the Chaplain greeted each one. Phil noticed Ahmed with the same fascination he recalled P.T. having. He was reading the whipe board, “Jesus was a rebel” Phil asked, “First time to Chapel? ” “No but first time since I’ve been born again. Hey, that true, that in the Bible? ” He asked Phil, “Oh it’s in there, wait n’ see.”
Chapel time was one hour and never long enough. Just before the Chaplain started Phil overheard one on the inmates explaing why he didn’t smoke, “I want my lungs to be pink when they fry me.” Another inmate said, “But they do the penalty with leathel injection, not electric chair.” To that he said, ” Well, in that case I won’t shoot up so my vain will be good to go.” They chuckled, then the Chaplain called them to look at what the Lord Jesus was like according to his own words as recorded in Matthew 23.
The Chaplain gave the reference of Matthew chapter 23 and the room filled with the flutter of pages. Phil thought, ‘sounds like the wings of angels! ‘ Men all around the room immediately raised their hands to read. The Chaplain called Jimmy by name. He read loud and clear, “Matthew 23, then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues’…” “Great, stop there at verse 6 Jimmy.” Thanked the Chaplain. Phil was amazed how well Jimmy read, even the word phylacteries. The Chaplain was just then giving an explanation of the word, “Those were these small leather boxes holding God’s Word. They wore these fastened on their hands and foreheads because they were interpreting God’s instructions to fasten God’s Word on their hands and foreheads literally. Some one look up EXODUS…” It seemed as if almost all of them were in a race to look it up. “The first one who finds it stand and read it.”, challenged the Chaplain. Phil had see excitement like this before at children’s summer Bible camps or what some called Vacation Bibles Schools. The inmates were as eager as those children but without the reward of getting a sticker, candy bar or props from the teacher. A guy in the back row jumped to his feet before the Chaplain finished spitting out, “chapter 13 Verses 9.” “Yep!” The inmate the proudly announced, “This from da KING JAMES VERSION…And it shall be… for a sign…. unto thee… upon THINE hand, and for a memorial…between thine eyes, that the Lord’s…law may be… in THY mouth: for with… a strong hand… HATH the Lord brought thee out of Egypt.” “Thanks you John! I am not interested in giving a history lesson to all of you. Many of you know more about the Bible than I have learned in my 50 years of study and service to Him. I am here to tell you another reason why I love Jesus, perhaps you’ll agree. He is God’s son but even how he dressed was like a common man. He knew it was better to have God’s Word and ways inside your mind.” He pointed between his eyes. “Put it into practice with your hands, not just literally connect a portion of it in a box and literally wear it without putting it into action out of dedication and love for The Lord. The people Jesus was talking about in Matthew 23 were literally fastening God’s word, scriptures, in this actual box on their forehead just to so they could show people how Holy they were. This portion of Scripture, turn back to Matt. 23, it paint a very, very clear picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. ” The men turned back. The man next to the guy who just read shot his hand up. “Questions? NEIL? You have a question? ” The chaplain called. “No I just wanna read next.” “Sure Matt 23 pick up where Jimmy stopped. Read verse 7 to 12. “Mine the NIV.” The Chaplain said, “anytime version is fine, you will see they all say the same thing just with a little different wording but it all has the same meaning and purpose. ” Neil read, “Matthew 23:7-12, they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. ‘But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” “Good, thanks you Neil. Here is a question for anyone to answer…’IS IT WRONG TO CALL A SPIRITUAL LEADER FATHER?'” A few hands shot up. They waited to be called on. The Chaplain added, “I don’t know all your names but JOE, I KNOW YOU ARE CATHOLIC AND WANT YOU TO GIVE YOUR ANSWER. So, Joe you share FIRST.” Joe said, “Do I have to stand?” “No.” Joe said, “We call our leaders ‘Father ‘ but it is because we are all in a family, the family of God and the priest is a lil’ more than just our brother. So I say it is okay and right for us to call them father.” The other hands went back up, some of them never went down even while Joe was speaking. Phil loved how they waited their turn to speak. The Chaplain went on, “Yeah, good answer, from your heart Joe. Do you have something to add? Sorry I don’t know your name.” He said as he pointed to the next man with his hand straight up in the air. “I am Jake. Um I think the point is, Jesus tryin’ to say to em’ and to us…um that don’t call em’ Father like to misuse or to like make em’ think they in control of eve’thin’ like days’ da’ big daddy. That sometime push they button and give em’ big egos.” “Very good…Jake?” “Yeah.” The chaplain said, “let me jot down your name, it will help me remember it. Okay…” He pointed to another man who was patient but eager to speak. The man stood to his feet and stated, “I am new too. My name Smith but nick name Makin’. I wanted to say titles and labels can be dangerous. Some get so caught up in sayin’ ‘respect due cause I dis’ and I dat’ and I all that and a bag-a-chips n’ you HAVE GOT to call me, address me, with my higher up position label or title cause I earned it. It all about pride n’seekin’ honor when really most respect n’ props go to our Heavenly Father.” He took his seat. The Chaplain was jotting down ‘Smith a.k.a. Makin’. “Great comment Makin’! Anyone else?” Some hands went down and didn’t come back up. Phil thought about raising his hand and adding something but the others hit the nail on the head and it didn’t need to be repeated. Ahmed’s hand went up slowly. The Chaplain nodded at him. Ahmed stood slowly and tried to straighten his jump suit out, looking down as he spoke, “I am…my name is Ahmed, but I am no longer Muslim. I would like to say the principle Jesus is emphasizing seems to be we should direct primary respect and honor toward our Heavenly Father, like Mr. ‘Macon’ said but also if esteem for leaders or individuals with some type of influence, money, class levels or ah…certain accomplishments diminish our honor for The One True God, them we have missed what is really important and miss giving Him (He pointed and looked up then made eye contact with the Chaplain) giving HIM all that is due.” He sat down slowly and hoped what he said was okay. “EXACTLY MEN! ALL OF YOU, VERY GOOD! We need to respect each other and our leaders but not worship them or think more highly of ourselves or anyone else regardless of what office they hold. Notice I said, ‘don’t think more highly than we ought about ourselves either. That is what happen with some of God’s people. He even gave them 7 woes. WOE!” The Chaplain raised his voice, “If you want, until we meet again, read Matthew 23 verse 13 to the end of that chapter. Note how Jesus warned the religious leaders, the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Now remember to always look at it with 20/20 vision. What’s do I mean by that…Mark?” A guy in the middle mumbled, “20… um… verses before and 20 um verses after. ” The chaplain addressed everyone, “Good Mark! Everyone now, do I mean literally count 20 and only 20 before and after?” Almost all shouted, “NO!” Phil smiled. The Chaplain pointed to him, “Your a new face to me too, what’s your name and what do you think I really mean?” “I’m Phil. You mean take in the whole picture. ” “Yes, thank you Phil.” He jotted down Phil’s name and asked, “And what was your name, next to Phil?” “AHMED!” He wrote it down, “…I thought you were saying I’m Ed…” A few men chuckled. “Welcome to the family Ahmed. That’s right, context is key men! Okay now, I would like someone to pray.” Four hands went up. “Before we pray, ah, ‘Nate, ‘Nugget’, I’d like you to pray for us but before he prays let’s all talk to the Lord and have a (he did a quick head count) a 16 way conversation with each other and the Lord. What are some short things you want to praise God for publicly here today and some things you want to admit and ask for His help with. Then ‘Nugget’, Nick, YOU end the prayer. There will be no need to repeat all these praise reports and petitions, request, God’s listening even now. So, who wants to start the conversation with all of us, including our Heavenly Father? ” Hands went up and the Chaplain made eye contact and called each by name. As men lifted up praise to God for letters, how their family back home was and for the simple things that they didn’t take for granted Phil realized how much he had to be thankful for. Mixed in with some of the praise was request for God’s strength, safty, guidance, healing and presence. Phil couldn’t help but think how many times in Church meeting he felt like he and others were asking God to bless them and do things that were actually things God put within their ability, things they could do to help themselves. Before his thought jumped out of this community commune he heard an inmate say, “I was asking God to keep me sober but drinking sips of hooch just after I prayed and I know dat’ ain’t right so I needs’ God’s hep’ str’th wif’ dat’ but also needs’ ya’ll brothers to not offer it n’ holds me accnt’bull’. I caint’ takes’ just sips cause I a alcoholic n’ ain’t no such thin’ as sip fo’ me!” The Chaplain said, “ya hear that men? The Lord hears it. Say amen ONLY IF you are willing to to let Christ use you to help Miles.” Several men shout, “Amen!” Some did not but hung their heads as if they identified with the same fight. Another inmate spoke when called on, “I praise God for you Chaplain and without knowing details want us to pray fo’ yo’ family and yo’ safety in here from peep’s when tryin’ make you theys’ bunny.” “AMEN!”, seconded the chaplain, “Some of you know we lost our associate chaplain. A trusting man but we all have to remember we are in a war zone and in this world we have to remember rules are put in place to keep us and you safe so, yeah, thank you Mickey. I need prayer for desernment and for my family to be understanding when I may need to come in after hours or strange hours. You all know how things take us away from them because of lock downs or stuck here later than normal.” The conversation went on. A few men seemed to almost get into meddling and when called on said things like, “pray they not do lock downs and pray the food get better and pray we get more outdoor time.” One even said, “pray we get a pool up in here.” The Chaplain gave a friendly reminder, “God meets out needs and a pool, better food, outdoors, all that is great and Lord (he kept God in the open conversation) we need you to help us keep on living with and without things, going through lock down and unpleasant routines, keeping in mind you care for us and we need accountability, some more than others in certain areas.” Phil raised his hand, he loved that rather than interupting each other they all did that, “Praise God again Ahmed has become a Christian and pray he and I…all of us, will be able keep growing in the Lord. Also pray for my family. ” The Chaplain nodded while several men said, “Amen. ” in unison. “Nugget, close this group talk with the Lord and ya’ll keep praying praise and petitions until we meet here, there or in the air (he pointed up). Nate got the name ‘Nugget’ because he would go into high trade whenever chicken nuggets were served. He would give away great commesary to get his hands on more than he was served. His street name was ‘Two Hits’ but since he was in prison he said he’d never go by that name again because it’s origin came from his claim to thug fame. He told men I win with two hits, my bullet hits your head and you hit the floor. Nate prayed a short prayer without colorful decorations, from his heart, “Heavenly Father, so glad you are our dad….You set the example and…. you give us all that we’s need. You had done heard us and now and we knows’ fo’ sho’ you will be hearn’ us on thru’ da’ nite. In Jesus name, AMEN.” The whole room rocked with all of the men shouting, “AMEN!”
Then the Chaplain read,
“We are proud that our conscience assures us that our lives in this world, and especially our relations with you, have been ruled by God-given frankness and sincerity, by the power of God’s grace, and not by human wisdom.2 Corinthians 1:12. That is from the good news, Bible men. Keep reading, getting into The Word but also let The Word get into you. Now, we have a few minutes before our hour is up so use it wisely.
Some of them then spoke one on one with the Chaplain. Some stayed seated, some stood, some read, others picked back up the joking they started before the service started, “…so, that’s why I really don’t do any kinda drugs I want to be in the best physical condition I can possibly be in when I die.” They enjoyed the irony they all participated in. “Like in the movie ‘Goonies’ the mom says, ‘I want the house to be really clean when they tear it down.”, Said one of the older prisoners. Some of the younger ones had no idea what movie he was referring to while others in their early 20 knew the exact scene. Another standing waiting to go back to the block said, “If I was in on da’ death penalty and knew da’ date I’d be eatin’ all da’ junk n’ neve’ worry about my body.” Another claimed, “I eat bes’ I can’ n’ workat’ cause it feel good, While I Still alive!” “Endorphins! ” yet another shouted. After ample free time mingling the Correctional Officer came to take the men back to their block.
BED TIME READING AND WAKE UP CALL
Walter asked the bunks within hearing distance if it was okay for Jimmy to read out loud but softly?They all agreed unless it was too loud and kept them from falling asleep. With that Jimmy read, “Before I read, this is from a brother who was in prison too…’We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part. Now that the worst is over, we’re pleased we can report that we’ve come out of this with conscience and faith intact, and can face the world—and even more importantly, face you with our heads held high. But it wasn’t by any fancy footwork on our part. It was God who kept us focused on him, uncompromised. Don’t try to read between the lines or look for hidden meanings in this letter. We’re writing plain, unembellished truth, hoping that you’ll now see the whole picture as well as you’ve seen some of the details. We want you to be as proud of us as we are of you when we stand together before our Master Jesus. Confident of your welcome, I had originally planned two great visits with you—coming by on my way to Macedonia province, and then again on my return trip. Then we could have had a bon-voyage party as you sent me off to Judea. That was the plan. Are you now going to accuse me of being flip with my promises because it didn’t work out? Do you think I talk out of both sides of my mouth—a glib yes one moment, a glib no the next? Well, you’re wrong. I try to be as true to my word as God is to his. Our word to you wasn’t a careless yes canceled by an indifferent no. How could it be? When Silas and Timothy and I proclaimed the Son of God among you, did you pick up on any yes-and-no, on-again, off-again waffling? Wasn’t it a clean, strong Yes? Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete. Now, are you ready for the real reason I didn’t visit you in Corinth? As God is my witness, the only reason I didn’t come was to spare you pain. I was being considerate of you, not indifferent, not manipulative. We’re not in charge of how you live out the faith, looking over your shoulders, suspiciously critical. We’re partners, working alongside you, joyfully expectant. I know that you stand by your own faith, not by ours.’ 2 Corinthians 1:8-24, THAT from the Message translation. My friend sent it to me.” Phil was just one bunk away and truly enjoyed it.
The next day Phil was awake before most of the men so he pulled out his Bible from under his pillow and read the first part of 2 Corinthians, above version 8 that Jimmy read from as they fell asleep last night. What stood out to him was this, ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.’ His mind went back to a former inmate he was in Jail with, Lil’John. He grabbed his journal, also from under his pillow, and jotted some notes He wrote, ‘Paul, no stranger to prison. If the Lord allows me to get out of here I will be sure to still write.’ Then he turned the page and began a letter to Lil’John he hoped was either still at the county jail or who would get the letter forwarded to him if he was finished serving time there. Phil was transported to prison before Lil’John, Pip, P.T., Guy, Trevor, and Trevor’s bunk mate were sent home or transferred to prison. He’d write them later but focused on Lil’John’s letter first, blocking out the ever increasing distractions as others woke. Just then he heard, “Fresh meat comin’ in ya’ll!” It wasn’t a reference to ham and eggs but toward the new inmates being brought in. Phil didn’t jump up and running to the window but several men did. He heard them saying, “Oh, that a BIG one, hope he in our block if he cool, ain’t no one mess wid’ me it he my new body gad’!” Another voice said, “look at the youngan’ He jus’ bally 18 I bets.” Others began to take and make bets. It seemed like some would gamble on anything, using anything for currancy: food, pillows, push ups. Then others upped the anti with some contraband bets. The new inmates gazed and gaucked at the window until those getting off the transportation van were out of sight and into the building. Phil concentrated on his letter until the outter door to their block opened. Jimmy was just waking and said, “Here we go, now we see who we gettin’.” Phil noticed Roy get up and go to the door directly into their block as the outer one closed behind the newcomers. In the foyer area the guards finished the last of their intake process before entering. Phil looked and couldn’t believe his eyes. He ripped the almost finished letter out as he said, “looks like I don’t need to mail this after all, I’ll hand deliver it. The new inmate was Lil’John.
WELCOME TO MY HOME
Roy welcomed Lil’John as he did Phil and pointed out an empty rack. Phil wondered when John might see him but watched from a distance to see if he noticed. All new comers were like jelly spread on a piece of toast when they first came in. You felt so exposed and vulnerable. Not only were you in a new home you were also in a home that wasn’t homey and one that wasn’t yours. In the transfer from jail to prison you didn’t always have all your belongings, those were check in seperate. Lil’John’s statue spoke volumes. Without a word people sized him up and quickly realized they were not even the garage compared to the whole house. Most men were a hall closet and John was a mansion. Phil had not felt like this place was his home, just living in a closet but not as a stowaway, more like a new pet, trying to see what rooms there were and where he was not welcome. Was it okay to sit on the bed or were you only allowed to lay on the pillow designated, ‘Scruffy’s bed, thought Phil. Surprisingly prison seemed better than jail in many ways. It was as if, ‘we are all in this together for a long haul so we best make the best of it.’ Jail was full of men who had not had serious consequences for there actions or the reality of the other shoes dropping had no effect on them yet. This wasn’t true for all of them but there was something about the severity and finality in prison that seemed to sink in a little deeper with the men that helped them mature and develop a sense of desiring more in life than communal living and lack of freedom. The simple pleasures of going to the fridge or making your own coffee, let alone taking a walk outside were lost in here. This home had a never ending summer camp from hell feel to it. Many of the campers made it their mission to take everything they could and make sure you didn’t have even your basic needs met. People who have never been here had no idea what it was like to use the bathroom not just with a sibling pounding on the door but watching you and possibly knocking you up side the head. Phil thought back to solitary confinement, it was no better. Being locked in a small room with no interaction from another human being has an effect on a person’s mind, no matter how much of an introvert or loner they may be. You almost don’t feel human. He understood some people don’t or can’t get along with others in society but he wasn’t so sure segregation was the answer. What was the answer? No one knew, because there were no easy solutions. The point of correcting some one was completely seperate for punishing them for their behavior. In some cases solitary confinement made those with mental health issues worse. People, institutions, discipline could not change or fight a person’s will. Only a person willing to change would truly change. The prison offered classes and even continued education but it seemed to Phil that God almighty, the creator allowed everyone freewill so when they did submit to Him it was sincere, not because they were made that way. He pondered a few moments about his marriage. What made their love stronger was that his wife was willing to stick with him when she had a choice not too. If she decided to divorce him or see other men while he was away that would crush him. The fact that she could but didn’t caused him to see her dedication and deeper love and commitment to him. Phil’s mind raced over all these things as he was still watching Lil’John. He finally got off his bunk, folding the letter. Lil’John was getting to know the men around his new living space and before long was surrounded by men from all over the block. Roy was holding his hand up from time to time stopping the questions and Phil wondered if he would fool his old friend with the, ‘I’m Ed’, trick. Sure enough Ahmed moved in that direction. Phil came up in the oposite direction, knowing Lil’John would be looking at Ahmed. Sure enough the household inside joke stood the test and Phil heard Lil’John saiying, “OH, I THOUGHT YOU SAYIN’ I’M ED!” They all had a good laugh and while laughing Phil stuck out his hand and greeted Lil’John, “and I am Phil!” John turned, looked and pulled Phil in for a bear hug. “I knew you was here! I hoped I got in same block, this is awesome!” Lil’John knew where Phil was transferred to but Phil had no way of knowing where his friend would be sent or even the outcome of his trial. Phil handed him the letter. “I was going to mail this to you! Now I can write my wife twice as much rather than write you.” Lil’John had his back turned on every one and realized it was best to not close anyone out because it would be hard to get back in. “Dis dude was wif’ me in county.” John told the other men. Another inmate said, “I seen you before too but can’t ‘member where from.” Lil John agreed, “yeah you looks familar’ too. Was in here but block C befo’.” The guy smiled, “yeah you John too, they calls you Lil’John! ” Lil’John chuckled, “yeah, oxy’morons! HA HA!” Roy broke everyone up by giving the suggestion, “alright let’s let em’ settle in, no more questions ya nosey lil’ campers.” Phil thought it best to give him time and space too, “Catch up over breakfast with you brother. This a good block, good out weighs the bad.” Lil’John smiled and gave a fist bump, “n’ I out weigh them alllllll.”
THOSE AIN’T GRITS
By the time breakfast came all the men were up and ready. There had been some type of insident in the shower/bathroom area and with the arrival of Lil’John all of them were already been roused. Phil was happy to have someone else he already knew in these living quarters. Breakfast was a hard boiled egg, hash Browns and what looked like grits. The old friends were able to sit together OVER this morning meal and they were thankful for the meal and more. Most men just complained as they threatened to go on a hunger strike. Lil’John had his eyes fixed on what looked like grits. Phil was stirring his and couldn’t contain a ‘verp’, “Ah…oh man. I don’t know about those.”, He let out. Lil’John had to ask, “I don’t mean to complain but, all meals…ah, like this.” ‘Nugget’ was close by and said, “No, they musta’ got a new cook or sumthin’…if ya eve’ get chicken nuggets n’ wanna trade I got commesary: coke, chips, beef jerky…” Before he gave his whole inventory Phil introduced him, “John, this is ‘Nugget’ guess how he got his name?” Lil’ John smiled and nodded. Even a fist bump wasn’t expected while at a meal especially when they were so perplexed over the grits. Just then a guy yelled, “NO! NO UNT’ UNNNN!!!” Everyone looked. The guy next to him was standing looking over his shoulder, “IT IS MOVIN’!!!!!” Roy went to the Officer’s Office. “You HAVE to come out and see what they brought, THIS ain’t right!” The two morning Officers responded. One came out and over to the complaint table. Phil looked down at his grits for any movement. Everyone heard the guards call for the other guard to come see too. The second one said, “What?!? NO! You’re right, let me take this trey. This ain’t right. Men, no one eat anything. If you already did…” He looked at the other guard then finished, “IF you already did, you ain’t gonna die but if you need to excuse yourself and go to the commode you free to.” Normally bathrooms were closed during meals and only open until everyone was done. It had something to do with crowd control. The second guard went on, “This happened once before and we got everyone a better meal because of it so don’t let your anger ruin any chance of them making up for this. Be mature, act like men and I’ll go to the top with this, may get some free commesary, ah…I don’t know but someone f…mucked up and we’ll get em’ to make up for it.” Hearing, ‘it happen before’ was not comforting but knowing they may get something better sounded fair enough but couldn’t take away the feeling of having a million bugs crawling inside and out of their skin. It got really loud and Roy had to take charge. He stood up on the table and the guards even helped him up under the circumstances. Roy raised his hands as his voice commanded attention, “COME ON NOW, MEN!!! THEY GONNA MAKE THIS RIGHT ONE WAY OR DA’ODDER BUT DON’T START ACTIN’ DA’ FOOL OR THEN WE GET SHIT FOR BREAKFAST AND IN DEEP SHIT LATER! ACT RIGHT NA’ YA’LL COME ON NOW. WE CAN DEAL WID’DIS’.” The men calmed down and knew Roy would back them in a full fledged riot if it was the right thing to get their rights met. Phil and especially Lil’John along with a few other new guy’s on the block had no idea how Roy became the block boss but put faith in him. Majority ruled. Some how Roy was listened to and highly respected. Out of 40 inmates, and who knows how many came and went during Roy’s stay, he was allowed to hold the position of authority higher than the staff there. Even when an inmate wouldn’t listen to a guard they would listen to Roy. Lil’John had seen it before. Sometimes a guy had mob outside the system and threatened killing family if they didn’t obey him on the inside. Some men out fought or beat their way to the top while in there. Others offered high rewards to get their place of power. Lil’John knew he would have time to figure out what made these men listen to him so well but didn’t really care why. He was just glad there was someone that seemed to take a positive lead, representing them well right now. Lil’John leaned over to Phil and whispered, “As long as he leads in the right direction I’ll follow but man, if they listen to him dis’ good and it in wrong direction I don’t care who he is I ain’t goin’ dat’ ways.” Phil smiled, “We are on the same page there brother.” The guard took the trey into his office, snapped photos and the other was on the phone. Within twenty minutes the warden was there himself. He tried to explain, “Before I tell you what happen here or how this could happen let me tell you we are going to hand out all the honeybuns you can eat, no saving some for later but as many as you want over this next hour.” Trustees began to go to each table and hand out handfuls of honeybuns. Others brought around fresh juice and other brought coffee, a real treat. The coffee was just under hot but not lukewarm or cold. They never got really hot coffee, it was too easily used like a weapon. The warden tried to explain how this predicament happen. He was equally appalled by, “We removed three men who allowed this disgusting mess, one of the cooks, the man who preps and stores food and the man who checks the food going out. One of them should have caught it.” Roy was the only one not grabbing honeybuns, without a mouth full already and with enough guts to interrupt, “What was ‘IT?!’ OR do we not wanna know?!” The warden was in touch with inmates enough to know who Roy was and how he was able to keep things running, even if not by the penitentiary’s traditional rules.”Roy, men, you don’t really want to know but I think it is only fair to let you know.” He took a breath, “sometimes, in the food industry larvae gets into food. It happens but mainly because things are not stored correctly or put away correctly. Saying I am sorry is not enough, sometimes being sorry is not enough but I can do my best to make sure it doesn’t happen again and try to make up for it with this breakfast.” Roy shouted back, “FAIR TRADE WARDEN! ” Most the men shouted, “TRADE, FAIR TRADE!”The warden showed he was impressed by their unity and almost took a step back showing he was slightly intimidated. The two Officers with him gripped their pepper ball guns. The block guards were use to hearing that unison chant and knew that was this group’s way of squashing any repercussions when they felt things were rectified after they were cheated.The Warden gave Roy a nodded and a half a smile and left.
“BOOM, racketta racketta,racketta, BOOM BOOM…BOOM, RACK,BOOBOOM, RACK” -the percussion echoed as the inmates hammered the plexiglass windows like a bass drum on a sugar high. Others followed with the back beat of chess pieces and any light enough objects they could get to sound like a snare drum. A few danced. Phil thought, ‘Now I know why they don’t give us all you can eat honeybuns all the time. However, the entertainment is amusing.’
WHAT YOU Writing?
Phil felt like if that Psyc. Dr. was in here, one of us, he may finally realize how to offer better council. Does one have to go through the worse things in order to help the worse of us?, He thought. He found himself being careful what he wrote in his journal. Some men would ask, thinking he was writing about them. Some even asked, ‘MY name in there?’ However, most of what Phil journaled was about Jesus. He didn’t bother writing about people and problems, he was more interested in writing about the one man who was truly Supernatural and had the solutions. Phil knew human nature because he was not only part of it but in the middle of it. Communally living with men convicted, actually guilty or not, they are all on the same ship out in the middle of an ocean, fish in a pond as he heard a guy say in jail. Each block, pod, unit, individual locked cell contains men, human beings: some strong, some weak, some hard, some soft, some criminally insane, others more pure than some of Jesus’ 12 followers ever were, especially Judas. Some of them, even if they were on an island by themselves or in a monastery full of monks they would still be dangerous to themselves if not also detramental to others. The real source of issues were pride, men trying to be what they think it means to be a real man. Too many are trying to measure up to others or themselves. In gaining selfish pleasure, not necessarily sexual in nature, the men that caused the serious problems were ones who tried to be their own master. Those who tried to create a name for themselves were really tearing themselves apart. In their effort to create a name for themselves they were finding it led to dirt. Phil thought about how God made man from dust and how we all turn back into dust. The song “Dust in The Wind” by the band Kansas went through his mind but he changed the words “…nothing last forever, ‘not the earth nor sky.” He looked around the room. He thought about the group of men in the Chapel Service. Many of them were putting into practice the very lifestyle they read about but others, no matter how hard they tried they just couldn’t seem to do it. No matter how many A.A., N.A. or other meetings or classes they went to they just kept going back to that drink, drug or other vices. No matter what religion they tried they couldn’t stop living just for themselves. For Phil what made the difference was continuing in a relationship with Christ. When challenged with a debate on what the Bible said and didn’t say Phil would just say, “You can refute the Bible all you want but you really can’t tell me anything that is going to go against my own personal experience.” He knew some didn’t believe him when he told them he had the presence of The Holy Spirit in his life. However, given time, getting to know Phil or reading his journal showed people the real power only the creator could give. The key was, Phil explained when asked, “If that person claims the power or abuses the power given then they too fall short of His glory and that only pays, leads to, death.” One inmate shared how he got locked up for 3 to 5 years for illegal gambling, “laundering the money leads to a much longer sentence, sometimes life!”, he explained , “but when dealing with your soul and eternity the thing that kept or keeps everyone from resting in peace was their own will not accepting what God wants and has always wanted for mankind, a relationship with Him not just while alive but after this life we see here and now.” It was obvious that outside elements, substances, are hard enough to battle against but the issues people have within themselves, like the drive to gamble, the lust for more money, the desires in your DNA, all natural desires, those are far harder to fight or kill than anything else. Again, real change seemed to go deeper than just relinquishing pride or simply not giving into pleasure. It was deeper than choosing to serving yourself, others or God. It seemed to come down to who you were, who you want to become and ultimately what was in your soul, what our nature dictated. For Phil and a few other men, their very nature was effected by God. Phil tried explaining it but it was something that had to be experienced. Those men were living proof of God’s power and interaction with human beings. Phil’s journal was his own documentation of this journey.
MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SKIN A CAT
Fights were common, a way of life. Some fights were even tolerated by the staff. Veteran guards knew it was inevitable. The seasoned guard, along with the wards that had been in the system for over five years, knew the only way to sometimes finally bury the hatchet was to let the hole be dug. Men who didn’t show enough respect or tried to try perform the same con game on a fellow inmate had to pay for it . Society, legislation and the judicial system enforced laws trying to up hold certain rights for people and inmates enforced a code that they expected their colliges to live up to. Men that mind their own business seemed to get by okay but there were certain cases where a completely inoccent bystander would be caught in the cross fire. Nathan, a 65 year old man in for accidentally not paying his taxes correctly, was a perfect example of such a case. Nathan had a scare across his neck from being at the wrong place at the wrong time at a lunch table in Block C. Two men were playing cards. They had their backs toward each other and one felt that the table behind him was making too much noise. He pulled out a sharp object and went to slash a throat but the neck he carved into was Nathan, minding his own business trying to eat a bologna sandwich and watch a friendly game of cards. Prison may not be permanent but the physical and emotional scares were.
One inmate killed a man in his sleep. When asked why he said, “I needed his body to put in my bunk so when they did a bed check they would think I was still there, also he made an even seven to the six I killed on the outside, ev’body know 6 a unlucky number.” On another occasions some type of vigilantes would become inraged to hear how another man raped a child or woman and decided they needed to take that man’s life. Too often rather than just inflicting pain they would beat, stab, smother or even drown the person making sure it was fatal.
Phil had hoped that by showing how Jesus changed him and could truly change others that other men would desire the same change and not only regret but repent from their old way of doing things and subscribe to a completely different life.
Phil was lost in though for a few moments and wrote in his journal, So many mysterious ways God moves and does things and yet we are very puzzling as well. The T.V. was on with a few men watching it. Many times they’d catch the news. Phil recalled in jail they skipped the weather channel because they never got outside. He wondered if that changed since he left there. Phil knew there was a way to be functional and yet the majority of people just weren’t willing to do it. The news blared of a shooting last night at some type of youth center. The one announcer reported, “There were several under age youth shot to death, the youngest was only twelve years old.” They showed his parents weeping inconsolable. One inmate shouted, “Why a 12 year old there?!” Another said, “His parents to blame fo’ THAT!” The debate began as the inmate just walking up added, “The club responsible FOR THOSE deaths!” Yet one who had been there from the start said, “They need to get the guy that sold the gun.” While another defended the black market saying, “No, it up to the buyer what they do wif’ a gun. They gots’ to get the shooter!” The news report indicated, “They apprehended the shooter and 4 others they believe are linked to the incident.” Roy shouted, “Send em’ here, we straighten em’ out! Can’t be killin’ babies!” A group of men agreed and laughed then spoke of what they would do to them if they got their hands on them. Phil sat at a distance with his journal taking everything around him in. He wrote a few more things and it turned into a prayer, ‘Lord we can not make sense out of the insanity. Come quickly Lord Jesus. Thank you for being patient with us. Help me make the best of every opportunity I have. -Redeem the time, for the days a are evil.’ He heard the men in front of the T.V. getting more and more agitated. They were hung up on this one report, although the news cast went on and on telling them more and more bad news that was surly enough to fule any anger brewing inside. A few of them stepped away from the viewing area but continued to offer solutions on how to punish those who shot the innocent youth. Phil couldn’t help but wonder if some of them in some way or another were linked to the incident by way of what gang they were still with, providing arms or promoting violence. Phil turned to Matthew 5. He read, ‘Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. He stopped to pray for the family of those who lost loved ones in what he just heard. He thought back to when he lost his son. Lil’John came over with his Bible. “Whatcha readin’?” “Matt 5.” Lil’John said, “Let’s go out into where they serve food, those tables good cause on othar’ side da’ plexiglass, blocks sound of T.V., showers and all dis’ bunk talk.” Phil took his Bible and journal and headed that way. Ahmed was already at a table. “Mind if we join ya’ Ahmed?” “No, not at all, I finished reading John, The book of John.” He said as he looked at big John, still not fully understanding why they called him little. Ahmed said, “I am in Matthew now.” Phil smiled, “23?” “No only on Chapter 5.” Lil’John said, “Us too.” They sat down and Lil’John said, “Mind if I start?” Ahmed and Phil nodded, Lil’John began, ‘Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Lil John paused. Ahmed said, “They killed Jesus for the good things he did. I don’t understand. He blessed and healed and only spoke and lived a life of peace, love, happiness and how to get to heaven with him.” Lil’John had not been admitted in time to attend the same Chapel service but Phil knew Lil’John already knew Jesus enough to know what Phil was about to add, it was all from the same reliable Word of God. “Well…” Phil began, “Jesus didn’t play the same games the religious men of the day played. He didn’t please them and meet up with what they had come to believe was pleasing to God. Jesus didn’t even dress like them, remember what the Chaplain was saying? And He came to welcome everyone, not just the select group. The ‘righteous’ ones felt that he was being blasphemous, not accepting He was truly The Son of God.” Ahmed nodded. Lil’John read on,“Matthew 5 verse 13 ‘You are the salt of the earth.” Lil’John stopped and asked if Phil recalled Pip from jail. Phil smiled, “yeah more and more salt…I’ll tell you later Ahmed.” John continued, “You are the salt of the earth But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. ‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’ Ahmed interjected, “The example I want to be.” “Yep!” Phil encouraged. John read on, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Phil held up his bendy writing utensil. John stopped, “You see Ahmed, on the outside the religious leaders looked great, wore all the right stuff but on the inside, in their heart and mind, they weren’t right. They looked like sheep but the were wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Lil’John asked Phil, “didn’t your son say he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing? ” Phil smiled. “He did, and he…was.” “Was?”asked Ahmed. Phil was unable to answer. John spoke for him, “His son gone to be with The Lord.” Phil returned to the table he never physical moved away from, “ah…yeah he died but oh, how he loved the Lord and reaching others. He sure let Christ shine through him. He was in the streets before he handed his life over to Christ. He stayed in seedy motels and used but then got saved and went back to reach people still in those same places he was at before Christ was his Lord.” Ahmed said, “B.C. and then A.D., awesome! MY FAMILY AND OLD MUSLIM FRIENDS WON’T LET ME BACK! I wrote a letter with scriptures in it and I got a letter back telling me I am no longer welcome because I was following false beliefs.” Lil’ John added, “It is false to them! Why you believe? ” Ahmed needed no time to think before he answered, “Because I called out to Christ and He came in! More than a feeling, He has given me what I have always searched for, a relationship with God almighty! ” “Good for you man! You opened up to him, while in here?” John asked. Phil relayed the story about what happened in the prison yard.”Sounds like Acts Chapter eight!” John confirmed. Phil had not made the connection until now. Ahmed said, “So, now I am learning even more how Jesus, 2, 000 years ago, came with a new way to life and promises so that we don’t need to skin each other alive, we can shed our old self, let him destroy that old way of thinking and make us new. I AM NEW, A NEW CREATION!” John encouraged him, “The old is gone and eve’thin’ new now, right on brother. You a smart cat!”
Phil filled in Lil’John on somethings the chaplain covered from Matthew 23. Ahmed said, “I am working my way up to that chapter.” Phil told John how the Chaplain encouraged the men to take in the whole account and context. Ahmed said, “I am seeing that Jesus Christ really had a hard time with these religious people of his day but offered life to some serious low life people. He loves everybody and gave everyone a chance to consider a new way of life in Him!” Lil’John was thrilled and encouraged to meet someone with such a clear perspective. Although he enjoyed pointing out the truth on what the Bible says to people who tried to twist it he enjoyed this more, a man who has had a personal encounter with The Holy Spirit from the inside out. Ahmed’s face beamed. Lil’John told Ahmed to write down this passage from the book of Romans chapter twelve, verse two, ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ “You keep to that and God will see you through.” Lil’John assured his new brother in Christ.
It was nearly time to go outside for recreation again so the men gathered their things and Phil was excited for John to enjoy it as much as he did after not seeing the sun for weeks while in jail together.
CHOOSE A SIDE
The rain came down in buckets. This made it impossible for the men to go outside. Phil thought, ‘oh, how will this effect them?’ He knew when not given something to do they’d create their own recreation. The limited time to activities in jail gave many of the men too much time in their own hands. Idel hands too often challenged men to misinterpret, ‘ whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your strength…’ Rather than be constructive they made the choice to be deconstructive. The Correctional Officers in charge of the block brought in several board games that were not always accessible. A few grabbed monopoly. A few began to arm wrestle but the guard stopped them, reminding them it led to a major fight last time. A nerf ball and small hoop seemed to be the game of choice for the athletes. Some sat and wrote, others drew pictures. Many had their own cards but the guards also brought out several nicer sets of chess that had all the pieces, none of them chipped or cracked. That seemed to be the game with the most willing participants. Phil was amused because it was the first time he had seen chess played in teams. Rather than one on one and the next man playing the winner they spilt up four on each side and would rotate who’s move it was. Each man took a move and would sometimes suggest to each other what to do next. They’d meet in huddles, glancing back to the board and cheering when one of their opponents made a move costing them a piece. The team captain that seemed to be losing told his team, “You know I know this game. Follow my leads, don’t worry about pieces we lost, and we will win but ya’ gotta trust me.” Sure enough, one team was made up of individuals making individual moves. The other team made the moves their Captain instructed, exactly and it allowed all of them to be the victory.
Many of the men in this block seemed to be team players in many ways. Phil thought back to jail when men would refuse to be on a team in a simple one time basketball game. Much like middle school kids, they would spend more time arguing than playing, even once a game started. The men in here seemed to be making the best of their situation and it was just what Phil needed. He still fought with his own weaknesses and felt so defeated at times but reminded himself, this too will pass. His mind would counter act the optimism with, ‘yeah 20 years spent in here, by then the prime of your life will be gone!’ He wasn’t alone but sometimes felt as if he was the only one with problems or that other’s problems were small compared to his. A good cure for that misconception was listening to other men who were in much deeper. Phil reminded himself he could have been in on the death penalty. The only thing worse than living in here would be living in here until you die. Before depression could settle in Phil decided to use this time to write his wife. He also saved every letter she wrote him and would reread them which gave him hope of seeing her again. Visit and visitors were good but sometimes it made it harder to go back into the block when you knew what you were not able to go home to. Letters were always good because there was still that distance rather than face to face contact. Going into the open bunk area while most were in the foyer area was a nice break for Phil. The T.V. was never off but right now the volume was turned down and the rowdy side was on the other side of the divider. With no individual cells and one common bathroom things seemed much better in many ways when compared to what Phil’s jail pod was like. Not every block in prison had the same set up but Phil was thankful for this one. “We don’t always get to choose where we are, who we are family with or get the opportunity to keep company with.’ Thought Phil, ‘But right now, most of these men, are the best company I could ask for. ‘ Tomorrow may prove different but he stayed in the moment. ‘I better not let my guard down, the guards in here didn’t keep Wiggs from almost killing me but for now I finally feel some safety.” Phil climbed up onto his bunk, looked around and took in his surroundings. Men were sleeping, reading, writing or talking softly. He never slept during the day, always felt it best to sleep only when most others were sleeping. He knew that sleep seemed to help make time move a little faster but also put you in a very valuable state. He opened his journal, went to a blank page and began to write his wife.
LOOKS LIKE A CON?
As discussed before you just can’t tell what’s in a man’s heart by looking at him but a person’s action and words eventually give everyone around them an accurate picture of where their true desires are. Ahmed learned fairly fast that just because a man went to Chapel and could even quote Bible verses it did not mean they were trust worthy or always lived like Christ. He was color blind and wasn’t deceived or persuaded either way even by tattoos of satanic nature because he met men who got those markings before they let God get a hold of their hearts.
Those who were believers before they came in were truly amazed to see men change. Without even knowing all the commands, instructions and simple guidance the Bible gives they got rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. They became kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave others. It didn’t always last because men would not keep on believing and letting God reign. Others increased and grew into leaders.
Phil had noted that in times of crisis or difficulty people would either come closer to God or be driven away from him. He also noticed, in his own life, there were times when he was very obedient to the Lord and was bearing characteristics of Christ but there were other times that he was ashamed of because he would check God at the doorstep and not give thought of him, not even communicating with him thanking him for a beautiful mourning. His relationship with God was just like a perfect marriage but the difference was that God was always faithful regardless of how his partners reacted or behaved on their end of commitment. Although some would try to fool themselves or others and try to come across as dedicated to God, He knows the heart like no other.
The seasoned guard didn’t profile or go by appearances, they knew men in prison had already been convicted for a crime, however, they were there bacause of a bad decision, they were no worse a person than anyone else. There was also Correctional Officers who assumed they were all bad and would remain forever a ‘bad egg’. Phil enjoyed the Officers who would treat each one as an individual. There were standard procedures and precautions but the way they treated fellow human beings went a long way. There is always prejudice but some guards would go the extra mile in being sure those in prison suffered, as if the living conditions were not enough to cause pain, suffering and mental anguish. Phil wondered if one of the staff members ended up in here how long some of the clean cut, well manicured, tattooless staff would last just because some convict didn’t like how they looked. It went both ways. Those with certain hair styles, brandings, let alone othèr markings were literally labeled in here. The prison kept files on tattoos and their meaning. Regardless of a man’s actions their marking dictated what block they would be placed in, what outdoor time they would get and who they would or wouldn’t be allowed to be around. This prison kept similar groups together. They found out that overtime mixing skin heads with black panthers was not possible. Phil wondered if some how they placed men of the same faith together but Ahmed came in as a Muslim and was just now of the Christian faith so it appeared that it was just an extra blessing to have what seemed to be a majority of believers in Christ all in one block and that faith grew as it was encouraged and shared. God was working even if the prison system wasn’t.
Just when Phil began to let his own guard down he met an man named Harry. Harry looked as if he had never or could ever commit a crime but here he was in jail.Harry attended the inmates block Bible study as well as Chapel. He knew whole Bible passages, however, he also knew how to press the right buttons to get people to do what he wanted. Phil knew a physical fight would most likely never take place between Harry and anyone, however once the other inmates realized they were getting into trouble for something Harry convinced them to do there would be consequences. That day came when an inmate was washing Harry’s sox for him because some how he thought it was a modern way of washing the man’s feet. The sox were not the problem, what was in the sox is what put a nail in the man’s destiny. Apparently Harry way trying to hide some drugs in his sox and just before a shake down he handed them to the man he knew would take them. The sox never even made it to a sink. The guards came in, told everyone to stand by their own stuff and they checked everyone. Harry had nothing, but the poor sap that trusted Harry was courted off. The innocent inmate tried to explain but the sox had no name on them and were in with his own personal things. They told the man they didn’t believe his story and even if it was true he shouldn’t have had possession of the drugs for any reason. Harry was not even questioned. They put the other man in confinement for 30 days and added to his initial charges. After segregation they put him in another block because he told them if he saw Harry again he would kill him. The only friends Harry had were people who had not caught on to his clever disguise or those who were playing the same kind of people. Phil warned his wife to not listen to any of the inmates or their family members if she had any contact with them during open visitation. He wasn’t being mean or prejudice he was exercising caution. The ones who displayed hate in their actions were obviously a danger regardless of what they looked like just as much as the ones who outwardly seemed intimidating but showed real love and bore the fruit of The Holy Spirit were of great help and a source of encouragement. Phil wrote in the letter to his wife, “Honey, I sit and write to you and think of your beautiful face, it’s much better than anyone here.” He drew a little smiley face then wrote, “But seriously, you are even more beautiful on the inside. Most people’s looks are just skin deep. 1 Peter 3:3-4 says, ‘Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.’ Honey, wear all the makeup and jewelry you want but know your true treasure and your beauty is far beyond your outward appearance alone, although you got that going on too. I miss you beyond words and love you more than you can imagine! Love, Phil.
Ahmed came running over to Phil shouting, “Look, look, look what I found…” He had a new Bible. Before Phil could guess, “a new Bible?” Ahmed had it open and was reading, “First Peter chapter three verse thirteen through twenty-two…it says, ‘Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.’…remember we were talking about how Jesus did good and yet they killed him?” Phil nodded and Ahmed read on, “Do not fear their threats ; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” Ahmed put his finger to mark his place. He looked up and said, “Now listen to this.” He looked back down and read on, “After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” Phil was excited to see Ahmed’s enthusiasm, “I was just writing my wife and included a section from 1st Peter. I thought you were reading Matthew.” Ahmed replied, “I was but a got this Bible from another Muslim.” Phil was curious. Ahmed clarified, “A Muslim who also converted to Christianity. I should say, a former Muslim. He let me borrow this one, it is a little easier to read and understand. ” Phil looked at it, “Oh, yeah. It is the New International Version.” Ahmed still spoke with excitement, “He has markings in it and this section caught me eye.” Phil loved how many times he would be reading a passage and his brothers in Christ would be across the room or in some cases across the country looking at the same passage. One time he wrote his wife and was telling her how they very rarely sing in Chapel but they sang, with no accompaniment, ‘How Great Thou Art’ and ‘Amazing Grace’. A week later he received a letter from her expressing how moved she was when she read his letter and it was an extra blessing when they sang the same exact songs in her Church. His eyes filled with tears as he considered how God considered us, mere human beings. He marveled in the small things God did, giving reminders that they were not alone, not forgotten. There were nuggets of gold in his Heavenly treasures. He didn’t count on getting a crown and it being adorn with certain jewels as a reward for specific accomplishments but knew if he did the first thing he wanted to do is cast it before Jesus’ feet when he reached his eternal home.
Nugget, the inmate who got a name change while in prison, was a little more peppy today. At lunch they found out why. Chicken nuggets were served for lunch. He treasured those chicken nuggets like gold. Truth be known, there really wasn’t much real chicken in these processed shapes. He wasn’t kidding when he told men he had all kinds of commissary ready for trade. There was something about having everything taken away from you that allowed many of these men to not take anything for granted and yet there were still men taking advantage of others. Values were held in the hand of the beholder. Phil cherished that the gold that men seeked was simply what was used to pave the streets in Heaven. Everything humans could see with their eyes couldn’t be compared with God plans for the future. Phil recalled a Christian Artist, Keith Green who said, ‘If God created all we see on this earth in six days imagine what heaven will be like, He has been working on that for over 2 ,000 years. This is like living in a garbage can compared with what is to come.’ Those who truly believed not only looked forward to Heaven but also found value in life gere and now because they knew they not only had glory to look forward to but a reason and purpose to live while here.
William Wilcox entered the prison block that Phil called his temporary home away from home. He had a crazed look in his eye but also gazed off into no where often. That didn’t faze most the men but what they couldn’t tolerate was not getting a reply when they addressed him. Poor William got the snot beat out of him because a convict felt he was being disrespectful. No one could explain to the offender that the man wasn’t being offensive he was just not responsive. Rumors took flight on what made the man this way but the fact was he was not able to be there mentally. His body was doing time in prison but his mind was some place else. This made him vulnerable and many men took his belongings right out from under his nose. Phil wondered if the guards and other staff noticed but it seemed that the man’s wellfare didn’t seem to really matter. He was no trouble to them so they didn’t notice him. Phil requested a meeting with the Correctional Officers of his block at the risk of being labeled as a nark. He asked them to observe Wilcox and see if they didn’t see a problem. They argued the fact that Wilcox was no threat but Phil insisted that for whatever reason he was unable to defend himself in here and he was concerned on how men were hurting him. They wanted names. Phil told them he knew he was taking a chance just bringing this up and if they confronted men or moved William it was sure to be linked back to this meeting and that was enough trouble, however, something had to be done before Mr. Wilcox was mental, physically and financial raped any more. The guards said they would make a note of the meeting and pass it on but still didn’t feel that this had anything to do with their job. Phil reminded them, whether they felt like it or not, they were responsible to protect the inmates while under their care. They resented this and Phil knew this was going to put him on their bad side as well but knew something needed to be done because William was not able to stand for himself. With that the meeting was over.
After the meeting a decision was made to remove Wilcox. Phil was right, the convicts were against him because he had their human ATM taken away. The guards didn’t treat him the same because they felt he was trying to tell them how to do their job. Phil wondered if he made a mistake in pointing this dilemma out but knew in his heart he helped a fellow human being out and regardless of the effects it had on him it was the right thing to do. Minding your own business was usually best but Phil felt like someone had to do something, especially when the guards were not.
The mind is powerful but so is the soul. The body, however, can effect both if the soul is not in good shape. Phil had been through many trials but it was those things that made his faith stronger. He knew emotions, health, finances, everything in life went up and down but his spiritual walk could continue to climb. Some men were not sure how they would do under the pressures of Prison and when in solitary they did even worse. There were so many factors that messed with their minds . One of the keys to sanity for Phil was to not rely on his feelings. He also held onto hope beyond the four walls around him.
There is a curiosity of what Prison is like for those who have never been or visited those who are there. Sure, there has been books written documentries made, movies and T.V. shows but there are also many assumptions. Assuming is not always a bad thing. Phil knew the old saying, ‘To assume, the very way it is spelled makes an ass out of u and me.’ However, it was safe to assume certain things. Good judgement calls were part of survival. If a man had an active track record of fits of rage or was convicted of brutal crimes toward humanity it was wise to exercise caution around that person, at the same time, that person is also a human being and could possibly change, he saw it, some started over and that old record became something in their past rather than a current way of life. The prison, as done in jail as well, try to group inmates by charges and criminal history. They sometimes have to seperate men from general population bacause they don’t know where to place them or can not place them around others for their own safty. Those inmates may not be a threat to anyone else but everyone else is a threat to them. Phil was dealing with his own record and tried to take things moment by moment, person by person, hope for the best but prepared for the worse. He couldn’t let his guard down but at the same time didn’t clam up. This environment was dangerous and came with a certain inevitable vulnerability. The difference between in here and on the streets was that there were guards and staff, usually readily available, without having to call 911 as you would from home, the side of the road or anywhere you may find yourself in day to day life on the outside. What most people fail to realize is criminals are everywhere. Although some cities may be labeled with the highest crime rate and some neighborhoods seemed to be a haven for danger no place is truly safe.
He thought about his son, ‘Stone’ was his name. He had a very dark past and seemed drawn to certain crimes but the last two years of his life was full of Christ’s light. His son, unlike some believers, went back to those hoods and let Christ shine through him. He knew the danger but accepted it, embraced it. Phil admired that and missed him dearly. He thought about how now, he himself was amongst those who were caught in crime, or at least convicted. It was his time to shine. Life went on and Phil looked forward to seeing all those loved ones in heaven some day but in the mean time he missed especially his son more than words could say. He didn’t assume he’d see him it was a confirmed fact he held onto in faith. He didn’t assume others understood his loss either but he knew each man had been separated from everything they knew and loved while in here, some for the rest of their lives. How each one dealt with it was a matter of perspective and determination. The assumption that was dangerous was that everyone was the same and that nothing was going to work out. Phil accepted the fact that whatever he had, whereever he was, for whatever reason he was right where he was supposed to be and to make the best of it. He thought back to a man of faith he knew who ended up quadriplegic. Somethings we never planned on we have to live with or become absolutely miserable. He thought back to Moses and the Jewish people in captivity. His mind went to Psalm 90:15 that ask God, ‘Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.’ How shallow and spoiled we are sometimes. How we think we are owed more then what we already have. The American dream for some was a lie they bought into. Phil always felt he heard people saying, ‘God bless America’ while he was saying, ‘America, bless God.’Considering all that Phil had been through he was thrilled to be alive, regardless of the opposition. One of the tattoos his son got after accepting Christ was the Mandarin word ‘Hope’. When translated into English was 2 words, ‘opposition and opportunity’. With every difficulty there was given a chance to rise above it.
Healthy or not, assumptions were something everyone shared. Maybe it was more speculation toward what humans were and were not capable of. In any event certain assumptions were correct while others were inaccurate and damaging. The stigma a convicted convict carried stayed with them even upon release. Was there a better system? Was there a way for people to pay for their crime? Was there a way to truly be sorry and move on? Phil believed there was but not on this earth. While in the system if someone couldn’t get along with others the only thing those in charge knew to do was seperate them. Taking a troubled person out of society was only half of what to do to resolve any issue. Phil witnessed first hand what it was like to be removed not only from the outside world but also from the general population within this prison world. There was supposed to be investigations and considerations but it was easier to just remove what they saw as a problem or potential conflict. The only resolution Phil could find was a peace from deep within. Everything around him shouted, ‘You are going to die here!’ However, everything thing within shouted, ‘You will live beyond all this.’ There was a bigger picture, much bigger than Phil and his sad small world.
We all may find ourselves thinking we know the law and what offense leads to jail or prison. The more you look into it the more you realize you don’t know, you assume or go on what you personally think is worthy of punishment and what kind of punishment. America is United but every state has a few laws that differ and the penalty for those breaking the laws vary. Phil heard the authorities saying that in Belgium it is not considered a crime to escape from prison, however it is a crime to keep the clothes the prison issued. So, in one case an inmate escaped and mail the clothes back to the prison and was not persuade. Phil struck a man with his car, by accident, and was now in prison paying for his crime. One may argue if that was even a crime at all but the courts decided it was. In Phil’s case the family of the man killed were trying to press murder charges. Before Phil came to prison the charges for murder were dropped but the state still had consequences for a life being taken away.
In prison men shared with Phil the difference between an inmate and a convict. It was the very opposite of what the men in jail told him. Here they were saying a convict was a man who went along with the rules of the prison. An inmate was not seasoned and portrayed as one who would jump into other people’s business. All Phil knew was regardless of the lable he had to be careful who he trusted. He wouldn’t let his own guard down with anyone, even brothers in Christ. He thought about how Judas turned on Jesus. This was just as good as any place, any time to be forced to trust God alone. If living in this world taught Phil nothing else it taught him he couldn’t depend on himself, others or some type of man made and governed system, he could only be assured by God’s ways and rely on God’s word, that was no assumption. That was a sure thing, assurance.
Phil wrote his wife, ‘I just read The Apostle Paul’s letter to The Philippines and I can identify with how he felt. I feel the same way about you. It’s not at all fanciful for me to think this way about you. My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality. You have, after all, stuck with me all the way from the time I was thrown in jail, put on trial, and came out of it in one piece. All along you have experienced with me the most generous help from God. He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does! (Philippians 1:7-8)’ His communication with the outside world was completely dependant upon letters written and received.
He wrote P.T., a man he came to know while still in jail. Phil wrote, ‘So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:9-11).’ Then he wrote a man named Guy, another young man he knew while in jail. ‘Dear Guy, Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:1-6). I am so glad we got to know each other, even if it was while in jail. What you shared with me about how my son planted a seed of God’s love and word in you I am now watering and God will cause it to keep growing. I trust you will let Him.’
Phil began to understand God’s provision and compassion more and more every day. He remained in God’s word and held onto the promises he found there. He knew this world’s philosophy was wacky but if he focused on Christ the things of this world grew strangely dim. Sure, he was locked up with some of this world’s worst offenders who were sincerely against God and man but he knew the reality that no matter where you are there were human beings just as bad, one of the big differences were, these guys were caught and contained. Here you were forced to be their neighbor, share meals, take a shower right next to them rather have your own place and space. Dwelling on the negative wasn’t going to help Phil at all but accepting fate and trusting God through it all was going to allow God to reach some people who other wise may not see or get to know the real Jesus. Phil thought about the Apostle Paul and realized he continued his work for Christ, even while in prison.
As Phil began another letter he heard someone sniffling. A few bunks over he saw a man with his head between his knees in sorrow. He watched from a distance and prayed. Rather than write another letter Phil began to write a prayer for that young man. Later, perhaps he could find a way to offer some hope and encouragement but for now he sat back and allowed The Holy Spirit to minister directly to the man, Phil stayed out of the way. He wrote, ‘Lord, I know sometimes you use us but other times you need us to get out of the kitchen and let you cook. Touch this grieving soul just now and let me know when, how or if you want to use me in some way to help. In Jesus name and for Christ sake. May it be so.’
CULT In CULTURE
There are a cerain breed of people who are rejected by society outside of prison. That breed of people were like gods while incarcerated. Weaker minds often fell prey to their dominant and overwhelming ways. Some were clever and cunning, using kindness as a weapon to get into the mind of their victims. Others were just down right overbearing physically and gained power over those who had no way to fight back. If a man lacked a foundation before he entered there really wasn’t much hope for them once they were on these grounds. Phil was thankful for the time God had given him and for the time he spend on his end getting to know Him. The mind games some men played with other men was sad. The bully problems kids were facing in schools around the world were the same struggles these grown men were facing. Phil wondered if it ever ended. Many people thought, ‘when I get big and all grown up, then people will leave me alone.’ If only that were true but Phil saw that in here you were prey or predator. He asked The Lord, ‘How can that stop?’ He heard the Lord say, ‘You accept others as they are. Let them belong. Be their friend. ‘ So many men were trying to belong and be accepted. Many men blamed everyone for their problems and wouldn’t accept responsibility for themselves. They made themselves feel better by putting others down. They loved exercising any authority they could take. It just made them stronger. Phil would love to take those under the thumb and fear of those false gods and free them up but he knew only God could do that. In the mean time he would do his best to follow the leading of The Holy Spirit and be a friend that offered unconditional love to those held captive under those tyrants.
Phil thought back to Moses and Aaron. They followed God. People under him saw God in miracles God performed, Moses was just faithful in doing what he was told but it wasn’t an ability Moses had it was all GOD and Moses was sure to give Him the glory and let people know it wasn’t him it was God. Then the supernatural took place so they knew it wasn’t just a man, another human, they were to put their trust in God and be loyal to Him. The problem with the Israelites and people to this day is that we want to have some type of image or person to worship. We want to hold it, see it, feel it. God is invisible and uncreated. He gives unconditional love, we are not use to that. People come to believe our salvation all comes down to what we do or don’t do. We try to be in charge, take control, take credit when in reality it is really all on God’s end, His doing not from anything we or another human can do for us. That is what Phil saw as a serious issue, people trusting people rather than trusting God which led to people controlling people. Nothing beat reading and applying God’s word on his own. No one was needed and no one could interfere, although they would try, maybe even with the best intentions but the road to Hell was paved with the best intentions. The road to Heaven was in his heart and paved with treasures only God could provide, unmaterialistic and unconditional, a truly free gift. We are not use to being given something from someone, all from their end not because we deserve it but because they love us. That is grace. Phil learned mercy was not giving punishment that was dersereved and grace was giving them what they don’t deserve. Phil accepted the facts that are backed with God’s word, at our worse God loves us and Jesus himself prayed, “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” Phil saw the big picture, man was going to just keep messing up a relationship with Him so He would make things right once and for all. He had to do it on his end, we’ll always fail on our own. Christ is not some type of crutch He is a stretcher, you can’t even limp into heaven without him. What a relief to know his eternity was not based on how good or bad he was. It wasn’t based on another person’s opinion of him or their judgement of how right or wrong he was, how he measured up according to their standards. That brought him peace in the present not just hope for the future.
Phil thought back to a letter he wrote Trevor, a guy he met in jail, where he included 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, “and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” Phil recalled how the men he was with heard directly from The Holy Spirit and noticed the difference between man’s philosophy and God’s direction. He continued to pray for them and longed to hear from them, how they were doing. He looked up and saw Lil’John and smiled. It was great to have examples, real life people, applying the Biblical principles and letting God be God, staying out of His way.
There was no denying prison life was a different world altogether. A few things Phil learned while still in jail was: The less you say the better. Sometimes you have to defend yourself but you don’t want to start a fight. Many times you have to let things go and ignore comments, threats and calls to take things any further. People tend to think more highly of themselves than they ought, inside and out of lock-up. Asking to many questions is never good, that was why Roy oversaw new inmates when they first came in. Phil carried onto prison those things he learned. Now in prison this wasn’t just a few weeks or months in jail, this was the long hall, years. The anxiety of waiting for a trial and determination of sentencing was a thing of the past for Phil. He now knew his destiny in regard to how long he was going to be away from the outside world and in this new world. It was up to him to not do anything that would add to that time. He also knew measurements of time were different here. He tought it funny when they give someone three life sentences, as if one life wasn’t enough. But life didn’t mean life, until you die. It was assigned a number, just as each inmate was. When told, ‘you have a eight year sentence, that might mean you only serve four. Nothing in this whole wide world is forever. We really have no concept of time. When we are doing what we consider fun or enjoyable time flies. When things around us are good and we are in happy circumstances time is short but when we battle the flu or are in troubled times, it is as if time actually slows down. The earth still takes the same course around the sun but we feel like the sun is moving slower and the days are longer. Phil realized it was not the sun moving, it is the earth. The sun stays in its given place, we are the ones moving. For those in Alaska it could become confessing for their whole system and sleep patterns. We tend to function and keep track of things by days, day light, and seasons but in reality time will not be contained. We can not save it, we can not control it. Much to the surprise of many workaholics, we can not manage it. We can only try to manage what we choose to do and not do. We can decide how we invest ourselves but time, time goes on and on. We don’t get any younger. We can be told what to do when and where. We can try and accomplish certain things but as we spin round and round things are going to come and go that we do not, did not, could never, predict. We like to think we are in control, however, if we are honest with ourselves we come to admit changes and unpredictability is the only true predictable thing. Just as we develop mentally, physically and spiritually so also everything around us continues to evolve, progress and grow. Only God, the creator, truly knows the true plan and in trying to fit in we find ourselves trying to understand it all, try to know it all, rather than just accepting we don’t and will never fully understanding it nor have any control of it. It was Phil’s spiritual strength more than his physical and mental state that was pulling him through. He knew his knowledge and understanding would only help so much. It was faith, ‘the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’ that was Phil’s main stay. He lived this out in his own relationship with Christ and that spread to others. Talking too much and coming across as knowing more than others was always an issue for inmates when it came to getting along with others. Self respect was important but lack of respect toward others was not tolerated. Although prison was considerably different from jail Phil was learning to see the direction things were moving in to determine what he needed to do for his own safety. He learned to adapt to this environment without it getting the best of him. Although everything was dictated for him there was an internal clock that no one could reset or mess with. There was a higher power and source that was not manipulated by outward conditions and sources. Regardless of the restless world around him, with its landmines and shrapnel, inside he could remain calm, safe and at peace. Phil didn’t know how classification worked and couldn’t completly figure out if there was really anyway to place men in the best block for them. Sure, criminal past history had its say and the crime convicted of had its play in determining where they would be placed in an attempt to keep rival gangs and threats lower but each man was an individual. While outside Phil could over hear the men from other blocks and noticed many of them were coming from a completely different back ground. Their conviction seemed to match their on going behavior. It is not illegal to be in a gang but the activity that gang insisted upon its members and the man’s willingness to go along with it led them to their demise. Now they were off the streets but still caught in a cycle of trying to prove themselves to others. Phil felt other’s pursuance to walk, talk, act like them, blend in. He also knew he could be in this prison but not go along completely with the code of ethics the inmates developed. Truth was bent and notifying those who were supposed to to be in authority led to trouble, even if it was the best thing for everyone but resulted in the harsher punishment of others. Reality was, in certain section the prison staff didn’t have any authority. Things were run by the inmates. Phil had to use his God given moral compus to stay on the right path regardless of the way the guards or the inmates tried to rule. He knew the only way to survive was to keep an invisible barrier up as he traveled through this section of life. He had not planned this detour. He wasn’t at a complete loss but was on a road in a world that was foreign to him. Phil knew, just as this happen to him, it could happen to anyone. Some things in life are handed to you, it is the way you deal with it that makes the difference. Phil lost a lot of faith in mankind and the judicial system, he even lost some faith in Church members but it only caused him to deepen his faith in Christ. The conditions he was forced to deal with called for thicker skin and armor. The pastor he had before he went into jail lost touch along with a few members of his church who promised to write, visit or accept calls but he knew it was only natural. When they did write it seemed as if they were doing it more for themselves than to sincerely check on him. It was sad but it was human nature and everyone being to busy that caused him to be abndoned. This weird world called for confidence but not pride. Phil swallowed his own pride and had to digest the fact that only God who made him knew what he was capable of enduring and only God would love and care for him unlike any person ever could.
This whole experience taught Phil that we can all be prisoners of our own devices. It was obvious here in prison that you are not free but if we let circumstances dictate to us what we can and can’t do in our everyday lifes, whether in a locked down facility or not we are then all caught in a cell that keeps us, holds us back from truly being free . Rather than seeing the sun rise and be deeply grateful for fresh air we remain trapped, contained and are constantly looking for a way to escape. Maybe it is because we have forgotten to enjoy the small, simple and free things or maybe it is because we think we can not see past walls we have built or allowed others to build around us. In any event, Phil’s eyes were open, the eyes of his heart and he was able to see beyond this weird, strange, harsh world and know that there is not only something more but that he would reach it some day.
GET ALONG LITTLE INMATE
Phil overheard one of the guards express, “I don’t get why these inmates can’t just get along with each other.” Phil kept his thoughts to himself, ‘You are not in here, you work here and you’re behind these walls but you are not, nor have you ever been a resident.’ It was like the difference between a tourist at an amusement park or better yet zoo, the staff that works there and the animals in the cages. Tourists were the people who visited, the staff just work there but go home but the animals never leave. All they know is their constant surroundings. Some zoos move the animals out of cages and let them roam where people get to see them outside but they have to eat when given food, deficate where they sleep and trust the staff won’t put them with their predator. With human beings one of the problems is we may all look different but there is no real way to tell who is going to prey on others of their own kind. The facility tried to look for signs, literal branding and symbols on the skin that the men choose to get as well as past behavior that may be repeated but it seemed like the majority were predators always seeking prey. Humans seemed to always be trying to take more than they needed where as animals only eat when they are hungry. The most ferocious alligators were no threat when they were full or during seasons when they didn’t eat as much because they knew it wasn’t warm enough for them digest. Zoologist knew during mating season they were more aggressive but humans, these humans, seem to always be in a season where they were looking to devour and take all they could and more. Phil met men who had learned to take what was given and accept what they had. He also met men who were always looking for their next high and expected to get more than what everyone else had. Some inmates, as well as staff had no self control. They thought they were in control because they took things into their own hands but in reality they were giving into their own whims rather than look out for the greater good of everyone, including themselves. Each man had a level of intelligence. Although some had a limited amount of history in educational systems they were not stupid or dumb. Some who were highly educated and book smart seemed to not have much common sense or street smarts. In someways they were at a disadvantage when it came to having a deeper understanding of how to function in prison. The ability to get along had nothing to do with what was taught in the public school system. The interaction they picked up from those who raised them and who they hung out with gave them knowledge no Academy could ever provide. Social skills developed made the difference between being beat up, constantly bickering or being able to function and survive with some sanity. Staying to himself, staying off other’s radar and out of their heads was Phil’s goal. The best way to get along was to stay out of other’s way any more than absolutely necessary. How do you stay out of other’s way when you’re all in the same room? You stay out of each and every individual mind. Phil did his best to not give others and opportunity to think about him or anything to do with him. If he wasn’t dealing with them they had no reason to give thought to him. The issues inmates had with each other brewed over time. As when in jail an issue would start with something as small at tater tots and turn into meat and potatoes. Men would start to gambling, literally with peanuts, and end up with a debt they couldn’t pay. They would bite off more than they could chew but would keep taking more and more bites. Men were feasting on adrenaline that only living offensively seemed to satisfy, yet they were never satisfied. They never got their fill of the lust for more. There were some who seemed to really desire change. There was a group of men who just did their time but there were too many who continued in the same patterns, maybe the only way they knew. The prison officials tried to make things simple, just the basics and meet the physical needs of those held in the facility but the sad thing was what these men really needed was good healthy fellowship and good examples of how to live a clean beneficial life. Few would get that from a few others but the majority fed off the weak to be strong rather than become stronger by helping those who were weak. Rules were enforced but more than rules what was needed was rehab. Mankind’s general problem was the confusion between need and wants, self sufficiency and selfishness. Facts were too often mixed up with opinions. Some men had got to the end of the road they were on and realized finally it was a dead end. Others had not reached the end yet, while others reached the end saw it went no further but would walk backwards and then head back to the same dead end over and over again. Phil loved seeing the men who realized there was a better road to be on that didn’t end in destruction. These were the men who came to realize life had more to offer them. They could get more out of life and give more to life. Every human being had one thing in common if nothing else, the ability to have free will. The danger came into play when all they wanted to do was satisfy themselves only and no one else mattered. To get along with others one had to be considerate of others, some were not. When men insisted on their on wants regardless of others needs there was always an issue. A solution one inmate proposed was, “Let us all smoke some hash and ev’body be gettin’ along, ‘dat for sho’!” That sounded good to a lot of them but Phil thought, ‘you can’t even get along over who has cigarettes and who doesn’t, how would it be if any stronger drug was allowed?’ When they got a hold of home made vodka it didn’t take the edge off it sharped that edge and cut into others. Drugs and self medication wasn’t the answer. There was already legally prescribed medications given out but not all the men would not take it correctly. Everything and anything was used as currancy. There was always some type of barter service going on. Men who needed medication to help their behavioral health often sold their prescribed drug to those who were better behaved without it.
The average person may picture prison as a place with three hots and a cot, three meals a day and a place to sleep, but reality was the convicted were being held, not for any type of correctional instruction, just to be punished. Some prisons may offer more than others but in Phil’s case it seemed that the prison he was in only contained those not wanted in society. It was just a place to hold them, not help them. The guards that complained about drugs being hidden were the same ones who were encouraging the men to get more things to keep them busy. Rather than having a mandatory limited amount of toiletries they were allowed several sticks of deodorant, several bottles of shampoo, several containers allowing them more places to store and hide things. How many books could one read at one time? Phil kept his few belongings to a minimum while other men had so much they required several bins. No one desired anything he had because he didn’t have anything they didn’t already have. He didn’t owe anyone anything because he never borrowed from them. This, doing without somethings, also allowed him to stay out of other’s scopes for more. He had no target on him because he didn’t have any thing worth shoot for. Although it seemed like the men would fight or have disagreements over nothing there was always a reason. They didn’t just hunt for sport they hunted for trophies, bragging rights or to get something in return. It would appear that there were those who just like to fight but in reality they got a rush out of getting the better of someone else. Unlike sportsmen who would fight a good fair fight and achieve a victory inmates were only in a fight to show their dominance and to take something away from others, their pride if nothing else. Phil observed great differences between official organized sports fights and unofficial unorganized prison fights. For one thing, in prison the men would flail around where in sports they were calculating their moves. The study and training athletes went through was more than just building up strength physically. It wasn’t just about being strong physically. Phil had witnessed men ripped with muscles out winded by little tiny guys. Roy never asked the question he wanted to when Phil was new to the block, ‘Have you trained in mixed martial arts?’ Maybe it was obvious by the way he handled his first entry. If Phil was thrown into a unavoidable fight we used his abilities and study in martial arts to nutrualize the situation. He knew if he got his opponent in a hold where he was rendered incapable of fighting official help would eventually step in and break it up. Usually that was enough to prevent future attacks and show others he was not one to mess with. The key was to not start a fight and to know how to stop a one if it happen. In the event of being in a fight Phil’s goal was always to reconcile disagreements, regardless of the intervention of the staff.
ARE YOU READY TO RUMBLE?
“Where my shower gloggs? WHERE MY DAMN SHOWER GLOGGS AT?!”, Came the complaint. “Ain’t no one took yo’ stinkin’ shower shoes man, calm down! ” answered the loud mouth’s friend. “YES THEY DIZ! I’M A GOIN’ TO GETZEM’ BACK TOO!!” He insisted. As common as shouting was this had a little more flare to it and captured everyone’s attention. “THOSE MINESSS!”, the complatant bellowed as he pointed to some slide on shoes another inmate was wearing. A few other men grabbed their tennis shoes and began to ‘lace up.’ This was always a sign of a fight. The two guards working the block began making their calls for back up, “we got a fight about to start.” Much to the rookie guard’s surprise his partner was already out the door, making his way over to the problem. The voice on the other end said, “Notify us if you need back up.” “Ah…I think we might…ah Officer Nielsen is entering the block…ah, I um…I will notify you but it looks like a lot more than just a two person conflict.” Phil stayed back and watched. While the focus was diverted he saw one man over by the corner window. He kept looking over his shoulder but there was so much focus on the potential fight he went completely unnoticed. When he was done retrieving something from the window he let out a, “HOOP!” With all the shouting the guards didn’t notice but the inmates all broke up and acted as if it was suddenly all over. The guy that started the complaint spoke as calm as could be, “oh, I’m sorry homes, those not mine, never mind.” And he walked away smiling. The guard asked, “What the hell was THAT all about? Was that all just a di…” He stopped and went back to the booth. Phil acted like he saw nothing but kept his head on a swivel. He saw the guards discussing something but could not read their lips. Inside the booth the rookie was still on the phone saying, “ok, all clear.” He hung up. Officer Neilson said, “we have a bigger problem than a fight.” His eyes scanned the block then pointed, “keep your eyes on the guy with the biggest smile.” The rookie was confused. A lot of them were smiling but he noticed one was showing all his teeth and glowed like a reflective tape in the dark. He kept his focus as he hear his partner explain over another call, “yes we are going to need SERT in here very fast. Pretty sure the inmates formed a very poor diversion. They posed a major fight and as soon as what ever they were smuggling was done they acted as if they were all best friends and now they are acting like they just got away with robbing a bank and everyone seems over joyed. Something was accomplished. …ok. thanks.” The rookie asked, “What?” “Yeah, sometimes they get all your attention on one thing so behind your back they can get away with something else but you see smiley there ? He’s going to give us some clues.” The rookie asked, “want me to bring him in and question him?” “Nah, that won’t work. Just watch em’. He’s so excited he will probably lead us right to it.” Phil had hoped the guards were picking up on things he saw and was starting to hear. He looked at the guards and it was obvious their attention was on one man. He though, ‘As long as he knows you’re watching he’s not going to lead you to the product that was smuggled in.’ Phil used his ears rather than eyes. He heard, “We did it, got the stuff.” Followed by, “He got it in.” Phil wasn’t sure what was handed in through a tiny whole in that corner window or who passed it off but he knew it was nothing he wanted to have anything to do with. Within twenty minutes the search team stormed in. They found nothing and the inmates howled in victory. That night Phil smelled tobacco, nothing more, nothing less. He wondered if all that drama was over getting a few cigarettes. He heard snickers from a few men, like kids who just stold some candy from a store or met in their tree house looking at girly magazines with a flash light trying not to wake the parents in the house below. Phil hoped this simple pleasure of theirs wouldn’t lead to bigger things.
The next day there was more pep in the step of that group of Inmates that had some extra recreational activities last night. ‘Could just regular cigarette tabbacco have the same effect as wacky tabbacky?’ Phil smiled as the thought went through. There were shouts, a little more play, a…lightness. More than normal the inmates seemed to be in a better, playful mood. It was strange but obviously seemed like a much better environment. Unfortunately that changed well before breakfast. Apparently the men who got away with sneaking some tabbacco in were on a high, not from the nicotine and other possible chemicals in the tabbacco but from a high they got from pulling one over on the the prison staff. These men had a temporary high but we’re looking for more. More was hard to come by, it would require great planning and bribing. So, things began to brew. The search for filling those desires was on. Men became aggressive. Phil decided to go to his bunk. He had a sign taped above his head on the wall…
He turned to Ecclesiastes 7:9 in his Bible, ‘Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.’ The men became more and more agitated toward each other. It was not long until they began to lace up their shoes. Phil looked at the guards booth, beyond the door separating their dorm/sleeping area, beyond the common area where they sat to eat, behind glass. There were three doors they’d have to get through to enter the dorms. That was good for them but when something goes down it delayed them reaching the furthest part of the dorm. Some men were out beyond the common area and to the left, getting a morning shower. He wondered how many had slept at all. Roy, the self designated boss was pacing around, communicating with non-verbal clues. The common area would be open soon but right now the only ones going through it were those going or coming back from the showers. The showers would be the furthest place from the fight. The bathrooms were not always the safest place but this morning they would be. Phil knew an unwritten code that you showered when your section of the dorm was designated by some invisible wave the wrapped its way around the block. The wave was a long way off from his bunk. Roy started coming toward him. He tried to keep his head down. Roy raised his voice, “Phil, lace up.” Phil looked up and said, “I gotta pee.” Roy commanded, “pee later, need you now!” Phil wondered what the payment would be if he didn’t join this fight.
Deliver me from my enemies, O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me. Deliver me from evildoers and save me from those who are after my blood. See how they lie in wait for me! Fierce men conspire against me for no offense or sin of mine, Lord . I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me. Arise to help me; look on my plight!
Psalm 59:1-4 NIV
Phil got down off his bunk, looked at the guards. They were busy talking to each other. They seemed unaware that things were brewing this morning. He had hoped they’d see the men putting shoes on and congregating in the back part of the dorm. This behavior was unusual before 1st meal, if any gathering took place it would be just outside the doors leading to where they entered to eat. ‘Come on guys he thought. ‘ Roy beckoned again, “COME on now Phil, get yo’ SHOES ON!” “I don’t have shoes with laces yet.” It was not an excuse, all he had was the general issue slides. He gathered a few things as if trying to show him. Again Roy said, “We need you in this mix, teach these boys if they gonna bring somethin’ fine but it always enough to go around.” Another inmate shouted at Roy, “Your boy’s should’ve had enough to share with everyone!” Phil wished he would have shouted louder, maybe that would cause the guards to look up. Roy shouted back, “It ain’t always ’nuff, they got it in they enjoy it!” It still wasn’t loud enough. Phil stalled the best he could. Roy continued, “You want some you hep’ get it in!” The inmate raised his voice, “oh, you gonna pay and make sure we ‘cluded in next time. Ya’ll could’ve shared you selfish bitches!” Roy hauled into the name caller and all hell broke loose. Arms were flailing, shirts that were still on were being pulled over heads. Shouts got louder. Phil kept looking back at the guards. He heard the volume raise fast and sudden as one inmate strained his vocal cords, “I’LL BEAT THE BRAKES OFF YOU MOTHERS!” Phil let out the loudest call possible in hopes to blend in with the mayhem, “HEY! Come on now, ALRIGHT NOW! It finally alerted the guards. One picked up a phone the other was grabbing the pepper ball riffle but waiting for back up. Two men near Phil quickly stripped down to just their shorts and ran into the mix. Phil saw four guys on one ten feet from him. He knew if he didn’t fight Roy would most likely see it as disrespectful and he’d make life in the block even harder on him but Roy’s hands were full as six men jumped on him. A few men ran around the outside of the main riot and would run in with a kick to whoever was already being beat or to some how contribute to the side they choose. The guards were completely roused now and Phil wondered how long it was going to take for them to come in and get order. Phil stood his ground, stayed on the floor near his bunk, which he was glad was not in the rear of the dorm area. Phil dove into prayer with his eyes wide open. Then Phil found himself praying out loud, “LORD JESUS CHANGE THIS ENVIRONMENT. CALM THESE MEN. YOUR WILL BE DONE LORD.” Phil watched as some of the men retreated and went back to their bunks. The men who had bunks near the corner window where the problem causing controband first entered the room were having their heads driven into the metal frames of their own beds, the floor and other men’s fists, knees and elbows. Phil shouted with authority, “HEAVENLY FATHER, IN JESUS NAME CALM THESE MEN, BRING YOUR PEACE LORD! JESUS, JESUS, JESUS, SEND YOUR HOLY SPIRIT! !!” The he looked at the men who didn’t join in or had just stopped. He then spoke to them, “This ain’t the answer, whatever the issue is, this ain’t gonna solve anything. ” Then he prayed silently, ‘Lord I trust you, keep us out of this. Please calm the men in the midst of this brawl. Bring them to their right rationale minds.’ Phil found himself moving toward the riot. He reached the middle of it and said, “In Jesus name, stop men, stop, this solves nothing.” He realized there was no way to truly convince them but felt led to try. Bodies bumped and were shoved up against him. Phil went to his knees and made his body into a ball as he called out, “LORD HEAR MY PRAYER. STOP THIS STORM IN JESUS NAME AND FOR THE SAKE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. HOLY SPIRIT CHANGE THESE MEN!!! OPEN THEIR HEARTS AND MINDS, JEEEEESSSSSUUUUUS!!!” Phil felt blood hitting his skin. A few men fell over his body. Then he felt the weight of bodies being heaped onto him. It was a dog pile and within a few seconds he was under eight men. He felt the warm blood now pouring over him, no longer splatters, more like a bath. He remained balled up and prayed diligently. Then finally shouts from guards and a few, “FOOOP, PAT, FOOOOPFOOOOP, PATPAT!!!!”, sounds of pepper balls being fired and making contact with some of the men, immediately followed by YELPS, from those on the receiving end. He could see nothing. Even the sunlight from the windows was snuffed out by the heap of bodies covering him. Then things were suddenly extremely quiet. There were moans and a few barks from the correctional officers but it sounded like the calm after a storm. Phil remained still, his body crushed beneath the weight of the men piled on top of him. Slowly the guards pulled them off. Some of them completely limp. They were flopped to the side. Phil heard the call, “We need medical for sure!” As the bodies were removed Phil straighten out into a prone possession just before he felt a knee lodged into his back. He was no threat but he knew whoever this was didn’t know that and their natural high was in taking order just as some of the inmates high was from destroying it. Phil spoke to himself, ‘they will review the tapes, they will see I was trying to break it up.’ The officer in charge then shouted, “okay, funs over boys! We will view what the cameras recorded and WE WILL be dealing with those involved. For now everyone go to YOUR bunk and you are ALL on dorm lock down until further notice!” Phil got up to go to his bed and noticed some of the men were not moving. Six guards were waving their pepper guns around and seemed to be ready, almost eager, to fire off some more rounds.He noticed more blood than he expected. Some was from small skin breaks the pepper balls made, other pools were formed from gashes from inmates heads and noses. His biggest concern was those men that were not moving. The chemical smell burned everyone’s eyes and nose. There was no escape. Men began to cover their face with shirts trying to breath. Phil stuggled through the burn to scanned the room for Roy. He layed in a back corner surrounded now with nothing but enough blood to fill a kiddie pool. The medics entered and immediately called for more supplies and stretchers. “FULL CODE, CRASH CART TOO!”, One called over his walkie. The men sat back on their designated beds now and watched the gruesome ending to what later would be labeled as the worse fight of all time in block D history. Others blocks still had it beat and other prisons had seen full blown riots where there wasn’t a room untouched with either bloodshed, paralysis or even some beheadings. Block D was categorized as holding inmates that were the least threat and the staff didn’t take some of the same precautions but now they wished they would have had some in place for just this sort of unpredictable behavior. The breakfast treys showed up and the state law required the inmates be fed what was on the menu for that day but there were too many medical emergencies going on at this time to organize the feeded. The Warden entered the block with the dietary staff and explained how this was going to work, “We’ll be serving food in shifts. NO BODY MOVE, until you are told. STAY ON YOUR RACK until you are told otherwise. ” He moved around the dorm room making an assessment for himself. He then instructed the food staff to bring they treys to the men while they remained in their beds. The inmate on the top bunk directly next to Phil said, “mmmm, breakfast in bed.” He didn’t say it very loud but one of the guards addressed him, “SHUT UP!” The guard made eye contact with Phil. ‘Hope he didn’t think that was me, he thought that was ME! Oh Lord, help these men.’ Was all Phil could process. The smell of Breakfast was mixed with human body odor, fermones, the sent of blood and chemicals. As medics took some bodies out that were completely unfunctioning a clean up crew came in with mops and sanitary supplies, industrial strength. Those finishing breakfast were now fighting the toxic fumes. The clean up team had to use squeegees and then mops to try and removed the excessive amount of body fluids. Some of the mattresses were completely removed, leaving a trail as they were taken out. Phil hung his head low only to look up and observe several other men shaking their heads as if trying to get the images out as well. Phil thought how many of the men felt that the staff was their enemy and yet this riot just showed them fellow inmates could be just as deadly if not more of a threat to life than the institution with its over zealous guards trying to prove a point. The whole judicial system seemed unfair and full of flaws but what had just happened taught them, no one is safe from anyone. Phil thought of the expression, ‘This whole world is going to Hell in a hand basket… all the more reason to not be part of this old world’s plan.’ He prayed, ‘again Lord, I know I have no choice to be in here or not. For whatever reason you have, it is your will I accept. So, although I am in here help me not to become part of this world. Keep transforming me, renewing me, in Jesus name, amen.’ Phil was thankful he didn’t spend much time worrying over how Roy may react to him not joining the fight. Roy was now dead, probably already in a thick rubber body bag and slid into a cooler. News came back that three men died in that civil war. Sixteen injured. No one got official word until that evening.
The next morning there was a silence over the whole block. The guards were more observant than normal and the showers and toilets were off limits. ‘If only the guards were this alert yesterday…’ , thought Phil. Rather than come in the dorm the older guard barked commands over a speaker. Phil watched him through the glass as he gave the wake up call, “Attention, inmates…” ‘Who else would hear this other than inmates.’ Phil thought, ‘is that to remind us who we are, what we are?’ The voice continued, “It is Nooooow time to wake up!” Phil looked around. Most men had already been up over an hour ago. The speaker buzzed as the voice came through mechanically, “You have one hour until breakfast. No showers and no use of the bathroom.” Phil wondered how many other men, like him had to pee first thing every morning and was is really necessary to make the toilets off limits? He noticed a few men using jugs to relieve themselves and doing it as secretive as possible, that too could get them in trouble. Many of them knew they were already up for evaluation because once the tapes were fully viewed they’d deny having anything to do with the fight even though they’d be caught with undeniable evidence. Phil prayed they’d see him with arms out and up praying and asking for the violence to stop. That night seven men were taken out for questioning, only three did not return. The few men Phil knew were talking about what started the whole thing, with some speculation. Apparently some of the inmates arranged to have a guard slip some smokes to them, the fake fight over the shoes was all a big diversion. “3 packs? That’d all?” , Asked one of them. The other confirmed, “3!” “No wonder they flew off the chain. Took more than 3 men to organize it and now some em’ at hospital or already in morg.” Phil kept to himself, ‘ It didn’t take much to loose your balance in here, especially if you’re not stable to begin with.’ Phil was again thankful for a good foundation and for not being punished again, even when trying to do the right thing. One thing was sure now, it was much calmer than ever before and the level of security and awareness was higher, although it was a day too late.
The block lost several men, some beyond the point of no return. It still had it’s share of trouble makers but with fewer men and with guards who had just had an experience that caused them to see how fast things could change and go bad the block was given the attention and respect due. The guards were no longer allowing the horse playing that too often led to full blown bullying. They kept their eyes peeled for all contraband. Now they were enforcing rules they use to let slide. In some ways it was so restricting but this was prison, it was supposed to be restricted. Phil noticed a few men wondering aimlessly around, troubled. He call out to one, “Hey, what’s up man? You okay?” The young man came over, “Hey…uh, I am Jacob.” “Hey Jacob. I am Phil.” Phil introduced him to the men within his own area of bunks. Jacob knew Jimmy but never spoke to Phil or the rest of them before. Phil had been here long enough now to mix and mingle and meet others. He continued to engage the new young man in conversation, “I couldn’t help but notice you seem lost.” Jacob hung his head, “yeah…since Roy gone I feel like I lost my dad again. He was like a father to me. I been through a lot, just like I’m sure you guys have but…man this really hard. I lose everything thing that seems to help me. It’s all been taken, sometimes cause I throw it away or cause…ummm, I don’t know it’s like God just don’t want me ta’have good things and he makes sure I lose it.” Phil opened up, “Ya know Jacob, When I felt that I had no other choice than to divorced myself from my children’s mom I recall crying out to God, thinking He couldn’t understand…I heard him whisper to my soul. He said, ‘My child, I was Physically there on earth but I also separated myself from mother earth. I still keep in contact with all my children, you’ve got letters to read (Phil held up his Bible) and I call to your heart directly (Phil held his hands like he was in prayer). Listen. Someday we will be reunited.’ I could hear him saying that to me. Ya know Jacob, There is no doubt this world sucks. Everything we see is going to died, pass away, but God has more than all this planned for us man.” Jacob looked up at Phil, “You some type a preacher man or something? ” Phil smiled, “Just another child. You let God be your Father and I can garuntee you won’t be lost regardless of what you lose. We’ve all lost our freedom and loved ones but we still have a soul that no one else can touch.” Jacob wasn’t convinced, “I don’t know, I’ve seen some seriously corrupt men of God and I ain’t about to be like them.” “Me either, I stopped letting people tell me what God is like and began to find out for myself. ” Jacob nodded, “It’s as if some feel like it’s their mission to save us from ourselves. I’ve had some guys tell me my belief wasn’t enough. I had to attend their meetings and become part of their church to get to heaven. ” “And you believed them?”, Phil asked. “Well, no. I just stopped even looking for God cause seems like only place I’d heard about him was from these type people. ” Phil nodded, “You know what John 3:16 says?” Jacob said it from memory, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that who ever believes in him won’t perish but have everlasting life.” “Yep, you memorized it, now internalize it. Just believe it.” Jacob straighten up his body, “yeah I have, I do but then these people I been around start saying I gotta do this and that and be around them and be like them.” Phil said, “you wanna please them or God?” Jacob’s brow wrinkled, “huh? What you mean?” “Seek what is really pleasing to God, according to His Word. Don’t just go on man made religion. Sounds like you got the belief in Him, now it’s a matter of getting into Him and Him into you a lil’ deeper, more mature. ” “Yeah, I guess you right. What your name again?” “Phil.” “Okay Phil, good talk. You gotta tell me more on how and stuff cause I really feel lost dude.” Phil encouraged him, “Read the book of John, it was written so that you would come to know and believe. The only difference, it sounds like, you’ve seen people who believe of God’s son rather than in him. When we are in Him and He is in us the changes to please God begin to come naturally because He changes our nature, He doesn’t force us and give us ultimatums. We find salvation through all He did, not through what we can do.” “Makes sense .” Jacob confirmed. Phil had no intention of becoming the next pod boss. He had no hidden adgenda to convert this whole pod to Christianity. He just simply loved Christ and found a great personal foundation for life in Christ and longed to share it with others so they would enjoy this same love, peace, Grace and blessings. Jacob went to walk away. Phil wanted to add one more thing, “I’m sorry for your loss, Roy was a good man in many ways.” Jacob turned back and couldn’t hide his tears. Phil offered, “Jacob, we will never find a perfect human being and we will never be all that others want us to be but God is, can and will always be all you need.” Jacob looked around, used his shirt to dry his eyes, “Roy was like a father to me.” Phil let there be some silence between them then said, “I don’t know what it is like for a dad to die but I am a dad and I know what it is like for a son to die.” Jacob made eye contact, “Your son died?” “Yes and I can tell you, it hurts but it causes me to seek out more in life. My own son reminded me we all die, it is what we do while we are alive that gives us meaning in this life. I don’t believe what we do will be a determination on if we go to heaven or hell I believe that all depends on us accepting what Christ did for us. Once you accept that and believe in him then you will still mourn the loss of others but you know, the present and the future have meaning.” Jimmy, Walter, Nick, even Ahmed and Lil’John were now gathered around but it was as if there were just three people in this conversation, Phil, Jacob and The Holy Spirit. The main speaking was from The Only Holy One.
Since the slaughter and death of some men things couldn’t avoid change in Block D. The men even began to joke with each other but in healthy ways. Ahmed even tried a dried up joke you’d usually hear a dad try on his kids, “What do you call an arrogant inmate going down some stairs? A condescending con, depending.”
Yes, just as you can change a combination of numbers to open a safe, so also was the dynamics and ethics of block D changed. The mini riot in that block alone was one of the worse the prison had seen in a long time but because of it some much needed changes took place. The video review showed the leak of contraband, the three inmates didn’t need to snitch, the warden found out the only guard able to get it in through the the window was Ron Mason, the one doing morning out door patrol. While inspecting the windows that lead from each block to outside he used his time to pass through the contraband. They never found out what or how he got paid but found out it was from sources the inmates had outside the system. Mason would soon be an inmate, after a full investigation. Little did they know getting rid of him would solve several other problems. When questioned he simply said, “It is just cigarettes, not drugs. Those men have ties to the community and helping them was intern a way to help the community. I didn’t think it would cause a riot.” Regardless of his illrational reason and intentions it was wrong. Mason played favorites and to make himself look better would do favors for certain inmates while treating others with extreme harsh force. The mission of the prison was clear, however, Mason was one of those guards who did what he thought was okay, regardless of the prison’s doctrines. He was great with paperwork but not able to get along with guards and most inmates. As sad as it was to have to terminate a staff member and lose of a few inmates the prison was truly a different environment. The men in block D who stayed away from the rebellion were left behind. Those who longed for this place to be under better control and tolerable rules remained. They were the few who understood, they had to do their time and this was prison, not some country club where you look for or can earn rewards. They were there to serve that time, make the best of it and maybe even learn a few things. Although some staff treated some inmates like animals because some were very animalistic the only time Phil was going to act like an animal was when he had to defend himself. It was at those times when he moved more like a boa constrictor snake, otherwise he was as calm as a dove, bringing as much peace as possible to this harsh environment.
Tonight seemed different. Phil thought to himself, ‘What made this night different from any other night? Was it just the passing of time, another day passing? I can add another one to the count down, or am I counting up? He smiled to himself as he thought a little deeper. . .he entered into another conversation with His faceless friend, “Father, I don’t know what the future holds but I know that You hold the future. I will try to be a captain but YOU draw the chart, sailing into destiny, closer to the heart.” He continued to get into The Word of God and let Him get into Phil’s way of life in and out of every season life brought his way. The Phil prayed a Psalm, “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord , whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? Psalms 56:8-11 ESV
Phil endured jail and now he was enduring prison, what would be the next season he’d encounter and, with God’s help, also endure? Perhaps a fatal diagnosis of someone dear to him or another loss of another loved one, perhaps being hospitalized himself. He did not know but he did know that what ever season comes, God is ultimately in control.
This story or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise – without prior written permission of the publisher.
This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or businesses in practice, are purely coincidental. The views expressed here are my own, as are whatever factual errors exist in the text.
INSPIRATION for this story from:
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Bible
Chip Ingram and Living on the Edge ministry (www.LivingontheEdge.org)
GA federal penitentiary
Jails across the United States and Mexico City.
Chaplain Ken Aspund St. Augustine, Fl
Alexx Bailey (my only son) Pressing Words
A very special thanks to my wife Rhonda for her patience with me, my children:
Abbey, Madi, Olivia, Alexx, Kyri, Christopher and Carol-Ann, as well as, my whole family for all your encouragement.
For a list of other stories I wrote go to: https://tombeetlebailey.wordpress.com/stories-poems-and-art/
For another good blog check out: https://misscaffeinated.wordpress.com/author/misschristinacoffee/