A Holiday Recipe from the Big House ~ Repost from December 2010 By Tony Casson

(Note from Anthony: I don’t know what my dad does better than design recipes for good ol’ backyard cookin’. We chatted about a prison food series, and this looks like a start.)

A Holiday Recipe From The Big House To Your House

Tony’s “A Little Bit Of Fire From Inside The Wire” Special Sauce

Like the Mothers of my wonderful children – “Sweet, yet hot tempered”

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup Louisiana Hot Sauce

1/4 cup juice from jar of pickled jalapenos

1/4 cup minced pickled jalapenos

1/4 cup coarse ground red pepper (I used cayenne peppers I ‘found’ in the prison garden, dried and crumbled)

1/4 cup Lawry’s seasoned salt

1/8 cup Garlic powder

2 packets Sazon Goya Seasoning Con Azafran (1 packet = 1 tsp)

2 packets Splenda

Combine all ingredients in an empty 12 oz. jar and shake it, baby, shake it!

Best to let flavors cavort for 24 hrs before use.

Especially good mixed with prepared Ramen noodles and diced chicken!

“WHO KNEW?” by Diane Woodall

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

“When God closes one door, He opens another”

God knew!

When I was in tears because a significant part of my life as I had known it for ten years was being taken away from me I had no idea what God had in mind, but He did.

As I tried and tried to get that part of my life back with no success I felt lost and had no idea what I would do next, but God did.

Then the new journey began. A friend shared that her brother, Tony, was going to prison. I offered to send a card. A simple gesture that I figured I would do every now and then. Little did I know what God had in mind, but He did.

I received an unexpected letter back from Tony and from there began our “snail mail” relationship.

As time went on Tony and his son, Anthony, created the blog “The Oakdale Chronicles”. Eventually I started typing and posting some of Tony’s writings to the blog. I also helped with research as necessary, which became easier once Tony was able to use email.

Then came the “big project”. The Lord started using Tony to write a devotional “Today Is… A Gift From God.” Between him writing and sending me his written papers and me editing and typing them… I am happy to say “Today Is…” was published on Amazon for Kindle. Soon it should be available as a printed copy.

So that’s my journey so far with a man I have yet to meet who has become a brother in Christ as God used both of us for His Glory.

So again I ask “Who Knew?”

God knew!

Man Imprisoned, Man Freed.

We are steadily approaching what will hopefully be my dad’s release from Oakdale, and many days I consider the journey. I admit, I smile.

Many years ago there was a man who did what he could. He had a house, some work, a son and a growing relationship with a long-lost daughter. He had dreams of creating. He had many things that, when stacked against the idea of imprisonment, were considered highly favorable. But because of delusions, these conditions were contaminated.

Several years ago there was the same man. Still with a son, and a rocky but existent relationship with his daughter. He barely had a home, and he had recently lost his parents. He fixed and cleaned filthy objects and was once attacked by someone while working, but he had a job. He lived in a sunny environment, albeit amidst financial poverty. He had dreams of improvement and then of creating. And still, when stacked against the idea of longterm imprisonment, he had some favorable conditions. But because of delusions, these conditions were contaminated.

A few years ago there was the same man. But imprisoned. Cut in many ways from the world outside an institution built for punishment; a place that, when stacked against the outer world, had terrible conditions. But because of a release from delusions, these conditions were purified.

For those of you wonderful readers who have followed this story over the weeks, months, years, you see it too. For those of you new ones, you will see it soon. You will feel, “Which of the men were imprisoned, and which of the men were freed?”

When I consider my father, I am not disturbed by his situation as others may think I am — have thought I am. Ordinary appearance reveals a human being who had freedom and was then locked away; ordinary appearance reveals ugliness and sadness. And yet there is neither ugliness nor sadness.

There remains only beauty and joy and hope and inspiration. And internal freedom for a very worthy individual.

“MY SON IS MY SUN” by Tony Casson

“And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.”  Titus 2:7 NLT

“Old people like to give good advice, as solace for no longer being able to provide bad examples.”  Francois, Duc de la Rochefoucauld
“Reflections, maxim 93”

“The difference between the ALMOST right word and the RIGHT word is really a large matter – It’s the difference between the lightening bug and the lightening.”  Mark Twain “Letter To George Bainton”

Today is my Son’s birthday.

Mark Twain was right. Finding the right word – or words – IS a big deal. On my Daughter’s birthday, on July 13, I stumbled through the logjam of thoughts and emotions that clogged my mind, and my heart, and I searched for words that might help another father understand a little better exactly what is at risk when we fail to live up to the tremendous responsibility that becomes ours the first moment we hold our Daughters and gaze upon their innocence.

The responsibility of fatherhood is just as great when a Son is born, even though it is different. I have arrived at this way of looking at those responsibilities: We should, first and foremost, be fierce protectors of our children. But for a daughter, we should live as clear examples of the kind of man we would want our Daughter to marry; for a son, we should live as clear examples of the kind of man we want our Son to BE.

On the surface, this is a simple goal, but it is much more difficult to accomplish than most of us would care to admit. I have learned these last 3+ years that it is ONLY with God’s guidance that we can accomplish either objective, no matter what anyone may say to the contrary.

That is a lesson I have learned from God. And it is a lesson that I pray ALL men learn.

Lessons come hard for me, it seems. But from the pain of that thing which I allowed to keep me separate from my Daughter for so many years, I learned that holding, hugging, kissing, and saying “I love you” DAILY to a child to whom one has given life is the GREATEST responsibility of fatherhood. It is an undeniable fact that I have failed my Son in many ways, just as I have failed my daughter, but I did not fail in that. He is as precious to me today as he was that very first time I held him. So is my Daughter, but the difference is that Anthony KNOWS this in his heart.

Nonetheless, even though I failed them in many – and different – ways, I am NOT a failure. Had I died on that shower floor four years ago, I WOULD have failed. Miserably. But God intervened and now I can live the rest of my life as an example of the kind of man I should be to BOTH my children.

That said, let me point out that we can learn FROM our children as well, and I have learned from both of mine.

I would like to share with you a poem written for Anthony’s day:


My Son is my sun,
His love shines every day.
I would like to be like him
In every way.

I know what you’re thinking,
“It’s backward!” you shout;
It’s ME I should want HIM
To be all about.

But you have to know US
To know that it’s true;
Our Sons can teach fathers
A lesson or two.

And if he is teaching
A good thing to ME,
Then he’s grown into the man
That I want HIM to be.

As most of us are aware – some of us painfully so – life can offer up unpleasant moments. It is important that we not take our eyes off of God during these times of unpleasantness. As long as we are focused on Him, we needn’t worry about being anything BUT an example for our children to follow, and for them to be proud of.

May God bless you all, and Anthony, my sun – Have a Happy Birthday!

Resetting My Life Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Prison

by Steve Marshall

      First, let me stress that the title is a joke. I couldn’t resist the temptation to parody the 1964 classic film, “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” In truth, I love prison about as much as I love the bomb.

      Actually, this is about how I arrived at the unexpected realization that I accept being a prisoner and embrace the fact that I am where I need to be. This is the story of how I arrived at this surprising crossroads.

      When I was arrested on April 15, 2009, it was a sudden and immediate wake-up call; a punch in the gut that informed me that my life had gone seriously off the rails. Like many people in a similar situation, I became painfully aware ‘that I had lost sight of my moral compass ‘ and that my spiritual cup was bone dry. I tried to address the problem by joining a traditional Christian church. But with each’ passing Sunday, I realized that, for me, this was not a comfortable fit.

      You see I am, by definition, an atheist. Most Judeo-Christian theology strikes me as magical thinking. My life is informed by science, logic, provable fact and natural law. Having said that, I must add that I have the greatest respect for the beliefs of others. Whatever gets us through the circuitous maze that we call life and provides us with strength, wisdom, comfort and a sense of direction is ‘aces in my book. Let’s face it – no one has the facts. All we have is what we believe to be true. In that sense, each of us has his or her own personal truth.

      So where does an atheist go for spiritual enlightenment? In my case, the answer lay with the Unitarian-Universalist Church.  You see, the U-Us have no dogma of their own. In fact, they offer classes in the world’s religions, urging us to seek what makes sense to us. Take something from Christianity, ‘something else from Buddhism, add a pinch of Judaism or a dash of Hinduism and let simmer. It is, in effect, “Build Your Own Theology.” The principle goal and purpose of Unitarian-Universalism is to lead us in the direction of becoming better people. I knew after attending my first service that I had finally found a spiritual home.

      But when t came to be locked up in a’ remote Southern prison, I discovered that they offered no Unitarian-Universalist services. In fact, they had never heard of either faith (the Unitarians and the Universalists merged in the 1960s), even though both have existed for hundreds of years. So what was I to do? How was I to continue this spiritual journey?

      Happily, I found more than one person in my circle of remaining friends who were Unitarian-Universalists and were willing to download the sermons of U-U ministers from a number of different churches and mail them to me. I keep them in their own envelope and withdraw one each Sunday to read and digest. I have come to think of myself as “A Congregation of One.” Someone very close to me (a U-U, of course) has even started a blog with that as a title, posting excerpts from the letters that I write after reading each sermon.

      Most of the sermons provide interesting and engaging food for thought. But occasionally I’ll come upon one that is a real life changer. Such was the case on Sunday, January 12, 2013 when I read a sermon titled “Want What You Have.” My first reaction upon seeing that title was that I was probably not going to connect with this sermon’s message. After all, what I have is three and a half more years of living in a federal prison. Who could possibly want that? Well, never judge a book by its cover nor a sermon by its title.

      This particular sermon was based on the works of Rev. Forrest Church, the former minister of All Souls Unitarian-Universalist Church in New York and a religious scholar of some renown.

      As I began to read, I was informed that “Rev. Church had written an essay which bore the title “Want What You Have” when he was in the end stages of his life, suffering from terminal cancer. I was taken aback with this news as I stopped reading to consider how anyone could advance such an idea – want what you have – when what he had was a virulent disease that was killing him. I read on and soon realized that I was myopic in my grasp of Rev. Church’s message. His thesis challenged me to look at the bigger picture and see that what I had was more than just a life in prison. What I had, in fact, was an unparallel opportunity to learn and grow.

      When my life deteriorated to the point of leading me to become a convicted felon for the first and only time at the advanced age of 65; the one thing that became blindingly clear was that I was in serious need of a mid-course correction. My problem was so serious that it would require much more than a simple fix. I needed to have my entire life reset.

      In order to achieve a reset, I needed to go back to square one; to lose my home, my family, all of my possessions; my freedom itself.

      I must confess to the fact that I had become a master of the dubious art of distracting myself from any meaningful contemplation that might result in my becoming a better human being. I had my giant screen television, an endless stream of movies and my beloved iPhone, which ensured that I would never again have to endure another nanosecond of boredom. I had the Internet to take me anywhere I wanted to go, including the most degrading and debasing places possible. All of these things conspired to sap away my basic humanity. And then, in the blink of an eye, it was all gone.

      The biggest loss, of course, was my marriage and the love and esteem of people who meant everything to me. Some of those relationships survived; others did not. Some of the people whom I loved to the depths of my soul are lost to me forever. But a reset can’t always be pretty. It can come with a very high price tag. It doesn’t happen in a day, a week” a month or even a year. It takes time, patience, attention and a fierce desire to be a better person than I have ever been. I finally have the time and motivation to focus laser-like on that goal. The seeds ‘for this reset were sown the moment I first stepped into the U-U church while I was still under house arrest. The work has continued at a steady pace ever since.

      I have almost reached the midpoint in the six and a half years that I must spend in federal custody. I know to a certainty that I am already a better man than I was on the morning of April 15, 2009. But I still have some distance to travel before I will be who I want to be – the man I always thought I was. That’s who I want to become.

      I am a work in progress.

      I am grateful for the time, energy and motive to become that man. That is the immutable gift that has been given to me.

      So.   Do I want what I have?


“The Faces of Felons: Two Faces of Youth”

“Has she brought up her children well?” – 1 Timothy 5b NLT

“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older, they judge them, sometimes they forgive them.”  – Oscar Wilde

I haven’t written one of these segments in a long while. Perhaps the rapidity with which the faces come in and out of focus became too much for me; it’s really impossible to say. As you will see, only one of the faces I referred to in the title is known to me and I hope it stays that way. I see too many of these youthful faces in here and it weighs heavily on my heart and mind.

Perhaps I shouldn’t care. Perhaps none of it should bother me at all. It certainly doesn’t seem to bother those who send them here. Quite possibly, by the time the stories of these two young men have been told, we will all understand why I care. And if I do my self-assigned job well, you will care too.

I will have to call the young man whom I do know by a name that I’ve invented. So let’s invent him as an Albert. Yes, that works since I don’t know an Albert. And let us just pretend that Albert comes from Utah. These are the first and only untruths that I will tell you about him.

Albert recently saw the passing of his 21st birthday. Notice I didn’t say “celebrated” because Albert doesn’t do much celebrating these days. He is a big, soft gentle person who reminds me of a giant panda. He has black hair and white, white skin. His face is marked by moderate acne, some of which would probably clear up if he spent some time in the sun. Hair sprouts from all visible parts of his body – not extremely dense, just there, everywhere his skin is exposed.

Albert is about 5’10” or 5’11” and has big bones that are covered with a thick layer of flesh that is not toned enough to be called muscle, but not exactly soft enough to be called fat. He is just big and soft and slow moving, like that giant panda I mentioned. His eyes are a pleasant light green and are clear, displaying intelligence but also betraying sadness. His voice has a slight nasal tone to it and his words are spoken with a peculiar laziness that makes it seem as if it requires an effort to speak. The sadness that is betrayed in his eyes is also evident in his speech, accompanied by an undertone of defeat. In conversations Albert always has more questions than answers, as if this is all a big puzzle to him that he is having trouble putting together.

I cannot offer a physical description of the other youthful face I am writing about since I have never laid eyes on him. I can tell you that he is 20 years old and his name is Sidney Holloway Perry of Pulaski County, Arkansas. I did not invent Sidney’s name or make up where he is from. I learned these things from the August 11, 2012 edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Neither young man had a criminal record prior to their current problems. They were both arrested for possession of child pornography at around the same age. From the moment of their arrests onward, their treatment in the judicial system was as different as night and day.

Sidney Perry of Maumelle, Arkansas was a very lucky young man. According to the newspaper article “Federal Prosecutors declined the case because of (his) age.” This left it in state court and while Sidney was apparently facing 20 years, Judge Barry Sims sentenced the young man to six months in jail, followed by five years of probation for two felony child pornography convictions. The judge sternly informed Sidney that he would go to prison for those 20 years if he repeated his behavior. Fair enough. There was not a tremendous amount of detail regarding his background or upbringing, although the judge excoriated Sidney’s mother and father and felt they were to blame for not properly supervising Sidney, who had been “diagnosed with depression” attention deficit disorder and some cognitive difficulties. He also had dropped out of school in the 9th grade. Judge Sims actually compared “their inattentiveness to abandoning a child on the street with drug dealers.”

Sidney’s mother, Julie Ann Holloway, was the director of the Arkansas State CASA Association, which serves children who are in the court system after being removed from homes because of abuse or neglect. “You are a child advocate,” the judge said, “but you haven t done anything to help him? If I were you, I would resign today. My anger is directed at you. I want to help him if I can.”

“I want to help him if I can.” Praise God and thank you, Judge Sims. If only you had been around for Albert.

Perhaps I should have pointed out earlier that Albert gave me permission to identify him and name the state he was from. Since Albert’s story involved other members of his family, it was my decision to mask his true identity.

Albert’s story actually begins with his older brother who was sexually abused by a male babysitter when he was eight. The sitter, according to Albert, “wasn’t quite right. . . there was something wrong with him mentally.” The abuse to Albert’s brother was detected not by his parents but by his aunt who “noticed something was not right.’ She fired the babysitter. Nothing else was done at the time. It was shortly after that when Albert’s brother began sexually abusing him. He was five years old. His brother was nine. The abuse continued until Albert was 14.

According to Albert, his mother knew his brother was abusing him “for years but didn’t say anything.” It wasn’t until later that the older brother received counseling, but there was none to be had for Albert “because by then we didn’t have any more money.” I didn’t dig in to how it all came to light or what prompted the counseling, but Albert did say that the abuse was mentioned in court.

The one day I really had time alone to talk with Albert, we R ran into each other in the rec yard. He joined me as I made my way around the track and the conversation just started. One of the things we discussed was whether or not his family was spiritual and Albert said, “Very.” But then he chuckled in a manner that belied more than a little cynicism as he said, “It was kind of a screwed up church we belonged to, though.” The church, he said, had been through four pastors in 10 years; two had been arrested for child molestation, one had been fired for having affairs with female members and one had been fired for sexual harassment, pressuring unwilling female members of his flock into having sex with him. “Kind of screwed up” indeed.

As we continued our walk, I asked if he minded telling me how a 13 year old boy becomes addicted to pornography – and child pornography at that. I had known from an earlier conversation that this was the age at which all of this had begun but we hadn’t had the chance to go into further detail. He said he didn’t mind talking about it and told me how adept he was at using a computer, as many young people are today. This was around the period at which the sexual abuse by his brother was coming to an end and perhaps this was serving as some sort of substitute. His computer was located in the privacy of his bedroom and he began, quite simply, with Google and progressed to following links to various sites where files were shared.

I inquired about parental involvement and monitoring and he replied that they tried but he was better at hiding his tracks than they were at following them. He also told me that his mother caught him one time and moved his computer into the dining room where his activities could be monitored. He said he “made too much noise and it was too inconvenient for everyone” so the computer was returned to the privacy of his room.

It is becoming apparent that the ISPs, and therefore the authorities, are aware of who is doing what where child pornography is concerned, so it is just a question of who gets the most attention and I guess Albert was the lucky one. Well . . . not as lucky as Sidney. The federal government did not decline prosecution due to Albert’s age and lack of criminal record. Nor was any consideration given to the abuse he had experienced or any reports from court appointed psychologists that suggested Albert was not a pedophile, not a risk to children and at low risk of repeating his offense. Albert obviously needed help. He needed someone to help him get his thought processes back on track.

What Albert did get was nine years in prison and ten years of supervised release. By the time he is released, he will have spent almost a third of his life behind bars. The insanity of all of this is mind-numbing. The irresponsible manner in which the government of this country is treating this issue is so pathetically ineffective and destructive as to be beyond comprehension.

I cannot do this young man’s story justice. I am not that good, nor do I have enough space. I can only cry out in his behalf and try to make people aware that there are many confused, yet harmless young men like Albert who need help, not prison time.

There are enough experts in all of the different fields related to the topic of child pornography who consistently say that there simply is no rhyme or reason for the sentences and abusive treatment and restrictions of registry that are destroying a good portion of this country’s future.

Albert needed a Judge Sims, but there was none to be found when his turn before the bench came. I am sorry, Albert, if I have failed you as so many others in your life have. But I think I can answer that question now as to why I should care: I should care because Albert is a child of God and this is what God would expect of me. I should care because I am sorry for the poor judgment and lack of moral character I displayed and I know so many others are as well.

And I care because my ongoing hope in that caring will cause me to find the right words and somewhere, somehow, someone’s life will change for the better.

God bless you all.

Battle Lines – A Song


When I walked  out the door, The Devil was standing there waiting;

With his dead, icy eyes He stared at me, anticipating.

I returned his cold stare  And I asked what he wanted to do;

He said I think you know  I have come all this way just for you.

I looked straight at him And I said I must ask you to leave;

You are powerless here  For it’s in Jesus Christ I believe.

He just threw back his head And he laughed then he looked back at me;

When I’m finished with you Your faith will be gone you will see.


The lines have been drawn

 It’s to Jesus I’m sworn

To the Lord I’ll forever be true.

I will fight to the death

To my very last breath

I will never surrender to you.

With the battle lines drawn I’ve taken my stance, I’ll not waver;

With the armor of God The odds are all stacked in my favor.

The ice in his eyes Was replaced with the fires of hell;

I have been there before I remember the pain very well.

We draw back our swords And we circle to start our slow dance;

My faith is so strong That the evil one hasn’t a chance.

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“Decisions, Decisions, Decisions: A Nap, A Party, and A Birthday Gift”

 “We make decisions, and then our decisions make us.”      R. W.Boreham

“Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray.”     James 5:13a NLT

            Each one of us makes decisions many times every single day. Most of the decisions we make are very minor, inconsequential ones that have little, or no, real impact on our day-to-day existence. Still others have a slightly greater effect on the course we are on and then, at a few points in our lives, major decisions are made with prior, full knowledge of the life-altering potential of those decisions: decisions on which college to attend – or whether to go at all; to get married; to get divorced; to change jobs; start a business or even to start a family.

            And then there are those decisions that are born in the first category that – for some seemingly unfathomable reason – grow up having a totally unexpected, unplanned, and profound effect on the person making the decision and – usually – many others around that person.

            Most of the decisions that wind up in this category have tragic consequences. Some have criminal consequences. Still others have both.

            I am going to “introduce” you to several people that I don’t actually know. In one case, I don’t even know the individual’s name, but as the circumstances surrounding their decisions unfold, hopefully we will all realize that we do, in fact, know them (or someone just like them), and the names are not important, just as where they live is neither relevant or significant.

            What will be important is what each of us discovers about ourselves as we consider the circumstances of these people and the effects of the decisions that they made – on themselves and those around them.

            Teresa Chapin, 37, of Council Bluffs, Iowa made a decision to put a 5 month old child down for a nap at a daycare she owned.

            In Des Moines, Iowa, 17 year old KeeVon Bernstine, a prominent member of the Lincoln High School football team, made a decision to go to a party.

            And way over is Las Vegas, Nevada, the granddaughter of Claudette Porter, 75, made a decision to give a very special birthday gift to her grandmother.

            As a result of these three seemingly innocuous decisions, there were 3 deaths, 1 person was hospitalized, 2 people were jailed, and many lives were affected, several in ways that can never be adequately described through the black-on-white words of a man sitting in prison for decisions he made.

            Here, then, are the stories of a nap, a party, and a birthday gift:

            On August 17, 2011, Teresa Chapin put 5 month old Lane Thomas down for a nap. It was about 2:30 pm. When Ms. Chapin’s young daughter went to get him at 4 pm she “found his cold, unresponsive body lying face down.” Ms. Chapin performed CPR. Someone called 911.

            Lane had been placed on an adult bed for his nap. After an autopsy, the infant’s death was attributed to “sudden unexplained infant death.”

            Ms. Chapin voluntarily surrendered her license to operate her daycare on August 25. She was arrested early in October and charged with “neglect of a dependent person”, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and “child endangerment”, which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

            According to the story in “The Des Moines Register”, Sheriff Jeff Danker said, “Teresa is a licensed day care provider in the state of Iowa and has experience and education about child development needs. A provider should have been aware of the hazards of excessive bedding for an infant the age of Lane Thomas.”

            Teresa Chapin made a decision to place 5 month old Lane Thomas on an adult bed for a nap and, tragically, he died, and she now faces up to 15 years in prison.

            We will discuss this tragedy further, but right now, let’s tell the story of KeeVon Bernstine’s decision to go to a party.

            According to police, Bernstine had been at a party on July 17, 2010 when a 20 year old “female acquaintance” informed him that she no longer wanted to speak to him.

            In an article in the “Des Moines Register”, Bernstine “reportedly became upset and started yelling at her. When she yelled back, Bernstine allegedly slammed her against a car and punched her in the face knocking her out.”

            Witnesses reportedly saw the assault and took the woman to the hospital, but not before Bernstine had “kicked the alleged victim in the head twice while she was unconscious, authorities said, which caused swelling, bleeding, and numbness to the left side of her face.”

            He was not charged in this incident until early October, for some reason. Bernstine is facing 5 years in prison for “willful injury causing bodily injury”, a Class ‘D’ felony, as well as 1 year in prison or an $1875.00 fine for “assault causing bodily injury” which is a “serious misdemeanor”.

            KeeVon Bernstine made a decision to go to a party where he made another decision. He decided – “allegedly” – to react so violently to rejection by a “female acquaintance” that he punched her in the face, knocking her out. Then kicked her in the head twice as she lay there unconscious – absolutely, totally, completely defenseless.

            For these brutally violent actions Bernstine faces – if convicted – a maximum of 6 years in prison.

            It must be stressed, of course, that both parties are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Again, we will come back to Mr. Bernstine in a moment, but first, our third – and final story. The story of the very special birthday gift.

            According to Jim Porter, his wife Claudette, 75, had talked about going skydiving for 20 years. A granddaughter – for whom no name was given in the brief “USA Today” article I read – went to veteran instructor James Fonnesbeck to purchase a special birthday gift for her grandmother: A “Skydiving Adventure”.

            During the tandem jump – where the instructor and “student” are harnessed together, the primary parachute failed to deploy fully. The instructor pulled the cord to release the backup parachute, but it got tangled up and failed to open as well.

            Claudette Porter and Mr. Fonnesbeck plunged to their deaths.

            Fortunately, Claudette Porter’s granddaughter was not arrested. This fact is probably the only bright spot to be found in any of these stories.

            The article did not state who was present, but I imagine that, at the very least, Jim Porter and the granddaughter were there, sharing this special occasion with Mrs. Porter. What I cannot imagine is their shock and utter horror as the realization hit them that something had gone terribly, terribly wrong.

            I ask all of you to turn to the Lord with me and pray for the man who watched his wife, as well as another human being, fall to their deaths as a longtime dream come true turned into a nightmare of horror and a lifetime of loss. I ask all of you to join me in prayer for the granddaughter as well. She is undoubtedly devastated that her well-intentioned gift of love turned into a tragedy of death and she will probably claim responsibility for it, and suffer through it, for a long time to come.

            Obviously, this innocent decision to give a special birthday gift to someone she loved has altered the course of her life. It has altered the course of Jim Porter’s life as well as the lives of all the rest of Claudette Porter’s friends and family. Finally, it has altered the lives of the family and friends of the instructor, James Fonnesbeck, and we must also pray for them as well.

            In the case of Teresa Chapin, she made a decision that parents, grandparents, and babysitters have made for probably as long as there have been beds. I am guilty of doing the same thing with both my daughter and my son. Fortunately, the dozens of times I made that same decision did not result in the same tragic ending as Ms. Chapin’s did.

            A child is dead and his parents – well, suffice it to say that it is doubtful many of us can comprehend the depth of their pain. We can, however, offer prayers that God will wrap them up in His love and give them comfort in their time of sorrow.

            At the same time, we should also ask God to wrap Ms. Chapin and her daughter in that same love for this tragedy has effectively, irrevocably, altered the course of both of their lives.

            The article did not give the age of Ms. Chapin’s daughter, but given her own age of 37, most likely she is in her teens. Can any of us possibly imagine trading places with that young woman as she reaches out to wake Lane from his nap, only to feel his “cold, unresponsive body”?

            I shudder to the very core of my being as I try to envision what it must have been like as the reality of the situation began to sink in and reveal itself to her.

            I can almost hear the shocked screams of disbelief and horror as she cried out to her mother, and I can almost feel the ensuing chaos and confusion as CPR was administered and 911 was called.

            And I can almost feel their agonizing helplessness as the fact that this tiny boy was to never go home to his parents again began to penetrate and take root in their minds.

            There is no doubt that the effects of this tragedy will stay with all concerned for the rest of their lives.

            As for the decision to charge Ms. Chapin with a criminal act, I honestly cannot comprehend what possessed the local authorities to do so, but the only purpose that can possibly be served is to complete the devastation of Teresa Chapin’s life, to say nothing of her daughter’s.

            There will be no winners here, that she – her business – will be held liable for civil damages is a certainty, though obviously any settlement will fall pitifully short of replacing what was lost to Lane’s family.

            It seems sadly typical of today’s society, though, to label a tragic accident as a criminal act as if doing so can somehow help. We seem to do that more and more these days and use the law as if it were a magic salve capable of wiping away pain.

            Seriously – what victories are to be won here? What can possibly be achieved? I, for one, think the point has already been driven heartbreakingly home.

            May God bless, and help, them all. And may God also help a society that things making things worse somehow makes them better.

            Of course, now we are left with the story of KeeVon Bernstine.

            Although Lane Thomas died in August, charges were not filed against Ms. Chapin until early October. The day the story of her arrest appeared on the front page of the “Des Moines Register”, Bernstine’s story appeared on page two of the sports section under the heading “High School Football”.

            That fact told me that, perhaps this story was less about a brutal attack on an unconscious, defenseless young woman, and more about the impact of the arrest of the alleged perpetrator of that attack on high school football.

            Another testament to the misplaced priorities of this country. (Something I can certainly feel free to speak about since no one’s priorities were more misplaced than my own.)

            According to the story, Bernstine had rushed for 946 yards and 15 touchdowns in the first six games of the season. Quite impressive to say the least.

            The director of activities at Lincoln High School, Phil Chia, said that the incident was a Des Moines Public School “Code of Conduct” violation and that the punishment for a violation was suspension for a third of the schedule or, in this case, three games.

            The article went on to state that his coach was surprised with Bernstine’s arrest and that he was “disappointed” in him. “I know him real well,” the “Register” quoted Coach Tom Mihalovich as saying. “He’s got a good heart.”

            I would agree, coach. It takes an individual with a very good heart to punch a woman unconscious and then brutally kick her in the head – twice – as she lay there totally defenseless.

            I do hope, however, that his heart is now helping him to pray to God daily, thanking Him that the young woman didn’t die, asking for forgiveness, and also asking that there be no permanent physical damage to her although the fact that she will undoubtedly suffer long-term mental and emotional damage is a given. May God help her through all that she faces.

            Of course, all of this is only “alleged”.

            If true, however, Bernstine should spend a little time in prison, since prisons should exist only to house violent offenders, and if this is not a violent act, then I don’t know what is.

            I do pray that he can change, that he wants to change, and that he asks God to help him change, but it is important to note that this was not a little after-school fistfight in the parking lot that can be chalked up to “boys will be boys”. This was a wanton act of inexcusable violent behavior that could easily have ended with the young woman’s death, or permanent disability. It was an act that should require at least some length of incarceration combined with intensive anger management counseling and he should not be allowed to touch a football for any school again.

            But wait a minute! 946 yards and 15 touchdowns in 6 games? This is a young man who could go places! I mean, aside from his on-the-field performance he is already exhibiting the very unprofessional character of many of today’s professional athletes and sports figures.

            Perhaps his talent had something to do with why it took so long to arrest him in the first place.

            It must be noted that a follow-up article in the same paper (and also in the sports section) the day after the first article reported that he had been kicked off the team and not merely been suspended.

            That would be the least that the public could expect, I think, and I certainly applaud that decision, but one has to wonder if Bernstine’s obvious talent will somehow buy him greater consideration for his willful, violent criminal act, than will be given Teresa Chapin for her part in a tragic accident.

            Whatever the legal ramifications for his ‘alleged’ actions, I truly hope he fixes that which is broken within himself before it consumes him and defines his life. Hopefully he will learn that talent without character is nothing, although it sometimes seems that many in this country don’t seem to understand that.

            Quite often, in today’s society, the desire to win – at anything – trumps everything else. Athletics in particular these days appear to be less about character building than they are about winning at any, and all costs, and if we have to overlook bad – even criminal – behavior on the part of the very people our children look up to and desire to emulate, then so be it. In light of these all-too-permissive attitudes, it is more than likely that Bernstine will land on his feet and continue to play ball somewhere and, ultimately and unfortunately – if history has its way – the only lesson to be learned will be that if you have talent, anything goes.

            I pray I am wrong and I would like this prayer to be answered.

            The young man is in need of our prayers, though, regardless of the outcome of all this, as is the young woman who suffered his anger. Bernstine has a gift and when he realizes that his gift came from God, maybe he will pray, himself, for an opportunity to use it for God.

            As for the young woman, I pray that she has suffered no permanent physical damage and that any emotional damage goes away quickly. I also pray that she puts this – and Bernstine – behind her and finds a life of laughter and joy to replace the violence and pain she experienced.

            May each of us pause for a moment to pray for all of the people who have been written about here today: the three individuals who made these seemingly harmless, inconsequential decisions and the many, many more who, like the three, were changed in some way forever when those decisions grew into something very, very different from what was intended at the outset.

            May we also pause for a moment and look inwardly and consider the things that are happening around us as a result of decisions we have made. May we think carefully and ask God for His guidance in everything we do, and how we do it, for some things – once done – can never be undone.

            None of you wants to be the main character in any of the stories I have just told, and you surely don’t want to end up in a place like the ones in which these words were written as a result of a decision made.

            I thank you, as always, for putting up with me. May God Bless each one of you

Crimes and Their Punishments: 21st Century Slave Traders: “Removing the Chains of Fear”

“Not only do I pray for it on the score of human dignity, but I can clearly foresee that nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our union, by consolidating it in a common bond of principle.”      Attributed to George Washington

“O Lord, I am Your servant, yes, I am Your servant, born into Your household; You have freed me from my chains.”     Psalm 116:16 NLT

            Although George Washington may have been able to “clearly foresee” the inevitable rooting out of slavery in this nation, we all know that no steps were taken to eliminate it until almost one hundred years later.

            Even then, the first step was taken with such trepidation that it amounted to no real step at all and was, in fact, more an act of political maneuvering than an act of moral righteousness.

            Abraham Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation” which was issued on September 22, 1862 to take effect in January 1, 1863 , actually only went so far as to free those slaves who were located in states that had seceded from the union.

            In fact, in August of that year – prior to deciding to issue that proclamation – Lincoln stated his policy in regards to slavery thusly: “If I could save the union without freeing any slave, I would do it; if I could do it by freeing all of the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would do that.”

            Ultimately, with the issuance of the “Emancipation Proclamation”, it was shown that his fear of losing the goodwill of the slave owners in the border states of Maryland, Delaware, Missouri and Kentucky took precedence over securing freedom for all of those enslaved at that time.

            It wasn’t until the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and then ratified by the states that all slavery was abolished.

            Of course, climbing out of the holds of the slave ships and breaking the chains of slavery would prove to be more complicated than just passing legislation.

            The flames of hatred, prejudice, and ignorance – all fanned by the winds of fear – have kept the issue of race burning since the ratification of the 13th Amendment, through the tumultuous – and often deadly – civil rights movements of the 1960’s, all the way to this very day, proving that, while it may be possible to control some human action through legislation, it is impossible to legislate the human heart – or the human mind – and as long as the winds of fear blow in this country, there will always be hatred, prejudice, and ignorance.

            Consider an item I ran across in “USA Today” several weeks ago. It seems that so much “progress” has been made in Louisiana’s Caldwell Parish that the school districts there no longer require federal supervision. A federal judge has ruled that the schools are “officially desegregated.”

            The same court has decided, however, that a closer look is needed at Richmond Parish schools.

            And, in a case dating back to the 1960’s, and also reported in USA Today, Alabama’s Pickens County public schools and the justice department have arrived at a settlement in their desegregation case.

            The fact that the disease of segregation still infects this country is disturbing in itself. The fact that the news that it still festers is deserving of no more space in the paper than might be used to announce a garage sale, is even more so.

           Of course, desegregation is not the hot topic that it was when many people were dying and Mississippi was, in fact, burning. Those very real flames were being fanned by the winds of fear of what desegregation represented.

            Those same winds of fear often prevent the leaders of this country from doing the right thing. More importantly, when those winds are manipulated and directed towards the public, those in policy-making positions are often empowered to do the wrong thing.

            While the winds that flow out of Africa develop into hurricanes as they cross the Atlantic Ocean, the winds of fear are man-made and often driven by the forces of politics and profit rather than the forces of nature.

            In the 1950’s federal mandatory prison sentences were used to combat narcotics (much as they would be again 30 years later), but common sense prevailed and all mandatory minimums were repealed in the 1970’s. Then-Congressman George H. W. Bush, doing the right thing, voted for the bill eliminating them stating: “contrary to what one might imagine, this bill will result in better justice and more appropriate sentences. …Federal judges are almost unanimously opposed to mandatory minimums because they remove a great deal of the court’s discretion… …as a result, we will probably have more equitable action by the courts, with actually more convictions where they are called for, and fewer disproportionate sentences.”

            Eighteen years later, Bush would reverse that position while running against George Dukakis for president. Continuing a “tough-on-crime” mantra begun by Reagan (with encouragement from the American Legislative Exchange Council, which we will look at momentarily), Bush would embrace newer, longer, more wide-reaching mandatory minimums than those he voted to repeal.

            Reagan manipulated the winds that fanned the flames until they were hot enough to forge the public’s fear of crime into chains that wrapped around this country and have squeezed more and more freedom from the American people since that time while making people believe that those chains were, in fact, a protective blanket.

            As those chains of fear have squeezed more freedom from the American people, they also have squeezed out profits for companies and individuals who have formed an unholy alliance that has grown in its size, scope, and power since its inception in the early 1970’s.

            That unholy alliance is, of course, the “American Legislative Exchange Council” – ‘ALEC’ – and the influence and power it wields today is enormous and the profits reaped by the incestuous relationships that abound within – and around – it are staggering.

            The ‘ blacksmiths’ who forged those chains of fear that are strangling this country first opened shop almost 40 years ago at a small meeting in Chicago in September of 1973. Those “blacksmiths” included then Illinois State Representative Harry Hyde, conservative activist Paul Weyrich, and Lou Barnett a veteran of Ronald Reagan’s 1968 presidential campaign.

            The American Legislative Exchange Council was born and – waving a banner for “limited government, free markets, and individual liberty” – has grown to include some 2,000 legislative members representing all 50 states. (I’m sorry, isn’t that what the United States Congress is for?).  Each individual member pays an annual membership fee of $50.00 and gets to meet with other members at 3 conferences per year held at various locations throughout the country. (Who wants to bet that it is expensed as ‘state business’?)

            In addition to meeting with other legislators, some 300 corporate foundations and private sector members pay from $3,000 to $10,000 each to attend – and participate in – these conferences and, as members, assist in the primary function of ALEC which is to write model legislation to be brought back to each of the 50 states.

            ‘ALEC’ has escaped public scrutiny, for some reason, for all of these years until recently. Lately, its practices – and, in some cases, its legitimate need to exist at all – have come into question.  Some of the more recent questions and public criticisms have come from sources such as National Public Radio, Bloomberg News, John Nichols of “The Nation”, William Cronon from the University of Wisconsin, and the Center for Media and Democracy.

            Examples of these concerns and criticisms include: the danger of using ‘ALEC’ to avoid state laws to disclose meetings with, and gifts from, public and private corporations; neither the model legislation that ‘ALEC’ pushes nor the list of elected officials who are members is made publicly available; their nonprofit status has been challenged on the grounds that ‘ALEC’ spends most of its resources lobbying, in violation of the rules governing nonprofit organizations; and the whole organization seems to strive towards a goal that is the advancement of an agenda that seems to be dictated at almost every turn by multi-national corporations.

            These are just some of the ever increasing criticisms and concerns that are coming to the fore, and – quite frankly – I am surprised that a group which is violating at least the spirit of some laws – if not the letter – has operated so openly, for so long, and grown so large and powerful without these – and other – concerns being raised long ago.

            As I showed earlier, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) was formed in 1983 and quickly became an active participant in ALEC’s policy making and legislation modeling. CCA has grown – and profited hugely – as a direct result of legislation passed that was drawn up initially behind ALEC’s closed doors before being introduced – and in many cases passed – in the individual members’ states.

            Thanks to The Center for Media and Democracy, there is a website you should all visit to truly appreciate the scope of ALEC’s intrusion into public affairs that have been conducted in private, with no public oversight, and no public participation, and no public notification.

            The site is www.alecexposed.org – from that website, one member of my massive research staff – God Bless You, Diane – obtained and forwarded to me examples of the ‘model legislation’ ALEC’s ‘ task forces’ and members drew up to be brought back and introduced in each of the 50 states.

            Of the more than 2 dozen examples that I requested (out of the more than 800 listed), many of them directly benefit private companies such as CCA and GEO (which claims to be no longer connected to ALEC).  Both companies were avid participants when much of the legislation that directly benefits them was written, and CCA still is a major participant and financial contributor. CCA also, at one point co-chaired the Criminal Justice Task Force which created the pieces of legislation I am going to discuss.

            Among the examples of legislation I requested for review are the following, with a brief description of how CCA, GEO, and similar Slave Traders of the 21st Century profit from that legislation:

  • GPS TRACKING OF OFFENDERS ACT – This Act enables state and local authorities to utilize GPS electronic monitoring as a means of tracking offenders and pre-trial defendants within a community. Adopted by the Criminal Justice Task Force at the annual meeting, August 2007 and approved by ALEC Board of Directors, September 2007.  Remember GEO’s purchase of Behavioral Interventions, Inc.? That purchase was $415 million dollars, so this is big business, and monitoring is what they do.
  • MINIMUM MANDATORY SENTENCING ACT – This Act establishes mandatory sentencing for drug offenses on the state level (many of which are being repealed, have been recently repealed, or are under consideration for being repealed).
    Private prison companies have benefited by creating massive overcrowding in the nation’s prison system, whereupon the private prison industry has stepped in to offer “solutions”, resulting in major increases in revenue and profits to CCA, GEO, and similar companies.
  • HOUSING OUT-OF-STATE PRISONERS IN A PRIVATE PRISON ACT – This Act would enable a private prison contractor to provide housing, care, and control of inmates of any state.  Obviously, this law would benefit the operators of private prisons such as CCA and GEO.

Other pieces of “model” legislation written by ALEC’s “task force” of legislators and the very private prison companies that they will financially benefit are:

  • Temporary Juvenile Detention Act
  • Private Correctional Facilities Act
  • Prison Industries Act
  • Electronic Home Detention Act
  • Resolution to enforce our immigration laws (which spawned the model legislation that has passed in Arizona, Utah, Alabama and Georgia).

All of these, and thousands of additional pieces of legislation were written by the very people whose pockets will be lined by their enactment. From ALEC’s website is the following statement: “Each year, close to 1,000 bills based at least in part on ALEC Model Legislation, are introduced in the states. Of these, an average of 20 percent become law.”

            Pardon me for my ignorance, but ALEC’s own Mission Statement calls for limited government. 1,000 pieces of legislation – 3 per day – is not limited at all, but any fisherman will tell you that the more hooks you have in the water, the better your chances of catching fish.

            It’s not just in the criminal arena that ALEC wraps its chains around this country either. There are currently eight “task forces” made up of legislators and private industry:

  • Civil Justice
  • Commerce, Insurance & Economic Development
  • Education
  • Energy, Environment and Agriculture
  • Health and Human Services
  • International Relations
  • Public Safety & Elections
  • Task & Fiscal Policy
  • Telecommunications & Information Technology.

This sounds like a list of cabinet offices in the U.S. Government, but is just a very private “back room” full of good old boys and cigar smoke – and it’s the American public’s eyes that are being blinded by the smoke.

But at least we are wrapped in our protective blanket, right?

            The simple fact is this: ALEC has flooded the states with legislation designed to benefit select businesses, or areas of business, while burdening the American people with the costs for implementation of these pieces of legislation, and it is all done in a way that is absolutely opposite of the principles on which this country was founded and the way it is supposed to function.

            The tentacles of ALEC reach far and have grown in number and strength through the years.

            Among ALEC ‘alumni’ are 14 past, or sitting, governors and 85 members of Congress. It would be a stretch of any imagination to think that these ‘graduates’ of ALEC are without connections to, or influence over, what transpires behind ALEC’s closed doors even now that they have “moved on” and are no longer official members. (Remember, this is an organization for state legislators.)

            It would be an even bigger stretch to think that the relationships those ‘alumni’ have struck with ALEC’s corporate members ended upon their “graduation”. Much of the ‘cross-pollination’ I have referred to repeatedly throughout this series can be directly traced back to relationships formed through ALEC, and I never even put a tiny scratch in the surface of the numbers of relationships that exist today.

            Bob Kasten and Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin, John Engler of Michigan, Terry Branstad of Iowa and John Kasich of Ohio were involved with ALEC during its formative years. All have “graduated” gone onto become Republican Governors or Members of Congress.

            John Kasich is now Governor of Ohio. If you recall, in my first of this series, I pointed out that he appointed Gary Mohr as the head of Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.

            To further refresh your memory, Mohr is a former Consultant and Managing Director for CCA, and you may further remember that, conversely, CCA hired Kasish’s former congressional chief of staff, Donald Thibault, as a lobbyist last January.

            To complete this little refresher course, Mohr had proposed selling 5 of Ohio’s prisons to private prison companies through a bidding process and the proposal moves forward with CCA as a participant. Mohr put out a memorandum that he would not be involved in the process. (wink, wink)

            Now for the update: The Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Northeastern Ohio has become the first state prison in the nation to be sold to a private company. Of the 5 put up for sale, only this one will be sold, according to the state. The winning bid was $72.7 million dollars which is more than the $50 million needed from privatization efforts to balance the state’s prison budget.

            CCA won the bid, but that should come as no surprise because of the relationships between Kasich, Mohr, and CCA. I’m sorry, but I don’t buy the presumption that that relationship had nothing to do with CCA being successful in its bid, nor should anyone else of reasonable intelligence. They take over December 31st pending the outcome of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the move.

            While the trading of human flesh for profit is the primary focus of this series, ALEC itself cannot be discussed properly without pointing out that other industries, businesses, and individuals use their ALEC access to develop legislation favorable to their particular field.

            I came across this excerpt from a “Bloomberg News” article reporting on ALEC:

“Koch Industries, Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corporation (XOM) are among companies that would benefit from almost identical energy legislation introduced in state capitols from Oregon to New Mexico to New Hampshire and that’s by design.

The energy companies helped write the legislation at a meeting organized by a group they finance: ‘The American Legislative Exchange Council’, a Washington-based policy institute known as ALEC.

The corporations, both ALEC members, took a seat at the legislative drafting table beside elected officials and policy analysts by paying between $3,000 and $10,000 yearly, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg News.”

            According to ALECexposed.org, in addition to CCA, GEO, KOCH Industries and Exxon Mobil, the list of past and present corporate members of ALEC includes: AT&T, Verizon, UPS, Bayer Corp., Glaxo Smith Kline, Coca Cola, Kraft Foods, Pfizer, State Farm Insurance, Wal-mart, and the American Bail Coalition.

            Comparing this list with the list of ALEC task forces, it is easy to see where each would fit – some in multiple categories – and have a vested interest in having a hand in developing legislation that would be favorable to their industry, in general, or their company, in particular.

            None of this would be possible were it not for the arrogant manner in which the American people have been manipulated and wrapped up in those chains of fear masquerading as a protective blanket.

            And nowhere is the arrogance of our elected officials and the alienation of the American people more obvious than in the action of ALEC and the comments of its current Chairman, Louisiana Representative Noble Ellington.

            In an interview with Terry Gross on a radio show produced by National Public Radio (NPR), Ellington got a little testy when Ms. Gross asked him why corporations got a seat at the table with ALEC but unions, teachers, and the general public don’t.

            His response: “I work for the taxpaying public, so don’t assume that they’re not (at the table) because they are. And we represent the public and we are the ones who decide. So the taxpaying public is there at the table because I am there.”

            The taxpaying public did not elect Mr. Ellington or any other member of any legislative body – federal or state – in this country to meet in private with multi-national corporations and draft legislation that directly benefits those same companies, their shareholders, their executives, or their friends.

            But they draft it anyway.

            The taxpaying public did not elect Mr. Ellington or any other member of any legislative body – federal or state – in this country to meet in private with those same companies and build personal relationships to further their own long-term interests and those of their close associates by ‘cross-pollinating’ and creating a revolving door through which passes the members of an exclusive club or collaborative cronies more concerned with feathering their own nests than furthering the causes of those who elected them in the first place.

            But they do it anyway.

            The taxpaying public also did not elect Mr. Ellington or any other member of any legislative body – federal or state – in this country to vote in their own self-interest in matters concerning term limits, line item vetoes, compensation packages, pensions, campaign reform, lobbying matters, ethics, super pacs, and other areas, as opposed to what is best for the taxpaying public they all took an oath to serve.

            But they vote against the best interests of the taxpaying public anyway. Over and over and over.

            “Those who do not move do not notice their chains.”

                                                Rosa Luxemburg

            The time has come for the American people to move in order that they might finally realize that their elected officials have wrapped them in chains and those chains are getting tighter and tighter, slowly squeezing the life – and the liberty – out of every American, not just those on the literal “wrong side of the fence.”

            The flames of fear used to forge those chains were fueled by individuals with a vision: a vision of America so consumed with a fear of crime – and criminals – that her citizens would be willing to pay any price to be protected.

            And the price that has been – and continues to be – paid is one of staggering proportions: The cost to the millions of members of the families of non-violent offenders incarcerated needlessly in this country; the cost to society to feed, clothe, house, and care for the world’s largest population of non-violent offenders; the cost to society when those same people are returned to society after 5, 10, 20 or more years languishing behind bars and are ostracized from the very opportunities they will require to become productive members of society; the cost to all Americans through the ever-increasing loss of personal freedoms; and – perhaps the highest cost of all – the loss of the ability of a nation of free people to have faith that the government that was established by, of, and for the people actually represents the majority’s true, best interests and not just those of the privileged groups, companies, and individuals who are rich enough, connected enough, contribute enough, or can promise a profitable enough future to those who were elected in good faith, with the hope of positive change, but are, like Eddie Murphy in the movie, “The Distinguished Gentleman”, quickly seduced by the privilege, power, prestige, and profit available to those who sell out to the highest bidder while pointing fingers, placing blame, and doing what they do because “I represent the people and I know what is best for them.”

            Are there violent people roaming the streets of our cities using guns, knives and other weapons to commit crimes?

            Is the business of illegal drugs a problem in this country?

            Is illegal immigration a problem in this country?

            Is child pornography finding its way into far too many homes in America?

            Are Ponzi schemes and other financial crimes a problem?

            Is Medicare and Medicaid fraud a problem?

            Are there individuals using computers to prey on our children?

            The answer to each and every one of these questions, of course, is an unequivocal and resounding “YES!”

            But now let me ask this: Is the passing of laws that financially benefit the very same companies, elected officials, and select individuals who participate in private meetings to craft these laws while creating the illusion that they are addressing these problems with your best interests in mind the wisest, safest, most cost effective and productive course of action with which to address these, and other, national issues?

            That answer, my friends, is an equally unequivocal and resounding “NO!”

            The selling of freedom that is crippling our criminal justice system is crippling other areas of American life as well.

            As ALEC develops legislation that affects the businesses of insurance, energy, finance, education, housing, and virtually every other facet of the taxpaying public’s daily existence, the rich and the privileged grow richer and more privileged.

            It is surely a problem of mammoth proportions, this unholy and unethical alliance of business and elected officials, but it is not a problem unique to this country.

            In Egypt, recently, a senior insider in the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak was convicted of corruption. Ahmed Ezz had apparently become a symbol of the intertwining of business and politics that many Egyptians despise as corrupt.

            If the American Legislative Exchange Council does not epitomize the intertwining of business and politics I simply cannot fathom what would.

            ALEC – and other similar, yes smaller groups (and yes, others do exist) – should not be tolerated by the taxpaying American public. ALEC, and any like it, should be illegal and any input that business wants to inject into proposed law, policies, and politics in general should be done in open hearings in state houses and congressional chambers in full view of the public and not at weekend retreats paid for by the public where the only people not in attendance are the very people whose lives will be affected by what is discussed.

            America should demand that her public servants remember that they are just that, and they should spend much more of their time meeting with, and acting on behalf of, the very people who elected them to serve in the first place.

            For starters, ALEC’s success at profiteering in the area of prison privatization needs to be reversed.

            The temptations associated with privatization are great and therefore I state again that the United States of America should follow the example of Israel and declare that private prisons are unconstitutional.

            Given the fact that the Supreme Court has given private individuals and corporations the power to openly indemnify elected officials to them, their pet projects, or core businesses by allowing them to contribute unlimited amounts to “super pacs” tells me that is not likely to happen.

            So I would propose the following: Under no circumstances should any individual who works in a prison or who writes, enforces, prosecutes, or adjudicates our nations laws profit from the incarceration of this nation’s citizens by owning all, or part of any company, or the stock belonging to any company that conducts business, for profit, with penal institution, detention center, or any other type of institution whose primary function is the housing, care, and control of any human being under the jurisdiction of any federal, state or local authority.

            Furthermore, it should be against the law for any union or any other group representing workers in those same institutions to lobby for longer sentences, mandatory minimums, or engage in any efforts to obtain job security by encouraging public officials to incarcerate more people for longer periods of time or for more reasons.

            It should also be illegal for any pension fund managed on behalf of any group that writes, enforces, prosecutes, or adjudicates this nations laws, or monitors those incarcerated to own stock in any company that profits from any part of the arrest, prosecution, and incarceration process.

            It is true that the citizens of this country should be afraid, but they should be afraid of ALEC and the arrogance and impunity with which our elected officials operate and cater to the whims of those wealthy enough to buy a few minutes of their time.

            In the case of Egypt, social media has been credited with being the impetus of change, so I suggest that Americans follow suit and use the resources at their fingertips and do the following:

            Demand from every governor, United States Congressman, state legislator, and current candidate for office a public answer to the following question:

“Are you now, have you ever been, or do you have future plans on being a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council?”

Then make sure that they know that if they answered ‘YES’, you will not vote for them.

            At the same time, Americans need to understand the unconscionable blow to the American electoral process with its finding in favor of “Super Pacs”. The taking of this incomprehensible step put the welfare of this country even more firmly in the hands of big business and the well-to-do, so while you are saying ‘no’ to ALEC, let the same people know that you will not vote for any candidate who has any relationship with a “Super Pac”, and when they say that they have no control over who spends money on their behalf, let them know with a loud “NO!” that you are not buying it anymore.

            The American people have the power. They just need to stop listening to the same rhetoric and “empty calorie” campaign speeches that influential dollars have paid someone to write and who specializes in bamboozling the American public.

            Due to the unbridled arrogance and misplaced loyalties of many of our elected officials, we are, right now, far removed from the Lord’s promise when He said:

            “You will be secure under a government that is just and fair.”

                                                                                             Isaiah 54:14 NLT

However, the Lord also stated that:

“Human pride will be brought down and human arrogance will be humbled.”

                                                                                             Isaiah 2:11a NLT

            However, before the arrogant can be humbled, and before anyone, anywhere in this country can feel secure under a government that is just and fair, we must heed the words of God when He says:

            “Remove the chains of slavery from your neck.”

                                                                                             Isaiah 52:2b NLT

            Americans must break the chains that are wrapped around their necks and have made them slaves to fear and insist on a new direction – a new way of conducting the business of the people of this, the greatest nation on earth – a new direction in dealing with the way laws are made and in dealing with those who break them.

            Those who are elected to conduct the business of the people should know that Americans are looking for individuals to serve the people and we must tell them that, in a servant we expect someone who is:






No-nonsense and


            Until next time, thank you for putting up with me, and may God bless each and every one of you.

“More, Sir . . . can I have more?”

‘Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish’


‘Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor.’

                Proverbs 22:9 NLT

      When I wrote the article titled “You don’t speak Chinese to an Irishman” back in May,  I said that if I received just one of the study Bibles requested , “I have helped to make a difference. Any more than that would be extremely appreciated.”

     Well,  thanks to family, friends, readers and a Bible study group in Virginia, I am happy to tell you that – so far – WE have made an important difference in the lives of over 30 men,  and I thank those of you who have helped me create this problem I now face – I need more!!

     I am approached several time a week by individuals who have seen this particular study Bible – most refer to it as “that big, green bible” – and the questions are always the same:  “are you getting any more?” and “ can I get on the list?”

     I was afraid to ask for the help of all who read “The Chronicles” the first time for fear that I would not get a response. I know now that I have nothing to fear, so I will ask again.  It is a gift of life, almost, to some of these men.

     When I walk through The Unit and see men carrying them, or reading them, I thank the Lord for pointing me to you – the people who can and have made a difference in the lives of many men who need to know, live and learn what is contained in the pages of this beautiful book.

     Those of us who study it are taken to a whole new level of appreciation and understanding of the Word of God and it truly does make a difference.

     When you send one of these bibles to be given to one of these men, you are helping to change a life – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot – but in any case, it is no small thing you are doing.

     I appreciate those who follow “The Chronicles” and I give thanks for the words of support I receive, and for your help in this little project of mine.

     To make things easier,  the mailing/shipping address is below. 

Anthony E Casson

91153-004    Allen-1

Federal Correctional Institution,   Box 5000

Oakdale, LA 71463


God Bless you All,  Tony