Originally Posted on April 18, 2013… “UNSPOKEN” by Tony Casson

Since I am unable to write anything new at this time I would like to share a previous post with you…

“One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, ‘Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent!’” – Acts 18:1 NLT

“Each of us bears his own hell.” – Virgil

On any given day, millions of young people in this country balance precariously on that fulcrum separating the presumed carefree innocence of their childhood from the looming responsibilities of their futures as adults.

Even though each new crop of blossoming futures denies it vehemently, many of the core challenges of growing up are the same with each new generation as they were with the previous one: first love, peer pressure, bullies, hormonal changes, parental issues. Every growing child struggles to escape the control of his or her parents and every parent struggles to retain that control out of a natural urge to protect the child. But a part of this trait lies in a subconscious resentment of their youth. After all, the passage from childhood to adulthood for those whom we bring into the world also represents an inescapable passage of the parents as well as they become painfully aware of the fact that a child becoming a man or a woman signifies that those parents are now approaching middle age.

In the very natural course of events it is a tough time all around, but our demands for more individual freedoms, our obsession with things sexual, our desensitizing of the acts of intimacy between a man and a woman and the mind-boggling advances in technology have all conspired to present new and formidable challenges to young people and parents alike; challenges that could not possibly have been imagined or properly provided for when our nation was in its infancy and our constitution was first written.

I am in my 60th year and it has taken me all of this time to learn some very important lessons about life in general and my life in particular.

It has taken tragedy, self-degradation, the embarrassment of myself and my family, loss of respect from others and from myself, a nearly successful suicide attempt, arrest and imprisonment for me to find answers for myself.

To find the answers, I needed to discover certain truths about how a life – my life – became so completely and disastrously derailed. I point the finger of blame at no one for anything I have ever done. I hold no one responsible for the multitude of bad decisions I have made in my life, nor do I hold anyone accountable for me being where I am today instead of where I could have been. No one, that is, except for myself.

But now, finally, I can see clearly some of the things that were broken early on in my life that could have been fixed and probably would have resulted in my train staying on the track. Oh, I probably would have still been rerouted a time or two, or paused in a siding temporarily, but I quite possibly could have avoided the complete derailment that caused so much damage, created so much havoc and endangered – and cost – so many lives.

It is my fervent hope that I will somehow be able to use what I have learned for the betterment of others. Perhaps this new found knowledge and clarity can be turned into something that can be useful to others.

As a convicted sex offender, my access to young people will be severely limited by the requirements of sex offender registration and the terms of my release from prison.

Be that as it may, if I could stand before a group of high school students for about thirty minutes, I would tell them a story. It is a story of pain and self-loathing left unattended and allowed to grow until it blossomed into the behavior that delivered me to the prison in which I write these words.

Would my story make a difference? Certainly not to all of those I would speak to, but I believe that it would help at least a few to avoid some of the mistakes I made when I was their age; mistakes that prevented me from growing; mistakes that I believe kept me isolated and out of touch with life and with people around me; mistakes that kept me from maturing and promoted self-destructive behavior.

This belief that I could impact a few young lives in a positive manner would help me to find the courage to stand publicly and tell the story that follows. For now, however, it is simply my hope that you will all take the time to read a “speech” written to be given to a high school-aged audience after I am released from prison. It will most likely never be given. Despite that almost certain knowledge, I would like to share with you those words that will likely go “unspoken.”

“The Words I Would Speak”

I cannot help all of you. I may not even be able to help most of you. But it is my sincerest hope that my words will reach at least some of you and that they will help you to help yourselves and, possibly, each other.

My name is Tony Casson and I am 60 years old. I have recently been released from a federal prison where I was incarcerated for a little over four years for possession of child pornography. I am a convicted felon. But worse than that, I am a convicted sex offender, which means I have to register as such, severely limiting where I may live, work or seek entertainment. As a condition of my release, I will be under the supervision of a federal probation officer for the rest of my life. Furthermore, I will not be permitted to be around anyone under the age of 18 – including my own grandchildren – unless I am supervised.

I will always be viewed with suspicion and disdain by many, outright hatred by some and I will be judged to be someone to fear and avoid by anyone who doesn’t know me, particularly those who have children.

Many people will look at me and see a monster. I will look in the mirror and see someone who is profoundly sorry for the mistakes he has made in life, but now realizes that we can never go back and undo what we have done. We can only move forward. So I stand here today, reaching out to all of you who have your lives stretched out before you. I would like to tell you all about some of the mistakes that I made, the reasons behind them and the steps I could have taken to avoid them.

I would like to help. That is all I have left.

You see a big part of growing up, for every single person who has done it, is making mistakes and learning from them. Sometimes we fail to learn these lessons and that failure hurts us later on in life. But I am here today to try to impress upon you that there are also some mistakes that you simply do not want to make at all. Sometimes that first-hand experience we all crave is not a good thing to have. In some instances, it really is best to learn from the mistakes of others… so I will offer you mine.

The road to the place I am now was not one that I consciously selected when I was your age. I certainly did not set out in life with this destination in mind. But the very first steps taken in my long journey to what became my own personal hell on earth were taken when I was not so very different from all of you.

Hard to believe, I know. But it’s true. I once had hair – a large afro, in fact. I was fifty pounds lighter and I had all my teeth.

But I had much more than that. Like all of you I, too, had my life stretching endlessly before me. I was adventurous, energetic, optimistic, invincible and I was indestructible. There was no past to be sorry for; only a vast sea of infinite possibilities to come. I had no sense of my own mortality because we simply do not consider how a life will end at a time when it is just beginning to unfold before us.

I was blessed with intelligence and was always told that I could do anything I wanted to do; that I could be anything I wanted to be. I thought I had all the time in the world to figure out what I wanted out of life and all the time I needed to get it.

Ultimately, what I discovered is that life is a whole lot shorter than we think or care to admit.

By the time it dawned on me that I was out of time; by the time I woke up to the fact that I had committed grievous errors that could not be corrected; by the time I looked in the mirror and realized that the man I had once hoped to become was nowhere to be found; by the time I admitted to myself that I had failed as a husband, a father, a friend and as a member of society, I was 55 years old and I was hovering near death, lying on a cold tile floor in the bathroom of a cheap motel in South Florida, covered in my own blood with the FBI standing outside my door waiting to arrest me for possession of child pornography.

As my blood circled the drain of that shower, so did everything I ever thought life could – or would – be when I was your age. My dreams, my hopes – all of my potential was flooding away in the torrent of pain that I had released with my own hands.

The FBI had taken my computer from me almost a year and a half prior to that day and because I knew what that computer contained, I knew that they would one day return forme. That knowledge did nothing to lessen the shock of the reality that morning in August of 2009 when I stepped out of my motel room and saw the blue nylon windbreakers with the big yellow letters on the back that sent currents of fear and panic coursing through my body. “FBI” the letters screamed at me.

They had come to that rundown motel in South Florida where I lived and worked, but they had gone to the office first, where I was supposed to be. Moments before they arrived, I had walked to my room to get something, enabling me to see them before they saw me. I turned and darted back into the “safety” of my room.

To say that I completely panicked would be a gross understatement. The journey that I had begun forty years before, when I was the same age as many of you, was about to come to an inglorious end in a lonely room in a seedy motel in South Florida.

I was so angry with myself, and so veryvery tired of the simple act of being me that I ran into the bathroom, broke apart a disposable razor and took a blade between the fingers of each hand.

I stood in front of the mirror with tears in my eyes, staring with hatred and loathing into the face of a man that I simply did not know. As my age had climbed steadily higher, my morality, my honesty, my decency and my sense of humanity had descended lower and lower.

I was tired of doing battle with myself and losing and I set out to “win” just this once. Unfortunately, the only way my frightened, battered, drug, alcohol and demon-affected mind could conceive of victory was by striking angrily and repeatedly at both sides of my neck with the razor blades until I sliced through the veins that ran down each side. I felt my blood – the essence of life itself – released with startling force from both sides at the same time.

Thinking I would find my peace and finally escape the failure I had made of myself, I stepped into the shower stall and lay down on that cool yellow tile to allow the blood to drain from my body and to welcome my peace.

I cannot describe to you how tired I was.

I cannot describe to you how alone I felt.

I can tell you that the lightning bolt of fear that jolted me when I first saw the FBI in the parking lot was gone. It was replaced by a quiet sadness and acceptance of what I believed to be the irreversible permanence of the sin I had just committed against myself and those who had always loved me more than I was capable of loving myself.

And that day, having just committed an unspeakable act of violence against my own person, I proved that I was just as capable of hating myself as I was incapable of loving myself.

As I lay there covered in my own blood, I thought about those I loved the most; those I would miss the most; those who would be the most disappointed in me; those I felt the saddest at leaving in such a horrible, sudden, unexpected and violent manner: my two children. My thoughts also turned to my mother whom I loved very much and who had passed away a couple of months after the FBI had taken my computer.

The thought crossed my mind to write “forgive me” on the wall of the shower in my blood, but I didn’t know if they would get the message. Then I wanted to cry out to them and ask for that forgiveness, but I knew that none of them could hear me and I was convinced that they would turn away from me if they could. So I turned to God, whom I had rejected and ignored for almost forty years and I asked Him to help them forgive me.

And then I asked God Himself for His forgiveness.

Very shortly after that, the FBI agents, who were now standing outside my door, decided to enter my room even though doing so went against all official FBI procedure and protocol. They found me and called for an ambulance with not a lot of time to spare.

I apologize to them now for exposing them to the bloody scene that greeted them and I am indebted to them for saving my life.

So now I stand before all of you, obviously very much alive, and while the act of standing here and speaking of these things is embarrassing and indescribably difficult, I am grateful to God that I am able to do it and I pray that I can somehow reach a place inside some of you that will help you alter the course you are on for the better.

The question looms: How did I get to that point where I deemed death by my own hand to be the only solution to the problem I had created?

In order to better understand the ending of my story, we will need to take some time and examine the beginning, for I discovered while in prison that the complexities that make up the later years of our existence begin to form during the seemingly simple act of growing up.

As small children, when we cried out in pain or in need, there was usually someone close at hand to offer us comfort. When we skinned our knees or fell off our bikes, when a sibling hit us or called us a name, no matter the insult or the injury, most of us let the world know when we hurt and where we hurt. After all, how could anyone help us if they didn’t know we needed it?

As we get older, for some reason we transition into private individuals who feel as if we need to deal with things ourselves. We still seek help with external injuries like cuts, bruises and broken bones. But many of us keep all to ourselves the pain from things that hurt inside – pain that can be much worse than that of the most severe physical injury that we can imagine.

We keep this internal pain hidden possibly because we feel that it is not “grown up” to do otherwise. Perhaps our silence grows out of embarrassment or a sense of shame. Sometimes we feel that we will be viewed as “babies” if we talk about things that hurt us inside, especially when we are male. And finally, we feel as if no adult could ever understand the pain of youth or that our friends and peers would just make fun of us or think us silly.

It never seems to occur to us that our friends may feel the same things or that our parents endured the same pain when they were young.

No matter. We do what we do because we are young and sometimes there simply is no explanation. Fortunately, most of the time the effects of keeping things inside do not have long-term or far-reaching consequences.

But some pain, left unattended, can work silently within us, destroying the framework of our development, crippling our ability to mature, to grow, to feel, to love.

Quite possibly, in your own minds, some of you are beginning to reflect on what I have said and you are already identifying pain within yourselves. Perhaps your pain has names associated with it. I know mine did. Those names are Mark, John and Tommy and I can honestly tell you that the pain from knowing each one of the boys who answered to those names was as instrumental in opening up the wounds on the sides of my neck almost forty years later as those razorblades I used to slice into my flesh.

I was twelve when I met Mark.

Hard though it may be to comprehend now, when I was in the sixth grade I was very, very cute. I had an impish smile, curly brown hair, an outgoing personality and supreme confidence. The girls loved me. Laugh if you must but it’s true. I was irresistible, in demand and in control. The top dresser drawer in my bedroom was full of notes from girls as testimony to that fact.

(In this age of texting, many of you may not know what a “note” is. It is a small piece of paper with a secret message on it which was passed when the teacher wasn’t looking. The embarrassment of having the occasional note intercepted and read out loud to the class is a pain we’ll reserve for another story.)

The truth is, I owned that sixth grade classroom as far as the opposite sex was concerned – that is, until the day in the second half of the school year when this new kid’s family moved to town and he walked through the classroom door. His name was Mark and he destroyed my life.

At least that’s the way I viewed it when I was twelve. Mark also had brown eyes but his hair was soft and wavy where mine was coarse and curly. He, too, had a cute smile and an outgoing personality. But he also was something that I was not – he was fresh meat!

Mark was brand spanking new and every girl in the class primped, preened, posed and paraded for his attention, leaving me sitting there alone, tossed in the corner like an old pair of shoes, getting my first sample of the unpleasant taste of rejection. I was spurned. I was forgotten. I was yesterday’s news.

And I was never the same again. As humorous as I may have made it all sound and as silly as it might sound to you now or actually have been at the time, I never got over it. I never addressed it, cried about it or talked about it. I felt somehow responsible and I guess my mind convinced me that it was permanent. It shook me to my core and from that point forward, I always feared rejection. I always tried to avoid placing myself in situations where I might be rejected and I dealt with it badly when it did occur.

A bit of an overreaction? Possibly. But I was twelve and that is sometimes how it works when we are twelve. I’m sure some of you know what I’m talking about.

One of the things that is critical for young people to learn is how to deal properly with rejection. Rejection will occur in every person’s life and while we must all be taught to do our best to always go for a “yes,” we must also learn that “yes” will not always be the answer. Therefore knowing how to process “no” correctly and in a healthy manner is very important to our development early on.

There is simply no way to calculate the number of dances, dates or other personal and professional opportunities that have passed me by because of the low self-esteem that grew out of that “silly” little incident. But silly or not, I would spend a lifetime convinced that “no” was more likely than “yes” to be the answer I would receive to whatever the question was that I might ask. So I simply never asked.

If Mark was the only pain I experienced that had a name, things might have turned out differently for me. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case, for in the 9th grade, along came John.

We have all heard the little rhyme that goes like this: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” I have no idea what idiot came up with that but that certainly isn’t the message anyone should want their children to receive. While working on a book of devotionals when I was in prison, I rewrote that rhyme:

Sticks and stones can hurt someone,
But words can do the same.
People hurt deep down inside,
When they are called a name.

John was a bully who specialized in taunting me with “pet” names that were embarrassing, humiliating and degrading.

After escaping from the sixth grade, I went on to junior high school and muddled through seventh and eighth grades, struggling to reinvent myself. No longer convinced that I was a “ladies” man, I ran with a rougher, meaner crowd. I took up cigarettes to help me look cooler and tougher than I really was. I played down the fact that I was smart because I didn’t want to hang out with “them” – you know, geeks, nerds, bookworms – whatever the name, I didn’t want it attached to me.

I survived that experience but actually managed to come away with lower self-esteem and less of an idea of who I was than when I had started. Upon entering ninth grade – high school, baby! The big time! – I was a skinny outcast with thick-framed glasses and coarse, wiry, very curly – kinky actually – hair. I didn’t fit in anywhere really but I tried to blend with the “cool” guys who snuck outside a back door before and between classes to smoke cigarettes.

John was out there. He was sort of the leader, I guess. The leader of the pack – the cigarette pack, you might say. John decided instantly that I was a good target and his meanness zoomed in on me and on my hair immediately. He began a mean-spirited “game” in which he would think up names for me and my hair. The game started mildly with “Brillo Pad,” which was met with resounding success, laughter all around; snickering and finger-pointing, even I joined in. He soon got bored with that and it became “Pubic Head,” which greeted me when I stepped out to light up. I must have liked it, right? After all, I kept going out there even after it got even uglier and he started calling me “Nigger Knots.” Over time, it degenerated still further and he called me names that combined the word “hair” with the vulgar terms for the male or female genitalia attached to the front of it. And I still kept going back.

I learned that the message of that nursery rhyme was wrong. I learned that names do hurt; that the pain they could cause was as real as that caused by any physical injury. I learned to believe that I was unlikeable and I learned to crawl further inside myself.

I convinced myself that I was a coward who would not stand up for himself, nor would I take my pain or my complaint to an adult. After all, what would I say? “Every time I go out back to smoke….” Well, you can see how that would have gone over.

It is important to learn when we are young that the pain other people can inflict upon us can change the very essence of who we are. The anger that we justifiably feel toward the one causing us pain somehow gets turned around. We direct it at ourselves for not doing something to stop the other person from hurting us. In other words, we wind up being angry at ourselves because we have already made ourselves easy targets by accepting abuse in silence.

The combined effects of knowing Mark and John were beginning to create serious problems that, in and of themselves, could prove to be a considerable detriment to my ability to develop and mature normally. Still, if Mark and John had been the only pain I had known with names, I could have altered the course I seemed to be on in my life and quite possibly I might have arrived at a different destination.

But that was not to be. There was still more pain out there for me and its name was Tommy. The pain of knowing Tommy would combine with the pain of knowing Mark and John. Collectively, that pain would overwhelm my ability to live happily and in anything resembling an orderly purposeful existence.

Unlike the other two, however, Tommy would grow up to be my best friend and provide me with my best chance at overcoming the pain of knowing the other two. That possibility existed until the night that I killed him.

At least, that is the belief that Tommy’s father carried to his grave, and it was a guilt that almost accompanied me to mine.

Each new generation is determined to distinguish itself from the last one and mine was no exception. However, the new one does not replace what came before; it simply adds to it. My generation added to the alcohol made popular by my parents’ generation by introducing marijuana, LSD, and an assortment of other drugs and pills designed to lift you up or knock you down. Our search for distinction included rebellion against anything and everything that was ‘establishment’. We kick-started America’s moral decline by promoting ‘free love’ and sought to establish that each person’s individual rights to self-gratification outweighed the rights of society as a whole.

I latched onto the drugs and alcohol as if they were a life-preserver thrown to me to save me from drowning in the ocean of self-pity that I had created for myself.

As a means of fortifying my damaged self-confidence and to bolster my collapsed self-esteem, when I turned 16 I sought the comfort and the courage of all that my generation had to offer. Drugs and alcohol were easy friends to make, comfortable to be with, and they didn’t call you names that hurt you terribly or dump you for the new guy.

By now, John had run out of names to call me or had simply become bored with me. Either way, he had moved on. Like the girls of 6th grade, I suppose he sought ‘fresh meat’.

As I pursued my relationship with drugs and alcohol I discovered that they could do for me what I couldn’t do for myself: They made me recklessly uninhibited, wildly entertaining, and perhaps even interesting. I still lacked true friends, and I know now that those I hung around with at that time viewed me as a source of amusement more than anything else. But I had convinced myself that the fool I made of myself when ‘under the influence’ was voluntary and I no longer looked at it as if people were laughing AT me. After all, we were all laughing together, weren’t we?

No one really did anything TO me anymore. They didn’t need to, as I did it all myself. I sacrificed my dignity for what I foolishly believed was their acceptance. All I ever really needed to do was to be myself. That’s all ANYONE really needs to do. But I was rapidly losing any sense of who I really was. In any event, it would take me decades to find out who that person was and to discover that the person I had tried to change into something decadent and demeaning was someone who IS, after all, a really decent person. I like him.

At this point, in the story however, I am still decades away from that revelation. The need for drugs and alcohol – that need to ‘fortify’ myself in order to have courage and to make myself more interesting – would stay with me, and haunt me, until the morning I wound up on the floor of that shower wanting so desperately to be dead.

I met Tommy around the time I turned 17. He was a year younger than me, came from a financially comfortable family, was a very nice person, and was well-liked by almost everyone. For whatever reason, we hit it off and rapidly became best friends. Where Tommy was popular, I was simply well-known. Where Tommy was well-liked, I was simply tolerated. No matter – our friendship grew and if Tommy was not with his girlfriend, we could be found together riding around in his green Ford Econoline Van.

By this time, because of the unaddressed pain of knowing Mark and John, I was pretty lost as a person, but I was not consciously aware of that fact. For me, life had become a party because parties were fun and my life had not been fun for a long time. I had no goals – unless one could characterize as a goal the desire to deaden the pain of feeling inferior; I had no dreams – unless you could call seeking to erase the memory of being the butt of others’ jokes a dream; I had no vision – unless trying to hide the pain of feeling that I was less than everyone else could be classified as such.

I lived up to my generation’s billing and I rebelled with the best of them. The difference was that many of the others were rebelling against social injustice and the war in Viet Nam. I was simply rebelling against my pain.

Throughout these difficult years, my father was out of town working most of the time, leaving my mother to deal with me and my 4 brothers and sisters. She worked full time as well, making life difficult for her in ways children can never appreciate or understand. Fortunately for them, my siblings created fewer problems collectively and required less attention than I did on my own.

I know that my mother saw the pain in me that I refused to acknowledge or seek help for, but I have since learned that sometimes parents simply do not know the correct steps to take to save a child who is drowning. It is almost as if they are frozen at first by what is the seeming impossibility of what they are witnessing. Sometimes they spring into action and jump right in to save the child, but as many of us know, drowning people are often their own worst enemies and they struggle violently against their would-be rescuers, putting THEM at risk as well. Sadly, at other times they remain frozen in inaction too long and by the time they snap out of their reverie, it is too late and the child has slipped irretrievably below the surface and is lost forever.

My mother tried to rescue me but I fought too hard and she was forced to stand by and watch me slip below the surface. I caused my mother an immeasurable amount of pain and that knowledge has been difficult to contend with. But I do know that she, like God, always loved me, even when I could not love myself. Perhaps ESPECIALLY when I could not love myself.

While I was still in my 17th year, Tommy and I were arrested for felony possession of marijuana, and we were both sentenced to 5 years probation. Neither set of parents was particularly pleased with us, but nothing was done to separate us. In fact, Tommy’s father bought him a Pontiac GTO. Perhaps he thought that would keep us out of trouble. It didn’t of course, but we did arrive at the trouble a little faster, with a little more noise, and a lot more style.

My father died when I was 18, and not too long after that my mother decided to buy a house that turned out to be only about a mile from where Tommy lived with his parents. My family was originally from Maine and my mother had been under pressure since my father died to move back there. She finally gave in and went there with my two sisters to look for a place to live and check out schools, work and things of that nature. My two brothers were off in the service, leaving me alone, creating the perfect party opportunity.

The city we lived in was on Lake Erie and as it was summertime, Tommy’s family spent most of the time at a lake house they owned about 10 miles outside of town. His family owned a construction company and Tommy worked for them in the summer, but we made full use of the evenings drinking, smoking pot, and consuming cough syrup that contained codeine, which was very popular at that time, and was Tommy’s personal favorite.

On about the 4th night, at around 11 PM, Tommy stood up to go home. Those of us who were still there tried to talk him into staying at my house, but he was set on going home because he had to work in the morning. We settled for extracting a promise from him that he would not attempt to drive out to the lake house, and would just drive the short distance to his home in town.

I was awakened by the ringing of the telephone at around 4 or 5 AM by another friend who worked at night and had heard on a police scanner that Tommy was dead. He had decided after all to drive out to the lake house and had fallen asleep at the wheel of his GTO and drifted across the road into the path of an oncoming semi hauling US mail.

MY decision to not take his keys, and HIS decision to drive ten miles instead of one, combined to forever change countless lives and to cost my best friend his.

The next day, it was made known to me by Tommy’s girlfriend that his father did not want me anywhere near his son’s funeral because I was “the one who killed him”. In the end, Tommy’s older brother interceded on my behalf and I was allowed to go say goodbye to my best friend. I stood with his girlfriend and cried tears that I never knew were inside of me.

Did I kill him? Of course not, but it took a very, very long time, my own brush with death at my own hand, and prison for me to finally put it all in its proper perspective. Could those of us who let him leave have done a better job of looking out for him? Sure. We definitely could have. Do we think about these things before it’s too late? Not usually, especially when we are young and indestructible.

When a tragedy such as this strikes the young, we tend to prevent people from getting close to us and helping us deal with the loss and understand the pain. In the end, we wind up adding to the burdens we sometimes already carry unless we are prepared to ask for help.

So when it was all over and everyone tried to move on with their lives, I added to my collection of pain that carried the names of boys I had known. From Tommy, I added the pain of loss. But I also added the worst pain of them all – the pain of guilt for causing his death.

I was eighteen years old and I should have been looking at a future with unlimited potential and possibilities. Instead, I was staring at rejection, humiliation, loss, and guilt.

It was like staring at the Four Horseman of my own personal apocalypse.

It would be almost 40 years before the weight of knowing those three boys would finally crush me. While in prison, I resolved to fix what was broken within me, so I turned to God and asked for His help. I examined my life and I was led to the truth that I had struggled under that weight for all those years. I discovered that I had never really allowed myself to be completely ALIVE during that time; I had merely occupied space in my body.

Because I allowed myself to carry those unnecessary burdens, I was never able to grow or mature much beyond the point I was at when I was 18. I never seemed to grasp the need to take life seriously, and I never understood the necessity of accepting responsibility for it. My problems were never addressed, and I never embraced the notion that at ANY point along the way, I could have sought the help that I was unwilling, or unable, to admit that I so desperately needed.

A leaky roof that is left unattended will slowly continue to get worse, until what might have taken a couple of hours to repair results in replacing the entire roof, as well as repairing whatever damage was caused INSIDE as a result.

Problems left unattended only get worse over time as well, but it was impossible for me to see this. As a young person, I had not learned to respect myself so I was unable to use self-respect to motivate me to seek solutions to my problems. Nor had I learned to love myself, so I could not use that either.

When self-respect and self-love are missing, so is our ability to truly respect or love others. And when these things are missing from who we are, we can never hope to fully understand, enjoy, or appreciate all that life holds out to us.

By holding on to the pain of rejection, humiliation, loss, and guilt, and by seeking comfort and escape from that pain with drugs and alcohol, I essentially sentenced myself to prison almost 40 years before the cell door actually clanged shut behind me.

Many things transpired in those decades that passed. I had the unique privilege to meet, fall in love with, and marry two lovely and intelligent women, each of whom blessed me – and the world – with a beautiful child. Unfortunately, it was impossible for me to fully engage with anyone, and I probably had no business depriving anyone of THEIR happiness just because I could not – WOULD not – allow my own happiness to exist.

But they married me anyway. In doing so, they created beautiful moments in the self-imposed ugliness of my world. Unfortunately, it is impossible to punish oneself, as I seemed to always be doing, without punishing those who love us as well. Both marriages ended in divorce and both of my children suffered as a result, for even in the best of circumstances, our children always suffer the most as the result of a divorce.

The erosion of the decency and morality of an individual – or an entire society, for that matter – takes place much like the erosion of a mountainside, a riverbank, or a shoreline. It occurs slowly, over time, and in little pieces that are barely discernible as they wash away, until one day when we look up and notice all at once that what had been familiar to us had changed in dramatic ways.

That is how it was for me and my unfortunate relationship with pornography. It crept into my life in bits and pieces, occupying an ever-growing space inside me. It’s progress was silent, but my constantly increased NEED for it added to the burdens I was already carrying. I never saw it as a burden, of course. Much the opposite, in fact. It was welcomed to fill the void within me – real OR imagined – and eventually further affected my ability to establish, and maintain, mature, loving relationships.

Pornography, like drugs and alcohol, became my friend. As I continued to pull further and further into myself, this seemed like a natural fit for me. After all, PEOPLE argue with us; PEOPLE hurt us; PEOPLE disappoint us. Pictures do not.

The individuals who allowed themselves to be photographed alone, or with others, in sexual situations and scenarios were not real to me. When the pictures became boring, they could be replaced with new ones. There was never any complaint or argument about it and no one’s feelings were ever hurt.

Real-life people were much more complicated and harbored expectations of permanence. The Four Horsemen who surrounded – and kept vigil – over me had taught me that there was no such thing. ALL relationships ended, and ended badly, and ALL relationships caused pain in one way or another.

With pornography, I could surround myself with friends and lovers who accepted me unconditionally, never disappointed me, and never caused me any pain.

Is it not easy to see that the problems of my youth that were born with such simplicity had now grown very complex?

I now had drugs, alcohol, and pornography as my most trusted friends and whenever REAL life got to be too demanding or posed too many problems, I could always surround myself with the safety, comfort, and pleasures that these friends offered.

Here I was a young man who had never learned how to live one life in a normal, healthy manner, and now I seemed to be trying to live TWO. One of those lives would remain unfulfilled through the years and would overflow with pain and sadness. The other would slowly work to destroy everything good that entered the other one and would eventually make me want to take my own life.

Even though I seemed perpetually determined to self-destruct, good people, wonderful opportunities, and good things presented themselves to me throughout the last 40 years. Unfortunately, each time I accepted something of value into my life, it seemed as if I ultimately needed to destroy it myself. You see, knowing Mark, John, and Tommy had taught me that it was better to reject someone or something rather than to BE rejected. If I could give it up first, it could never be taken from me and there could never be a sense of loss.

The next few decades became a constant cycle of happiness, disillusionment, followed by condemnation and self-destruction, then redemption. It was a cycle that was to be repeated over, and over, and over until that day in August of 2009.

When I was in my forties; when it was beyond comprehension that my life could become MORE complex or that I could find NEW and more destructive ways to live my life, along came the internet.

The day I slipped that “Try AOL Free” disc into my computer was the day I made that final wrong turn onto the road that almost delivered me to my death.

I had been divorced the second time for about a year when this new ‘phenomenon’ swept the nation and captured the attention of millions of individuals like myself. We all flocked to AOL and many of us fell in love with AOL ‘chat rooms’.

My ‘relationship’ with those chat rooms quickly became an obsession. I had gone from being a single dad who pretty much stayed at home and out of touch, to being someone who could ‘socialize’ with others from around the country, and ‘socialize’ I did.

I ‘met’ women from everywhere and fell in and out of ‘love’ with rapidly increasing frequency. I soon learned that the novelty of truthfulness wore off for many people quite quickly. Many found it much easier to be someone else rather than to simply be themselves. After all, our profiles told people who we were, and we could write anything we wanted in them. We could all become more interesting, more attractive, and much more desirable than we actually were when we turned the computer off and had to face the realities of our lives and look at ourselves in the mirror.

Those online relationships soon became complicated and were invariably disappointing, even hurtful. As disillusionment set in, I turned instead to another ‘marvelous’ feature of AOL: Internet pornography. This ‘discovery’ led me into the world which would complete the dehumanizing of myself and would ultimately lead me to the behavior which would ultimately destroy me. This behavior, of course, was my involvement with child pornography which grew out of my larger obsession with that which is termed ‘adult’ pornography. It never was about children. It was just another way to validate the negative feelings I had nurtured about myself since the days that I had known Mark, John, and Tommy.

In a strange twist of fate, that which almost killed me actually saved my life. I can very honestly say that I am pleased with the new path that God has shown me, but it does not alter the fact that I wish I had arrived here in a less painful manner – painful to myself and so many others.

Not all who travel the road I arrived here on wind up thankful for the way things turned out for THEM. I know this because I have met many individuals while in prison whose stories have saddened me and made me more determined to find a way to help SOMEONE avoid what we have gone through and what we must face in the future.

For those who think that child pornography is something that is reserved for the exclusive viewing by a bunch of dirty old men, I am witness to the fact that this is simply not true. The longer I spent in prison, the more young men – men in their early and mid-twenties – entered the compound to pay the price for THEIR indiscretion.

Not everyone chooses to speak freely about their situation, but one young man in particular told me his story and I wish to briefly share it with all of you. His name is Albert (not his real name) and he came from Florida. Albert was 20 years old when I met him and had been sentenced to 6 years for possession of child pornography.

Albert’s story really began when he was just 8 years old. At that time, Albert’s brother, who was 12, started sexually molesting him. This activity continued until Albert was 13, at which time their activities were discovered and counseling was obtained for Albert’s brother. There was no money for counseling for Albert, however. He felt abandoned by not just his parents, but also by his brother. He had his own computer and the skills to use it, as do most young people in this day and age, so he turned to internet pornography for comfort, consolation, and companionship.

He rapidly shifted his focus to child pornography, but to someone 13 years old, this was more like ‘just hanging out with people my own age’, he said. When I asked how – at 13 – he even FOUND child pornography, he just looked at me and laughed and said, “You’re kidding, right?” Of course…silly me. It is frighteningly and readily available.

By the time he was arrested he was 19. The judge who sentenced him didn’t seem to be interested in HOW he came to be doing what he was doing. He was not interested in the fact that something was broken within Albert that PRISON was never going to fix. He seemed to be sending the message that this is how we deal with this problem, and that was the end of it.

Albert is lost, this much I can tell you. Without help, he will be even more lost when he is released. His life will have been altered in ways that would be difficult for someone WITH social skills to adjust to. Albert has none at all, will certainly not develop any useful ones in there, and he will find it almost impossible to find his way when he is released. He is not unique in this and our prisons today are beginning to fill up with Alberts.

It is a fact that people like Albert go to prison every day and it has got to STOP.

Guess who has to stop it? Yes…YOU. There is no one who can prevent another Albert from happening except for each and every one of YOU.

There are some basic facts about pornography that you all need to be made aware of, or reminded of.

There is no such thing as ‘adult’ pornography. No matter what anyone tries to tell you, there is NOTHING mature or ‘adult’ about pornography. It serves no purpose beyond making money for those who do not have the intelligence, skills, or morality to make it any other way.

Pornography contributes nothing positive to humanity, and is simply an immature, insensitive, and immoral display of the depths that people will go to degrade, diminish, demoralize, and demean humanity.

In this country, pornography used to be classified as ‘obscene’ until our Supreme Court, in one of its more glaring examples of just how fallible it CAN be, declared that it was protected by our constitution as a form of ‘free speech’.

I am here to tell you all that if pornography is free speech, it is a conversation you do NOT need to be engaged in. It does NOT enhance your life at ANY age. It does NOT make you a grown up. It does NOT glorify the beauty of a relationship between two people. Instead, it demeans and degrades all involved, but women in particular, and it desensitizes us to the beauty that intimacy can hold. Looking at pornography not only does not make one more mature, it is actually a sign of IMMATURITY to engage in it at all.

Besides all of that, no amount of glorification, or claims of freedom of speech or artistic expression can negate the fact that MANY, MANY of the ‘willing’ participants in the production of pornography are drug and alcohol dependent, many of the females in pornographic pictures and films are the victims of earlier child sexual abuse, and many of them are forced into it.

And what about child pornography itself? Will everyone who indulges in internet pornography explore child pornography as well? Of course not, but do not kid yourselves. MILLIONS have, and many more millions WILL, and tens of thousands of people will spend years in prison and be required to register as sex offenders as a result. Many MORE tens of thousands of family members will be affected as someone close to them spends time behind bars for contributing to a problem that has a stranglehold on this country.

It now falls upon all of YOU to be the ones who will distinguish YOUR generation from all others by standing up and saying, “Enough is enough!”

It is now up to YOU to draw the line in the sand and refuse to cross it.

It is now up to YOU to look to people MY age and say, “You have done enough damage, and things must change!”

We have left you a legacy of incomprehensible debt and mismanagement of this nation’s finances. We have left you a government that is too large to manage effectively and too concerned with partisan squabbling to govern in a manner that is responsible. We have left you a legacy of immorality, indecency, and personal freedoms that far outstrip what our founders could have possibly envisioned when they formed this country.

And we have abandoned you to find your own way through a morass of filth and degeneracy that some idiots have claimed is free speech and artistic expression. In the process, hundreds of thousands of you are sexually, physically, and emotionally abused each and every day.

It is up to YOU all to seek help to fix things that are broken with yourselves and then seek to fix what is broken with this country.

It is up to YOU to be willing to do whatever it takes to restore some self-respect to this nation and to insist that the moral values of the majority NOT be driven by the selfish, self-indulgent desires of a few.

YOU must establish for the NEXT generation that Freedom is not about the RIGHTS we have as individuals. Rather, Freedom should be about the OBLIGATIONS that we have for each OTHER.

Something that stands out prominently from my youth is that I was always WILLING. I think being willing is one of the most important requirements in the process of growing up. Unfortunately, I was always willing to do the WRONG things, to respond in the WRONG way, and I was certainly willing to give people more power over me than they were entitled to have.

I was NOT willing to turn to friends, family, teachers, or God for help at a time in my young life when I needed it the most and when being willing to do just that could have altered the course of my future, and I hope some of the things I have spoken about will help you to avoid making the same mistake.

I will pray that you are all willing to use your energy, your intelligence, and your youth to create for yourselves better, happier lives than I created for myself and those around me.

I will pray that you are all WILLING to love and respect yourselves and others.

If you can each be WILLING, then you will be ABLE to stand up, not just for yourselves, but for each other. You will be ABLE to reach out for help to stop someone from abusing you physically, sexually, or emotionally. You have to be willing NOW to have the courage to face those who would deprive you of your youth, thereby condemning your adulthood to being something less than it can be. You have to be willing to fix little things that are broken BEFORE they grow into bigger things that steal your identity and your ability to be YOU.

You must be willing to THINK before you act, because decisions that we make can – in a fraction of a second – completely change the direction of our lives. Take a moment to think about what you are about to DO so you don’t need to spend the rest of your life trying to FORGET what it was you did.

I will pray that you will be BETTER than those who have come before you. Be willing to be better than me, and millions like me, and USE the power of the internet to develop a social conscience and then resolve to act positively upon that conscience.

Distinguish yourselves by being willing to use the internet to HELP humanity rather than hurt each other; to use it to contribute to the greatness of mankind rather than to use it to degrade, diminish, and demean it.

Make a resolution with yourselves, and with each other, to be willing to use the technology that is available today, and that which will be available tomorrow, in a mature, responsible manner that enhances your life and contributes to your growth rather than in a manner that causes you, or those you know, unnecessary pain, a broken heart, or much, much worse.

Work to replace society’s growing obsession with recording, and sharing, images of our bodies and our most intimate sexual acts with the world, with a reclaimed morality and sense of decency, distinguishing yourselves from previous generations by proving that you are BETTER, and not just different. Rediscover the words ‘integrity’, ‘decency’, and ‘honor’.

Finally, I will pray that you are all willing to do all of those things, and to protect yourselves and those around you by being responsible in the way you treat others, and that you all stand up for your right to distinguish YOUR generation as the BEST of all generations.

For MY role in the degradation of the human spirit and the corrosion of human dignity, I am profoundly sorry. For my irresponsible and thoughtless contribution to the loss of innocence of children everywhere through my inexcusable and reprehensible willingness to allow child pornography to enter my life, I will be haunted for the rest of my life.

I cannot go back and make the experience of being married to me a better one for the mother’s of my children. I cannot go back and be for my children all of the things that I should have been as a father while they were growing up. I cannot undo the pain I have caused for myself and those around me. I cannot change who I WAS.

These are things that I accept as unchangeable, and we must all accept those things we cannot change.

What I will NOT accept as unchangeable are the things that stand in the way of young people everywhere that would deprive them of the adventure, pleasure, and rite of passage that all young people have a right to expect as a part of growing up. Nor will I accept as unchangeable the things that trouble many of you today. These things can be fixed, and I will pray that those who are troubled will be willing to seek assistance now, rather than suffer the inevitable consequences of neglecting them that will definitely arise later in life.

I cannot change my past, but I can seek God’s help to use what is left of my future to put to work the lessons I have finally learned to try to help those of you who are willing to listen in order that you may avoid my mistakes.

It is important to know that it is NEVER too late to fix broken things. It is, however, much easier, and better for all concerned to attend to problems when they are small, and not give them a chance to grow into something that consumes you and makes you become a person you do not recognize when you look in a mirror, or worse – to turn you into someone you DESPISE when you look there.

For me, each new day is a gift from God that I am grateful for. It is another day of life that I tried to steal from myself and from those who did, and still do, love me.

I cannot waste a moment thinking about how wonderful things COULD have been had I fixed the broken things when I was your age.

But YOU can, and I pray that you are all willing to do just that.

And if I have helped in some small way, then I thank God for giving me the opportunity, and if there is anything else that I can do, then I am WILLING to do it.

Thank you, God bless you, and good luck to all of you.


Well, that is what I would say. As for the ‘speech’ itself, I will leave you with this little poem:


these thoughts may languish here unspoken
the words, perhaps, not even read
but in writing of that which was broken
at least the words have all been said

I thank all of you who have come this far with me. May God bless you.




Dear Mom,

It has been some time since I last wrote you. For this I apologize, but letters to you are not simple things. Bringing you to the forefront of my thoughts like this always carries with it a certain amount of personal discomfort that must be dealt with. Even though I do think of you often, the more focused effort of putting pen to paper always causes me to reflect in greater detail on your life, and it is impossible for me to do that without also considering the pain and suffering I contributed TO that life.

I am certain you are overjoyed to see the person God has shown me I am capable of being begin to emerge. My knowledge of the depth of love you had for your children and your capacity for kindness to every single person you ever met easily overcomes any misguided fear I might have that you would harbor any ill-will or resentment toward me for the way I lived my life or for the sleepless nights, heartache, and tears I caused you to suffer. Still, I am uncomfortable writing letters to you on a small metal desk in a cold, unfriendly cell, located in a prison where I was placed for a crime that should never have occurred in the first place.

Had I thought about you in the past as much as I do now, and in the same manner, I would never have allowed myself to stop caring about the condition of my soul to the degree I did. Had I thought of you more, I would have seen that your ability to love and to smile came from your relationship with God. I would have been able to reason that your unselfish, kind and compassionate attitude also came from Him, and perhaps I would have looked to God long ago and avoided that final turn onto the road which almost led me to self-destruction.

Be that as it may, I know these things now, Mom, and I just want to say, “Thank you.” You see, I have also come to understand that God did exactly as you had prayed for Him to do for so many years, although perhaps not in the time-frame you might have preferred. His reasons for waiting until I was almost drained of life before He opened my eyes and allowed me to see what I needed to do in order to receive His help are very clear to me now. God wanted me to arrive at the point where I completely and totally hated the evil I had allowed to control my life. He waited for me to become that which I needed to learn to despise. When I struck out at myself in rage, He allowed me to come very close to achieving my objective of killing the one person who was causing me so much pain before He let me see those precious words that brought Him to my rescue: “God, please forgive me.” In His infinite wisdom, He knew I needed to see for myself how quickly He comes to those who call Him in order that I would know it was HE who saved me. Once I gave up on myself and put my Hope in Him, He knew I would then change the course of my life and decide to live to show others that THEIR Hope lies in Him as well.

So again, I say, “Thank you. Thank you for your prayers on my behalf, and for never giving up Hope.”

The One who gave you the ability to give ME my life, stood by and suffered great pain watching me struggle with myself. How it must have hurt Him as He watched me try desperately to kill the evil within myself. I believe you stood with Him at that lowest point in my life here on earth, tearfully crying to Him, “Father, save my son! Please, save my son!”

In spite of His own great personal pain, He would have placed His arms around you and quietly said, “Be patient, my child, his suffering is almost over.” Despite that reassurance from God Himself, I can only imagine the panic you must have felt as you watched me slipping closer and closer to death. You knew we would never see each other again unless I gave up and finally opened my mouth to ask God for His help. You knew that unless I asked for His forgiveness, I would be lost for all of eternity to the evil I had allowed to consume me, and which I was trying to eliminate by killing myself.

They say the pain of childbirth is indescribably, excruciatingly, blindingly intense, but how much more so the pain must be to watch a child who is about to pass through the gates of Hell. I cannot help but think of Ryan Loskarn’s parents and the pain they must live with on a daily basis following his suicide.* Those of us who attempt it or who succeed at ending our lives are not selfish, contrary to what many people think and despite the fact we are definitely not thinking of others at that moment. Those who would disagree fail to grasp the obvious: We are not thinking of ourselves either. We are simply trying to kill the pain that we have allowed to consume us by not turning to God for the comfort and strength we need to overcome that pain.

Having been fortunate enough to have been saved from myself by God, Ryan’s death brought home to me the truth of the devastating blow that would have been dealt to those I would have left behind. Even though we can grow to hate something we have allowed to grow within us, there are those who love us in spite of those things who deserve the opportunity to help us: Our Mothers and Fathers; our children; our siblings and our friends. Foremost among those who love us and wants to help us is God. I shudder to think of how my own story almost ended. I am so very, very grateful to God for saving me, and I pray that He provides some form of comfort to those who witnessed the tragic ending to Ryan’s story and will live the rest of their lives with those things they loved about him absent from their lives.

Are children worth all the trouble they cause, Mom?  Are we really worth the tears, the pain, the frustration, and the worry? Can we ever make up for the sleepless nights we have caused? For the anger our actions give rise to? Can we possibly make up for the things we have said and done in the thoughtlessness of our youth? Are we worth the pain we inflict on those around us when we act in self-destructive ways, foolishly thinking our lives are the only ones affected by our actions?

God thinks so, and I know you always did too, Mom. You would never even consider giving up on one of your children; not for a moment would you withdraw what you could always give to each one in equal measure: Your love, and your prayers. And that love and those prayers paid off, don’t you think? After all, hasn’t our great God done some pretty amazing work within the heart and mind of THIS child? For four years**, He has patiently directed, guided, corrected, counseled, consoled, taught, loved, and inspired me. For four years, He has helped me to find self-forgiveness for allowing myself to become someone I did not know and could not love. For four years He has shown me I can help myself by reaching out to others to try to help THEM. For four years He has pointed me in the direction He has wanted me to go, and for four years He has said to me, “THIS is who I want you to be!”

And now, after those four years, I am prepared to leave this place. After those four years, I am eager to show the world what God will lovingly do for us when we give Him our lives: He gives them back to us. He makes us NEW.

God HAS given me my life back, Mom. In gratefully accepting it from Him, I have looked to Him and said, “I want to live it for you, but I need you to show me how.” In response, He has shown me He has a plan for me. It is a plan for a future full of Hope. It is a plan of service to Him by doing something I was never capable of doing before: Looking out for other people. I am eager to leave this place and continue to work for the future God has planned for me. I say ‘continue’ to work on the plan, because I have been working on God’s plan for the future since the day I walked through the doors that locked behind me 4 years ago.

Soon I will be rejoining the society I was removed from as a result of my actions. Soon I will walk amongst ‘decent’ people, many of whom will shy away from me when they learn of my past. While trying to move forward, there will always be those who will want to point behind me and ask, “How could you?”

How could I? A fair question, indeed.

Recently, I was asked that question by someone you know, Mom, and since there are others who seek to make sense of the senseless, I have decided to respond to that request here.

There are two parts to the answer. The first is quite complex and is one I addressed in an article posted in these pages on April 18, 2013. That article was titled ‘unspoken‘, and it contained a ‘speech’ that I would give to young people of high school age, if I were allowed to do so. In that ‘speech’, I did my best to retrace the footsteps which brought me to this prison. The first of those footsteps was taken when I was quite young. After reading the rest of this article, I urge those who have not done so to go back and take the time to read ‘unspoken’.

I will offer the second part of my answer knowing ahead of time that there will be many who will not be satisfied with the answer’s simplicity. I will pray people will consider what I say not only in the context of the possession of child pornography charge which brought me to this place I am about to leave, but in the much larger context of the problems which exist in all of our lives, and in the world as a whole.

I have learned, Mom, that we become capable of behavior that is beneath us as children of God when we fail to follow the lessons taught by Jesus Christ. These lessons are quite simple and can be found in the Holy Bible, of course. Granted, the Bible itself appears to be a very complex book. Indeed, there is a tremendous amount of complexity available to keep thousands upon thousands of theologians and biblical scholars busy, but for the rest of us, the Bible can be viewed in a very simple manner: It is a journey taking us from the perfect beginning of the world, to the perfection of its end. Along the way, we are made privy to those places where mankind has failed. We are shown how we have failed God; how we have failed each other; and we are shown how God offered us salvation by sending His only begotten Son to die on the cross for us and wash away our sins with His blood. The death of Jesus gave us all Hope for a perfect ending to our lives here on earth, but it was Christ’s LIFE that demonstrated how we are to act while we are alive.

The Pharisees were one of two major religious groups during the time of Christ. While they did believe in the resurrection of the body and eternal life, they disregarded God’s message of grace and mercy while believing that salvation came through observance to the law and NOT through the forgiveness of sin. The message Christ brought with Him contradicted the Pharisees, so they set out to discredit Him in any way they could because they did not believe – or did not WANT to believe – He was the long-awaited Messiah.  Obedience to God IS important, as Jesus teaches us time and time again. One such time was when the Pharisees tried to trap Him by asking what the most important commandment was in the Law of Moses. Christ’s answer to the Pharisees forms the basis for my answer to the question, “How could you?”

“Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all of the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.'” (Matthew 22:37-40 NLT)

So here is the answer:

When we love God in the manner described by Jesus Christ, we discover the ability to love ourselves, thereby allowing us to love those around us. When we love God, ourselves, and those around us, we are too busy thinking about others in positive ways to ever consider hurting them, or ourselves, in any of the many ways we do when that love is absent.

See, Mom? I told you it was simple.

But how many will actually allow themselves to see the truth residing in that simplicity? Obviously, there is more to the stories of our lives than that, but the reason those stories develop in the complex manner they do begins when God is absent from our lives in the first place. Those who need the whole complicated, detailed story can read the article I mentioned earlier. Actually, I wish everyone WOULD read it, because it demonstrates what happens when we fail to do what Jesus instructed us to do.

The short version is this: I failed to love God, and accept HIS love. Instead, I worshipped the gods of alcohol, drugs, sex, and pornography. Certainly millions of others do the same thing daily, but I offer that fact merely as a very sad commentary on the condition of the world in which we live today. I do not use the behavior of others to make excuses for mine. My own particular failure went an unfortunate and despicable final step beyond what is ‘normal’ and for that I am profoundly sorry. However, had I not taken that FIRST step, I never would have taken the LAST one, and the first step was taken because I didn’t heed the simple instructions of the One who died a horrible death hanging on a cross so I could have free access to God: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind.”

All I can say, Mom, is that something has gone seriously wrong in a society where bad behavior, inappropriateness, immaturity, immorality, self-indulgence and selfishness are proudly displayed in public while the belief in, and love of, God has become something most seem only willing to acknowledge on Sunday, and more out of obligation than any real love FOR God. The one thing we should all hold up for others as the only way to live our lives seems to have become a source of embarrassment for many. We ‘kinda sorta’ want to be seen as believing in God, but not really. We don’t actually want to LIVE the way God wants us to live. Doing that requires too much of a commitment and life today offers too many choices we would NOT be able to make if we made such a commitment to God.

Our government doesn’t help because God is constantly being shoved to the back of the bus in a new twist on segregation in America today. Additionally, the American public seems quite adept at criticizing this nation’s leaders for everything they do except when they provide us with more ways, and more rights, with which to live immoral and indecent lives; lives where our own instant gratification is the goal and easing the pain of those around us is something we are only motivated to do when we can conveniently text a donation after a devastating natural disaster. Indeed, our government actually has become one of the biggest enemies Jesus Christ has ever faced, which is odd for a country founded with religious freedom as one of its cornerstones. For those who are opening their mouths to object, kid yourselves not: the religious freedoms guaranteed in this nation’s Constitution were based more on the way we expressed our belief in Jesus Christ than in our freedom to believe in other gods or nothing at all. This being America, we are all free to believe in what we want to believe, of course, but following the words of Jesus Christ can certainly NOT cause anyone any harm and CAN heal, protect, and propel us to heights of care and concern for others which help to prevent the stories of peoples’ lives from ending in disaster.

It really is just that simple. I’m not sure why we have difficulty accepting simplicity unless it is in the plot lines of the latest reality show. One of the books I read during my time here was written by a professor from Baylor University named Byron Johnson and was titled “More God, Less Crime”. Duh. How much simpler do you want it?

Well, Mom, I think I am about finished here. I have answered the question “How could you?” to the best of my ability. If what has been offered isn’t sufficient, there is little I can do. I have accepted the forgiveness of God, and I have forgiven myself. Additionally, I have paid the price imposed by the justice system of this country. From this point forward, all I can do is try to heed the words of Jesus Christ when he told the woman who had been caught committing adultery, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11 NLT)

Jesus refused to condemn her, and He refuses to condemn me as well. If others choose to condemn me, well, they can explain themselves to God later on. For myself, all I know is God has given me a NEW life, and He shows me daily what to do with it and how to live it. I am proceeding with my eyes on Jesus Christ, and I am very, very grateful.

I love you and I apologize again for not writing sooner. I have some packing to do so I can be ready to leave***. I’ll catch you on the other side, Mom!

No, silly, not in Heaven (at least, not just yet); I meant, on the other side of the prison fence!

May God bless all who have put up with me for these 4 years. The years have meant a lot to me, and I can honestly say I tried to do something positive with them. My prayer is that they meant something to all of you as well. This is NOT the end of these “Chronicles”, by the way. You can’t get rid of me that easily!


(* Ryan Loskarn’s story can be found in earlier articles titled “The Something I Didn’t Do“, and “An Open Letter To The Parents Of Ryan Loskarn“)

(**I self-surrendered on April 1, 2010)

(***I will be released on May 20, 2014)

Please check out the print version of my book, “TODAY IS… A Gift From God” at (https://www.createspace.com/4718409 ). The writing of it helped me, and I pray the reading of it can do the same for you. If you have a loved one in prison, please send them a copy. It just might make a difference.

“THE ‘SOMETHING’ I DIDN’T DO” by Tony Casson

“So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us.
We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!'”

2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT

“I am only one. But still, I am one. I cannot do everything. But still, I can
do something. I will not refuse to do the something I CAN do!” Helen Keller

I have used the words of Helen Keller a couple of times during the last few years in these Chronicles and in “TODAY IS….A Gift From God”. I do not believe that the words are simply words that look good on paper. I believe they provide a good reminder of what our obligation is to those around us, and to ourselves. They are a profound statement of how we should live our lives. Contained within those few, well-used words are instructions on how to help ourselves, for it is only by helping others that we can accomplish that. Found therein as well is encouragement that little things can make big differences and it is a reminder to never refuse to do the little things we are capable of doing. We are all more powerful than we think. We can all do SOMETHING.

I thought my relationship with God, which grows stronger each day, would help me to always DO the ‘something’ that I could do. I suffer no delusions of grandeur that include the notion these “Chronicles” have a wide-ranging audience and wield enormous influence that contributes mightily toward the betterment of the world in which we live. At the same time, I am aware that at least some of the words printed here over the last 3 1/2 years have done something positive; have changed the way some people think; have helped someone in some small way. I always remembered the story of the little girl throwing the starfish back into the sea, saving them, one by one. She couldn’t save them all, but she saved the ones she could. She did SOMETHING.

Unfortunately, I recently failed to do the ‘something’ I could do to reach out to another human being, and now that ‘something’ cannot be done as originally intended, because the individual in question committed suicide. While I certainly did not cause him to do what he did, I failed to do ‘something’ that possibly could have made a difference. It would be argued by some that the chances of my ‘something’ changing the outcome were slim, but when we do nothing, there is NO chance of change or affecting the outcome of ANY situation.

Ryan Loskarn was a long-time, dedicated employee for a well-known United States Senator. In fact, Ryan was Senator Lamar Alexander’s chief-of-staff when he was arrested in December for possession and distribution of child pornography. Of course, he was fired immediately upon being arrested and it is a relative certainty many of the people in Ryan’s address book quickly put as much distance as possible between themselves and Ryan. Ryan had been staying with his parents in Maryland awaiting resolution of his case when he apparently decided that taking his own life was the best way to resolve his situation.

The ‘something’ I was going to do was post an article here titled “FALLEN” which contained open letters for both Senator Alexander and for Ryan. Most of what was going to be printed had been written. All that needed was for things to be ‘tidied up’ and for it to be typed and posted. I dragged my feet. I felt there was time. I was involved in other things. I was focused on me. The lesson of doing the one thing I COULD do was temporarily lost or forgotten.

I feel as if I have let Ryan down and, in turn, his family. As one who was very nearly successful in taking his own life, I ask the public to try to understand his pain, and to join me in prayer for Ryan and his family. I would also ask everyone to read carefully all that follows. Perhaps the words intended for Ryan can reach someone else, and perhaps those intended for Senator Alexander can help to prevent anyone else from getting into a situation where they feel Ryan’s solution is the only one open to them.

I am sorry, Ryan. May God have mercy on your soul and may He watch over your family as they struggle to make sense of something that is senseless in so very many ways.

Here, then, is the ‘something’ I could have done. May God help me to never fail to do it again, and may He help another individual in need of these words find them. In finding them, may they make a difference, even if it is a very small one:

“FALLEN” by Tony Casson

“For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open,
and every secret will be brought to light.”
  (Mark 4:22 NLT)

“Fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen,

Fallen from his high estate,

And welt’ring in his blood;

Deserted, at his utmost need

By those his former bounty fed,

On the bare earth expos’d he lies,

With not a friend to close his eyes.”

John Dryden  “Alexander’s Feast”

As I move through my day-to-day existence in prison, everywhere I look my eyes gaze upon men who have fallen. The greatest in number probably did not have very far to fall, but have fallen nonetheless. Others have tumbled from slightly loftier positions in life while still others have fallen from great heights.

All the men around me, as evidenced by their presence with me here in Oakdale FCI, have all been convicted of, or plead guilty to, their crimes. This is not the case regarding the subject of this article. This particular individual has only been arrested to this point, but he has already fallen a great distance.

His name is Ryan Loskarn, and until recently Ryan was the chief-of-staff for United States Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. At his home in Washington, D.C. early in December, Ryan began his fall when he was arrested for possession and distribution of child pornography.

Unfortunately, and much to the shame of this great nation, this is not an isolated or unusual event. Men and women across the United States are arrested daily in ever-increasing numbers for similar crimes involving internet child pornography. Another arrest is, sadly, unnecessarily routine in this country today.

However, given the high profile person for whom Ryan worked, his arrest naturally garnered national attention. My friend Richard Roy and I discussed the significance of this particular arrest during one of our daily ‘world-problem-solving-walks’ around the track that encompasses the recreation yard. During the course of that conversation, I made a comment which sparked something in Richard who then said something that sparked something in me.

With all of those sparks flying, it was inevitable that we would start a fire. That fire is presented here in the form of two ‘open letters’. The first one is intended for Senator Alexander and was written by Richard. The second was written for Ryan Loskarn and was penned by yours truly.

Our intent in writing each of them, as is the case in all we do, is to try to change the destructive course America is on and to find better ways of protecting America, America’s citizens and – of paramount importance – America’s children.

by Richard Roy

Dear Senator Alexander,

Reading an article in “The Houston Chronicle” concerning the recent arrest of Ryan Loskarn, your Chief Of Staff, for possession and distribution of child pornography, I came across a quote attributed to you which said, in part, that you were ‘stunned, surprised, and disappointed” when you were informed.

Frankly, Senator Alexander, I find the use of those terms to be quite disingenuous in light of the fact you are such a prominent figure in our nation’s capitol. Certainly it has not escaped your attention that the halls of Congress are a place where immorality, indecency, sex, greed, corruption and excess proliferate unabated. You, of all people, should never be stunned – or even surprised – when, in such an atmosphere, those around you succumb to the siren song of sin. Even men steeped in the Word of God – Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggard, to name just a couple – have demonstrated the fallibility of men. We are all, simply human – even men of God, as well as those who are public figures.

While you most likely expected Mr. Loskarn to be above reproach in his behavior, to say that you are ‘stunned’, or ‘surprised’ is to place anyone, including yourself, above the capacity to fail. ‘Disappointed’ is an appropriate and perfectly acceptable descriptive phrase to use, but that disappointment should not create the need to distance yourself from him. This need is a perfect example of where this country, and the men and women who lead it, demonstrate a definite lack of character. Our need to disassociate ourselves when someone we are close to in a personal or professional relationship exhibits less-than-desirable behavior portrays a less-than-desirable understanding of what Jesus Christ said when he instructed us to love one another. He most assuredly did NOT mean to love them only when it is comfortable, convenient, and politically advantageous to do so.

Mr. Loskarn would undoubtedly not have held the position he did with you unless his abilities, talents, and personality added value to YOUR ability to serve your country. What is different about this man today than yesterday? What has changed? Did the organizational skills that are required of someone in that demanding position suddenly vaporize? Are his personality and confident manner no longer of consequence? The day before he was arrested, would you have stood up with Ryan, put your arm around him and stated publicly that you were proud to know him? Do you think he is really a different person than the one you thought you knew? Have you asked him if this is so?

Right now, Mr. Loskarn needs the public support of those in his familial, social, and professional networks. Instead of distancing yourself from the situation, close ranks around him, encourage him, hold him up, and let him know that he is not facing this ordeal alone. Ryan possesses the same qualities that endeared him to all who knew him prior to his arrest. The only difference is you are now aware of his fallibility – his humanity. Ryan Loskarn has a flaw. This should NOT come as a surprise.

Perhaps it is the nature of Ryan’s flaw. Possibly you find it to be particularly offensive, and that certainly would be understandable. Without question, it is a SERIOUS flaw. That it is morally repugnant cannot be denied. The charges against Ryan make decent men and women uncomfortable in the extreme.

All of that notwithstanding, it must also be emphatically stated that the crack in Ryan’s character is something that can be repaired, despite what an emotionally-incensed American public has been led to believe.

In fact, the fall from grace of a heretofore dedicated and loyal long-term employee of a well-respected public servant with a long history of service to this country presents us with a unique opportunity. Quite possibly, the closeness of the situation to an individual such as yourself who is at the very center of this nation’s ruling body can cause a closer look to be taken at the entirety of internet child pornography, the havoc it is creating, and the destruction it is leaving in its wake. This destruction encompasses not only those who have violated the very basic tenets of human decency, but includes innocent victims such as the families of these individuals. The ensuing requirement to register as sex offenders further hobbles the return to any semblance of ‘normalcy’ for these individuals and their families and is a part of the overall problem that needs to be addressed in ways that are more constructive and effective than simply passing stricter laws with increased punishments and doing it all under the pathetically self-serving political banner of ‘protecting the children’. Protect the children we MUST, but the time has come to face the fact that the current approach does not accomplish that at all. In fact, this government’s refusal to NOT take the simple steps that are immediately available to it to severely slow the proliferation of these vile images on the Internet actually CONTRIBUTES to the further victimization of those already severely damaged by those who committed the abuse portrayed in the images themselves.

(Editor’s Note: In the pages of these Chronicles over the years, several articles have been published outlining steps that can be taken with very little effort or expense that would positively contribute to achieving that end. Articles such as: “A Necessary Intrusion – Part 4” (7/31/12); “A Child Protection Act That Doesn’t” (8/29/12); “Unnecessary Harm And Confusion – Fast And Furious, The Sequel” (10/5/12); “A Call To Action – A Demand For An Explanation” (3/1/13); “In Knowledge Lies Potential For Change” (5/15/13; “Warning Labels” (6/21/13) In your position Senator, there is MUCH that you can do!)

As for your disgraced former chief-of-staff; Mr. Loskarn will never be the same. Whether this is for the better depends in large part on the strength of those around him and the support he receives. It is possible – desirable, even – to hate the sin and still show love, compassion and hope to the sinner. The most effective demonstration of this principle must be public, not private. Jesus’ public ministry was to the sick, weak, outcast, and those tangled in sexual promiscuity and perversion. He transformed many such lives. You have an opportunity to take Emerson’s ‘road less traveled’ in supporting Ryan publically; promising support and encouragement if he is willing to admit he has a problem that needs to be dealt with; and publicly acknowledging that change IS possible. No one is more miserable or more critical of Ryan Loskarn at this moment than Ryan Loskarn himself. He needs no help putting himself down. He is deserving of your help to lift him up and demonstrate the ability of human beings to correct their mistakes, even the immoral ones. To do less is to state simply that people are incapable of redemption and restoration and if that is the case, then those of you who sit in the center of power might simply say, “When you make a mistake, you go to prison for life.” That, sir, would be ridiculous in the extreme, and totally contrary to the reality which comprises human nature. People can, and do, change. They need help to accomplish that, and Ryan needs YOUR help. So does this country, Senator.

Richard Roy

“A Postscript To Senator Lamar Alexander’s Letter”
by Tony Casson

Senator Alexander,

As you are well aware, this letter is too late to do Ryan Loskarn any good, and that is my fault. Richard did his part in the days immediately following Ryan’s arrest by writing the letter and getting it to me. I dragged my feet doing my part, so it is too late for anyone to rally around Ryan, but it is not too late for you to look into the articles that have been posted here which contain positive, practical, and promising suggestions to address this plague upon our country in ways that might prevent more lost souls, such as Ryan, from ending what could be productive lives. In many cases, we are not dealing with career criminal types, or everybody’s definition of a ‘monster’. In many, many instances we are simply locking up misguided, confused, often socially inept individuals who possibly could have been prevented from straying from the path of behavior that, if not moral, was at least legal. In the process, much of the damage caused to an often unsuspecting world from images that have captured the sexual abuse of children might be prevented. Surely this would be preferred over allowing this material to infest our country’s homes in the hopes of catching people doing something that will destroy their lives, their families, and, in some very sad and unnecessary cases, cost some individuals their lives.

Ryan eliminated the need for you to stand up and support him publicly, as you should have. However, his tragic and senseless death does not eliminate the need for you to stand up and protect this country. It fact, his death CRIES for you to do just that!

Tony Casson

Following is the letter that was intended for Ryan. Perhaps it contains some words that can still do someone, somewhere, some good. Perhaps what was intended for his heart can find its way into someone else’s:

“An Open Letter To Ryan Loskarn” by Tony Casson

Dear Ryan,

My name is Tony Casson. We do not know each other, nor is it likely that we will ever physically meet. Despite that relative certainty, I would like to try to help you.

At this moment in time, your life is undoubtedly feeling rather surreal. More than likely you are numb with the shock and the shame that I have come to learn – as have tens of thousands of others – quite naturally accompanies the discovery of secrets that somehow did not seem anywhere near as deplorable while still veiled with the cover of darkness as they do now the veil has been lifted and the light of decency is shining upon them. Such is the nature of secrets.

With the light now shining brightly on YOUR secrets, Ryan, you are quite probably filled with trepidation at what the future holds for you. The public veneer which you carefully crafted over the years, and has obviously served you well – at least in the framework of how you lived your PUBLIC life – has developed a ‘crack’ in it that may, at least for the moment, appear to be irreparable and about to deliver catastrophic consequences.

It is true that this ‘crack’ is not merely a minor surface imperfection, like a scratch marring an automobile’s paint job which can be rubbed out, smoothed over, and restored to its original appearance. This imperfection, this flaw, has its origins well below the surface and has just now risen to where it is visible and on display for the world to see. It is evidence of an underlying situation or condition that cries out to be addressed. The ‘crack’ does not, in and of itself, carry with it consequences that cannot be overcome, but they cannot be avoided and they MUST be faced.

Ryan, I encourage you to take comfort when I tell you this can all be dealt with to a positive outcome. Let there be no mistake, though: You will NOT be restored to the same “Ryan” you were before, but you CAN quickly learn the “Ryan” you have been is not the “Ryan” God intended you to be when you were born. Dealing with all of this will not be easy. In fact, it will require a lot of support from family and friends, and it will require you to lean heavily upon God.

I encounter men on a daily basis whom I believe are decent at the core but, like me, allowed themselves to be seduced by evil and found themselves consumed with behavior that shocked and repulsed them, as well as their friends and family, when that behavior was finally forced into the light.

There is a rule that must be adopted by individuals who find themselves in this situation, Ryan: DON’T WASTE YOUR MISTAKES. Of the men I encounter in prison, so many lament their situation and spend their days pointing the finger of blame everywhere but at themselves. Turning this ‘curse’ into a blessing is something far too few men I meet choose to do. It is easier to harbor resentment for being in prison than it is to address WHY we are here, HOW we can fix it, and WHAT we will do to make positive use of a very negative experience.

Prison is most likely in your future, but prison certainly does not have to BE your future. When you make a conscious and determined decision to walk through those gates with God, you have immediately begun to prepare yourself for the day when you will walk back out those same gates with your head held high. You will not be proud of what you have done, but you will be proud of the person God has helped you to become.

In no way am I saying that life will be easy while you are in prison, or after you are released, but with God always at the center of your thoughts, you will face both with the confidence that comes from God’s assurance that He will be with you each and every step of the way.

How do I know this? Because I hated the person I had allowed myself to become, Ryan. I hated that person so much I made a violent attempt on my own life when the FBI came to arrest me. God saved me from dying that day because I cried out to Him for help when there was very little time left, and He stepped in and caused me to be saved. Since that day, I have looked to Him for strength to guide me through the entire pretrial, sentencing, and surrendering process; He was with me when I walked onto the compound; and He has been with me daily to light the way and help me to understand who I am and why I am here. I am utterly amazed at the person I have become over the last 4 years, and I am prepared for life – and eager to be an active participant in it – in a way I have never been. I have been a willing student, but all of the credit; all of the glory, goes to God. Proverbs 21:31 says, “We are the horses, prepared for battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord!”

I am prepared for whatever I may face when I walk out those doors because I know that God will settle for nothing short of victory for me, Ryan, and I want this for you. Why? Because I know GOD does, and I know He is waiting to help you. All you have to do is ask Him, and be willing to hand over all of your burdens to Him.

I pray for the very best for you and your family, Ryan. God has a plan for you. Let Him reveal it to you.

With my fervent prayers for YOUR future and YOUR hope,
Tony Casson

“An Afterword”

It is impossible to describe the way I felt as I finished typing the words I WANTED Ryan to read. Another young man is dead. Ryan is far from the first to have ended their life needlessly after their secrets have come to light. Sadly, in this Godless, intolerant, judgmental and hypocritical society of ours, I am certain there were people who applauded his death; people who celebrated his decision to end his life; people who wish more of those of us who have fallen would follow suit.

It is my hope that God will find a way to take these words intended for Ryan and bring them to the attention of someone else who is in need of reading them. The message is the same for anyone who finds themselves seduced by evil and is now going through court proceedings and facing prison or jail time as a result of their inability to resist the ‘siren song of sin’, as Richard Roy so aptly put it.

God CAN help us even when we think we are beyond help. These are not just idle words. This is the Truth as God has said it, and as He has proven it through His restoration and renewal of this man typing these words. Ask Him to help YOU.


And please, do NOT waste another life.

Thank you all for your time, and may God bless you all.


By Tony Casson

“…uphold the rights of the oppressed and destitute.” Psalm 82:3b NLT

“We did not dare to breathe a prayer
Or to give our anguish scope!
Something was dead in each of us
And what was dead was hope.”
Oscar Wilde “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”

            For the typical individual facing freedom after years behind bars, the prospects – while not hopeless – are limited; the challenges are many and intimidating; the obstacles are numerous; and the odds of success seem to be stacked against them. Society looks down on those bad boys and girls who keep the wheels of “justice” turning and have appeared in its newspapers and on its television sets. The public is both titillated and repulsed by the tattooed tough guys and gals who create havoc on shows like “Cops.” They are inclined to think that this is just how some people are and have allowed themselves to be convinced that people who are broken cannot be fixed.

Perhaps to a degree, and for some, that is a true statement. But there is nothing that will guarantee failure as surely as doing nothing. To say that the criminal justice system as it exists today is focused on trying to rehabilitate, educate, restore and reintegrate those who have gone to prison is simply not true. Failing many of our children early in life; creating an industry in human misery where the profits are enormous; feeding that industry through the abject failure of half-hearted or non-existent rehabilitation and education programs; and dealing with those who have been newly re-introduced to society in a heavy-handed, oppressive way all contribute to the failure that is called “criminal justice” in America today.

With so much money at state, it is easy to hide behind the cynical stance of “they don’t want to change.” However, if the American public was aware of how many men and women desperately want to change, they might alter that stance. Unfortunately, these men and women are expected to change but do not have, nor are they given, the education, job skills, life skills, confidence, support and encouragement that are required to bring about those changes. When all that is done is to extend a hand to someone while standing on their chest, we can hardly be surprised at the negative result.

When I was young, we would occasionally engage in a cruel activity (hey, I was young!) called “piling on.” In the course of playing, one person would wind up on the ground and someone would yell “PILE ON!”, whereby all the rest would bury the unfortunate soul at the bottom of a pile of unyielding bodies. I have been that body at the bottom. I have known the suffocating, frightening sensation of being trapped. I have known what it was like to want to get out. But I have also known the helpless feeling of having absolutely no idea how to accomplish that. I struggled, but to no avail. I tried to get out from under the pile but I was dependent on the very people who had me trapped. How, then, was I to regain my freedom?

Now let’s pile on some more: In addition to all of the difficulties and obstacles facing felons that I have laid out for you, a convicted sex offender – regardless of the nature of the offense – has several oppressive, invasive and restrictive conditions that will make any effort at reintegration back into society so extremely difficult as to be almost impossible. For many, these conditions and restrictions create what is tantamount to a life sentence of suspicion and condemnation that very well should be considered cruel and unusual punishment. At the very least, the current methods used to monitor and control registered sex offenders are nothing more than tactics which bully and belittle American citizens and should be a clear violation of the civil rights of these individuals.

There is no denying that when a child is abused and/or killed by a predatory monster, it is a very natural response for all parents to share the pain of those who have lost a part of themselves that can never be replaced. But as I have tried to point out on these pages, the ones least likely to harm any child are the ones who draw the most attention. People are understandably angry, scared, ad confused; publicity-seeking politicians and a sensationalist media make certain of that.

But those who have had no contact with children and have served the time to which they were sentenced are angry, scared and confused as well; a length of time in prison deemed by many professionals as being excessive, reactionary counterintuitive. When these individuals are released, a whole array of separate, suffocating, demeaning and isolating rules and regulations await them. These are in addition to those that face other felons released from prison.

The single most daunting item facing sex offenders newly released from prison is the sex offender registry, on which they are required to be listed in all of our states. The astonishing number of repressive items, including polygraph testing, GPS ankle-bracelet monitoring, living restrictions and a host of other horrors is overwhelming. The subject of the registry is so dense and complex that it cannot be undertaken here and I will address it in a separate article at a later date.

The battles and debates over many of these “protective” rules and regulations rages in courtrooms across the country. But as they continue, those who fall under their purview have to deal with the consequences created by them.

Finding a place to live in increasingly more difficult – almost impossible in some cities. Some people are not allowed to live with their families. Some actually “live” in tents and “visit” their families during the day.

Some states issue driver’s licenses with “sex offender” stamped on them in red; an updated version of the scarlet letter. How does this protect children and what does it accomplish beyond embarrassing and humiliating the one required to produce it?

Sex therapy group sessions required on a weekly basis for years involve standing up at each session and reintroducing yourself as a sex offender, re-stating your offense and then proceeding to re-live your experiences and remain in the past for 60 minutes a week as a constant reminder of what you did, no matter what you have done to redefine who you are and making moving forward difficult at best.

The average person can simply not fathom how permanent and black is the mark on your life when you misplace your morals, your decency, your maturity and your common sense.

When a sex offender applies for a job and discloses his or her offense, that person is looked at by some with open disdain and distaste. An individual’s ability to earn a living and care for him or herself and those they are responsible for is severely hampered by that mistake that cannot be undone no matter how much they want to or how hard they try.

If you can find a place to live and you are unfortunate enough to have children, they will be subjected to uncomfortable stares and barely disguised whispers after your neighbors discover who you are by running to the computer. Once the “flag” pops up, the circumstances and your remorse will not matter. More innocent victims will be created beyond those who have already suffered as this hate directed toward you spills over onto your children unfairly and unkindly.

These statements can be taken as warnings to those who think child pornography and Internet fantasies are a game. A moment in the “privacy” of your home can cost you your freedom and net a lifetime in the public’s disapproving eye. It can, in fact, cost you more than you thought possible and surely more than anyone should be expected to pay. These statements are also a plea for reform and the upholding of the Constitution of the United States.

Will the situation be impossible for those leaving prison? Or course not; at least not for everyone. But for many, the American nightmare will continue long after the closing of prison gates behind them. The real horror and the real shame will only just be starting. For many, the rejection, isolation and harassment they experienced in prison will pale in comparison to life as a “free” citizen of this country.

If two wrongs can never make a right, then the tens of thousands of wrongs being perpetrated against citizens of this country can never be expected to make right what is so very wrong in America today.

The national embarrassment that constitutes post-prison “treatment” and monitoring of sex offenders – particularly those guilty of non-contact Internet crimes – is the most inexcusable abrogation of the basic rights afforded to Americans by our Constitution that we have ever allowed to occur.

More prejudicial, discriminatory and demeaning than the treatment of African Americans under the idiotic banner of “separate but equal”; as judgmental and blatantly anti-American as the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II; and more inflammatory and irresponsible than McCarthyism. In each and every case of those dark events in our nation’s history, America was wrong – and American is wrong now.

As the world watches, we move forward each day, branding those who have already paid the price. These exorbitant prices are demanded by a legislative body driven by political and financial self-interests. They are endorsed by an appellate court system, right on up to the Supreme Court itself, which should know better. They all lack the courage to stand up and say, “As much as we need to protect the children of this country, we must also protect the rights of those who have served the prison sentences demanded by law. We can never allow ourselves to put the seal of approval on the right to exact punishment for crimes that have not yet been committed or that we imagine they might have gotten away with.”

If this is not fixed by Congress or stopped by the Supreme Court, then the unlikelihood of books and films like “1984” and “Minority Report” is upon us – and shame on all of them.

God help this country.

I thank you for your time and attention to this series: AMERICA’S CULTURE OF INCARCERATION.