“Giving A Voice To The Victims – The Voices Of Disappointment And Anger”

“Shame and dishonor were his flags, and self loathing was his constant companion.”     – James Lee Burke; “Feast Day of Fools”

“Remember it is a sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”                               – James 4:17 NLT

(Editor’s Note: This was first posted here on “TOC” May 17, 2012. I believe that it is totally appropriate in light of the posts of these last 2 months. I remember each of the situations I recounted in the story, and still feel exactly the same way. We must change the way we conduct the business of correcting bad behavior.  God bless you all. Tony)

Many of us serving prison sentences for not using our freedom in a way that honors ourselves and our families have foolishly – and selfishly – exposed those we love to the same shame and dishonor we have branded ourselves with. We have also made them victims of the sins we have committed, while at the same time making them unwilling and unwitting accomplices to our crimes.

In addition, we have forced them to shoulder a disproportionate amount of the burden for our wrongdoing through simple guilt by association. While we languish in the purgatory of prison, their lives continue in the real world. While our lives are held in a static state of suspended animation, their lives move forward on a daily basis. While many of us try to explain our behavior to ourselves, our families are left trying to explain it to the world in which they live.

A great many men I meet have strong family support. While some have lost everything and everyone that used to make up their former lives in freedom, many more still have their families and friends solidly behind them offering words of encouragement and support.

They are to be commended for that and we who are the recipients of the genuine goodness of their hearts should all take note that the debt we owe them can more than likely never completely be repaid.

While they function unwaveringly as brave defenders of our tarnished honor and smile encouragingly for us, let those of us who are blessed enough to have individuals who are that strong fighting on our behalf, never forget that we have disappointed them. We have let down those who love us; those who need to look up to us; those who reach for us when they are uncertain, afraid, need help making a major decision or just tying a shoe.

In many cases, anger accompanies the disappointment, but far too often the anger is kept from those of us whose behavior triggered it in the first place. The consideration for the feelings of those locked out of society’s sight is another attempt by those who love us to “protect” us and to try to shield us from unpleasant realities that we created.

While this is a touching display of the lengths to which love will go, this is not what is needed.

What is needed is for those who are disappointed and angry to make sure that the one who causes them to feel this way is aware of it. Of course the offender must also be reassured that he is still loved and still supported. But the negative emotions created must not be borne only by the incidental victims.

What is needed is for those incarcerated to reflect on the disappointment and anger they have caused in others and use it ‘as a catalyst for change within themselves. This will ensure that whatever caused them to violate the trust of their loved ones and the laws of society will not be repeated.

What is needed is for society to recognize that the system we use to punish those who commit transgressions against it also punishes everyone who is a part of that individual’s life, so we must exercise caution that the prosecution of an individual does not become the persecution of a family, as is so very often the case.

What is needed are prosecutors and judges who see not just the offender but the twenty-year-old daughter of that offender who takes an overdose of drugs or alcohol and lays down on the side of the road in what turns out to be a suicide attempt that is foiled. Her pain over what is happening to a father she loves momentarily overwhelms her, and this is how she reacts to his absence. (This happened to the daughter of someone I was incarcerated with.)

What is needed is an awareness that another young woman was successful in the taking of her own life because she felt the stigma and restrictions placed upon her father by the sex offender registry were hers to bear as well and the burden proved to be too great. (This I read about in the paper.)

What is needed is for society to hear the cries, see the tears and share the pain of a young girl whose father is in prison and cannot attend her school play to share in her moment of happiness and view her in the spotlight of recognition. (This happened to a friend of mine’s daughter.)

What is needed is for society to experience the anguish of a loving grandmother who closes her letter with “I’m starting to cry now so I’d better end this letter.” (I read these words written to another inmate.)

This, the most powerful nation on earth, must understand that locking up millions of individuals has a profound effect on tens of millions of innocent lives. There are better ways of dealing with non-violent offenders than locking them away and perhaps the citizens of this country should demand this from their elected officials.

This, the most powerful nation on earth, must understand that a year taken from a family can never be given back, so it is incumbent upon society – in the interest of true justice – to find other ways of correcting behavior.

The handing out of multiple year sentences for non-violent offences as if the years were a handful of Halloween candy must stop.

God Himself no longer visits the sins of the fathers on future generations.

Just who do we think we are to do exactly that?

“Stories Of A Prisoner’s Wife”


by Diane S.                                                                                                      Written: June 16, 2015

Visit: Two

Another visit.

Another heart breaking good-bye.

Another long drive home with entirely too much time to think.

Another terrible night and day of complete brokenness.

Will it ever get easier? Part of me wants to believe that it will; part of me believes it never will. It was Thursday after the weekend of my first visit before I began to function as a somewhat normal human. This week it’s Tuesday and I am functioning (mostly) again. Sunday night was awful, Monday until about mid-afternoon was terrible and then the despair started lifting a little. After sleeping for 12 hours last night I feel much more capable of handling this day.

So maybe it will get easier. I’ll pray for that. It may get easier but it will never be right; leaving him there isn’t right.

It will never be right and it will never be ok.

Visit two was…interesting. It was raining on Saturday morning when we had to get in line. There is no cover and you stand outside in the rain. The BOP gets in no hurry to process visitors to help get them out of the rain. You stand and wait, just like on a sunny day. I was completely ill-prepared and we didn’t have umbrellas. Luckily I am from the south and we improvise pretty well so we bought a box of trash bags at the last gas station before you turn onto East Whatley road and made our own ponchos.

This brought on the first of two meltdowns of my 12 year old. He was absolutely adamant that he was not going to wear a trash bag with a hole ripped out for his face to keep him from getting wet. He didn’t want to look stupid. He lost that argument and a small meltdown ensued. Luckily my mother-in-law was there with me and she is wonderful at calming him down. It never got to crisis level and I am thankful for that.

I know that standing in line outside in the rain looking at a prison complex with huge fences and razor wire all around and knowing that your dad is inside there isn’t an easy thing to grasp.

I also know that the meltdown was just triggered by the “poncho” situation but the real emotion spilling down his cheeks was something much more than just having to wear a trash bag poncho. Note to self, buy umbrellas to avoid situation next time

We survived that ordeal and we stood in line in our trash bag ponchos. We stood in line until 9:15 that morning. We were sure we wouldn’t make it in before 10am count, but we did. However the inmates didn’t make into the visiting room until after count so we sat in the visiting room for about an hour waiting for Chris to get in there. I was thankful though, because we were out of the rain.

I met a very nice woman in line Saturday morning and I sat by her during the hour we waited for the inmates while we were in the visiting room waiting for count to clear so they could come in. We talked and I found out they are on year 7 of a 12 year stay. I talked with her son and her grandchildren. That woman and her son gave me hope. It was very encouraging to see them and talk with them. I loved talking to her son and hear him talk about his dad in conversations very normally like his dad was there as part of his life every day. This kid loved Elvis and was telling me all kinds of things about Elvis and he would say “my dad told me” or “my dad” about every other sentence. It made my heart full to know that this journey can be done. Marriages can survive, children can still thrive and have a relationship with their dad. I am sure they have hard days & their walk isn’t easy but they provided hope and encouragement for me that day and I am thankful God put them around me for me to see my ‘bread crumbs’ for the day.

The check-in process was much the same and as smooth as the last time I visited. I am thankful for the team we had Saturday doing visitor check-in because the team on Sunday wasn’t cooperative. We decided that when we got into the visiting room we would sit on the opposite side of the room and my mother in law would sit in the regular spot they have been sitting for a few weeks now. If you read my last entry you know that we surprised him and he had no idea his son and I were there. We waited until he sat down with his mom and then we walked around and stood in front of him.

This was an interesting part for me.

I wanted and was expecting a movie type reaction, you know when someone gets a good surprise in a movie and it’s just a great reaction with some tears and huge hugs, etc. Yea, not so much….that didn’t happen. He looked at his son and then at me, with what I can only describe as shock and all he said was “what are ya’ll doing here?” I don’t think I’ve ever left someone completely speechless but that was the case.

Shocked and speechless.

It was a good 15 seconds before it sank in and hugged either of us. I wasn’t sure if he was happy we were there or not. It was about half an hour before I could finally tell he was thrilled to see us.

That was the highlight of Saturday, the visit was filled with questions from his son, chatting about all kinds of things, and of course the ever important vending machine selections.

Saturday night we made a trip to Walmart to buy umbrellas since the forecast called for more rain on Sunday and I didn’t want a replay of the trash bag poncho meltdown again Sunday morning. Apparently things to keep you from getting wet in the rain are triggers for meltdowns from my 12 year old. There was another meltdown in Walmart over a $5 umbrella Saturday night. Again, I know it was much more than the umbrella. That is just what triggered all the emotions of the day. My mother in law was with me again at Walmart and I am was grateful. In the end he did get the $5 umbrella because after that my heart was just broken and it’s just a $5 umbrella. He was much better Sunday after a decent night’s sleep and more sleep on the way to visit Sunday morning.

Sunday was a good day.

We got a first class lesson on how different things can be day to day at visitor check in. The team on Sunday wasn’t so great, I just kept telling Michael our only goal here is to get into the visiting room to see Chris, so we would do whatever they asked. Even if they weren’t nice to us we were going to be nice and gracious to them. Sunday the rules were no sleeveless tops/dresses even if you had a sweater over it. That has never been the rule before; I had to go change. You could not chew gum. Ladies that always bring in lip gloss couldn’t. The same bracelet I have worn each time I visited (including the day before) wasn’t allowed on Sunday. I keep a small piece of paper in my clear change purse with my car tag number on it and my husband’s inmate number on it since you have to have that for paperwork and they made me throw that way Sunday.

Sunday was definitely different.

I said after my first visit that I don’t know how anyone could follow the rules 100% since they change daily. It appears it is fairly normal for things to change.

Sunday was a good day, it was a good visit. I think we all enjoyed it.

Until we had to say goodbye, I hate that part. It’s the worst part. It breaks me. Every time. I have to leave the prison and drive 7.5 hours back to Tennessee. It’s a hard and sad drive each time. I cry a lot on those drives. On this drive looking over at my 12 year old asleep in the passenger seat completely exhausted on his way back from visiting his dad in prison was almost more than I could bear. He is 12, he should be sleeping on the way back from summer vacations or trips over the road with his dad in his 18 wheeler. He should not be sleeping on his way back from visiting his dad in prison.

This will be the next 8 years of our life.

“Stories Of A Prisoner’s Wife”

Entry Sixteen

By Diane S.


That seems to be a word I often use to describe various things in my life lately.

My heart is broken. My life feels broken. My stepson’s spirit is broken. My mother-in-law’s heart is broken. My husband is a broken man on the mend. Our extended family has been broken apart as some have decided they just can’t support or even accept this situation. I understand that and I hold no fault towards them. Some can continue a relationship with me even though they don’t support my decisions & I am very grateful for the maturity on their part and mine to make those relationships work. Some have removed themselves completely because they can’t handle any aspect of the situation.

I understand  one of their concerns. I am not bitter towards them….anymore. My city is broken. This country is broken. The justice system in this country is VERY broken.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  Psalm 147:3

All of the above mentioned brokenness can only be healed by Jesus. Unfortunately we live in a society where our leaders and politicians look anywhere and everywhere but Jesus for answers. In fact, they deliberately steer as far as they can from this very simple answer to all of this.


I don’t understand why that’s such a hard concept for people. Jesus. He’s the answer. It seems so easy that it is mind-boggling that people literally run in the other direction to avoid Him.

In the last week I have seen quite a few examples of just how broken the society we live in has truly become. My friend Tony just wrote an article on here called “Punishing the Innocent” and his article showcased some of the brokenness that I have not yet experienced just simply because my journey is so new. I am blessed to have such a wise friend who is always challenging my thoughts and making me look deeper into myself.

In my last post I mentioned how some people close to me reacted to finding out a sex offender was in their neighborhood. The reaction they had is so common, so normal, so broken. It is a reminder of society’s brain-washed mentality regarding ANYONE on the sex offender registry. It is like a scarlet letter. I never imagined I would ever relate with Hester Prynne on any level when I read this book in high school but I find the quote below to be quite accurate for not only the beginning of my journey but so many others with heart breaking stories just like mine:

“In all her intercourse with society, however, there was nothing that made her feel as if she belonged to it. Every gesture, every word, and even the silence of those with whom she came in contact, implied, and often expressed, that she was banished, and as much alone as if she had inhabited another sphere, or communicated with the common nature by other organs than the rest of human kind.” Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”

If you want proof of just how broken the justice system is read through your Facebook feed or scroll through the top stories on Yahoo or MSN. The stories are endless, each with their own brokenness. I am sure if you aren’t living under a rock you have heard about the current storm The Duggar family from Arkansas is going through. My thoughts on that one still aren’t coherent. I just don’t know how I feel other than sadness for a broken family and its broken victims. I’m not sure I have an opinion on the appropriate course of action at this point. I do know that his wife and children are suffering a great deal from a mistake he made a very long time ago and that is so very sad for all involved. There is a lot of brokenness surrounding that story and I can’t imagine having to try to deal with that while in the public eye.

I offer them my prayers but I truly don’t know where I stand on the issue.

In the last 12 hours our local news stations have posted two different stories about teachers having sexual relationships with students. They were both on-going relationships. One teacher brought the student to their home and gave the individual alcohol on some of the visits. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison and the judge suspended all but SIX MONTHS! In the other case, the child was under 14 and the teacher served 6 years. Meanwhile in federal prisons across this country people are serving 8, 10, 15, or even 20 year sentences simply because they downloaded a file from a music sharing site and it had hidden inappropriate images in it. The government tracked these photos to these people’s computers and the consequences include broken men, wives, children, mothers, brothers, sisters….etc.

These are people who didn’t go searching for those photos, they accidentally got them & promptly deleted them when they opened what they thought was music or a movie they downloaded for their child. These people are the faces of an incredibly large number of the sex offenders sitting in federal prisons serving 5+ year sentences. Meanwhile, we have teachers having physically inappropriate relationships with children they are trusted to TEACH that are serving SIX MONTHS, or sometimes all they receive is probation.

It’s not just stories about sex offenders either. Not long ago there was a story out of Atlanta in which a professional sports player admitted to shooting and killing a 22yr old mother as she was walking down a street. He had no reason other than he thought she was someone else. His sentence was short and he will end up serving 4-5 years, FOR TAKING SOMEONE’S LIFE! It makes me irate.

These stories are endless….these stories are sad……..these stories show us just how broken we are.

I can’t understand this logic. It doesn’t make sense to me. I need someone smarter than me to explain why my husband is sitting in jail for 8 years while these people are serving less harsh sentences. I understand that a big difference is that a lot of the cases like I mentioned above are ‘state’ cases where my husband’s and so many others fall under federal jurisdiction. If you didn’t know, many federal convictions have mandatory minimums. This means nothing matters and you get at least the mandatory minimum for whatever your charge may be. In Chris’ case it was 10 years. C

Chris was a first time offender, never been in trouble with law enforcement a single day in his life. He had over 20 character reference letters and he had a good lawyer. It didn’t matter. All that matters is the charge and mandatory minimum sentence that goes along with it. My husband did make mistakes, there is no question. He should be held responsible for his actions, there is no question.

Should he serve jail time? Maybe, but not 8 years.

I have never gone into detail about my husband’s case & I’m not sure that I will. I will say that he didn’t have a physical relationship with anyone and his charges aren’t related to computer pictures. He made a very bad decision and then was accused of some horrible things. Together those two things made for an incredibly difficult situation.

It’s a very broken system when your best option is to plead guilty to get a 10 year sentence rather than try to prove your case and risk getting a 30+ year sentence if you don’t win. And you probably won’t win. People shut down when they hear “sex offender”; details and truth don’t matter at that point.

When I first read the stories I mentioned above I was angry. I was angry at God, I was angry at those people. I was just angry. Then I realized those people made mistakes and it’s not my place to judge them. I realized those people also have family and friends that now have broken lives because of someone else’s choices. They could have spouses that are living a journey like mine. I realized there are actual real victims of their crimes that now have broken lives.

I was still angry with God.

How can he allow the things that have happened to us and let other people like those mentioned above have such an easier journey? Why does our journey have to be so hard? I was driving home last when it all hit and I had a meltdown. I was actually driving in my car in tears and yelling at God and asking him why. Why couldn’t we have got a 6 month sentence? Why didn’t God intervene at some point and stop some of this, any of this?

Why did he allow all this brokenness in my life?

Asking why doesn’t ever get me anywhere. Eventually I calmed down when the song “Just say Jesus” came on the radio & that’s exactly what I did for a good 5 minutes. I just said “Jesus” over and over. Then I prayed. Then I was okay.

The wires in my head get a little crossed when I think about the truth that God has a plan for us that includes this next 8 years. He also has a plan for the teacher who will spend 6 months in jail, and a plan for the one who will spend 6 years there. It’s just so hard to understand why his plan for us had to include this 8 years while so many others do things much worse (in the eyes of the law) than what Chris did and his plan for them includes much less punishment.

If you don’t get anything else out of this post I hope you remember this: Not everyone, in fact probably the majority, of people that are registered sex offenders never hurt and never would hurt anyone, especially a child. They didn’t go down a street and offer an 8 year candy to bride them into their dark van with no windows. Anytime you say someone is a sex offender in this society that is what people immediately think and it is just NOT TRUE. Of course there are some who did commit horrible unthinkable acts but it’s such a broken way of thinking to lump all 800,000 people on the sex offender registry into that category.

One day I hope I will no longer be able to identify with Hester Prynne.

It all just proves my point….

This world is a very broken place in need of the healing of Jesus Christ.

“Punishing The Innocent”

“At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.”                2 Corinthians 7:11b  ESV

“We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society.”         Hilary Clinton

I have refrained from commenting recently as I have posted Diane’s stories. Certainly not due to any lack of impact those posts have had on me as I have read, edited, and formatted them. Quite the opposite, in fact, as that impact has been real and – at various times – tearful, joyful, heart-wrenching, soul-searching, thought-provoking, and memory-stirring.

My mind has traveled back through time to the days of my own incarceration, and I am grateful to Diane for this. Some who read these words might find it odd that I would welcome being reminded of the time I spent in prison, but that time, for me, was a time of monumental personal growth. Mind you, not all who go to prison perceive it that way.

I am grateful to God as well, because it was He who saw fit to have our paths intersect at this point in our lives.

Additionally, I am grateful because Diane’s story reminds me to try to do something to demonstrate to society that “America’s Culture Of Incarceration” has evolved into ineffective policy that punishes more innocent people than guilty, and I am not referring to those behind bars who may be innocent. Rather, I am talking about those who are left behind when a father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, son, or daughter is removed from society and locked away to keep society ‘safe’.

When Hilary Clinton said, “We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society”, I am pretty certain she was thinking something other than what I am going to suggest, but what she said is absolutely correct when interpreted the way I interpret it. “America’s Culture Of Incarceration” locks away individuals for tremendously long periods of time and for an ever-increasing variety of reasons. In its current state, our criminal justice system is focused entirely on the individual perpetrating the crime with little thought given to the greater number of lives negatively impacted by locking someone away for 5, 10, or twenty years. In its current state, that “culture” punishes far more innocent bystanders in far more devastating ways than the inconvenience of incarceration does the actual individual society thinks is being punished.

I quote from Diane’s last post: “One bad decision changed everything for so many people. I still can’t get over how this has affected every aspect of our life and the lives of SO many people around us. It is beyond my comprehension that the repercussions of one bad decision can devastate things so completely.”

In my four years of incarceration at Oakdale FCI, I encountered a mere handful of individuals who actually struggled with the fact that they were incarcerated. The vast majority of those in prison adapt quickly to the life that stretches before them. It may be disturbing or unsettling for family members and loved ones of those in prison (and society as whole for that matter) to consider the following, but prison, rather than teaching the burden of responsibility, removes it. Once we have resigned ourselves to our environment, prison life quickly becomes a matter of routine which is mostly unencumbered with the burdens and responsibilities of life. No bill-paying, no car repairs, no kids to worry about, no real job to go to. There is very little to think about beyond what is on the menu for the next meal, what is on TV, or what time will be spent in the library or in the ‘yard’.

Life is very simple, indeed.

For Diane, her step-son, her mother-in-law, and countless others, this simplicity does not exist. They are innocent of wrong-doing, but our ‘culture’ punishes them, and many, many others because, as Diane pointed out, “Life goes on.” The bills have to be paid, the car has to be repaired, the kids have to be cared for, and jobs must be performed without regard for the fact that “this has affected every aspect of our life and the lives of SO many people around us.”

In considering how we punish individuals who violate the rules and regulations of our society, we really should insist that those who are elected to make intelligent and informed decisions on our behalf are following Hilary Clinton’s unintended advice and “start thinking about what is best for society.” We must take the focus off of what we falsely perceive to be punishment for the guilty individual, and put it on the collateral damage caused by punishing those who are innocent.

There is a better way to change lives in a positive way. Destroying innocent lives in an effort to punish the guilty is not the way. May God be our guide and the guide of our leaders, and may we all push for major changes in “America’s Culture Of Incarceration”.

I applaud Diane’s willingness to share her heart, and her pain. It is my prayer that her willingness to do so will move others to stop punishing the innocent in the name of ‘justice’.

I thank you all for your time and ask that you all reach out to Diane and encourage her.

May God bless us all and keep us safe.

“Stories Of A Prisoner’s Wife”

(A Note From Tony: As I read this, I made a couple of comments to clarify things Diane said. The words in red are mine, not hers.)

Entry Four

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”   Corrie Ten Boom


Who would have ever thought a word that has always frightened me would bring so much comfort on a Wednesday at 5:31 PM?

One week and one day since I last spoke to Chris. The phone rang. The caller ID displayed “Unknown”. I started shaking. I knew. I answered and got a recording that this was a pre-paid call from a federal prison. Hang up to deny the call or press 5 to accept the call.

I pressed 5.

His voice. I immediately started crying. Eight days is a very long time to not talk to your husband when you used to talk on the phone multiple times a day. There are no words to describe the relief I felt all through my body when I heard his voice say, “Hi Baby, why are you crying?” It was him, really him, not a shell of him, not a void, hollow voice of a broken man. It was him and he was ok. In his words he was “good”. I called him a liar (jokingly) and he said “No, really I am good. I am ok”.

I think at this point I was crying so much I could hardly talk, I had to compose myself.

All the prayers I had said, all the talking to God I did in the last 8 days came flooding back as prayers answered. He was ok, he wasn’t broken. He has been reading his Bible and found comfort there. He said he had written about some some ‘amazing stuff’ he had read in the letters he has written me but wouldn’t tell me about it. I have to read it for myself he said.

He has been praying a lot. His faith is strong. Praise God. Thank you Jesus for holding him tight, not letting him go and not letting him stray from you.

He sounded good. Chris is by nature an optimistic, happy, positive person. For that reason it is almost impossible for him to hide when he is down and depressed. His voice tells his feelings no matter how hard he tries to hide them, especially to me. To hear him sound so good was like a 1000 lb. weight being lifted from my shoulders. I know there will be many days on this journey that he will not sound good and he will be down, but I am beyond thankful that the first phone call from “unknown” wasn’t that way.

We talked for 13 minutes and 2 seconds. They were the most wonderful 13 minutes and 2 seconds of the last 8 days for me. I was relieved and it felt like I could breathe just a little more than before.

His time in the S.H.U. obviously wasn’t great, but he said it wasn’t that bad. Oddly, another man that self-surrendered on the same day Chris did was from Memphis, TN also and was in the cell with him in the SHU, so he had someone in there with him for those 8 days that he had could have conversations with about common-ground things. Memphis has no lack of drama so I am sure they filled the days just fine talking about what a mess the city they left is. He received all the letters I have been sending and wrote me every day even though he couldn’t mail anything because he didn’t have stamps. I can’t wait to get those letters to see how he was feeling during those 8 days.

One of my biggest concerns was about him eating and he said the food isn’t bad. Of course it’s not my home-made fried chicken, but he is eating and has plenty. There are people in THIS country that can’t say that on a daily basis so I am grateful. If you think about it, prison life in this country is a better life than millions of people around the world have on a daily basis. There is shelter, food, clean clothes, and it’s a reasonably safe environment (at least where he is). However, that’s a topic for another time and probably not on this blog.  (That is a perfect topic for this blog, Diane. Feel free to bring it up anytime.)

By the time he called I believe he had been in the “Vernon” housing unit for an hour or two. He had already met his cell mates, I think they call them “cellies” but I am unsure. (True.) He is in a unit that are 6 man cells. For the first few days I had been praying for him to be put in Allen Unit (That is where I was, and that was my suggestion), but then my prayer changed and I just prayed that God would put him in the best place for him to carry out God’s will and plan (Of course, that was a much better plan.). Chris said all of the men he had met except one were very “cool” with him. He thinks the one that wasn’t was just upset because he would be bunking above him and he doesn’t really like people to bunk above him. As I understand it, at least one of them in his cell is an ‘SO’ also and from what I hear they stick together a bit. I don’t know, I could be wrong. They had already been showing him the ropes, whatever ropes those may be in prison.

I am just thankful he found some people who were kind and not mean. Actually, he said he hadn’t encountered anyone mean. He could just be telling me that so I don’t worry, but it’s likely true. (It most likely is. It had become a friendlier place by the time I left.) It’s very hard for anyone to be mean to Chris, he is just a very likable, nice guy. I worry that will be a detriment to him while in prison and make him an easy target for people to try to take advantage of him. Time will tell, it will remain on my prayer list for a while.

Believe it or not, you can actually cover a lot of ground in 13 minutes and 2 seconds. He called me as he was about to go out to the rec yard to watch an inmate softball game. I thought it was odd that they have softball games there, but it’s cool at the same time. I can only imagine how having interaction with other humans and being able to go out in the sun after 8 days felt for him. I’m sure he enjoyed every minute of it. Another point of worry for me is that in order for him to go to the rec yard he had to have tennis shoes and he only has the boots he was issued. He hasn’t been able to go to the commissary yet so I was confused. He said that one of the guys in his cell let him borrow a pair of shoes. The red flags and sirens that went off in my head were deafening. We have been told SO many times by SO many people that you don’t take help from other inmates. The quickest way to get in a mess in jail is by owing people, and nothing is ever free. People don’t do nice things just to do nice things. I reminded him of this, but really that is all I can do. I can’t control it, I can’t change it and worrying about it isn’t going to do me a bit of good. I just hope he made a good judgement call on that. I will pray about that too for a few days. (While this is true in many instances, once you have been ‘assigned’ to a particular ‘group’, people within that group will provide you with items like shoes to help you get started. It  is generally those outside your group who present a problem. There are actually quite a few who simply know the things you are feeling when first entering and reach out to make you feel more comfortable.)

It was about time to wrap up the conversation, I kept telling that I loved him so much at random times because I know that the phones cut off when you reach your 15 minutes without warning and I wanted to make sure I told him and we didn’t get cut off before I could. THAT was important to me, for him to hear me say that I loved him. There was times before going to prison in which he had a lot of doubts as to whether I would still love him after he went in or if it would be too hard. I needed him to know that it isnt’ going to be too hard for me. I needed him to hear me say that I loved him more yesterday than the day I dropped him off. Every day it’s more because every day Jesus is working on my heart and my marriage even though we are apart.

We said our good-byes and I love you’s and he hung up. I cried through the entire phone call, it’s good that he is stronger than me because his voice only cracked once or twice, and then at the very end. I cried for a good 10 minutes after the phone call. A good cry, a thankful cry. I just kept thanking Jesus for everything. Thanking him that he was ok, that he was eating, that he wasn’t broken, that he sounded so good, that he has been shown some kindness, that he has found comfort in his Bible….I just kept saying thank you.

He called me this morning, twice, for 3 minutes each. He was also able to call his mom today. I get the feeling he is a bit bored today because most everyone is at their assigned jobs and he hasn’t been assigned one. He doesn’t have to be so careful in spreading out his 300 minutes this month because he gets new minutes on the 7th of each month and it’s already the 14th. So he can call a bit more this first month which will be good for everyone while we all transition. At least I think it will be good. It could be bad in the end when next month has to be different.

Our journey will not be easy but it will without a doubt not be as hard as some prison wives’ journeys have been and my heart breaks for them. I will be able to visit my husband fairly regularly (every 4-6 weeks) and we will be able to afford phone calls more than once or twice a week. At least at this present time those things will be able to happen.  I am grateful for that, very grateful for that indeed.

I have much greater sense of peace and calm today. I also have a very real feeling of exhaustion, the kind that when you stand up your legs almost collapse under you. After a long stretch of high anxiety and stress like my last week has been, sometimes once you get a break it seems like your whole being just needs to take a deep breath, if that makes any sense.

So today I have a great peace in my heart and I am beyond thankful, but so very worn.

I do believe the word that used to frighten me will probably become my most favorite word to see on the caller ID in the next 8 years.

I’m learning every day that ‘unknown’ isn’t so scary after all, especially since I know that God is already there and nothing is ‘unknown’ to him.

I love the song “You’re Already There” by Casting Crowns, the lyrics are so comforting:

When I’m lost in the mystery, to You my future is a memory cause You’re already there; You’re already there standing at the end of my life, waiting on the other side; You’re already there, You’re already there. Amen!

Another Annoying Note From Tony: I have put together a little map to help everyone visualize the ‘compound’ a little better. Hope it helps. 🙂


Honesty And Truth Are Not Proper Nouns

by Tony Casson

“And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, ‘How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners? ‘ ” (Mark 2:16 NKJV)

“A good honest and painful sermon.” Samuel Pepys

Honesty and truth can sometimes make us uncomfortable, and the words used to convey them are not always pretty words. In fact, although they are both nouns, neither ‘honesty’ OR ‘truth’ is a proper noun and, when wielded by Nadia Bolz-Weber in her book, “PASTRIX”, they will undoubtedly be viewed as IMPROPER nouns by some. Tertullian was a father of the early church who lived in the late second and early third centuries. He once said, “Veritas Non Crubescit”, which means “The truth does not blush”, and while the truth itself might not blush, the same cannot be said for many who might read this powerful book written by a woman who definitely does not mince her words.

Ms. Bolz-Weber’s picture adorns the front cover of the book and her image alone serves notice to potential readers that the journey they are contemplating is not going to be a mild one. The photo shows a striking woman with short hair and black plastic-framed glasses which lend her an air of intelligence even though her face is partially obscured by the fact she is looking down at her hands at the ends of heavily tattooed arms which are draped over her knees. She is wearing a sleeveless shirt which enables her colorful ‘ink’ to stand out in vivid contrast to the darkness in her clothing and the absence of back-lighting. One of the tattoos which stands out in particular is on her right forearm and depicts Mary Magdalene.

Mary Of Magdala is a good place to begin this ‘book review’ since she was the also the first person to see Jesus Christ after the resurrection. She did not recognize Him until He spoke her name, initially mistaking him for a gardener. In the book, Ms. Boz-Weber suggests that is the case for all of us; that none of us recognizes Him until He calls out to us. I suspect she may be right. Why Mary, though? Why select someone as flawed as she was to give the immense honor and considerable responsibility of telling others about the risen Son of God? Possibly because He was always a friend of sinners, those who were sick, those in need, and those who, like Mary magdalene, were beset by demons.

“PASTRIX” quite effectively takes us into the same places Christ went to do His work. The author plants us right in the midst of dinner at the tax collector’s house, only we are not at dinner, and we are not in Levi’s home. We are at the ‘House For All Sinners And Saints’ in Denver, Colorado, and Nadia Bolz-Weber is its ordained Lutheran pastor and founder. We are not in some pretty crystal cathedral or upper-class mega church. We are in the trenches, right where Jesus Christ went to go to work, and where many people begin their own search for Him. In the pages of “PASTRIX” we become witnesses to many living examples of how to find forgiveness in an unforgiving world; how to find acceptance and love while all around us the meanings of those words seems to have disappeared or have been forgotten; how to reconcile some of the things we read in the Bible with the way our human hearts, and minds, often differ from those things.

Some may think Ms. Bolz-Weber’s use of profanity and earthy colloquialisms are overdone or gratuitous, but if those who are easily offended can grit their teeth while opening their eyes, hearts, and minds to the MESSAGE of this rough-talking, soft-hearted warrior for Christ, the benefits derived from the experience will far outweigh any inconvenience, discomfort, or perceived damage which may be suffered by the reader. Those words which MIGHT offend, far from being gratuitous or unnecessary, actually act as a powerful hammer with which this passionate woman drives her message home.

“PASTRIX” introduces us to several members of the Home For All Sinners And Saints ‘family’, and when we get to know some of them better, I can hear books being closed, along with the minds and hearts of those closing them, but I implore you all to hang on till the powerful, emotional ending before rendering your final verdict. Some will remain unmoved and convinced the journey was a mistake, but there WILL be those who will be ‘on-your-knees’ thankful they read it in its entirety.

I once wrote another ‘book review’ in these Chronicles about a book called ‘not a fan’ by Kyle Idleman in which I warned my readers that the author makes us uncomfortable as we are led on a search of our hearts to see if we are truly committed followers of Jesus Christ, or, simply, cheering fans sitting on the sidelines. In similar fashion, “PASTRIX” makes those who read it uncomfortable as well, and the author’s choice of vocabulary has little to do with it. The REAL discomfort begins as we slowly discover the depth – or perhaps, shallowness is a better word – of our understanding of what Christ did NOT say.

Jesus Christ said, “Follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
Jesus Christ did NOT say, “Follow me when you feel up to it or have time, or it is not too much trouble.”

Jesus Christ said, “Love thy neighbor.” ((Mark 12:31)
He did NOT say, “Surround yourself with people you are comfortable with, smell nice, and make enough money to suit you, and love only them.”

Christ said, “Do not judge others.” (Luke 6:37)
He did NOT say, “It is alright to look down on others to elevate yourself as long as you go to church with like-minded individuals each Sunday.”

He said, “What you do to others you do to me.” (Matthew 25:40)
He did NOT say, “If you don’t like the way someone looks or smells, treat them with disdain and ignore their pain and I will overlook it when you stand before me in judgment.”

He also said, “Do as I have done to you.” (John 13:15)
Again, Jesus Christ did NOT say, “I treat everyone with love, kindness, mercy and grace, but YOU are free to treat them however badly you wish.”

Jesus Christ was not afraid to rub elbows with the unwashed, the uneducated, or the unhealthy. He loved those He walked and talked with during His time as a man among mankind. Heaven is most assuredly a perfectly beautiful place to see and in which to live the eternal lives we are promised by God, but while the physical appearance of OUR world is breathtakingly beautiful – as it was intended to be when God created it – the sickness, poverty, pain, and the ugliness of sin that afflicts mankind has given us an unbelievable ability to make that beauty here on earth almost impossible to see. “PASTRIX” teaches us lessons that cannot be learned by avoiding, being embarrassed by, or offended by honesty and truth as brought to us by Nadia Bolz-Weber. She helps us to strip away some of that ugliness and see that there is beauty in there. She has been called upon by God to get down in the trenches, roll up her sleeves (well, if she HAD sleeves!) and help those she finds shed that ugliness and see the beauty God placed inside THEM. In the writing of “PASTRIX” she takes us along and lets us see some of the people who need help finding God inside themselves, and allows us to accompany THEM on their journeys to that discovery. The journeys are not always pleasant, but they are always REAL.

Sara Groves is a favorite Christian singer of mine and one of the songs she performs is called “The Boxer”. I was listening to that song the other day and, in my mind, I could almost see Nadia Bolz-Weber and Jesus Christ in a boxing ring with gloves on, side by side, slugging it out with pain, addiction, homelessness, unwelcomeness, unforgiveness, poverty, hunger, hypocrisy, sickness, and sin – and winning. I get this crazy mental image in my head of her leaning against Christ after the last bell, both of them bloodied and battered, her tattoos glistening with sweat, and I can hear her as she looks up at the face of Jesus and says, “Damn, that was a hell of a fight!”

I have a pretty good feeling Jesus would not disagree with the message or her delivery of that message.

Many of the individuals highlighted in “PASTRIX” are seriously flawed. When the last page is turned, we could very well be left wondering if the very first person Christ reveals Himself to upon His return just might be someone from the House For All Sinners And Saints.

Seriously. Read this book.

(And check out the paperback version of MY book “TODAY IS….A Gift From God” at http://www.createspace.com/4718409)

This Woman…A Gift From God

by Tony E. Casson

“Many will say they are loyal friends.
But who can find one who is truly reliable?” Proverbs 20:6 NLT

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive,
and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” Anais Nin, The Diary Of Anais Nin

God rarely announces His gifts with a lot of fanfare, as evidenced by the gift of His Son, whom He sacrificed in order to offer Hope to the world.

Shortly after arriving here at Oakdale FCI, a friend of my sister – a person I had never heard of, let alone met – sent me a note of encouragement written on a card which had a verse taken from the Bible printed on the front. That card arrived quietly and without fanfare, and while it was appreciated, it certainly was not viewed at the time as being anything beyond a nice gesture which required me to remember my manners and send a note of thanks by return mail.

The name of the woman who sent that card is Diane Woodall, and while I did not view this unknown person as any sort of gift from God at the time, the relationship that was begun when Diane first put pen to paper and reached out to another human being has blossomed into the most beautiful friendship imaginable, and her placement into my life could ONLY have come as a gift from God as evidence of His grace and His indescribable ability to attend to even the minutest details of our lives if we only afford Him the opportunity.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord.’ They are plans for good, and not for evil, for a future and a hope.'” This quote from the Holy Bible, Jeremiah 29:11, was the message on the front of that card. It has occupied space above the mirror in my cell since it was first received. It is my personal assurance from God that the insanity which precipitated this period of incarceration is over, and the future is at hand. They are words that have kept me focused on God and the task before me of building a relationship with Him that is enabling me to become the human being He intended me to be when He first gave me life.

The card itself was an introduction to the woman who would grow to become the best friend I have ever had. Quietly, unobtrusively, and totally devoid of fanfare, God gave me the gift of a stranger’s Christian love which has guided me, kept me company, and helped me to take confident steps toward His promise of a future and a hope.

I have written – and wadded up for the wastebasket – several attempts to continue beyond this point. There is so much to say about this person who has given so much of herself, her time, and her money to type, print, mail, copy, research, edit, redo, reprint, recopy, remail, advise, consult, console, and correct. Hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars spent lending support to a very, very broken man as God walked him through the process of healing, restoration, and renewal. And for what? Because God dumped me in her lap, and said, “You need to help this person.”

There is so much of what I have been able to accomplish that would have been extremely difficult, if not outright impossible, without her invaluable assistance and devotion. She took over the management of these “Chronicles” some time ago and she was utterly irreplaceable in completing “TODAY IS….A Gift From God” (my book of daily devotionals on Kindle, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention). I literally shudder to think how much less I would have achieved here without her friendship. I am leaving here eager, confident, and prepared to face the future, and a very large part of my ability to be that way is directly attributable to her.

When I expressed reservations about going back to the state of Florida, Diane quietly investigated a possibility which has recently become reality. In May, upon my release from this place, I will be heading to Washington, DC rather than the sunshine state of Florida. Some may view this as a step in the wrong direction, but I can only say the reasons why this is the greatest blessing I have ever received are numerous, and I am completely overjoyed! I humbly offer thanks to God and all of those who helped make it happen! I will be taking up residence in the Central Union Mission in downtown Washington (www.missiondc.org), and I will be participating in programs to help me continue to grow in my relationship with God, and I will be immersed in an environment of service to others. An environment I believe is one God Himself chose for me. Don Woodall (Diane’s husband), is very involved with the Mission and provided the link to Reverend David Howard, who is the director of the Spiritual Transformation program at the Mission. My sister Kathy spoke with the person who will be my new Probation Officer upon my release and was able to gain approval for the transfer, which will also serve to place me close to family members. Did I say I was blessed?

In making this move, I will be able to learn how to follow Christ OUTSIDE of this prison, and I will be able to focus on a life of service to other people. I have learned many valuable lessons while in prison. Some directly from God, through the Holy Bible; some from reading what others have written as daily inspiration in devotionals such as “Streams In The Desert”, “Our Daily Bread”, and “The Upper Room”; and I have learned many valuable lessons from the friendship of Diane, and the willingness of her husband and Reverend Howard to lend a hand to a stranger. I have prayed, meditated, walked and talked with God, and through it all, I have thanked Him for His gift to me of this person who is as important in my life as any person has ever been. Rising above all that I have learned is this: We can do the most to help ourselves, when we reach out to help another. You see, folks, this is what God intended all along. It’s not complicated or difficult.

Diane Woodall helped me to learn this, and other, valuable lessons and I am forever grateful. No one person has ever exhibited such kindness to me. It is an amazing thing to think about, and I do think about it often.

For those of you who think it is impossible for a severely broken human being to undergo a complete, and total, spiritual transformation, you simply do NOT know God! And for those of you who don’t believe that friendship, kindness, Christian love, generosity, and selflessness can contribute mightily to that transformation, you simply do NOT know Diane Woodall.

Diane, my dear, dear friend, may God bless each and every one of your days and show you the love, kindness, and compassion that you have shown me, increased 10, 20, 30…..a HUNDRED times!

Man Imprisoned, Man Freed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“(IN)JUSTICE IS BLIND” by Tony Casson

“God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will be satisfied.”
Matthew 5:6 NLT

“Extreme law is often extreme injustice.” Terence (Publius Terentius Afer)

“Volenti non fit iniuria”. Translated, this anonymous Latin legal maxim means, “To a person who consents, no injustice is done.” On the surface, this sentiment indeed has merit, for its broad meaning is that injustice can only occur when decent people do not speak out to prevent it. But this is 2014 in the United States of America, and INJUSTICE has permeated our justice system, filling it with the overpowering stench of corruption, the foul odor of personal ambition, the fetid funk of irresponsibility, and the sour stink that accompanies egregious abuse of power.

Last week, an incoming inmate was escorted by a friend of mine, to his new ‘residence’ in one of the housing units that was the farthest away from the Special Housing Unit (SHU) from where the individual had been released. He was brought into the unit and ‘shown’ where he would set up housekeeping within the unit. As it turned out, the bunk originally assigned to him was an ‘upper’. Nothing unusual so far. Just normal stuff. Except for the fact that the new arrival, Ronald Breaux, age 68, of Raceland, LA, has been BLIND for 27 years and had recently been sentenced in federal court in the western district of Louisiana by one Judge Haik, to 13 years in prison for possession of child pornography. The fact that Mr. Breaux is blind was not allowed to be introduced into the proceedings. In fact, it was ruled by Judge Haik as being ‘irrelevant’ to said proceedings.

I think I have said all I wish to say for the time being. I will leave it in the hands of those who read this, and anyone they can reach out to, in the hope that someone will raise a voice of protest and indignation. I encourage you all to investigate and decide for yourselves: “Can America sleep safer at night knowing that a blind man is in prison?”

On second thought, perhaps a better question is, “HOW can America sleep at night knowing that a blind man is in prison?”

“The Faces of Felons: Two Faces of Youth”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless you all.