“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?

LETTERS TO HEAVEN: In Memory Of Peter Becker

In Loving Memory Of Peter Becker

Dear God,

It has been a long, long time since I have had the opportunity – indeed, the ability – to sit down in front of a keyboard and write to you. That ability has now been granted, and I cannot thank you enough for Your part in making this possible. Your presence in my life is evident on a daily basis and I am truly humbled by the blessings I have received. As the creative cobwebs clear and my fingers begin to loosen up, I pray that the words which ultimately find their way to these pages will be deemed worthy of being read by those who take the time to do so.

For those reading this who are not familiar with certain aspects of my story, I will provide a little background: My access to a computer had been denied me since my release from prison on May 20, 2014 due to the restrictions imposed upon me by the federal court I was sentenced in before I began my incarceration at Oakdale FCI in 2010. Although my supervision was transferred to Washington, D.C. upon my release, the jurisdiction for the case itself remained in south Florida, where I was sentenced. That jurisdiction has been recently transferred to Washington, D.C. and along with the transfer came a modification allowing me the ability to use a computer and access the internet which will allow me to pursue writing once again as a way of reaching out to others. Although the anticipation of sitting down to write has been high, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that feelings of deep, deep sadness would be mixed in with the joy of having access to a computer again.

The sadness is attributable to news I received recently about the death of my friend Peter Becker. “Pete” died in late February from an apparent heart attack. He was my ‘cellie’ for most of my incarceration at Oakdale, and the news of his death struck me an almost palpable blow. Lord, I was extremely fortunate that I had learned to turn to you first when confronted with trials, tribulations, tragedy, or – as in this case – extreme and profound sadness.

Help me find words now, Father, which adequately paint an accurate picture of the relationships that can evolve in prison. Without Your help, how can I ever effectively describe the dependence that often develops between 2 people who share a 7’ x 11’ living space separated from family and friends? Between men who are required to face the societal consequences for what are usually, first and foremost, sins against You? Between individuals who are compelled to posture themselves as tough and impenetrable, but in reality are frequently vulnerable individuals who are prone to introspection which can often lead to feelings of inadequacy, failure and hopelessness?

There is an intimacy of thought and action which ultimately envelops those who occupy a space of that size which is capable of rivaling that of the closest of married couples. For example, in the case of Pete and myself, we shared much about our respective families; our children, ex-spouses, grandchildren. I grew to know Pete’s family and came to consider myself a part of it in a way I cannot explain. For over 3 ½ years, I saw pictures of his children displayed on the inside of his locker door. I was ‘there’ for the birth of his two grandchildren and ‘watched’ them grow along with Pete till the day I walked out the door. And on a daily basis, I listened in as Pete talked to, and fawned over, the 2 little ones. Sometimes it was funny to hear the way he spoke to them as if they could hear him. More often than not, sadness tugged at my heart as I detected the longing in his voice for the sound of their laughter and the warmth of their hugs.

Pete’s daughter, her husband, and the 2 children came to visit Pete once before I was released and there was unmistakable joy radiating from his face upon his return to our cell. He described holding them and told me about their loving reactions to meeting him for the first time. To the best of my knowledge, that was, sadly, the last time he would hold his grandchildren, hug his daughter, or see his son-in-law face to face. It was as if You knew he would be coming home to You, Lord, and that visit was arranged so that Pete’s daughter would always have a reference point when talking with the children about their Grandfather. During that visit, several pictures were taken. Undoubtedly, those photos will become cherished items to Pete’s daughter and to her children as they grow older. For what would prove to be the brief remainder of his life, they would also serve to remind Pete what his two little grandchildren sounded like, what they smelled like, and what it felt like to hold them in his arms. Pete had a son as well, and his picture was also included in the gallery of love on Pete’s locker door.

Watching all of this was wonderfully awkward, and painfully joyful, and if there seems to be contradiction in those words, it is because prison is full of contradictions.

When I left Peter, he was a big man. As many men who are incarcerated are prone to do, Pete gained considerable weight after beginning to serve his own sentence, but this big man was a teddy bear, and he had a big heart. Perhaps the additional weight put a strain on his heart that ultimately proved to be too much, but while his heart beat, it was a heart full of love for many people even if articulating that love for others outside the circle of his family was difficult for him. It is that way for many people in prison, Lord, as you know. Living in an atmosphere full of ‘A’ personalities and overflowing with testosterone, exhibiting sentiments and emotions like love, softness, kindness, caring and compassion are likely to be misconstrued as a sign of weakness, and many are reluctant to appear weak in prison for reasons that should be obvious.

Pete had already been at Oakdale for some months when I first arrived. His sentence was 15 years, but 10 of those years were added on as an ‘enhancement’ due to a previous offense. However, as we learned a couple of years ago, the enhancement clearly was applied inappropriately and should never have been added to his 5 year sentence for the current offense. I will never defend the actions of myself or any other person who commits crimes against society or sins against You, Lord, but the rules of our judicial system should be applied fairly and in this instance an error was obviously made and should have been corrected. Unfortunately, the objection was apparently not raised in a timely manner and while Pete had high expectations his argument for a sentence reduction would prevail, I learned he found out late last year that his appeal had been denied and there was no further recourse. His sentence would stand and that meant his grandchildren would not see their Grandfather in freedom for another 6 or 7 years.

Only You know, Lord, what conversations Peter had with You after his pleas for fairness were denied. Perhaps he was tired, sad, or experiencing feelings of hopelessness. I had also heard he had lost his job in the prison laundry, which had been the center of his prison life, and now his hopes for justice and the freedom that would have enabled him to see his grandchildren grow up had been dashed. Maybe he lost his will to live and prayed to be brought home to You, Lord. Only You know.

I am certain the suddenness of Peter’s death stunned everyone at Oakdale, particularly those who were close to him. I can only pray, Father, that those who mourned his passing turned to You for comfort in their time of need. The bonds created between men who have squandered their freedom can be as strong as any experienced while living outside the razor wire. People learn to rely upon each other, to lean on each other, to trust and, yes, love one another. The harsh reality that death can claim us before having the opportunity to regain the freedom we once failed to use properly and make efforts to redeem ourselves in the eyes of society is something that is visited upon incarcerated individuals at one time or another during the course of each person’s sentence. People do die everywhere there are people, of course, and prisons are no exception, but how death affects the average person is different in prison. Each of us who has been in that situation is suddenly faced with the realization that we, too, might meet the same fate as those we have known who have died while serving their sentences. There is something cold and decidedly impersonal about dying there. Most people don’t really understand what, exactly, goes on behind the walls and razor wire of institutions they may pass by, but it is not complicated really: Life goes on and, where there is life, there is also death.

The news of her father’s sudden death must have rocked Pete’s daughter back on her heels. I have no certain knowledge of how news of that sort is delivered to the family of the inmate, but I suspect it is done with a phone call. I pray that was not the case, Lord, but I cannot imagine it being any different. After all, an inmate dying while incarcerated simply means a bed has opened up. Dealing with the details of death is not the primary concern. Death is simply an inconvenience that must be dealt with: Notifying the next of kin; gathering up the belongings; designating another individual to occupy the space once filled with someone’s father, someone’s grandfather, and someone’s friend.

Pete did not talk as much about his son as he did his daughter, but I know he loved him and I am certain that he, too, was as shocked as his sister to learn about his father’s death. I pray they both turned immediately to You, Lord, and I would ask anyone reading these words to pray for them. I would also ask that You give comfort to all who knew Peter and loved him. While I am fortunate to have been released from prison myself, I do wish I could hug those who I spent time with in Oakdale and who I know will be reeling from Pete’s death for some time to come. Perhaps you can reach in and squeeze their hearts for me, Father, and let them know they are all loved.

As for Peter, I give thanks that he is with You, Lord, and that his anguish over his separation from his family is over.

And for all of those in the ‘free world’ who may read these words, I pray that each and every one of you uses your freedom well, “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NLT)

When we use our freedom to satisfy our sinful nature, we run the risk of finding ourselves deprived of our freedom, our families, and our friends. When we fail to recognize the importance of using our freedom the way You intended us to, Lord, we also run the risk of leaving this life before regaining an opportunity to get it right.

And prison is a terrible place to die.

Peter Becker, you will be missed, my friend. It was an honor to know you and to share cell #208 at Oakdale FCI with you. Thank you for allowing me to witness the expression of the love you had for your family.

Until we meet in heaven, I love you Pete.

“TIME TO MOVE ON” by Richard Roy

“My father taught me, ‘Take my words to heart. Follow my commands, and you will live.'” Proverbs 4:4

Purpose – n. Idea or aim kept before the mind as the end of effort; an end desired; a useful function; a definite intention.

Quite often we hear people say they are looking for their purpose in life. Perhaps you have sought purpose or meaning in your life. Native cultures around the world are rife with examples of rites of passage, walkabouts or “finding oneself.”

Much of our lives are consumed with self-absorbed behavior as we seek this mysterious purpose. The dead ends, frustrations and hamster wheel meaninglessness leading to unrealized potential, procrastination, psychosis, addictions or, in best case scenarios, self-righteousness and pride. In seeking our purpose we attempt to build ourselves up only to experience despair at the utter lack of meaning and then we die.

Tony Casson observed one day, during one of our innumerable laps around the asymmetrical rec yard track, “God created us because he wants to hang out with us.” Profound in its simplicity, Tony completely described our purpose: we were created to glorify God. It is in trying to assign our own meaning to existence that we go astray.

Isaiah 49:5 says, “We were formed in our mother’s womb to be submitted to God.” II Thessalonians 3:11-12 “…that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you….”

For me it took the humbling experience of prison to come to the realization of the difference between purpose and use: God will use us where we are once we fulfill our purpose.

This long-winded introduction is an expression of gratitude to God. I thank him for being present in the bloody shower stall of a cheap Florida motel. There he forgave the sins of a man who finally discovered his purpose. It was not ever God’s intent for Tony to end his life. But in that act of final desperation, He got Tony’s attention, pulled him back from the grave, and is using him in mighty ways. Most of which we may never know.

Soon I leave FCI Oakdale, this is my last submission to The Oakdale Chronicles (TOC) as a prisoner and I take this opportunity to thank God for the gift of Tony Casson. Through his friendship I step out of these prison walls confident that God uses, and will continue to use, me too.

Christian singer Kerrie Roberts, in the song “In Your Sight,” sings, “I wish I could have the wisdom of a broken heart without all the pain.” These lyrics sum up a familiar sentiment for me. Through my own painful experience God has crushed my prideful spirit and made me a man. I will forever carry the stigma of the sinner I was. Like Paul’s thorn and Jacob’s limp, it will serve as a reminder of how far God has brought me. I am wiser now, painfully so, and eternally grateful for the opportunity to return to a supportive family. To these wonderful people I am a better husband, father, brother and son. To my friends, I thank you for the phone calls, cards and letters. You have taught me powerful lessons in forgiveness.

To the readers of TOC, thank you for your support of possibly the closest friend (outside of my wife!) I’ve ever had. I encourage you to visit TOC often, make comments to what you read (Tony beams when people leave comments to articles), and offer contributions of your own. Tony welcomes those with stories to share. No whiners allowed.

To Tony, God Bless You. You’ve tolerated my sarcasm, contrary viewpoints, ups and downs. We’ve celebrated and cried together and once I made you so mad that … well, it’s behind us now. You are a fantastic man deserving of many blessings. I pray for your success with C.A.N. and the Significant Seven (I leave the explanations to Tony). Godspeed my friend. Thank you for allowing yourself to be used of God.

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.

“A FOND FAREWELL” by Tony Casson

“Walk with the wise and become wise;

Associate with fools and get in trouble.”  Proverbs 13:20 NLT

“Always leave them laughing when you say goodbye.” George M. Cohan

On February 16, 2011, an article was posted in these “Chronicles” titled “The Faces Of Felons – Madison’s Daddy”. In that article, I introduced a young man named Aaron. At that time, Aaron had completed almost half of his 70 month sentence. Aaron’s voice was the first friendly voice I heard upon my arrival in my new temporary ‘home’. The time I spent walking and talking with Aaron since then was time put to good use. I am wiser, and I never got in trouble.

Aaron left on December 16, a little shy of three years from the day that article was posted. He walked out the front door that afternoon, ‘furloughed’ to go climb on board a bus for a ride to a halfway house in South Carolina to finish out the remaining 3 months of his sentence, and I am absolutely certain that Madison is thrilled that “Daddy” is a big step closer to home.

I saw Aaron that morning as I left my housing unit and he was headed back in from the ‘yard’. We shook hands, and hugged, and there was that unique moment when it was ok to feel good about this place. Those moments happen too infrequently, but they do occur whenever another individual gets to walk out the front door. We exchanged laughter as we parted, and that is how I will remember Aaron: always upbeat, always ready to laugh, and quick to make others laugh as well.

Aaron will NOT be back, and I am very confident making that statement. He made a foolish, immature, and irresponsible mistake, and paid a too-high price FOR that mistake. It was not a criminal LIFESTYLE that put Aaron here, it was a criminal ACT. There is a difference and if society is to survive itself, it had better begin to grasp that difference.

Some of the individuals Attorney General Eric Holder wishes to go easier on, claiming they are unfairly targeted because they are black, that the laws are unfairly weighted against them because of the color of their skin, are individuals with lengthy ‘rap’ sheets and frequent confrontations with law enforcement that began long before they came to this place, and will continue long after they have ‘hit the streets’ again. Many, many of these individuals who are ‘unfairly’ targeted talk only of going back to the streets, getting guns, and dealing drugs. MANY of them. You would be amazed.

Aaron will never be a member of the “Frequent Felons Club”. His lesson was learned long before he left here the other day, and had JUSTICE been served in Aaron’s case, the ‘system’ would have merely placed him on probation in the first place.

We can all be happy for Madison, Joy (Aaron’s mom), Dave (his step-dad), his Father, his brother, and all of Aaron’s other relatives and friends. This is a spectacular time of year for this to be happening, and I hope Aaron is able to be quickly released from the halfway house directly to home confinement. He has a home and a job; Aaron has a life waiting for him to continue. And most important of all, Aaron has Madison waiting for Daddy to hug her every day.

Well, kiddo, he is almost there! Merry Christmas to Aaron, Joy, Dave, and all the rest, and especially to you, Madison! May God bless you all and keep you safe.

I will miss Aaron, as will many others he left behind here. But we are all better for having gotten to spend some time with him, and hopefully we all learned something in the process. I know I did.

Aaron, my young friend, I am glad that I got to say goodbye to you. I will pray for your happiness and that of your family.


“Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”
Proverbs 31:9 NLT

“There is no such thing as justice – in or out of court.”  Clarence Darrow, 1936

My little “Webster’s Pocket Dictionary” defines ‘justice’ as 1) moral rightness; 2) fairness; 3) the administration and procedure of the law. It is normal with any dictionary to list the most commonly used, and most important definition first, followed by any others in descending order.

For a criminal justice system to truly fulfill its obligation to all members of the society it serves, it must first, and foremost, exhibit a moral rightness. Criminal justice should be about what is best for the people it serves and ALL of those involved, including those accused of a crime, must be the recipients of that consideration.

Clarence Darrow’s statement is likely not true in every instance, but I cannot think otherwise when I consider the case of David Hayden and his family. David himself did not receive justice IN court, and the list of those who did not receive justice OUT of court is long: His wife Leigh, and their children, Tyler, Sam, and Henry; David’s employees and their families; David’s customers; the banks that held David’s mortgage and business loans; the businesses which supplied David’s company with the materials it required to operate; those companies that provided health insurance for David, his employees, and their families; the tax collecting agencies, local, state, and federal. There are probably more but that is quite a list as it stands and I believe I have made that particular point.

There will be those who will not, do not, care what explanation David offers. The fact that he received a twenty year sentence and his business and family were devastated as a result, provide testimony to that fact. Some who have followed his ‘letter’ in these ‘Chronicles’ will agree with all that has been done. There will be others who feel that David’s guilty verdict is justified, but that the sentence was too harsh. Still others (and I say this because this scenario was suggested to me by a friend of mine) might think that David’s real crime was in the use of Peer To Peer software (P2P) to ‘pirate’ copyrighted material and he should have been found guilty of that charge instead, still receiving jail time. There might be a few who agree with me and have taken the position that they are ALL wrong. I am praying for that last group to greatly outnumber all others.

David Hayden broke the law. He did, in fact, break several laws. Or did he? If our government had been acting in a responsible manner and doing its job of serving and protecting its citizens, David would have not been able to break ANY law. If David did, in fact, break any laws, then he did it with the knowing cooperation of the same government that then arrested him and caused all of the devastation mentioned earlier to occur.

First, let’s take a look at the laws that were broken, and examine HOW David was able to break them in the first place. David was arrested and charged with distribution of child pornography. On the surface, this sounds absolutely horrible. Indeed, intentional, purposeful, and knowledgeable distribution of child pornography is a HEINOUS crime and needs to be dealt with harshly, especially when it is done in a manner to profit from the sexual abuse of innocent children. But David is not guilty of that, and there was evidence to support that contention offered in court with the testimony of the lead investigator who arrested David in the first place. So how did he come to be charged with such a vile crime?  As everyone who uses P2P knows, and the number of American citizens who do this numbers in the TENS OF MILLIONS, when you set your computer to ‘search’ for certain movies or music, many times it is left to do its work and you go on about your life. As your folder fills up with search results, those files that you received are then available for someone else to receive. In other words, if you have searched for the first Harry Potter movie, anything that has turned up in your computer as a result is now available to anyone else looking for Harry Potter as well, so it is possible that subsequent searchers may ‘receive’ the material from YOUR computer. Only when David took the time to go through and clean out all of the ‘crap’ (as he so eloquently put it), or move what he was looking for to another folder, did it become unavailable for sharing. That is the nature of P2P. The unfortunate nature, I might add, because anyone using this software could be sharing illegal material without even knowing it was there in the first place. This is not rocket science. It is technology today, and it is technology our CHILDREN use. It is technology that is abused, and it is technology that enables the furtherance of illegal activity with the full knowledge of the United States Justice department, thereby making them culpable. At the least, they should have been indicted as co-conspirators with David, since his ability to commit the crime was absolutely impossible without the involvement of the federal government. There are laws on the books of every state in this country that hold an individual liable for criminal prosecution if they knowingly and willingly fail to stop and render aid to someone in need of emergency assistance. The federal government has failed to stop and render aid to its citizens by allowing these websites to continue to operate 1) Whose main purpose is to ‘pirate’ copyrighted material without paying for it and 2) In the process of providing one illegal service, allow the proliferation and transportation of unwanted, harmful, and illegal material to enter the homes, computers, and lives, of American citizens, with children included in the numbers of those receiving this material.

What about David’s attempts to download copyrighted materials without paying for them in the first place? Is that not a crime as well? Absolutely, but it was not something David was charged with. But was he really guilty of THAT? I say that he was not, and I will offer this by way of explanation: David followed the example of millions of other Americans. It was a poor example to follow, but that is another issue. The real issue is this: As evidenced by the numerous reports generated for Congress and different government agencies, it is a well-documented and undisputable fact that the United States government knew that this software was being used 1) For the illegal pirating of copyrighted material in the first place and, 2) that there was an extremely high degree of probability (not POSSIBILITY – PROBABILITY) that searches for the copyrighted material would turn up unwanted and illegal material in the form of pornography and, sadly, child pornography as well. The same arguments hold true for these second ‘charges’. The United States government is culpable in each and every case where a citizen of this country is charged with committing a crime such as this when the websites operate with the full knowledge, if not the tacit approval of, the United States, so if David WERE to be charged in this manner, the United States would have to be indicted as a co-conspirator.

Well, we cannot indict a country, so who is responsible? Whoever heads the FCC? FTC? The attorney general? Those are probably good places to start. Then proceed from there and include every member of Congress who has received any of the reports that have raised these issues and taken no action to shut down the offending sites. The sad, sad truth is that hundreds of fine, well-meaning, hardworking American men and women have somehow lost touch with what serving their country means. Providing these avenues of destruction for misguided, but ALSO well-meaning and hardworking American citizens to wander down should be something that happens in error, NOT with the full knowledge of the government. Pull the plug on sites that promote illegal activities or cannot properly screen ALL of their content. Prisons are full of people who can attest to the fact that the United States government can do pretty much whatever it wants, so ‘we can’t do that’ cannot be a defense. The citizens of this country (and yes, David, you ARE still a citizen of this country) have a right to demand protection from unwanted and illegal filth invading their homes, and those elected to serve the citizens of this country are charged with providing that protection. Standing idly by while lives are needlessly destroyed should NOT be an option open to members of Congress, or to the FCC, FTC, or the attorney general of the United States and his Department Of Justice. Remember, Mr. Holder, what the word “JUSTICE” should mean in the first place.

If we wish to operate in a strictly black and white world, then everyone should be happy with what has happened to David, Leigh, Henry, Tyler, Sam, and the many others. But is that the wise course to follow, and should that be the one we DO follow? Would it not be better for everyone concerned to apply moral rightness to matters where we are searching for justice? If the answer to that is “Yes”, and I believe it can be nothing else, then we must re-evaluate what has been done to David Hayden, his family, and the very long list of other people and businesses that have been impacted by this INJUSTICE and this moral OUTRAGE.

Maybe David was right. Maybe we ALL need to heed the words of Sheriff Andy Taylor when he tried to teach Barney Fife, “When dealing with people, sometimes it’s better to go less with the book and more with the heart.”

If there is anyone out there who can do anything at all to help David and his family, please contact David at the address provided at the end of Part 5 of his ‘letter’.


Dear God,

The gratitude I have for what you have done for me cannot be measured on any human scale. The love you have shown me and the love you have placed in my heart are just a couple of ways in which you have touched and transformed me over the last four years.

Even though I have not “written” to you in a long time, you know that I speak with you daily, you know I humbly thank you constantly, and you know that I look to you for direction and guidance throughout the course of each day.

I have found that many individuals look for miracles as proof of your existence and I want to climb up on a mountain and scream, “Look at me! Look at ME! I AM a miracle!”, for you have truly performed a miracle in transforming the life of this man who was so broken he thought that death was the only way to fix the problem. People I meet and I speak with simply cannot understand the miracle that I AM, but you and I know, and I will live the rest of my life trying to use the miracle that is ME to serve and thank YOU.

In “With Eyes Wide Open”, an article in the pages of these “Chronicles” not too long ago, I tried to share with others the miracle you performed when you showed me how to look at the world through the eyes of my heart. The ability you gave me helped me to see the goodness in the world, but it also enabled me to see, and to feel, the pain of others.

It is with the eyes that YOU opened and with the love that YOU placed in my heart that I come before you now to talk with you about some of your other children: David, Leigh, Tyler, Sam, and little Henry Hayden. As I have read and typed David’s words over the last few days, you have seen and felt the many tears that have fallen from my eyes. This heart that you filled with love has been battered and bruised as the reality that is the life of each and every member of David’s family has become achingly apparent to me and, I hope, to those who have read David’s words.

Those words have painted a picture in my mind that simply will not go away, Lord. It is a picture of a little boy collecting eggs with his father so that he can sell them. I have never seen even a picture of Henry, but it doesn’t matter. The image of a laughing, giggling boy who has refused to accept the fact that he shouldn’t even be ABLE to collect eggs with his father is clearly seen by the eyes of my heart. I can also see the love and pride on David’s face as he watches Henry collecting the money for the eggs from his ‘customers’ and contributing, in his small way, to his family’s well-being.

I recently watched a DVD featuring Louie Giglio in the chapel. Louie brilliantly demonstrated how very tiny this world is in comparison to the rest of this universe that you created. As I watched, I felt very, very small, indeed, but not nearly as small, helpless, and insignificant as the way I feel when I think about how powerless I am to help this man and his family; to help David be returned to fulfill his responsibility to those he loved and those he employed; to help him be reunited with his little Henry so he can be there to complete Henry’s journey home to you.

David says repeatedly in his ‘letter’ that he is a ‘simple man’. David’s sense of personal responsibility for others and his love for his family is such that I believe EVERY man should strive to be THAT ‘simple’.

Our world has become so complicated and so cynical; so skeptical and so legalistic, that David’s SIMPLE, honest explanations carried no weight and mattered not to those who could have produced a JUST outcome for society, for this ‘simple’ man, for little Henry, and the rest of the Hayden family and those employed by David’s company.

Lord, I have shaken David’s hand and I have promised him that I would do whatever I could to help him, and now I turn to YOU. I ask you to help turn David’s precious little egg collector, Henry, into a symbol of the devastation caused by the insanity that has consumed both our society, and our criminal justice system. I ask you to please bring David’s story to the attention of someone who can lift Henry up before David’s jury and tell them, “THIS is who you convicted!”, and hold him up before Judge Moore and say, “THIS is who YOU sentenced!”

When I made my promise to David, I told him that it is important to have faith in YOU God. David is too decent and too respectful to ever denounce, diminish, or denigrate my faith. He knows just how strong my faith is, and he knows the reasons why. But in the depths of his eyes as I made that promise, I saw the question, “How can I?” Please do NOT hold David’s doubt against him, Lord. I know in that heart you filled with your love David is trying to believe. However, when he thinks about his family, who have now lost their home and have moved into an empty house owned by a friend; when he thinks about the people who depended upon him for security for THEIR families; when he thinks about the lives that were destroyed by this injustice – and that is exactly what it is; when he thinks about the eggs that his precious little boy will never collect again – well, Lord, I know that you understand.

We now need another miracle, Lord. We need your awesome power and your incredible love to move whatever mountains need to be moved to fix these broken lives. I ask for this miracle for this ‘simple’ man. I ask for this miracle for all of those whose lives have been left blackened by the federal government’s ‘scorched earth’ policy, and I ask for this miracle for the love of Henry Hayden.


“THE FACES OF FELONS – DAVID’S LETTER, Part 5” edited by Tony Casson

Editor’s note: If you have not read this series from the beginning, please go back to Part 1 and start there. David’s story is too important to miss any part of it.

David’s letter continues:

Has a child been protected by sending me away? Has my imprisonment stopped child pornography from flowing throughout the Internet? P2P still operates today the same way as it did back in 2003 when Congress reported that our children were being exposed to harmful material and its citizens were in danger of UNKNOWINGLY exposing themselves to criminal liability.

Never have I harmed a child and I have never tried to use the Internet to contact children. I have never visited an illegal website. I have never produced any of this crap, nor have I knowingly distributed or shared any child pornography with others. The government’s own expert witness testified that he did not believe I was trying to share or distribute child pornography.

Even though law enforcement knows that certain websites like “Stickam” are distributing illegal material, they still operate today as they always have. Nothing has changed except this: As government statistics state, MY children are now more likely to turn to drugs, suicide, or head to prison due to the fact that they no longer have a father in the home. The sad truth, as we all know, is that my boys no longer have a father.

How can the music industry go to court and have popular P2P site “Lime Wire” shut down and prevent them from opening back up until they stopped allowing music to be shared for free, yet our government can do nothing about child pornography, rape, and murder on our Internet? Do you know that when “Lime Wire” DID open back up, thereby assuring that copyright holders would receive payment for their songs, NOTHING was done to protect children and unsuspecting adults from the harmful material that often accompanied their product? Not even the simple warnings that Congress had suggested in 2005.

Please tell me how any of this makes sense!

I realize that I am naive and though I have thought that those in charge were much smarter than me, I just can’t understand how our government, which is broke, is still filling prisons with citizens like me (I think I am still a citizen, I honestly don’t know) who are not a danger to society. I could have been left free to take care of my responsibilities and be a productive member of society. With my business I helped senior citizens with no funds to repair their air conditioning or heating systems. I have hired those that others would not, have given them fresh starts and taught them new trades. My service manager had spent years in prison, yet she turned into a great employee. The judge and the prosecutor automatically gave me the maximum sentence…..why??? Kidnappers, and murderers receive less time. Child molesters receive less time. Bank robbers and drug dealers receive less time.

Where is the wisdom in what they have done?

Over the years, I have endured my share of heartache and tragedy. My family suffered the tragic loss of a young niece in an automobile accident. Her grandfather, one of the kindest, most loving men I have ever known, committed suicide. I have heard a sentence of death pronounced on my son, Henry, my beautiful baby boy. For fourteen years I have waited. I wonder if Henry’s loss of balance or his uncontrollable shaking are the beginning of the terrible decline, which we know is inevitable.

I live with the fear that Leigh’s fatigue or her recent cold would send her to the hospital, possibly back into another coma, or worse. Even though my presence would never have prevented the pain that my family’s illnesses have caused them, I would have at least been there for them. I would have been able to give them my love, and my support, no matter what was to come. No matter what we faced as a family. That was my job as a father and a husband, and it was my only wish.

And I have failed.

In the early stages of our relationship, it took a lot for Leigh to learn to trust that I would not abandon her, as had happened through her entire life. That our boys would always have a father who would never leave, as hers had. Such a seemingly simple thing that she sought.

And yet I failed them all.

It does not matter that it was unintentional because the pain and destruction I caused are the same. I had only one priority: TO LOVE MY FAMILY. Yet I let such a stupid, senseless mistake destroy all that I cherished.

I am so ashamed that I have left Leigh with such an unimaginable burden. Though smarter than I, she has had to fight tooth and nail to stay as healthy as she can. It was MY job to support our family, supply work and health insurance for our employees, be there for Tyler and Sam, sending them off to college, helping them to fulfill their dreams. That is what a father is for.

And I have failed.

Until God calls him home, Henry will need love and support, and I should be a part of the journey. He was not viewed as a burden, but as a gift from God. Henry taught us all patience, compassion, and – most important – to never give up. Told that he may never walk or talk, Henry proved them wrong. He realizes he can never do many of the things his brothers can, but Leigh has worked so hard in helping Henry to find his own path. Because of Henry’s love of animals, he and I raised chickens together which allowed him to sell eggs. To see the pride and joy on Henry’s face was all any parent could have wished for and was special to see. I had hoped that Henry would continue to defy the predictions of the doctors and come work with me at our company as he got older.

It is all gone now. The dreams. The hopes. The smiles. All of it. And for what? Free movies and songs?

I made an incredibly stupid, but honest mistake in using P2P, and many, many people have paid dearly for my mistake. But does anyone agree with me that the United States Congress and Trade Commission also have made a huge mistake in allowing P2P to operate in the same reckless, destructive, and irresponsible manner that it does, WITH THEIR FULL KNOWLEDGE, while millions of children are being exposed to damaging material and untold numbers of unwitting citizens, such as myself, continue to unknowingly and unintentionally break the law?

They say our system is broke. As a mechanic, I say “Fix It!” I know it is not a simple thing, but it is something that needs to be done. Every day we see people getting ready to leave here and return to their lives of crime because the system has kept them locked up too long, and done too little to educate and prepare them for life in the ‘real’ world.  What little training there is in here is only ‘fluff’ so that it looks like something is being done, but I can tell you that is not the case.

Stop handing out these incredibly long sentences and get rid of mandatory minimums. Make judges become judges again and take into consideration things like standing in the community, employment contribution, family, and all of the other things that comprise the yardstick for measuring stability in a community. Reduce prison sentencing and use the money saved to invest in solid, productive trade and education programs for those who ARE left in prison, and even for some who are left in the community in lieu of prison. For the last twenty years I have trained people who could barely read and write, and I know what can be done.

Bring back the meaning of making the punishment fit the crime.

No taxpayer should have to pay for my room and board for the next twenty years or support my family when our once healthy company used to do all of that PLUS take care of 15 other people and THEIR families as well. I gave my word to the bank when I took out those business loans, and I have failed them as well. I have been swallowed into the system and my family has been left to fend for themselves. The individuals who were so concerned about protecting children by prosecuting me are nowhere to be found by my family. Who is protecting THEM?

In the letter I wrote to Judge Moore, I pointed out something Sheriff Andy Taylor tried to teach his deputy, Barney Fife, on the Andy Griffith Show. And told Barney, “When dealing with people, it is better to go less with the book and more with the heart.” True, I have struggled all my life, and who am I to tell anyone what is wrong with our system, but I believe that our government and my judge have lost heart. Has vengeance replaced compassion? Shouldn’t we all have the chance to redeem ourselves for our mistakes? I was taught that we call a judge “Your Honor” because of the wisdom he possesses, but today we are packing our prisons because lawmakers have allowed JUSTICE to become politicized and profitable. It’s not working. Families are being destroyed and our children are being hurt.

I have many faults, but I am not a pervert. I have lived a quiet life, and I am a gentle man who is now begging you to help me if you can. At the same time, stop this from happening to other idiots like myself. Make law enforcement stop monitoring and prosecuting just so they look good and make them shut these sites DOWN if they cannot control what goes in and out of them. They have known for YEARS these sites have been spreading illegal material and hurting our children and it is long past time to end this insanity. They are so busy catching idiots like myself that they have no time to catch those who are REALLY hurting our children!

Does this not make sense? My government does not like to lose, and I am powerless to fight them. I need a miracle!

I have always accepted responsibility for the mistakes I have made, and I am not trying to escape punishment now, if the law says I must be punished. But surely there was a different way to exact justice without cutting such a wide swath of destruction in human terms in the process. As parents, we know that we are given such a small window of time to help our children prepare for life. Time is quickly running out for me. Please, in God’s name, help me! I must be there if something happens to Leigh or Henry. I just have to!

Thank you for your time,

David Hayden
97173-004  A-1
Box 5000
Oakdale, LA 71463

P.S. Please feel free to send David a note or card of support. Thank you.

P.P.S. Please do all you can to support Make A Wish Foundation and The Special Olympics