A WITNESS by George

Death has been on my mind recently. A lot. And though Easter – the Christian celebration of Jesus Christ rising from the dead – has just passed, my mind keeps returning to death, to winter, and not to resurrection, to rebirth, to spring. Why do I feel the need to write about death, especially from inside prison?

This is my first blog post of 2015. January through March was a particularly gloomy time for me. Some of it was due to endless overcast days filled with chilly Louisiana temperatures and rain. Lots of rain. Some had to do with a prevailing feeling of loneliness. The winter was bleak.

I tried to force writing topics: New Year resolutions, finding hope in spite of being in Oakdale, blah, blah, blah – some way to launch 2015 in a positive and uplifting manner. However, all of my attempts felt Pollyanna-esque at best. So instead of veiling myself in false enthusiasm, I decided to cocoon myself in despondent introspection until my soul was ready to change seasons.

During this time, death struck. Fellow inmates, whose friendships now rank as dear as family, have lost loved ones on the outside. Aunts, grandmas, mothers have passed, carving emotional holes in my friends that are difficult to fill while incarcerated. There is no attending a wake, funeral, or burial service. Mourning or celebrating the deceased’s life in the community of loved ones is not an option. Given our current technology, it would be easier for an astronaut in the space station to be present via satellite than it would be for an inmate.

Prison is exile.

Diagnoses of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or serious accidents are a death knell for the exiles. The haunting proclamation of mankind’s mortality cannot be ignored forever, though we all live our lives as if that bell will never toll. I’ve seen grown men collapse to their knees on the sidewalk from overwhelming grief after receiving such news from home.

Death becomes even more difficult to deal with when a fellow inmate dies of natural causes in his bunk. Life’s fragility becomes the spectre in the room who must be addressed. It is a cold, hard-hitting, unremorseful reminder to those of us locked away from our families, friends, and freedom that begs the question: could I be next?

Peter Becker died in his bunk on February 28, 2015. His sudden death highlighted the loneliness and abandonment of prison for me. For as many friends as I have made at Oakdale, and the many more that Pete had here, at the end of the day, or at any moment for that matter, it simply comes down to me and my maker. That truth is my spectre.

“He was a really good guy,” a close friend remarked in the hours after Pete’s passing. And then after a contemplative silence, “Prison is no place to die.”

I agreed on the surface. Pete was a good guy: curmudgeonly kind, loyal, charitable, good-humored with a wicked wit, and a proud father and grandpa. But “prison is no place to die” dug below that surface. It dug down into my psyche; seeping into my cocoon, feeding my gloom.

Prison is such a removal from real life that death, a reality in the free world, seems surreal here. Prison is supposed to be a place where you walk out the door after serving your time, not a place where you’re carried out in a body bag before your time. That dissonant chord struck me so profoundly that I was forced to seek a resolution to the question – why death here?

The month of March passed, and I still had no answer. Though unresolved, I am a realist. I know no one lives forever, and any breath could be one’s last. However, I felt the need to proclaim to the world, the universe, that “prison is no place to die” – for anyone! But a proclamation wasn’t what I was looking for, and proclamations from prison are not often heard.

In a moment of clarity, with Easter closing in, I realized I was seeking redemption as the answer. Pete’s redemption. More specifically, I was seeking his public redemption as a convicted felon. In a very real way Pete died twice, and I wanted to know where was his second chance – his shot at redemption?

Coming to prison is a form of death; a first death. The death of a life as one knew it. It is a painful, often times slow and very public suffocation of every aspect of life: financial, professional, personal, and familial. And in that dying, one passes from a known realm into one of the unknown – the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

Life here is an existence of bureaucratic illogic, which for those who deal with bureaucracy often, the word “illogic” is indeed redundant. To emerge from prison “rehabilitated” is to have personally tamed or exorcised the demons of one’s past in spite of the BOP staff’s best attempts to assist, or derail (depending on one’s level of cynicism), with federally mandated “re-entry” programs.

Programming boxes get checked, not because staff is concerned about the quality of the program offered or the proficiency of the inmate instructor or the inmate student, but because if boxes aren’t checked, staff get in trouble themselves by not having their supervisors check off their own personal performance boxes. BOP boxes must be checked. A checked box is the goal, not actual rehabilitation.

This is the realm, the life we live in prison, where Pete’s second death occurred. A death that was much more finite than the first metaphorical death he was subjected to by the prosecution’s path to prison. “Prison is no place to die” because the opportunity for public redemption is trumped by that death.

Where does one find the hope of spring when winter provides no glimpse of renewal?

Looking out of my cell’s window at April’s green grass and clover, the robin egg-blue sky, and feeling the sun’s warmth streaming in, I now see a ray of hope, a nod toward redemption as exampled in Pete’s incarcerated life; the life between his two deaths.

His redemption was witnessed by those of us who knew him as the man better because of his conviction to life rather than the man lessened by his conviction to prison. How I wish he could have been his own witness to the free world; that he had lived to reunite with his daughter and son, and taken his grandkids fishing – something he longed to do. He had turned the page on his past, and I witnessed a redeemed man. I’m sorry that more “outside” people – his family, friends, and the community at large – couldn’t have been a witness to that too.

Ultimately, maybe redemption isn’t a matter of how many people witness it. The fact that it was witnessed by those who were living the life alongside Pete may be evidence enough. And as a witness, maybe my testimony via this blog to those of you who have your freedom may lead you toward a path of understanding. An understanding which could shake off a winter of cold-heartedness and blossom a springtime of forgiveness and offered redemption.

I’m looking out my window again, and the medical team is speedily pushing a trauma gurney across the compound yard toward medical. On it an unconscious inmate is frantically receiving CPR. The struggle between life and death, even on this glorious spring day, continues inside the razor wire of Oakdale, as it does every second across the globe.

I hope there are testimonies of redemption for us all. Maybe it is time to break out of our cocoons and witness. Witness the opportunity for and the power of a second chance.

[Click here to read Tony Casson’s touching witness to Peter Becker, with whom Tony shared a cell while at Oakdale FCI.]

A Note From Tony: I was happy to wake up this morning and see this post by George from Oakdale FCI. George writes them and mails them to my ‘other’ Diane (still the original and best!), who types them and posts them for me (us).

Even when individuals are attempting to be constructive and live redemptive, introspective, and productive lives, our government, in its infinite wisdom, does not allow interaction between men in prison and those on supervised release.  I am grateful to Diane for her continuing support of those who are incarcerated, and of yours truly.

This post, while beautifully written and profoundly touching in its honesty, definitely shows a negative side to prison life which I would like to address. As Diane S. (my new, OTHER Diane!) struggles with adjusting to being an inmate’s wife, she cannot be shielded from the fact that these emotions do exist inside the confines of the prison environment.

That is not to say that life there is always mournful, morose, or melancholy, but it certainly can be a difficult place at times. There are times of laughter as well, and it is the rare individual who spends their entire time in prison living in a world of sadness, depression, or negativity. I know that George is, by nature, an upbeat and positive person, and from what Diane S. has written, so is her husband Chris. These men will deal with the ups and downs of prison life but will create more ups than downs.

I hope they find each other and get to know each other. George lives in my old housing unit, Allen.

George, thanks for writing so well. You honor these pages. Diane #1, you ARE still #1, and Diane S., you have my utmost respect and admiration.

“HOPE” by Tony Casson

“I pray that God, the source of Hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him.” (Romans 15:13 NLT)

My dear friend, Diane, passed on a letter sent to her by George, the voice of these “Chronicles” from inside the fences that surround Oakdale FCI (Federal Correctional Institution).

Here is an excerpt from that letter:

                                                                                                Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ciao Diane,

Thank you for sending the posts. I am enjoying reading more of Tony’s posts from the past – though now I guess they are reposts in the present. Also, thank you for sending Phillip the Mission Newsletter – http://www.missiondc.org/past_newsletters/164-year.2014_164-id.209715942.html  It was joyful to see all that the Mission does, and to see Tony contributing to their work. In fact, the photo of Tony in the kitchen brought tears to Phillip’s eyes. In that photo he saw freedom. A freedom of a SO (Sex Offender) out in the free world making a positive difference.

I’m not sure that most people know the anxiety most SO’s deal with as they believe society’s notion of being worthless – of forever being an outcast. It is so difficult for many SO’s to imagine having any type of success or any standard of living after leaving prison. Though I don’t know all of Phillip’s feelings behind his tears, I did feel that he saw Tony as a beacon of hope. A light on the shore telling all of us still out in the fog that it is possible to safely reach land again. Whether Tony knows it or not, his joyful efforts not only serve those in DC, or those who read his book, but they serve us here. Both as an example to us that meaningful life goes on, and as an example to a larger community that SO’s are not the monsters they imagine, or are supposed to imagine.

Well George, I appreciate those kind words and I post them in the hope that others may be encouraged as well.

But I must stress to all who read these words that God is our hope – mine, yours, the worlds. It is God who repeatedly reaches out to each of us (whether we know it or not) and tried to let us know that He is there, ready and waiting, for each of us who is lost to call out to Him that He may guide us safely home. It is God who is the beacon of light on the welcoming shore of safety, peace, and joy.

If I am anything, I am but one example of the incredible grace of our great God who then gives us the strength, through Christ, to be restored, renewed, and to grow as children of God.

As the Bible tells us, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 1:4 NLT) (Emphasis mine)

My hope is that everyone everywhere will see that their hope, too, is in God, and when they place their complete trust in Him, His beacon will shine brightly for them as well, allowing each one to reach shore safely and overcome their own circumstances which will enable them to rise out of their own pits of despair and hopelessness.

God cares for us in incredible ways. All we have to do is ask Him. Most of them are so small we often fail to recognize them as being of God, but collectively, those many small things add up to joyful, vibrant, productive lives lived for God, who then rewards us in ways that are too numerous to count.

There is hope, my friend. There is a beacon of light to guide you safely to shore. There is life after prison, after tragedy, after a single mistake, or a lifetime filled with them.

That hope lies in God, and if anyone is encouraged by my story, you now know the “secret” source of this new, wonderful life I have been given.

May God bless all who read these words.

And as for George and all the others I left behind: I love you guys. Know that I pray for you and think of you often. Stay on course, and keep asking God for the strength, through Christ, to arrive safely, joyfully, at your final destination. May you all someday say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” (2 Timothy 4:7 NLT)

WELCOME 101 by George

Daily mail call brings letters from friends and family filled with support and encouragement, sorrow and disappointment over the circumstances that brought me to Oakdale FCI; and buried between the lines is a macabre interest in knowing what happens inside the concertina razor wire. Hence, their ultimate question, “What is prison really like?”

Maybe you or a loved one, are coming to Oakdale, and have found your way to Oakdale Chronicles seeking an answer to the same question?

Oakdale FCI is a low security prison, so you can erase those images of the cable show OZ where Chris Meloni often bared his backside to insure viewership. You can also erase Scared Straight, Locked Up, Shawshank Redemption, Escape from Alcatraz, or any other media driven portrayal of violent prison life. This is a “low”, and not the “pen” where lifers rule with a “we’ve got nothing to lose” mentality. One inmate calls this place “Camp Fluffy” – he began his time at a maximum security penitentiary before working his way down through security levels to arrive to Oakdale.

Now, this place isn’t a cakewalk either. You do have to keep your wits about you. Fights do happen and people do get hurt. Even if fluffy, this is still a prison. Plus, if you’ve been convicted and labeled a “sex offender,” there are a few extra things to keep in mind.

Naturally each experience is different because our individual personalities are different. But in as much as we are individuals, there is a sameness to the prison experience. And it is how you, the individual, deal with that sameness which will dictate your journey here.

I assume the same is true for those going into the military, and in a way, federal prison is run like the military – with one glaring exception. The military breaks the individual down to rebuild him as a team member; a cohesive mindset working toward a common goal. Prison is about keeping the individual down, under control, with the non-team mantra “You do you; I’ll do me.” This translates into “You do your time your way and I’ll do mine my way, and as long as your way doesn’t get in the way of my way, we’ll have no problems.”

With that in mind, here are my philosophical musings and practical tips one might want to wrap one’s brain around before arriving, since coping with prison is about a state of mind. Officials may lock up the body, but they can’t lock up the mind – one still has sole control over that.

1.    Inmates are always wrong; staff are always right. This may be the hardest thing to get used to, especially as a sex offender. Generally speaking, most sex offenders are college educated, have either run their own businesses or had upper management positions, and contrary to popular belief, have been law-abiding citizens with no previous criminal history. In the “free world” they were responsible, contributing members of society. Because of this, there may be a continued expectation of cause and effect logic: If I’m not breaking the rules, then I’m not doing anything wrong. That expectation is no longer valid.

In prison you are a convicted felon, which translates into GUILTY. Always GUILTY. It is the new prison through which you are viewed: You are only after one thing, the manipulation of every situation to suit your twisted “criminal” intents. This is how the staff views you. They’re trained to think this way.

Generally speaking, staff are not college educated, some only have to be working toward a GED instead of already possessing one, and they are hired from the local pool of available labor.

Please understand that I am not trying to demean or degrade the staff. However, it will help to comprehend that your new world is governed by people who will look upon you and treat you as something less than a civilized being – regardless how civilized your behavior. That is their mindset. Also sex offenders, or “SOs” (the more modern nickname versus “cho-mo,” or child molester, which is slowly becoming more antiquated), are still at the bottom of humanity’s pecking order.

Logic and fairness are not everyday commodities. Ignorant inmates and staff still use “cho-mo” even though the vast majority of SOs had no actual contact, of any kind, with a minor. Remember, you are guilty in the eyes of the law, therefore fairness is something you lost by crossing inside the razor wire.

Be prepared to have your daily expectations of what you’d like to accomplish either be fulfilled or stymied by the moody whims of others. Prison is a moment by moment exercise in the adaptability. Fail to adapt and you’ll only find yourself frustrated, angered, depressed, or in trouble. Those are hard ways to do one’s time. Negativity is not your friend. Seek positive energy and choices when faced with hindrances.

2.    Respect. You will never hear more about the word “respect” than while in prison, nor will you hear more about its opposite, “disrespect.”

When staff uses “respect,” they usually follow it with condemnations of “be a man,” “a man acts like…,” or “real men don’t….” The favorite saying is “You treat us with respect and we’ll treat you with respect.” You’ll soon be able to gauge for yourself what respect means when coming from the staff.

As for inmates, respect and disrespect are everything. Respect translates into common courtesy. “Please,” “Thank you,” “Excuse me,” and “I’m sorry,” are just good manners. Remember you are living with a large number of men – some of whom were raised with manners and some who were not. You will encounter plenty of guys who are selfish – blindingly so – but that shouldn’t prevent you from taking the higher road. Choose patience, generosity of spirit, and selflessness over selfishness.

Men are very much driven by public image. Cut in line and you are being disrespectful, because your action says that you are more important than everyone behind you. No one wants to be publicly shown as unimportant or weak. Respect is a pack mentality. And though not everyone can be an alpha dog, and on some level there shouldn’t be one, no one wants to be disrespected into being a bitch – and that is the simple prison truth of it.

Tony Casson once told me something very important about respect: “If respecting you means allowing you to disrespect me, then you won’t get my respect. Respect is a two-way street.” A lesson that some inmates and staff could learn from. Be honorable.

3.    Trust. When you arrive in prison, trust no one in the beginning. That applies to staff and to other inmates. People will tell you all kinds of things in prison – talk is cheap. Let their actions speak louder than their words. Take your time in developing friendships. Be cautious about revealing too much about your private life or personal circumstances.

There are genuinely nice, decent people (staff and inmates) in prison, but there are also people who will try to manipulate, steal from, and abuse you through intimidation, extortion, or through becoming your new best friend in the blink of an eye. Be wary of people who ask too many questions, or who act like they are doing you lots of favors – sometimes they’ll use that to get you to do something for them as payback. Keep in mind, you came to prison alone and you’ll leave along. You need to rely on your own better judgment of situations and people.

Prisons are full of characters: decent and indecent, mentally stable and unstable, calm and violent, trustworthy and backstabbing, guilty and innocent. You are now one of those characters too. Plus if you are a SO, your actions reflect on the group as a whole. Act beyond reproach and with integrity, and you’ll demonstrate that the negative assumptions about SOs are wrong. Act the fool, and you’ll only fuel the fire of stereotypes. Again, it is about respect – don’t disrespect your fellow SOs by feeding stereotypes.

Over time you’ll develop friendships, and even then, you only need to share whatever you want to share. You’ll meet a myriad of diverse personalities from conniving millionaires to saintly crack addicts. Personally I would lay low and survey the landscape at first. Don’t brag about money, family, or your job, and don’t lie to bolster yourself up. There may be no honor amongst thieves, but no one wants to associate with a liar. It’s about integrity and respect.

Being too chatty or chummy with staff will cause other inmates to label you a “rat” or a “snitch.” And like in junior high – no one likes rats or snitches. Staff may glean information from you that could get other inmates in trouble. Gossip is big here and it is jokingly referred to as “Inmate.com.”

Staff are never your friend. That is a simple truth. Even the nicest and kindest should be kept at a professional distance. Whether actually true or only perceived as true – no one likes a tattletale. No one.

4.    You don’t have to tell anyone your exact charge, AND don’t ask anyone what their charge is. The first question you’ll be asked when you arrive at your housing unit is, “What are you here for?” No one is asking about the details of your case. They simply want to know which group you belong to. If you are white, the question is asked so people will know whether to hand you off to the white drug felons (a.k.a. “Dirty White Boys” or “Haters”) or off to the SOs. If you are another race you’ll automatically be passed on to your applicable race before being asked why you’re here. Other races seem to accept their SOs, whereas white SOs are cast off by their race to the land of the educated.

As a SO your answer should be “Internet” or “pornography.” Those are the simplest answers to get you directed to the other SOs in the unit. From there you’ll be asked what kind of supplies you need – personal hygiene products, shower shoes, basic rec clothing; the things to tide you over until you are able to go shopping at the commissary. Groups’ kind of look out for their own.

As for staff, they may ask what your charge is too. Again, the simplest answers are “Internet” or “pornography.” Keep in mind, every comment people make to you in response about your charge does not demand or deserve a comment by you in return. Better to avoid confrontation, especially with staff, because again, inmates are always guilty. Seek ways to rise above the circumstance. Sometimes silence is best.

5.    Where are you from?” This question is really asking whether you’ve arrived from another institution via a transfer, or from a county facility, or if you’ve self-reported directly to Oakdale. The answer indicates how much prison knowledge you have. A transfer means you know the ropes; self-reporting means you know nothing.

From here you’ll probably be asked what state or city you’re from. People like to know who their “homies” are. It is a way of beginning to make connections. Know that you do not need to give any more personal info than that.

6.    How much time do you have?” This is usually the last major question you’ll be asked by inmates and staff. If you have five years or less (under sixty months), “That’s nothing” is the likely response. Even though your life may have seemed destroyed when you were given your sentence, compared to most inmates that amount of time really is nothing. So on some level, consider yourself lucky. I bet you didn’t think there was something lucky about your sentence, did you? It does give one perspective.

The majority of SOs seem to be serving between five and ten years. Of course there are people who have been sentenced from fifteen to twenty-five years. Try to be considerate to those by not saying, “Wow! That’s a long time,” or something else as demeaning. They’ll feel bad enough knowing you’ll be going home before them. Again, you are now in a brotherhood of sorts. Respect is paramount.

7.    You will survive Oakdale FCI. Whether you can imagine it or not, you will survive your sentence at Oakdale. People with longer sentences than you do. You’re not the first to make this journey, and sadly, you won’t be the last.

There are many ways to survive something; some negative, some positive. You’ll meet plenty of people who are on one of those paths, and others who are completely oblivious that there is a path at all. Recognizing their state of mind may be a way to gauge which path you’re on. Some people remain bitter and angry, a victim of their own circumstance. Some live in a state of denial by avoiding the real cause for the actions that landed them here, a victim of believing their only fault was in getting caught. And some accept the time here as an opportunity for transition – a transition into transformation.

But transformation takes hard work, honest exploration, and a committed attitude to rise above your old self. And the biggest obstacle you will face is yourself. No one here – and I mean, no one – has all of the answers or all of the resources to mend you unless you want to repair, reform, and evolve. That evolution begins and ends with your commitment to yourself in the face of what at times may seem to be insurmountable odds.

Now I believe that God is the rock to build your new commitment on. I also believe that there are no quick fixes; God works in His time, not ours. It is true that people may change for the better even if they don’t know God. Whether they realize it or not, the positive and difficult steps they take forward are the same steps that Jesus calls us to take as Christians. Jesus is reaching out, revealing Himself to them. How much more helpful and hopeful is that journey with God Almighty at your side instead of attempting it alone? Trust and seek His hand.

I can only successfully survive this journey of prison through God’s love. That is my strength and confidence – my trust. If you can attempt it without that, then the more power to you. However, deep in my heart, I know that if you watch and listen, God will reveal Himself to you during this experience. It is in those moments of revelation where you’ll have the opportunity to learn, grown, and flourish.

I hope you seize that opportunity; that you’ll plant, nurture, and harvest great things from that seed of new life. Know that you’ll survive Oakdale FCI – and that your transformation is my wish and prayer for you, and God’s invitation to us all.

  • If you are self-reporting directly to Oakdale FCI, contact them by phone at (318) 355-4070 to find out what you are allowed to bring with you into prison: such as a simple wristwatch, wedding ring, religious symbol on a chain around your neck, cash money to be deposited onto your commissary account (for sundries and phone calls), prescription eyeglasses and case (2 pairs), prescription medications, a Bible, a contact list of names, addresses, and phone numbers of family, friends, lawyers, etc.
  • Policy changes all the time, so CALL to double check the above list in advance of self-reporting.

A NOTE TO “TOC” READERS from Tony Casson

For those of you who are new to these “Chronicles,” I left Oakdale FCI on May 20, 2014. I had met George a couple of months prior to leaving, and he seemed intelligent, insightful, and spiritual enough to take the baton from me and continue to be a voice from the inside the place I called “home” for a little over 4 years. I think he does a fine job and I hope you all agree.

I do plan on contributing from outside the prison as soon as I am able to better organize my time.

For now, please support and encourage George. For an interesting article on how we first met http://mediarow.com/oakdale-chronicles/2014/04/the-letter-by-tony-casson/

I thank you all for your support throughout the years. May God bless each and every one of you.

In Christ, Tony

“WRATH v. LOVE” by George

Peace, flowers, freedom, happiness…

Peace, flowers, freedom, happiness…

Peace, flowers, freedom, happiness…

I woke up the other morning with that snippet of a song from the musical Hair looping in my mind. Funny what one’s mind captures, stores, and then releases from Past’s vault. I put my Walkman’s ear buds in and searched the airwaves for something new. Even with that, I couldn’t shake it, or replace it with something catchier. Were my synapse just misfiring long neglected memories, or was my soul trying to tell me something?

Peace, flowers, freedom, happiness…

Standing against the wall of my housing unit’s day room, I tuned into the morning TV news hoping it would keep the Hair from running through my mind.

The host’s meaningless banter segued between regurgitated sound bites of social media trends: concert video of Kanye West demanding his audience stand before he continued with the next song – to the point of unknowingly shaming someone in a wheelchair who “wouldn’t” stand up; a four year old girl denying she had used her mother’s lipstick even though her mouth was widely ringed in ruby red gloss; a Miss America contestant giving her opinion of the domestic violence scandal swirling around pro football player Ray Rice, his then fiancée now wife, and the NFL at large.

Peace, flowers, freedom, happiness…

I watched as the blonde beauty queen touted her domestic violence platform’s platitudes ending with “he should not be given a second chance,” her bright smile glinting.

Hmm, no second chances?

As a rousing hand of affirmation and cheers surged from the audience, I couldn’t help envisioning her as a form-fitting evening dress-clad barbarian brandishing a pike with Ray Rice’s bloody head skewered on its point, demanding more than a pound of flesh. She gave the Atlantic City plebeians what they craved – no mercy!

My heart sank. I took out my ear buds and walked back to my room, disappointed.

Peace, flowers, freedom, happiness… in deed.

Domestic violence is a serious issue. It is an outward display of deep inward hurt wrongly expressed toward a supposed beloved. Often it demonstrates a behavior learned throughout childhood development. When a child’s emotions build to the point beyond an ability to process, he often does one of two things – cries or strikes out. For a boy, society’s norms dictate that crying is weak; striking out is therefore by default the re-enforced response.

Many state laws allow spanking as an acceptable form of child discipline – society condones it.

If raised in a household where discipline, often administered in anger, was delivered physically, it is not hard to conclude that the child’s naturally learned response to displaying anger would be to violently strike out. Repeat those experiences and examples day after day, month after month, year after year, until it becomes second nature for a boy to become a man who only knows one way to act when angered. Now add a successful career, built over that same time period, whose core attributes of dominance and aggressiveness are celebrated and rewarded, is it any wonder that domestic violence can be an issue?

Society is hypocritical. We seem to be saying, “Spank a beloved child, okay; spank a beloved adult, head on pike.”

I would be just as appalled and disappointed had the now infamous elevator security camera footage showed his then fiancée now wife knocking him out, or him striking a man. The “shock” of the video should not be gender based. Violence is violence and should not be condoned. Period. However, I am of the Christian mindset that he should not be crucified for his actions, nor should she be condemned for forgiving him if her heart led her to that decision.

I do believe in second chances.


“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14 (KJV)


Recently an Arkansas newspaper printed a “sound bite” blurb of a paragraph about Alabama Federal Justice Mark Fuller, who also had a domestic violence encounter with his wife in an Atlanta hotel elevator, caught on security camera footage too. However, unlike Rice, there is no national outrage about Judge Fuller’s wrongful actions.

Presidentially appointed to a lifetime position of deciding judgments justly, Fuller’s daily task meaningfully affect the lives of the accused – discerning between the innocent and the guilty. Rice’s daily task as a pro ball player is to assist his team in winning games – generating millions of dollars in profits. Though I am a football fan, Fuller’s career seems in the balance, one of much greater importance to the common good. Yet, a federal judge does not bear society’s burden of the badge “HERO” like a sports figure does.

Regretfully, this causes disparage between their punishments for the same act of violence. Fuller, only charged with a misdemeanor, faces no loss of salary or job, and must undergo domestic violence counseling. His punishment is redemptive in nature and tone. Though tarnished, his reputation and garnered respect still have room for repair. His “life” has been spared, allowing him to focus on healing without having to also struggle with complete financial demise. His punishment, “sentence,” seems fair.

Rice, due to the sentence demanded by the court of public opinion, has been fired from the team, permanently suspended from his career, and has lost all sponsorship. Though he and his wife have been attending counseling for months after the elevator incident in February to overcome the obstacles and heal toward improved decision making, people like Miss Beauty Queen – and maybe you – level their crowd-pleasing vilification of “no second chance.” But without that opportunity for repair, for redemption, how can we expect him to learn a better way?

Heroes are mere men – sinners – not gods. We all stumble in error. No person is without sin. None.


“You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord abides forever.’ That Word is the Good News which was preached to you. So put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander.” 1 Peter 1:23-2:1 (RSV)


As I sit in prison, a convicted sex offender sentenced by a federal judge, you might expect me to believe that Fuller, a federal judge, should be punished more for his crime. Not so. I believe Rice is paying too big a price. Both need and deserve healing and forgiveness.

I think a lot about judgment, redemptive punishment versus destructive punishment, and forgiveness. Looking back, as a child I often wondered about the same things, though obviously from a much simpler point of view and understanding. The subtle shades of fairness, equity, and balance, have always struck deep chords with me, especially when I saw their virtues absently displayed in the striking hues of unfairness, inequity, and misjudgment.

In second grade, Billy sat across the aisle from me in the next row. He was fun – a fidgety kid who always pushed the boundaries. Even at this young age, his mouth was often too eager to express his quick wit; something teachers hate, especially when trying to maintain control of the classroom.

One day I smarted off to our teacher, which erupted the class into hysterics. She scolded me and the class before proceeding with the lesson at hand. The next day Billy, with his keen sense of timing, smarted off to her much the same way that I had the previous day. But instead of being scolded, Billy was sent to the principal’s office. When Billy returned to class with his eyes puffy and red from crying (he had received a paddling), it struck me as unfair punishment.

His “crime” had been no different from mine. In fact, mine had gotten a much bigger reaction, so it was much more of a distraction. But I was a “good” student with excellent grades; Billy was not. His home life was much tougher than mine too. He often suffered discipline at the hand or switch or belt of his father. His welts bore witness.

For all of his rough edges, Billy did have a kind heart and an eager mind. But as we grew older, his past seemed to hang and build upon him in a way that did not encourage his heart. Instead, it built walls of toughness around it, and that toughness always garnered him more pain.

Today I can’t help but compare Billy to Ray Rice and myself to Judge Fuller. Much like me and Billy back in class, Fuller was only scolded while Rice was paddled. How much more room, freedom, is there for healing for Fuller by not having to recover from utter destruction at the same time? How much more beneficial would it be to Rice if he could seek healing in an uplifting, redemptive, and freeing atmosphere?

We can correct with wrath or we can correct with love. Man demands wrath; God demands love.


“If, because of one man’s trespass death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:17 (RSV)


My prayers for the Fullers and the Rices, plus all those struggling with domestic violence, is that they will learn and heal from their ordeals with redemptive support, and not from sheer desolation. Also, I hope that Judge Fuller, from his seat of judgment, remembers his failures and the merciful opportunity he received, as he continues to consider the failures of the accused that stand awaiting his verdict. I hope he is wiser than that beauty contestant, and believes in second changes. He is in a position to provide those.

I pray also that we, the court of public opinion, would cease to sentence those of us who fall short, who slip down a slippery slope, who lose our way along the path of “you should have known better,” who fail, to a fate of personal annihilation. If we could remember our pleading desire for forgiveness when we have sinned and could apply that empathy to those who desire forgiveness from us, wouldn’t we all be more blessed?

How much I desire for us to think with our hearts before we raise our voices or hands in anger, and that caused us to extend a helping hand and a comfortable word to assist each other back onto the path of happiness.


“Behold, we call those happy who are steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” James 5:11 (RSV)


Peace, flowers, freedom, happiness…

Peace, flowers, freedom, happiness…

Peace, flowers, freedom, happiness…



Breaking News: A fifteen year old has been charged in the shooting death of his neighbor. The District Attorney says the adolescent will be tried as an adult.

Tragic news like this has become common place in the twenty-first century. Murder, such a strong emotion, such a violent judgment, such a finite act, must only be committed by someone of an adult mindset. A child would be too innocent in nature to commit such a brutal crime. How easy is it for us to accept those notions? By the law and how we prosecute it, a 15 year old is seemingly adult enough to commit murder. Many juries have handed down that verdict – even to juveniles aged down to twelve years old.

With this in mind, I would like to build upon last month’s post But Names May Always Hurt Me – to build upon the notions of assumption, judgment, and labels as they apply to innocence, perceived or realized.

Breaking News: States are now enacting new “sexting” laws crafted to more appropriately handle the avalanche of cases dealing with teenagers (twelve to eighteen years old) charged as sex offenders. The new laws will help protect under the age of consent teens from having their lives ruined by the permanent stigma of the “sex offender” label, and all it entails.

Recently on MSNBC, Chris Hayes was reporting how rampant and commonplace it is for teens to use their smart phones, tablets, and built-in camera ready computers to take obscene photos and videos of themselves to send to friends. It is so pervasive that many people think “Well, so what? Who hasn’t done that?” Parents are now advocating for less severe punishments as prescribed by the law when it comes to prosecuting their children for “sexting” – which by legal definition is production, possession, and distribution of child pornography. Pornography the teens created of their own volition.


“I acknowledged my sin to thee, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’; then thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin.” Psalms 32:5 (RSV)


Armed with a gun, a 15 year old is an adult, a vicious killer. Armed with technology, a 15 year old is an innocent caught up in the everyday actions of her porn-generating classmates. The societal, mob mentality excuse of “everyone is doing it, so it’s okay” suggests they shouldn’t be responsible for their actions.

I’m not so eager to agree with that blanket excuse. However, it does beg the question, “If an adolescent can be an adult, the aggressor, when it comes to murder, why can’t an adolescent be an adult, the aggressor, when it comes to sex?” Why are we so willing to accept the myths of sexual innocence, while rejecting innocence when it applies to extreme violence?

Some experts believe that a person under the age of eighteen (a child, a minor, an adolescent, a teenager) is able to be rehabilitated when it comes to a sexual offense. They can be successfully taught that their behavior was wrong, and they will have a low rate of re-offence. Those same experts also contend that once the age of 18 is attained (adulthood), there is little hope of rehabilitation; plus, a high rate of recidivism. In other words: under 18, you are fixable; over 18, you might as well be that 15 year old with a gun and sentenced as a murderer, or in this case, sentenced as a sex offender and labeled for life. [The myth about the high recidivism rate of sex offenders, plus additional S.O. myths are debunked by data in sources such as “Unprecedented: How Sex Offender Laws Are Impacting Our Nation” by J.B. Haralson and J.R. Cordeiro. PCG Legacy, 2012.]

New “sexting” laws try to lessen the severity of punishment for child porn exchanged between adolescents. But what happens when a teen sexts not to another teen, but to an adult instead?

Many teachers and coaches these days are at risk of being the target of an innocent’s vengeance. With technology in hand, a minor who has just been reprimanded or punished has retaliation options that have never existed before. Every cell phone carrying student has the ability to have any teacher or coach removed, prosecuted, and imprisoned. In no more than ten minutes, a student could go into a restroom, or other secluded space, take a few obscene pictures, and e-mail or text them to the unknowing victim that is an adult. But let’s not go down the road of vindictiveness, let’s stay within the boundaries of innocence and affection.

A handsome, early thirty-something high school coach is the giggling object of infatuation by many of the girls at school. As the girls navigate their own developing feelings of sexuality and the socially accepted boundaries, some cross the line.

One girl places a yellow “Sweetheart’s Day” rose under the windshield wiper of the coach’s truck. Another one pulls the juvenile prank of asking him in class, surrounded by a group of her girlfriends, if he’d “like a screw?” When he turns around, she opens her hand to reveal a drywall screw resting in her puerile, but sweaty palm.

“Oh, those are harmless schoolgirl crushes and pranks,” you say.

But one of the girls, a 15 year old, sends the coach, the object of her budding affections, a topless photo of herself as an anonymous text – a sext. All of her girlfriends brag about sexting their boyfriends, and this girl has even seen some of the photos the boyfriends have sexted in reply – now considered trophies by her friends. (Remember, all of those photos are child porn.) She wants to fit in and be as daring.

The coach opens the text and sees a naked, headless photo of a female’s chest. He has no idea who it is or who sent it – the sender’s number was blocked as “unknown.” He deletes the photo, considering it a wrong number; a missent text.

That night, the girl’s mother decides to check her daughter’s phone after seeing a sexual predator expose on Nancy Grace. Horrified, the mother discovers her daughter’s sext.

Panicked and furious, the mother berates her daughter into eventually telling that the image went to the coach. The incident is immediately reported to the authorities. The mother tells the FBI agents, “Obviously, the coach did something to encourage and entice my innocent, straight-A child into sending him that photo.”

Later that evening, with guns drawn, the FBI arrests the coach for receiving and possessing child pornography – that lone image in his phone’s trash bin. The girl, not wanting or able to admit her desire for the coach, thereby shaming her family, never admits that the coach is innocent of any wrongdoing. This aberration of her otherwise good character is never revealed.

The coach fervently denies the allegations, to no one’s belief. Her deviance is now his depravity.

The $30,000 lawyer instructs the coach to accept the Federal prosecutor’s plea deal of five years, instead of taking the unwinnable risk of going to trial and being sentenced to 15 years or more – something the Feds have promised to seek should the coach not take the plea of guilty deal. [When the FBI arrested the coach, they also seized his Internet-accessible technology. Like some men, the coach had pornographic images on his home computer. Of the images the Feds found, all were legal to possess; however, there were two images that the Feds could not prove the age of the models, but that was of no concern to them. More importantly, the coach and his lawyer couldn’t prove the models were of age. He had to prove his innocence; the Feds only had to insinuate his guilt to use the questionable photos as proof of child porn against him. Gone is the notion of “innocent until proven guilty.”]

Some of the newly proposed sexting laws would not protect him because he is an adult. Remember, he’s over 18, therefore not able to be rehabilitated. Although he wasn’t guilty to begin with, that is of no consequence. Once he signs the plea deal, he is forever “guilty.” Period.

What would your assumptions be had you heard a news report of the coach’s arrest. Would you automatically assume his guilt, or would you ever consider a female student could be the predator?

We naturally assume no one would ever sign a guilty plea if they were innocent. But, with your back to the wall, would you sign to save yourself 10 to 15 additional years in prison for a crime you didn’t commit? [Of the S.O.s I know at Oakdale, those who went to trial, took the risk, to defend their innocence have longer sentences, sometimes two to three times longer, than those who accepted a plea deal, whether truly innocent or guilty. Oddly enough, the further away one gets from actual physical contact with a minor, the longer the prison sentence tends to be. The lesser involved crime of technology with no physical contact holds the stiffest penalty.]

Is the teen girl any less of a murderer because she used a smart phone than the 15 year old with the gun? The coach may still be alive, but to what end?

He’ll never coach or teach again. He’ll only be allowed to see his underage children in the company of court supervision. His wife divorced him. His friends and family now shun him. He had to declare bankruptcy, ruining his excellent credit rating, because of his inability to earn enough money while working in the prison’s laundry department for 15 cents an hour to pay child support and his outstanding debts. Yes, he’s alive, but what kind of life does he have?

How would you survive? Could you?

With our advancements in technology, coupled with our societal idea that childhood should extend farther into maturity than ever before in history, is it any wonder that prosecuting adult men for child porn is the new slam-dunk win for our politicians, judicial system, and the Federal government?

Not so long ago it was the societal norm for people to get married right after high-school graduation. Most unmarried girls by the age of 21 bore the stigma of “old maid.” Some current research shows the brain doesn’t finish developing until the age of 21. Therefore, is a 20 year old a child?

Gone are the days of “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine” under the bleachers. Now that game happens alone, secluded in a bedroom while being transmitted across the ether – and perhaps perpetually re-transmitted. As a society we have such a knee-jerk reaction to the topic of sex. We find it hard to believe there are over-sexual 15 year olds and under-sexual 45 year olds. Who is the innocent and who is the corrupt? Who is deserving of forgiveness?

All are deserving!


“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves; let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him. For Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell on me.’” Romans 15:1-3 (RSV)


Covering our eyes to the realities of sex and technology does no one justice. Yes, there are adult predators, and they should be reasonably punished for the crimes they commit. But, there are also teen predators who end up having their victims unreasonably punished for the teens’ crimes of “innocence.” Where is that justice? Who is brave enough to say that the devil also tempts those under 18? Where is the protection, the Nancy Grace-style advocacy, for innocent adults?

The current societal stigma of the “sex offender” label is severe. We need to understand that yes, all child molesters are sex offenders, but not all sex offenders are child molesters.

Would you interview, hire, or work next to a convicted sex offender? What if he was that coach? Would you want that girl or the murderous boy babysitting your child or working next to you?

Ironically, you’ll never publicly know about the teens’ actions, because they won’t have to publicly register their deeds on job applications, notify their neighborhood of their residency, or be listed on the Internet like the Sex Offender coach. Could you survive the glaring eye of public judgment for your assumed sins – for the rest of your life?


“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2 (RSV)


Here are some difficult issues to ponder:

–       How do we affect change to our views of sexual innocence and advancing technology?

–       How do we overcome the “child molester” stereotype that clouds our consciousness when we hear the all-encompassing label of “sex offender?”

–       How do we change the current laws to more accurately classify “sex offender” from the one-size-fits-all stigma of punishment imposed by a lifetime requirement of public registry?

“But Names May Always Hurt Me” by George

“Are you a Cho’mo?”

It is the first question a clean-cut Caucasian male gets asked when arriving in prison. Felons, like sixth graders, must be quickly sorted by their peers into appropriate social groups. Without knee-jerk junior high labels, how did you know the jocks from the burnouts from the nerds from the skanks from the cheerleaders? And more precisely, those labels told you what assumptions and judgments to make about their characters.

Who cared about first investing the time and energy to understand the individual she truly was before labeling her a skank – subjecting her to years of ridicule and social banishment? In prison, like in school, books are always judged by their covers: Dirty White Boys, Mexicans or Puerto Ricans, Blacks, Asians, Muslims, and Cho’mos.

I’m not sure the age most of us experienced being hurtfully teased and judgmentally labeled in our youth, but we must have been young enough for a parent to try to thicken our skin with “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Well, try as I might, that rhyme never placated the social shame I suffered, regardless how tough my outer shell became. How did it work for you?

“Cho’mo” is prison slang for “child molester.” The label carries the same societal disgust regardless of which side of the bars you are on. And in prison hierarchy, Cho’mos are the lowest of the low. Murder someone – no worries; deal in drugs that decimate whole communities – who hasn’t; cook the company’s books stealing thousands of people’s hard earned retirement money – for being so smart, how were you dumb enough to get caught; view one on-line image classified as child pornography – child molester.

Now before you assume too much about where I’m going, remember I am speaking about labels and their assumptions. Bear with me before your “Onward Christian Soldier” shield comes up.

“Child molester” used to mean just that – someone who forced physical, and usually sexually, contact on a minor under the age of consent.

When you hear the word “child” do you naturally think of a six year old, or do you envision a seventeen year old? They’re both minors in the eyes of the law, but are they both children? Possibly the more accurate label should have been “minor molester,” but the former is much more salacious when reporting the event. Again, “child” conjures one image; “minor” another; and what if the word was “teenager?”

Alter the label and you’ll alter the perception. And does that alteration also change the assumptions about the guilty?

I’ve been wrestling with the term “Cho’mo” and its implication since my arrival at Oakdale. Unlike the “n word,” tossed around here by most African-American inmates to each other as much a term of defamation as one of affirmation, “Cho’mo” is only a term of denigration; an antiquated term that’s implications have transferred over to the more contemporary legal term “sex offender.” I might be classified a sex offender, but I am not a child molester. And yet, when you read “sex offender” do the assumptions of “child molester” flood your imagination? Do you assume a pocket full of candy, a nondescript van and an Amber Alert?

Have you picked up your judgmental and emotionally charged pitchforks, torches, or sticks and stones yet?

“Sex offender” is a huge net of a label which does captures a wide range of Internet-based sexual offenses. Most of these offenses center around child pornography. Though most of us have a general idea of what child pornography is, did you know that some experts classify the culturally iconic 1960’s Coppertone image of a dog pulling down a bronzed little girl’s bathing suit to reveal her tan line as child pornography? Also, some experts believe that hugging a child longer than thirty seconds or kissing her on the lips is child molestations – and that applies to the child’s parents and family members, not just to strangers. When was the last time you ran a stopwatch on a hug?

Don’t misunderstand me, child molesters do exist, and I am saddened, disturbed, and repulsed by their actions. I am not co convinced, however, that the sexual predator stigma assumed by the label “sex offender” is accurate when applied to all Internet actions or offenses.

Here are some of the situations, distilled down to their major points, which have landed some of the sex offenders at Oakdale FCI. I ask you, before you lift a stick of assumption and cast a stone of judgment, what label would you apply to these men after getting a clearer idea of their actions; and an idea how wide law enforcement, the federal government, can cast their net. Who is the child molester, the predator, the sex offender, the pervert, the voyeur, or maybe only someone just like you – a sinner?

Man #1: A married man with small children searches the Internet to find free children-themed movies to entertain his family. As he searches and downloads files, he discovers to his disgust that some of the benignly-titled files are actually child pornography. He shows these to his wife in the spirit of “can you believe this is coming in?” His wife is equally mortified. He then deletes them from his computer. Several months later the FBI shows up on his doorstep, arresting him for possession of child pornography – the files he had opened were encrypted with tracking data.

As a responsible parent he had opened the files to preview the content before showing them to his children. Simply because a file is titled “Little Mermaid” doesn’t mean it is an animated classic with singing fish. Even though he deleted all inappropriate and pornographic files, the fact that he had opened them made him guilty – regardless of not knowing it was child pornography in advance.

He went to trial to fight the charges and was sentenced to 17 years as a sex offender. As often happens, going to trial to fight the charges incurs a much longer sentence than taking the government’s plea of guilty deal in advance. Either way, the government never loses. Upon his release, he’ll have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Man #2: Legally blind from birth, a 60 year old man had software on his computer to search the Internet for free music to listen to and enjoy. Every day he opened the files the program found. Upon listening, if he liked it, he kept it; if he didn’t care for it, he deleted it; and if the opened file contained no sound, that file was deleted too.

One day, the FBI showed up at his door, arresting him for possession of child pornography. The man was shocked to learn he had been downloading and “viewing” (opening) child porn – as evidenced by files of photos (no sound) and videos (music he didn’t like) opened by his computer and still sitting in his computer’s “trash.”

This blind man, who has never seen anything in his life, is serving five years as a sex offender. [At his trial, some of the files were shown to the jury as evidence. And as the courtroom sat in shocked silence viewing the obscene material, this “guilty” man sat there in oblivious silence, still as unable to see as the day he was born.]

Man #3: A man of legal age was dating a 17 year old female, and it was no secret that their relationship was sexual. Her parents knew about the relationship and approved of the man. On occasion this man and his girlfriend would take explicit photos of themselves while having sex.

They, for whatever reason, decided to post the photos on the Internet. The girl’s parents find out about the posting and had the man arrested for production and distribution of child pornography. At 17 she is of consensual age to have sex; however, the consensual age for pornography is 18, so he is guilty. She bore no responsibility for her participation in the making of the photos because, being under 18, she, as the court stated, was not of an age to understand the implications of her actions. She was still a minor for pornography, though legally no longer a minor for consensual sex. He is serving his prison term as a sex offender. He was 19 at the time of his arrest.

Man #4: A professional, single, middle-aged man enjoyed going on Craig’s List to the adult (over 18 only) chat boards. He often posted listings looking for someone “18+” to explicitly chat with on the phone. (Adult chat boards are filled with these types of listing – and listings of people looking for much more than just that.)

Of the many responses he received, he struck up a chain of correspondences with a similarly-aged woman. Over time they learned more about each other’s interests and proclivities. Eventually she asked him if it would bother him if she was under 18 (under the age of consent). He said he wasn’t interested in someone underage, but wondered if she was looking for someone underage. One of the attractions of these kind of adult chat boards is that you can say anything or be anyone – “truth” is often fantasy, nothing more.

As the woman continued to blur the age of consent lines, she asked if he’d like to see an explicit photo, and asked to see one of him in return. He sent her a photo, and when he asked for hers in exchange, she never responded, and stopped communicating with him.

When the FBI showed up to arrest him, he learned that the woman he had been chatting with had actually been a male FBI officer. The man was charged with solicitation of a minor (though there was no minor, in truth), and is serving four years. He’ll have to register as a sex offender for ten years following his release.

Of the roughly estimated 600 sex offenders here at Oakdale, I know of less than a handful that are actually sentenced for being a “Cho’mo.” The rest, though child molester falls into the sex offender category, had no contact with a minor as part of their charge.

It is easy to make assumptions based on labels. And yes, some of those labels may prove true for a select few; however, more often the label does not accurately describe that truth as it applies to the majority labeled. How many dolphins must die in the tuna net before the net is modified to only capture tuna and zero dolphins?

The next time you read or hear of a sex offender in the news, or receive a card in the mail informing you that one is moving into your neighborhood, what will you think? What will you do? To what lengths would you go to perpetuate the label, or to what lengths will you go to understand the character of the actual person behind the label? Would you banish the sinner or accept the sinner in your church?

How are we taught as Christians to judge others, and to what severity should that judgment’s punishment be? If your private behavior was aired in public, how would you wish to be judged – or would you wish to be understood?

I’ll close with this parable from Jesus:

“but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning, He came again to the temple; all the people came to Him, and He sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?’ This they said to test Him. Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask Him, He stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more He bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him. Jesus looked up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and do not sin again.’” John 8:1-11 (RSV)