By Tony Casson 

“You will be change into a different person.”
1 Samuel 10:6b NLT

“He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.” Harold Wilson

There will always be a need for places in which to lock up those who present a danger to society or feel that their freedoms and their individual rights supersede another’s, thereby entitling them to live any way they please and take whatever they may want whenever they may want it.

The fact that prisons and jails are needed is beyond debate. However, there are several issues that are debatable: whom should we lock up? What do we attempt to achieve with them – and for them – while we presumably can demand their undivided attention and exercise a high degree of control over their daily lives?

This segment of the series is going to address those who are incarcerated. For the moment, we will not debate the hows and whys that got them all there. The questions that I will try to address are these: What opportunities are we missing to help those who are behind bars? Why do we not improve them, empower them in a pro-social manner, educate them and prepare them for a return to society as productive members? There is much talk about various programs but why does it seem like the success rate is so incredibly low?

As with raising children, there is no guaranteed method of rehabilitating individuals who have found their way into the nation’s jails and prisons. But just as there is a guaranteed way to fail a child, there is certainly a guaranteed way to fail an inmate and that is to do nothing to change those who have demonstrated a distinct need to change. While it is very true that the major impetus for that change needs to come from within the individuals themselves, the philosophy, the structure and the rewards are the direct responsibility of those who are in control of the programs and the environment in which they are administered. Unfortunately, these things are lacking, leading to rehabilitative efforts that are half-hearted at best and non-existent at worst. The attitude of the inmates themselves plays a big part in all of this but the blame lands more squarely on those who formulate, execute and monitor the programs and control the inmates’ lives and environment.

In many of the more than 4,000 prisons in this country, wardens feel that the purpose of a correctional institution is not rehabilitation but custody and public safety. However, those who feel that way are dangerously shortchanging the very society that will have to deal with these graduates of “schools of bad behavior” when they are released. Unless there is a genuine effort made to provide those in custody with rehabilitation, restoration and rejuvenation – a new “3 R’s”, if you will – society’s risk will be even greater upon their release than it was when they entered the system.

I have what I think are the positive, practical and manageable ideas on how to provide those “3 R’s” in a manner that could have a very positive effect on not only those who are incarcerated but upon the society that will eventually have to deal with them. My approach could have the added benefit of helping to lessen the negative impact on the families of those incarcerated. These things will be outlined in detail in an entirely separate article. For now, I only hope to raise the public’s consciousness that current policies and attitudes are accomplishing little and are actually contributing to lost opportunities that do nothing more than foster our culture of incarceration.

Reports vary but many indicate that the number of offenders who are re-arrested within three years of release from prison is as high as 67%. One source for this statistic if Byron R. Johnson’s 2011 book “More God, Less Crime.” Johnson’s book also states that an average of 2,000 individuals per day are released from prisons across the country. That is a staggering 730,000 men and women each year being returned to society, many of whom have done little, if anything, to prepare themselves for freedom. But for many of them, it was simply not a choice. Many individuals would respond if the proper environment was available, but the philosophy of those who actually supervise those behind bars is often in direct conflict with the official philosophy of the state or federal department setting policy.

For example, the official public policy of the Federal Bureau of Prisons leans strongly toward rehabilitation. Harvey Lapin, the BOP’s recently retired head, comes from this public culture of rehabilitation. But was that really where his efforts lay when he was the Director of BOP? Mr. Lapin’s history with the private prison industry speaks otherwise. The following realities of private prisons cannot be denied or ignored: They exist for profit; their product is human beings; they don’t make money if no one is in prison; regardless of public positions, privately, however, rehabilitation is the last thing they want if they are to encourage repeat business.

Immediately upon leaving his position with the BOP, Mr. Lapin went to work as an Executive Vice President for Correctional Corporation of America (CCA). In a bold public move, shortly after commencing work for CCA, Lapin sent a letter to every state offering to pay up to $250 million dollars for the right to operate their entire state prison systems. The state would then pay to manage their “property.” One critical caveat: the state must guarantee 90% occupancy.

This presents a serious quandary. If rehabilitation is important, effective and designed to succeed, prison populations should shrink. In fact, it should be a concrete goal to reduce prison populations by 50-75% nationally for myriad reasons, including humanitarian ones as well as for taxpayer relief.

How can a suggestion of a guaranteed level of incarceration of human beings be viewed as anything less than a shameless disregard for humanity; and any state that does business with companies that promote such disregard for humanity should have those responsible for approving the contracts investigated for political cronyism of the sort that contributes to corporate greed in a shameless business that should be unconstitutional in the first place.

Owing to the effectiveness of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the whole private prison industry and their lobbyists as well as unscrupulous, insensitive and politically driven office-holders, this nation’s prison system is bursting at the seams and is such a strain on state and federal resources that rehabilitation has slipped considerably in importance, even in those rare instances where genuine efforts can be acknowledged. For the most part, what was already an ineffective system of unenthusiastically administered programs is now in more danger than ever before.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report titled “Growing Inmate Crowding Negatively Affects Inmates, Staff and Infrastructure.” Following the report, experts warned that “the ballooning incarcerated population puts inmates and guards at risk and holds back efforts to rehabilitate convicts.” Inimai Chettiar, a director at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law said, “People will get out of prison, but they’re not being helped to re-enter society.”

I have demonstrated in past articles how the private prison industry arrives at its profit in part through the reduction in rehabilitation programs to lower recidivism. This has the added benefit to their bottom line of increased individuals returning to prison. There is no logical incentive for private companies to do anything that could potentially reduce prison populations. This should not be a difficult perspective for our politicians and our courts to understand and accept. We have already seen a case where the rehabilitation program consisted of daily crossword puzzles being slipped under the cell doors of inmates. We have also seen 52% of Louisiana’s state prison inmates languishing in parish jails for years with no rehabilitative programs available.

The concept of rehabilitation in this country is broken. Prison rehabilitation is more about lost opportunities than it is about working to transform individuals and give them an education, skills, self-respect, hope and a fresh start.

This is truly a tragedy since so much of a prison inmate’s daily existence is monitored, dictated, scheduled or controlled. With that much power being exerted over people, the taxpaying public has a right to demand better use of that opportunity to implement changes in the way inmates think and act. Can all of them be transformed into people who contribute positively to society? Of course not. But it often seems as if there has been a total collapse of effort to maximize the results.

Society has failed many of these men and women in their childhood. This calls into question our ability to call ourselves a civilized country should we fail them again.

We can do a much, much better job. But not until we eliminate this culture of incarcerating the highest number of people possible for the longest time we can, with the least amount of reason.

            More tomorrow…


“Giving A Voice To The Victims: The Strength Of A Survivor”

“We conquer – not in any brilliant fashion – we conquer by continuing.”                        George Matheson

“For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.”    Philippians  4:13  NLT

      My dear friend Richard Roy asked me quite some time ago what I hoped to accomplish in writing the “Chronicles”. I can’t remember my exact answer at the time, but I do know what that hope is today. It goes far beyond anything I imagined in the beginning, but I suspect that somewhere at the center of my being has always dwelled the answer that I am only now able to articulate:

      I want to help people understand that the world is in terrible pain and it is the responsibility of each and every one of us – as children of God – to work to stop that pain. As children of God, it is our responsibility to love one another; to help one another; to encourage one another; and to protect one another.

      When another child of God is hungry, we must feed them.

      When another child of God is homeless, we must give them shelter.

      When another child of God is lost, we must help them find their way.

      And when another child of God is in pain, we must comfort them, even if it means sharing in that person’s pain.

      As our survivor of child sexual abuse continues her story and shares the very personal pain of her abuse with us, I would like everyone following her incredible journey to give something to her in kind: a word of encouragement; a word of understanding; a word of support; a word of compassion.

      Show her that you hear her pain and are as numbed by her story as you are impressed with her strength, her courage, and her determination to be a survivor.

      Here, then, her story continues:

 My Identity: The Transition from Victim to Survivor

      Everyone has an identity. It is who we are and how other people know us by. Unfortunately, tragic events such as sexual abuse can change our identity; can change who we see ourselves to be, and who we strive to be. Majority of the time it changes us for the worse and as I say “us”, I mean ‘we the survivors’. Setting aside the battle of forgiving the perpetrator and praying for their repentance, being a survivor there’s a whole other battle we have to face that deals with no one else other than ourselves.

      After what was done to us and against us we lose our identity. That part of me (specifically) was taken from me at the young age of six. It’s been a battle ever since to find who I am because one single man had the power and manipulation to strip me of my own free will to grow up and decide who I want to be. To the age of twelve, each time something happened my identity was lost . . . further and further into the hands of darkness… Satan. The evil acts done against me acted as a cause and effect type scenario. The cause being the wrongful act done against me and the effect being me seeing my identity with every word associated with everything bad, negative, and wrong.

      My identity quickly shifted from an innocent little girl who liked to play sports to a girl and eventually a woman who would walk around dressed as much as a boy as possible . . . ashamed of who I was, disgusted with what I saw in the mirror. Feeling ugly, guilty, low self-esteem, low self-worth, carried no value, was indecisive, submissive in everything, strived for perfection, and if it was not perfect, anything I did was simply not good enough.

      My identity lied within the hands of the devil because I lived in fear. My identity was lost in the hands of an older man and forced me to live two separate lives. No one knew what was happening until I was 18; for thirteen years I was forced to rely on the identity of two separate lives. Do you know how confusing that is for a young teenage girl? Someone who is trying to appear confident, pretty, fit in at school, excel in sports? All the while pretending that her identity isn’t lost, but consumed by a great wave that caught her in the undertow?

      Stripped of confidence. Something every girl needs in order to carry her head high and shoulders back. The prime time for people to find their identity, something learned in multiple psychology classes, is during their adolescent years. During that time my confidence as a woman was dead. It no longer existed. Again, it lied within the man who took my innocence, and stripped me of my childhood. And every time I saw him any ounce of confidence that I even felt running through my veins, vanished. My identity was that of stolen innocence and stripped of confidence.

      Damaged goods. The biggest identity crisis I have to face as well as any other known survivors and victims. The ailing thoughts of questioning, what did I do to deserve this? How bad of a person am I to make someone want to take everything from me? A time of identity where I should be founded on knowing who I am, rapidly turned into a time of identity of consistently questioning myself and my worth to me and others around me.

      Sense of empowerment. When my perpetrator did everything he did, the amount of times he did, every time I lost power in who I was. My character was developed early on by the power slowly leaving my body, only to be filled with weakness. Strength no longer visible, turned into passiveness. My identity yet again skewed simply due to the wrongful actions of one simple man. What we do as a child, effects how we develop as an adult. A single soul distorted, an identity lost, all because of a soulless sinful act by a perpetrator.  

      I’m not expressing the effect of identity to force people to realize the harsh reality of this traumatic event, but instead to let other know out there that they are not alone. These feelings of sense of loss in belonging, worth, and knowing who you are is not identified in the hands of the sinner who did the wrong, but instead an identity that lies within Christ.

       “When you were dead in your sins, you were not set free from the sinful things of the world. But God forgave your sins, and gave you new life through Christ” Colossians 2:13-14. Our new life – our lost identity – is restored in Christ when sin is brought from the darkness. Our identity is nailed to that cross.

       “And you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” Colossians 2:10. If my identity is in Christ then the sense of power is restored because what I lost to sin is regained through the ultimate power, Jesus Christ.

       “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who are baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” Galatians 3: 26-27.  Of all those things stripped of me as a child, with my newfound identity in Christ I am reclothed with his richness, no longer stripped away of anything.

       “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” Romans 6:18. The only bonds of identity left to have are those within Christ. The abuse made me a slave to negative thoughts and feelings. Abuse that chained me to living life as damaged goods, a life finally set free with newfound confidence and value in Christ. A life now filled with the bondage of His righteousness and love.

      I once saw myself as someone who was undeserving of love and unable to love in return. However, the more I placed identity in Christ, the more capable I am of allowing people to love me and being able to love others; especially the man who placed this battle in my heart in the first place.

      It was a hard transition, and I still fight every day with it, but the more my trust is in Him the more my identity is made new and made in Christ. Fuck the devil. I am no longer lost in his sinful nature but have found a renewed and beautiful identity… in Christ Jesus. I was a victim of Satan, but now am a survivor in Christ.

       As a survivor, with strength, courage, and confidence I remind you, you are not alone, and it is never too late.

            End “Identity”

     Tony follow-on Post:   I can only tell this formidable young woman that I am honored that she has chosen this space to share with others her very private experiences. She was fortunate in one area, though, in that there was no photographic record of her abuse. Thank God for that. However, while I run the risk of bringing further condemnation down on myself and others who are guilty of ‘just looking at pictures’, let me make my own thoughts on this subject perfectly clear:

      While child sexual abuse exists without child pornography being involved, there is NO child pornography without a child being sexually abused. Each and every photograph of a child being forced, coerced, or persuaded to pose nude, in sexually suggestive positions, or in actual sexual situations is a visual illustration of that child’s personal nightmare. It is a permanent record of that child’s loss of innocence and identity – in most cases by someone he or she is supposed to be able to trust.

      I read somewhere that the federal sentences for possession of child pornography were set by congress to be very tough so that they would be publicized and serve as a deterrent. I daresay that strategy has failed miserably and has caused more damage than it has done good.

      Perhaps a more effective deterrent would be to publish the stories of the nightmares lived on a daily basis by victims of child sexual abuse. I would suggest that reading stories such as the one we have all just read might cause all but the most heartless individuals to give pause, step back, and reconsider any questionable behavior they may be indulging in or considering.

      This world IS in terrible pain and its children are the ones hurting the most. We can’t make all of the pain go away, but we can certainly try.

       Please join me in applauding this young woman and the strength of other survivors just like her.

      For whatever tiny bit of good it may do, I am truly sorry.

      I thank you for your time.

A Sex Offender Like Me: Just Like Sticks and Stones

“My revulsion turned to grief that my own people could give the hate stare, could shrivel men’s souls, could deprive humans of rights they unhesitatingly accord their livestock.”   John Howard Griffin –    “Black Like Me”

“Lord, you have heard the vile names they call me.” – Lamentations 3:61A NLT

      I have never been fond of the word “nigger,” but I suppose I never really gave much conscious thought as to what effect calling a person one could have on that person’s dignity either. That is, until I heard the word “chomo” -·used -by someone talking to me.

      Of course, I should have known that just like sticks and stones, names can cut; they can sting; they can bruise and make one bleed; just not in the conventional sense, such as physical objects that are wielded as weapons and used to strike someone and cause pain or physical injury.

      But the hurt is there just the same, perhaps in an even more painful and damaging way. Scars develop but instead of being physical blemishes that become items of curiosity and discussion, these scars mar the beauty and dignity of an individual’s soul. They are ugly and meant to be hidden, viewed only by the bearer and are best left unmentioned and undisturbed for fear that talking about them can somehow reopen the wounds.

      You see, being called “chomo” was not my first exposure to the indignity of hateful names wielded as weapons; names whose sole purpose was to hurt, embarrass, demean and diminish the recipient in order that the one wielding those weapons might somehow make himself appear to be superior.

      When I was in high school, I was the object of such weapons due to the fact that my hair was coarse, wiry and very curly.  One person began a hateful – and hurtful – “game” of singling me and my hair out for attention by calling me names such as “nigger knots, ” “Brillo pad, ” “pubic-head,” and a couple of other insults related to both male and female genitalia; all embarrassing, all hurtful and demeaning and all met with no response on my part which, I suppose, gave the one wielding those weapons the perception of power and superiority he sought. Perhaps he needed that perception to compensate for some feelings of diminished capacity or ability on his part. I don’t know. I never asked him nor did I ever respond to him. But after forty-plus years, I can still feel those words strike me with almost physical brutality. I can still remember his name and I can still see his face – full of meanness and ignorance – as he struck me with those weapons of words.

      In a way I think that injuries caused by those words were more debilitating than those caused by any actual sticks or stones I had ever been struck by. I feel this way because of the clarity with which they are remembered and the degree of hurt, embarrassment and shame that accompanies the memories.

      But all of that is nothing compared to what I, and sex offenders like me, face here in prison and will face in the future as we step outside these walls and attempt to move forward with whatever remains of our lives.

      In our present situation as men serving a physical punishment of “freedom denied” as prescribed by law we, as sex offenders, are reminded on a daily basis of our lack of status in the prison “food chain.” From the selection of tables in the dining hall that tend to identify an individual as “one of them,” to being unofficially but undeniably deprived of the right to work in certain areas or use certain recreational facilities without being confronted and intimidated; from the absence of sex offenders, like me, at the tables in the housing unit set aside for playing cards or engaging in a chess match; to the dictating of where “we” can sit while watching one of the four televisions recently moved out of the enclosed TV rooms (from which we were “banned”) into the common area. All of these things and more cry out to us a silent “chomo” that can be heard loud and clear even when the word is spoken with an averted gaze as opposed to an open mouth.

      It should come as no surprise that every restriction, every rule, every attempt to demean and diminish is prompted by the exact same types of individuals who fomented the hate, anger and violence toward African-Americans in the south in decades past. They exhibit the same white-robed, hooded predilection to press downward on a group, class, creed or race of people for no other reason than to feed the need to overcome their own ignorance by demonstrating self-perceived superiority.

      These weak-minded, loudmouthed individuals who publicly profess to being the true arbiters of law and justice within the confines of the compound cover the whiteness of their own skin with tattoos that reveal the blackness of their hearts. They have taken to preying upon sex offenders because, for the most part, they can spew their venom without fear of reprisal. After all, we are older, nerdier and less accustomed to violent ways than the average inmate.

      The perception of weakness is like the scent of fear to a junkyard dog to those whose need is to beat down another human being for no reason other than to cover up their own ignorance, insignificance and inferiority.

      It would be laughable were it not for the seriousness with which these peddlers of prejudice and hate practice their self-anointed supremacy.

      It would be laughable were it not for the fact that being singled out for hate has an impact on one’s perception of oneself, even when the haters are as insignificant as cockroaches in the grand scheme of things.

      It would be laughable were it not for the fact that words – even those unspoken – can and do hurt, even when we pretend and profess that they don’t.

      Just like sticks and stones.

Inmates – In Their Own Words; The Faces of Felons – Steve’s Story

HOLIDAY ‘ON ICE’ – by Steve Marshall

       My apologies to the venerable Ice Capades for filching the name of their evergreen winter extravaganza for the title of this article. It seemed appropriate.

       I’ve been dreading the approach of these last two months of the year because the holidays so thoroughly kicked my posterior last year. After the passing of Halloween, 2010, a mantle of depression settled over me that clung tenaciously until the dawn of the new year. It seemed so strange to lose touch with all happiness in a time of year that I have always embraced with such unbridled joy. Christmas for me was the aroma of a roasting twenty-five pound turkey permeating the house; the annual custom of spending the two days immediately after Thanksgiving decorating every room in the house, including three Christmas trees; the discarded detritus of colorful bows and ripped wrapping paper littering the living room floor; the joyous faces of grandchildren eager to share with me all the news of what Santa had brought them. Nothing else in the world was as capable of making me so happy.

       Now these occasions serve only to remind me of the enormity of what I have lost, squandered really, in the mindless pursuit of satisfying a horrific, out-of-control addiction.

       I’ve lost my freedom, of course, and that is important. I now live in a place where I have no authority or independence; where strangers have the right to run their hands over my body and do so every day, checking to see what I might have stolen or what contraband I might be secreting on my person; a place where I cannot perform the simple act of walking through a door without waiting for someone to come and open it. Here, my very existence is defined by the long list of things that I can no longer do for myself.

       But I’ve also lost something even more precious . . . my family. My arrest and the subsequent revelation of my wrongdoing blasted my family into two camps . . . those who still love and support me and those who cannot. Days after my arrest, my wife Patty informed me that our marriage was at an end. For her, the trust that I had so recklessly violated could not be salvaged. She remains my friend, sending me weekly letters with news of home and pictures of the growing grandkids. But one of those recent letters contained the news that she has found another love and is moving on.

       My son, who was seventeen at the time of my arrest, was so shattered and disillusioned that he could barely speak to me in the days, months and years that followed. This is a boy who, in the third grade, was assigned a three-paragraph essay on the person he admired most in the world. I was certain he would pick Arnold Schwarzenegger. . . but he wrote about me. The enormity of what I took from him is incalculable. Just two weeks ago, though, my son and I had a fifteen-minute phone conversation that was relaxed and good-natured in which he said he was looking forward to hearing from me again. So a little light is shining into that heretofore dark corner of my life.

       My granddaughter was ten when the blast came. She had thought the sun rose and set upon me. I had helped raise her and she was like a daughter to me. We haven’t spoken in two and a half years.

       My real daughter was pregnant with her first child when she was sucker-punched with the news of her dad’s arrest. But she came back swinging and has been my rock ever since. Her daughter was born without her Popi present as I was under house arrest at the time. It wasn’t until more than a year later that I was able to hold her in my arms for the very first time. It was in the visiting room here at Oakdale. Last week I applied for a transfer to California, where I might have the opportunity to see and hold her on a regular basis.

       In retrospect, I am astonished that during the entire time I was so obsessed with indulging my sorry addiction on the Internet, I never once gave any thought to what it would do to my family should these dark secrets be hauled into the harsh light of day. It’s a telling sign how all-consuming this sickness can be. But I honestly believe that if I had considered the possible consequences, it would have been enough to stop me.

       Perhaps a power greater than I will see to it that someone in a similar circumstance reads these words and finds a reason to rethink his behavior. I know such people are out there by the thousands. That would be a Christmas gift that I could really wrap my head around . . . saving someone from going down the same road I did.

       So I’m just a few weeks away from having made it past another holiday season. I have four more of those to make it through until my projected release date of July 19, 2016. By an odd coincidence, that will be my seventy-third birthday. It will begin a new chapter in my life. With my legal debt to society having been met, I can begin paying on the huge karmic debt that hangs over me. I plan to do so by living my life in such a way that I have nothing to hide from anyone and will take advantage of whatever opportunities I have to be of service to others. In so doing, I hope it will enable me to regain the sense of joy and beauty that Christmas has always held for me.

“Faces of Felons – The Face of Evil”

“For you are the children of your father, the Devil, and you love to do the evil things he does”                                  John 8:44 NLT

“God bears the wicked – but not forever”  Cervantes

It was the eyes the sent the first fingers of cold climbing up my spine.  The airs on the back of my neck stood up, as of they were now on alert, cautiously observing the presence of something sinister that was being projected through the two small circles swimming in those pools of pale blue that were devoid of any warmth at all.

He appears harmless enough at first; a short, slightly stooped pale man of about 40 with shoulder length, greasy looking hair that he usually wears pulled back in a ponytail.  He strides when he walks, always making me think he is angry.  His voice is moderately deep with a pronounced drawl reflecting his upbringing in Kentucky – in the backwoods of Kentucky, not the bluegrass.

He wears prison-issue glasses which is, I suppose, why I didn’t get the full effect of his eyes at first.  The glasses have thick brown plastic frames and – due to his poor eyesight – the lenses are very thick as well. Adding to the distortion is the bifocal bottom portion of the lenses.

The first time he took his glasses off and looked at me, I felt myself tense as I shivered inside, feeling like icy fingers clawed their way up my spine.

If you saw Jurassic Park you will remember seeing the eye of the Raptor through the door window as he peered into the kitchen where the children hid, trembling in fear, consumed by terror.   Those are the eyes I speak of.  They are his eyes and I cannot shake the feeling that they are the eyes of a predator.  Eyes that are pure evil.

It is true that the bible tells us not to judge other lest we be judged. But I shall quote H.L. Mencken here, who once wrote “it is a sin to believe evil of others, but it is seldom and mistake.”

Tomorrow I will ask the Lord’s forgiveness, but for now I am compelled to tell you a little more about this face of evil.

I have known this individual – let’s give him a name; I’ll call him ’Billy’ – since I first arrived here almost a year ago, and my thoughts about him never progressed beyond a queasy discomfort whenever I found myself in his presence, until he acquired a new ‘cellie’ about 6 months ago who turned out to be a rather likeable fellow.  In the course of extending friendship to the new guy, time was unavoidably spent in the company of the other.

We try not to probe too deeply into the other people’s business unless encouraged to do so. As far as Billy was concerned though, I was curious because I had heard a disturbing things about him, but nothing directly from him. So, one day I asked him point blank (I have been called ‘blunt’, I prefer straightforward), “have you ever admitted to being, or been diagnosis as a pedophile?” ‘Billy’s’ response was nothing more than an eerily steady gaze from behind those thick lenses. After about 10 seconds of silence I told him I took his silence as an answer.  I told him we are very different and, like it or not, he was the reason myself and others were so hated in prison, and in society.

It was just a statement of opinion, not an emotional or impassioned discourse, but I was met, again, with the silent stare.

After this “exchange”, beyond common courtesy, we didn’t have a lot of contact.  He shared a room with someone I like so a certain amount of contact was inevitable.  Life went on, as it tends to do, until a few months later when he got in a scrape with a couple of D.W.B.s.  All 3 went to the hole.  None of the 3 were missed.

Almost 4 months later – only a few weeks ago – I was walking through the unit and someone informed me that ‘Billy’ was out of the hole and was visiting in the room of someone else I knew.  Out of courtesy, I stopped to say hello, and – again – out of courtesy I said “glad you got out”, and automatically extended my arm to shake hands.

The affect that simple gesture had on me was astounding.  It was like I had grabbed hold of death itself as a feeling of pure evil rippled through the damp, icy chill of his soft hand into mine, and spread rapidly through my body, leaving a trail of unexplainable and indescribable fear and loathing in its wake.

Later that day, in speaking with others that I knew, I described the sensation I had when ‘Billy’ and I shook hands.  No one was surprised.

No more was said or thought about the incident or ‘Billy’, until the wee hours of the morning – probably around 2 or 3 AM – when he invaded my sleep in a dream (nightmare?). All I remember of it with any clarity is that we were in a struggle, and I was trying to handcuff him to prevent his from doing something horrible.  As I pulled on his wrists, he suddenly slipped my grip and my arm actually flew backward in my sleep and struck the bar covering the narrow window next to my bunk.  I awoke with a start and cried out as the impact hurt.  I was breathing hard, as if just actually going through a struggle and I was slightly damp from sweat and totally weirded out by the dream.

Apparently I hadn’t disturbed my ‘cellie’ for I listened and his soft snoring appeared uninterrupted.

‘Billy’s’ actual charges are no different from my own, and perhaps it is wrong for me to presume him capable of anything worse than what he has already done.  I possess no powers of prophesy or clairvoyance – I have no way to ‘see’ any future evil on his part, but he has served most of his sentence and will be released sometime in March.

Whatever makes me feel the way I do, I just have a very uncomfortable feeling that he will be heard from again, and I am already sad for whomever is involved in his return to notoriety.

In the novel and movie “The Green Mile” there was also a ‘Billy’ and when he reached through the bars and grabbed John Coffey, John recoiled in horror as he ‘saw’ in his mind who ‘Billy’ was and said “you a bad man”.

Again, I make no claims of clairvoyance, but surely someone somewhere got a chill – some feeling – some sense of evil or horror from coming into contact with a face that was evil.

Hopefully, I’m wrong, but my feelings are shared by others.

May we all be proven wrong.

“ The Faces of Felons – An Intermittent Series”

“ The Faces of Felons – An Intermittent Series”

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons”                  Attributed to Fyodor Dostoevsky

“There can be no high civility without a deep morality”   Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing”      Jesus

There is  one thread that ties all people in prison together – whether State or Federal Prisoner: whether male or female, (or as does happen) a combination of both; Whether brown, black, white, yellow or red; be they Christian, Muslim, Buddhist; Wiccan; Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic;  something  altogether different or altogether nothing at all’  no matter the charge, the socioeconomic background, or the levels of education – they (we) are all FELONS. Continue reading ““ The Faces of Felons – An Intermittent Series””

“Food, For Thought”

Food, in prison is not only a source of sustenance. It is also a thriving industry, a hobby, a way to pass time, as well as something to talk about, complain about and be thankful for.

Food is – other than the color of our clothes and the same confined habitat – the one thing we, as prisoners, all have in common.

I have written before about the food here and – while not great – it is edible and plentiful enough for its primary purpose, which is to keep us alive. Continue reading ““Food, For Thought””

You’ve Got Email

By Anthony

My e-mail is always full, but I check everything. For my generation, staying connected is both a way of life and an easy task. I don’t expect older generations to have a similar stance, and I would never expect the US prison system to veer from snail mail. But it has.

On a regular basis, I’ll see another piece of email. It looks like spam. But it’s not spam. It’s my father sending me a message from prison:

“Hey Antone! I just wanted to tell you that I love you.”

He was granted access to email via a third-party service supplied by the prison. The idea is a good one, and it’s easier than mail — obviously. That helps lazy sons like me…and I love it!

More Evil

By Tony Casson

We human beings are a curious lot.

We go places we shouldn’t go, look at things we shouldn’t look at, and wonder about things that have no business entering our minds.

We have a natural tendency to develop our own sense of morality and then we convince ourselves that everything we do is OK.

We pick and choose what profanities we will use, and when it is acceptable to sue them.

Somehow we have managed to program ourselves into believing that if it is shown on TV during primetime, then that exact behavior is acceptable in realtime.

Somewhere along the line making love was replaced with having sex and “looking slutty” was substituted for “being sexy”.

Morality and decency were displaced by our “freedom of expression” and our individual God-given Civi Rights, but it’s not OK to pray or have a relationship with God. And if you do, you’d damn well better keep it to yourself. Continue reading “More Evil”

Finally, a happy post

By Anthony Casson

An English lit. course evokes a deep feeling of creativity, a desire to pour out one’s feelings. But do not think this because of beautiful conversation, the cool focus of 20 students, or dissipation of shadows heeding to what could possibly become an intensely pleasant afternoon in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. No, definitely not.

Instead, my cause for writing comes at a time where the heat grows uncomfortable; the 20 students’ focus lies not on the professor–leading conversations about a “wandering Jew”–but on the glossy screens of their iPhones. I do not wish to pay attention to discussing The Monk. I wish to look back at what readers care about, my father. Continue reading “Finally, a happy post”