By Steve Marshall

One clear and present function of any law is to punish the wrong-doer.  But a secondary characteristic of equal importance is for the law to serve as a deterrent to others; a warning against breaking that societal covenant.

I am one such wrong-doer, currently serving a seven and a half year sentence for breaking a law. I foolishly engaged in the downloading and trading of online child pornography. It stands as the single most careless and stupid act of my lifetime.

Let me state upfront that I blame no one else for the shameful actions that led to my downfall. I knew I was breaking the law and I did so anyway. We live in a world where we are held responsible for our actions and I accept full culpability for mine.

But while I was aware of the illegality of my activities, I had no concept of the extent of the consequences; of the price that I would have to pay; both legally and personally, for breaking the Law.

Since the advent of the internet, the number of arrests for possession of child pornography has skyrocketed. The offenders cut across all strata of society. The stereotype for this charge is the predator or pedophile and without a doubt there are many arrestees who fit this profile. But among those presently serving time for this offense are those who simply had too much time on their hands, those who were merely curious or those who like myself, took a perverse delight in violating society’s taboos.

Speaking for myself, there was no thought given to the continued exploitation of innocent children through the circulation of these heinous photographs. I stupidly regarded this as a victimless crime.

After all, these children had no way of knowing that their images were being viewed, right? Wrong! Each time an arrest is made and a photo identified in the FBI database, the government sends a letter to the subjects in the picture notifying them that they have been viewed. Some of these unfortunate people, many of whom are now well into their adulthood, have received hundreds of these letters.

Here is another common misapprehension: We are all anonymous on the Internet. Wrong again! Each computer has an IP address that is easily traceable. Finding you is no problem at all for police and the FBI.

I cannot help wondering how might I have behaved differently had I been exposed to some of the harsh realities of I what I had become involved in; the full nature of the dangerous game I was playing and the consequences that awaited me should I be caught.

For these reasons, it seems to me that the effectiveness of child pornography laws as a deterrent would be heightened greatly by an aggressive campaign by the Justice Department to educate the public on the realities of child pornography through newspaper ads and public service announcements on radio and television. Toward that end, I have written such a PSA which I offer gratis to the Justice Department:

A man is seated in darkness, his face illuminated only by the ambient light of the computer screen before him. As the announcer speaks, the CAMERA pushes slowly into him.


A set of bars slides from right of frame to left.


The camera settles on a close-up of the man’s face through the bars, a single tear rolling down his cheek.


ANNOUNCER: Child pornography is against the law. Yet, since the innovation of the Internet, arrests for this crime have risen 2400 percent. You are not anonymous on the Internet. If you are engaged in this activity, we will find you. We will arrest you.  And you will be sent to prison for anywhere from five to twenty years. SOUND EFFECT: A jail door slamming shut.


ANNOUNCER: A message from the United States Department of Justice.


I can state with absolute authority that had I seen such an announcement, I would have been scared straight.  If there is genuine interest in stemming the rising tide of Internet child pornography, I recommend a vigorous, intensive and narrowly focused program of public education. It will prevent the further exploitation of children and former children who have seen their lives tainted by sexual abuse and the recording of it on film; and it will prevent others from following in my misguided footsteps down a road that brings only shame and ruin.




“Seek to do what is right.”  Zephaniah  2:3b  NLT

“We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who participated
in the decisions on Vietnam acted according to what we thought were
the principles and traditions of this nation. We made our decisions
in the light of those values. Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong. We
owe it to future generations to explain why.”
Robert S. McNamara  “In Retrospect”

In this day of ‘fiscal cliffs’, ‘sequestration’, trillion dollar deficits, and immature, irresponsible partisan posturing, and dangerous games of ‘political chicken’, the American public is owed a LOT of explanations.

It is rare for those who are elected and paid by the taxpaying public to OFFER those explanations, let alone admit, as Mr. McNamara did, that any explanation is owed.

In spite of that, there is ONE explanation that every decent American should DEMAND of its leaders and lawmakers and it is this: “Why do you refuse to utilize existing technology, and common sense, to provide meaningful and substantial protection to this nation’s children?”

The valiant CAUSE of protecting our most valuable resource is one that is thrust upon us daily. Be that as it may, even though laws that claim ‘protection’ are passed with mind-numbing frequency and in equally mind-numbing numbers, each one of them does little more than lead us further down the one-way-only road of ‘pursuit, prosecution, and punishment’ and do little to provide any real protections to those who most need it. While this is an absolutely necessary road to follow, it should not be the ONLY one.

The very sad truth is that failure to utilize the tools at our disposal effectively has led to the FURTHER exploitation and victimization of countless children who have already suffered the loss of their innocence as a result of child sexual abuse. This failure is a result of decisions made to ignore our capability to take major steps toward blocking the proliferation and prevalence of Internet child pornography from this country’s homes.

In countless speeches given by angry, indignant, and concerned politicians, the phrase “We must STOP child pornography and protect our children!” has been used to great effect in garnering attention and getting votes. It is time for Americans everywhere to demand an explanation from those same people as to why the available technology and know-how to do those very things has not been implemented.

Following is the template for a letter that I hope people will use – and encourage others to do the same – demanding the explanation as to why all of the things that CAN be done are NOT being done. The letter also outlines the technology available and outlines how it could – and SHOULD – be used to prevent further harm from befalling those who have already suffered too much and deserve better than they have received.

I invite you to read the letter and then copy it (or write your own), sign it, and send it to each senator and representative in your state, as well as to Attorney General Holder, and President Obama. I have addressed this template to President Obama for convenience. I will be sending it to him and asking men around me to do the same.

Dear President Obama,

Tonight, in tens of thousands of  homes across this great nation, children will go to bed afraid of the visit that will come when all is quiet. They will go to bed dreading the unholy violation of their innocence that will take place when they should be able to sleep peacefully, dreaming the dreams of children. But instead of dreaming, these children will be trembling quietly under the covers, fearfully anticipating the trespass against their bodies and their minds that will leave them empty of everything but their humiliation, their shame, and their loneliness.

In this digital age, the rape and sexual abuse of children is compounded by the making of permanent records of that abuse. To add to the torment, pain, and the embarrassment that these victims suffer, far too many of those images and videos find their way onto the Internet where they are circulated and viewed by untold thousands of people. The National Center For Missing And Exploited Children has ‘logged’ over 50 MILLION different images of child pornography into its database. Software, developed by companies such as Microsoft has been donated to law enforcement and is used by Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) such as AOL to ‘read’ the ‘digital fingerprints’ of these images as they pass through their servers in order to identify, apprehend, and prosecute those who would view, sell, or share them.

This is as it should be, as there are individuals out there who will stop at nothing to obtain and distribute these heartbreaking images of the rape and abuse of innocent children. Unfortunately, limiting the use of available technology to ‘pursuit, prosecution, and punishment’ actually ALLOWS child pornography to proliferate virtually unchecked and, rather than PROTECTING these unfortunate children, actually CONTRIBUTES to their further exploitation and victimization.

Allow me to illustrate my point:

Last year, the Southern District Director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was arrested for possession of child pornography. Software utilized by AOL, the individual’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) detected the ‘digital fingerprints’ of three images of child pornography in an email DURING TRANSMISSION to the Director’s home computer. The images were allowed to proceed, the FBI was notified, a search warrant was obtained, the computer was seized, and the individual was arrested and prosecuted.

An important point to consider is this: The damage to the child is done when the person VIEWS the images, not when he, or she, is apprehended. At that point, it is too late to prevent further harm to the victim.

Mr. President, what if a different scenario had taken place? What if the individual had first been sent, by AOL, a clear warning outlining the dangerous territory into which he was stepping? Allow me to illustrate further by first examining what Google does for its users in China. It seems that searching for certain words or phrases in China can lead to the government cutting the user’s Internet connection. As a service to their users, Google now has warning ‘flags’ that drop down and inform the user of the possibility of the loss of connection when they type certain words into the search fields.

In the case of someone searching for child pornography, what if a ‘flag’ were to drop down when certain terms were typed in? An example of such a warning would be:


“The use of certain search terms could result in the accidental, or intentional, downloading of child pornography which is a SERIOUS CRIME! These images depict innocent children being raped and sexually abused and viewing or sharing these images with others further traumatizes these victims. Penalties for receiving, possessing, and sharing or otherwise distributing child pornography WILL result in imprisonment for terms up to 25 YEARS OR MORE! Furthermore, convicted sex offenders will be required to register with law enforcement for a period of 15 years to LIFE!

The same holds true where actual emails or downloads are in progress. The software AOL utilized could very easily be modified to BLOCK the images completely. In lieu of that, at the very LEAST, modifications could be made so that a warning message is transmitted before the actual images themselves are allowed to go through. An example of such a warning is:


“Your Internet Service Provider’s software has detected images that contain child pornography being sent, or being downloaded, to your computer. These images depict innocent children being sexually abused, and viewing or sharing these images with others further traumatizes these victims. In addition, penalties for receiving, possessing, and distributing or sharing child pornography WILL result in imprisonment for up to 25 YEARS OR MORE! Convicted sex offenders will also be required to register with law enforcement for a period of 15 years to LIFE!


NO          YES

CAUTION: If you click ‘YES’, your ISP is required by law to notify the FBI

These warnings COULD have a dramatic impact on the downloading, viewing, and sharing of these horrific images and could greatly reduce the additional trauma and victimization of innocent children.

Mr. President, the time has come to STOP the proliferation of Internet child pornography. The time has come to STOP all of the political grandstanding that takes place under the guise of ‘protecting’ children. The time has come to STOP the further exploitation of children already traumatized by being raped and sexually abused.

Mr. President, the time has come to START protecting the children of this country by demanding an immediate Congressional hearing to ask WHY the simple steps outlined have NOT been taken. This is not new technology by any means.

The February 26 issue of the Wall Street Journal carried an article about a “coordinated effort to deal with subscribers (of ISPs) who illegally download movies, TV shows, and music.” How will this be achieved? Primarily through the use of WARNINGS similar to those outlined here. “The goal is to change behavior and get people to pay attention,” said Jill Lesser.

Should that NOT be the goal where child pornography is concerned as well? Should we not want people to change their behavior and pay attention?

Mr. President, I must ask you: Are we REALLY a nation that is more concerned with the downloading of movies that are not paid for than we are with the downloading of movies and pictures depicting the RAPE AND SEXUAL ABUSE OF INNOCENT CHILDREN?

Taking the steps outlined will not eliminate child pornography or child sexual abuse. These steps CAN do more to contribute to the reduction in Internet child pornography and the further victimization of innocent children than the aggregate effect of ALL the laws (and there are literally hundreds nationwide) that have been passed in recent years that carry a child’s name or the words “Child Protection Act”. These simple steps can also increase sensitivity and awareness among the public and serve to enlighten and educate. These steps can also have the added benefit of causing unthinking individuals to ‘wake up’ and realize the horrors represented by child pornography.

There is simply no plausible reason or explanation as to why these steps cannot be implemented with lightening speed! If the desire is to allow these shameful images to circulate to catch those who might look at them, let me point out something that should be painfully obvious: These are not GUNS that are being allowed to be sold illegally in order to track them to the criminals who purchased them. These are PICTURES and VIDEOS depicting the RAPE and SEXUAL ABUSE of INNOCENT CHILDREN.

Software developers, Internet Service Providers, and the United States Department of Justice should appear before a Congressional committee to determine WHY these steps are not being taken to protect our children and our country.

I will close by sharing a thought attributed to Helen Keller:

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

The steps outlined in this letter represent something that CAN be done. Please do NOT refuse to do it!



April has been designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and Child Sexual Abuse Awareness (CSA) Month. This is a perfect time to mail this letter, or one similar to it, to as many Legislators, Congressmen, Governors, newspapers, and anyone else you can think of.

I also urge you to share it with your friends and family so they can mail it to as many people as possible too. The steps listed CAN make a huge difference.

I thank you.

Resetting My Life Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Prison

by Steve Marshall

      First, let me stress that the title is a joke. I couldn’t resist the temptation to parody the 1964 classic film, “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” In truth, I love prison about as much as I love the bomb.

      Actually, this is about how I arrived at the unexpected realization that I accept being a prisoner and embrace the fact that I am where I need to be. This is the story of how I arrived at this surprising crossroads.

      When I was arrested on April 15, 2009, it was a sudden and immediate wake-up call; a punch in the gut that informed me that my life had gone seriously off the rails. Like many people in a similar situation, I became painfully aware ‘that I had lost sight of my moral compass ‘ and that my spiritual cup was bone dry. I tried to address the problem by joining a traditional Christian church. But with each’ passing Sunday, I realized that, for me, this was not a comfortable fit.

      You see I am, by definition, an atheist. Most Judeo-Christian theology strikes me as magical thinking. My life is informed by science, logic, provable fact and natural law. Having said that, I must add that I have the greatest respect for the beliefs of others. Whatever gets us through the circuitous maze that we call life and provides us with strength, wisdom, comfort and a sense of direction is ‘aces in my book. Let’s face it – no one has the facts. All we have is what we believe to be true. In that sense, each of us has his or her own personal truth.

      So where does an atheist go for spiritual enlightenment? In my case, the answer lay with the Unitarian-Universalist Church.  You see, the U-Us have no dogma of their own. In fact, they offer classes in the world’s religions, urging us to seek what makes sense to us. Take something from Christianity, ‘something else from Buddhism, add a pinch of Judaism or a dash of Hinduism and let simmer. It is, in effect, “Build Your Own Theology.” The principle goal and purpose of Unitarian-Universalism is to lead us in the direction of becoming better people. I knew after attending my first service that I had finally found a spiritual home.

      But when t came to be locked up in a’ remote Southern prison, I discovered that they offered no Unitarian-Universalist services. In fact, they had never heard of either faith (the Unitarians and the Universalists merged in the 1960s), even though both have existed for hundreds of years. So what was I to do? How was I to continue this spiritual journey?

      Happily, I found more than one person in my circle of remaining friends who were Unitarian-Universalists and were willing to download the sermons of U-U ministers from a number of different churches and mail them to me. I keep them in their own envelope and withdraw one each Sunday to read and digest. I have come to think of myself as “A Congregation of One.” Someone very close to me (a U-U, of course) has even started a blog with that as a title, posting excerpts from the letters that I write after reading each sermon.

      Most of the sermons provide interesting and engaging food for thought. But occasionally I’ll come upon one that is a real life changer. Such was the case on Sunday, January 12, 2013 when I read a sermon titled “Want What You Have.” My first reaction upon seeing that title was that I was probably not going to connect with this sermon’s message. After all, what I have is three and a half more years of living in a federal prison. Who could possibly want that? Well, never judge a book by its cover nor a sermon by its title.

      This particular sermon was based on the works of Rev. Forrest Church, the former minister of All Souls Unitarian-Universalist Church in New York and a religious scholar of some renown.

      As I began to read, I was informed that “Rev. Church had written an essay which bore the title “Want What You Have” when he was in the end stages of his life, suffering from terminal cancer. I was taken aback with this news as I stopped reading to consider how anyone could advance such an idea – want what you have – when what he had was a virulent disease that was killing him. I read on and soon realized that I was myopic in my grasp of Rev. Church’s message. His thesis challenged me to look at the bigger picture and see that what I had was more than just a life in prison. What I had, in fact, was an unparallel opportunity to learn and grow.

      When my life deteriorated to the point of leading me to become a convicted felon for the first and only time at the advanced age of 65; the one thing that became blindingly clear was that I was in serious need of a mid-course correction. My problem was so serious that it would require much more than a simple fix. I needed to have my entire life reset.

      In order to achieve a reset, I needed to go back to square one; to lose my home, my family, all of my possessions; my freedom itself.

      I must confess to the fact that I had become a master of the dubious art of distracting myself from any meaningful contemplation that might result in my becoming a better human being. I had my giant screen television, an endless stream of movies and my beloved iPhone, which ensured that I would never again have to endure another nanosecond of boredom. I had the Internet to take me anywhere I wanted to go, including the most degrading and debasing places possible. All of these things conspired to sap away my basic humanity. And then, in the blink of an eye, it was all gone.

      The biggest loss, of course, was my marriage and the love and esteem of people who meant everything to me. Some of those relationships survived; others did not. Some of the people whom I loved to the depths of my soul are lost to me forever. But a reset can’t always be pretty. It can come with a very high price tag. It doesn’t happen in a day, a week” a month or even a year. It takes time, patience, attention and a fierce desire to be a better person than I have ever been. I finally have the time and motivation to focus laser-like on that goal. The seeds ‘for this reset were sown the moment I first stepped into the U-U church while I was still under house arrest. The work has continued at a steady pace ever since.

      I have almost reached the midpoint in the six and a half years that I must spend in federal custody. I know to a certainty that I am already a better man than I was on the morning of April 15, 2009. But I still have some distance to travel before I will be who I want to be – the man I always thought I was. That’s who I want to become.

      I am a work in progress.

      I am grateful for the time, energy and motive to become that man. That is the immutable gift that has been given to me.

      So.   Do I want what I have?


“Unnecessary Harm And Confusion – Fast And Furious, The Sequel”

“For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:7 NLT

“For my part, I think it less evil that some criminals should escape than that the government should play an ignoble part.” – Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Olmstead vs. The United States (1928)

Attorney General Eric Holder said recently that a 471-page report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz made it clear that he took immediate action to stop the tactics used in the seriously flawed “Fast and Furious” gun-walking operation once he learned about them. In fact, according to the September 20, 2012 Wall Street Journal, Holder denounced those who were “so quick to make baseless accusations that turned out to be without foundation and that have caused a great deal of unnecessary   harm and confusion.”

The “unnecessary harm and confusion” that may have been caused is nothing compared to the totally unnecessary harm and confusion those 2,000 illegal weapons Holder’s employees negligently allowed to fall into the hands of dangerous criminals will cause to untold individuals and their families.

When will this nation learn that anytime those who are charged with upholding the law place themselves above the law and employ tactics that border on criminal acts to catch individuals in criminal activity that they created, the public winds up paying an exorbitant price? No matter what lofty goals were envisioned; no matter what eloquent explanations are given, placing 2,000 “mostly variants of AK-47 rifles” into the hands of men predisposed to use them is an act that I feel confident saying Justice Holmes would classify as “ignoble.” And that would be if he were being beneficent.

For any agent of the United States government to promote illegal activity to combat it goes far beyond being “ignoble” and approaches an act that teeters on the edge of criminality.

The congressional probe of Operation Fast and Furious was led by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Rep. Darrell Issa of California. Both expressed “outrage and indignation” over the incident and called on Mr. Holder to “hold people accountable.”

Jason Weinstein, a top aide to Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, resigned from the Justice Department on September 18. Kenneth Melson, former ATF Acting Director, retired from the Justice Department on September 19. The ATF, according to the Journal, said it would “use the report to pursue disciplinary investigations which could result in firings or other administrative sanctions.”

Perhaps Senator Grassley and Representative Issa can now be persuaded to “express outrage and indignation” regarding an even more “seriously flawed” operation being conducted by the Justice Department. I refer to the ongoing efforts to ensnare those who would look at child pornography. I say “seriously flawed” because the current approach to solving the problem of the spread of child pornography, can never achieve results other than negative ones that cause ‘unnecessary harm and confusion.” These results include the totally unnecessary incarceration of tens of thousands of individuals; the effective destruction of their families; and – most important of all – the inadvertent aiding in the distribution of child pornography not only to adults but to children as young as 11 years old. Eleven years old is the average age at which children are exposed to Internet pornography and, sad to say, if one can find pornography, one can find child pornography.

At the Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL) National Conference in early September in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Senator Cisco McSorley of that state said, “I am sick and tired of politicians who won’t take a stand on controversial issues.”

Perhaps Senator McSorley can get together with Senator Grassley and Representative Issa and stand up to do the right thing, which is to demand that the Justice Department and Internet Service Providers move immediately to end the “unnecessary harm and confusion” that this preventable pandemic causes in America each and every day. The victims suffer; the families of victims suffer; the families of those incarcerated for viewing these images suffer; those arrested suffer and society itself suffers immeasurably.

Given the fact that much of what transpires today is preventable, I am not sure that “harm and confusion” even begins to come close to describing the avoidable carnage wrought by another “pattern of serious failures” in this tragic chapter in American history. More jail time is not the answer.

More people in jail is not the answer. The answer is to eliminate the images; to stop them from entering this nation’s homes in the first place; to use available technology to prevent, not promote illegal activity.

Justice Holmes also heard another case in which he made a comment I find particularly relevant. The case was Schenck vs. the United States (1919) and it was a famous one that concerned an individual’s right to free speech. Justice Holmes said that the Constitutional right of free speech did not give an individual the right to stand up in a crowded theater and shout “fire”, creating a panic.

Any time discussions are entered into concerning the blocking of anything on the Internet, the subject of free speech emerges. Let us consider the words of Justice Holmes in “Schenck”: The question in every case is whether the ”words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has the right to prevent.”

In this case, child pornography constitutes “the words.” The “clear and present danger” to this nation by child pornography can hardly be disputed. The “substantive evil” that child pornography brings into this country’s homes is not only the right of Congress to prevent, it is Congress’ duty.

Let us hope that Mr. Grassley, Mr. Issa, Mr. McSorley or any of the other men and women elected to serve the people of this country stand up and address this problem in the right way.

They have the power to lock the door on child pornography. And they must.

“The Faces of Felons: Two Faces of Youth”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless you all.

“Talk To Me”

“The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.” – Proverbs 27:9 NLT

“Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making.” – John Milton

I have never addressed the subject of the comments of my readers. Or the lack thereof, which is more of the impetus for this little blurb than those I do receive.

First, I want to make sure that you all understand that I do not actually post any of these articles myself. My beloved son, Anthony, my beloved brother-in-law, Larry, and my beloved friend, Diane are responsible for that. I cannot go online and see anything, but your comments are passed along to me and I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to write them. Even those few, (thank goodness) that have not been favorable, I do read, so please write them.

They will all be posted by one of my “editors” unless they are suspected of being “phishing” or presenting a danger to others’ computers. While comments critical of my point of view will get posted, any that are simply hateful invective most assuredly will not. And most definitely any that tell about how an article may have helped or affected someone are welcome.

I am generally a very upbeat, positive, forward-moving individual who doesn’t need to be verbally stroked. Okay, I’m a liar. Stroke me, please. Rub my literary tummy and scratch behind my metaphorical ears. Say anything, but say something, for when people are silent, situations such as those facing this country today are allowed to grow and alter the course of tens of thousands of lives, dangerously and permanently.

To those who have taken the time to offer support, encouragement and even disagreement – I thank you.

And for those who may be wondering, Diane is not my wife, sister, mother, aunt, cousin or other relative. She is just a lovely person who makes her opinions known. I do not pay her. (I should, for all she does. However, I am but a poor ward of the government). And if any of you are feeling guilty for not speaking up, you can make it up to me by sending me a birthday card. I will be 59 on October 25th and 59 cards would be nice.

So let’s see – if all my readers and all of my family and all of my friends send cards, that would be… ummm… plus six, carry the one… okay! I’ve got it! I would be short only by about 42 cards. But what the heck!

Only gold is golden. Silence is simply silence.

God bless you all.

“The Tragedy is in the Truth”

By Tony Casson

“Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.”
1 Timothy 2:1b NLT

“We believe no evil till the evil’s done.”
Jean de La Fontaine

Tonight in tens of thousands of homes across this country, children will go to bed afraid of the visit that will come when all is quiet. They will go to bed dreading the unholy violation of their innocence that will take place when they should be able to sleep peacefully, dreaming the dreams of children. But instead of dreaming, these children will be trembling quietly under the covers.

Do they lie there fearful that a stranger will enter this place that should be safe and do them harm? The heart-breaking truth is that the monster that most children fear is a person who is very well known to them.

The harsh reality should be very apparent to all of us by now as the numbers have been published often: 93-97% of all sexual abuse inflicted upon children in America is the direct result of a violation of trust by a family member, a relative or someone known to the family.

Instead of feeling safe knowing that a family member is nearby, many children lie in the dark, suffering unimaginable mental anguish wondering when the next assault will come.

I recently wrote about the book, “The Road of Lost Innocence” by Somaly Mam. Even in the extreme cases such as those in Cambodia that Somaly Mam describes with such brutally vivid honesty, the abuse that is inflicted upon children exists; is promoted; and occurs in the first place because of a violation of trust by parents, other relatives or people in positions of power and authority who should be able to be relied upon for protection. Instead, they are all either complicit or complacent.

Sadly, in the United States of America, our record is not much better:

• This is not a nation that has declared war against the sexual abuse of children; rather this is a nation that has declared war on misguided individuals who view the recorded images of that abuse, rather than using the incredible array of technology available to prevent those images from reaching our homes in the first place.

• This is not a nation that has set itself apart as a world leader in the protection of those least able to protect themselves; rather this is a nation that has allowed its politicians to regard misguided middle aged men and socially inept younger introverts in the same light as sexually violent predators that do, sadly, exist in our world. But they exist in far fewer numbers than America’s parents are led to believe. This creates an enormous workload for those charged with keeping watch over the most dangerous and encourages complacency and invites tragedy.

• This is not a nation that can be proud of the importance it places upon its future – the future being its children; instead, this is a nation which has allowed – indeed rewarded – our politicians who have actually pushed the safety and protection of children aside in favor of promoting sanctimoniously named legislation that does little more than create an American tragedy of a different kind.

     In a recent article, “The Child Protection Act That Doesn’t,” I referred to a bill sponsored by Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas as a “misguided, misinformed and useless piece of pompous political puffery” and went on to classify it as “…political grandstanding at its lowest, which actually exploits the very children it claims to protect for purely political gain.”

Congressman Smith is only the most recent in a long line of politicians attaching their names to legislation promising to solve a problem when it is glaringly apparent by the very nature of their proposed solutions that they do not even know what the real problem is.

It is a regrettable fact of political life that our elected officials will seize upon any incident that can be used to cast themselves in a favorable light with the voting public, and issues concerning children are particular favorites of theirs.

Nothing grabs the public’s attention and inflames emotions to as intense a degree as a tragedy that has befallen a child at the hands of a stranger. Even though these extreme incidents are, in actuality, quite rare, the media attention they garner causes any decent person to become upset and angry and to look to elected officials for a solution.

Unfortunately, for that child and the child’s family, there is no solution. The tragedy is in this truth: No law ever passed has protected those children who have died horrific deaths at the hands of predatory strangers. Yet each new heartbreaking incident – even as rare as they may be – brings about a new round of laws and sex offender restrictions that do little more than provide a righteous platform upon which a politician can stand and say, “I am protecting America’s children.” Tell that to the parents and family of the child they just buried.

There will never be a law passed that can prevent pure evil from seeking victims to prey upon. Vigilance and common sense on the part of the parents is the best defense there is. Sadly, vigilant people will look away and another tragedy will occur, but these incidents, and the monsters who are responsible for them, should not be viewed as the primary danger to our children.

Child pornography is often singled out as the biggest crime against children. With the startling number of prosecutions for its possession and the flooding of our prisons with those found guilty of it, there is little wonder that it is perceived as such. However, the images – as sad and senseless as they are – are simply the record of the actual crime against whatever child may be pictured. This brings us back to the problem, which is – the sexual abuse of children, most of which takes place in the home.

If this sounds redundant, I apologize. Or maybe I don’t because people don’t seem to see that it is easier to point fingers at individuals making horribly immature and irresponsible decisions to look at pictures that should not be allowed to enter our homes in the first place than it is to try to tackle the real problem which lies in the very acts themselves that are recorded in the pictures.

This child pornography pandemic is destroying thousands of families in this country needlessly. Child pornography should not be allowed to proliferate to the degree that it does. The responsibility for this falls squarely on the shoulders of the providers of Internet service and the lawmakers who would rather pass laws to incarcerate tens of thousands – potentially millions – of Americans for having the moral indecency to look at the pictures rather than pass laws requiring those providers to lock the door on child pornography.

When we stop hauling our fathers, sons, friends and neighbors off to prison for looking at pictures that should be blocked; when we stop wasting resources to seek, arrest, prosecute, imprison and monitor criminals that are created because of misplaced priorities; when the American public stops listening to the misdirection, the excuses and the outright lies and tells those who are paid to serve the public to actually sit down, roll up their sleeves and work toward productive solutions, then perhaps the country can begin to heal from this disease that festers and threatens to destroy us from within.

The course of action currently being taken by those in charge is as irresponsible as the behavior of those caught up in its web.

Somaly Mam is making a difference in the face of tremendous odds. She is saving lives while we, in this country, content ourselves with destroying more of them. She faces the tragedy that is in the truth every day while lawmakers in this country cannot even say they know what the truth is.

Politicians, prosecutors and judges all run scared, flailing at whatever presents the easiest target. Unfortunately, the easiest targets are those least responsible for the fear those thousands of children I spoke of take to bed with them each night.

Is there no one out there with the courage of Somaly Mam? Is there no one out there courageous enough to do the right thing, rather than that which is easiest?

Based on the actions of our lawmakers, I would guess not. And there certainly is tragedy in that truth.

“Worth Dying For”

By Tony Casson

“…deliver us from evil.”     Matthew 6:13 KJV

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Attributed to Edmund Burke

Here’s something you have yet to see in The Oakdale Chronicles – a book review. This isn’t just any book. It’s a life changer. As you might guess, this is going to be a rave review.

In my time at Oakdale FCI, I have read many books. I average around one a week – sometimes a little more. The books I have read run the gamut from the utterly frivolous and simply time-consuming to those that were insightful, inspiring and thought-provoking. The Bible, of course, has had a profoundly positive impact on how I view myself and how I am structuring my view of the world around me.

I have explored social conditions, humanity, politics, religion and civilization and I have read about many different beautiful places, people and creatures to be found throughout God’s creation. Many things I have read have altered my perspective a little or lent clarity to it. I have experienced a wide range of emotions covering a broad spectrum of topics. But I have tried to narrow my focus to works that will help me understand the human condition; to help me solidify my moral core; and to help me explore the depths of my own willingness to commit to something bigger than myself.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “If a man hasn’t discovered something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” I read those words and wondered if I could become a person who has discovered something worth dying for. Of course, there are my children – I would die for them and many people would say that. But I am talking about something else, something bigger, and something more important. Do I have the character to make a significant contribution to humanity? Sure, I write about social issues such as incarceration, the criminal justice system, morality and child sexual abuse in these Chronicles. But I do so from a protected place. I am not in any danger. My life is not on the line. I am safe.

Not so in the case of Somaly Mam, a remarkable woman I “met” recently through her book, “The Road of Lost Innocence.” She is a Cambodian woman of extraordinary courage and commitment and I strongly urge every living adult to become familiar with her by reading her story of human misery in the form of sex slavery and human trafficking in and around Cambodia.

As I read the book, her words tore through me, ripping at my heart, leaving it in shreds, making me hurt with a tangible reality. The mission she has undertaken as a result of the unimaginable depravity, violence and sexual abuse she has both experienced and witnessed makes this tiny woman a giant in the world of humanitarian action. Martin Luther King, Jr. would say that she is definitely fit to live.

Her writing style is not fancy, nor is it poetic. It is coarse, blunt, brutal, factual and real. The scenes of horror she describes are recounted simply and reluctantly, for each story brings back to her the intense pain and suffering that accompanied the original actions of depravity and total disregard for human life as she experienced and/or witnessed them. As exhibited in the following passage from the book, you can’t use pretty words to paint an ugly picture. Found on pages 59 and 60 of “The Road of Lost Innocence”, published in 2008 by Spiegel & Gram, is this incredibly painful description of the horror called life for many Cambodian girls:

     “Nowadays, the girls are much younger, too. This is because men in Cambodia will pay a thousand dollars to rape a virgin for a week… To make it clear they offer true bona fide virgins, the brothels today sell children. Often they are young girls, just five or six years old. After the week is over, they sew the girl inside – without an anesthetic – and quickly sell her again. A virgin is supposed to scream and bleed and this way, the girl will scream and bleed, again and again. They do it maybe three or four times.”

No flowing words; no need to pull out the dictionary; no metaphors; no abundance of adjectives to make a point. Just simple words of violence and abuse. And those words hurt as I read them. They cut deeply and as surely as with the sharpest knife. As you read the book, you will almost think you can hear Somaly’s voice. Even as she builds her foundation and begins to rescue other young girls from lives of captivity, abuse and forced prostitution, there is no victory in her “voice”. The sadness never leaves it, so profound and complete is the damage to her soul.

Later in the book, she writes, “I wondered if it is ever really possible to clear the past completely or whether you will always be haunted by what has been done to you and what you have done.”

As for Somaly’s work, you can look up – and hopefully support – her two organizations. The original group was founded in France: AFESIP (in English, it stands for “Assisting Women in Distressing Situations”), and in the United States, she founded The latter raises money to combat human trafficking and sex slavery throughout the world. AFESIP is its largest recipient (or it was in 2008 when the book was published). The work of AFESIP is outlined in great detail in the book. It is a challenge and it is dangerous. As to why this amazing woman does it, Somaly herself says it best:

     “I don’t feel like I can change the world. I don’t even try. I only want to change the small life that I see in front of me which is suffering. I want to change this small, real thing that is the destiny of one little girl, and then another, and another. Because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself or sleep at night.”

If that’s not worth dying for, I don’t know what is. Read the book. If it doesn’t affect you – if it doesn’t alter you – if it doesn’t change you – look in the mirror and ask yourself why.


Judgement Day

    “Judges, like people, may be divided into roughly four classes: Judges with no heart – they are to be avoided at all costs; Judges with heads but no hearts – they are almost as bad; Judges with hearts but no heads – risky, but better than the first two; And finally, those rare Judges who possess both head and heart – thanks to blind luck, that’s our           Judge.”  Robert Traver

                                         “….he must never judge unfairly.”  Proverbs  10:10b  NLT

      Black-robed men and women occupy raised platforms of power, gazing down upon those charged with violating one or more of society’s laws. They have the last word in the proceedings prior to slamming the gavel down, signifying finality in the issue before the court. The sound as the gavel strikes should signal final judgment and an end to the matter, but while these proceedings may end here for those charged with enforcing and adjudicating the law, it is only the beginning for those being sentenced to what are often unconscionable lengths of time in prison.

      The chain of events that brought the concerned parties together in the courtroom did not begin there by any means. Long before there is final judgment in the case of a law being broken, there is the process whereby those elected to make society’s laws determine what is, and what is not, acceptable behavior in a civilized world. State and federal legislators must use THEIR judgment to determine what laws are required, and then must decide what sort of punishment is correct – and just – in each instance.

      It is here, in the beginning, where the heads AND hearts of men and women must be used in unison. It is here, in the beginning, that fairness must be the prevailing doctrine: fairness to any victims that may have been involved; fairness to the families of victims and offenders alike; fairness even to the one who broke the law; and fairness to the society to which they all belong.

      This requires that the judgment of those writing the laws of this country and setting the penalties for violating them be constructive, thoughtful, purposeful, and balanced. At no point should politics, partisanship, or emotion hold any sway when determining for what reason, and for how long, an individual will be deprived of his or her freedom, family, and friends for a violation of America’s rules and regulations. Anything less than total mindfulness of the needs of all concerned demonstrates contempt for the process and should not be tolerated.

      America sets itself apart from the rest of the world in many positive ways, but how America’s laws are written and the philosophy of corrections in this country are decidedly NOT among them. It is here that America demonstrates the arrogant, know-it-all attitude for which other civilized, genteel societies of the world have expressed loathing on more than one occasion.

      While we can claim only 5% of the world’s inhabitants, America houses 25% of the entire world’s jail and prison population. This is NOT an insignificant fact, and one that is more closely connected to the dynamics of economics than the lawful and orderly protection of society. Despite all of the human beings who are kept in cages as one would cage animals, America can lay no claim to better records of safety for its citizens than those of other free societies who imprison individuals far less frequently and for far less periods of time.

      As evidenced by the above numbers, it would appear that much of the rest of the civilized world has a vastly different philosophy regarding prison time as a deterrent to crime than does the United States. One of the areas in which there is great disparity between the U. S. and other countries of similar – or perhaps greater –  levels of sophistication, civility and culture is in the sentencing of individuals convicted of possession of child pornography.

      This is a problem of great sensitivity and intense emotion that has grown to catastrophic proportions in this country. There are no excuses for it; there is no justification. But an even greater tragedy for this nation as a whole is growing out of the way we are dealing with it, particularly on a federal level.

      In articles published in June and July of this year, two men of similar ages and occupation were sentenced after having pleaded guilty to child pornography charges. Neither was responsible for the abuse recorded in the pictures and videos recovered. They both used computers to obtain and store the images and videos. One man is a United States citizen, the other is Canadian.

Briefly, the stories:

      Michael Robert Hall, 31, from Winnipeg accessed a group called ‘Perv’s Dream’ where users shared images with one another. Computers seized from Hall’s home contained over 3,300 images of children modeling and posing in addition to 19 illegal pornographic images of children between the ages of 4 and 12 engaged in degrading sexual acts with adult males.

      Daniel J. Borque, 33, of Erath, La was found to have used an internet peer-to-peer site to receive child pornography. Found on computers in his home were 15 videos and 630 images.

      Mr. Borque received 12 years in federal prison followed by 15 years of supervised release.

      Mr. Hall was sentenced to the ‘legislated mandatory minimum’ of 14 DAYS in jail followed by 18 months probation. The prosecutor had asked for 90 days in jail.

      I do not profess to have intimate knowledge of Canada’s laws or judicial processes, but the facts are stated as they were printed, so I will interpret ‘legislated mandatory minimum’ to mean just that.

      The U.S. federal mandatory minimum for receipt of child pornography (and one can not logically possess it without receiving it) is 5 years in federal prison followed by a term of supervised release up to life. This is in addition to any additional charges for the possession itself, and distribution (for sharing on a peer-to-peer site even if there was no exchange of money) – both of which are commonly added charges.

      Canada is generally viewed as being a safe, cultured, civil, genteel country whose inhabitants are almost universally viewed as being polite and well-mannered. One would have to think that, given the nature of Canadian society, their philosophy regarding incarceration has evolved as a result of that constructive, thoughtful,  purposeful and balanced fairness that I referred to earlier. These things seem to be sorely missing from the approach employed by THIS nation’s lawmakers.

      It is very unlikely that America’s indisputably disproportionate sentencing policies reflect a higher regard for human life and human dignity than that possessed by other nations such as Canada. It is also extremely unlikely that the United States can claim a greater regard for the safety of its children than they do either. No, it is more likely that the reasons for the disparities that exist are more likely to be simple political and financial greed. Of course, this would be rejected as nonsense by those who are responsible, but I see no lines to the microphones by this nations lawmakers offering explanations as to why the United States of America finds it necessary to keep more of its citizens behind bars than anyone else in the world.

      Something is quite wrong.

      The next article to appear here, “The Child Protection Act That Doesn’t” should serve to explain part of it, as should my upcoming series on “America’s Culture Of Incarceration”.

      I thank you for your time, and may God bless you and your families.

“To the Children in the Photos: An Offender’s Apology” by Steve Marshall

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”   Alexander Pope

I see your faces still. The rest of the images, I have successfully blocked from memory. But I still see your faces; your eyes – blank, confused, uncomprehending, betrayed, bereft – your mouths unsmiling. I will carry the unyielding memory of those faces to my grave.

For the entirety of my adult existence, I have loved, nurtured and protected the children in my life. Even now, when I see photos of starving children with distended bellies or little ones born with horrendous defects to their bodies, I get a knot in my stomach and feel pushed to the edge of tears.

So I cast my thoughts and memories back to that strange and barren time in my life and shake my head in wonder that I could have looked upon your suffering and felt nothing, as if a switch had been placed upon my empathy and turned to the ‘off’ position.

Somehow, without realizing it, I became disconnected from my moral center, like a boat that slipped its moorings and drifted, silent and rudderless, out onto a vast, open and uncharted sea with no one at the helm. I can only describe it as an altered state. The person who allowed himself to download those photos and share them with others was not the same one writing these words today. That person did not regard you as a human and suffering, but rather viewed you as a simple assemblage of pixels on a computer screen. That person failed to accord you the basic decency and respect to which every human being is entitled. That person dredged up the pain of your violated childhood, continuing and perpetuating the abuse and exploitation that you experienced at the calloused hands of adults, often the very ones who were charged with loving and protecting you. I search my heart and wonder how I could ever have been that soulless and uncaring.

How, then, do I ask for forgiveness? I often enter the cathedral of my mind and offer up a prayer to whatever great power turns the universe, asking that I may be allowed to forgive myself for what I have done. But I still find myself incapable of self-pardon, so how can I expect any quarter from you?

I committed my offense against you via the internet, so it is only fitting that I use that same venue to reach out to you now in the earnest hope that even one of you will stumble across these words and come to know of the deep, indelible sorrow that I feel over having been a participant, belated or not, in your violation.

In just under four years, I will have discharged my legal obligation for what I have done to you. But an enormous karmic debt remains and it is my full intention to devote the remainder of my years working to pay that debt down.

I am certain that, for many if not all of you, your journey to adulthood was forever soiled by the criminal and unmitigated theft of your innocence. It is my sincere hope that you will have somehow found peace; that you do not repeat the sins committed against you and continue the tragic cycle of abuse into yet another generation. I hope that there are days and nights when those nightmares do not revisit you.

You are, each of you, very real to me now. You are in my thoughts, my hopes and dreams. Should you choose to forgive me, your blessing will be received with deep gratitude and humility. Please know that there is someone on this earth who knows the value of your spirit, the depth of your suffering and the enduring scars that you bear.

I am, and will always remain, deeply and profoundly sorry.

AFTERWORD     by Tony Casson

Mr. Marshall may not speak for all who have stepped over the line of moral decency and adult responsibility, but he does speak for many, myself included. And he speaks eloquently, powerfully, and with great sincerity. I trust his sincerity…I looked up into his eyes after I finished reading what he had written and saw that he was as close to tears as I was.

What you have just read will create varying degrees of comment and consideration. I would ask that any of you who have your own blogs, websites, or know of others would post a link to this article and share it with as many people as possible.

Some will find men like Mr. Marshall and myself to be beyond forgiveness, but I will point them to a recent series here in which a survivor of childhood sexual abuse expressed her ability – indeed, her need – to forgive. Many of us are sorry in ways that the cynical will never understand.

I will remind them that God insists that we forgive each other, and I will point out a very salient fact about those who share prison with men like us and who are very vocal in their condemnation of us and our acts: Not one of them has ever said he was sorry of anything other than getting caught.

Steve, I cannot thank you enough for your sincerity, humility, and courage.

Mr. Marshall is one of several very special, intelligent, and amazing individuals I have met here.

How tragic that we had to meet here, but better here than not at all.