“Stories Of A Prisoner’s Wife”

Entry Sixteen

By Diane S.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was still angry with God.

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

Why did he allow all this brokenness in my life?

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

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

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

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

It all just proves my point….

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

“Stories Of A Prisoner’s Wife”

Entry Fourteen

by Diane S.

Life Goes On   

“No matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.”    Maya Angelou

In truth life does go on.

I am not sure about the “better tomorrow” in literal terms, but I do know that there will be a lot of “tomorrows” that will be better. I just have to make it to those better ones. The days come and go, things happen, bills have to be paid, kids need to go here and there. Life does go on, even when you feel like yours has stopped.

Life goes on, just differently.

Today makes exactly 4 weeks since my husband’s surrender day. I feel like a lot and nothing at all has happened in those 4 weeks. I guess that is what happens when it feels like you are living life from the outside looking in, only doing the minimal to get by every day. It’s still very odd to try to grasp.

I’m still not sure how my life has turned into this. I am not sure how, but I do know why. God is teaching and preparing me/us for His plan. Not that I have any idea what it is, but that is the reason I find myself in my current situation even though I absolutely do not understand it.

I just pray for acceptance, not understanding.

The last 4 ½ days have seemed just a slight bit easier to get through. No breakdowns, not many tears. I don’t know if that is good or bad. I’m going to go with good. I’ve even made it to visit with friends a couple times and am starting a new Bible study at church tonight. I have a few other things on my ‘to do’ list as well.

I guess there can’t be a new normal unless I actually attempt to go on with life and stop living from the outside looking in.

Life goes on for Chris too. He writes & calls every day. He walks a couple miles a day on the track and has seen the crosses that a dear friend told him to look for. He has found that he can eat more things if he actually tries them, which is good. He reads his bible, watches TV, and hangs out with his cellies…life goes on, a new life, true, but it goes on nonetheless. Neither of us really has a new normal or a new routine yet, but we are making it. He found a Bible study that meets once a week in his unit last night and that is something I have been praising God for today. He attends chapel on Sunday nights.

Our letters seem to be the source of staying the most connected. He doesn’t enjoy writing as much as I do so my letters are usually much longer. The post office makes a lot of money off stamps from me when one letter takes 2 stamps. I try to make sure he will have a letter at every mail call but I am fighting a very slow small town post office and jail mail; so despite my best attempts he doesn’t get mail every day. We share Bible verses and encouraging things we read/see with each other and that is helpful too. It feels like we can connect.

It’s both sad and encouraging that life is continuing on. Secretly I want the world to just stop so I can too, but that wouldn’t do anyone much good. It’s good to have a feeling that this may get easier as time passes, but it’s sad to think I will ever be ok with a life that doesn’t involve my husband here with me.

Not that I have a choice.

It’s sad to know that life goes on for a 12 year old boy who dearly misses his dad and there is nothing I can do to fix that. Letters, phone calls and infrequent visits are as good as it gets. I don’t know if I will ever get over that heartbreak. Life goes on for Chris’ mom who moved her entire life 7+ hours from where she has lived for at least 30 years just so she can be near her son.

Life doesn’t stop just because ours did.

One bad decision changed everything for so many people. I still can’t get over how this has affected every aspect of our life and the lives of SO many people around us. It is beyond my comprehension that the repercussions of one bad decision can devastate things so completely. I often wonder how many people really think about what may happen when they intentionally make an unsavory decision. My guess is no. They probably think “no one will ever know” or they just flat out don’t think that far ahead about what the decision may cause until it’s far too late.

I have a brother who has been a corrections officer in a state prison and he once said, “The biggest difference between the people here in prison and us is that we didn’t get caught.” I believe that to be a very true statement. If you look back over your life, I am sure almost everyone can think of a time that things could have turned out very differently if you had been “caught”. It’s hard for me to understand how society can write off individuals in prison when, if they really looked honestly at themselves and their life, they could probably find that if one tiny little thing had happened differently they could have easily ended up in prison too. Yes, I realize not everyone has committed a horrendous crime, but there are A LOT of people in prison that haven’t either. I also realize that there are probably some who can look back over their life and not find one time when a bad decision could have turned out differently. I am not one of those people.

I have never robbed a back, kidnapped, or killed anyone but I can think of at least two times decisions were made that could have very easily ended with a mug shot.

Another thing I have found hard to deal with is how people view those who have committed crimes in the past. Just this past week some people very close to me found out a sex offender was living in their neighborhood. The reaction was typical. ‘Is it legal for him to live there? There is an underage girl living right next door?’ ‘How can a child molester live in a neighborhood with kids?’ These are people who love me and love my husband, but they are just like everyone else.

My husband is different to them because they know him.

None of them knows the story of the sex offender who lives in the house in that neighborhood, but they are all quick to judge. They may have good reason to be alarmed, I don’t know…but neither did they when they formed their initial opinions about this stranger wearing the label ‘sex offender’ living in their neighborhood. I found that to be a very eye opening experience. Society is broken, the system is broken, and lives are broken.

But life goes on.

A WITNESS by George

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

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

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

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

Prison is exile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“HOPE” by Tony Casson

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

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

Here is an excerpt from that letter:

                                                                                                Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ciao Diane,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless all who read these words.

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


Winter came early this year, covering much of the map with snow and downright frigid temperatures well before Thanksgiving.

Last night, I grabbed my thermal shirt and sweat clothes to layer up before heading out to the track, and wondered how will I survive my first Christmas inside a place as cold sounding as prison? Insulated clothing may keep my physical body warm, but how do I keep my spiritual body, my soul, warm? Place a liter bottle of soda in the freezer long enough and the expanding pressure of the cold will eventually explode the bottle. How do I keep my soul from getting so frozen that it breaks under the pressure?

The holidays are about family and tradition. We are bombarded with media images of hearth and home – a warming fire, warming food, warming friends and family. And as a child, though no one I knew had a fireplace in their 1970s ranch home, my family celebrated the holiday with warming traditions.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, wrapped mysteries would trickle in to find a tempting place under our tree. These presents were riddles. Fed up with our constant nagging of what Santa might bring, my Mom would put out one present for each of us in the family; a present that could withstand our “gorilla with Samsonite luggage” examinations. Guesses of the contents were based on exhaustive attempts to decipher Mom’s cunning disguises.

Large, lightweight boxes were as deceptive to decode as were weight-laden small boxes: to a child “large” should be heavy; “small” – light. Violently shaken, a silent box was as annoying as those resounding of gravel or nuts and bolts. What items from the Sears Wish Book catalog made those kind of noises? These gifts were like human pet toys, entertaining us kids with Holmes-like suppositions for hours upon days.

On Christmas Eve, we would pile into the station wagon and head for church. It was the one time of the year my Mom had no trouble getting the whole family to go to church; mostly because Santa came to our house while we were at the evening service.

I would sit in the pew imagining what Santa was doing moment by moment. Was he enjoying the milk and cookies we’d left? We’d gone to such lengths to leave him our favorites. Would he appreciate how good we had been by not eating all of our favorites in advance – overcoming our daily pre-Christmas temptations for his sake? Were the other reindeer jealous of Rudolph because we only left one carrot especially for him, or did he share by letting a different reindeer eat the carrot at each new house? Rudolph was the most popular with all of my neighborhood friends, so I knew no one ever thought of Blitzen or Prancer by leaving more than one carrot. Did Rudolph remember the pain of being left out of the reindeer games, which is why he gave his carrot away as an act of forgiveness?

One year my Mother forgot to buy carrots, so out of fear I panicked. I ran over to the neighbor’s snowman and stole the carrot from it. As I sat in church that Christmas Eve, I realized I had done wrong. I knew Rudolph wouldn’t eat, let alone share, that shriveled, weeks old frost bitten nose, plus I feared Santa would find out I had stolen it. Surely he spoke to all the snowmen in the neighborhood – after all, they had magic in their silk hats. Robbing Frosty to pay Vixen is always naughty. As a child in the pew, sometimes the secular and the sacred would become interwoven.

My favorite part of the service, the part where I forgot about Santa, Rudolph, the olfactory-deprived Frosty, and all the rest, was when Minister Peters asked us all to kneel as he read the Christmas story, Luke 2:1-20 (RSV).

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus…,” and as he read, the organist began to quietly play an interlude into the hymn Silent Night. The lights over the congregation were dimmed down and out so only the altar was swathed in bright light.

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth…,” and the congregation softly joined the organ and sang as underscoring to the minister’s narration.

When the lyrics started, an acolyte took the center candle of the Advent wreath and lit the handheld candles of the first person seated in the front row on both sides of the center aisle. As Minister Peters continued and we sang, those first people used their candles to light the candle of the person next to them. Slowly the darkened congregation began to glow in candlelight as each successive person passed the flame from their candle to their neighbor’s.

“And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them…”

“…all is calm, all is bright…”

I tipped my unlit candle into my Mom’s flame and then turned to offer my light to my sister. And so it moved down the pew through my other siblings to my Dad, and then to my grandparents in the pew behind, and on to my uncles and aunts, my cousins, continuing row by row to the very back door of the sanctuary where eventually even the “standing room only” glowed in flickering light.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men…”

“Christ the Savior is born… 

Christ the Savior is born.”

In that candlelight, with tears of joy streaming down my face and my soul wide open, I understood the mystery of God and the truth of Christmas. On a silent and often cold winter’s night, light and love moved from the altar, spreading across a sea of humanity, to fill that room with the hope that it would continue to burn in our hearts, and before our eyes, lighting our way long after the candles were out and we went forth into the cold, dark world.

For years after the service, my grandparents would ride back home in the car with us. Without fail, my Grandma would point out a red blinking light in the sky and declare it was Rudolph leaving our house. She did this long after my sister and I grew old enough to insist the light was just a plane circling O’Hare airport.

My Grandma kept the fantasy alive for my youngest brother and sister by rebuking that “planes never fly on Christmas Eve so Santa doesn’t have to worry about the reindeer getting hit by Pan Am.” (Later in life my Grandma came to despise the song Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, mostly because she felt betrayed by Rudolph for all those years she gave him credit in denying the existence of an aircraft holding pattern.)

I’m not sure how I’ll recapture those feelings of Christmas while I’m here at Oakdale FCI. Without family, longtime friends, and all the traditions that go with celebrating Christmas, it could become a bleak midwinter’s night. How can the light shine here?

Bundled up on the track, I stood contemplating that and the Christmases of my past, while trying to imagine this Christmas to come. I looked up into the chilly night sky and thought of Grandma. No blinking red noses in sight. But there was a star. A bright star. I know I’m no wise man in finding my way here, though I did come from east of Oakdale. That star, and all the stars that filled the night sky, reminded me that I am free, even though I am imprisoned. Funny how reminders of comfort and love are often right in front of our eyes, if we only open our souls to see.

There will be no traveling for me this year, and I definitely don’t have any gifts to bear. I don’t even have a drum on which to play a song; however, my heart does beat the rhythm of life. A life that can once again kneel, see the light, feel the light, and pass that light on to others. With that knowledge in my soul, I am more free inside this prison than many who sit in their homes before a warming fire, or even some who sit in the packed pews on Christmas Eve.

I’ve realized it doesn’t really matter where I spend my Christmas – as long as my heart is in the right place. That is the flame of truth I’ll burn bright with, warming my soul from the inside out.

May you know peace and joy this holiday season, celebrating love with those who surround you, and sharing that light with others who are still out in the bleak, cold dark night.

Originally Posted on April 18, 2013… “UNSPOKEN” by Tony Casson

Since I am unable to write anything new at this time I would like to share a previous post with you…

“One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, ‘Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent!’” – Acts 18:1 NLT

“Each of us bears his own hell.” – Virgil

On any given day, millions of young people in this country balance precariously on that fulcrum separating the presumed carefree innocence of their childhood from the looming responsibilities of their futures as adults.

Even though each new crop of blossoming futures denies it vehemently, many of the core challenges of growing up are the same with each new generation as they were with the previous one: first love, peer pressure, bullies, hormonal changes, parental issues. Every growing child struggles to escape the control of his or her parents and every parent struggles to retain that control out of a natural urge to protect the child. But a part of this trait lies in a subconscious resentment of their youth. After all, the passage from childhood to adulthood for those whom we bring into the world also represents an inescapable passage of the parents as well as they become painfully aware of the fact that a child becoming a man or a woman signifies that those parents are now approaching middle age.

In the very natural course of events it is a tough time all around, but our demands for more individual freedoms, our obsession with things sexual, our desensitizing of the acts of intimacy between a man and a woman and the mind-boggling advances in technology have all conspired to present new and formidable challenges to young people and parents alike; challenges that could not possibly have been imagined or properly provided for when our nation was in its infancy and our constitution was first written.

I am in my 60th year and it has taken me all of this time to learn some very important lessons about life in general and my life in particular.

It has taken tragedy, self-degradation, the embarrassment of myself and my family, loss of respect from others and from myself, a nearly successful suicide attempt, arrest and imprisonment for me to find answers for myself.

To find the answers, I needed to discover certain truths about how a life – my life – became so completely and disastrously derailed. I point the finger of blame at no one for anything I have ever done. I hold no one responsible for the multitude of bad decisions I have made in my life, nor do I hold anyone accountable for me being where I am today instead of where I could have been. No one, that is, except for myself.

But now, finally, I can see clearly some of the things that were broken early on in my life that could have been fixed and probably would have resulted in my train staying on the track. Oh, I probably would have still been rerouted a time or two, or paused in a siding temporarily, but I quite possibly could have avoided the complete derailment that caused so much damage, created so much havoc and endangered – and cost – so many lives.

It is my fervent hope that I will somehow be able to use what I have learned for the betterment of others. Perhaps this new found knowledge and clarity can be turned into something that can be useful to others.

As a convicted sex offender, my access to young people will be severely limited by the requirements of sex offender registration and the terms of my release from prison.

Be that as it may, if I could stand before a group of high school students for about thirty minutes, I would tell them a story. It is a story of pain and self-loathing left unattended and allowed to grow until it blossomed into the behavior that delivered me to the prison in which I write these words.

Would my story make a difference? Certainly not to all of those I would speak to, but I believe that it would help at least a few to avoid some of the mistakes I made when I was their age; mistakes that prevented me from growing; mistakes that I believe kept me isolated and out of touch with life and with people around me; mistakes that kept me from maturing and promoted self-destructive behavior.

This belief that I could impact a few young lives in a positive manner would help me to find the courage to stand publicly and tell the story that follows. For now, however, it is simply my hope that you will all take the time to read a “speech” written to be given to a high school-aged audience after I am released from prison. It will most likely never be given. Despite that almost certain knowledge, I would like to share with you those words that will likely go “unspoken.”

“The Words I Would Speak”

I cannot help all of you. I may not even be able to help most of you. But it is my sincerest hope that my words will reach at least some of you and that they will help you to help yourselves and, possibly, each other.

My name is Tony Casson and I am 60 years old. I have recently been released from a federal prison where I was incarcerated for a little over four years for possession of child pornography. I am a convicted felon. But worse than that, I am a convicted sex offender, which means I have to register as such, severely limiting where I may live, work or seek entertainment. As a condition of my release, I will be under the supervision of a federal probation officer for the rest of my life. Furthermore, I will not be permitted to be around anyone under the age of 18 – including my own grandchildren – unless I am supervised.

I will always be viewed with suspicion and disdain by many, outright hatred by some and I will be judged to be someone to fear and avoid by anyone who doesn’t know me, particularly those who have children.

Many people will look at me and see a monster. I will look in the mirror and see someone who is profoundly sorry for the mistakes he has made in life, but now realizes that we can never go back and undo what we have done. We can only move forward. So I stand here today, reaching out to all of you who have your lives stretched out before you. I would like to tell you all about some of the mistakes that I made, the reasons behind them and the steps I could have taken to avoid them.

I would like to help. That is all I have left.

You see a big part of growing up, for every single person who has done it, is making mistakes and learning from them. Sometimes we fail to learn these lessons and that failure hurts us later on in life. But I am here today to try to impress upon you that there are also some mistakes that you simply do not want to make at all. Sometimes that first-hand experience we all crave is not a good thing to have. In some instances, it really is best to learn from the mistakes of others… so I will offer you mine.

The road to the place I am now was not one that I consciously selected when I was your age. I certainly did not set out in life with this destination in mind. But the very first steps taken in my long journey to what became my own personal hell on earth were taken when I was not so very different from all of you.

Hard to believe, I know. But it’s true. I once had hair – a large afro, in fact. I was fifty pounds lighter and I had all my teeth.

But I had much more than that. Like all of you I, too, had my life stretching endlessly before me. I was adventurous, energetic, optimistic, invincible and I was indestructible. There was no past to be sorry for; only a vast sea of infinite possibilities to come. I had no sense of my own mortality because we simply do not consider how a life will end at a time when it is just beginning to unfold before us.

I was blessed with intelligence and was always told that I could do anything I wanted to do; that I could be anything I wanted to be. I thought I had all the time in the world to figure out what I wanted out of life and all the time I needed to get it.

Ultimately, what I discovered is that life is a whole lot shorter than we think or care to admit.

By the time it dawned on me that I was out of time; by the time I woke up to the fact that I had committed grievous errors that could not be corrected; by the time I looked in the mirror and realized that the man I had once hoped to become was nowhere to be found; by the time I admitted to myself that I had failed as a husband, a father, a friend and as a member of society, I was 55 years old and I was hovering near death, lying on a cold tile floor in the bathroom of a cheap motel in South Florida, covered in my own blood with the FBI standing outside my door waiting to arrest me for possession of child pornography.

As my blood circled the drain of that shower, so did everything I ever thought life could – or would – be when I was your age. My dreams, my hopes – all of my potential was flooding away in the torrent of pain that I had released with my own hands.

The FBI had taken my computer from me almost a year and a half prior to that day and because I knew what that computer contained, I knew that they would one day return forme. That knowledge did nothing to lessen the shock of the reality that morning in August of 2009 when I stepped out of my motel room and saw the blue nylon windbreakers with the big yellow letters on the back that sent currents of fear and panic coursing through my body. “FBI” the letters screamed at me.

They had come to that rundown motel in South Florida where I lived and worked, but they had gone to the office first, where I was supposed to be. Moments before they arrived, I had walked to my room to get something, enabling me to see them before they saw me. I turned and darted back into the “safety” of my room.

To say that I completely panicked would be a gross understatement. The journey that I had begun forty years before, when I was the same age as many of you, was about to come to an inglorious end in a lonely room in a seedy motel in South Florida.

I was so angry with myself, and so veryvery tired of the simple act of being me that I ran into the bathroom, broke apart a disposable razor and took a blade between the fingers of each hand.

I stood in front of the mirror with tears in my eyes, staring with hatred and loathing into the face of a man that I simply did not know. As my age had climbed steadily higher, my morality, my honesty, my decency and my sense of humanity had descended lower and lower.

I was tired of doing battle with myself and losing and I set out to “win” just this once. Unfortunately, the only way my frightened, battered, drug, alcohol and demon-affected mind could conceive of victory was by striking angrily and repeatedly at both sides of my neck with the razor blades until I sliced through the veins that ran down each side. I felt my blood – the essence of life itself – released with startling force from both sides at the same time.

Thinking I would find my peace and finally escape the failure I had made of myself, I stepped into the shower stall and lay down on that cool yellow tile to allow the blood to drain from my body and to welcome my peace.

I cannot describe to you how tired I was.

I cannot describe to you how alone I felt.

I can tell you that the lightning bolt of fear that jolted me when I first saw the FBI in the parking lot was gone. It was replaced by a quiet sadness and acceptance of what I believed to be the irreversible permanence of the sin I had just committed against myself and those who had always loved me more than I was capable of loving myself.

And that day, having just committed an unspeakable act of violence against my own person, I proved that I was just as capable of hating myself as I was incapable of loving myself.

As I lay there covered in my own blood, I thought about those I loved the most; those I would miss the most; those who would be the most disappointed in me; those I felt the saddest at leaving in such a horrible, sudden, unexpected and violent manner: my two children. My thoughts also turned to my mother whom I loved very much and who had passed away a couple of months after the FBI had taken my computer.

The thought crossed my mind to write “forgive me” on the wall of the shower in my blood, but I didn’t know if they would get the message. Then I wanted to cry out to them and ask for that forgiveness, but I knew that none of them could hear me and I was convinced that they would turn away from me if they could. So I turned to God, whom I had rejected and ignored for almost forty years and I asked Him to help them forgive me.

And then I asked God Himself for His forgiveness.

Very shortly after that, the FBI agents, who were now standing outside my door, decided to enter my room even though doing so went against all official FBI procedure and protocol. They found me and called for an ambulance with not a lot of time to spare.

I apologize to them now for exposing them to the bloody scene that greeted them and I am indebted to them for saving my life.

So now I stand before all of you, obviously very much alive, and while the act of standing here and speaking of these things is embarrassing and indescribably difficult, I am grateful to God that I am able to do it and I pray that I can somehow reach a place inside some of you that will help you alter the course you are on for the better.

The question looms: How did I get to that point where I deemed death by my own hand to be the only solution to the problem I had created?

In order to better understand the ending of my story, we will need to take some time and examine the beginning, for I discovered while in prison that the complexities that make up the later years of our existence begin to form during the seemingly simple act of growing up.

As small children, when we cried out in pain or in need, there was usually someone close at hand to offer us comfort. When we skinned our knees or fell off our bikes, when a sibling hit us or called us a name, no matter the insult or the injury, most of us let the world know when we hurt and where we hurt. After all, how could anyone help us if they didn’t know we needed it?

As we get older, for some reason we transition into private individuals who feel as if we need to deal with things ourselves. We still seek help with external injuries like cuts, bruises and broken bones. But many of us keep all to ourselves the pain from things that hurt inside – pain that can be much worse than that of the most severe physical injury that we can imagine.

We keep this internal pain hidden possibly because we feel that it is not “grown up” to do otherwise. Perhaps our silence grows out of embarrassment or a sense of shame. Sometimes we feel that we will be viewed as “babies” if we talk about things that hurt us inside, especially when we are male. And finally, we feel as if no adult could ever understand the pain of youth or that our friends and peers would just make fun of us or think us silly.

It never seems to occur to us that our friends may feel the same things or that our parents endured the same pain when they were young.

No matter. We do what we do because we are young and sometimes there simply is no explanation. Fortunately, most of the time the effects of keeping things inside do not have long-term or far-reaching consequences.

But some pain, left unattended, can work silently within us, destroying the framework of our development, crippling our ability to mature, to grow, to feel, to love.

Quite possibly, in your own minds, some of you are beginning to reflect on what I have said and you are already identifying pain within yourselves. Perhaps your pain has names associated with it. I know mine did. Those names are Mark, John and Tommy and I can honestly tell you that the pain from knowing each one of the boys who answered to those names was as instrumental in opening up the wounds on the sides of my neck almost forty years later as those razorblades I used to slice into my flesh.

I was twelve when I met Mark.

Hard though it may be to comprehend now, when I was in the sixth grade I was very, very cute. I had an impish smile, curly brown hair, an outgoing personality and supreme confidence. The girls loved me. Laugh if you must but it’s true. I was irresistible, in demand and in control. The top dresser drawer in my bedroom was full of notes from girls as testimony to that fact.

(In this age of texting, many of you may not know what a “note” is. It is a small piece of paper with a secret message on it which was passed when the teacher wasn’t looking. The embarrassment of having the occasional note intercepted and read out loud to the class is a pain we’ll reserve for another story.)

The truth is, I owned that sixth grade classroom as far as the opposite sex was concerned – that is, until the day in the second half of the school year when this new kid’s family moved to town and he walked through the classroom door. His name was Mark and he destroyed my life.

At least that’s the way I viewed it when I was twelve. Mark also had brown eyes but his hair was soft and wavy where mine was coarse and curly. He, too, had a cute smile and an outgoing personality. But he also was something that I was not – he was fresh meat!

Mark was brand spanking new and every girl in the class primped, preened, posed and paraded for his attention, leaving me sitting there alone, tossed in the corner like an old pair of shoes, getting my first sample of the unpleasant taste of rejection. I was spurned. I was forgotten. I was yesterday’s news.

And I was never the same again. As humorous as I may have made it all sound and as silly as it might sound to you now or actually have been at the time, I never got over it. I never addressed it, cried about it or talked about it. I felt somehow responsible and I guess my mind convinced me that it was permanent. It shook me to my core and from that point forward, I always feared rejection. I always tried to avoid placing myself in situations where I might be rejected and I dealt with it badly when it did occur.

A bit of an overreaction? Possibly. But I was twelve and that is sometimes how it works when we are twelve. I’m sure some of you know what I’m talking about.

One of the things that is critical for young people to learn is how to deal properly with rejection. Rejection will occur in every person’s life and while we must all be taught to do our best to always go for a “yes,” we must also learn that “yes” will not always be the answer. Therefore knowing how to process “no” correctly and in a healthy manner is very important to our development early on.

There is simply no way to calculate the number of dances, dates or other personal and professional opportunities that have passed me by because of the low self-esteem that grew out of that “silly” little incident. But silly or not, I would spend a lifetime convinced that “no” was more likely than “yes” to be the answer I would receive to whatever the question was that I might ask. So I simply never asked.

If Mark was the only pain I experienced that had a name, things might have turned out differently for me. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case, for in the 9th grade, along came John.

We have all heard the little rhyme that goes like this: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” I have no idea what idiot came up with that but that certainly isn’t the message anyone should want their children to receive. While working on a book of devotionals when I was in prison, I rewrote that rhyme:

Sticks and stones can hurt someone,
But words can do the same.
People hurt deep down inside,
When they are called a name.

John was a bully who specialized in taunting me with “pet” names that were embarrassing, humiliating and degrading.

After escaping from the sixth grade, I went on to junior high school and muddled through seventh and eighth grades, struggling to reinvent myself. No longer convinced that I was a “ladies” man, I ran with a rougher, meaner crowd. I took up cigarettes to help me look cooler and tougher than I really was. I played down the fact that I was smart because I didn’t want to hang out with “them” – you know, geeks, nerds, bookworms – whatever the name, I didn’t want it attached to me.

I survived that experience but actually managed to come away with lower self-esteem and less of an idea of who I was than when I had started. Upon entering ninth grade – high school, baby! The big time! – I was a skinny outcast with thick-framed glasses and coarse, wiry, very curly – kinky actually – hair. I didn’t fit in anywhere really but I tried to blend with the “cool” guys who snuck outside a back door before and between classes to smoke cigarettes.

John was out there. He was sort of the leader, I guess. The leader of the pack – the cigarette pack, you might say. John decided instantly that I was a good target and his meanness zoomed in on me and on my hair immediately. He began a mean-spirited “game” in which he would think up names for me and my hair. The game started mildly with “Brillo Pad,” which was met with resounding success, laughter all around; snickering and finger-pointing, even I joined in. He soon got bored with that and it became “Pubic Head,” which greeted me when I stepped out to light up. I must have liked it, right? After all, I kept going out there even after it got even uglier and he started calling me “Nigger Knots.” Over time, it degenerated still further and he called me names that combined the word “hair” with the vulgar terms for the male or female genitalia attached to the front of it. And I still kept going back.

I learned that the message of that nursery rhyme was wrong. I learned that names do hurt; that the pain they could cause was as real as that caused by any physical injury. I learned to believe that I was unlikeable and I learned to crawl further inside myself.

I convinced myself that I was a coward who would not stand up for himself, nor would I take my pain or my complaint to an adult. After all, what would I say? “Every time I go out back to smoke….” Well, you can see how that would have gone over.

It is important to learn when we are young that the pain other people can inflict upon us can change the very essence of who we are. The anger that we justifiably feel toward the one causing us pain somehow gets turned around. We direct it at ourselves for not doing something to stop the other person from hurting us. In other words, we wind up being angry at ourselves because we have already made ourselves easy targets by accepting abuse in silence.

The combined effects of knowing Mark and John were beginning to create serious problems that, in and of themselves, could prove to be a considerable detriment to my ability to develop and mature normally. Still, if Mark and John had been the only pain I had known with names, I could have altered the course I seemed to be on in my life and quite possibly I might have arrived at a different destination.

But that was not to be. There was still more pain out there for me and its name was Tommy. The pain of knowing Tommy would combine with the pain of knowing Mark and John. Collectively, that pain would overwhelm my ability to live happily and in anything resembling an orderly purposeful existence.

Unlike the other two, however, Tommy would grow up to be my best friend and provide me with my best chance at overcoming the pain of knowing the other two. That possibility existed until the night that I killed him.

At least, that is the belief that Tommy’s father carried to his grave, and it was a guilt that almost accompanied me to mine.

Each new generation is determined to distinguish itself from the last one and mine was no exception. However, the new one does not replace what came before; it simply adds to it. My generation added to the alcohol made popular by my parents’ generation by introducing marijuana, LSD, and an assortment of other drugs and pills designed to lift you up or knock you down. Our search for distinction included rebellion against anything and everything that was ‘establishment’. We kick-started America’s moral decline by promoting ‘free love’ and sought to establish that each person’s individual rights to self-gratification outweighed the rights of society as a whole.

I latched onto the drugs and alcohol as if they were a life-preserver thrown to me to save me from drowning in the ocean of self-pity that I had created for myself.

As a means of fortifying my damaged self-confidence and to bolster my collapsed self-esteem, when I turned 16 I sought the comfort and the courage of all that my generation had to offer. Drugs and alcohol were easy friends to make, comfortable to be with, and they didn’t call you names that hurt you terribly or dump you for the new guy.

By now, John had run out of names to call me or had simply become bored with me. Either way, he had moved on. Like the girls of 6th grade, I suppose he sought ‘fresh meat’.

As I pursued my relationship with drugs and alcohol I discovered that they could do for me what I couldn’t do for myself: They made me recklessly uninhibited, wildly entertaining, and perhaps even interesting. I still lacked true friends, and I know now that those I hung around with at that time viewed me as a source of amusement more than anything else. But I had convinced myself that the fool I made of myself when ‘under the influence’ was voluntary and I no longer looked at it as if people were laughing AT me. After all, we were all laughing together, weren’t we?

No one really did anything TO me anymore. They didn’t need to, as I did it all myself. I sacrificed my dignity for what I foolishly believed was their acceptance. All I ever really needed to do was to be myself. That’s all ANYONE really needs to do. But I was rapidly losing any sense of who I really was. In any event, it would take me decades to find out who that person was and to discover that the person I had tried to change into something decadent and demeaning was someone who IS, after all, a really decent person. I like him.

At this point, in the story however, I am still decades away from that revelation. The need for drugs and alcohol – that need to ‘fortify’ myself in order to have courage and to make myself more interesting – would stay with me, and haunt me, until the morning I wound up on the floor of that shower wanting so desperately to be dead.

I met Tommy around the time I turned 17. He was a year younger than me, came from a financially comfortable family, was a very nice person, and was well-liked by almost everyone. For whatever reason, we hit it off and rapidly became best friends. Where Tommy was popular, I was simply well-known. Where Tommy was well-liked, I was simply tolerated. No matter – our friendship grew and if Tommy was not with his girlfriend, we could be found together riding around in his green Ford Econoline Van.

By this time, because of the unaddressed pain of knowing Mark and John, I was pretty lost as a person, but I was not consciously aware of that fact. For me, life had become a party because parties were fun and my life had not been fun for a long time. I had no goals – unless one could characterize as a goal the desire to deaden the pain of feeling inferior; I had no dreams – unless you could call seeking to erase the memory of being the butt of others’ jokes a dream; I had no vision – unless trying to hide the pain of feeling that I was less than everyone else could be classified as such.

I lived up to my generation’s billing and I rebelled with the best of them. The difference was that many of the others were rebelling against social injustice and the war in Viet Nam. I was simply rebelling against my pain.

Throughout these difficult years, my father was out of town working most of the time, leaving my mother to deal with me and my 4 brothers and sisters. She worked full time as well, making life difficult for her in ways children can never appreciate or understand. Fortunately for them, my siblings created fewer problems collectively and required less attention than I did on my own.

I know that my mother saw the pain in me that I refused to acknowledge or seek help for, but I have since learned that sometimes parents simply do not know the correct steps to take to save a child who is drowning. It is almost as if they are frozen at first by what is the seeming impossibility of what they are witnessing. Sometimes they spring into action and jump right in to save the child, but as many of us know, drowning people are often their own worst enemies and they struggle violently against their would-be rescuers, putting THEM at risk as well. Sadly, at other times they remain frozen in inaction too long and by the time they snap out of their reverie, it is too late and the child has slipped irretrievably below the surface and is lost forever.

My mother tried to rescue me but I fought too hard and she was forced to stand by and watch me slip below the surface. I caused my mother an immeasurable amount of pain and that knowledge has been difficult to contend with. But I do know that she, like God, always loved me, even when I could not love myself. Perhaps ESPECIALLY when I could not love myself.

While I was still in my 17th year, Tommy and I were arrested for felony possession of marijuana, and we were both sentenced to 5 years probation. Neither set of parents was particularly pleased with us, but nothing was done to separate us. In fact, Tommy’s father bought him a Pontiac GTO. Perhaps he thought that would keep us out of trouble. It didn’t of course, but we did arrive at the trouble a little faster, with a little more noise, and a lot more style.

My father died when I was 18, and not too long after that my mother decided to buy a house that turned out to be only about a mile from where Tommy lived with his parents. My family was originally from Maine and my mother had been under pressure since my father died to move back there. She finally gave in and went there with my two sisters to look for a place to live and check out schools, work and things of that nature. My two brothers were off in the service, leaving me alone, creating the perfect party opportunity.

The city we lived in was on Lake Erie and as it was summertime, Tommy’s family spent most of the time at a lake house they owned about 10 miles outside of town. His family owned a construction company and Tommy worked for them in the summer, but we made full use of the evenings drinking, smoking pot, and consuming cough syrup that contained codeine, which was very popular at that time, and was Tommy’s personal favorite.

On about the 4th night, at around 11 PM, Tommy stood up to go home. Those of us who were still there tried to talk him into staying at my house, but he was set on going home because he had to work in the morning. We settled for extracting a promise from him that he would not attempt to drive out to the lake house, and would just drive the short distance to his home in town.

I was awakened by the ringing of the telephone at around 4 or 5 AM by another friend who worked at night and had heard on a police scanner that Tommy was dead. He had decided after all to drive out to the lake house and had fallen asleep at the wheel of his GTO and drifted across the road into the path of an oncoming semi hauling US mail.

MY decision to not take his keys, and HIS decision to drive ten miles instead of one, combined to forever change countless lives and to cost my best friend his.

The next day, it was made known to me by Tommy’s girlfriend that his father did not want me anywhere near his son’s funeral because I was “the one who killed him”. In the end, Tommy’s older brother interceded on my behalf and I was allowed to go say goodbye to my best friend. I stood with his girlfriend and cried tears that I never knew were inside of me.

Did I kill him? Of course not, but it took a very, very long time, my own brush with death at my own hand, and prison for me to finally put it all in its proper perspective. Could those of us who let him leave have done a better job of looking out for him? Sure. We definitely could have. Do we think about these things before it’s too late? Not usually, especially when we are young and indestructible.

When a tragedy such as this strikes the young, we tend to prevent people from getting close to us and helping us deal with the loss and understand the pain. In the end, we wind up adding to the burdens we sometimes already carry unless we are prepared to ask for help.

So when it was all over and everyone tried to move on with their lives, I added to my collection of pain that carried the names of boys I had known. From Tommy, I added the pain of loss. But I also added the worst pain of them all – the pain of guilt for causing his death.

I was eighteen years old and I should have been looking at a future with unlimited potential and possibilities. Instead, I was staring at rejection, humiliation, loss, and guilt.

It was like staring at the Four Horseman of my own personal apocalypse.

It would be almost 40 years before the weight of knowing those three boys would finally crush me. While in prison, I resolved to fix what was broken within me, so I turned to God and asked for His help. I examined my life and I was led to the truth that I had struggled under that weight for all those years. I discovered that I had never really allowed myself to be completely ALIVE during that time; I had merely occupied space in my body.

Because I allowed myself to carry those unnecessary burdens, I was never able to grow or mature much beyond the point I was at when I was 18. I never seemed to grasp the need to take life seriously, and I never understood the necessity of accepting responsibility for it. My problems were never addressed, and I never embraced the notion that at ANY point along the way, I could have sought the help that I was unwilling, or unable, to admit that I so desperately needed.

A leaky roof that is left unattended will slowly continue to get worse, until what might have taken a couple of hours to repair results in replacing the entire roof, as well as repairing whatever damage was caused INSIDE as a result.

Problems left unattended only get worse over time as well, but it was impossible for me to see this. As a young person, I had not learned to respect myself so I was unable to use self-respect to motivate me to seek solutions to my problems. Nor had I learned to love myself, so I could not use that either.

When self-respect and self-love are missing, so is our ability to truly respect or love others. And when these things are missing from who we are, we can never hope to fully understand, enjoy, or appreciate all that life holds out to us.

By holding on to the pain of rejection, humiliation, loss, and guilt, and by seeking comfort and escape from that pain with drugs and alcohol, I essentially sentenced myself to prison almost 40 years before the cell door actually clanged shut behind me.

Many things transpired in those decades that passed. I had the unique privilege to meet, fall in love with, and marry two lovely and intelligent women, each of whom blessed me – and the world – with a beautiful child. Unfortunately, it was impossible for me to fully engage with anyone, and I probably had no business depriving anyone of THEIR happiness just because I could not – WOULD not – allow my own happiness to exist.

But they married me anyway. In doing so, they created beautiful moments in the self-imposed ugliness of my world. Unfortunately, it is impossible to punish oneself, as I seemed to always be doing, without punishing those who love us as well. Both marriages ended in divorce and both of my children suffered as a result, for even in the best of circumstances, our children always suffer the most as the result of a divorce.

The erosion of the decency and morality of an individual – or an entire society, for that matter – takes place much like the erosion of a mountainside, a riverbank, or a shoreline. It occurs slowly, over time, and in little pieces that are barely discernible as they wash away, until one day when we look up and notice all at once that what had been familiar to us had changed in dramatic ways.

That is how it was for me and my unfortunate relationship with pornography. It crept into my life in bits and pieces, occupying an ever-growing space inside me. It’s progress was silent, but my constantly increased NEED for it added to the burdens I was already carrying. I never saw it as a burden, of course. Much the opposite, in fact. It was welcomed to fill the void within me – real OR imagined – and eventually further affected my ability to establish, and maintain, mature, loving relationships.

Pornography, like drugs and alcohol, became my friend. As I continued to pull further and further into myself, this seemed like a natural fit for me. After all, PEOPLE argue with us; PEOPLE hurt us; PEOPLE disappoint us. Pictures do not.

The individuals who allowed themselves to be photographed alone, or with others, in sexual situations and scenarios were not real to me. When the pictures became boring, they could be replaced with new ones. There was never any complaint or argument about it and no one’s feelings were ever hurt.

Real-life people were much more complicated and harbored expectations of permanence. The Four Horsemen who surrounded – and kept vigil – over me had taught me that there was no such thing. ALL relationships ended, and ended badly, and ALL relationships caused pain in one way or another.

With pornography, I could surround myself with friends and lovers who accepted me unconditionally, never disappointed me, and never caused me any pain.

Is it not easy to see that the problems of my youth that were born with such simplicity had now grown very complex?

I now had drugs, alcohol, and pornography as my most trusted friends and whenever REAL life got to be too demanding or posed too many problems, I could always surround myself with the safety, comfort, and pleasures that these friends offered.

Here I was a young man who had never learned how to live one life in a normal, healthy manner, and now I seemed to be trying to live TWO. One of those lives would remain unfulfilled through the years and would overflow with pain and sadness. The other would slowly work to destroy everything good that entered the other one and would eventually make me want to take my own life.

Even though I seemed perpetually determined to self-destruct, good people, wonderful opportunities, and good things presented themselves to me throughout the last 40 years. Unfortunately, each time I accepted something of value into my life, it seemed as if I ultimately needed to destroy it myself. You see, knowing Mark, John, and Tommy had taught me that it was better to reject someone or something rather than to BE rejected. If I could give it up first, it could never be taken from me and there could never be a sense of loss.

The next few decades became a constant cycle of happiness, disillusionment, followed by condemnation and self-destruction, then redemption. It was a cycle that was to be repeated over, and over, and over until that day in August of 2009.

When I was in my forties; when it was beyond comprehension that my life could become MORE complex or that I could find NEW and more destructive ways to live my life, along came the internet.

The day I slipped that “Try AOL Free” disc into my computer was the day I made that final wrong turn onto the road that almost delivered me to my death.

I had been divorced the second time for about a year when this new ‘phenomenon’ swept the nation and captured the attention of millions of individuals like myself. We all flocked to AOL and many of us fell in love with AOL ‘chat rooms’.

My ‘relationship’ with those chat rooms quickly became an obsession. I had gone from being a single dad who pretty much stayed at home and out of touch, to being someone who could ‘socialize’ with others from around the country, and ‘socialize’ I did.

I ‘met’ women from everywhere and fell in and out of ‘love’ with rapidly increasing frequency. I soon learned that the novelty of truthfulness wore off for many people quite quickly. Many found it much easier to be someone else rather than to simply be themselves. After all, our profiles told people who we were, and we could write anything we wanted in them. We could all become more interesting, more attractive, and much more desirable than we actually were when we turned the computer off and had to face the realities of our lives and look at ourselves in the mirror.

Those online relationships soon became complicated and were invariably disappointing, even hurtful. As disillusionment set in, I turned instead to another ‘marvelous’ feature of AOL: Internet pornography. This ‘discovery’ led me into the world which would complete the dehumanizing of myself and would ultimately lead me to the behavior which would ultimately destroy me. This behavior, of course, was my involvement with child pornography which grew out of my larger obsession with that which is termed ‘adult’ pornography. It never was about children. It was just another way to validate the negative feelings I had nurtured about myself since the days that I had known Mark, John, and Tommy.

In a strange twist of fate, that which almost killed me actually saved my life. I can very honestly say that I am pleased with the new path that God has shown me, but it does not alter the fact that I wish I had arrived here in a less painful manner – painful to myself and so many others.

Not all who travel the road I arrived here on wind up thankful for the way things turned out for THEM. I know this because I have met many individuals while in prison whose stories have saddened me and made me more determined to find a way to help SOMEONE avoid what we have gone through and what we must face in the future.

For those who think that child pornography is something that is reserved for the exclusive viewing by a bunch of dirty old men, I am witness to the fact that this is simply not true. The longer I spent in prison, the more young men – men in their early and mid-twenties – entered the compound to pay the price for THEIR indiscretion.

Not everyone chooses to speak freely about their situation, but one young man in particular told me his story and I wish to briefly share it with all of you. His name is Albert (not his real name) and he came from Florida. Albert was 20 years old when I met him and had been sentenced to 6 years for possession of child pornography.

Albert’s story really began when he was just 8 years old. At that time, Albert’s brother, who was 12, started sexually molesting him. This activity continued until Albert was 13, at which time their activities were discovered and counseling was obtained for Albert’s brother. There was no money for counseling for Albert, however. He felt abandoned by not just his parents, but also by his brother. He had his own computer and the skills to use it, as do most young people in this day and age, so he turned to internet pornography for comfort, consolation, and companionship.

He rapidly shifted his focus to child pornography, but to someone 13 years old, this was more like ‘just hanging out with people my own age’, he said. When I asked how – at 13 – he even FOUND child pornography, he just looked at me and laughed and said, “You’re kidding, right?” Of course…silly me. It is frighteningly and readily available.

By the time he was arrested he was 19. The judge who sentenced him didn’t seem to be interested in HOW he came to be doing what he was doing. He was not interested in the fact that something was broken within Albert that PRISON was never going to fix. He seemed to be sending the message that this is how we deal with this problem, and that was the end of it.

Albert is lost, this much I can tell you. Without help, he will be even more lost when he is released. His life will have been altered in ways that would be difficult for someone WITH social skills to adjust to. Albert has none at all, will certainly not develop any useful ones in there, and he will find it almost impossible to find his way when he is released. He is not unique in this and our prisons today are beginning to fill up with Alberts.

It is a fact that people like Albert go to prison every day and it has got to STOP.

Guess who has to stop it? Yes…YOU. There is no one who can prevent another Albert from happening except for each and every one of YOU.

There are some basic facts about pornography that you all need to be made aware of, or reminded of.

There is no such thing as ‘adult’ pornography. No matter what anyone tries to tell you, there is NOTHING mature or ‘adult’ about pornography. It serves no purpose beyond making money for those who do not have the intelligence, skills, or morality to make it any other way.

Pornography contributes nothing positive to humanity, and is simply an immature, insensitive, and immoral display of the depths that people will go to degrade, diminish, demoralize, and demean humanity.

In this country, pornography used to be classified as ‘obscene’ until our Supreme Court, in one of its more glaring examples of just how fallible it CAN be, declared that it was protected by our constitution as a form of ‘free speech’.

I am here to tell you all that if pornography is free speech, it is a conversation you do NOT need to be engaged in. It does NOT enhance your life at ANY age. It does NOT make you a grown up. It does NOT glorify the beauty of a relationship between two people. Instead, it demeans and degrades all involved, but women in particular, and it desensitizes us to the beauty that intimacy can hold. Looking at pornography not only does not make one more mature, it is actually a sign of IMMATURITY to engage in it at all.

Besides all of that, no amount of glorification, or claims of freedom of speech or artistic expression can negate the fact that MANY, MANY of the ‘willing’ participants in the production of pornography are drug and alcohol dependent, many of the females in pornographic pictures and films are the victims of earlier child sexual abuse, and many of them are forced into it.

And what about child pornography itself? Will everyone who indulges in internet pornography explore child pornography as well? Of course not, but do not kid yourselves. MILLIONS have, and many more millions WILL, and tens of thousands of people will spend years in prison and be required to register as sex offenders as a result. Many MORE tens of thousands of family members will be affected as someone close to them spends time behind bars for contributing to a problem that has a stranglehold on this country.

It now falls upon all of YOU to be the ones who will distinguish YOUR generation from all others by standing up and saying, “Enough is enough!”

It is now up to YOU to draw the line in the sand and refuse to cross it.

It is now up to YOU to look to people MY age and say, “You have done enough damage, and things must change!”

We have left you a legacy of incomprehensible debt and mismanagement of this nation’s finances. We have left you a government that is too large to manage effectively and too concerned with partisan squabbling to govern in a manner that is responsible. We have left you a legacy of immorality, indecency, and personal freedoms that far outstrip what our founders could have possibly envisioned when they formed this country.

And we have abandoned you to find your own way through a morass of filth and degeneracy that some idiots have claimed is free speech and artistic expression. In the process, hundreds of thousands of you are sexually, physically, and emotionally abused each and every day.

It is up to YOU all to seek help to fix things that are broken with yourselves and then seek to fix what is broken with this country.

It is up to YOU to be willing to do whatever it takes to restore some self-respect to this nation and to insist that the moral values of the majority NOT be driven by the selfish, self-indulgent desires of a few.

YOU must establish for the NEXT generation that Freedom is not about the RIGHTS we have as individuals. Rather, Freedom should be about the OBLIGATIONS that we have for each OTHER.

Something that stands out prominently from my youth is that I was always WILLING. I think being willing is one of the most important requirements in the process of growing up. Unfortunately, I was always willing to do the WRONG things, to respond in the WRONG way, and I was certainly willing to give people more power over me than they were entitled to have.

I was NOT willing to turn to friends, family, teachers, or God for help at a time in my young life when I needed it the most and when being willing to do just that could have altered the course of my future, and I hope some of the things I have spoken about will help you to avoid making the same mistake.

I will pray that you are all willing to use your energy, your intelligence, and your youth to create for yourselves better, happier lives than I created for myself and those around me.

I will pray that you are all WILLING to love and respect yourselves and others.

If you can each be WILLING, then you will be ABLE to stand up, not just for yourselves, but for each other. You will be ABLE to reach out for help to stop someone from abusing you physically, sexually, or emotionally. You have to be willing NOW to have the courage to face those who would deprive you of your youth, thereby condemning your adulthood to being something less than it can be. You have to be willing to fix little things that are broken BEFORE they grow into bigger things that steal your identity and your ability to be YOU.

You must be willing to THINK before you act, because decisions that we make can – in a fraction of a second – completely change the direction of our lives. Take a moment to think about what you are about to DO so you don’t need to spend the rest of your life trying to FORGET what it was you did.

I will pray that you will be BETTER than those who have come before you. Be willing to be better than me, and millions like me, and USE the power of the internet to develop a social conscience and then resolve to act positively upon that conscience.

Distinguish yourselves by being willing to use the internet to HELP humanity rather than hurt each other; to use it to contribute to the greatness of mankind rather than to use it to degrade, diminish, and demean it.

Make a resolution with yourselves, and with each other, to be willing to use the technology that is available today, and that which will be available tomorrow, in a mature, responsible manner that enhances your life and contributes to your growth rather than in a manner that causes you, or those you know, unnecessary pain, a broken heart, or much, much worse.

Work to replace society’s growing obsession with recording, and sharing, images of our bodies and our most intimate sexual acts with the world, with a reclaimed morality and sense of decency, distinguishing yourselves from previous generations by proving that you are BETTER, and not just different. Rediscover the words ‘integrity’, ‘decency’, and ‘honor’.

Finally, I will pray that you are all willing to do all of those things, and to protect yourselves and those around you by being responsible in the way you treat others, and that you all stand up for your right to distinguish YOUR generation as the BEST of all generations.

For MY role in the degradation of the human spirit and the corrosion of human dignity, I am profoundly sorry. For my irresponsible and thoughtless contribution to the loss of innocence of children everywhere through my inexcusable and reprehensible willingness to allow child pornography to enter my life, I will be haunted for the rest of my life.

I cannot go back and make the experience of being married to me a better one for the mother’s of my children. I cannot go back and be for my children all of the things that I should have been as a father while they were growing up. I cannot undo the pain I have caused for myself and those around me. I cannot change who I WAS.

These are things that I accept as unchangeable, and we must all accept those things we cannot change.

What I will NOT accept as unchangeable are the things that stand in the way of young people everywhere that would deprive them of the adventure, pleasure, and rite of passage that all young people have a right to expect as a part of growing up. Nor will I accept as unchangeable the things that trouble many of you today. These things can be fixed, and I will pray that those who are troubled will be willing to seek assistance now, rather than suffer the inevitable consequences of neglecting them that will definitely arise later in life.

I cannot change my past, but I can seek God’s help to use what is left of my future to put to work the lessons I have finally learned to try to help those of you who are willing to listen in order that you may avoid my mistakes.

It is important to know that it is NEVER too late to fix broken things. It is, however, much easier, and better for all concerned to attend to problems when they are small, and not give them a chance to grow into something that consumes you and makes you become a person you do not recognize when you look in a mirror, or worse – to turn you into someone you DESPISE when you look there.

For me, each new day is a gift from God that I am grateful for. It is another day of life that I tried to steal from myself and from those who did, and still do, love me.

I cannot waste a moment thinking about how wonderful things COULD have been had I fixed the broken things when I was your age.

But YOU can, and I pray that you are all willing to do just that.

And if I have helped in some small way, then I thank God for giving me the opportunity, and if there is anything else that I can do, then I am WILLING to do it.

Thank you, God bless you, and good luck to all of you.


Well, that is what I would say. As for the ‘speech’ itself, I will leave you with this little poem:


these thoughts may languish here unspoken
the words, perhaps, not even read
but in writing of that which was broken
at least the words have all been said

I thank all of you who have come this far with me. May God bless you.


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you survive? Could you?

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

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

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

All are deserving!


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


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

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

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

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


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


Here are some difficult issues to ponder:

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

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

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

“But Names May Always Hurt Me” by George

“Are you a Cho’mo?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll close with this parable from Jesus:

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

BEHIND DOOR #2 by George

“When God closes a door, He opens a window” is just the type of cliché I despise, especially while I’m sitting in prison. Clichés look good on greeting cards and needlepoint pillows.

Of course, we all use clichés, and as much as it pains me to admit it, I am as bad in peddling them as truth as the next person. Usually we pull them out of our bag of comforting tricks to put a positive spin on a not so positive situation. Well, being in prison definitely qualifies as a “not so positive situation.”

I arrived at Oakdale as Tony Casson, the originator of this website, was due to be released. Unknown to me, I had been a topic of this website before my arrival at Oakdale. A caring friend had discovered this blog and wrote to Tony asking to look out for her friend George, me, who would be arriving soon. As fate would have it, or as I believe God would have it, I ended up being assigned to the same housing unit as Tony. No small feat of coincidence on a compound of over 1,600 inmates between eight housing units.

Imagine my surprise, though I’m sure my expression was one more of shock, when a complete stranger approached me and said, “Oh, you’re George. I know your friend Judy back home.” How could anyone here know me, let alone one of my friends from back home? Over the next several days, Tony became an invaluable resource of how to navigate daily prison life. By the time Tony left, we had developed a friendship. One that now places upon me the honor of contributing to and continuing this blog.

You may think that the opening cliché seems quite applicable to the passing on of this blog from Tony to me. “When God closes a door,” – Tony leaving Oakdale to rebuild his life in D.C. – “He opens a window.” – I arrived at Oakdale to pick up the Oakdale Chronicles pen and soldier on. How could I despise the “truth” in that?

In my heart I don’t. But I also think God is doing something more miraculous than simply “opening a window.” As a convicted felon, the idea that God is making me crawl through a window of opportunity conjures up an image of creeping in to thieve and do no good. There is dignity in walking through a door, and though I am in no way proud of my actions that brought me to Oakdale, I know I’m not here to creep and crawl forward through life.

I am here to stand up, accept responsibility for my actions, do my time in the faith and knowledge that God has a positive purpose to this part of my life’s journey, and by sharing this journey with you, hopefully give you a glimpse into how the power of prayer and the pursuit of His truth can change a life – not only mine, but quite possibly yours too!

So, as we all face adversity and discouragement, I offer this illumination of the cliché. “When God opened the door for Tony to go forth and do good work, He closed it behind me coming in; but He also opened a window for me to breathe fresh air and to see the sun until the time comes for a door to open for me.

When you feel closed off by life, look for the air and the light that will sustain you until a door opens again. There is always another, more dignified door in God’s house to walk through. Let the light show you that door.

“So Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door, if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’” – John 10:7-10 RSV

“THE ‘SOMETHING’ I DIDN’T DO” by Tony Casson

“So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us.
We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!'”

2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT

“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!” Helen Keller

I have used the words of Helen Keller a couple of times during the last few years in these Chronicles and in “TODAY IS….A Gift From God”. I do not believe that the words are simply words that look good on paper. I believe they provide a good reminder of what our obligation is to those around us, and to ourselves. They are a profound statement of how we should live our lives. Contained within those few, well-used words are instructions on how to help ourselves, for it is only by helping others that we can accomplish that. Found therein as well is encouragement that little things can make big differences and it is a reminder to never refuse to do the little things we are capable of doing. We are all more powerful than we think. We can all do SOMETHING.

I thought my relationship with God, which grows stronger each day, would help me to always DO the ‘something’ that I could do. I suffer no delusions of grandeur that include the notion these “Chronicles” have a wide-ranging audience and wield enormous influence that contributes mightily toward the betterment of the world in which we live. At the same time, I am aware that at least some of the words printed here over the last 3 1/2 years have done something positive; have changed the way some people think; have helped someone in some small way. I always remembered the story of the little girl throwing the starfish back into the sea, saving them, one by one. She couldn’t save them all, but she saved the ones she could. She did SOMETHING.

Unfortunately, I recently failed to do the ‘something’ I could do to reach out to another human being, and now that ‘something’ cannot be done as originally intended, because the individual in question committed suicide. While I certainly did not cause him to do what he did, I failed to do ‘something’ that possibly could have made a difference. It would be argued by some that the chances of my ‘something’ changing the outcome were slim, but when we do nothing, there is NO chance of change or affecting the outcome of ANY situation.

Ryan Loskarn was a long-time, dedicated employee for a well-known United States Senator. In fact, Ryan was Senator Lamar Alexander’s chief-of-staff when he was arrested in December for possession and distribution of child pornography. Of course, he was fired immediately upon being arrested and it is a relative certainty many of the people in Ryan’s address book quickly put as much distance as possible between themselves and Ryan. Ryan had been staying with his parents in Maryland awaiting resolution of his case when he apparently decided that taking his own life was the best way to resolve his situation.

The ‘something’ I was going to do was post an article here titled “FALLEN” which contained open letters for both Senator Alexander and for Ryan. Most of what was going to be printed had been written. All that needed was for things to be ‘tidied up’ and for it to be typed and posted. I dragged my feet. I felt there was time. I was involved in other things. I was focused on me. The lesson of doing the one thing I COULD do was temporarily lost or forgotten.

I feel as if I have let Ryan down and, in turn, his family. As one who was very nearly successful in taking his own life, I ask the public to try to understand his pain, and to join me in prayer for Ryan and his family. I would also ask everyone to read carefully all that follows. Perhaps the words intended for Ryan can reach someone else, and perhaps those intended for Senator Alexander can help to prevent anyone else from getting into a situation where they feel Ryan’s solution is the only one open to them.

I am sorry, Ryan. May God have mercy on your soul and may He watch over your family as they struggle to make sense of something that is senseless in so very many ways.

Here, then, is the ‘something’ I could have done. May God help me to never fail to do it again, and may He help another individual in need of these words find them. In finding them, may they make a difference, even if it is a very small one:

“FALLEN” by Tony Casson

“For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open,
and every secret will be brought to light.”
  (Mark 4:22 NLT)

“Fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen,

Fallen from his high estate,

And welt’ring in his blood;

Deserted, at his utmost need

By those his former bounty fed,

On the bare earth expos’d he lies,

With not a friend to close his eyes.”

John Dryden  “Alexander’s Feast”

As I move through my day-to-day existence in prison, everywhere I look my eyes gaze upon men who have fallen. The greatest in number probably did not have very far to fall, but have fallen nonetheless. Others have tumbled from slightly loftier positions in life while still others have fallen from great heights.

All the men around me, as evidenced by their presence with me here in Oakdale FCI, have all been convicted of, or plead guilty to, their crimes. This is not the case regarding the subject of this article. This particular individual has only been arrested to this point, but he has already fallen a great distance.

His name is Ryan Loskarn, and until recently Ryan was the chief-of-staff for United States Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. At his home in Washington, D.C. early in December, Ryan began his fall when he was arrested for possession and distribution of child pornography.

Unfortunately, and much to the shame of this great nation, this is not an isolated or unusual event. Men and women across the United States are arrested daily in ever-increasing numbers for similar crimes involving internet child pornography. Another arrest is, sadly, unnecessarily routine in this country today.

However, given the high profile person for whom Ryan worked, his arrest naturally garnered national attention. My friend Richard Roy and I discussed the significance of this particular arrest during one of our daily ‘world-problem-solving-walks’ around the track that encompasses the recreation yard. During the course of that conversation, I made a comment which sparked something in Richard who then said something that sparked something in me.

With all of those sparks flying, it was inevitable that we would start a fire. That fire is presented here in the form of two ‘open letters’. The first one is intended for Senator Alexander and was written by Richard. The second was written for Ryan Loskarn and was penned by yours truly.

Our intent in writing each of them, as is the case in all we do, is to try to change the destructive course America is on and to find better ways of protecting America, America’s citizens and – of paramount importance – America’s children.

by Richard Roy

Dear Senator Alexander,

Reading an article in “The Houston Chronicle” concerning the recent arrest of Ryan Loskarn, your Chief Of Staff, for possession and distribution of child pornography, I came across a quote attributed to you which said, in part, that you were ‘stunned, surprised, and disappointed” when you were informed.

Frankly, Senator Alexander, I find the use of those terms to be quite disingenuous in light of the fact you are such a prominent figure in our nation’s capitol. Certainly it has not escaped your attention that the halls of Congress are a place where immorality, indecency, sex, greed, corruption and excess proliferate unabated. You, of all people, should never be stunned – or even surprised – when, in such an atmosphere, those around you succumb to the siren song of sin. Even men steeped in the Word of God – Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggard, to name just a couple – have demonstrated the fallibility of men. We are all, simply human – even men of God, as well as those who are public figures.

While you most likely expected Mr. Loskarn to be above reproach in his behavior, to say that you are ‘stunned’, or ‘surprised’ is to place anyone, including yourself, above the capacity to fail. ‘Disappointed’ is an appropriate and perfectly acceptable descriptive phrase to use, but that disappointment should not create the need to distance yourself from him. This need is a perfect example of where this country, and the men and women who lead it, demonstrate a definite lack of character. Our need to disassociate ourselves when someone we are close to in a personal or professional relationship exhibits less-than-desirable behavior portrays a less-than-desirable understanding of what Jesus Christ said when he instructed us to love one another. He most assuredly did NOT mean to love them only when it is comfortable, convenient, and politically advantageous to do so.

Mr. Loskarn would undoubtedly not have held the position he did with you unless his abilities, talents, and personality added value to YOUR ability to serve your country. What is different about this man today than yesterday? What has changed? Did the organizational skills that are required of someone in that demanding position suddenly vaporize? Are his personality and confident manner no longer of consequence? The day before he was arrested, would you have stood up with Ryan, put your arm around him and stated publicly that you were proud to know him? Do you think he is really a different person than the one you thought you knew? Have you asked him if this is so?

Right now, Mr. Loskarn needs the public support of those in his familial, social, and professional networks. Instead of distancing yourself from the situation, close ranks around him, encourage him, hold him up, and let him know that he is not facing this ordeal alone. Ryan possesses the same qualities that endeared him to all who knew him prior to his arrest. The only difference is you are now aware of his fallibility – his humanity. Ryan Loskarn has a flaw. This should NOT come as a surprise.

Perhaps it is the nature of Ryan’s flaw. Possibly you find it to be particularly offensive, and that certainly would be understandable. Without question, it is a SERIOUS flaw. That it is morally repugnant cannot be denied. The charges against Ryan make decent men and women uncomfortable in the extreme.

All of that notwithstanding, it must also be emphatically stated that the crack in Ryan’s character is something that can be repaired, despite what an emotionally-incensed American public has been led to believe.

In fact, the fall from grace of a heretofore dedicated and loyal long-term employee of a well-respected public servant with a long history of service to this country presents us with a unique opportunity. Quite possibly, the closeness of the situation to an individual such as yourself who is at the very center of this nation’s ruling body can cause a closer look to be taken at the entirety of internet child pornography, the havoc it is creating, and the destruction it is leaving in its wake. This destruction encompasses not only those who have violated the very basic tenets of human decency, but includes innocent victims such as the families of these individuals. The ensuing requirement to register as sex offenders further hobbles the return to any semblance of ‘normalcy’ for these individuals and their families and is a part of the overall problem that needs to be addressed in ways that are more constructive and effective than simply passing stricter laws with increased punishments and doing it all under the pathetically self-serving political banner of ‘protecting the children’. Protect the children we MUST, but the time has come to face the fact that the current approach does not accomplish that at all. In fact, this government’s refusal to NOT take the simple steps that are immediately available to it to severely slow the proliferation of these vile images on the Internet actually CONTRIBUTES to the further victimization of those already severely damaged by those who committed the abuse portrayed in the images themselves.

(Editor’s Note: In the pages of these Chronicles over the years, several articles have been published outlining steps that can be taken with very little effort or expense that would positively contribute to achieving that end. Articles such as: “A Necessary Intrusion – Part 4” (7/31/12); “A Child Protection Act That Doesn’t” (8/29/12); “Unnecessary Harm And Confusion – Fast And Furious, The Sequel” (10/5/12); “A Call To Action – A Demand For An Explanation” (3/1/13); “In Knowledge Lies Potential For Change” (5/15/13; “Warning Labels” (6/21/13) In your position Senator, there is MUCH that you can do!)

As for your disgraced former chief-of-staff; Mr. Loskarn will never be the same. Whether this is for the better depends in large part on the strength of those around him and the support he receives. It is possible – desirable, even – to hate the sin and still show love, compassion and hope to the sinner. The most effective demonstration of this principle must be public, not private. Jesus’ public ministry was to the sick, weak, outcast, and those tangled in sexual promiscuity and perversion. He transformed many such lives. You have an opportunity to take Emerson’s ‘road less traveled’ in supporting Ryan publically; promising support and encouragement if he is willing to admit he has a problem that needs to be dealt with; and publicly acknowledging that change IS possible. No one is more miserable or more critical of Ryan Loskarn at this moment than Ryan Loskarn himself. He needs no help putting himself down. He is deserving of your help to lift him up and demonstrate the ability of human beings to correct their mistakes, even the immoral ones. To do less is to state simply that people are incapable of redemption and restoration and if that is the case, then those of you who sit in the center of power might simply say, “When you make a mistake, you go to prison for life.” That, sir, would be ridiculous in the extreme, and totally contrary to the reality which comprises human nature. People can, and do, change. They need help to accomplish that, and Ryan needs YOUR help. So does this country, Senator.

Richard Roy

“A Postscript To Senator Lamar Alexander’s Letter”
by Tony Casson

Senator Alexander,

As you are well aware, this letter is too late to do Ryan Loskarn any good, and that is my fault. Richard did his part in the days immediately following Ryan’s arrest by writing the letter and getting it to me. I dragged my feet doing my part, so it is too late for anyone to rally around Ryan, but it is not too late for you to look into the articles that have been posted here which contain positive, practical, and promising suggestions to address this plague upon our country in ways that might prevent more lost souls, such as Ryan, from ending what could be productive lives. In many cases, we are not dealing with career criminal types, or everybody’s definition of a ‘monster’. In many, many instances we are simply locking up misguided, confused, often socially inept individuals who possibly could have been prevented from straying from the path of behavior that, if not moral, was at least legal. In the process, much of the damage caused to an often unsuspecting world from images that have captured the sexual abuse of children might be prevented. Surely this would be preferred over allowing this material to infest our country’s homes in the hopes of catching people doing something that will destroy their lives, their families, and, in some very sad and unnecessary cases, cost some individuals their lives.

Ryan eliminated the need for you to stand up and support him publicly, as you should have. However, his tragic and senseless death does not eliminate the need for you to stand up and protect this country. It fact, his death CRIES for you to do just that!

Tony Casson

Following is the letter that was intended for Ryan. Perhaps it contains some words that can still do someone, somewhere, some good. Perhaps what was intended for his heart can find its way into someone else’s:

“An Open Letter To Ryan Loskarn” by Tony Casson

Dear Ryan,

My name is Tony Casson. We do not know each other, nor is it likely that we will ever physically meet. Despite that relative certainty, I would like to try to help you.

At this moment in time, your life is undoubtedly feeling rather surreal. More than likely you are numb with the shock and the shame that I have come to learn – as have tens of thousands of others – quite naturally accompanies the discovery of secrets that somehow did not seem anywhere near as deplorable while still veiled with the cover of darkness as they do now the veil has been lifted and the light of decency is shining upon them. Such is the nature of secrets.

With the light now shining brightly on YOUR secrets, Ryan, you are quite probably filled with trepidation at what the future holds for you. The public veneer which you carefully crafted over the years, and has obviously served you well – at least in the framework of how you lived your PUBLIC life – has developed a ‘crack’ in it that may, at least for the moment, appear to be irreparable and about to deliver catastrophic consequences.

It is true that this ‘crack’ is not merely a minor surface imperfection, like a scratch marring an automobile’s paint job which can be rubbed out, smoothed over, and restored to its original appearance. This imperfection, this flaw, has its origins well below the surface and has just now risen to where it is visible and on display for the world to see. It is evidence of an underlying situation or condition that cries out to be addressed. The ‘crack’ does not, in and of itself, carry with it consequences that cannot be overcome, but they cannot be avoided and they MUST be faced.

Ryan, I encourage you to take comfort when I tell you this can all be dealt with to a positive outcome. Let there be no mistake, though: You will NOT be restored to the same “Ryan” you were before, but you CAN quickly learn the “Ryan” you have been is not the “Ryan” God intended you to be when you were born. Dealing with all of this will not be easy. In fact, it will require a lot of support from family and friends, and it will require you to lean heavily upon God.

I encounter men on a daily basis whom I believe are decent at the core but, like me, allowed themselves to be seduced by evil and found themselves consumed with behavior that shocked and repulsed them, as well as their friends and family, when that behavior was finally forced into the light.

There is a rule that must be adopted by individuals who find themselves in this situation, Ryan: DON’T WASTE YOUR MISTAKES. Of the men I encounter in prison, so many lament their situation and spend their days pointing the finger of blame everywhere but at themselves. Turning this ‘curse’ into a blessing is something far too few men I meet choose to do. It is easier to harbor resentment for being in prison than it is to address WHY we are here, HOW we can fix it, and WHAT we will do to make positive use of a very negative experience.

Prison is most likely in your future, but prison certainly does not have to BE your future. When you make a conscious and determined decision to walk through those gates with God, you have immediately begun to prepare yourself for the day when you will walk back out those same gates with your head held high. You will not be proud of what you have done, but you will be proud of the person God has helped you to become.

In no way am I saying that life will be easy while you are in prison, or after you are released, but with God always at the center of your thoughts, you will face both with the confidence that comes from God’s assurance that He will be with you each and every step of the way.

How do I know this? Because I hated the person I had allowed myself to become, Ryan. I hated that person so much I made a violent attempt on my own life when the FBI came to arrest me. God saved me from dying that day because I cried out to Him for help when there was very little time left, and He stepped in and caused me to be saved. Since that day, I have looked to Him for strength to guide me through the entire pretrial, sentencing, and surrendering process; He was with me when I walked onto the compound; and He has been with me daily to light the way and help me to understand who I am and why I am here. I am utterly amazed at the person I have become over the last 4 years, and I am prepared for life – and eager to be an active participant in it – in a way I have never been. I have been a willing student, but all of the credit; all of the glory, goes to God. Proverbs 21:31 says, “We are the horses, prepared for battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord!”

I am prepared for whatever I may face when I walk out those doors because I know that God will settle for nothing short of victory for me, Ryan, and I want this for you. Why? Because I know GOD does, and I know He is waiting to help you. All you have to do is ask Him, and be willing to hand over all of your burdens to Him.

I pray for the very best for you and your family, Ryan. God has a plan for you. Let Him reveal it to you.

With my fervent prayers for YOUR future and YOUR hope,
Tony Casson

“An Afterword”

It is impossible to describe the way I felt as I finished typing the words I WANTED Ryan to read. Another young man is dead. Ryan is far from the first to have ended their life needlessly after their secrets have come to light. Sadly, in this Godless, intolerant, judgmental and hypocritical society of ours, I am certain there were people who applauded his death; people who celebrated his decision to end his life; people who wish more of those of us who have fallen would follow suit.

It is my hope that God will find a way to take these words intended for Ryan and bring them to the attention of someone else who is in need of reading them. The message is the same for anyone who finds themselves seduced by evil and is now going through court proceedings and facing prison or jail time as a result of their inability to resist the ‘siren song of sin’, as Richard Roy so aptly put it.

God CAN help us even when we think we are beyond help. These are not just idle words. This is the Truth as God has said it, and as He has proven it through His restoration and renewal of this man typing these words. Ask Him to help YOU.


And please, do NOT waste another life.

Thank you all for your time, and may God bless you all.