Leaving prison should have represented something akin to one of the best days of my life, and while there certainly was a growing sense of anticipation, that anticipation was cloaked in something which more closely resembled sadness as the time drew closer.

My last meal at Oakdale Federal Correctional Institution (FCI), on Monday, May 19, was chili with cheese and onions which I used to smother a humongous, perfectly-baked potato. The term ‘baked potato’ itself is a misnomer most of the time as the potatoes falling into that category are most often just boiled with the skin on. Since this potato was actually baked, this was a definite treat. Before being executed, this would not have qualified as a particularly spectacular last meal, but it was more than adequate as a meal I attended for the primary reason of seeing individuals from other housing units I might not otherwise get a chance to see before leaving. In other words, my last supper was more of a social event than a stop for sustenance.

Walking back to my housing unit, I lagged behind my dinner companions to say goodbye to a man named Frank. In his 50’s and of Filipino descent, Frank has a year or two left on his sentence. Frank and I both have a child living in Seattle: he, a daughter, and I, a son. We shook hands, embraced, and left each other with as much encouragement as we could muster. After leaving Frank, I heard my name and turned around to see a young man named Cameron, who was walking with Bernie Ebbers. Bernie is seven years into a 25 year sentence for ‘cooking the books’ in the incident responsible for the collapse of WorldCom. I have often pondered the necessity for locking him and others like him away for so long and causing so much devastation behind them when there are most likely better options that could be employed in our collective search for justice, fairness, and punishment that is meaningful and achieves a purpose beyond causing intelligent, successful, and enterprising individuals to simply waste away in prison. This is a complicated issue, and I digress from the main story, although that is nothing new. It is an issue that will need to be dealt with in greater detail later. For now, suffice it to say that I pray for Bernie and for his family.

Cameron is in his late 20’s and had taken pictures of his girlfriend while in a relationship. The pictures were of a personal, sexual nature. His intent was not to post them on the internet, but the relationship deteriorated, and somehow the young woman’s mother ‘discovered’ the pictures, and turned them over to the police. You see, the young lady was 17 and Cameron was 24 when the photos were taken and Cameron was charged with ‘production of child pornography’. He struck a deal which netted him ‘only’ 9 years instead of the mandatory minimum of 15. I think back to something my good friend Richard Roy told me about his grandparents. Richard’s grandfather was 28 and his grandmother was 14 when they were married. The relationship ‘only’ lasted 50 years.

The times have changed.

Cameron and I embraced and wished each other well. I was not close to Bernie, but we did say goodbye. He was a regular fixture walking the track, and in chapel services on Sunday. He addressed a business class I had taken and I was saddened by the story he told, but I was saddened many times over the previous 4 years of my incarceration by the stories I was told. They headed off in the direction of their housing unit, and I headed back to mine. I walked about 20 feet before looking around. It was a rare moment when there was no one close to me, either in front or behind me and I was thankful for I had to suppress an almost overwhelming urge to break down and cry.

The enormity of the human tragedies represented by the men I had come to know, to care for, to pray about, and to respect slammed into me like a freight train and for a brief moment, I simply wanted to fall down and weep.

I have written quite often over the last four years about my own acceptance of responsibility for the irresponsibility of my actions, and the enormity of the situation surrounding incarceration in general and the draconian, pointlessly long sentences handed out for internet crimes in particular as it all pertains to my friends, their families, and this country as a whole so the scope of it all came as no real surprise or revelation. I guess I just had a moment where I didn’t want to deal with it anymore. Like the occasional urge I still get to inhale cigarette smoke, it lasted only a brief moment, and then I was back to worrying about my friends. I was deeply saddened to be leaving them behind. Did I want to go? Of course, I did, but I wanted to take them all with me.

What I was preparing to leave behind was just a tiny snapshot of the total picture of what we are allowing to happen to this country because of our preference for pursuit, prosecution, and incarceration over prevention, as well as our growing need to sexualize everything in our lives until there is nothing left to sexualize but our children. We are pathetic, really, as a nation, and as individuals. There will be those who will point and loudly proclaim that it is me, and those like me, who are responsible for that condition, but that accusation would not even begin to adequately assign the blame and the responsibility.

I have accepted the blame for my part in all of this, but I can not, and will not, accept the blame for the misguided government officials who have allowed this to happen, not just to me, but to thousands, and potentially hundreds of thousands, of American citizens, to say nothing of their families.

As I reentered the place which had been my residence for the previous 4 years, I made a conscious effort to taste the sweetness of the successful completion of my sentence, but the bitterness of those misguided sentences received by some of those I was leaving behind rose like bile in the back of my throat. Stanley, 25 year sentence; David, 20 year sentence; Joseph, 17 1/2; Ken, 17 1/2; Pete, 15; Phillip, 12 1/2; and on, and on, and on. And for each one who leaves, there are more to fill in the spaces left.

Do not misunderstand me. I am angry at, and disappointed in, each man who willingly, knowingly, participated in his crimes. That said, I believe there are better ways to deal with the problem, as I have stated so many, many times before over the last 4 years. Ways that would also provide greater security for our children and protect other innocent victims from the scourge of internet pornography.

As I went around talking with different people, there were several awkward goodbyes as men who are not accustomed to displaying emotion in public fought back the urge to do so.

As I continued to say my goodbyes, I reflected on the fact that many of them expressed confident hope in me. The hope was that I would continue the things I began in prison and I will not disappoint them. Adjusting to breathing the ‘free air’ that Steve Marshall wrote to my dear friend Diane about will take some time, but I get ahead of myself.

In order to continue to do the things I have maintained must be done, I must first get to Washington, D.C. to begin my new life at the Central Union Mission (missiondc.org). I must get situated, centered, and build relationships with those who will hold sway over my new freedom, as well as those I will be working with, and for, in the mission itself, and as I prepare to reenter the workforce.

Exciting times lie ahead, filled with God’s promise of a future and a hope, but first I have to get there, and to do that, I have to get to Lafayette in the morning so I can get on the Grey Dog.

To be continued…………


Dear God,

I have an important task before me and I come to you for help. Since You are the One who orchestrated the situation in the first place, asking You for help dealing with the situation as it prepares to change seems appropriate. Although I am learning to come to You first in ALL things, I do so now with extremely acute sensitivity to what You will guide my heart to do.

The judge who sentenced me recommended Butner, N.C. as my destination, but You saw things differently. You placed me in Oakdale because You had important things You wanted me to learn, and special people You wanted me to meet and learn from them.

There were four men in particular who were placed into my life here to help You shape me into a human being who can hold his head up high; who can speak openly and with enthusiasm about his love for You; who can freely discuss the issues causing his incarceration with the intent of helping others; and who can state with confidence the direction the rest of his life will take. You used the five of us, broken men all, to act as mirrors for each other that we may see ourselves in a new light, and from a different angle. You helped us work on what we saw until we could clearly see YOU looking back at us, reflected in ourselves.

Three of those individuals have left Oakdale FCI already.

Alan Steen was the first to leave. His case was overturned by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Alan has returned to his wife and other family members in west Texas. Alan was the first to help me understand that following You was never going to be easy, but the rewards would be great and would be well worth the effort. He was the first, besides You and I, to know there was a book inside me called “TODAY IS….A Gift From God”, and he was the first to assure me that, with Your help, I would find the way to get it out. It is out, Alan, and for that, and many other reasons, I love you, my friend.

The second to leave was Rob from Virginia. I have never used his last name and there are reasons for that which do not need to be addressed here. They are his, and they all have to do with the tremendous services he performed for this country while in the Navy. Rob was the only one who lived in the same housing unit as I did, and we would meet a couple of times a week in my cell for one or two hours of the most amazing discussions about You, family, the things that brought us together, and ways of reaching beyond where we were when we came in here in order to become better men. Rob is back in Virginia finishing his sentence, but he is very close to home and he is in a Christian lifestyle program which I am certain is greatly enhanced by his presence. Robert, I love you, too, and I am happy you are close to your family now. I know you are all incredibly close and that speaks volumes about your character.

The third to leave did not go home either, but he is now in California, closer to HIS loved ones, and in an environment which seems to make him happy. This makes ME happy, because I love Steve Marshall, too, and when I leave here knowing he still has a couple of years to go, at least I will take with me the knowledge he is in a place better equipped to provide him with peace and some modicum of happiness. Steve is a man of incredible character in spite of the reasons he is incarcerated. He left here several months ago, but not before helping me to understand more about the art of writing (not that I have actually gotten better at it, but I do understand it…ha!). He also taught me about the ability of men to rise above others simply by being principled and honest. Our conversations were long and always insightful. He is an articulate, eloquent, deeply sensitive man with a lot to offer this world. He added a touch of dignity and class to our Toastmaster’s club and his presence and contributions are sorely missed. I consider Steve to be a lifelong friend, regardless of the fact we will likely never meet again.

This brings us to the fourth, and final individual and the important task I referenced when I began this letter to You, Lord. Richard Roy left Oakdale yesterday, and I ask You now to help me find the right words to convey exactly how important this man has been in my life. Richard is unique to our little ‘group’ in that he was the only one who was always close to home. As he was from Baton Rouge it was possible for him to have regular visits with his wife, daughters, mother, father, and other family members. I met Alan first, but Richard was in Alan’s housing unit and it was actually through Alan I met him.

Lord, I know in my heart this entire experience has been orchestrated by You from the beginning. Some of those reading these words may find my next statement quite odd, but by placing me in the middle of nowhere; by surrounding me with the men You did; and by paying attention to the tiniest of details, You have made this an unbelievably perfect prison experience. Add Diane Woodall to this Band of Broken Brothers and the result is simply astounding. There will be those who will be certain I have gone stark raving mad, but I stand by those words. We are all better people for the relationships YOU engineered. We all took FROM one another, and we all gave TO one another. This entire event could only have happened at Your direction and those who would laugh the entire thing off as coincidence simply do NOT know YOU!

I thank you, Lord, for the gift of each of these men. In particular, I humbly thank you for the gift of Richard Roy. Not too long ago, I wrote about how you had blessed me when you placed Diane Woodall in my life. I wrote that she had become the best friend I have ever had. I meant that with all of my heart, but she is going to have to share that distinction with Richard, and I doubt she will mind. The relationship with these two people is a miniscule example of the mind-boggling power You possess. It is proof of Your ability to love us in spite of ourselves, and give us exactly what we need, provided we have the sense to ask You to do that for us.

I listed a variety of functions Diane performed as the ‘cost’ of being a friend of mine. Richard’s list is long as well, and includes pushing me, prodding me, encouraging me, advising me, editing me, and critiquing me (I didn’t always handle that well, did I, my friend?). Richard talked to me about You, and he listened to me as I tested the waters of becoming bolder in the way I spoke about You. We shared tears of joy and tears of sorrow. We laughed and dreamed, and we shared fears, hopes, and deeply personal thoughts.

Contrary to what society as a whole may think, be told, or be led to believe, there are some great men residing in this nation’s prisons. While I certainly do not place myself in that category, I am humbly grateful to You, Lord, for enabling me to meet, and learn, from four of them. This country will probably shy away from the stain this experience will leave on their lives, but you and I know that is a tragedy in itself, because each and every one of them has tremendous value to offer. Rising above them all is Richard Roy. His voice should be heard for many reasons after he leaves here, and I pray You will use him to reach out and help others. There will be those who will scoff at the notion that people who have spent time in prison, particularly for ‘our’ crimes, can ever be viewed as ‘great’ men or used to achieve any purpose beneficial to society as a whole. To those who would consider themselves in that category, I will offer some startling examples of how You have done exactly that in the past.

Moses was a murderer, yet he led the Israelites out of Egypt. Why did You use him? Because You are God and You saw what others could not see.

King David coveted another’s wife and orchestrated the death of her husband so he could claim her as his own, yet You used him to become the greatest king the Israelites ever knew. He also taught the world how to rely upon You and praise You through the many Psalms he authored, and Jesus Christ was born of a woman married to a man who was a direct descendant of his. Why did You use this once greatly flawed man? Because You are God and You saw what others could not see.

You did the same thing with Jacob, who was a deceiver; Rahab, who was a prostitute; Paul, who persecuted Christians; and Matthew, who was a corrupt tax collector. These flawed individuals, and many more throughout history, have been used by You for great purposes because You are God and You saw what others could not see.

The world is missing out if it discounts Your ability to help once-broken men and women rise above their brokenness and emerge prepared to offer great things to the world. Richard Roy is a superb example of the work You can do in a person’s heart. His family and friends are not getting back someone they should be ashamed of. He is being returned to them as a man who has been greatly blessed by You; as a man who has found favor with You; a man You intend to use in other ways now that he has done all he can do for me. Richard, I love you. Thank you for giving of yourself so generously. I know I can be quite difficult. You gave me your friendship and it is a great gift! WE DID NOT WASTE OUR MISTAKES!

We may be the Disbanded Broken Brothers, but as Your children, Lord, we are brothers all. I have seen Your power at work in the human spirit and it is awesome. I thank You, Lord, for Alan, Rob, Steve, and Richard. I am thankful BEYOND words that You have returned Richard to his family!

I requested your help and you provided it, as You always do. Thank you for the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who died so that men like us can find new hope, new life, and an eternity in Your presence.



Steve Marshall left Oakdale for the next stop in HIS journey. He has been transferred to another prison, this one in California, where he will be closer to family and friends who will soon be able to visit him on a regular basis. My heart is light with the joy that he must be feeling, but it is heavy with a sense of loss. I consider him my friend and an island of intelligence in a sea of insanity.

His contributions here in the pages of these “Chronicles” have always been meaningful, insightful, well-written, and thought provoking. They were also sincere, and flowed from his heart and Steve, for whatever it is worth, I know that you are a good person, and so do those other men here who took the time to get to know you.

Steve has a few more years yet that are owed to the Bureau of Prisons, but I pray that the time goes quickly and that it is punctuated heavily with hugs and kisses from those he loves.

I wish you the best of luck, my friend, and I ask God to watch over you, keep you safe, and protect your heart.

And just as quickly as an individual departs for another compound, a camp, a halfway house, or home, the space vacated is filled by another person in some stage of fulfilling their OWN obligations.

If every new person examines his heart the way Steve Marshall did, each one of them will be taking a giant step towards correcting what was broken that caused them to pass through these gates, disrupt their lives, and disappoint their families.

There seems to be no end to the supply of individuals who have crossed lines that should never be crossed. At the same time, there seems to be no end in sight to the irresponsibility of those who can do things such as those outlined in articles in these pages by Steve and myself that would help to raise awareness and reduce the number of ruined lives that need to become a part of this process.





For now, I will simply say, “Goodbye and good luck, Steve. You are a very good man and you will be missed.”

May God bless you all.