Helping Muffins Speak.

Can something as small and seemingly insignificant as a muffin really have a significant impact on a person’s life?

For the last several months I have immersed myself in an idea called “The Mission Muffin Co.” with exactly that premise in mind. Having benefitted from being taken in by, and made to feel welcome (and safe) in, this place called Central Union Mission upon my release from prison in May of 2014, God finally provided me with the courage to ask David Treadwell, the Mission’s executive director, a question that has since changed my life and will – with the help of many people – ultimately change the course of other men’s lives as well.

The question?

“Have I ever told you about my idea to make ‘Mission Muffins’?”

I hadn’t, to that point, but I did, and here we are.

This is an exciting time, and it is truly an exciting idea. Not because it’s mine, and not because it is particularly original in the grand scheme of things, perhaps, but because it is something new for Central Union Mission’s 130+ years of service to Washington, DC’s neediest residents, and it is something that possesses tremendous potential to impact men’s lives in remarkable ways.

The world is in such a terrible state that it is often easy to throw up our hands in despair and declare that nothing can be done. I know that from the perspective of people living in homelessness, it is difficult sometimes to avoid the feelings of hopelessness that can creep in. So many things can contribute to an individual’s sense of loss and lack of purpose: lack of adequate education; growing up and living in poverty; addictions to drugs or alcohol; errors in judgment that leave us with criminal records hindering or impeding any forward progress.

I believe that hope is never lost, and that something as tiny as a muffin can provide the spark that will make it burn brightly in a person. I believe that a muffin can speak to a man’s soul and inspire him to want to move forward, to learn, and to build a future. Many who have lived ‘normal’ lives and have grown up in ‘normal’ circumstances may look at the men the Mission serves and see a collection of ragtag individuals who are ‘not salvageable’, ‘unmanageable’, ‘beyond redemption’, ‘irredeemable’.

Muffins with a mission can change a man’s life. And you can help.

Check out The Mission Muffin Co. website and find out how.

“Happy Anniversary”

“Five Years: Time Flies When You’re Having Fun”

Five years ago today, at 11:55 AM CST, I ground my last cigarette under my foot in the parking lot of the Federal Correctional Institution at Oakdale, LA. With understandable trepidation, I walked through the front door saying goodbye to a life I was anxious to leave behind.

While the trepidation I felt was real, so was the hope I felt in my heart. A hope that I believe was put there by God as I embarked on a journey not of imprisonment, but freedom.


Yes. I walked into prison to become truly free for the first time in my life, and the past 5 years have been the most wonderful years of my life, I have never felt freer, and, yes, I spent 4 years and 2 months of that 5 years in federal prison.

It was the most negative of circumstances that predicated my imprisonment, but building a relationship with God gave me the strength, courage, and determination to allow God to produce the most positive of outcomes. I do not want to go back, but I am eternally grateful to God that I went.

God is indescribably amazing in the things He can do in us and for us if we only see our way clear to trust Him no matter what we may be facing. For more evidence of God’s work in my life, please check out The After-Oakdale Chronicles.

I miss the men I left behind, and I pray each one of them connects with God in a truly profound way and leans heavily upon Him when it is their turn to walk through the gates of the prison. Perhaps they will get a chance to read these words of “Thanks, guys!” for those things they provided me with while I was there. Prison is not the best place to make friends, but I made the best of friends there.

Thank you, God, for giving me new life to serve you, praise you, and to glorify your Holy name.

May God bless you all and keep you and yours safe from harm.

TODAY IS… an awesome day to thank God for the greatest gift of all. By Tony Casson

Time for another excerpt from the book, “Today Is….A Gift From God.”


December 25


an awesome day to
thank God for the greatest gift of all.

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:11 NIV

As the title of this book reminds us, each day is A Gift From God. The days of our lives are precious, each and every one. They hold out promise and hope. The days of our lives are among the most valuable of all gifts that God gives us, and there are many, as the devotionals in this book have attempted to demonstrate.

But the most precious gift ever given by the One who gave us this world in which to live, and our very lives with which to enjoy it, was the gift of His Son Jesus Christ, the One whose birth would change the world forever.

Zechariah used these beautiful words to describe the gift that the world would soon be given: “Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (Luke 1:79 NLT). The morning has broken, and it is surely a beautiful day!

Jesus came to occupy our hearts, but it is not a forced occupation. We must want Him there, and we must seek the light that He will shine upon those dark areas of our souls that we would like to say good-bye to. We must desire the life that will come when we learn the savior’s lessons that will teach us to die to ourselves. We must volunteer to serve and be willing to sacrifice all that we are and all that we have in order to receive all that He came to give.

Hopefully we are all aware that we must thank God each and every day for all of His grace, all of His love, and all of His mercy. But on this day that has been set aside to mark the arrival of the most valuable gift ever given, we must all be sure to give special thanks to God.

With this gift in our possession, we can feed those who are hungry, clothe those who are naked, house those who are homeless, and heal those who are sick. With this gift we can refuse to fall prey to the temptations of Satan and those he has corrupted on this earth. With this gift we can live in a significant manner and we can understand the concept of humble service to our brothers and sisters.

By accepting this remarkable, priceless gift of love, we can be better spouses, better parents, better friends, and better neighbors.

Let us all humbly, gratefully, joyfully, and tearfully accept this gift and say “Thank You” to Almighty God.

TODAY IS… a superb day to pray for peace. By Tony Casson

Time for another excerpt from the book, “Today Is….A Gift From God.


December 24


a superb day to pray for peace.

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”  Matthew 5:9 NLT

All of the chaotic preparations of the season begin to wind down. Last minute shopping, wrapping, baking, cooking, traveling; all of these things begin to end and we are ready to enjoy our families, our friends, our neighbors. Businesses begin to close early – those that are actually still trying to get things done – and a quiet begins to descend on our communities.

All that we have done to celebrate this time of year is acceptable to God. He loves to hear our laughter, and the sound of excited children. He loves our music and He wants families and friends to draw closer, be nicer, and love each other.

But God also wants each one of us to reach out and pray for peace throughout the world. Some people laugh or become cynical at the mere thought or mention of world peace, but this is something that would truly please God because we cannot have peace throughout the world without people loving each other, respecting each other’s differences and being concerned for each other’s health and welfare.

World peace is not something that is just for beauty pageant contestants to hope for. It is certainly not something to laugh about or refuse to think about because we see so many obstacles to it.

World peace should be in our prayers every day, but especially on this day. We should gather our families and thank God for our good fortune and for the love we share with one another, and we should use that time as an opportunity to collectively ask God to use His power to help make us all kinder, gentler, and more compassionate. We should take this little bit of time to teach our children the importance of giving thanks and giving the gift of prayer for peace throughout this world that God created for us to share with one another.

Those who feel that world peace is impossible are the very people that Jesus Christ was talking about when He said, “You don’t have enough faith,’ Jesus told them. ’I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.’” (Matthew 17:20 NLT).

Use the gift of prayer and your faith to move the mountains of hate, war, persecution and oppression. Pray to God for peace throughout the world.


TODAY IS… a fine day to pray for satisfaction. By Tony Casson

Time for another excerpt from the book, “Today Is….A Gift From God.”


December 23


a fine day to pray for satisfaction.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  Matthew 5:6 NASB

Today we are going to pray again, only this time, our prayer will be for our satisfaction. No? Too self-centered? Too selfish? Christ said that if we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we “shall be satisfied.” So if we take the gift of today and pray for God to “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:3-4 NIV), are we not exhibiting a hunger and thirst for righteousness? And are we not blessed by God for this and satisfied?

Prayer for other people who need it desperately will provide us with the satisfaction that we are reaching out to millions of people we will probably never meet and are making a difference in their lives. Prayer to God is a powerful tool in the fight against injustice and there is little that is more unjust than starving children, orphans and others who live their lives in a simple daily quest of survival.

At this time of year, many people open up their purse strings in a generous spirit to give friends and family wonderful gifts that express their love. But there are so many millions who have nothing to give, and who need so much for themselves. “Lord, You know the hopes of the helpless. Surely You will hear their cries and comfort them.” (Psalm 10:17 NLT). But millions of people around the world do not know to cry out to God for help. It then becomes our responsibility to cry out for them.

While it is perfectly acceptable to smile, be happy, enjoy friends and family, and exchange gifts at this time of year, it is also a very important time to pray to God to give us satisfaction by calling upon Him to strike down those who would prey upon the poor and oppressed of the world. “Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up Your hand. Do not forget the afflicted.” (Psalm 10:12 NASB). So many think that they can walk unnoticed upon the backs of the weak, “But You see the trouble and grief they cause. You take note of it and punish them. The helpless put their trust in You. You defend the orphans.” (Psalm 10:14 NLT).

God understands that perhaps our finances are limited, so there is not much we can do although we do all that we can. But the power of prayer cannot ever be emphasized enough, so if we pray several times throughout the day for justice for the poor and the oppressed, we are doing something positive, something that will help, and something that will bring us satisfaction.


TODAY IS… a good day to acknowledge that all you need is God. By Tony Casson

Time for another excerpt from the book, “Today Is….A Gift From God.”

December 21


a good day to
acknowledge that all you need is God.

“David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.’”  1 Samuel 17:45 NIV

Of the eight sons of Jesse, David was the youngest and least experienced in war. Unlike the rest of his brothers, as well as the entire army of Israelites, when David looked at Goliath he did not see a giant who was to be feared. Instead he saw an ordinary man in defiance of God. While his brothers, and even King Saul, thought the idea of David facing Goliath in battle was ludicrous, David’s only thought was victory for God.

Armed with his faith in God, David told Goliath exactly who would defeat him. “This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.” (1 Samuel 17:46a NIV). David knew that God would claim victory through him and his faith. While David would physically slay Goliath, it would only be possible because of God. “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:47 NIV).

David taught us that when we are doing the will of God there is no possibility of defeat. David also taught us to have confidence in ourselves when we are fighting battles in God’s name.

Because of his faith, David reaped great rewards. This is something we all need to take note of. If we can establish a relationship with God where our lives are lived with the goal of doing His will, we will find a path to rewards beyond our wildest dreams. When we ask God what He wants us to do, “You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:2 NLT).

Sometimes we get so caught up in complicating things that we forget how incredibly simple it all was when it began. God created a diverse world of beauty and wonder. He created birds to fill the air with music, and He created a multitude of creatures to walk the earth. He populated the oceans with fish of all different shapes and sizes, and planted trees that produced delicious fruits and scattered flowers about to add color and to scent the air. He created man and woman for no other purpose than to enjoy what He had made when He left them alone. He did not leave a long list of instructions. There were no cumbersome rules and regulations to follow. There was one simple rule – do not eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

We all know that did not work out so well. But we all have another opportunity to live uncomplicated lives. All we have to do is live for God. If we make our relationship with Him one of the complete faith and trust of David, then God will lead us to a life worth living and no one – not even Goliath – will be able to stand in our way.


TODAY IS… an excellent day to avoid the crush. By Tony Casson

Time for another excerpt from the book, “Today Is….A Gift From God.”

December 19


an excellent day to avoid the crush.

“Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, You forgive them all.”
Psalm 65:3 NLT

This time of year is a difficult one for millions of people. Certainly many people simply feel the crush of the season as “the day” approaches. Shopping, parties, family, friends – all good things, certainly, but each one adds to the burden that we carry. The good news for all of these people is that Christmas Day acts as a safety valve, and once it arrives, the pressure is off and many people relax and enjoy the peace and goodwill that seems to settle over the world, if only briefly.

Millions of others feel the weight of the season in an entirely different way. Millions dread the arrival of this time of year and many of us face severe bouts of depression and loneliness. Many are overcome with negativity and bring their self-worth into question. Many of us feel the weight of our sins and do not know how to keep from being crushed under that weight. There is no time that is good to feel the burden we feel when we are overwhelmed by our sins, but this time of year seems to make us more aware of the oppressive weight on our souls that comes as a result.

If we fall into the first group, there is not much that can help beyond patience – it will all be over soon. If we fall into the second group we need to turn to God and ask for His help. We also need the prayers of those in the first group.

Sometimes we feel that we have nowhere to turn. Our actions have caused us to dig ourselves deeper and deeper into darkness. We see no way out, other than to fill the hole in on top of ourselves, and the ability to see any light at the end of our personal tunnel has long since left us. We have forgotten that this season of joy, which we have allowed to become an additional weight on us, signifies the birth of the very One who can remove that weight from our shoulders and lift us up out of the hole that we have dug.

There is no problem that we have that is too big for our Lord. There is no sin too great that cannot be forgiven if we accept Christ into our life, repent of our sins, and ask forgiveness. There is no darkness that cannot be thrown into comforting light by the grace and glory of God if we will only reach out and ask God to take our hand.

Many, many people choose this time of year to pronounce a death sentence upon themselves. Pray for those who would take their life with their own hand and ask God to help them reach out for His hand instead so He may lift them up from under their burden.


Time for another excerpt from the book, “Today Is….A Gift From God” by Tony Casson

Time for another excerpt from the book,
“Today Is….A Gift From God.”


December 18


a fine day to accept the appointment.

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that He considered me faithful, appointing me to His service.”  1Timothy 1:12 NIV

Given Paul’s background as an ardent persecutor of those who followed Christ, what an unusual selection by Christ for one to serve Him. Or so our human minds would think. It is important to constantly remind ourselves that God sees into places we cannot see and knows things about us that perhaps we don’t even know.

The story of Paul is a great one on many levels, but one of the most encouraging lessons to be learned from Paul is that God will use us, regardless of our past, if we will only let Him. Paul could have refused the appointment, but he did not. This can only show that his heart was good in places that he couldn’t see. It took God to bring out his best, but it took Paul to let Him and to follow His instructions for service.

One of the things that distinguished Paul from many others was his commitment to travel in spite of the hardships that travel in those days presented and spread the Good News about Christ to everyone he met. He recognized the importance of the instruction Christ had given to His disciples when He said, “So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into His fields.” (Matthew 9:38 NLT).

God is trying to appoint all of us to become “Pauls’” as well. The question is how many of us will accept that appointment? If we have doubts, we need to examine the cause. Perhaps we have had “checkered” pasts. Maybe even darker than checkered. Jesus told His disciples that “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37 NASB). He was speaking about the abundance of people eager to be led to salvation and He was calling for prayer for those who would be willing to be appointed to be workers for Christ. If Paul, given his background, can accept the appointment of Christ then the person who should feel unworthy of service because of their past simply cannot exist.

If Paul can do it, so can you.

How we have lived our lives in the past is of no concern. How we are willing to live our lives in the future is all that is important. If Christ is calling you – if Christ is trying to appoint you – it is because He sees in you what may not yet be visible to you. It is not our place to second guess Him.

We must pray for courage to accept the appointment to serve Christ and not let our past hold us back from our future. And we must pray that others will accept the appointment as well, because “the harvest is plentiful.”


-THE LETTER- by Tony Casson

Like most people, I receive more email than ‘snail’ mail, so I was rather surprised the other day to hear my name during mail call. Most of the time, that occurs only to announce the arrival of a package, a book, or a magazine, and on this particular day I was not expecting any of those items. Upon being handed the letter, I looked at the return address, only to see that it belonged to a church of which I was not familiar. Nor was the writing which addressed the letter to me in a hand I recognized.

The letter was from a woman named Judy, and she was writing out of concern for a close friend. His name is George, and he is the godfather of one of her children. George is awaiting the day he is to self-surrender here at Oakdale, FCI, much as I did a little over 4 years ago. In searching for information on the institution itself, she came upon these Chronicles. Judy indicated George’s crime is the same as mine and she is concerned for him. I got the distinct impression that prison is a new experience for him, as it is for so many who are guilty of this, and other, internet computer crimes. Like all who are unfamiliar with the whole concept of incarceration from the perspective of experiencing it firsthand, George wonders what awaits him.

Judy’s concern for the welfare of this man is touching. She acknowledged reading that I am leaving soon, but she requested that I extend a hand of friendship to George and help him to find his way around if I should still be here when he arrives. This place can be quite surreal to those walking in off the street and who are accustomed to more civilized surroundings. There are adjustments to be made by those incarcerated, as well as by those on the outside who care about them, and I will do my best to offer advice to both.

My response to the letter is in two parts. The first is in an open letter to Judy; the second, an open letter to George. In presenting the letters this way, perhaps the information may be useful to others as well.


Dear Judy,

I thank you for your kind letter. I was deeply moved by your obvious compassion, kindness, and concern for George’s well-being. In your letter you indicated that you had read an article I wrote where I encouraged people to get involved with some of the organizations dedicated to working for positive change in the way our government ‘leaders’ deal with this very serious and destructive problem sweeping our nation like a California wildfire fanned by Santa Ana winds. I reiterate that encouragement here. Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL) national and state organizations are an excellent place to start.

George is fortunate to have a friend like you, Judy. For your part, and for others who know someone facing what George is facing, or who is already in a place such as the one from which I write, I would like to offer some tips that might make the experience less frightening or foreboding than it is for all concerned.

  • Communication is important, and hearing our names at mail call is something we can never tire of. We want to know what is happening in the lives of those we care about and we like to see pictures of life being lived on the outside. There may be concern that pictures will make us sad, and that is true on one level, but reassurance that those whose lives our behavior has impacted are still capable of carrying on, laughing, smiling, growing, and enjoying life outweighs whatever negative thoughts or feelings may be experienced.
  • I will say it again, “Communication is important”. Hearing the voices of those we love is something we need. Please take the time and visit “Google Voice” to obtain a ‘free’ local phone number for your inmate to call. The difference between having this number for someone living out of state is this: 15 minutes with a Google Voice number is $.90, whereas that same 15 minute call without it is $3.15. That’s like getting three calls for the price of one, plus a couple of soups from the commissary. It is very important that you take the time to do a little research. The correct area code is 318, but do not accept, or select just ANY prefix in the 318 area code. It MUST be a prefix that is specific to Oakdale ONLY, and there are only 2, I believe.
  • Books are always welcome. You can mail up to 5 paperbacks at a time, but do NOT mail them in a box. Mail them in an envelope-type mailer and do not mail more than 5 paperback (NO HARDBACK BOOKS MAY BE SENT FROM HOME) books or magazines at a time. More than 5 will result in ALL being returned. Official rules call for the package to be marked “Approved Per Policy”. If you purchase magazine subscriptions, provide them with something educational like Smithsonian or National Geographic. I received both while here and they were always in demand by others.
  • We do not have Google in here. We do like to ask people to look things up for us, and it is surprising to me how many people have difficulty getting that done. We know people on the outside are busy, but help where you can. I never felt unloved by family or other relatives, but the defining relationship of my stay here was the one developed with the friend of my sister’s I have written about many times in these pages: Diane Woodall. People do not have to be family to care about others or to reach out to help. The many, many, MANY pages of research Diane provided me with assisted me greatly in producing this body of work. It may not be what many people expected: A prison tell-all, full of the bad things that happen in prison and the tough conditions and circumstances. It IS prison, there is no denying that, but as Anthony (my Son) subtitled this blog, it is MY story, and I chose to use that story to chronicle my thoughts, but also to chronicle the changes my constantly growing relationship with God have wrought. I did what you need to encourage your friend George to do – focus on building that relationship with God and let the relationship lead him to the process of building a plan for the future. This place can defeat a person. This much is true. But each individual makes the decision to ALLOW that to happen. More on this in my letter to George. Diane’s diligent efforts on my behalf have contributed greatly to my ability to believe in the plan God has for my future. You have exhibited “Diane-like” qualities. I think George is very lucky. Not as lucky as me, of course! 😉
  • Inmates are allowed to bring in a Bible if they self-surrender, but I do not know the rules regarding hardback editions. Leather and paperback editions may be brought in or mailed from home. All hardback books of any kind must come from the publisher. If a Bible is not brought in, arrange to have one mailed in as soon as possible after arrival. I suggest a “One Year” Bible in the translation of your choice, and an accompanying “Life Application” Study Bible in the same translation.
  • Pick up a couple of devotional books to have ready to send in to your family member or friend as soon as they have arrived at their destination. “MY Utmost For His Highest”, Streams In The Dessert” are two wonderful sources of guidance, inspiration, and food for thought that have proven valuable to many people for decades. My own recently published collection of daily thoughts meditations, “TODAY IS….A Gift From God” is available at (Please do not think this is a shamelessly self-serving promotion. I am confident the messages God helped me to write will add something to each day for George and anyone else who purchases it.) Also, do not think that all three would be too many, as that is not the case. I read 6 different daily devotionals (including my own), and each one provides me with something useful to help me make the most of each day.
  • In all that you do, try to remember that nothing is forever. It is very difficult for many individuals to see their way through to the light that shines at the end of the tunnel (no matter HOW long the tunnel may be there is always light there). We may have a tendency to be full of self-pity at times. Be patient with us, but do not allow us to wallow in it.
  • Most important of all, support, encourage, and help your ‘inmate’ to make God the focus of their life. Many may have Him as a PART of their life, but that is not good enough. He must BE their life. Everything else must flow from that relationship; everything else is a part of our lives, but NOT God. There are many here who would disagree with me, but all I can do is try to impress upon people the amazing things He has done for me, and continues to do. The relationship He has built with me sustains me, and provides me with the Hope I need to have confidence in the future. I am not unique, or special. What He does for me, He will do for all who ask. This is not as difficult as we make it. It is unfortunate we allow it to appear that way.

May God bless you, Judy for reaching out on George’s behalf. I hope this information, and what follows for George, is helpful.

And now for George himself:


Dear George,

Your friend, Judy, wrote to me and asked me to help you. This letter represents that attempt. I pray it helps a little.

When you pull up in the parking lot on the day you are to surrender here at Oakdale, you will be filled with a variety of emotions. The razor-wire topped fence surrounding the compound can be quite intimidating to those not accustomed to seeing it. You will park in the visitor’s section and will reluctantly walk to the entrance. Walk confidently through the front door with your Bible in your hand, and God in your heart. The person sitting at the front desk will take it from there. Have the person dropping you off stay there until you are taken into the prison itself and have changed out of your street clothes. They will give you a bag to put your clothes in and they will give it to that individual. Leave your wallet with that person. Try to get your driver’s license renewed before you come in and leave it with someone out there. If it is valid when you leave that is one less thing to concern yourself.

This word will be easier for me to type than for you to put into practice as you find yourself totally under the control of strangers: RELAX. Everything you will experience from this point forward will be new to you, but you will come to no harm. You will be ‘processed in’ through R&D, receive your PPD (TB Test), and escorted to the S.H.U., which is the Special Housing Unit. It is also where they segregate self-surrenders until their PPD is read. Personally, I think it goes beyond that and is intended to let you know where you will go if you misbehave. It is not comfortable, but it IS temporary. 5 days for me, but I have known others who were in there longer. I didn’t like it, and have never visited again.

Again, just relax. Pray, read your bible, ask for books (You may or may not be successful getting them. It depends on who is working. I believe being polite and respectful helps. I read 3 in 5 days, but they were not anything I would have selected in the library. Still, I didn’t know I could bring in a Bible, so I did not have one to read. I would have read a milk carton.)

I spent 25 years in the restaurant business, and many of them were spent training new managers. One of the first lessons I tried to instill in them was this: From the moment we walk in the building, every action we take is geared towards leaving. This simply meant that we worked throughout the day and didn’t save things until the last moment. Going home was our goal. We tried to enjoy our job but leaving was the ultimate objective. Unlocking the door was simply the first step taken towards locking it at the end of the day.

Prison is no different. Focus on leaving and work toward that goal from the moment you enter. Enter with a positive attitude and you will stand a better chance of maintaining it once you are here. I chose God as the source of my strength, courage, and desire to improve myself. There are other choices one can make. I offer Him as the best one and no person on the face of the earth can tell me otherwise.

In the S.H.U. you will eat, read, and sleep. That’s pretty much it. You and your ‘cellie’ will take turns using the facilities. Privacy is, for the most part, gone, at least in the S.H.U., and to a lesser degree in the housing units. The degree of relative privacy you have depends on whether you are designated to a unit with 6 man cells, or 2 man cells. I am in Allen 1 and I have been grateful to God every day for my 2 man cell.

When you are released from the S.H.U. you will no doubt experience a second round of angst as you make your way through the compound to your housing unit. Being released from the ‘hole’, you will likely get out during a time when other inmates are moving around as well, instead of just after 4 PM count, which is the norm. The ones you pass and the ones you see in the housing unit will all look at you. It’s not you, personally. New people are interesting. People recognize individuals from other places, from home….it is just plain odd. Just ignore them and head for whatever room/bed is designated for you. If you happen to be designated to Allen 1, seek out Phillip in 132, or Brandon in 127. Given you have a few weeks to surrender, plus the time you will be in the S.H.U., I doubt I will still be here, but you can stop in 208 and say hello to my ‘cellie’, Pete. If you are assigned to any other unit, find out when you can go to the chapel, go there when you can and ask for Phillip, who is one of the orderlies there. From a spiritual standpoint, he can guide you to the programs and offerings that are here. He will also give you a pretty accurate overview of how things work and where things are.

You will adjust, and I can say this because we all do. The individuals who don’t are rare.

I cannot state unequivocally what your prison experience will be like, because it is different for everyone. I do believe that those who are miserable here each day make themselves so. I am thoroughly convinced that each day is a gift from God and we must make a conscious choice to use it to serve Him. In doing that, He will reward us with Hope and will fill us with optimism. Our past is there for us to learn from, but it does not have to deny us our future, although it surely will if we allow it to. I could write on and on about this place, but your attitude and your faith will determine how YOU see it. Perhaps Judy can share some of the other articles I wrote for my blog, such as “With Eyes Wide Open”. Perhaps she will share them all. I hope she shares this letter at least, and that you find it somewhat helpful

I have never found anything extremely negative to write about this place. It is prison, and people have jobs to do. As in any situation in life, not all people are friendly, and some can be particularly difficult, but for the most part, the staff here is made up of everyday people with families to take care of who are doing a job, making a living and getting on with their lives. I have not encountered any who are really hateful. Irritating, yes. Admittedly there are a few of those. My own personal experience has been that if you are respectful, upbeat, clean, personable, and demonstrate a sincere willingness to improve yourself, your interaction with the staff will be minimal, and positive when it does occur. They have plenty of problems to deal with and they really don’t want you to be one of them. Immaturity and irresponsibility are the order of the day for many inmates. Don’t be one of those. I made it a point to not create problems for others, and I have lived a productive four years in a place I would rather not be, but where I allowed God free reign to do His work. He has done a great job, I think. Let Him work on you.

The institution itself is pretty clean and in relatively good repair. The food is better than millions of people eat each day and thanks should be given for it. You will be safe and there are ways to report those who would cause you to think otherwise. Look to inmates who look to the future and are not defeated by this experience. Get involved with those who are working to change themselves, and maybe you will be able to help change others.

My words may be woefully inadequate, but I think I have done about all I can for you here. I wish you the best of luck and will pray for you. There are plenty of decent people in here, not the least of which are the ones I mentioned. I am going to miss many of them when I leave. Perhaps Judy can email me at and let me know how you are doing.

God’s peace to you, George.

Best wishes,

Tony Casson