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.

“Belated Happy Birthday, “TOC”!

On April 21, 2o1o the first article I wrote was posted on these pages for me by my Son, Anthony. “I Surrender!” proclaimed the headline, and my entry into the world of blogging began with 344 words. Happy belated 5th birthday!

While the first articles were very short (more along the lines of what blogging really is about), of the 235 articles posted since that day, that was probably the shortest. At the opposite end of the spectrum, almost 3 years to the day later, on April 18, 2013, I would post “unspoken”, which contained 10,077 words! Perhaps someday I will add them all up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the total word count comes in around 500,000!

According to Wikipedia, a novel is 50 to 100,000 words. Maybe out of those 235 articles I can extract enough to form the nucleus of a book about my experience.

Long or short; 100,00 words, or one million; each and every article that has contributed to this body of work has been important to me, and as I sit in my room at Central Union Mission in Washington, DC at 2:35 AM, I find my eyes filling with tears as my mind flashes back through the years and I recall  just how important this blog was during my incarceration. Over time, it became important to some of those around me as well. There is a story here. Or, rather, “TOC” (as it has become known) is a collection of stories that are very personal, and contributed mightily toward turning what could have been a completely negative experience into one of the most positive influences in my life.

“TOC” is where I, Tony Casson, finally became a man. With the editorial assistance of my beloved Son, Anthony, who started this project for me; my best friend and brother-in-law, Larry Peters, who picked up the ball and ran with it for a while; and my own personal Angel and dear friend, Diane Woodall, who was sent by God to ‘bring it home’, “The Oakdale Chronicles” helped to shape a life that was formless, and to define a faith that lacked foundation and clarity. Indeed, a faith that didn’t exist at all.

When I first arrived in Washington as a ‘free man’, I moved into a dorm with 23 other men in a building that housed around 170 each night. I now live in a separate room with one other man who is hardly ever here, and it is his absence that allows me to sit and bang away on this keyboard at this early hour in the morning. When I wrote the first 344 words for these pages, if I found myself awake and restless at this time of night, all I could do was sit up and look forlornly out the narrow, barred window next to my top bunk and gaze across the well-lit lawn at the tall fence topped with razor-wire that sparkled under the lights. I would have to wait till 5 AM for someone to unlock the cell door, allowing a little more ‘freedom’.

Now, I look out the window that has no bars and I can see the Walmart sign on the other side of the Government Printing Office parking lot. I can put on my shoes and walk a couple of blocks to Union Station and get a cup of coffee at Au Bon Pain, which is open 24 hours.

Or I can go back to bed.

Thank you, Anthony, for not giving up on your old man.

Thank you, brother Larry, for being a rock for me.

Thank you, my dear friend Diane, who still is there when I need her.

Thank you, dear “TOC” reader, for spending some time here. We are approaching 30,000 ‘views’, and while this is no “Huffington Post”, it is something.

And thank you, God, for being so loving, so forgiving, and so full of mercy and grace.

Happy birthday, “TOC”. Here’s to the next 5 years!


“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.


‘My’ bus finally rolled into the station and those holding tickets were all standing in line, waiting to board. I was not the only one who had been anticipating an earlier departure. The bus seemed larger from the outside than I had remembered, but once on board I became aware that what I was seeing was an optical illusion. While the exterior graphics package was a newer, updated version from the one I remembered, the interior actually seemed smaller than I recalled from times past. This, too, may have been an illusion, but the feeling of closeness on a full ‘Grey Dog’ indicates otherwise, and this ‘Dog’ was full of ‘fleas’!

None of that mattered however, as the predominant thought in my mind was that we were finally underway and I was going to be moving farther and farther from Oakdale with each passing minute. The entire undertaking was accompanied by a numbness of my senses that would prove to be a prelude to the numbness my rear-end would experience as the hours wore on. Still, as the ‘Grey Dog’ began its run towards Mobile, Alabama, I was acutely aware that the future had begun.

My traveling ‘companion’ for the first 8 hours or so was a short woman of Hispanic origin who was probably around 50. She did not speak English but required some assistance with her carryon luggage at each stop where we were required to leave the bus for 30 – 60 minutes. Those stops included Baton Rouge and New Orleans, with her final destination being Mobile. She was quiet, but pleasant, and offered me money for helping her. I declined, so she wrote her name and phone # on a piece of paper instead. As I had no phone, I had no number to give her, but I thanked her and did my best to explain. I made sure she got her bags from beneath the bus when she needed to do so and helped her get to a place where she could await those who were coming to pick her up in Mobile.

By the time we left Mobile, it was dark, and I was fortunate enough to be one of the first to board. I managed to get a window seat near the front of the bus. My next ‘companion’ was an attractive young woman named Mila (rhymes with vanilla). Most of the people who ride ‘The Dog’ look like people who ride ‘The Dog’.

Mila did not look like someone who rode ‘The Dog’. Before anyone asks, I cannot tell you what people who ride ‘The Dog’ should look like. You’d recognize them if you saw them.  I can only say that, as a rule, they don’t look like Mila.

There was also a young black couple on board who turned out to be a brother and sister who were traveling up into Georgia, and were changing buses in Atlanta. They had been on the bus since I first boarded it and were very well dressed, well mannered, and well spoken, and were traveling from one parent in the Houston area to visit the other parent in Columbia, Georgia. We exchanged pleasantries at each stop. Like Mila, they didn’t look like people who rode ‘The Dog’ regularly either. As it turned out, none of them had ever ridden a bus before, so if I am guilty of stereotyping, I guess I can at least say that I was good at it (hahaha).

Mila proved to be a very interesting young woman who was willing to spend time talking with an old man on a bus. When I asked where she was headed, she indicated she was traveling first to North Carolina to attend a wedding, then she was headed to Portland, Maine where she was going to intern for a state Senator. I told her about my connection to Maine (I was born there and had family there), and further discussion revealed that she had recently graduated from a Christian College in Pensacola. The course of the conversation ultimately revealed that she had been born in Romania and had been raised in Malaysia as a Muslim. She had converted to Christianity at 14, so I asked her about the difficulty that I assumed accompanied being a Christian in a predominately Muslim part of the world. Mila was very intelligent, open, and willing to talk about God, and was the perfect traveling companion (No offense to Olga, my little Hispanic friend).

I admit here that I mislead her about where I was headed and why. I was reluctant to tell her that I had just been released from prison. I did tell her I was headed to Washington, D.C. to live in a Mission, but I sort of led her to believe that I was going there to work, as opposed to going there to live until I could reassemble my much disassembled life. I did show her my copy of my book, “TODAY IS….A Gift From God” and I think she might have examined the back cover where I mentioned being incarcerated, but if she noticed, she didn’t say anything. More than likely it was simple politeness on her part.

Before I boarded my next bus, I saw her standing off to the side smoking a cigarette. I wrote down the address to these “Chronicles” and called her over. I gave it to her and asked her to check it out.

Perhaps she will even read these words. If she does, I hope she accepts my apology for any deception on my part. I was not intentionally trying to deceive for nefarious purposes, or out of any embarrassment or reluctance to discuss my experience and the reasons for the incarceration in the first place. In fact, had we had privacy, I probably would have told her as much as she wanted to hear, but the “Grey Dog” is not conducive to private conversations as we discovered by the interruptions into our conversation several times by a very colorful individual on his way to Washington as well. The conversation with Mila made the extreme tedium of the journey disappear. It was so nice to have pleasant, meaningful conversation with someone outside of the prison environment and I was glad to see I could still participate in such a ‘normal’ conversation.

As the night wore on, we both drifted off to sleep for a while. When we parted in the wee hours of the morning, I was sorry to see her go. We wished each other well, and I knew she would be difficult to ‘replace’ as a traveling partner. I was quickly proven right as my next ‘seatmate’ was a young man who chose headphones over conversation, which was fine, but it was also temporary as he was only next to me for a couple of stops. The crowd thinned out, and he would prove to be my last seatmate. As the morning dawned, I had a little more room to stretch out, and as we rolled into Charlotte, North Carolina the scenery had improved dramatically over Louisiana, Mississippi, and the southern part of Alabama that I could see before darkness had consumed the scenery.

Charlotte was home to my first really scrumptious ‘free world’ food. A black man who, by his girth looked like he really enjoyed food, recommended the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on Texas toast prepared in the little grill located in a corner of the bus station. Fresh, hot, and made to order, it was truly a thing of wonder. I love a good breakfast sandwich and this one was exceptional.

There still remained about 8-10 hours till we arrived in Richmond, Virginia, but the countryside was beautiful, the weather was gorgeous, and freedom was in the air!

I saw some lovely towns and cities throughout North Carolina and into Virginia. Since the bus was not an express, we sort of took the long way around, but in the end it was worth it.

The entire trip was about 32 hours, and by the time we rolled into Richmond at 7 PM the day after my release from Oakdale, the entirety of my derriere felt like it had been injected with Novocain. Those reading this may find that amusing, but I kid you not: My rear-end was numb, and it was a numbness that did not completely wear off for 3 days!

Seeing my sister in the bus depot in Richmond was one of the most welcome sights I have ever experienced. We hugged and left the station to the comfort of her Volvo crossover. We chatted for a few minutes as we left the city and headed north towards Lorton, where she lives, and then I used her cell phone to call Anthony, my son. To not have the call introduced by a mechanical voice saying, “This call is from Tony Casson, an inmate at a federal prison” was something I had anticipated for a long time. To not be reminded twice during the call that “This call is from a federal prison” was something I had also anticipated. And to not have the call terminated at the end of 15 minutes was priceless! We hung up when we were done talking and it was over 30 minutes before that occurred.

I missed my friends already, but I was thoroughly enjoying the stimulation of my senses by all of the different sights, sounds, and smells that accompany freedom.

There are not enough pages, nor am I in possession of enough talent, to ever adequately describe to you all that I thought about, saw, and felt during my first 36 hours of freedom. I can tell you this much, however: Whether or not that was my last run as a ‘flea’ on the “Grey Dog” or not, there will never be another bus ride which will mean as much to me as that one.

That ride carried me from the place God trained me to be for a little over four years, and delivered me to where He wanted me to be for the next phase of my life of service to Him. The unpleasantness of the physical discomfort of the trip itself is nothing when compared to the opportunities to serve God and glorify His name that I was being directed to.

Those left behind may think they are forgotten, but they are not. They are in my thoughts, my prayers and are a part of many discussions I have. God leads me and guides my steps as I work to help people around me now, but the men I left behind are an indelible part of who I am, how I think, and they will remain a part of my life.

I have written in the past in these “Chronicles” about the ability of our faith in God to allow us to be free no matter where we are, and those words still stand. For me, it was the “perfect prison experience”, and I had never been as free in my mind and my spirit as I was in Oakdale.

I carry that freedom with me into ‘the free world’ and I will use it to help me to fully appreciate the physical freedom of being on this side of the razor-wire. I will ask God on a daily basis to help me remember what Paul had to say about freedom in the Book of Galatians in the Holy Bible: “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NLT)

This responsibility Paul speaks about, “to serve one another in love”, is something that can prevent most of the things which cause men and women to go to prison in the first place, from ever happening.

Think about that.

For now, I am ‘dog’ tired. God bless you all and may He keep you and your families safe. I will be writing more on my experiences as time goes on, but I need to get these articles done and posted.


I didn’t sleep very well the night before my release (go figure). Poor Pete – my ‘cellie’ – was undoubtedly aware of my tossing and turning, to say nothing of my somewhat boisterous and frequent release of gas (nervous anticipation plus cabbage for lunch combined with that chili for the last supper equals, well, you get the idea). I’m not sure that ‘nervous’ is an accurate descriptive phrase, though. It was more a case of being flat out eager to meet the future and step out of the time capsule I had inhabited for 4 years, one month, and 20 days. I was excited to get a chance to demonstrate to everyone who was interested – be they incarcerated or ‘free’ – the full power of God to change us when we invite Him into our hearts and totally submit to His will. I was also chomping at the bit to put my faith in the Lord to work beyond the constraints of the fences and razor wire.

Finally, after bouncing up and down all night, looking out the window of our cell door, and praying, praying, praying for patience, our cells were unlocked about 5:10 AM. I took my last shower in the showers I had cleaned for 2 years as my second ‘job’ in the prison, finished getting ready, and looked around the 7’x11’ space I had occupied for the previous 4+ years, over 3 ½ of them with Pete as my roommate.

My locker had been emptied by the end of the previous evening, my little mesh carryon bag was ready to go, and I went downstairs to find a couple of people waiting for me that one normally would never expect to see at that time of day: “Big Bad Billy Bo-land” (ok, he really prefers to be called Brandon, he’s not real big, although he does need to lose some weight, and he’s not what I would consider bad at all; I just made that name up for its alliterative value and because it was very ‘prison’ sounding) and Stanley, my very first prison ‘cellie’, had made a special effort to get up and see me on my way. It was a gesture which was greatly appreciated. Due to an unforeseen power outage related to exterior security, we were subjected to an ‘emergency’ lockdown the night before, a full 30 minutes earlier than normal. Because of this, I had not completed my ‘rounds’ of farewells. I did not get to see Joseph, David, Brian, Dan, and several others for that one last time and I felt bad about it, but didn’t feel I should go around waking everyone up. Perhaps they will read these words and know that I wanted to tell them ‘goodbye’. They should all also know they will all be on my mind, and in my prayers.

Emotions ran high that morning, as they had the previous evening. When one asks God to help them use the experience of incarceration in a positive manner, the act of leaving becomes bittersweet. Powerful bonds were formed over the months and years, and it is difficult to describe the conflicting emotions at work within us all. In spite of the emotions involved and the love that develops out of positive relationships in prison, the time does come when the door opens for each person and that person must go. There is no putting it off. No delays are allowed. The call comes for an individual to go to Receiving & Discharge (R&D) and off you go.

The call came for me at about 6:15 AM and I said a few hurried, absolutely final farewells, and proceeded to walk through the compound, barely able to resist the urge to run. (There is no running on the compound, unless it is on the rec yard, but believe me, the urge WAS there!). Reluctance to leave was quickly turning into a need to leave. It was rapidly turning into focus on the enormity of the impending event. It was a very surreal moment and I felt as if I were merely skimming along the surface of the ground. In a few minutes, the BOP would be through with me, and I with them, and I would be on my way.

I arrived at the door and was dismayed that no one was standing there, holding it open, smiling in happiness over my release. OK, so that is not exactly true. I didn’t expect anyone to really care and I was not disappointed. The actual processing only took a few minutes. I discovered that a promise to pay me for the work I had done from the 1st through the 16th, along with the bonus my unit manager had indicated I would get as a parting ‘gift’, was not fulfilled. This was not financially devastating, but it was just one more thing to add to the pile of ‘things’ that made one wonder about the character, integrity, competence, and level of professionalism of the staff. In addition, there was a certified copy of my birth certificate and a new social security card in my file in my case manager’s office which I assumed would be given me, so I inquired about it. I was met with the response, “Didn’t you ask your case manager for it?” I could only respond with, “This is the first time I have ever been released from prison. How would I even know to ask? Shouldn’t it have simply been given to me?” I wrote down my sister’s address in Virginia and asked if he would please see to it that they were sent. In all fairness, I must say he was good to his word as they were actually received about 5 days later.

Lt. James was the lieutenant on duty, so he had to come make sure they were releasing the right person. He shook my hand and wished me luck. No one had shaken my hand for 4 years, leaving me to think staff was afraid they were going to catch something. Perhaps they would have caught something, but it would have been more along the lines of something called professionalism, respect, and raising people up. He also wished me luck and walked me out to the building I had entered on April Fools’ Day, 2010. They went through one last ‘verification’ procedure and then someone pointed me to a white Ford Ranger idling in the parking lot, and I went out the door. That act was every bit as surreal as entering the building 4 years earlier, but in a very, very, very good way!

No one stopped me, called me back, or paid me any further attention. The only person interested in me now was the inmate from the camp next door whose job it was to deliver me to the bus station in Lafayette. The bus station was about 90 minutes away and I was looking forward to whatever scenery the surrounding countryside would afford me. It proved to be a very pleasant trip through piney woods and fields used for growing cotton and rice. The inmate driving the pickup truck was ‘short’ as well, having only 23 days left before his own release.

My excitement built as we drew closer to the point from which my ‘journey’ would officially begin. The camp inmate’s final task was to escort me into the building and make sure I purchased a ticket (non-refundable) for the correct destination. I had prepared my sister for picking me up at the bus station in Richmond, Va. based upon the departure time of the 9:15 AM bus, but that bus was sold out. I had to purchase a ticket for the next one, which didn’t leave till about 1:30 PM, leaving me several hours to kill, and a problem to solve: How to notify Kathy, since there were no pay phones in or around the station, and I had no cell phone, of course. I asked the inmate if he would notify the officers back in Oakdale and he said, “They don’t care. They are done with you. You’re someone else’s problem now.

And with that, he was gone.

Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, control of my life had been handed back to me. For sure, it was not an absolute “I-am-in-charge-of-my-own-destiny” type of control. After all, I was expected to board the bus and report to my Probation Officer within 72 hours, but the control I did have was of mammoth proportions when compared with the lack of control I had had as an inmate at Oakdale FCI.

I had the same control over my life I had when I was expected to self-surrender 4 years earlier: I could not do what was expected of me if I so decided! I could run! I could flee! Fortunately, the time I had spent in Oakdale taught me many things, and high up on the list was the fact that I had spent a good portion of my life ‘fleeing’. It took some work, but I finally figured out that it was myself I was always running from, and no matter how hard I tried, I had never been able to escape me. Wherever in the vastness of this country I wound up, I was always there. Besides, fleeing would set the U.S. Marshalls upon me and I didn’t want to wind up facing Tommy Lee Jones in a storm drain trying to convince him I was a good person with him telling me that he didn’t care.

Nope, the best thing to do would be to figure out a way to call Kathy and let her know of the change in schedule, and proceed as planned. I wandered around in downtown Lafayette for a while searching fruitlessly for a payphone, and I finally gave up and walked back to the station. The man behind the desk told me to ask people to use their cell phone, but I felt really awkward about that. I finally got up the nerve to ask a friendly looking Hispanic man, and he turned me down. I have written about my past experiences with rejection, and I began to get a little tense, but I prayed silently (really, really prayed!) and tried another man who thought I was going to ask for a smoke at first, but gladly let me use his phone. I left Kathy a message, since it was only to be expected that she wouldn’t be available to answer. She called back right away, though, and he handed me the phone as soon as he saw it was a number he didn’t recognize. I gave her the new info, we chatted for a few moments, and then I hung up. I was considerably more relaxed now, and spent some time talking to the man whose phone I had borrowed. He worked on offshore oil rigs and had just come in for his shore time.

Many people wanted to know what the first thing I was going to eat was. What we envision and what constitutes reality are often two different things, as I have come to learn, and accept. What I wanted was unimportant. I actually went to a Burger King near the bus station and ordered a couple of breakfast sandwiches and a carton of milk. One of the sandwiches was the wrong thing, and the first mouthful of “ultra-pasteurized’ milk carrying an expiration date of a full month in the future was sour. Flat out spoiled. Maybe they weren’t aware that even though it was ‘ultra’ pasteurized, it still required refrigeration.

Welcome to the free world. Still, all things considered, it was the best-tasting sour milk I’d had in 4 years, and there had been plenty in Oakdale.

There wasn’t much I could do beyond watching the minutes, and the people, pass as I waited to board the bus that would take me miles away from here. I did buy a hot dog off of a cart outside the station as it got closer to noon, but I didn’t wander very far even though I knew when the bus was coming and could have gone exploring. I felt rather conspicuous in my cheap blue jeans and white golf shirt issued by the prison. It seemed as if I had this big sign on my forehead that announced who I was, where I had been, and the reason.

I began to pray in earnest for the patience to be calm, to be strong, and to be content. It would take all of that, and more, because my time was coming, and I hadn’t ridden on the bus in over 30 years. Like it had done me, time had changed the “Grey Dog” as well.


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 ( 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…………


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.

“Today Is…a good day for a sneak peak” By Tony Casson

I know that I have been remiss in posting things here lately, but there is so much going on and I have so much to do in order to be ready for my release next May. I have many projects I am working on. The most significant thing has been completing all of the first drafts for my book of daily devotionals. My dear friend Diane has been hard at work interpreting my torturous printing and doing the typing to get it ready to be published as an E-book (hopefully in November…stay tuned). It is a major step for me in my walk with God, and I am humbled at the work He is doing through me. The title of the book is “Today Is….A Gift From God”, and I would like to share this entry for August 14 with all of you. Your comments would be deeply appreciated.

August 14


the perfect day to take back what has been stolen from us.

 “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” 
Romans 16:20a NIV

            Every single one of us has had something stolen from us by Satan. No one has escaped except for Christ. We all have given into temptation and we all have sinned and every time we have sinned, we have allowed Satan to take something else from us. We have been his willing victims.

He has stolen dignity from some of us. From others, he has stolen decency. He has stolen our faithfulness to our spouses and our faith in God. He has stolen our truthfulness, and he has stolen our integrity. We have let him slip away in the darkness with our morality, and we have let him get away unnoticed with our kindness. He has pocketed our happiness, and smashed the windows to our souls and left the space empty. He has cheated us out of our love for ourselves, leaving us unable to love anyone else. He has conned us out of our certainty, leaving us with our doubts.

When we weren’t looking he walked away with our compassion, and left disdain in its place. While he distracted us with self-indulgence, he swiped our desire to help others and replaced it with selfishness. He has stolen our tolerance while trying to convince us that hostility and impatience were better suited to our personalities.

He has stolen our sight, making it impossible to see the pain of others and he has taught us to lie, cheat, and steal while we have hungrily pursued the education.

More than likely, what Satan has stolen from you is somewhere in this list. If not, it needs to be added, because everyone has lost something. Some of us have lost more than one thing, and perhaps more than a few have lost it all. He will try to prevent you from calculating your exact losses. He will try to cloud your judgment, distract you, or take something else from you. He pretends to be the best friend you ever had, but he is – in reality – the biggest danger you have ever faced. He will suck everything good out of you until there is nothing left but your last breath and then he will take that as well.

But the Good News is that today is not going to be like yesterday. Today we are going to take it all back. God has been waiting for today for a very long time, and He is glad that it is here. We must reach out and ask God to take our hand and tell Him we want everything Satan has stolen from us. Today is the perfect day to take it all back, and God is the PerfectOne to help us all get it.

“When I Get Out of Prison, I’m Going Straight”

By Tony Casson & Steve Marshall

    Nah, I’m not talking about “going straight,” as in “no more criminal activity for me,” although Lord knows, that’s the truth because I am never coming back here again. But I am talking about… well, let me just tell you:

When I get out of prison, I’m going straight to the first bathroom I see that doesn’t have bunk beds or other people in it and I’m going to close the door without hanging a towel over the window. I’m going to sit there without fear of a man with a big keychain flinging the door open to see if I am actually doing my business or am I having sex with another inmate, smoking dope, masturbating or killing myself. I would just like to sit there, relax, read the paper and use the toilet.

When I get out of prison, I am going straight to the nearest refrigerator and stand with the door wide open, bathed in the light and the coolness and think back to the days when my mother’s voice would interrupt my reverie with “Anthony Edward, close that door!”

When I get out of prison, I’m going straight to the nearest mall and walk… just walk. I’m going to stop and look in the windows of the stores that interest me with no one yelling at me to “Move along!” and no one calling me to one side and running their hands over my body to see what I may or may not be carrying.

And speaking of walking… when I get out of prison, I’m going straight to a place where I can walk for miles and miles, walking aimlessly, taking in the sights and smells and sounds. No more left-hand turn walks around a distorted circle that made me feel like a NASCAR driver with no car; and when I call my sister and tell her I walked four miles and she asks, “Really? Where did you go?” I will tell her of my adventures instead of reminding her that I was in prison and walked around in a circle.

When I get out of prison, I’m going straight to the supermarket and I am going to walk right past the Ramen noodles and the rice and beans and I am going to head right to the meat department where I will pick up packages of steaks and thick pork chops and whole chickens and hold them close to me and kiss them – although probably just those I am buying, and I will try to make sure no one is around. And when I get home with my purchases, I am going to cook a big pile of meat and then I am going straight to the utensil drawer to get a real knife and fork with which to eat my big pile of meat. Metal ones. A sharp knife. Whoa… givin’ me chills here!

When I get out of prison, I am going straight to a big, soft comfortable bed that doesn’t sit four feet away from a toilet, doesn’t make my bones ache and doesn’t require me to climb up on a chair, then a table to access it. It also won’t have an overweight old(er) man snoring with a disturbing wetness in the bunk below me because there will be no bunk below me and if there is another person around, it will definitely not be another male. (“Not that there is anything wrong with that!” J. Seinfeld)

When I get out of prison, I’m going straight to the closet, where I will hang my clothes and then to the kitchen, where I will put away my food. My clothes and my food will miss each other, but that is too bad. They will get reacquainted with their own kind and will never share the same space again.

When I get out of prison, I’m going straight to the refrigerator – again! I just love the refrigerator. I will open the drawer with the vegetables and gaze lovingly upon the tomatoes and cucumbers; the zucchini and the mushrooms; the onions and fresh corn; I will pass on the carrots and cabbage for quite some time, however.

When I get out of prison, I’m going straight to my front window and gaze outside, watching the passing parade of people, pets and automobiles. And when I feel the time is right, I will open the front door and step outside myself without having to wait for the aforementioned gentleman with the keys to show up and decide when he would like to let me out.

When I get out of prison, I am going straight to the television and I am going to turn it on – and turn it off – turn it on and off again. I may even just stand there with the remote, changing channels and I will do it without someone beating me for touching it in the first place. And when I do find something I want to watch, I will do so without ear buds in my ears and a radio tuned to the proper frequency.

Yes, let me tell you, when I get out of prison, I am going straight!

I’m also going to stay out of trouble.