October 24, 2010
Sunday, 3:00 p.m.
Letter #156: The Punch
Greetings! Do you have anyone in your life who gives you the creeps (besides me)? That person who you aren’t thrilled to see, who makes you roll your eyes, sigh, and say to yourself, “Great. Here we go again.” Family members excluded. Right-o. That person.
Well, I have a few who live within spitting distance of me. And few is a conservative number. In our pod (see diagram below), which is approximately ⅛ the size of a high school gymnasium, we have our fair share of toughies, dingbats, creeps, and normals (those are not official prison slang terms). But one guy has risen above the rest. Since his arrival a couple of months ago, he has: kicked a hall metal detector, intentionally skipped school, yelled at staff, kissed females through the fence, and even fought another inmate in our pod, to name only some of the infractions that have made him get several disciplinary actions against him and earned him the nickname “Wacky” in our pod.
Last Thursday, he was in the middle of a punishment where you have to stay in your cell, except for mealtimes. I saw him sitting at his table while I was getting ready in the morning, and I instinctively rolled my eyes and all that. Still inside my cell with the light off, God convicted me, immediately prompting me to pray for him instead. So, I asked God, “Lord, do whatever it takes in Fernando’s life to bring him to You.”
We all had breakfast, and four hours later, we were all standing around, waiting for lunch to be served. I was talking to someone who had just passed his GED test when the right side of my head felt like I’d been hit with a bat. My ear practically exploded, and I covered it with my hand. I instantly knew I’d just received the first punch of my life, so I just staggered to my seat and sat at my table.
Fernando then came from behind me to where I could see him, across the table from me. He said, “Why are you messing with little girls?” then sat at his table, next to mine.
I asked him to come over and talk with me, but he kept shaking his head “no,” and a couple buddies of mine told me to leave him alone. So, I just got his attention and told him, “I forgive you.”
He and I haven’t ever sat and talked about my crimes, as I have with nearly everyone else in my pod and a few from other pods. His mental instability and hotheadedness made me keep my distance from him when possible.
I’ll often engage in conversation with others about victim advocacy, rehabilitation ideas and the like, and I get great support from most everyone. Thus, there was a shocked silence and major tension in the air after it happened.
So many guys kept coming up to me, asking if I was alright and telling me how lucky Fernando was that he hit me only once. Whole groups of guys who saw, quickly determined they’d jump in if he tried to get at me again. I thanked each one, but told them I was grateful no one jumped Fernando, making the problem worse.
Several guys started “trash-talking” him, calling him a “sissy” and “coward” for sneaking up on me. “You could have picked a fight with someone you knew would at least fight back, Wacky,” someone jeered.
I asked guys to stop picking on him, but he kept receiving veiled threats throughout lunch. A guy in my Self-Confrontation class, Fernando’s cellie, confided that he’d been talking about “beating up” me for over a month. His cellie had tried to talk him out of it but had wanted to “not get involved.”
After lunch, I stayed in my cell to make it obvious I wasn’t going to the unit office to “snitch.” I didn’t ask anyone else to “rat” on Fernando, either. Before dinner, however, a group of officers came and put him in handcuffs and escorted him to the Administrative Segregation Housing Unit, commonly known as “Ad-Seg,” “the SHU,” or “the hole.” I was taken to medical after dinner, where I was told that I have some inner ear damage that should heal on its own within a few weeks.
Someone had tipped off the officers who reviewed the camera footage from my pod. My unit manager said it was one of the “most cowardly things I’ve seen,” and asked me why I hadn’t told the staff about the incident.
I told them how I’d just prayed for Fernando that morning, had told him I forgave him at the table and how, three hours later, I’d gone up to his door and asked to talk with him. He’d tried to wave me away, but I persisted until he stood to look at me. “I just wanted you to know I love you, Bro,” I said.
He mouthed back, “I love you, too,” and gave me a thumbs up before I went back to my cell. Not 15 minutes later, they took him away. My main concern is that he sees Jesus and changes the direction he’s headed in.
A buddy from my pod had to be held in Ad-Seg for a couple hours the next day, and he was placed near Fernando, who was complaining and yelling at staff. The warden approached him and told him that he is looking at a mandatory six-month to one-year sentence extension for the aggravated assault, and up to five years if I choose to press charges. I’ve prayed about it, and my Righteous Judge is leading me to let it go.
Please pray that the warden allows me to send Fernando a letter or meet with him. Thank you for vigilantly lifting me up to God, that He would find me a usable vessel for His service!