401 | Fighting with Forgiveness

September 20, 2015
Sunday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #401: Fighting with Forgiveness


Dear Family,

I’m so grateful to God that my dad is recovering well from surgery, and I’m grateful for all who have been praying for him. Thank you!

A couple weeks ago, while Andrew and I were performing for the warden and others, an officer who was unfamiliar with our pod worked. Normally, when you are out of the pod, the officers will not unlock your cell during the hourly locks, leaving it secure. Even if you’re out in the dayroom, most won’t open it unless you’re standing near the door.

Well, this lady must not have been paying attention, because she unlocked our cell door though neither of us was inside or nearby, which enabled someone to run into our cell and steal over $200 in items from me. I noticed the theft as soon as we returned, but I decided not to mention it to any of my friends. Though I knew they’d be concerned, I didn’t want anyone to take matters into their own hands. Many of my friends have offered to harm anyone who bothers me, but I don’t handle my problems that way. Instead, I called 911.

See, I live in a virtual fortress, with 24-hour surveillance. Though I can’t check the cameras myself (something about it being above my pay grade), I know someone who can. I went straight to my boss and asked him to check the cameras, which would prove that staff negligence caused the theft. (Many of you may recall something similar that happened to me three years ago, with staff at fault.) I knew that I would at least be reimbursed for my loss if it could be proved that staff was partially to blame for the incident.

Well, even though I had strong suspicions about who could have stolen the items, the word came back that apparently, my cell door is too far away from the nearest camera for anything to be visible. Of course, this fact greatly increased my sense of security and well-being.

With the video turning up as a dead end, I put out feelers to my friends, who were able to confirm that the inmate I’d suspected had indeed taken my items. When staff raided his house, they found all of my items in perfect condition and soon returned them to me. Since the guy’s cellie had contraband with his belongings, he took the blame for stealing from me and was removed from our pod. The actual thief, whom I’ll call John, stayed.

John had no idea about my active role in recovering my belongings, so he continued to be friendly to me in the pod. Then, a few days later, he came to me, asking for my advice about a legal issue he was having. Since many guys have not had much formal schooling, basic paperwork can seem daunting, so I try to help where possible. I offered to sit down with John and figure out how to file to get three months of good-time credits he’d lost due to disciplinary issues restored. By this time, word had gotten out that John is a “Jailhouse Thief,” just one notch below a snitch in most prisons, so my friends were shocked to see me with him.

As I sat with him and filled out all the necessary forms, documenting his need for a restoration of credits, my prayers for God to increase my compassion for him were answered. With John sitting right next to me, I turned to him and said, “John, you need to seriously stop doing drugs. I know you’ve gotta think sometimes, ‘Man, I need to stop this,’ right?”

At first, he sat there, stunned, then nodded, ekeing out an embarrassed, “Yes.”

Knowing he could leave prison in November if his time gets restored, I urged him to change his life now. I pointed out a couple of guys in our pod whose minds are burnt out due to excessive drug use, to show him where he’s headed. I told him that it’s obvious how several guys here are just using him but don’t care at all about what happens to him. “John, you’re only twenty-one and if you don’t want to keep coming back here, you need to change,” I told him.

After finishing his paperwork and addressing an envelope for him, I went for a few more pieces of advice about working hard and stopping his ongoing process of tattooing weird things all over his face. Then, looking right at him, I said, “I know you stole my stuff, John.”

His eyebrows furrowed in the middle, questioning my statement. I pointed to them. “Ah, ah, ah,” I said, scolding him. “We were tracking just great until you did that with your eyebrows, lying to me. Look, I’ve forgiven you already, and that’s why I’m helping to get you home sooner. I actually do care about you. Do you know why? Because Jesus loves you. He cares enough about you to die for you, and if there’s any chance that you might see that He really does care about you, it’s if I show His love to you. You need to seriously stop running into people’s houses and taking things that don’t belong to you. If you expect to live a different life someday and make your mom proud of you, you’ve gotta choose different friends and make different choices than you’ve been making.”

John looked intently at me the whole time I was speaking. I went on to give him advice for how to act while at work for a company who has already agreed to give him a chance, and how to put his family first instead of himself.

Just before we got up, I said, “Now, you did ask for my forgiveness, didn’t you?” knowing full well that he hadn’t. Some guys want to beat someone up who wrongs them, but this was my way of getting the same thing, but better.

John looked down, then mustered all the courage he had, grabbed me in a hug and said, “I’m sorry!”

I can only pray my words will sink in, and that John will give God a chance.