March 27, 2016
Sunday, 9:00 p.m.
Letter #428: Good and Evil
Happy Resurrection Day! I’ve just finished a beautiful weekend with my parents and a special Lord’s Day with my Christian friends. My heart often overflows with awe at God’s favor and blessings in my life, and this day, this weekend, was no exception.
Immediately following my graduation in January, my parents applied and got approved to visit a few of my friends they’d met that day, including the inmate “pastor” for our chapel (who also sings in my choir) and my drummer. While some of my visit time is with both of my parents, I enjoy spending time one-on-one with each of them while the other parent visits a friend of mine for a couple of hours. The guys who receive visits I choose based on my relationship with them (I like to have my family meet my friends), whether or not they receive visits from anyone (we all prefer to bless those who don’t receive visits normally), and if I feel a visit could be beneficial in a particular way (such as with those who have been abandoned by their family or faced a recent loss of a loved one).
This weekend, during the sixteen hours of visiting, my mom visited Jay, the pastor, and Richie, my cellie. Both had never received any visitors during their combined twenty-five plus years of incarceration, making the prospect of a visit both exhilarating and nerve-racking. My dad visited a friend of mine he’s visited before, and my drummer, Clyde, who enjoyed his first visit of his eleven-year term thus far. Many guys who hear that my parents have visited other inmates comment on how “generous” I am, saying that they would never share their own family with other inmates. I have to explain that they just don’t understand my parents, who have requested to visit other inmates or expect me to suggest inmates they could visit. My awesome parents have come to realize how a simple two-hour visit with someone can dramatically bless that person and even alter the course of his life. I know it sounds exaggerated, but I have seen it now at least a dozen times, where friends of mine are more impacted by my parents’ visit with them than anything else they’ve experienced in prison. Sometimes just the simple act of conversation and a hug is all the breakthrough that is needed, and most of my friends will tell my parents far more than they’ve ever told me, especially regarding their committing offenses, which my parents keep in confidence.
Back in my pod after Friday’s visit, I groaned inside when I saw which officer was stationed there for the afternoon-to-night shift. Known to be perpetually cranky and a stickler for rules no one knows exist, he is normally stationed in another unit, out of sight and out of mind. The last time he worked in our pod, my cellie received two fantastically misspelled and grammatically incorrect write-ups from him along with a couple dozen other guys. The time before that, this particular officer wrote disciplinary warnings for over forty guys. I’m always wary of him.
I started by greeting the officer; then I disappeared into my cell until I had to teach piano that night. Most officers do five-minute cell unlocks, giving you enough time to get everything you need together before you exit. This guy just goes around unlocking the sixty doors then immediately shuts them, slamming them shut if it seems you may need a couple more seconds.
After I taught piano, I showered as usual, then waited patiently in front of my cell door for him to unlock it for me for the end-of-night programs lockdown and count. I even said, “Thank you, sir.” (I know. Polite, right?) As he left my cell (the next-to-last one on the tier) to begin shutting the others, I quickly grabbed my ice bucket as I usually do, ran downstairs to the ice chest, scooped it full, and was back inside my cell with the door shut before Mr. Cranky had even turned down my row. I’d been gone maybe twenty seconds, tops, and what I’d done is within our rules and rights.
That didn’t prevent the officer from slipping a write-up disciplinary report in my door as he left for the night. Typed in his trademark grade school English (not private school, but bad neighborhood grade school) he’d claimed that I had “refused to lock down when given a direct order” (I am translating here.) In the morning, I went to my Case Manager to ask what I could do about it, and he said: “Nothing. Besides, though it will go into your file, it’s just a 128, not a 115” (a serious write-up, resulting in a loss of good time credits). I said, frustrated by his lack of doing his job and managing my case: “Thank you. I know what it isn’t. I know it’s also not a pumpkin. What it IS is something an officer fabricated that will stay in my file.” I left and asked for a lieutenant. I explained to the lieutenant that I have no write-ups in eight years, and as a sex offender, there isn’t much more I can do here to prove I’ve stopped breaking the law than to not break the prison rules, so I don’t want made-up garbage in my file. He agreed to look at the security footage to see that I was correct, as I requested. Later, he told me he’d gone and removed the write-up from all my records. What a relief I felt!
This tiny blemish removed from my prison record is nothing compared to the blot God removed through Jesus’ death and resurrection, making me forever clean in His eyes. Oh, that I would keep that record pure!