72 | Pals, Programmers, and Punches

January 29, 2009
Letter #72: Pals, Programmers, and Punches


Dear Family,

Greetings! We’ve had beautiful weather, ugly fights, and difficult changes here at the ranch. Let’s see if I can give you the rundown, from least to most significant, as it concerns me. Thank you for your prayers for me!

It seems as if Officer Godinez is “back.” That is, we’ve all deduced he never really left. Therefore, it seems as though he’ll continue confiscating stuff from our packages as usual. It’s not a huge deal, but I just wish he’d stick to the list of restricted items in the package catalogs, instead of creating a fictitious list of things we can’t have. (“Oh? You have Skittles? Yeah, those aren’t allowed …” even though they sell Skittles at our canteen and I’ve already had Skittles sent in before. Whatever.) I’m sure I’ll live …

James Soria (my singing buddy) has applied for a building transfer several times now and keeps getting denied. He wants to be housed in my building so we can practice music (like an a cappella quartet) together more often (dayroom, especially), being that the logistics of scheduling practices are a bit difficult without email, cell phones, etc. Proximity is therefore an asset. Well, James is considered a “programmer”* so his building cops don’t want him to leave the building. Complicating this is the fact that his current cellie has AIDS and is not a clean individual. Please pray that James can move soon!

John Zelen (my other singing buddy)’s cellie, Mario, is a tiny, cantankerous old guy who’s been doing time nearly 40 years. He doesn’t handle problems very well, and it seems I’m always encouraging him to be more Christlike and do the right thing.

Well, a couple of days ago, his neighbor was playing rap music loud enough to hear next door. Mario tried shouting through the vent to get the music turned down, while John simply put on his own radio** with headphones.  🙂 

Mario heated up pretty good, picking up his hard plastic state cup and banging it on the metal vent cover. Yeah. Atta boy, Mario. Get ’er done! (Recommended reading, pal: How to Win Friends and Influence People)

Well, this new expression of heavy metal got the attention of the not-so-lovable guy upstairs (whom I’ve never seen in a good mood). He’s a white supremacist, so he and I have lots in common, except that he’s stupid. Anyhoo, he used some colorful language to tell Mario where to put his cup, and the little guy didn’t exactly comply. Words turned to promises, as most relationships do, and then everyone’s doors were popped open to release for yard and dayroom.

The Man Upstairs (but not God in this case) came down to make good on his promises, and Mario told him not to come into his cell (a common practice, if you want to fight in private) but to be a man and handle it in the dayroom … which he did, punching Mario in the face.

As I came out of my cell, I saw the big guy—a full foot taller than Mario, half his age, and nearly twice his weight—push Mario in the chest. Now, I didn’t have a clue about the morning’s drama thus far, but I know a bully when I see one. I walked in between them, just as the floor cops yelled for everyone to get down on the ground. It turns out they’d seen the punch to the face, which means that Mr. Hitler gets an automatic additional felony. Hope it was worth it, Bro.

Mario is still in the hospital—possibly due to injuries sustained when a cop knelt on his back to put handcuffs on him. Please pray for Mario (and John, who’s thinking that a new cellie might be a good idea … )

My buddy Mike Guerra, whom I’d moved to my building, just had major problems with his cellie, who was stealing from Mike, harassing him for his beliefs, and even trying to get him in trouble by lying to the cops about him (my own cellie overheard him twice doing this!). The final straw wasn’t when Bernard threw Mike against the wall of the cell (Mike talked him down) but was the next time Bernard laid hands on him, punching him twice, then grabbing Mike’s neck to continue hitting him as he choked him. Well, Mike hit him until Bernard let go, and now they have moved Mike out, back to his original building. Praise God, he’s doing well now.

The biggest change? Trinity left—suddenly; he was given 20 minutes’ notice and was taken to Mule Creek, only an hour away from his family. We’re all happy for him, sad for us! I’ve stepped up and will be delivering regular Bible Studies on the yard now. God is good!




*Programmer: One who “programs” or otherwise does not get into trouble but sticks to his own program of activities to keep himself amused.


**Radios used to have speakers, which are no longer allowed, but as guys leave, they pass along their old radios with speakers to their pals. Thus, until the radio dies, it still is used, driving someone nuts.