Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Failed Intervention?

"History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives." – – Abba Eban

Here's a story I've been wanting to tell for a while now but just figured people wouldn't believe it – – either that or they would think I was nuts. But I'm beyond caring about that anymore and I believe it really is something interesting to consider. So here goes; readers can make of it what they will.

This took place in Austin, Texas, just months before my crime – – the robbery. It happened twice; and both times had everything to do with me eventually coming to prison.

But first, a little history: I've driven all over this country. Prior to Austin I'd lived in Seattle for many years and could find my way anywhere without a problem. I'd driven all over Los Angeles and San Francisco and Houston and Chicago and many other cities and towns, and if ever I lost my way it was only for a few minutes before I quickly found my bearings. I'd lived in Austin for about a year and had driven all over the area, looking for work, exploring, etc. – – never once getting lost.

So anyway, anyone who's read "My (too long) Story" knows that I initially purchased a handgun in order to kill myself – – or at least that was the plan. I went to pretty much the biggest gun dealer in Austin and had a look around. I'd never owned a gun before. And after shooting a few different kinds in their gun range for a while (something new to do), I settled on a shiny cool looking one that the guy behind the counter assured me was used by FBI agents as their backup weapon. I figured that no matter what I was getting it for, I might as well get something James Bond would appreciate. (Right? See the logic in that?) But first I had to fill out the necessary paperwork and wait three days for a background check.

So now fast forward to a week or so later: I'm driving back to the gun shop to buy the gun – – a place I've been to before and had absolutely no trouble finding. I mean, the place is HUGE, with a giant red billboard right off the highway.

But I can't find it.

I keep driving the same route I did before, recognizing all the same exits and traffic signs, the same overpasses, the same shops and buildings lined up along the way. But no gun store. It's nowhere to be found.

And after about a half an hour of this, going back and forth, up and over the same stretches, circling around and through every possible place this shop could be, I start to lose my cool. I start to doubt my sanity. And more than a dozen times I come this close to saying the hell with it, to forgetting the whole idea and just going home.

But I couldn't give it up. I'd never in my life been lost like this, unable to get back to a place I'd been just days before. So now it was a matter of principle, of pride, and more than anything now, solving this mystery. The gun didn't matter anymore. I had to convince myself I wasn't losing it, or that I wasn't a complete dumb- ass.

Finally, after close to an hour, I had to pull up to the hotel lobby and use a pay phone. Yes, the gun store told me, they were still in the same place, they hadn't moved across town recently. Yes, they could give me directions. And yes, it was exactly where I'd been driving in ever more frustrating circles all morning

But I still couldn't find it.


At least not until I parked the car and had me a good long think. What was I doing? Did I really want a gun? Isn't there a better way to kill yourself? Was someone "upstairs" trying to give me a message?… But, in the end, like I said, it wasn't about the gun anymore – – I couldn't go home defeated.

So once again, after a quick lunch, I set out again. And this time found the gun store almost immediately. Right where it had always been. Right where I had already been searching.

And I bought the damn gun.

So, you say, what's the point of this tale? Well, hold on; there's still the second part to come; and this is what made all the difference.

All right: now it's about a month or two later and I'm on my way to a job interview – – in sales, of course, as always – – another "big money" opportunity for a deluded "go-getter" like myself – – selling cars, of all things, but in a new and revolutionary way (!). I'd spoken to the owner of the company a few hours before. And although I've never been a car guy (give me something to haul the camping gear and that the dogs like, and I'm fine), I figured I could learn the ropes and maybe generate enough enthusiasm to get the job done. Needless to say, I wasn't too excited about the whole thing, and I probably wouldn't take the job anyway.

The place I was looking for was a cluster of buildings in the middle of a large used car lot. A big lit up sign out front: Auto Solutions. You can't miss it, the guy had said. Plus, it was a major thoroughfare I'd been on many times before.

Except I couldn't find it.

Once again, it was back and forth, around and around, pounding the steering wheel, cursing up storm – – for only the second time in my life. And again, after maybe an hour of this bullshit, at my wits end, I stopped and parked and had a talk with myself:

"Just. Go. Home", was the general theme. "You don't even like cars. What is your freakin' problem?"

But even more than that was the thought, "What in the hell is going on?" And: "I'll be damned if I'll let this kick my ass." So of course, just like before, I made one last attempt.

And found the place almost immediately. Right where it always was. Right where I had already been searching.

And I took the damn job.

Where I learned everything I needed to know about placing a classified ad for a car that didn't exist and having it billed to some temporary voicemail phone number. (However, I should say that the whole scam/robbery idea was mine alone, unfortunately.)

So now what can we make of these two incidents together – – two unprecedented instances of my not being able to reach somewhere in plain sight to anyone else – – two undeniably major factors contributing to me coming to prison for the rest of my life? Some may say it's simply coincidence. Some may say it was my subconscious trying to prevent me from doing things I really didn't want to do. And some say that it could've been divine intervention of some sort – – higher, wiser powers, spiritual beings, giving me a chance to change my self-destructive path, my as–yet–to–be tragically sad and completely wasted future.

If you believe that divine intervention saved my life later, in prison (see previous blog "Volunteers Wanted"), then you might fall in with the latter group, as I do, myself.

I've only told this story to a few people but I've given it a lot of thought over the years. I can remember those two days most vividly because there had never been any like them before. And unless my subconscious has magical predicting–the–future abilities, I'm left with the conclusion that "someone" – – some force – – maybe my higher self – –was keeping me from both those places, both those situations, those choices. That is, until I took the firm stand that I wasn't going to give up trying.

Call it my "guardian angel", if you will, if that's more palatable to you.

Anyway, I'm a firm believer these days. And it's a comforting thought.

If only I had just gone home on both occasions. If only I hadn't been so damn hardheaded. Then I would never had that stupid gun (at least, not that gun – – the suicidal urge can be pretty strong), and I certainly wouldn't have even thought of  that crazy car scam, without that job.

But there's really no way of telling how things would've been different. After all there's that whole other possible future where I didn't confess to the crime, were I didn't get caught. And there are countless other futures based on a myriad of choices I did or did not make.

So much of life in prison is spent wondering "What if – –?" It's not bad enough to suffer from the constant remorse of every mistake you've ever made, no matter how small, but, also, the thought of all you've missed out on – – what could've been – – is  an even  greater torture. Which is why so many of us in here, I think, try not to think at all.

You are your own worst critic, as they say.

Which sort of leads me to why I wrote my latest novel, "Vengeant". We are the sum total of our choices in life. But what if we refused to remember them? What if there was an infinite number of other realities – – other lives – – based on different choices we made? What if there was an infinite number of other selves?

So many times I've entertained the notion, "Well, at least there is one version of myself who's not in prison, who's leading the life I should be living." And according to quantum physics and some of the best minds on the planet, that's not just fantasy. It's even a spiritual teaching in some circles. So you never know…

Anyway, I think the thing to keep in mind is that were always just one choice, one decision, away from altering the course of our lives forever – – be it for better or for worse. Or, at least, that potential is always there. And I think we all have made choices we'd like to make over again.

I know I certainly would.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Leading by Example

“Leading by Example”

"As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
-- Nelson Mandela


A friend in the free world once said to me a while ago, after losing my final appeal for a fair sentence, “well, maybe your light is just meant to shine a little longer in there.” And what she said has stuck with me. It may have been the best feedback I could’ve gotten.It has helped me since and given me purpose . And it inspires me, when things look bleak.

We can all be shining lights, of course, and it’s needed everywhere. Perhaps no more than in prison, where life is at its darkest for most people, especially those new to the System. Most especially, for those who been sentenced to a lot of time and are scared shitless. As I once was.

Everyone is worried and afraid when they first get here – – the ones who put on the “tough guy” act, I think, even more so than the others. Which is why they do it, of course. The fear of violence was my biggest worry for many years. Never been a violent person "despite my “violent” crime). I had to fight a lot, at first, with various predators, who saw me as an easy mark. Fortunately, I’m not a little guy or weak minded, so it proved to be not worth the hassle for them. But some aren’t so fortunate, and their first months and years in here can even be more of a living hell than for most. These guys need champions to stick up for them, watch their backs – – but, most importantly, to be role models.

Actually, we all need role models. (This is one of my soapbox topics.) I think positive (key word there) role models are what are lacking in many people’s lives – – not just kids. I think that those people who have their shit together, so to speak need to actively mentor others, especially the youth, not be shy about it (humble, yes; modest, maybe; but not shy ). Make the time and effort. Seek people out. Just a single day or an afternoon of mentoring to make a big difference in someone else’s life. I know this from experience on both ends of the deal.

However, having said that, it’s common knowledge that those who most need mentoring are usually the least likely to know it, ask for it, or even want it. That was certainly the case with me, at one time. (I think it’s safe to put every single alcoholic and drug addict into this group.)
So sometimes the best, or only way, to “mentor” someone else is to lead by example. Doing the best we know how, being the best person we can be – – day in, day out. Letting others see how it’s done; even how easy it can be, once certain self-made obstacles are removed. It’s possible to motivate and inspire and calm just by your presence.

In prison there is no such thing as privacy. You’re constantly being watched – – both by the guards and your fellow inmates. Everything you do or say scrutinized and judged and recorded into memory. And it establishes your place in the quote "pecking order”, so to speak, where “respect” is the ultimate measure.

The bottom line is: those who have the most respect from others,have the most respect for themselves. Which means, above all, they have no fear. Not only fear of violence (you get over that, eventually, hopefully), but of damage to their ego. They couldn’t care less how others perceive them, because they are happy (or at least at peace) with themselves.

This is the fear that causes most problems for people, I think, whether inside or outside the walls and razor wire: they worry too much about what others think of them; and everything they do – – their entire world, it seems – – revolves around this. Your self-worth is based on the opinion of others, rather than on any inner strength or inner peace or inner knowledge.

I think the best thing a mentor can do is to instill those senses of inner strength, peace, knowledge in another person. And the best thing all of us can do, once we obtain these things ourselves, is live from and practice these qualities every day, as well as we can.

I sat down to write this because I had a long walk and talk, today with the guy who does this, who embodies these things. His name is Robert Meek. He’s been in prison for over 24 years, and he’s without a doubt one of the nicest, most caring people you’d ever hope to meet. It’s been his goal, for as long as I’ve known him to make our hopeless environment in here better, more peaceful, more enlightened. Working with the chaplain’s office, he started a weekly Eastern religions service/class for anyone interested. It has really taken off and helped a lot of people. And he's one of those guys who leads by example;whose fearless in the right way.

I've been told by a few fellow prisoners over the years that I’ve been a role model for them, too, just the way I carry myself – – choosing to be positive despite everything else, despite a ridiculously excessive sentence. I’m the one a lot of guys come to for advice, I guess because I at least I give the appearance of having my act together, which – which again, above all – – means I have no fear. Of anything. I’m not afraid anymore of having to spend the rest of my life in here. I’m not afraid of anyone, nor their opinion of me. I’m certainly not afraid of dying, knowing what I know now about who and what we truly are as spiritual beings having one of many “brief” physical experiences on Earth.

However, I definitely need to work on my fear of loving my fellow man; of forgiving. As we all probably do.

There a lot of people in prison who have become fearless in this regard, over time. They’ve had nothing but time to work on themselves, improve themselves, in hope of the second chance at life someday. And, believe me, they are no danger to society no matter how much of their sentences remain. Just the opposite: these are the people who can effectively mentor – troubled youth, alcoholics and drug addicts, and anyone else in danger of coming to prison themselves someday. These are the people those people will actually listen to.

So many of us in prison have so much potential to do so much good out there. This is the message I want to impart. Prison can be a transformative experience. And just one of the many things we learn, once we get our hearts and minds right, is how important it is to lead by example and inspire others to do the same.

Thanks for listening. I hope I’m not sounding like a broken record, repeating the same things too often. I hope you enjoy these occasional insights from “inside.” A big shout out to my mom, who so diligently and lovingly puts this blog online.

Bye for now,


Living in the Bathroom


“The last of human freedom: the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.”
 – – Viktor Frankl


Imagine that you live in your bathroom. Not the one with the Jacuzzi and the walk-in shower, but the smallish one – – maybe 6 x 9 – – with the tub– – it has to have a tub. After all, you need a place to sleep.

The only contact you have with the outside world are letters – – wonderful letters! – – Slipped under the door every so often along with your daily tray of food. And books – – glorious books! – – That also arrive, less frequently.

You get lonely sometimes, and depressed, after spending a few years like this on your own; but you console yourself knowing that you – – well, not you but your Soul or Higher Self – – have chosen this way of life for reason – – perhaps to learn something, grow spiritually, somehow, which is all your soul and Higher Self care about anyway (the bastards!).

You have plenty of time to meditate and exercise, plenty of time to sleep and dream, and way too much time to think about the meaning of life and your infinitesimal place in it.

But, all in all, you live the life of leisure, and countless people outside your bathroom would undoubtedly love to trade places with you (though maybe only for a while – – not more than a month or two – – a year? – – Yeah, right).

So life is grand.


Until one day the bathroom door opens and another person is shoved inside and no, unfortunately, it’s not a member of the opposite sex or anyone you might find attractive like that at all. On the contrary: just imagine the type of person you would least – – very, very, very least – – ever want to spend any time with, and this is who it is. (Apparently, your Soul  and Higher Self can read your mind, or something, because they have chosen the most perfectly repulsive and abrasive personality to clash with your own.)

Being such a nice person yourself, of course, you try to get along. You take turns sleeping in the tub and on the bathroom floor, and you do your best to flush flush flush while on the John. But eventually you argue; and you fight; and then, bloody and bruised, you’re planning the other person’s death as you, too, start sleeping with one eye open.

So much for your life of leisure

But then one day, you remember a line from one of your books (glorious books!). It goes something like, “see your enemy as your teacher” or some such crap. So you start to question, to ponder: what can this asshole actually teach me?

Patience?. . . Tolerance?. . . Like hell! Well . . . Maybe.

Understanding?. . . Compassion? . . .

Generosity?. . . Selflessness?. . .

Forgiveness?. . .

And after six months of this daily – – moment – by – moment – exercise, the anger and hatred start to fade. And after a year, you notice that your sense of self-importance, your inflated ego, begin to take a backseat to something almost like – – – loving kindness.

You learn to listen and actually care. And, after another year, it becomes a habit.

“Ha!”, you say, shaking your fist at the bathroom ceiling. “Is that all you’ve got?!”

Uh . . . nope.

So your roommates are switched, now, on a regular basis – – each one worse than the last.

“How are people like this ever created?”, you think. And why?

But although life and the bathroom is no longer the peaceful navel – gazing and introspection it once was, it’s certainly not boring. And, believe it or not, you come to realize, it’s actually more enlightening this way – – because you’re able to put all you’ve learned from your books (all your glorious, glorious books!) on psychology, philosophy and theology and such, into common practice.

It’s one thing to read about facing challenges, overcoming obstacles, dealing with various unsavory people – – it’s another to do it.

So, you’re better off for the experiences, in the end, as difficult as they were at that time. And life in the bathroom, you figure, has made you a better person overall. (From what you remember of the outside world, it wasn’t always easy out there, either)

And in the end, finally, what used to bother you before, you can now laugh at – – the ridiculousness of it all.

So what if you aren’t actually living? – – If you won’t ever love again or do all those things real people do? So what if you won’t ever pet a dog or hug a tree or hold a child’s hand? So what if you never taste pizza or cheeseburger again? Look how much you’ve grown in other ways.


Right? . . .

Life in the bathroom isn’t for the weak- hearted; it isn’t for everyone. You’ve heard that many lose their minds, or. . . worse.

But you’ll carry on. Because at some point you realize that you’re making a difference, no matter how small: all these other people sharing your bathroom, for however long, are leaving it better off – – happier, more at peace, even more loving may be. And it is because of you, you think – – your example, your talks, or the books (the glorious books) you’ve turned them on to.

And then one day you have an epiphany: perhaps there is a way to reach even more people, those outside the bathroom door, after all you have paper and a pen . . . You can write letters. Or, maybe. . . a book . . a glorious, glorious book! One of your own.

Why not?

Crazier things have happened.


Thank you all for your interest and caring.

Thanks for all the wonderful reviews online of Escaping The Wheel. Writing it has given me such purpose, and your enthusiasm for it has encouraged me to begin #2.

I appreciate it a lot.


Bye for now,



Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Reading Railroad

"If the book comes from the heart, it will contrive to reach other hearts."

Books, books, and more books!. One of the favorite pastimes for prisoners is reading. We certainly have the "leisure" time for it. With novels we can escape this place for a while, and nonfiction can expand our minds.

Most everyone in here has a book going at any one time. those who don't are looking for one. Sure, there are some people who just don't read, but being locked away in a 5 x 9 cement box for years on end will make a reader out of just about anyone.

Our unit library is a pretty good one.(it was virtually nonexistent on my previous unit , Coffield.) However, the problem is actually being able to go to the library. Each section/wing of the prison is allowed access for only one hour every five days. It's easy to get stuck out, especially if you have to work during that time:; and they only let in so many inmates in at once. You can check out two books per week; and woe to the fool who lets his books get overdue: goodbye library privileges. The inmates kept in solitary and in segregation get their books delivered, requesting certain titles and subjects. I'm trying to get a job in the library so I can push my favorite spiritual and educational books on those guys ( on everyone, actually ).

But most books in here are privately owned and come from the free world, sent by friends and family members. Once read, they usually hit the Reading Railroad, the underground lending library.

Underground because, officially, the prison authorities have a problem with us sharing books. Personal property is never to be shared or given away. If an inmate is found with a book without his name and number printed in it denoting ownership,the book is confiscated, often just thrown away, regardless of its value. Lots of books are confiscated. So, If a person's on top of his game,when he receives a book he'll erase the name and number already there and add his own in pencil to keep the law from throwing a fit. I don't understand, why they sweat it , myself. Anything to make our lives more miserable than they already are, I guess. It's a real tragedy when a book gets confiscated for no reason.

The prison mailroom frequently deny the books and magazine sent to us. If it doesn't come directly from the bookstore or publisher, it's not allowed. Also if it has been singled out by some Texas Baptist somewhere and reported to prison headquarters, its red flagged and not allowed. This could be a bestseller or an award-winning piece of literature, but if it's been decided that one page contains "subversive" or "harmful" material, the title is placed on a statewide "Do Not Allow" list. Much of it makes no sense, of course. They'll ban a classic becauseof a rape scene, but allow every sort of gruesome serial killer crime novel. They will allow magazines with photos of women that leave nothing to the imagination, but ban a"National Geographic" because it contains a photo of a naked nursing and nande iswborn baby. I kid you not. They flip over the most trivial, innocent, stupid things. It's as if they enjoy denying us reading material every chance they get. It's thoughtless and heartless. But there's nothing can we really do about it. Welcome to Texas.

Every once in a while a forbidden book makes its way into the prison. Some are great books like "Fight Club" or " World Without End"; and some magazine might have an unnoticed article like "Inside the Mafia" or something. If discovered by the wrong guard, the inmate risks a major disciplinary case and the punishment that goes with it. Usually,we will replace the cover on such books. They'll ride the Reading Railroad very discreetly. Once I read a martial arts book that taught "one touch death strikes ". Ha! It looked more like a medical textbook than anything else, so it pasted the mailrooms inspection. We had fun with that ine for a long time. No doubt it's still lives on.
Often a popular book will have a whole list of prisoners who are next in line to read it penciled in on the inside cover. It's the honor system for the most part and its respected. Sometimes the book will travel all the way across the unit, from hand-to-hand, past crash gates and pat searches to get to the next person in line for it. Books are also shared spontaneously, of course, going to whoever needs one at the moment. There's always a designated place on each wing, a windowsill or ledge somewhere, where available books are placed , free to a good home. A good book may last 3 minutes, tops, before it's snatched up.

Books are a godsend in prison. They are cherished. So many people in here are real booklovers, and I find it amazing that the same people say they'd never read a word on the outside prior to getting locked up. It just wasn't something they did before. But now they've got the time and interest. And it's changed their lives.

I call the constant flow of books throughout the prison the Reading Railroad because 1)it just sounds cool, like the Monopoly board property; 2) it's kept under the radar like the underground railroad that helped free slaves back in the day; and 3) like the railroad, the Reading Railroad liberates people, freeing them from ignorance and the thoughts and ideas that held them down before. That is why my favorite books are those that educate and enlighten. And that is why I do what I can to load the Railroad full of such material.

Pretty much every book I receive from home or order from the bargain books catalog is donated to the cause. I read a lot of nonfiction primarily : history, science, spirituality, travel. Not everyone's favorite stuff, but I hear back from many inmates who tell me how much they enjoyed and learned from the books. As far as fiction goes, I'm a real snob – – way too picky. The books have to be an award winners with five star reviews before I'll give it a shot. But there are plenty of them out there, so I'm pretty much blessed with a wide variety of really great books to read at all times. Thank God. I don't know how I could cope without them. And thank Mom, of course, who requests a book list from me each year and does her darndest to send everyone. She knows that every book she sends will eventually be read and enjoyed by hundreds. more prisoners over the years. Anyone who sends books to prison inmates is doing a real service and blessing a lot of poor souls.

There are five books I keep is my own little lending library: the first five are the required reading
Conversations with God – – Walch
Backwards – – Danison
Journey of souls – – Newton
Same Soul, Many Bodies – – Weiss
Ramtha, The White Book – – Knight

There's littte here that makes me happier than someone telling me how much one of these books has meant to them. I wish everyone in prison – – in the world would read at least these five books . I believe doing so would put an end to so many problems we all face, especially crime; and people would live happier, more fulfilling lives. Guaranteed! The books are really that good.
Mohamed said that any philosopher who taught a metaphysics he had not himself realized was just a donkey carrying about a book load of books.

Nothing beats experience, as they say, but reading a book good book can come pretty close sometimes. And for those of us with no real way to experience a particular thing, reading about it is often our only option. Of course, I would love to travel to Morocco, but being in prison makes that a bit difficult at the moment. Then again, I really don't want to join an outlaw motor club, but I can read about what it's like. Not to mention the fact that it's impossible to experience for ourselves what life was like in Rome in 140 A.D. , but we can read about it all day. Plus, there are countless bits of information and ideas relayed through books that we would probably never have encountered otherwise. As book readers, we can experience and learn vicariously through others.

As far spirituality goes, I agree that ultimately there is nothing better than experiencing the Di asvine for oneself. But if we haven't yet had this experience ourselves there's no reason why we can't read about it from the many who have. There are numerous books out there that recount near-death experiences of the afterlife ( someone temporarily dies on the operating table, for example), where the authors experience themselves as eternal spiritual beings of light. Their stories are all similar, relating nearly identical experiences of being welcomed by other spiritual beings as themselves, receiving messages of why they must return to their bodies, etc. Plus, there are numerous books written by doctors and psychiatrists about patients they've treated over the years with transpersonal hypnotherapy, where the person accesses and experiences there superconscious, or Higher Self, and answers questions and relates information from that "higher" spiritual plane. Again, their accounts are all very similar. No matter their religion or culture, everyone speaking from the state describes nearly the exact same details of the "spirit world" and why we are here on earth in these physical bodies. The recorded and written transcripts of these sessions are amazing and make great reading material. So, short of dying and coming back or experiencing a transpersonal hypnotherapy session ourselves, we can learn a lot about the true spiritual nature of Reality from these books.

" There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio , than are dreamt of in your philosophy",and we can learn about them in books. Study titles on metaphysics and parapsychology and "New Age" spirituality. Sure, there's some misinformation, some bullshit, out there but that stuff shouldn't eclipse or discount what is really true. With so much written on any particular subject, it's important to pick and choose only the very best, I think. I'm a sucker for excellent reviews and tend to prejudge a book by the number of these it has. But the best recommendations come from the authors and researchers whom I have come to respect most. If they all recommend the same titles, then, of course, is t is hose are the ones I'm going to read. This is how my booklist on online was put together over the years. The best of the best, I promise. I encourage everyone to check them out. Some might change your life forever.

When you think of those in prison, picture us reading – – rogue scholars trying to improve ourselves and better understand the world. That's the reality, not what you see on TV. Reading has changed our lives and made us better people.

Books, books, and more books! Consider donating your used books to the county jail or prison in your area. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers can also undoubtedly use them. As much as books might look cool sitting on your shelves, or as much as you might be "attached" to them, please remember that books are meant to be read. so, give them away – – don't sell them – – to people who will really enjoy them. Set up a free book "garage sale" with instructions to pass them along to others. Keep finished books in the car to leave in waiting rohim oms and other places for whoever might appreciate them. And maybe visit your local schools to give away some books that influenced you at that age. Just some ideas to spread the"word".

As always, thanks for listening and caring. Bye for now.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Website Update Website Update Website Update Website Update

"The end is nothing, the road is all." – – Willa Cather

Please check out the latest additions to the "Mystery School" at Mystic – – 15 hand-drawn pages by yours truly. Some really neat stuff, I think. Many, many hours go into the making of each picture and paragraph. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

The book list has also been updated with a couple of changes to the "required" reading section. I feel this is the most important part of the site. Please let me know if you read any of the books I recommend, and tell me what you think of them. I hope they change your life as they have mine.

More additions to the Mystery School are planned . Part 4 will be short and sweet and ready by Christmas, and an extensive Part 5 should be completed about nine months to a year later. This an ongoing project, of course. certainly have the time, and I hope you'll have the patience and interest to keep checking back every so often. The best is yet to come.

Thanks for visiting the site and for spreading the word about it. It means a lot to me.

Bye for now.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Millionth Prisoner

"Ones happiness lies in direct proportion to the character of one's thoughts."

I am Texas prisoner 145, 256. I was assigned that number just over 10 years ago. Those people just entering the system are in the 1, 750, 000 range.

Many old-timers tell me how much prison has changed over the years. I've heard all the stories of how bad – – a violent cutthroat – – things used to be in here. Bt apparently things begin to change shortly after I arrived, somewhere around the 1 million prisoner, I think.There's been a real change of consciousness throughout the prison system, and I've noticed it become even greater and more widespread during my own time inside. It's obvious to anyone who's been here a while. Even the guards, who tend to be the most mean-spirited people in this place, seem to be affected by it. As a whole, the prisons in Texas – – and I'm sure around the country – – have become more and more peaceful. They would be unrecognizable to what they were 15 to 20 years ago.

The fact is, prisons are no longer the violent hellholes they once were and as they are continually portrayed. Of course, there'll always be problem inmates and those who need to be kept away from society forever, but even they are relatively docile compared to the monsters of the public's imagination. It is the young gangsters who tend to cause the most trouble, but that's something they'll eventually grow out of in time and with proper mentoring. The vast majority of prisoners are just normal people who screwed up and want to do better, given the chance. Prisons today are more like monasteries ; they truly have become places where penitence and spiritual reflection are possible. A noticeable change in consciousness seems to be the reason for this. Can this be possible?

As human beings we all share collective consciousness. Countries, towns, and communities each have their own collective consciousness as well that is shaped and affected by the thoughts and emotions of the people who live there. All of the various ethnic groups and different types of people of the world also have their own collective consciousnesses that they share. I believe prisoners and prisoners are no exception.

Scientists refer to something they called the "100th monkey" phenomen. It comes from a famous study of monkeys spread throughout a chain of islands somewhere. These monkeys regularly ate a type of sweet potato dug from the ground. One day, on one island, in one community of monkeys, the scientists noticed a monkey rinsing it's potato in the ocean before eating it. Soon, other monkeys caught on and also began washing the dirt from their potatoes. Then something strange and unexpected happened: at the point where about 100 of the monkeys were doing this, suddenly all the monkeys in every community throughout all the islands begin washing their potatoes before eating them. It was as if they all shared a collective consciousness. Since this discovery, the same phenomenon has been observed and documented in many other instances with a variety of animals. Why should humans be different ?

Our collective consciousness is like a river of information each of our subconscious minds accesses without even trying; it just happens automatically. Our thoughts and emotions are directly affected by what we absorb from this invisible "River". Our brain filters this information as it does all the other data we receive from our senses, so only a small fraction is ever brought to our conscious awareness. Without noticing, we begin to share the same ideas and feelings as other people within whatever groups we belong to, especially as more and more people do likewise. Our collective consciousnesses are continually growing and and evolving.

In prison, living in such close contact with another, we can't help but rub off upon each other.We all share the same suffering , fears, hopes, and dreams of freedom. The 3,000 of us here on the Clements unit have essentially the same mindset as the 3,500 on the Coffield, the 1600 on Eastham , or the 2,000at the Walls.We all share a collective consciousness, and it is growing and evolving to be one of patience, tolerance, kindness and compassion. Once a certain threshold was reached – – maybe at the 1,000,000th prisoner mark – – every inmate in the system was able to feel the positive consciousness and energy that had come to dominate and replace the negativity that was here before. Even without a prison system focused on rehabilitation, left to her own devices, enough of us over time have raised their collective level of consciousness throughout the state and, no doubt, throughout the country.

Prison today is a place to raise one's consciousness as well as get one's act together. I want the public, who tend to be so afraid of ever letting us out, to know that the time spent prison can be extremely productive and that someone leaving here can be a great person,a top-notch citizen, better than ever before. I look forward to the day when society welcomes newly released prisoners with open arms – – when people say, "Oh, you spent five years in prison? Then you must be really have your heart and mind right." Perhaps that day will come when you all raise your own level of collective consciousness.

"A solitary fantasy can totally change one million realities." – – Maya Angelou

I'd like to see our prisons turned into schools. Instead of guards- mentors and role models. A handful of teachers on the unit could give classes on ethics and morality, spirituality, communication, life skills, and health, as well as the various trades offered now.But the real teachers could be the inmates themselves, the "seniors" schooling the "freshman" so to speak.

The minimum attendance/sentence would be three years; the maximum 10 for first offense, regardless of the crime. There'd be no such thing as parole. A second offense would mean another 5 to 20 years; and the third 10-50 more. Only the most extreme crimes would warrant a life sentence .( but 50 pretty much is a life sentence , as I know all too well.)

Every prisoner woould receive individual and group counseling, including hypnosis, which I believe is the most effective form of psychotherapy. Short – and long-term goals would be established and plans will be made for one's release/ graduation well in advance. Family and friends and other members of the community would be free to participate, however possible : through letters, audio and video messages, visits, telephone calls, pre-release support, etc. Mentoring programs would match older, wiser, and more experienced inmates with younger ones.

In addition to the core curriculum, many audio and video courses would be available. Inmates can study whatever educational and spiritual materials their hearts desire. Computers and computer training would be available with limited access to the Internet. Any spiritual/educational material could be downloaded or ordered online. Inmates would be allowed to send and receive e-mail as well as regular mail.

Also, nothing but healthy food would be served in chow halls: rice and beans fruit and vegetables, salads, eggs, oatmeal. Maybe a burger once in a while . Nothing but healthy foods would be sold the units commissaries. (There are way too many obese and diabetic prisoners today, and taxpayers just foot their medical expenses.) Exercise and meditation classes would be offered and taught by inmates.

There would be zero televisions in my prison – schools, except for those used for educational and spiritual programs. Radios with headphones would be sold in the commissaries as they are now. There would be no dominoes or playing cards.

Time in prison should be spent on rehabilitation and self-improvement , not entertainment and recreation. but of course there would be books. Books books and more books, with no restrictions on what is allowed. (though if I wanted to be a real dictator about it, I would outlaw every cookie-cutter crime novel, or least any book with a serial killer or prosecutor anywhere in it, which would eliminate the majority of trash being printed and consumed by the masses these days.) Each unit's library would be large and managed by inmates. Craft classes are essential. (See my previous blog on their rehabilitation potential.)

The prison schools' main goal would be to turn lead into gold and to eliminate inmate recidivism. Every person who enters the system should leave new and improved and much better off for the experience. I know for fact it's possible for people to look back on their time in prison as the most positive turning point in their lives; and if that can happen with the sorry state of affairs that our prisons are in now, just think of the possibilities.

"Vote"for me, and I will run our prisons more effectively,more humanely and more economically. There's actually no reason tax payers have to pay so much to incarcerate so many, only to have the majority (70% ) get locked right back up again. Our prison and parole system is a disaster and disgrace. Prisons nationwide are nothing but mismanaged warehouses. Rather than solve any criminal or social problems, they make them worse. Put me in charge, and I promise to turn every prison farm into a center for higher moral and spiritual learning. Give me one hour of primetime television, and I will recruit tens of thousands of caring, intelligent people to the cause. Our country's prison system can easily become the benchmark for rehabilitation worldwide and the solution to crime and punishment everywhere.

As always, thanks for listening and caring. Bye for now.

– – Eric

Sunday, July 17, 2011

" Free Eric " Campaign

A friend of mine died in here the other day. Heatstroke, they say, after exercising in the yard. He was in his 40s, in great shape. As a recovered alcoholic and addict, like myself, he dreamed of of of getting out and helping others recover as well. It's all he wanted to do.He Had a lot of spirit and was a good speaker; there's no doubt he could've helped many people out there. We talked a lot about the kind of people we were before coming to prison and the ways we have changed since – – the lessons we've learned. We had much in common. It's a shame he'll never realize his dreams of being free again, but I know he did help some fellow inmates while he was locked up. I hope he realizes this and is at peace; no regrets.

There are great many people in prison today who want nothing more than to help others avoid the same fate, the same mistakes. They have a lot to offer. Because they personally experienced such things as alcoholism, addiction, depression, abuse, gang membership, and crime, they are the ones best suited to counsel those struggling with these issues. However, most won't get the chance. They been shut in a cage for the rest of their lives. Although they have changed profoundly and have more than suffered enough for their crimes, they are kept locked away from the world and the people they can best help. Although they may have hurt no one but themselves, they are deemed a threat to society. Their recovery and accomplishments and change in character while in prison go unnoticed and unappreciated. Their life experiences are apparently worthless.

I believe prisoners and parolees have an obligation to repay society by doing some kind of community service work. And many want to do just that. Like my friend who recently passed away, many inmates feel obligated to share their experiences in order to help others – – before they also come to prison. Those prisoners who have truly turned their lives around are the best people to counsel troubled youth, addicts, and anyone else in danger of going to prison someday. I'm certain that both current and former inmates can be utilized to drastically reduce the large number of people being sent to prison these days.

Instead, all prisoners are being written off off, often lumped together in the same category ("dangerous" he) without ever being re-examined on an individual basis after some time. If the focus of our prisons was on rehabilitation, as it should be, we would more easily be able to identify those inmates ready and able to contribute back to society. Finding enough who are willing isn't the problem; you'd be amazed, I think, to see just how many people in prison want to make amends for their past behavior, given the opportunity. A substantial number of current inmates and parolees are eager to be put to work in an effort to help others avoid coming to prison themselves. And there are plenty of existing community service organizations who would be happy for their assistance.

Unfortunately, prisons are run like warehouses, and the prison systems are reluctant to relinquish their "property". The most deserving inmates are continually being denied parole for no good reasons. And way too many people today are being sentenced him him him him excessively, guaranteeing the future of crowded prisons and job security for the prison industry, not to mention the courts and countless lawyers involved. A huge number of genuinely good, decent people who have more than atoned for their sins are being imprisoned unjustly, abandoned and forgotten, left to rot away – – out of sight, out of mind.

But no one seems to care. Perhaps those of you reading this blog do, but not many more. Even so what can be done about it? We can pressure the parole board to parole all those prisoners who qualify and who are deserving of it. However the parole system is already overworked and understaffed and underfunded, usually spending only 2 min. to review someone's file (often containing errors and misinformation). Besides, they'll tell you that society is not prepared to absorb the many thousands more parolees and job seekers (and they may be right). We can pressure state representatives to legislate funding and policy for probation and parole rather than prisons, and to establish fair and reasonable sentencing guidelines. . We can pressure local prosecutors, judges, and district attorneys to seek only punishments that fit the crime, but don't break the tax payers backs, and that don't needlessly destroy people's lives. Unfortunately, politicians generally only do what's "safe" and ultimately in their best interests

So what actually is to be done about the many thousands of good decent people being imprisoned for far too long in this country? I think it will require a major shift in public awareness. It will require a whole new perception of crime and punishment, i.e. being Smart rather than Tough on crime. It would require the cooperation of and an entirely new approach by the media, the news outlets, where, instead of playing to the public's fears and caring only for ratings and "entertainment" value, they educate and inform and work for the betterment of society. In short, it will require a miracle.

Hopefully, as more and more people care about the lives of fellow Americans suffering in prison unjustly and about the unwise and unsustainable rate of incarceration in this country, a solution will be found. Please, make your views known and your voice heard. Contact your local and state representatives and your state's parole board. Contact news organizations about reporting on this country's " prison problem": needless arrests, excessive sentencing, and the broken parole system. Most of all, be persistent. The Powers That Be want only to avoid problems and put off any kind of drastic action; they're content with the status quo so long as they remain in power. To effect any kind of real change, we must remind them every day of what their job is – service and who they work for – the people.

As difficult as it is to change the system, it can be done. It's been done before. Or perhaps your efforts will help free one person. Both are tremendous accomplishments, of course. If you know someone in prison worthy of parole or reduce sentence, start there.

"To suffer and learn the lesson, one pays a high price, but
a fool can't learn any other way."

Last month marked my 10th year behind bars. A milestone of sorts. As it stands now, it'll be another 15 years until I can be considered for parole – – half of my 50 year sentence. However, I'm hoping to obtain a commutation that is a reduction of sentence. The likelihood of that happening is very rare, but miracles do happen. With enough support, I think it may be possible.

So I'd like to take this opportunity, at my 10 year "anniversary", to ask for your help. If you believe that my sentence is excessive, please follow the below link and tell them so. Your letters and phone calls will make all the difference.

If you don't yet have an opinion, please read "My (too long) Story" posted previously. Hopefully, you'll agree that, although I certainly needed to be put away for a while, I was sentenced unjustly and for too long.

I'm no saint, but I'm clearly a changed man. I no longer even remotely resemble the sorry, screwed up, insane alcoholic I once was 10 years ago. I worked hard to better myself. Redemption is real. The person who deserved to be punished doesn't exist anymore. In his place is someone who wants nothing more than to make the best of the life he has remaining, being of service to others somehow.

I will never commit another crime; it's simply not possible. I'm ashamed and disgusted with myself for ever having done such a thing. Although I now understand that alcoholism and drug addiction destroy a person's senses of reason and morality, there can be no excuse for committing a robbery, I know. It took me years to finally forgive myself. Now I can only hope and pray for the forgiveness of others. With your help I may be given a second chance at life. Please send a letter requesting a commutation of sentence to the people listed on the link page. Change it as you wish. Be sure to add your name and contact information at the end.

Thank you!