May 2, 2003
Today I spent about an hour counseling with Eddie (not his
real name) who's presently "keeplocked". This means he is confined to his cell for a disciplinary infraction.
When I spoke to Eddie this morning I saw he was depressed.
He told me that he misses his family, especially his daughter who is now five years old.
Eddie got into trouble when he was twenty and wild. He's been
incarcerated for four years now, and he has at least forty-six more years to do.
Eddie has a Bible. He always reads the Christian testimonial
books that I loan him. Yet he insists he is not ready to come to Christ.
I know from being in prison for so many years, that the most
extreme self-inflicted punishment for anyone doing "time" (other than suicide) is the loss of family contact, or the increased
difficulty in maintaining contact.
Fortunately Eddie's older sister is helping to raise his daughter.
She has legal custody of her. But he has already missed out on four years of his daughter's life.
He told me that he would love to see his child again as well
as get a visit from his sister. But she has no funds, he told me, and she has no vehicle to make the 3 1/2 hour trip (one
way) from her home in upstate New York.
With no money and no means of transportation, Eddie has no
idea when he will ever see his loved ones. His parents are separated, he said. thankfully, however, his older sister sometimes
sends him current photos of his child.
May 2, 2003
I stopped by Eddie's cell today to see how he was doing. I
mentioned in yesterday's journal entry that he has been feeling depressed because he misses his family. He also happens to
be confined to his cell because of a disciplinary infraction.
This morning Eddie told me that since I last spoke with him,
he has learned that tomorrow he will be released from his "keeplock" status (cell confinement with the loss of all prilvileges).
Thus he will end up doing a total of seven days for his punishment.
Usually inmates who break the rules get more "cell time" for
this. Therefore the disciplinary officer who conducted Eddie's hearing didn't think his infraction was to serious.
Nevertheless, I am simply trying to help Eddie and be a friend
he can talk to. when I can I talk to him about the Bible and whatever else I believe the Lord would want me to tell this young
Frankly, Eddie knows that he committed a terrible crime. and
he also knows that he must continue to endure the pain he created for himself. He is suffering, and this is undeniable.
Eddie was a "wannabe" who tried to join an infamous street
gang called "The Bloods". He is short of stature and was only a soft-spoken follower. At the age of twenty I could tell that
he had no self esteem. Yet his perception of himself was that of a gangster.
Being simple-minded, psychologically fragile, and wanting to
please those he idolized, it was inevitable that he would get into trouble.
Now he must grow up in prison.
May 10, 2003
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength...
Today was another perfect sunny Saturday in the recreation
yard. I went outdoors this morning from 10 to 11:45 just to sit in the sun. I have been feeling so physically tired, and I
am in need of a prolonged rest of some kind.
I say "some kind" of rest because, in prison, there are limitations
as to what one can do to obtain rest , or to take a break from routine.
I have no park to walk in to collect my thoughts. There are
no open country roads to drive down. And there are no bicycle paths for me to ride along to help relieve the day-to-day stresses
of prison life.
For the most part, on weekends, one can either go to the outside
recreation yard (which is usually crowded during this warm weather), or a man could stay in his cell in a usually very noisy
Today there are no services scheduled in the chapel. Tomorrow
there will there will be several services. so for the remainder of this day I will stay in my cell, write a few letters, and
spend time with the Lord in prayer.
Anyhow, it was good to get outdoors into the fresh air. Several
of my friends were in the yard. Later, the inmate pastor and I went over to another man, Tony.
Tony has been straying from the Lord. He stopped going to the
chapel. Yet we had a good talk. And we assured him that Christ is still there for him. That he could make a fresh start.
We then put our hands on Tony's shoulders, and the pastor and
I prayed for him.
May 11, 2003
Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have
compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet I will not forget thee.
This morning during the worship service our choir sounded like
angels. The presence of the Lord seemed to overshadow and fill our congregation. Dozens of hands were upraised in praise and
adoration to God.
Our inmate spiritual leader brought forth a prolonged prayer
that seemed to touch heaven.
Then my chaplain came forth with an anointed message about
King Saul and David, comparing those who fall away from the faith to those who continue on to spiritual maturity and victory
in the Christian life.
However, there was a lot of pain inside many of the men who
came into the chapel. Some showed the grief on their faces, but most tried to hide it. Nevertheless, the Lord revealed to
me that there was much pain and grief inside of many hearts this morning.
This was because it's Mother's Day. For no matter how tough
a convict tries to act on the ouytside. I have been a prisoner long enough to know that there is often a tremendous amout
of pain on the inside. These men miss their families. And each man, I know, remembers better days. Each has suffered loss;
he has regrets.
Yet in spite of the crimes and sins of every prisoner who was
present at this service, God was touching hearts and bringing hope.
I myself was comforted by the reminder that God loves me. He
has something wonderful in store for every person who places his or her faith in Jesus Christ.
Prison inmates, too, are no exception.
May 15, 2003
With so many tragic things that are going on in this world,
everything from the "SARS" epidemic, to tornadoes knocking down homes, to people from all walks of life losing their jobs,
I have to be thankful and content just to have my health and a place to live.
Lately I have been ministering to more of the inmates who are
in the Intermediate Care Program, where I work and which is part of tne Mental Health system.
It seems that me of these men need someone to talk to. They
need words of hope and comfort as the overall level of stress in my facility has increased. And during the past several weeks
more of the prisoners appear to be hyperactive and tense, as well as depressed.
I have also been surprised at the mumber of guys who have casually
mentioned "suicide" in the course of their conversations with me.
There is one man in particular whom I have been making it my
business to speak with each day in order to help him make it through his depression. Oftentimes there's a sad countenance
on his face, and he is only in his mid 20s with decades left to serve on his sentence.
In my times of private prayer I have been asking the Lord to
draw more of these men closest to Him. But I have found out, too, that while some of the prisoners do not like their periods
of depression, they do not want to believe the gospel either.
They do not want to give themselves to Jesus Christ. Thus for
may it has been a never ending circle of going in and out of prolonged periods of despair.
And this is no different for many people who are outside of
these prison walls. They want to feel comfortable without the Comforter. They each want a sense of peace in their hearts,
yet they reject the Prince of Peace.
May 16, 2003
Earlier this afternoon an inmate who had been showing signs
of being agitated about something, suddenly jumped upon another man who was sitting quietly at a table in theE-North dayroom
area. The disturbed prisoner began to pummel the other man with his fists.
The corrections officers quickly responded to the scene and
broke up the fight, but not before the victim was hit in the head about six or seven times. He will be okay. Ther was only
some minor swelling around his face, and a few black and blue bruises. An event like this is not uncommon in such an environment.
Although the attacker had been exhibiting some mental and behavioral
problems during the past few days, much of the time acts like this are the result of pent up anger more than anything else.
Anger is usually the biggest factor in any fight in prison.
It may be something seemingly trivial that will set off an altercation. But when it comes down to it, deep-seated and displaced
anger is the main cause.
In any event, a short time after this incident was brough under
control, and a handful of guards took the aggressor to the "Observation" area in the Mental Health Unit.
He may have to be medicated and held in Observation for a few
days. Or he may be returned to his cell by tonight. Either way, he will receive a misbehavior report for his discipinary infraction.
The attacker will probably lose all his priviliges and be confined
to his cell for fifteen to thirty days. Then when his punishment time is over, he will rejoin the other men unless he violates
the rules again, or unless he becomes overtly psychotic.
May 22, 2003
A REST FROM WRITING
I have not written anything in my journal for a week. It's
been somewhat intense at the E-North cellblock where I work, and especially in my own housing unit, D-North. Maybe this is
the usual pre-summer tension that many correctional facilities at all security levels experience when the weather begins to
More men are going to the recreation yards. Energy levels increase
as inmates come out of their winter hibernation.
Men who haven't seen each other as much during the colder months,
because they live at different parts of the prison, are now seeing one another more often. Old feuds and unpaid debts come
back to memory. Hot summers often result in more fights.
And as for myself, because of my feelings of burnout and exhaustion,
I have written less in May. At times I feel the effects of having to give to much of myself to very emotionally needy men.
This takes its toll, and I simply need to remain in prayer, waiting upon the Lord to renew my strength, and try to slow the
pace and recuperate when I can.
May 26, 2003
My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.
Today I did not have to go to my work assignment. I did, however,
attend our Memorial Day banquet which was held in the prison's North Complex Conference Room.
Every correctional facility in New York State has a Veteran's
Organization which is run and managed by the inmates who are veterans, and who at one time served in one of the five branches
of the U. S. Military.
Our chapter here at Sullivan has about fifty men. Each one
is doing time for a crime or crimes after his time in the service. Many will be surprised to learn that a sizable portion
of convicted felons were also in the Armed Forces serving their country.
I served in the U.S. Army from June 1971 to June 1974. I enlisted
the day after I graduated high school. I took my basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. I then took combat infantry training
at swampy Fort Polk, Lousiana. My military Occupation Specialty ("MOS" was "11B20"--an infantryman in a mechanized unit.
From Louisiana, after a thirty day leave, I went to South Korea
where I was assigned to the 1/17th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, 2nd Infantray Division, 8th U.S. Army. I was part of the
force that was assigned near the border between North and South Korea (near the DMZ).
I had to be ready in case the forces in Communist North Korea
ever made their charge into the South. fortunately this never happened when I was there. But it will happen one day. This
is inevitable, unfortunately. There will be a time when the North and South will be at war again.
May 27, 2003
THE ARMY DAYS
Yesterday I shared a little about the special Memorial Day
banquet, an even that prison officials let all those who are military veterans attend, if they want to. I went and I had a
It was good for me to have all of yesterday to rest. Many of
us who would normally be at our work assignments on Mondays, had the day off. Our gathering was held from 8:30 to 2:45. I
was able to spend time talking amongst my friends and reminiscing.
I usually don't get to spend any quality time with most of
these men, as they are not Christians and so they almost never attend services in the chapel. So it was good for me to be
at this Memorial banquet to represent Jesus Christ.
God worked in mysterious ways, too. For the handful of guys
who were sitting at the same dinner table with me, actually asked me to say grace before we ate. Only one other man at the
table was a Christian. I guess a day like today humbles people as it causes us to think about those who gave their lives and
to remember those who died and why. It was a heavy price!
I myself served three years in the Army. I had more emotional
stability during this period of my life than prior to my enlistment at age eighteen. But when I got out of the service and
returned to New York City, shortly thereafter my life took a turn for the worst, and here I am 25 years later.
When I returned from my thirteenth month tour of duty in south
Korea, I was then assigned as a clerk typist to a basic teraining unit at Fort Knox, Kentucky. I spent my remaining eighteen
months here at Fort Knox until my three year term was finished.
May 28, 2003
THE ARMY DAYS
Between Memorial Day which just passed and the war in Iraq,
which in a sense is still going on, my own military days are coming back into my thoughts.
I joined the Army when I turned eighteen. I had my reasons
for enlisting, and all of them seemed logical. Frankly, I'm glad I made this decision. I had a lot of innocent idealism back
then. Now I see that I was also emotionally immature. The reality is that the army isn't always an adventure.
In the service I experienced monotony and boredom, as well
as some good challenges to grow as a man. I met other soldiers who hailed from all walks of life. I grew up on the Army, at
least to an extent.
Yet there was a period, when I was in South Korea, in which
I experimented extensively with marijuana and LSD, a hallucinogenic drug. In Asia these drugs seemed to be everywhere. And
I was at a rebellious stage in my life. So for a while I turned on and got high.
Now I can look back from the vantage point of today to see
that getting high was a big waste of time. In the long run nothing was accomplished.
I could have become a much better and more disciplined soldier
had I not got into drugs. I stopped using any drugs when I returned to the States to finish my last eighteen months of my
three year enlistment. However I began to use marijuana and some LSD when I got out of the service. These things were prevalent
at some of the satanic parties I attended in New York City and Westchester County.
May 29, 2003
THE ARMY DAYS
My first approximately six months in the service were a blur.
Basic Training immediately followed by Advanced Infantry Training went by so fast. It's designed to be this way in this phase
of the Army.
My tour of duty in Korea provided me with many experiences.
I went out on maneuvers and patrols, sometimes on foot and or traveling inside of an armored personnel carrier, in a region
of the world which had the potential for danger. Every month I was here I received and additional $65 in my paycheck for "Hazardous
Not every soldier received this extra income but only those
who entered into or were right next to an area that is known as the "38th Parallel." It is here, near the border which separates
the North from the South, that the military considers hazardous.
In Korea there was the daily responsibility and even the boredom
at having to stand with my M-16 rifle and other gear, guarding a "restricted travel" bridge over a muddy river near the DMZ.
At other times, especially during our training exercises and
sometimes during our patrols, I ended up having to sleep on the side of a mountain in the freezing cold, or in the oppressive
heat, or getting drenched during Korea's monsoon season. It was no picnic. Thankfully, however, much of the time I also slept
in the barracks.
I was now a nineteen year old away from the United States for
the first time. At times I got lonely and homesick. I shared about my drug use in yesterday's journal entry. I often partied
with my fellow soldiers during our times off. And I spent some of my money on prostitutes. They were part of the features
of any vilage that surrounds an army post.
May 30, 2003
THE ARMY DAYS
Looking back at this period of my life between the ages of
18 and 21, while I did accomplish some good things during my three years in the Army, I don't believe that I matured all that
much on an emotional level.
I went into the service, in part, to search for something.
Maybe it was for self-fulfillment. I never found it. Had I truly enjoyed the service I would have re-enlisted. I, however,
just wanted to go home.
In the Army, because I was single and I lived on the post,
I managed to save a good amount of money. I had about $5,000 in my bank account when I was discharged in June 1974. This was
decent money to start out with back then. Even the extra $65 per month that I earned for thirteen straight months when I was
in South Korea was considered big pay.
When I was overseas, this extra sixty-five dollars helped me
to purchase a fantastic 4-Channel stereo system through the Army's Post Exchange. It was all paid for. I had all the components,
including a reel-to-reel tape deck and a turntable for records, shipped directly to my father's apartment in the Bronx. Everything
was waiting for me when I came home for good.
I still think about Korea. I loved this country's natural beauty
and the rugged mountains. And every inch of arable land was cultivated, mostly for use as rice paddies. There were steppes
of rice paddies going up the sides of steep mountains. These people were ingenious and frugal, making good use of every square
foot of ground, wasting nothing.
Looking back, I am glad I went into the service. While I never
found what I was searching for, I did experience many unique things, and I met some good people, It was worth it. This was
a big part of my life.
May 31, 2003
THE VETERANS ORGANIZATION
In these past several journal entries I have been sharing about
my days in the Army. It was a unique time of both boredom and adventure. I grew up in some ways, and in other ways I did not.
Nevertheless, my own time in the military has given me a deep
love and respect for all of America's military personnel. I pray for them and I ask the Lord to watch over each one as well
as to bring comfort to all the families who have lost a loved one while he or she was serving in the military.
However, I do wish to state for the record, concerning the
veterans banquet which was held in the prison for all the inmates who were eligible to attend, that this event was not paid
for by taxpayer's dollars.
Reading over my entries for this week I realized that I neglected
this important point. Lest anyone get angry that a group of several dozen prisoners had a once per year banquet, all the expenses
for this event--and it really was a simple event with nothing fancy--came out of our pockets.
Throughout the year the Veterans Chapter here at Sullivan Correctional
Facility conducts its own fund raiser. We donate small amounts over time so that, when Memorial Day gets here, there is enough
in the Veterans Organization's account to buy everything we need.
God does provide.